Archives for : December2015

Jesus tied love and lawkeeping together

IF WE TRULY understood the message of Christ’s love found in the Bible letters, then we would be eager to meet the legal requirements set forth in those same letters…

The New Testament is not just a love letter. It is not just a legal brief. It is both! Are love and law mutually exclusive? Are they incompatible? Obviously not! Jesus tied love and lawkeeping together!

I can well remember as a boy, coming home after school to find a note written to me by my father. The note would almost always have some command written down upon it for me to obey and then close with an expression of love from my Dad. When I read the note, I saw two elements present. There was a command for me to obey given by one who had authority over me. Then there was an expression of love for given by one who had fervent affection for me. There was law and there was love! In college I would often receive a love letter from my Mom and Dad with certain requests for me to obey scattered throughout various points. Imagine that – a love letter with requirements as well.

This is precisely what the New Testament is – a love letter with legal requirements combined. “Precept and promise, law and love combining, till night shall vanish in eternal day!” B.J. Clarke, The Bible: Love Letter, Legal Brief, or Both?

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15John 14:15
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

15 If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.

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; cf. v. 21-24

–Mike Benson

Nothing but the grace of God could have caused me to admit that I was a sinner on a level with that convict sitting beside me.

I once read a little story about a highly respected Superior Court Judge who was attending worship services one Sunday and was seated next to a former criminal that just happened to be one that the Judge had once sentenced to prison for several years. Throughout the service, neither seemed to be aware of the other.

After the service had ended, the minister and the Judge were walking together and the Judge asked, “Did you see who was sitting beside me during the service?” The preacher said, “Yes, but I didn’t know that you noticed him.” After a few more steps and moments had passed, the Judge said, “What a miracle of grace.” The minister agreed that it certainly was a “miracle of grace.”

The Judge looked at the preacher and asked him, “To whom are you referring?” whereupon the minister replied, “Why, to the conversion of the convict sitting beside you.” The Judge said, “I was referring to myself, not to him.” He went on to explain his reasoning this way: he said, “It didn’t cost that convict much to get converted from his former life. He had nothing before but a life of crime and when he learned about Jesus Christ he recognized that there was salvation and hope and joy for him. And he knew how much he needed that help and forgiveness.”

The Judge then told the preacher, “But, look at me. I was taught from infancy to be an honest and good citizen. That my word was my bond. I went on to college and law school and got my degrees and eventually even became a Judge. Nothing but the grace of God could have caused me to admit that I was a sinner on a level with that convict sitting beside me. It took much more grace to forgive me for all my pride and self-deception, to get me to admit that I was no better in the eyes of God than that convict that I sent to prison.”

Ron Covey

TWENTY TIPS ON ENCOURAGEMENT

–Look for the lonely and reach out to them.

–Pay attention to the (small) details and acknowledge what others miss.

–Don’t miss the bashful and shy.

–Listen closely to what’s going on in people’s lives.

–Care.

–Pray for opportunities to encourage.

–At times, encourage anonymously.

–Remember those who are usually behind the scenes.

–Put yourself in the place of others.

–See through Christlike eyes.

–Find happiness in encouraging and joy in others enjoying encouragement.

–Consider encouragement a sacred duty.

–Do an act of service for an unsuspecting other.

–Be a meaningful, genuine complimenter free of selfish motives.

–Remember that encouragers are church growers.

–Don’t overlook the frustrated (young parents, teens, unemployed, newly divorced).

–Mentally walk a mile in the potentially encouraged’s shoes.

–Find exciting, unusual ways to make someone’s day.

–Appreciate the value of a handwritten note or card (especially in our virtual world).

–Reach out to the “marginalized” (new members, the poor, those who attend alone, the elderly, widows, widowers, etc.)

–Neal Pollard

You have to reduce the stress in your life

This daily devotional is scheduled to resume on 12/29.

It’s Stress

“Dave” is one of the farmers in Zimbabwe who has had his land taken away by government-sponsored thugs. He is a fifth generation Zimbabwean of Scots descent, and his farm is a rich mixture of wheat, cotton and soybean.

If you know about farming you know that Dave invested much more than his life savings into the farm; every square foot had his blood, sweat and tears on it.

When his doctor diagnosed him with cancer she spoke candidly to him, as good doctors will: “It’s stress,” she declared, “You have to reduce the stress in your life.”

Of course, Dave asked the obvious question: “How do I do that?”

Long before medicine discovered the link between a stressful lifestyle and our health, the Wise man of proverbs put his finger on the connection:

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22Proverbs 17:22
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

22 A cheerful heart is a good medicine; But a broken spirit drieth up the bones.

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, ESV).

I don’t know what Dave can do about the tyrant who rules his once lovely country, but I suspect that in this country we can do more about the stress in our lives.

Reconcile with friends and family; value family and friends more than money and things. Take an afternoon off and spend it with your children, your wife, or your best friend.

It’s good heart medicine!

Stan Mitchell

Uncle Jimmy

Queen’s Park was a pretentious name for a working class suburb of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Hundreds of Railway employees lived in hastily thrown-up homes covered in adobe under corrugated metal roves.

Every Sunday morning in the 1950s and 60s, when the mist of winter was being burned off by the warm African sun, a gray station wagon would drive up and down the streets of Queen’s Park, picking up children for Sunday School.
He wasn’t a preacher, really. He had little formal Bible training, though when I knew him as an old man, his faith, deep and profound, was obvious even to a youngster like me. His wife, Auntie Gladys to us all, provided the sparkle and fire. He was quiet and dignified.

But Uncle Jimmy did something special. He ran a bus ministry before anyone ever heard the roar of a Joy Bus.
Scores of Christians owe him their eternal life for that simple, regular ministry. His spiritual progeny stretches from Southern Africa to New Zealand, Great Britain, Australia, and the United States.

Uncle Jimmy picked up Tom and Georgina Brown’s children. The parents were later converted, and Tom became a gospel preacher, proclaiming a priceless message in his rich Scots accent.

Two brothers, Kenny and Paddy, with scratched knees and bright eyes learned of God’s will because of Uncle Jimmy’s gray car. They both preach the Gospel today.

Uncle Jimmy’s grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, however, add to the list of the faithful. Preachers, elders, Bible Class teachers came from a quiet man who exuded the love of Christ and carried it out in quiet, far-reaching ministry.

“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22Proverbs 13:22
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

22 A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children; And the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the righteous.

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, ESV).

His name was Jimmy Classen. Remember that name, please, and make sure that your eternal destiny is in the same place as his, so that you can meet him one day.

–by Stan Mitchell

He was blasted out of a cannon around 1,200 times

PLEASING THE CROWD

There is a story told about an old carnival man who was nicknamed “Cannonball.” When he was much younger, he was blasted out of a cannon around 1,200 times. When he was asked why he did this, he replied, “Do you know what it’s like to feel the applause of 60,000 people? That’s why I did it!”

People have lived their lives seeking to please other people. Some do it as entertainment, but the vast majority of people do it simply to make themselves look better and to receive glory. People like to be pleased and hear things they agree with (2 Timothy 4:32 Timothy 4:3
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

3 For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts;

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). It can be easy to do and say things that will please others. It can also feel great to have people cheer, clap, and agree with what you say. But it is incredibly difficult to have people work against you and disagree with you.

Galatians 1:10Galatians 1:10
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.

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says, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” In this life, the goal is never to please men and receive glory from them (Matthew 6:1-7Matthew 6:1-7
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

6 1 Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 When therefore thou doest alms, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. 5 And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. 7 And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

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). While many people live their lives seeking to be cheered, praised, honored, and accepted by other people, let’s remember that the true honor and glory belongs to God. Let’s focus on humbling ourselves, glorifying God, and making sure he gets the “applause,” not us.

–Brett Petrillo

 

Mother Gives Birth To Half Alien

When Skepticism Demands Believing

We are justified for exhibiting little more than a skeptical smile if a newspaper’s headline proclaims, “Mother Gives Birth To Half Alien.” Being skeptical of outrageous claims is healthy.

Common experience exposes unrealistic claims. While skepticism counsels us to doubt the highly improbable, could there be a situation where the preponderance of evidence is so strong that skepticism would guide us in doubting unbelief?

Consider the resurrection of Jesus. At first impression, a skeptical perspective would counsel that we reject such an incredible event. We have never seen the dead raised.

However, if we accept this skeptical position that Jesus never rose from the dead, suddenly we are confronted with an avalanche of evidence that demands explanation.

The open-minded skeptic now faces a dilemma. Which is less likely to have happened: That Jesus rose from the dead or that Jesus is still dead, even though the simplest explanation for an enormous amount of evidence asserts he returned to life?

If Jesus is still dead, how do we explain the agreement among the Romans, Jews and Christians that the tomb was empty? Could it be because it was empty?

If Jesus never rose from the dead, how do we explain the Jerusalem Christians never producing a body when severe persecution broke out against their loved ones?

If anyone had taken his body it would have been Christians. A small group would have known where it was. Why did they not stop the persecution by producing his body? Could it be because they did not possess it?

Since fables characteristically arise after the eye- witnesses are dead, if Jesus never arose from the dead why does even literary evidence begin emerging in little more than a mere twenty years and doubters are essentially invited to talk with the eyewitnesses? (1 Corinthians 15:3-81 Corinthians 15:3-8
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; 5 and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; 6 then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; 7 then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also.

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If Jesus’ body decayed, then why would first century disciples invent the story that women were the first to witness the risen Lord? After all, at that time women were not considered credible and could not even testify in court. Is the most simple explanation that they were merely recounting what happened?

If Jesus never returned to life, how do we explain the apostles’ sudden transformation from cowards to emboldened preachers willing to accuse thousands and stand against the authorities who killed Jesus?

If Jesus is dead, Christianity should have never taken root in Judaism. After all, the Jews regularly picked up stones to kill Jesus because of his claims. What evidence short of Jesus’ resurrection could be so powerful causing them to overcome their embedded resistance to his claims?

If the apostles and early Christians knew Jesus’ body remained lifeless, why did they willingly die for what they knew to be a lie?

If Saul never saw the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, how do we explain him giving up his power, insider favor, privileged relationships, and educational advantages in order to become a social outsider and suffer persecution for what he would have known was a lie?

In evaluating the two highly unlikely scenarios that either Jesus rose from the grave or that he is still dead in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, it is more unbelievable Jesus remains dead.

Skepticism, steering us toward the simplest explanation, would counsel us to believe Jesus lives rather than embracing the more unrealistic alternative.

–by Barry Newton

There is no contraceptive for the conscience

ANTIBIOTICS PREVENT OR cure some venereal diseases…

Contraceptives reduce the chances of pregnancy. But there is no contraceptive for the conscience.

Medical science may eliminate some consequences of my sin. It cannot remove my accountability to God.

God says, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable” (Proverbs 28:9Proverbs 28:9
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.

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). If we’re not practicing purity, it nullififes our prayers.

Sexual sin blocks fellowship with God. If we are in immorality’s grip, there’s only one prayer He wants to hear — the prayer of confession and repentance.

Achan’s sin caused thirty-six Israelites to die, as well as his family (Joshua 7:1-26Joshua 7:1-26
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7 1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the devoted thing; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the devoted thing: and the anger of Jehovah was kindled against the children of Israel. 2 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Beth-el, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and spy out the land. And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; make not all the people to toil thither; for they are but few. 4 So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men; and they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them at the descent; and the hearts of the people melted, and became as water. 6 And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of Jehovah until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust upon their heads. 7 And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord Jehovah, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over the Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to cause us to perish? would that we had been content and dwelt beyond the Jordan! 8 Oh, Lord, what shall I say, after that Israel hath turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will compass us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do for thy great name? 10 And Jehovah said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore art thou thus fallen upon thy face? 11 Israel hath sinned; yea, they have even transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: yea, they have even taken of the devoted thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also; and they have even put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, because they are become accursed: I will not be with you any more, except ye destroy the devoted thing from among you. 13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to-morrow: for thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, There is a devoted thing in the midst of thee, O Israel; thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the devoted thing from among you. 14 In the morning therefore ye shall be brought near by your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which Jehovah taketh shall come near by families; and the family which Jehovah shall take shall come near by households; and the household which Jehovah shall take shall come near man by man. 15 And it shall be, that he that is taken with the devoted thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath; because he hath transgressed the covenant of Jehovah, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel. 16 So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel near by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: 17 and he brought near the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zerahites: and he brought near the family of the Zerahites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: 18 and he brought near his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to Jehovah, the God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. 20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Of a truth I have sinned against Jehovah, the God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 21 when I saw among the spoil a goodly Babylonish mantle, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. 23 And they took them from the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel; and they laid them down before Jehovah. 24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the mantle, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them up unto the valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? Jehovah shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire, and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones, unto this day; and Jehovah turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

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). God is sovereign in each person’s life, but clearly, the private sins of one individual can bring terrible consequences on others. Randy Alcorn, “Targeted and Vulnerable,” The Purity Principle, 35-36

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” Galatians 6:7-8Galatians 6:7-8
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life.

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Mike Benson

People with even an ounce of sense don’t squander glory on garbage

IMAGINE HAVING THE world’s most valuable masterpiece, a work of art that would bring thirty or forty million dollars if you auctioned it…

Then imagine that instead of taking that masterpiece to the auction, you took it to a pawn shop, pawned it for twenty bucks, and blew the whole wad on crayons and paper so you could decorate your own walls.

Or imagine being offered a lifetime pass to the city’s best buffet spread, only to reject it in favor of one meal at a truck stop. Silly? Ludicrous? Absolutely insane? All of that and more. People with even an ounce of sense don’t squander glory on garbage. But that’s what idolatry is. That’s what the people of Judah were doing in Jeremiah’s day, and that’s what we do with alarming ease today.

Think about how much God is worth. He can create anything, so whatever we have, He has something better. He governs and sustains everything, so every circumstance we encounter must bow to Him. And He has promised lavish blessings for eternity, so all our cravings will be exgtravagantly exceeded by His good gifts. Logically, there’s nothing we would take in exchange for a relationship with this God. Practically, that’s exactly what we often do. Chris Tiegreen, “Garbage and Glory,” The One Year Worship The King Devotional, June 5

Mike Benson

The anonymous authorities

Since Jesus is Lord, then…I am not, and you are not…and “they” are not. You know who “they” are, right?

“They” are the anonymous authorities. “They” tell us not to drink milk or coffee, eat eggs or beef. Even bread is on their hit list. If only Jesus had been aware of this prohibition!

“They” are also in some churches. These masked authority bandits often steer the direction of the church. Elders and preachers, how many times have we been told we can’t do something because “they” wouldn’t like it?

Just to be clear, “they” are not weaker brothers. Weaker brothers are followers to a fault. “They” are power-hungry controllers. “They” operate behind the scenes. “They” do not like to openly discuss the scriptural appropriateness of a matter. “They” insist on their way or there will be trouble.

Elders, we need to wrest control out of the hands of this group of people. If “they” want their opinions heard “they” must speak in the open, not whisper their concerns in the ear of one person who promises anonymity.

Unrestrained, these manipulators poison the Body, often bringing it to a standstill. It is not what God intended.

Elders, be men of integrity. Fulfill your roles. Lead the church by following the Lord, not these shadowy usurpers.

–by Joe Slater

Women need to avoid the trap that Satan lays for them.

NOTHING MATTERS MORE to Sheila than catching Jerry’s eye…

She spends hours before her mirror designing the perfect outfit. One that is skimpier than she wears to worship, but designed to show what she has. Sheila feels awkward, dressed as she is, but she remembers her priorities and pushes her hesitancy out the window. The plunging neckline and short skirts will attract Jerry’s attentions, she is certain. As she walks down the street to the gym, where Jerry awaits, boys notice Sheila and whistle at her. She yells at them and calls them pigs. She instead turns her mind back to luring Jerry into her web. The irony escapes her.

Women need to avoid the trap that Satan lays for them. The world tells them that allure transcends character and propriety. Satan says that sexy matters more than substance and the flashy walk trumps faith. Standing against this tide may find you alone and useless, they say.

Women walk a fine and lonely line in this world. Yet, Christ walks with them all the way, as do her sisters in Christ (Hebrews 13:5Hebrews 13:5
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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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; Ephesians 2:19Ephesians 2:19
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19 So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,

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). Women of God must possess the courage and vigor of the champions of faith. They must cling to one another for strength. They must also possess wisdom and clarity. Situational ethics must not enter their minds. Realism must be their lens and righteousness, their landscape.

Situational modesty says that a woman can dictate the situation and control the eyes and minds of the male population./1 When she is on the prowl, only the person she wishes to snare can see her as sexy. All other eyes must close. It says that she can wear barely any clothes when she goes to McDonalds on a late night run and since she has no intent to be sexy, no man should see her in that way. Her body can be uncovered at a beach, but since she is only there to swim, all men must ignore her, except for the handsome guys who are available.

Men must realize her intentions and see her as she desires, just because she says so. A man goes to a bank, withdraws $50,000 and goes to fast food restaurant. He goes to the table in the middle of the crowded room, loudly pours the money out on the table and counts it. However, no one else may lust after that money, because it isn’t theirs.

Hannah Colley has written about this mindset. She discusses how men do not see the issue of situation modesty as women do. All they see is the woman and her visual impact. Hormones do not care.

Hannah writes:
“To us, as women, there may be an enormous difference between exposing lots of skin at a public beach and exposing it at a church event. But try asking a guy this question: “Is the physical or psychological response different, say at a ball game or at the beach than in Sunday school?” They might laugh at you. For guys, attraction to the female body is a physical response; something God gave them to increase the pleasure of a marital relationship. To them, your location or circumstance has little to do with it. They don’t have a switch they can flip whenever they’re going to the beach or to a ball game where cheerleaders are present.” /2
Situational modesty is as silly and deceptive as situational ethics./3 God watches all the time and our Christian walk never takes a day off (Psalm 139:7-12Psalm 139:7-12
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

7 Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, And thy right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me, And the light about me shall be night; 12 Even the darkness hideth not from thee, But the night shineth as the day: The darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

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; Ephesians 4:1Ephesians 4:1
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4 1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called,

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). Since truth never changes, modesty does not, either, Satan is always at work and men are always watching and their souls matter, too.

Richard Mansel
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1/ http://tinyurl.com/2ubc7so
2/ http://cindycolley.blogspot.com/
3/ http://tinyurl.com/25m4mp4
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-101 Timothy 2:9-10
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9 In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; 10 but through good works.

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When God looks “under” your life, what does He see?

A COUPLE FROM Bakersfield, California had just purchased a new boat, but were experiencing some serious problems…

No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t get their 22-foot boat going. It was very sluggish no matter which way they turned, no matter how much power was applied. After about an hour of trying to make it go, they made their way over to a nearby marina, hoping someone there could tell them what was wrong.

A thorough check on the topside of the boat revealed that everything was in perfect working condition. The engine ran fine, the out drive went up and down, and the propeller was the correct size and pitch. Then, one of the marina guys jumped in the water to check underneath.

He came up choking on water because he was laughing so hard.

Under the boat…still strapped securely in place…was the trailer…

THOUGHT: When God looks “under” your life, what does He see? Are you strapped to some sin that is slowly pulling you under?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8Matthew 5:8
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8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

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Mike Benson

The Saunders Castle

The Old Castle

Raymond Key reflects upon a meaningful childhood memory.

“When I was a child, about three miles from the house where I was born in North Alabama, sat an empty, pre-Civil War castle with huge white columns in front and in back. It was called “The Saunders Castle.” What excitement when my father would take us children to see it. It was deserted and unlocked, but in excellent condition with very ornate furniture, draperies, wall hangings, and all the accessories of stunning luxury. Chinaware was on the dining room table as though the occupants were just about to sit down to eat.

In the bedrooms the gold trimmed bedsteads still had all the bedding, including very luxurious spreads. Down in the labyrinth underneath the castle was a mysterious dungeon and many were the speculations about it.   There was also great mystery about what had happened to the owners and previous occupants. Even a booklet had been written about the “Saunders Castle,” but it did not settle the speculations about it, nor reveal what had happened to the last occupants.

In later years as I would pass by on return visits to my parents’ home, I remembered how beautiful it had been in times past, before vandals had wrecked it. And they had wrecked it – even to the tearing up of the stair treads. Long neglected, the furniture was gone, walls were broken, paint was fading and peeling. Even the stone wall had been wrecked as the vandals looked for gold which was reported to have been found inside the house hidden in some secret place.

I sometimes wondered, how much it would cost to restore this old castle. Could it even be saved? How I wished someone would move in and fix up the abandoned old place! Or perhaps the State could take it over! I knew it had the potential to be beautiful again.” *

That old “Saunders Castle” is a lot like many of us. We come into this world created by our Maker to be whole and perfect. But then, due to our wrong choices, we become marred by sin and destined for destruction.

But God sent Jesus to restore our lives to something beautiful. He gave His life to pay the price to restore us to what we were created to be: sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty!

Jesus will wash away our sins and purify us as children of God when: we place our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31Acts 16:30-31
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30 and brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house.

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), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31Acts 17:30-31
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30 The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: 31 inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

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), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10Romans 10:9-10
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9 because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: 10 for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

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), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38Acts 2:38
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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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). Then, as Raymond Key states, Christians may “look forward to Christ’s coming again with the promise that, in a single moment, He will complete the work of restoration. Then each of us will become immortal, incorruptible and glorified for eternity!”

Won’t YOU allow Him to restore your life to what it was intended to be through your trusting obedience?

David A. Sargent

I want you to end my pregnancy, and I’m counting on your help with this

A WOMAN WENT to her gynecologist and said, “Doctor, I have a serious problem and desperately need your help…

My baby is not even 1-year-old and I’m pregnant again. I don’t want kids so close together.” The doctor said, “Okay, what do you want me to do?” She said, “I want you to end my pregnancy, and I’m counting on your help with this.” The doctor thought for a moment and then said, “I think I have a better solution for your problem, and it’s less dangerous for you as well.”

She smiled, thinking the doctor was going to accept her request. He then continued, “You see, in order for you not to have to take care of two babies at the same time, let’s kill the one in your arms. This way, you could rest some before the other one is born. If we’re going to kill one of them, it doesn’t matter which one it is. There would be no risk for your body if you chose the one in your arms.”

The woman was horrified and responded, “How terrible! It’s a crime to kill a child!” “I agree,” the doctor replied, “But you seemed to be okay with it, so I thought that was the best solution.” The doctor smiled, realizing that he had made his point.

THOUGHT: There is no difference in killing a child that has already been born, and one that still in the womb.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18Matthew 1:18
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18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

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; cf. Luke 1:39-41Luke 1:39-41
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39 And Mary arose in these days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; 40 and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit;

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Mike Benson

“She has done what she could…” Mark 14:8a

EACH OF US has something to give…

Oseola McCarty lived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She was an 88-year-old African-American woman who had been a washer-woman all her life. She lived in a small home left to her by her uncle, doing laundry for others out of her house for a few dollars at a time. She had a dog named Dog, a hog named Hog, and a cow named Hazel. She had lived by herself since 1967, working every day for a meager income.

On July 26, 1995 she did a very simple thing. She made a decision to give what she had to others. Over the years, she’d been saving the little money she made, never wanting much and never needing much. Knowing that she was getting up in age, she decided to dedicate her life savings to the University of Southern Mississippi to finance scholarships. She walked into her bank and asked them to give away her life savings, which amounted to several hundred thousand dollars. She did so without fanfare and without expecting anything in return.

She wrote and published a book of her sayings called Simple Wisdom for Rich Living. Oseola was not miracle worker. She had no extraordinary talent, athletic ability, musical ability, mental genius, status, or social connections to speak of. But she did have the ability to see and hear the world around her. She was not angry at society for her station in life. She did not pity herself. Instead of hoarding what she had to get through her dying days, she made a decision to give away what she had. She was born into poor circumstances, but she was rich in spirit and enriched the the lives of everyone around her.

What do you have to give that you are hoarding for yourself, or worse yet, not using it all? Daniel R. Castro, “The Decision Behind the Decision,” Critical Choices, 19-21

“She has done what she could…” Mark 14:8Mark 14:8
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8 She hath done what she could; she hath anointed my body beforehand for the burying.

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Mike Benson

Mark 14:8Mark 14:8
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8 She hath done what she could; she hath anointed my body beforehand for the burying.

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This week, you will make a mistake

Joe was an avid golfer. He was also an elder in a local church. It had been a frustrating week, and he hoped to make up for it on Saturday with some links-therapy.

But the day dawned raw and windy. He felt clumsy and uncoordinated in his heavy jacket, and the gusting crosswinds made hitting the ball down the fairway a lottery. Joe’s shots whipped and bounced unpredictably. On the eighteenth hole he had to make three puts after hitting the green.

He was livid. Entering the dressing room and seeing no one, he flung his golf club against the wall, and as it clattered to the floor, he gave the door a mighty kick. Then he turned and saw David, his best friend.

“Not having a good day are we?” David’s smile was grim.

Joe was immediately ashamed. He had let his temper control him rather than the other way around. “Dave,” he said, “I’m really sorry you had to see that. I have no excuses.”

“On the contrary,” David replied, “I’m glad I saw it!”

“Huh? What do you mean?” asked the puzzled Joe.

“It’s simple. I’m your friend, and I won’t tell anyone what I saw. This can be our secret!”

“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9Proverbs 17:9
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9 He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; But he that harpeth on a matter separateth chief friends.

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, ESV).

Someone has said that our friends love us in spite of our bad points, and our enemies hate us in spite of our good ones. It is not necessary to repeat everything that we know, and the mark of a truly good friend is his willingness to gently put our mistakes to rest.

This week, you will make a mistake. May you do so before a true friend!

–by Stan Mitchell

It is a terrible beast coming to eat me and my family!

THE BEDOUIN TRIBES who live in the desert have a story they tell their children that can teach us a great deal about how we make decisions…

According to the story, there was once a man living in the desert with his family. He saw a cloud of dust and sand approaching from the horizon and said to himself, “It is a terrible beast coming to eat me and my family!” As the cloud of dust got closer, he saw that it was actually a man dressed in black on horseback. He then said to himself, “It is my enemy, coming to take over my well!” He went to get his rifle to defend himself. The horseman got closer and the man could now see the rider clearly through the sights of his rifle. He recognized the rider and said to himself, “No, it is my brother.”

The three lessons of this story are:

1. What we focus on determines what we believe.

2. What we believe determines what we expect.

3. We tend to see what we’re expecting to see. Daniel R. Castro, “When Heroes Are Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” Critical Choices, 35-36

What are you focusing on?

“There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” Numbers 13:33Numbers 13:33
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33 And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

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Mike Benson

99.7 percent of the time nothing is found

…WHAT IF YOUR job were to find a gun…?

Or a tumor? Both baggage screeners at airports and radiologists at hospitals spend the bulk of their time looking for things they rarely see. In the case of radiologists, routine mammograms reveal tumors only 0.3 percent of the time. In other words, 99.7 percent of the time, they won’t find what they’re looking for. Guns are even rarer. In 2004, according to the Transportation Security Administration, 650 million passengers traveled in the United States by air. But screeners found only 598 firearms. That’s roughly one gun for every million passengers — literally, one-in-a-million odds.

Both occupations, not surprisingly, have considerable error rates. Several studies suggest the “miss” rate for radiologists hovers in the 30 percent range. Depending on the type of cancer involved, though, the error rate can be much higher. In one especially frightning study, doctors at the Mayo Clinic went back and checked the previous “normal” chest X-rays of patients who subsequently developed lung cancer. What they found was horrifying: up to 90 percent of the tumors were visible in the previous X-rays. Not only that, the researchers noted, the cancers were visible “for months or even years.” The radiologists had simply missed them.

As for the nation’s fifty-thousand airport screeners, the federal government won’t reveal how often they make mistakes. But a test in 2002 indicated that they missed about one in four guns. During a similar test two years later at Newark’s airport, the failure rate was nearly identical: 25 percent. More recently, 60 percent of bomb materials and explosives hidden in carry-on items by undercover agents from the TSA were missed in 2006 by screeners at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. At Los Angeles International Airport, the results were even worse: screeners missed 75 percent of bomb materials.

And keep in mind, these are trained professionals dealing with life-or-death issues. Joseph T. Hallinan, “We Look but Don’t Always See,” Why We Make Mistakes, 23-24

THOUGHT: What happens when radiologists don’t find tumors and airport screeners don’t find weapons? People die. But what happens when Christians aren’t watching for, or don’t locate, false doctrines that are secretly smuggled into the local body of Christ? Give it some thought.

“And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage).” Galatians 2:4Galatians 2:4
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4 and that because of the false brethren privily brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

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; cf. Matthew 7:15-20Matthew 7:15-20
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15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. 16 By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

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Mike Benson