Archives for : March2016

For our citizenship is in heaven

Christians have an advantage over those in the world because their perspectives on life and death are healthier and more positive. God’s people are able to see beyond the material and into the eternal, and they find gold there, rather than vast nothingness.

The fleshly world deals only with the pursuit of pleasure and wealth at the expense of others. Selfishness frames their existence and the tangible supersedes the eternal. The bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins” is very telling. They see nothing past the shopping mall.

The Christian can immerse himself in God’s Word, realize the nature of sin, forgiveness, salvation, grace and mercy and tether himself to heaven. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, NKJV).

We see our home in heaven and we look back at the world through different lenses. We become visitors here and the things of this world do not control us anymore. We must be reasonable, of course. We still have jobs, families, responsibilities, stresses, pressures from the many things that make up this life. We do not simply ignore them.

The Christian perspective is that those things are a part of life. We learn from Scripture what is important and things that should be our focus. Accordingly, we may eliminate some of life’s stresses. We also realize that God is there for us and that he will supply our basic needs (Matthew 6:25-34; Hebrews 13:5).

Once we loosen the bonds of this world, our perspectives change and we turn to prayer, the Word, fellowship, and the peace and joy of the Christian walk rather than the booze, pills, fornication, or materialism that destroy us.

Once we are free from the chains of this life, we continue to live, work, walk, and have relationships. However, we handle them better through knowledge and faith. We understand why evil exists (Romans 3:23), that people will be sinful, prejudiced, racist, etc., and we realize that it comes from Satan. Therefore, we are not surprised that sinners will act as they do (John 8:44).

If we have our home in heaven, and we have loosed the chains of this world, we view death differently, as well. We still fear the unknown, but we can anticipate the results of death. We know that we are going home and that blessings beyond our imaginations exist across the barrier (Revelation 21:1-8).

We realize that everything we have endured here is preparation for the afterlife, so we remain vigilant and active on earth in preparation for our final journey.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

The faith and knowledge of God’s power and plan in our lives will stand tall as a fortress protecting us against the enemy until the Lord comes and takes us home (1 Peter 5:8; John 14:1-6). Be liberated and open your eyes and ears to heaven and breathe it in, even while walking the streets of earth.

by Richard Mansel

“You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4).

That is a sight one does not see very often in the United States. We were driving through rural Bangladesh a week or so ago and saw in several different places people threshing their rice by having oxen walk around in circles over piles of rice straw with the heads still attached.

The feet of the oxen knocked the grain off the straw, and when all was clear the straw could be picked up and the rice grains gathered from where they had fallen.

This is a method which dates back for at least 3,500 years, to the time of Moses, and is still being used in many parts of the world.

One notable feature in each of these places was that every ox being used to “tread the grain” was muzzled so that he could not eat either the straw or the grain as he worked. That only makes economic sense to the farmer, as a hungry ox would quickly deplete a pretty good quantity of the valuable rice.

No farmer in this part of the world grows rice for animal food – it is all needed to feed one’s family.

When that is noted and understood, the essential fairness and generosity of the Laws of God are better recognized. It is easy to see seeming inhumane or unfair provisions in the Old Testament Law of Moses, as for instance capital punishment, some of the unequal treatment of women, and other things that are jarring to modern western sensibilities.

But it is not appropriate to consider these without also noting the many instances where God’s laws are far more sensitive and humane than man’s, not only those contemporary with the Biblical texts under consideration, but even in many cases with regard to modern laws and customs.

As Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 9:9-10, God is concerned not only with the welfare of oxen, but especially with that of mankind. There is a principle involved here, one of equity and fairness. One who labors deserves to enjoy the fruit of his labors. That is only right and just. God provides for righteousness and justice in His laws.

When we consider the totality of God’s laws we should remember principle of fairness and justice. Is it proper for God to punish sin? Or does his mercy and love preclude any retribution no matter what evil is done?

Remember that throughout his laws he has demonstrated a sense of fairness and rightness. Man is not capable of judging each action and purpose of God. His ways are far beyond our comprehension (Isaiah 55:8-9).

But when we recognize characteristics of his laws and acts, we can reason from them that other difficult to understand actions do not violate established principles, such as God’s innate goodness and fairness.

If God is kinder to the ox than man would normally be, why would we not trust his goodness to us?  As Jesus taught:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper

coin? And not one of them falls to the

ground apart from your Father’s will…Do

not fear therefore; you are of more value

than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29, 31).

God’s love is abundantly manifested (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10). We may not understand all that he does, but we can have confidence in his wisdom, justice and mercy.

by Michael E. Brooks

How many, this very same day, will decide to follow Jesus

THIS VERY DAY, among some 300 million Americans…

  • The number of people identified as “nonreligious” or having “no religion” will grow by 10,337.
  • The number of Mormons will grow by 1,787.
  • The number of Jews will grow by 1,063.
  • The number of Muslims will grow by 414.
  • The number of Buddhists will grow by 406.
  • The number of Hindus will grow by 288.
  • The number of Wicca followers will grow by 115.

But how many, this very same day, will decide to follow Jesus?  From Missing in America, p. 9

 

How will these people learn about Jesus?  Who will teach them His Word?

“Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.'”  Luke 9.23

–Mike Benson

Be a Volunteer Blood Donor. That’s the best kind

     Outside of a particular blood-bank, a poster read, “Be a Volunteer Blood Donor.”  Just below those words, someone wrote,  “That’s the best kind.”

What a funny thought.  Certainly the best kind of blood “donor” would be someone who is actually willing to give blood, not forced to.  On the surface, this idea of a “volunteer donor” seems redundant, but in reality it may not be.  See, the thought behind this idea is about people who are actually willing to give their time and help out.  One could certainty be a donor and not “want” to do so.  A “volunteer donor” is someone who has a willingness to give this service.  Hopefully we will never have to force people to donate blood, but there are many other aspects of this life where people feel forced to do something.  Let’s explore this.

Throughout Scripture, we see the idea of being a slave/servant.  Mark 9:35 says, “…If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”  Jesus said to James and John, “…Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).  We also know that we are to be “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:16-23).  Being a slave is key in Christianity.  It is not a stretch to assume that God wants His people to be slaves to Him and His commands.

Unfortunately, many people do not like the idea of being a “slave” to God.  What about us?  Do we ever feel like we are being “forced” to be a slave for Christ?  Do we ever feel like we “have” to go to church?  Do we ever feel like we “have” to talk to someone about Christ?  Do we ever feel like we “have” to obey a certain command?  Let’s be honest, sin can be fun.  This is why it is so appealing and hard to resist in the first place.  Do we ever feel like we are “forced” to give up these sins?   The bottom line is, we like to be in control. We like to make our own decisions.  We like to decide what we will and will not do.  We like to decide what is “right” and “wrong.”  Many of us may be slaves for Christ only because we feel we “have” to.

Here is one very important point to keep in mind:  Jesus didn’t “have” to die for your sins (Matthew 26:53-54; Philippians 2:6-8).  He was not “forced” to do this, He chose to (Romans 5:6-8).  This is why He came to us (Matthew 20:28; 2 Corinthians 8:9; etc).  He went through all of the pain and suffering because He so badly wanted to save us from our sins.  God also didn’t “have” to send His son.  He did so because of his love for us (John 3:16).  See, it’s not that we “have” to be a slave of Christ, but that we “get” to.  This is an incredible opportunity and blessing from God.  If Christ had not died for us, we would not even be talking about this.  Instead, we would be stuck in a much worse spiritual situation than we are in now.

It is one thing to be a slave for Christ because we “have” to, it is an entire different thing when we are a slave for Christ because we “want’ to.  Let’s do God’s commands because we “want” to and “get” to.  Let’s not just be slaves for Christ, let’s be “volunteer slaves” for Christ.  Why?  Because that’s the best kind.

–Brett Petrillo

Take for instance, Luke 23:55-56:

I marvel at how re-reading familiar Bible passages can open new dimensions in my thinking. That’s not meant as some sort of egotistical statement about my mental prowess, or lack thereof, but an observation about the nature of God’s wonderful Word. My eyes can move across the same sacred text time after time, without a single additional insight, and then suddenly seemingly mundane and, dare I say it-inconsequential-words take on enormous significance.

Take for instance, Luke 23:55-56:

And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.”

Women were present at, and later took part in, some of the events related to Jesus’ burial. Mary-the Mother of Jesus, Mary’s sister, and Mary Magdalene no doubt watched in horror as Jesus was brutally murdered on the cross (John 19:25). Following his death, they evidently followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus as the two men took charge of the corpse (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; John 19:38) and placed it in the new tomb. Later that same evening, the women returned home and began formulating the spices and oils necessary to anoint Christ’s body on Sunday.

Now pay special attention to the last sentence of Luke 23:56: “And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.”

At first read, it’s tempting to bypass that brief, inspired comment all together. Of course the women rested on the Sabbath; Jews were required to cease from their labors on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:12-15), and these pious ladies did just that! That last little sentence in verse 56 almost sounds superfluous.

What I find fascinating in this context is what the chief priests and Pharisees were doing during this very same timeframe. Matthew records, “On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered to Pilate” (27:62). The Day of Preparation would have been the day before the Sabbath or Friday; the day after the Day of Preparation would have obviously been the Sabbath itself.

Think about it. The godly women associated with Christ returned home after his death on Friday evening, started preparing their perfumes, and then rested on the Sabbath as the Law required and their Rabbi had modeled. By contrast, the religious leaders were over at Pilate’s trying to make sure that the disciples didn’t steal the Lord’s body and perpetrate further deception (Matthew 27:64).

Let that sink in for just a moment. Ponder all of those occasions when Jesus (e.g., the LORD of the Sabbath, Mark 2:27-28) healed and did good on the Sabbath. And virtually every time he did so, this very same motley crew, who had maliciously twisted the intent and observance of this holy day, openly objected to his actions (John 15:1-18; 9:1-16; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10- 17; 14:1-6). “You’re breaking the Sabbath!” “You’re a sinner!” they would charge.

Now add to that the whole plethora of Mosaic laws that the chief priests and Pharisees intentionally broke during Jesus’ trial just prior to his crucifixion.

Don’t you find it ironic that the very men who accused Jesus Christ of breaking God’s laws were actually engaged in desecrating them, perhaps including their own oral traditions, themselves (Exodus 31:14; John 18:28-29, 31; cf. Matthew 23)?! God’s laws, as well as their own distorted customs, were only applicable to other people! And while the three devoted ladies were resting on the Sabbath, this slithering brood of vipers was out twisting the Gentile Prefect’s ear when they should have been resting as the Law commanded. Talk about calling the kettle “black!”

“And they rested on the Sabbath” sounds like innocuous, even unnecessary verbiage-but now that I think about it, maybe not.

— by Mike Benson

Bombings at both an airport and a subway in Brussels

Another attack has occurred. Bombings at both an airport and a subway in Brussels, Belgium have resulted in 30 deaths and almost 200 more injured. A third bomb was disarmed before it was able to cause havoc. Soon after the bombs went off, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. Since June 2014, ISIS has been responsible for 75 attacks in 20 countries, resulting in 1280 deaths (CNN).

It’s not really a secret; ISIS thrives on a reputation of terror. While the world isn’t crippled necessarily, there is a sense of uneasiness that looms in the reality of these terrorist attacks. However, there is some really good news about terrorism. Those who support and practice terrorism don’t really even know what terror is.

To help us understand, Scripture gives us a view of true terror: “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). There is a day coming when each individual is going to have to answer for the actions he has done (Matthew 16:27). There is a day coming when people are going to have to stand judgment before the almighty God (2 Corinthians 5:10). For those who have lived their lives in opposition to the Bible, like those who have carried out these actions of terrorism, they will come to see just how terrifying it will be to fall into the hands of God on the Judgment Day.

Without a doubt, the actions of ISIS and its affiliates cause a sense of fear. However, let’s keep in mind that no matter what they do to us, they can never separate us from our eternal reward (Romans 8:38-39). Only we can separate ourselves from this (Galatians 5:4; 1 John 1:5-7). In fact, all that these extremists might do is deliver us over to that great reward.

No matter how many more of these attacks happen, let’s keep our fear in the proper perspective. Jesus instructed, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). ISIS and those who practice acts of terrorism will one day come face to face with the Lord and find out what true terror is. As far as we are concerned, let’s keep living faithfully to the Word no matter the pressures and evils we face. Then, instead of fear at the Judgment, we can rest assured that God will meet us with the words, “well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

–Brett Petrillo

What’s the vision of the congregation where you serve?

WHEN EPCOT CENTER was finished in 1982, Walt Disney had already passed away…

Disney executives asked Walt’s wife to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony.

When she was called up to the podium, one of the executives said to her, “Mrs. Disney, I wish Walt could have seen this.”

She replied, “He did.”

Vision was essential for Epcot Center. Vision is critical for the Lord’s church as well.

QUESTION: Elders, what’s the vision of the congregation where you serve? How is it being communicated? How is it being implemented?

“Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a temple for the name of the LORD God of Israel.” 1 Kings 7.18

Mike Benson

An AIDS orphan in Zimbabwe

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15, ESV).

Farai is an AIDS orphan in Zimbabwe. He lost his mother to this fearsome plague when he was ten; he never knew his father. At first he wandered the dusty streets of his village, scratching a living by looking in trash cans for anything that might be eaten or bartered.

Now he is sixteen, tall and thin. His voice is that of a man, with the harshness of one who has seen cruelties beyond his years. He is also a criminal, the head of a street gang he joined when he was thirteen. He is violent, selfish and uncaring. Such is the life of a child without the discipline and guidance of parents.

Of course Farai’s example is extreme, but there are children in our society that, though they are not orphans in the literal sense of losing a parent, have been neglected by parents who are too busy making money, living their lifestyle, or who have mistaken indulgence for love.

A child’s heart possesses folly and selfishness, not because children are evil, but because they are human. They need guidance, boundaries and discipline. Without this, they will take the path of least resistance, and usually that means a life not lived to its potential.

Love your children enough to be their parents!

by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Human lives are like chimney’s coughing up the soot of sin.

All of us have probably heard people qualify their lives with something like, “Well, I might not be saint.”

While some of their ideas about sainthood may be awry, the core of that confession is right on target. All of us are currently, or we have been previously, unholy and corrupted by sin.

Human lives are like chimney’s coughing up the soot of sin. We stain our own dwelling and brick as well as negatively affecting all those living around us.

Our lives might not be an industrial smoke stack belching out a commercially sized cloud obscuring the sun, but our little fireplace flue is not holy, pure, godlike and innocent.

So how does a life whose dark chimney walls testify to the stain of sin become holy? God’s answer throughout scripture remains the same.

To the Israelites encamped at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God revealed, “I am the LORD, who makes you holy”
(Leviticus 22:32). Lest the newly minted priests be filled with a false sense of superiority, God repeatedly proclaimed concerning them, “I am the LORD, who makes them holy” (Leviticus 21:23; 22:9, 16).

It was God, not human effort, who made possible their holy lives. Israel was then charged with obeying God to avoid exasperating the situation. And yet, a question
lingered: How did God transform unholy lives into holy ones?

God instructed Israel to offer sacrifices to clean up their messy lives. Nevertheless, God was clear.

“I have given the blood to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11).

It was God, not they, who made them holy.

Moving beyond how Israel related to God through the covenant given at Mt. Sinai, we arrive at the foot of the cross where Jesus’ sacrificial death created the basis for a new way to relate to God through the new covenant. Nevertheless, a certain similarity persists.

“By his [God’s] will we have been made holy
through the offering of the body of Jesus
Christ once for all…for by one sacrifice
he has perfected for all time those who are
made holy” (Hebrews 10:10,14, NET).

Once again, not only do we discover that God is making people holy, but from other texts we learn that we are responsible to appropriate God’s gift to us. We must rely upon the blood of Jesus to be forgiven and atoned (Romans 3:24-26; Ephesians 1:7).

Accordingly a familiar note rings out, we are not capable of cleaning up our lives or producing holiness within ourselves.

Since God makes us holy through Christ’s death, we ought not to denigrate God’s work in our lives under the pretense of a false sense of humility by describing ourselves as sinners.

God’s people are holy! Along with the apostle Paul, we should rightly describe fellow Christians as being saints, that is holy ones.

“To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1).

by Barry Newton

Sometimes the last thing church members want to see changed is their congregation

JOHN R.W. Stott, an English theologian, states, “Vision begins with a holy discontent with the way things are…”

It is possible to become so content with our church that we become complacent. We are busy building homes, families, and careers, while trying to live in a chaotic, change-filled world. Sometimes the last thing church members want to see changed is their congregation. They like the stability of church being the same week after week. Unfortunately, that sameness can breed complacency and weak ministry.

Discouragement may set in, even bitterness. And the lighthouse God called into existence only emits a weak light. But with vision, the future begins to grow and become clear and larger than the past and present. Discouragement and complacency are replaced with hope. J. David Schmidt

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2.26

Mike Benson

The dishonest steward

Whether verbalized or not, Christians tend to be uncomfortable if not downright confused when reading Jesus’ parable about the dishonest steward. From Bible commentaries to adult Sunday school discussions, the uneasiness is evident. Can we blame them?

After all, Jesus created a story where a rich man commends the unethical practices of a wasteful, recently fired but shrewd manager bent on self-centered preservation. These principles fly against everything Christian.

The Christian mind reels. How could Jesus tell such a story?
Unfortunately, we can develop a myopic tunnel vision fixated upon the darkness of the steward. By so doing we fail to perceive how Jesus has both shamed us and challenged us. Before we can hear his message, we need to break our preoccupation with Jesus’ use of dishonesty in this parable.

Quite simply, Jesus’ own subsequent musings unveiled that this is a story about how worldly people interact with each other. Lying, cheating, and self-centeredness are simply to be expected fare within such a story.

Furthermore, upon closer examination we discover it is not the practices of darkness that are being commended, but the profound perception that a person can use the resources at his or her disposal to ensure one’s future.

With this observation, Jesus shames us. Worldly people know how to use resources as tools of influence to provide for their future.

Before we can brace ourselves, his challenge catches us broadside.

“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes” (Luke 16:9 NET).
Jesus’ message unravels the prevalent idea that how Christians behave makes no impact for their eternal future. Jesus would counsel us to lay up treasure in heaven by using the wealth we manage to “make friends.”

Elsewhere Jesus’ words ring in our ears:
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out – a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33).

Maybe it is more comfortable to be fixated upon the seeming commendation of evil practices than to hear Jesus’ prescription for living as a disciple.

Barry Newton

If evangelism is to become natural in the church,

WHEN A LIFE is at stake, people respond instinctively to the crisis…

 The fireman hurls himself into a burning building to rescue a frightened boy.
 A mother darts in front of an onrushing automobile to grab a stray child.
 An average swimmer jumps into a rushing stream to grab a drowning stranger.

What is it that prompts such heroic acts? One thing–the sure knowledge of the consequences if they do not attempt the rescue.

THOUGHT: If evangelism is to become natural in the church, we must have a full knowledge of the consequences if we fail to reach out. Ken Hemphill, “Passion for the Lost,” The Antioch Effect, 153

“But others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” Jude 23

Mike Benson

Sometimes, when the ring is on our finger, it doesn’t seem as gaudy as when it is on someone’s else’s finger.

AMONG OTHER THINGS, actress Elizabeth Taylor is known for her love of diamond jewelry…

On one occasion, she was attending a social gathering where one of the guests noticed the large diamond that she was wearing. “That’s a bit vulgar,” the woman remarked. Unabashed, Taylor offered to let the woman try the ring on. As the woman gazed at the ring on her own finger, Taylor commented, “There, it’s not so vulgar now, is it?”

Sometimes, when the ring is on our finger, it doesn’t seem as gaudy as when it is on someone’s else’s finger. For example, when other people buy a nice house or a new car, they are covetous. However, when we do it, it is simply good stewardship. In like manner, when other people’s children misbehave, they are brats. However, when our own children misbehave, they are simply high-strung or energetic. The faults of others often appear big, while our own appear small or not at all.

We need to make sure that when we judge, we are fair. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck our of your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your own eye” (Matthew 7.1-5). Although many people interpret Jesus’ words as condemning all judgment, that was not at all what He was doing. He was rather condemning unrighteous and unmerciful judgment. I know this because on another occasion He commanded men to judge (John 7.24). He simply wanted men to judge righteously (John 7.24) and mercifully (James 2.13).

Let’s make sure that we judge faults in our own lives with the same standard that we judge faults in the lives of others. Sin is sin whether it is in the lives of others are in our own life. It is wrong whether it is in the life of a foe or friend, family or stranger. Wade Webster, Vulgar, The Searcher, 11.14.10, 1

“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2.13

Mike Benson

“My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations, and in ceaseless rejected prayers that something would be the result of my existence beneficial to my species.”

Donald McCullough compiled some interesting information on several famous men over the years. As you will see, each of these men shared something in common. They were all disappointed with their lives’ accomplishments.

– Alexander the Great conquered Persia, but broke down and wept because his troops were too exhausted to push on to India.

– Hugo Grotius, the father of modern international law, said at the last, “I have accomplished nothing worthwhile in my life.”

– John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the U.S.–not a Lincoln, perhaps, but a decent leader–wrote in his diary: “My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations, and in ceaseless rejected prayers that something would be the result of my existence beneficial to my species.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson wrote words that continue to delight and enrich our lives, and yet what did he write for his epitaph? “Here lies one who meant well, who tried a little, and failed much.”

– Cecil Rhodes opened up Africa and established an empire, but what were his dying words? “So little done, so much to do.”

SOURCE – “The Pitfalls of Positive Thinking”, Christian Times, September 6, 1985.

In reality, many of these men accomplished great things in their lives. So, why were they so disappointed? There are several reasons why this could be the case. Maybe they felt like they could have tried harder. Maybe they wished they could have done more during their lives. Maybe they wish they did many things differently. Beyond these, one reason is for sure. They were disappointed because they all felt like their accomplishments were insignificant. Despite remarkable feats, these men knew their influence only went so far. Life would end, they would be forgotten, and all they did would stop at the grave unless someone continued it. See, their accomplishments only affected this physical, temporary world. Nothing eternally significant was done. Truly this would be disappointing.

Are you disappointed in your life? Do you feel like your accomplishments are shallow? Maybe the problem lies in focusing on physical gain (Colossians. No matter how many great, noble, and glorious things we do in this life, if all we do is succeed physically then we too will share in those men’s disappointment. There is little benefit in physical accomplishments in this life (1 Timothy 4:7-8). If we are disappointed in what we have done, then let’s consider shifting our focus to the spiritual, and eternally important, matters. Let’s focus on saving ourselves, our family, and our friends. There is truly nothing more significant and fulfilling in this life than knowing someone was changed in eternity. If we want to life a fulfilling life, then let’s “Think Souls.”

Brett Petrillo

“Mister,” she said, “did you brush your teeth this morning?”

MILTON WAS FLYING on a plane from Atlanta to Dallas…

He happened to have the middle of the three seats on one side of the aisle. To his right, sitting next to the window, was a young girl who obviously had Down’s syndrome. She began to ask him some simple but almost offensive questions.

“Mister,” she said, “did you brush your teeth this morning?”

Milton, very shocked at the question, squirmed around a bit and then said, “Well, yes, I brushed my teeth this morning.”

The young girl said, “Good, ’cause that’s what you’re supposed to do.” Then she asked, “Mister, do you smoke?”

Again, Milton was a little uncomfortable, but he told her with a little chuckle that he didn’t.

She said, “Good, ’cause smoking will make you die.” Then she said, “Mister, do you love Jesus?”

Milton was really caught by the simplicity and the forthrightness of the little girl’s questions. He smiled and said, “Well, yes, I do love Jesus.”

The little girl with Down’s Syndrome smiled and said, “Good, ’cause we’re all supposed to love Jesus.”

About that time, just before the plane was ready to leave, another man came and sat down on the aisle seat next to Milton and began to read a magazine. The little girl Milton again and said, “Mister, ask him if he brushed his teeth this morning.”

Milton was really uneasy with that one, and said that he didn’t want to do it. But she kept nudging him and saying, “Ask him! Ask him!” So Milton turned to the man seated next to him and said, “Mister, I don’t mean to bother you, but my friend here wants me to ask you if you brushed your teeth this morning.”

The man looked startled, of course. But when he looked past Milton and saw the young girl sitting there, he could tell her good intentions, so he took her question in stride and said with a smile, “Well, yes, I brushed my teeth this morning.”

As the plane taxied onto the runway and began to take off, the young girl nudged Milton once more and said, “Ask him if he smokes.” And so, good-naturedly, Milton did, and the man said that he didn’t smoke.

As the plane was lifting into the air, the little girl nudged Milton once again and said, “Ask him if he loves Jesus.”

Milton said, “I can’t do that. That’s too personal. I don’t feel comfortable saying that to him.”

But the girl smiled and insisted, “Ask him! Ask him!”

Milton turned to the fellow one more time and said, “Now she wants to know if you love Jesus…”

The man could have responded like he had to the two previous questions — with a smile on his face and little chuckle in his voice. And he almost did.

But then the smile on his face disappeared, and his expression became serious. Finally he said to Milton, “You know, in all honesty, I can’t say that I do. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I don’t know Him. I don’t know how to know Him. I’ve wanted to be a person of faith all my life, but I haven’t known how to do it. And now I’ve come to a time in my life when I really need that very much.”

As the plane soared through the skies between Atlanta and Dallas, Milton listened to the fellow talk about the brokenness in his life. Then he began a Bible study and explained how to become a person of faith.

And he did all of that because a little girl with Down’s Syndrome had asked him to ask the fundamental question that all Christians should be finding a way to communicate, “Do you love Jesus?” Stan Toler, “God Has Never Failed Me, But He’s Sure Scared Me To Death A Few Times.”

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16.15

Mike Benson

What would you have done?

BROWN M&Ms

In the spring of 1981, the rock band Van Halen came to Pueblo, Colorado, to perform at the university there. They didn’t end up doing the show, but it was for a very weird reason. At that time, Van Halen had the biggest stage set up, consisting of nine semis full of equipment. Amazingly, their contract wasn’t much better. It was very long and detailed. One of the stipulations in the contract was for a bowl of M&Ms to be placed in their dressing room. But that was not all, they asked for all of the brown M&Ms to be removed from the bowl. Many thought this was a ridiculous request, but they had a reason behind the madness. What they discovered was that if any brown M&Ms remained in the bowl they had requested, the people couldn’t be trusted to set the stage up right. They had so much equipment on the stage with them when they performed, they didn’t want to have the chance of it collapsing on them while they were playing. When they came out to Pueblo and saw that the brown M&Ms hadn’t been removed, they cancelled the show. As it turns out, if they hadn’t cancelled, they probably would have been seriously injured or perhaps even killed. In the early stages of set up before they had called off the show, the stage had collapsed on the gym floor at the university they were to play at, causing $80,000 worth of damage to that gym floor.

Just like Van Halen, God has given us a contract we must follow. In it, God asks us to do specific duties while we are here on earth. One of those duties is to repent from our sins, meaning we turn from them and don’t look back. So I ask you, what are your brown M&Ms? What are those sins that you are having a hard time turning from and that are stopping you from being prepared for Christ’s return? Matthew 24:44 says, “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” I ask you to start picking your sins out of your life, so you can be ready for this judgment day.

Picking out those brown M&Ms for Van Halen was time consuming and very meticulous, but it had to be done in order to fulfill their requests. Getting rid of your sins can also be time consuming and meticulous, but it must be done in order to fulfill Christ’s requests. I want you to pick one specific sin. When you pick that sin, I want you to get out a concordance or get on BibleGateway.com and look up a scripture that pertains to it. If it is anger, find a scripture that speaks to that. If it is lust, find a scripture that helps you with that. Then, I want you to memorize the scripture and every time you think about sinning the next day, recite that memory verse. This might sound dumb to you, and it might sound like a lot, but it really does help. This is how Christ resisted Satan in the wilderness. If you do this and it works for you, do it until you conquer that sin and move on to the next, and to the next. Because when Christ comes back, I sincerely hope and pray you took time to pick out your brown M&Ms.

–Joe Wilkie

Let us seek to “outlive our lives.”

Surely we have all seen how Olympic divers barely make a splash as they dive into the pool. On a good dive, one enters the water, there is a sucking sound, the water closes in on the spot where the diver entered the water, and within seconds, there is no sign that the water was even disturbed.

This makes a great dive, but it stands in contrast to a great life. In life, one wants to make a splash. One wants to make a wake that will be seen and felt long after one has departed from this world.

Over the past few months, I’ve been entertaining the thought of how our lives should be lived in such a way as to leave a lasting mark on as many others as possible. I’ve concluded that a great life is not one that is lived in obscurity, isolated from the world, but rather one that engages and challenges the world, and makes a lasting impact after one is dead and gone.

Let us seek to “outlive our lives.” No better illustration can be found than that of Abel. He was the first man on Earth to die, yet the writer of the book of Hebrews said, “He being dead, yet speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). Talk about outliving your life!

Friends, with what time we have left, let us engage our culture, challenge our friends and family to holiness, situate ourselves so that we stand in the “Son” and reflect His light to a world living in darkness, and when we are dead and gone, may we go out, not like an Olympic diver, but like a back yard canonballer!

Steve Higginbotham.

Buy the truth. And hang on to it.

Buy the Truth

“Buy the truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23, ESV). One night in 1972 burglars broke into a room in a rather nondescript hotel in Washington D.C., and stole some of the room’s contents.

Thus began the Watergate scandal that finally brought down the planet’s most powerful man. I am “mature” enough to remember those days. It is a wound that still festers in the American psyche.

It seems that we never really got to the bottom of the Watergate scandal. Nixon’s supporters obstructed the investigation at every step; Nixon’s detractors threw every accusation they could at him, some quite ridiculous. What really happened? We still don’t really know.

But I remember the question the presiding judge asked, because it cut so distinctly through the fog of political warfare like a laser:

“What did the president know,” John J. Sirica asked, “and when did he know it?”

He was asking for the truth. Whatever the truth was. While America bled, while politicians on both sides of the issue played politics, what the nation needed was the truth, no matter how hurtful. A clean cut is always better than a jagged tear!

It’s hard to make a decision without the facts. When children hide a doctor’s bad news from a parent “to protect him,” or a gossip adds imaginative details to his “juicy information,” or a sinner declines to listen to a message from God regarding the need to change, they are failing to buy the one commodity that they truly need.

Buy the truth. And hang on to it.

–by Stan Mitchell

Where are our flowers?!

One Sunday morning, a preacher pointed out to one of the elders that the flower arrangement that sits in front of the pulpit was missing. The elder hadn’t noticed it, but he certainly did now. This elder pulled all the other elders to the side and asked them if they had any knowledge of what had happened to the flower arrangement. None of them knew; so the search for the missing flower arrangement was on.

The elders called a special meeting with the deacons and asked them to help locate this arrangement due to its great value; after all, the florist billed the church several hundred dollars for that arrangement. Every room in the church building, every closet, and every cabinet was turned upside down looking for that missing flower arrangement. Announcements were made in the church bulletin, emails were sent out, and even a phone tree message was sent to every family in the church. Still, they had no luck in recovering the missing flower arrangement.

After looking at a “bare” pulpit for a month, the preacher got up to preach and he reached down behind the pulpit, pulled out the missing flower arrangement, and placed it on its rightful stand in front of the pulpit. There were audible sighs of relief that could be heard from the unsuspecting congregation. But what followed next was this preacher’s shortest, and perhaps his best and most convicting sermon he ever preached. He simply said, “I must confess, I am the one who took the flower arrangement. Why? Because I just wanted to see if, as a church, we were more stirred and moved to action by a missing flower arrangement than we were a missing soul.”

Well, what about you? If you were a member of that church, would you have been convicted of misplaced priorities that morning? Give it some thought.

— Steve Higginbotham

How are you using your tongue?

The Small Tongue

Do you think most people tell the truth? Can you really take what they say at face value? Perhaps they are like the ancient Cretans: “Cretans are liars, evil beasts, lazy, gluttons” (Titus 1:12).

It is through the tongue that numerous lies are communicated. That small part of the human body can make a huge impact. It can ruin one’s reputation. It can destroy a friendship. It can cause never-ending heartache. On the other hand, the tongue has the ability to give comfort and hope in time of sorrow. It can shine the bright light of saving truth into the life of someone wandering in spiritual darkness. It can glorify God and lift up praise to Him.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Scripture repeatedly urges us to exercise great wisdom and care in how we use this small part of the body. Proverbs 18:21 is not exaggerating when it warns us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” James said that the tongue can be as destructive as a fire (Jas. 3:1-12).

So how should this effect us? Let us use our tongues to speak good to others, build up one another, and glorify our Creator in prayer and praise. How are you using your tongue?

– by Shane Williams