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 3:20Philippians 3:20
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20 For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

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, 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 6:25-34Matthew 6:25-34
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25 Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? 26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? 28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

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; 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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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 3:23Romans 3:23
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

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), 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 8:44John 8:44
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44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.

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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 21:1-8Revelation 21:1-8
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

21 1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: 4 and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. 5 And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true. 6 And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7 He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.

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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 4:6-7Philippians 4:6-7
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6 In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

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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 5:81 Peter 5:8
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8 Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,

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; 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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). 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 3,500st 3,500
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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 9:9-101 Corinthians 9:9-10
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. Is it for the oxen that God careth, 10 or saith he it assuredly for our sake? Yea, for our sake it was written: because he that ploweth ought to plow in hope, and he that thresheth, to thresh in hope of partaking.

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, 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 55:8-9Isaiah 55:8-9
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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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, 31Matthew 10:29, 31
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29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father: 31 Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

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God’s love is abundantly manifested (Romans 5:8Romans 5:8
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8 But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

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; 1 John 4:9-101 John 4:9-10
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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.

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). We may not understand all that he does, but we can have confidence in his wisdom, justice and mercy.

by Michael E. Brooks

Deuteronomy 25:4Deuteronomy 25:4
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the grain.

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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 9:35Mark 9:35
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35 And he sat down, and called the twelve; and he saith unto them, If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.

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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 20:26-28Matthew 20:26-28
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26 Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; 27 and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant: 28 even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

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).  We also know that we are to be “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:16-23Romans 6:16-23
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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. 20 For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness. 21 What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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).  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 26:53-54Matthew 26:53-54
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53 Or thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father, and he shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then should the scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?

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; Philippians 2:6-8Philippians 2:6-8
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6 who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.

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).  He was not “forced” to do this, He chose to (Romans 5:6-8Romans 5:6-8
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6 For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

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).  This is why He came to us (Matthew 20:28Matthew 20:28
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28 even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

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; 2 Corinthians 8:92 Corinthians 8:9
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9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.

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; 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 3:16John 3:16
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16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

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).  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 23:55-56Luke 23:55-56
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

55 And the women, who had come with him out of Galilee, followed after, and beheld the tomb, and how his body was laid. 56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. And on the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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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 19:25John 19:25
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25 These things therefore the soldiers did. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

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). Following his death, they evidently followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus as the two men took charge of the corpse (Matthew 27:57Matthew 27:57
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57 And when even was come, there came a rich man from Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:

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; Mark 15:43Mark 15:43
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43 there came Joseph of Arimathaea, a councillor of honorable estate, who also himself was looking for the kingdom of God; and he boldly went in unto Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.

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; John 19:38John 19:38
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38 And after these things Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked of Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took away his body.

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) 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 23:56Luke 23:56
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56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. And on the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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: “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 20:8Exodus 20:8
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8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

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; Deuteronomy 5:12-15Deuteronomy 5:12-15
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12 Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Jehovah thy God commanded thee. 13 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou. 15 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

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), 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 27:64Matthew 27:64
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64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest haply his disciples come and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: and the last error will be worse than the first.

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Let that sink in for just a moment. Ponder all of those occasions when Jesus (e.g., the LORD of the Sabbath, Mark 2:27-28Mark 2:27-28
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27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 so that the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.

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) 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; 9:1-16John 15:1-18; 9:1-16
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15 1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples. 9 Even as the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you: abide ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. 12 This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I heard from my Father, I have made known unto you. 16 Ye did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye may love one another. 18 If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. 9 1 And as he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4 We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5 When I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed his eyes with the clay, 7 and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam . He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing. 8 The neighbors therefore, and they that saw him aforetime, that he was a beggar, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? 9 Others said, It is he: others said, No, but he is like him. He said, I am he. 10 They said therefore unto him, How then were thine eyes opened? 11 He answered, The man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to Siloam, and wash: so I went away and washed, and I received sight. 12 And they said unto him, Where is he? He saith, I know not. 13 They bring to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14 Now it was the sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15 Again therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he received his sight. And he said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and I see. 16 Some therefore of the Pharisees said, This man is not from God, because he keepeth not the sabbath. But others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such signs? And there was division among them.

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; Mark 3:1-6Mark 3:1-6
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3 1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there who had his hand withered. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man that had his hand withered, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their heart, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth; and his hand was restored. 6 And the Pharisees went out, and straightway with the Herodians took counsel against him, how they might destroy him.

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

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). “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 31:14Exodus 31:14
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14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that profaneth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

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; John 18:28-29, 31John 18:28-29, 31
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28 They lead Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium: and it was early; and they themselves entered not into the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover. 29 Pilate therefore went out unto them, and saith, What accusation bring ye against this man? 31 Pilate therefore said unto them, Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law. The Jews said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

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; 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

Luke 23:55-56Luke 23:55-56
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55 And the women, who had come with him out of Galilee, followed after, and beheld the tomb, and how his body was laid. 56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. And on the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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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 10:31Hebrews 10:31
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31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

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). There is a day coming when each individual is going to have to answer for the actions he has done (Matthew 16:27Matthew 16:27
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27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds.

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). There is a day coming when people are going to have to stand judgment before the almighty God (2 Corinthians 5:102 Corinthians 5:10
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10 For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

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). 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 8:38-39Romans 8:38-39
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38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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). Only we can separate ourselves from this (Galatians 5:4; 1Galatians 5:4; 1
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4 Ye are severed from Christ, ye would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace. The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians 1 1 Paul, an apostle , 2 and all the brethren that are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father: 5 to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6 I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; 7 which is not another gospel only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. 9 As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema. 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. 11 For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. 12 For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it: 14 and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace, 16 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days. 19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. 20 Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21 Then I came unto the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23 but they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc; 24 and they glorified God in me.

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5 And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. 6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him.

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). 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 10:28Matthew 10:28
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28 And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

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). 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, 23Matthew 25:21, 23
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21 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

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–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 22:15Proverbs 22:15
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15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

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, 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 22:32Leviticus 22:32
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32 And ye shall not profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am Jehovah who halloweth you,

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). 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, 16Leviticus 21:23; 22:9, 16
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23 only he shall not go in unto the veil, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I am Jehovah who sanctifieth them. 9 They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it, and die therein, if they profane it: I am Jehovah who sanctifieth them.

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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 17:11Leviticus 17:11
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11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.

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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 10:10,14Hebrews 10:10,14
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10 By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

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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 3:24-26Romans 3:24-26
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24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; 26 for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.

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; Ephesians 1:7Ephesians 1:7
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7 in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

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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 1:1Ephesians 1:1
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The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus:

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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 16:9Luke 16:9
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9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles.

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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 12:33Luke 12:33
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33 Sell that which ye have, and give alms; make for yourselves purses which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief draweth near, neither moth destroyeth.

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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 4:7-81 Timothy 4:7-8
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7 but refuse profane and old wives' fables. And exercise thyself unto godliness: 8 for bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.

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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 24:44Matthew 24:44
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

44 Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.

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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 11:4Hebrews 11:4
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh.

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). 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 23:23Proverbs 23:23
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; Yea, wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

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, 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 1:12Titus 1:12
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons.

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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 18:21Proverbs 18:21
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue; And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

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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. 3:1-12Jas. 3:1-12
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

3 1 Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment. 2 For in many things we all stumble. If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. 3 Now if we put the horses' bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also. 4 Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, are yet turned about by a very small rudder, whither the impulse of the steersman willeth. 5 So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping things and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind. 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: 10 out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield sweet.

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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