Archives for : May2016

Palm branches! Garments spread out on the road! Verbal applause!

Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem.

He sent two disciples ahead of him into a local village to carry out, what appears to me as, a special errand (cf. Mark 11:2-6). I can’t help but wonder what these men were thinking when the Lord gave them these instructions, because not a single Gospel account ever mentions him riding any animal from one place to another—except here.

But on this occasion, he gave this somewhat unusual command to go into a village, get a colt which had never been ridden before, and then bring it to him. He even told the disciples exactly what to say in the event they were questioned about taking the beast.

Matthew’s account actually mentions the colt as well as a jenny. The presence of the mother would calm and steady the colt for the trip back to Jesus (Matthew 21:2).

Was this situation prearranged?  It certainly appears so, but in truth we can’t know for sure. The text simply does not say. Maybe. Maybe not.

What we can know is that Jesus knew what he was going to face in Jerusalem and He went anyway.

As the Lord rode into the city the people received Him with joyous praise:

‘And many spread their garments on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’  Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the LORD!  Hosanna in the highest!'” (Mark 11:8-10).

You can’t help but be caught up in the festive atmosphere. The fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 9:9)! Palm branches! Garments spread out on the road! Verbal applause!

What I find fascinating about this whole episode is that the multitude welcomed Jesus into the city and cried, in essence, “Hail him! Hail him!”— BUT SCARCELY A WEEK LATER the very same fickle crowd would shout, “Nail him! Nail him!”

And he knew what would happen, and he went anyway.

He knew what was about to transpire (cf. Matthew 20:18). He rode into the royal city of Jerusalem—not as a conqueror on a stallion, but as humble servant on a lowly beast. He accepted the honor of the multitudes, but then days later gave his own lifeblood for their sins.

Good reader, the next time you’re tempted to not do what is right, remember this story. The next Lord’s Day when you’re reflecting over Communion, remember this critical snapshot of the Christ. He knew what he would have to face. He knew the outcome of this final trip into the city. He knew that he would suffer and be killed.

And he went anyway.

—  by Mike Benson

 

The sun and moon being darkened, stars falling from the sky and the celestial bodies being shaken

Last summer over the airwaves of San Antonio, a talk show personality proclaimed, “He was caught with toast in his car.” What? What is so incriminating about possessing a slice of white or wheat bread heated until it becomes slightly crunchy?

Toast, as it turns out, is slang in some subcultures for a gun. Suddenly the meaning of those words convey an entirely different message.

Such situations reveal that, at times, sincerity or even demanding a literal understanding of the plain message can both be inadequate tools for interpretation. In this case, sharing a common linguistic foundation would be required to obtain the most accurate understanding.

In a similar way, the biblical language of the sun and moon being darkened, stars falling from the sky and the celestial bodies being shaken, such as is found in Matthew 24:29, immediately calls to mind the end of the world. What could possibly exist after such horrific events?

However, long before Jesus walked the Temple complex contemplating the future of those glorious buildings and massive stones in Jerusalem, Old Testament prophets had established linguistic conventions for describing political upheaval.

Much like the modern poet who sang: “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, only darkness every day,” the prophets sometimes described the angst associated with national destruction using the imagery of sweeping scorching fires and extinguished or falling celestial bodies (Ezekiel 32:7-9, Isaiah 34:3-5, Isaiah 13:1,10 and Amos 5:18-21).

If even the devastation wrought by human kings could be portrayed as shaking the earth, drying up the land and sending a fiery desert blast (Isaiah 14:16-17; Isaiah 25:4), how much more dramatic and picturesque God’s judgment should be on a nation!

Conversely, some of the language they artfully used to depict blessings and the establishment of a nation as their enemies fell away involved the imagery of streams flowing to quench parched ground and the sun shining brighter than ever (Isaiah 30:25-26, 25:5-6)

Before making too many dogmatic statements about the significance or insignificance of some guy with toast in his car, we need to understand the speaker’s background. To understand Jesus, we ought to study well what he knew well, namely, the Old Testament.

—- by Barry Newton

Life comes with consequences

Oskar Gröning, 93, was indicted for 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for his role as a member of Hitler’s SS unit at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

When prisoners were brought to the camp, their belongings were confiscated and Gröning would collect their currency and send it elsewhere to help finance the war effort.

Gröning lives in Berlin and has spoken openly about his experiences. Yet, new legislation has allowed his indictment. He claims his innocence and that he was just a witness to the atrocities.

In the mind of Gröning, he was doing his job. While the cashier at the abortion clinic may not be executing babies, they are nonetheless working to keep the operation running.

When blood is spilled, it will always spread.

“Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He is perhaps best remembered for the following quotation.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.”/1

When Stephen was murdered by an angry Jewish mob, Saul stood by and held the coats of the killers. Yet, Saul later considered himself just as guilty as the ones with the rocks in their hands (Acts 22:4-6).

Life comes with consequences. Moses warned Israel that their sins would be uncovered (Numbers 32:23) because God was always watching (Psalm 139:7-12). We cannot outrun our sin and hope that God will not find us (Jonah; Revelation 6:15-16).

Be humble before God (James 4:10) because his mercy is our only salvation (1 Peter 3:15). Sin is a transgression of the law and God can’t allow that to go unpunished (1 John 3:4).

The gate of Auschwitz may have said, “Work makes [you] free,” but in the spiritual world, only the blood of Christ can save us from the wrath of God (1 John 1:7).

Gröning may once again elude the authorities but God will never forget our sins. Repentance is our only hope (Luke 13:3-5) if we wish to avoid the punishment of hell (Revelation 20:11-15).
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1/ http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392

by Richard Mansel

Their philosophy was often summed up in the Latin phrase, ad fontes, “back to the spring,” or “back to the source.”

The hunter was hot and grimy from the heat of the day.

As he walked across the valley, he came to the river.

It seemingly flowed bright and clear over the rocks, and he was thirsty.

But he began to reflect on what might lie upstream. Had he not seen a factory, its smokestack spewing black smoke into the air?

Perhaps it also allowed effluent into the river, too.

And early that morning had he not seen cattle standing in the water and drinking? He looked at the hills beyond both factory and farm, however, and thought, “The spring must be there. The water there must surely be pollutant free.”

He began to make his way toward the hills. When he found the spring, the water was, as he had hoped, clear and sweet. There he drank his fill.

You remember the names from high school history, no doubt. There was Copernicus and Galileo, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. These were the heroes of the Renaissance. Their philosophy was often summed up in the Latin phrase, ad fontes, “back to the spring,” or “back to the source.”

They believed that the squalor and suffering of the Middle Ages had to be bypassed in order to recover the glories of classical Greece and Rome, a period when civilization seemed to be greatest. One method of achieving this was to recover the ancient texts of the classical world — the writings of Plato, Seneca, Aristotle and so on, and studying them.

It was not long before leaders in Christendom began to seek a similar renewal by bypassing the clutter and debris of medieval theological writing and returning to the Bible.

Such historical figures as Erasmus of Rotterdam sought the “title-deeds” of Christianity — the Bible itself.

They began searching monasteries across Europe and the Middle East for manuscripts of the Bible.

They sought the source of Christianity, the spring itself, where the water would be pure and sweet. That is still our task today — to find the spring, and drink from it, and it alone.

Some will tell you that we need to find the latest ideas, the state-of-the art thinking of best-selling religious authors. My preference is to dig beyond the dust and rubble of the ages. No human writer, ancient, modern, reformation or medieval, can compare with the purity of the word of God.

Jesus declared:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and

drink. Whoever believes in me, as the

scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will

flow rivers of living water'” (John

7:37,38).

—- by Stan Mitchell

We have come a long way, it seems, from the “hell fire and damnation” sermons of a bygone age.

Modern people have a hard time getting around the concept of hell and a “loving God.” They can’t imagine a loving God consigning multitudes of people to an eternal punishment.

We have come a long way, it seems, from the “hell fire and damnation” sermons of a bygone age. We have also ignored fifty percent of the character of God:

“Note then the kindness and severity of God: Severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:22, ESV).

I think we need to reevaluate our understanding of what sin is, who sins, and how severe a condition it is.

What should our “loving” God do with tyrannical dictators, mass murderers and abusive parents? Have we actually sat down and considered the debilitating effect of our own sin on others? Have we thought through what the Lord’s death on the cross says about the depth and cost of our sin?

I know this isn’t easy; looking at our sin in the clear light of God’s will is a little like staring into the sun. It is painful, tear-wrenching, and concentrates the mind wonderfully.

God is not so much a God of unconditional love as he is a God of grace. Sure he loves us, in a way that no human has ever or could ever love us, but he also calls us to repentance.

Grace reminds us both of his profound love and our profound debt. Grace induces both deep relief and chest constricting fear. Grace teaches us the price of forgiveness and the cost of sin. Dear reader, grace teaches us both, not one or the other!

When people ask how a good God could allow people to enter a place of eternal punishment I want to remind them that if anyone enters heaven at all it’s because of God’s grace. If God forgave one person in history, that would be one more than he was obliged to forgive.

That he forgives daily, continually, that he forgives the undeserving, the sinful, the morally filthy, that he forgives any of us – now that is the truth about his grace. Consign a sinner to hell? Please remember that if we were treated justly, every one of us would be on the road to perdition.

God is a loving God not because he would never punish but because those whom he forgives are legion! We trifle with God when we see his grace as his obligation. We test him when we think of his forgiveness as his debt to us. He owes us not a thing; we owe him everything.

Stan Mitchell

ohl

Bitter judgment

We have raised a root vegetable at Khulna Bible College this season with which I was previously unfamiliar.

Called “ohl” here, it is somewhat similar to the casaba.

The crop was gathered a few days ago, and when I went into the kitchen one day there was a pile of the roots on the floor.  As one was cut open, and a tiny flake of it was mostly detached, I removed and tasted it. It was very pleasant and sweet and I thought,  “what a good vegetable it will be for us to have here.”

I walked out of the kitchen and to another part of the campus. Two or three minutes later my mouth began to dry out and sting and burn. As good as it tasted, I now discovered that there were after-effects of the ohl which were much different. The cooks later told me that this vegetable can be somewhat toxic when raw; it can only be eaten cooked.

Many things have multiple effects. Even some very good things can be unpleasant or dangerous if misused.

Sometimes one does a good thing in the only way available, and suffers harm because of it.

I helped put out a pasture fire for a neighbor several years ago. Another man was also helping and burned his hands rather severely. His good deed was “sweet in the mouth,” but his injuries were less pleasant, lying “bitter in the stomach.”

John the Apostle was given wonderful visions of Christian victory in Revelation (Revelation 10:9-10) .

He was commissioned to tell others what he saw. Yet the Spirit warned him; though the message was from God and therefore true and sweet, yet prophesying God’s judgment to a lost sinful world would have its bitter effects.

No loving faithful preacher gets joy from preaching about sin and punishment. There is no pleasure in telling the lost, “God is going to get you for that.”

The horrors of Hell, or even the tragic effects of sin upon one’s life and health, are bitter messages indeed.

We weep when we contemplate the fate of the unrepentant.

Yet we still have a burning desire to preach God’s Word. No occupation is so significant. No purpose in life is so fulfilling. Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Again he proclaimed, “As much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel” (Romans 1:15).

To have the opportunity to serve God who made us and his son who died for us is sweet, and like honey in the mouth, even when the message we preach means the eternal destruction of unbelievers.

The knowledge of their destiny is bitter within us. But it is offset by the sweetness of seeing sinners come to obedient faith in Jesus, being assured of God’s acceptance of them.

The next verse in Revelation 10, contains a very important little word. There John is told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (Revelation 10:11).

Notice the word “must.” John is not invited, or given the opportunity, to prophesy. He is commanded to do so.

There is no choice for him. Prophesying was an absolute necessity.

And so it also is for every Christian. We are “compelled by the love of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:14) to be his ambassadors, proclaiming the gospel of reconciliation to a loving God. We are compelled by our love for our fellowmen to lead them to salvation.

We are compelled by Jesus’ wonderful gift of grace on the cross to share that gift with those who also need it. And we are compelled by the vision of the Lake of Fire which will burn forever, causing indescribable torment for all who have been cast into it, to put out danger signals that it may be avoided.

The bitter taste of the ohl plant can be avoided by proper handling. The bitter aspects of God’s message of judgment are likewise offset by his love and grace, and by the opportunity we have of sharing that message so that all who believe will be saved (Romans 10:13).

by Michael E. Brooks

Oh no, the lasagna!

“She opens her mouth with wisdom and the tongue of kindness is on her tongue,”(Proverbs 31:26, ESV).

Fifteen minutes before Dad’s surprise birthday party, and there was panic in the house. Daughters squabbled and tossed blame around, sons-in-law scrambled to stay out of the way of the upset sisters.

They knew how long it took Dad to get back from work, and they had to have it all together — banners up, snacks on the tables, floors vacuumed, but the paralysis of panic had turned all the efforts to slow motion.

Then came the smoke, billowing out from the kitchen.

Sarah, the oldest, put her hands on her face and said just four words: “Oh no, the lasagna!”

By the time she opened the oven door, the main course, Dad’s favorite, was nothing more than burnt offerings.

“It’s going to be a disaster,” shrieked Jill, the youngest daughter, “why didn’t we have the food catered?”

Then Mom walked in, surveyed the chaos, and asked a simple question: “Who are we doing this for?”

“Dad, of course,” the middle child Barbara replied tartly. “It’s his sixtieth, in case you forgot.”

“And does he care if everything’s perfect, or does he just like to be around his family?”

They all fell silent, for it was true. The acrid smell of burnt pasta filtered out of the opened windows, and so did the fear. Mom was here; her wisdom was enough.

It would be all right.

Solomon’s worthy woman is not bitter and shrill in her remarks; instead, her words are wise, sweet and truthful.

Such words of gentle prudence are usually not found on the lips of the very young, for they take the years of setback and experience to develop. But they are more priceless than a pizza!

Stan Mitchell

 

The prophet Zechariah described his contemporaries as having “hearts like flint.”

“But they refused to heed, shrugged their

shoulders, and stopped their ears so that

they could not hear. Yes, they made their

hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law

and the words which the Lord of hosts had

sent by his Spirit through the former

prophets” (Zechariah 7:11-12 NKJV).

Christians in the western world often perceive their societies as Zechariah described Judah in the sixth century before Christ, with obstinate hearts, refusing to listen to his message.

Though much of the world’s population remains willing or even eager to hear the good news of salvation, we often face stubborn resistance. Additionally, national laws pertaining to travel, evangelism, and conversion often make traditional mission work difficult.

Majority religions regularly oppose or even persecute those who would preach a different doctrine.

The prophet Zechariah described his contemporaries as having “hearts like flint.” What a graphic and accurate picture.

Flint is one of nature’s hardest substances. Before matches and lighters were available, flint and steel were the most convenient and widespread fire starters.

When a piece of smooth steel is struck by a flint stone, it is the steel which yields tiny flakes, creating the spark that ignites the fire. The flint remains intact.

Though the Biblical writer does not use this exact language, one may compare God’s word to the steel. When it confronts the obstinate hearer, it is the Word which may be perverted (in the hearer’s mind) in order to gain some measure of acceptance.

“For the time will come when they will not

endure sound doctrine, but according to

their own desires, because they have itching

ears, they will heap up for themselves

teachers; and they will turn their ears away

from the truth, and be turned aside to

fables” (2 Timothy 4:4-5).

Some who teach missionary methodology respond to this attitude by advocating accommodation to customs or traditions.

Worship is altered to be more acceptable to local preferences. Doctrines are restated or de-emphasized to avoid offense. Treasured elements of traditional local faiths may be integrated into (synthesized with) Christian practice to make the new religion more user- friendly in local environments.

Flint and steel, when struck together, create sparks.

The Gospel of Jesus, when preached to an obstinate, unbelieving audience also ignites conflict and conflagration.

“Do not think I came to bring peace on earth. I came not to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

Earlier in the same chapter Jesus said:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the

midst of wolves…But beware of men, for

they will deliver you up to councils and

scourge you in their synagogues…And you

will be hated by all for my name’s sake…

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a

servant above his master” (Matthew

10:16,17,22,24).

Jesus anticipated resistance to his message. He experienced it himself. Yet he did not tell the disciples to change that message to accommodate other desires or beliefs.

He, and the apostles after him, insisted that we stand firm upon truth, preach the word of God as we have received it, and not allow hearts of flint to destroy or alter the gospel (Jude 3; Galatians 1:8).

God’s word alone is truth (John 17:17). Let us preserve it always.

—- by Michael E. Brooks

The Tomb Of The Unknowns

At the Arlington National Cemetery, there is a memorial standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. The name of this memorial is the Tomb of the Unknowns. Buried here are the remains of unknown soldiers from the major wars of our history. Even though only a few are buried here, the memorial is a tribute to all the great men and women who died serving our country, but whose remains have never been identified.

Guarding the tomb are soldiers of the United States Army. These guards are held to extremely high standards. Everything from their uniform, height, weight, and even personal conduct is strictly scrutinized (Read More Here). It is considered an extremely high honor to be able to serve as a guard for the Tomb of the Unknowns. As a result, the dedication of these guards is clearly evident.

One guard is always present at the tomb, marching back and forth twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. Each guard is replaced every thirty minutes in the warmer months, and every hour in the colder months. While watching over the graves, the guard goes through a meticulous routine centering on the number twenty-one (twenty-one steps, waiting twenty-one seconds, etc). This number was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor, the 21-gun salute.

In 2003, hurricane Isabelle approached Washington, D.C. Many took cover for days as they braced for the coming storm. Even these guards were given permission to suspend the guarding of the tomb. The soldiers respectfully declined. Through the brutal wind and rain the soldiers continued to march and guard the tomb. No matter the weather or situation, the soldiers have constantly guarded this tomb twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, since 1930.

The Tomb of the Unknowns is an incredible and admirable tribute to all those who served our country. The memorial guards’ unwavering respect and dedication is truly outstanding. Our veterans deserve every second of honor they receive.

As Christians, so much can be learned from these guards. God is beyond worthy of our dedication. We should consider it the greatest of honors to serve Him (Philippians 1:21). We should hold ourselves to the highest standards for His name (Philippians 3:7-8). Our devotion should be constant (Luke 9:23). Our commitment should be unwavering (Psalm 51:10). Our loyalty should be solid and immovable (Psalm 1:1-3). Our honor, praise, and respect to the Lord should be sincere and heartfelt (Romans 12:1-2).

The Lord is worthy of every second of honor and praise we give Him. Let’s further dedicate ourselves to Him, giving Him the unwavering devotion He deserves. 1 Corinthians 15:58 concludes this best: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

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 time frame. 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

Some really good suggestions

“Every nation,” declared French philosopher Joseph de Maistre, “has the government it deserves.”

Do churches have the leadership they deserve? The kind of leaders we have does, I contend, say something about ourselves.

Do we foster and develop leadership in our congregations? Are our young people grounded and developed in God’s word?

Are congregations developing men who will one day be on the mission field, in ministry, or elders? How do we as a people ensure good leadership in our churches?

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Ground them in the word of God. At home, and in Bible class, teach them God’s will. Remember, in the church we are not developing leaders, we’re developing spiritual leaders!
  1. Let your children know the importance of worship and Bible class. Do so by asking them what they learned from class. Do so by being there and participating yourself.
  1. Be a part of what happens in church. Attach yourself to a ministry or a program. Members who constantly criticize what takes place are invariably those who contribute little. The ones who row the boat usually do not rock it.
  1. Foster and support those who lead. Do so by lovingly cooperating with their efforts. Do so by occasionally patting a gentle hand on their shoulder and thanking them. Do so by praying for them. (When is the last time you spoke a word of encouragement to one of your Sunday school teachers, ministry leaders, and the secretary?

Has it been a while? Has it ever happened?

  1. Remember that leadership in the church is not like leadership in the world. There are entirely different paradigms for each. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” may be an effective slogan for a worldly corporation, but our motto must be

“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (Matthew 20:26,27).

We are not developing leaders according to the model of Donald Trump; we are developing servant-leaders on the model of the carpenter from Galilee.

  1. Begin by developing yourself. That is the quickest and most legitimate way to “improve” a congregation.

Improve yourself.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7).

— by Stan Mitchell

Mr. Bolt, that wasn’t your ball

Tommy Bolt, winner of the 1958 US Open, tells the story of an incident he had during one of his golf tournaments.  Bolt arrived at the golf course for the tournament and was approached by a youngster, “Mr. Bolt, do you need a caddy, sir?”  Bolt went to the caddy master and asked about the youngster.  The man said, “He’s a real good caddy, knows the course, the greens, and the rules of the game. But he talks a lot.”

So Bolt went back to the youngster and said, “You can caddy for me on one condition: Don’t say a word.”  The young man accepted and carried Bolt’s bag.  The first three rounds went well, and Bolt was in contention in the fourth round, when an errant tee shot landed in the rough. The ball was sitting down in a bad patch of turf, with a difficult shot to the green which was well guarded by water on the right.

Bolt asked his caddy, “You think a five iron will do the trick?” The kid shook his head no, but never said a word.

“What, you want me to hit a six iron?”  Again, the kid shook his head no, but did not speak. Bolt grabbed a six iron and lashed the ball out of the rough and landed on the green, rolling to within three feet of the hole.

As they walked to the green, Bolt said, “Aren’t you going to say something now, after seeing a shot like that?”  His caddy then replied, “Mr. Bolt, that wasn’t your ball.”

Many of us go through life like that.  We don’t want to hear what anyone else has to say.  In fact, we don’t even want to hear what God has to say.  And when we become intent on doing things our way without listening to the voices of wisdom around us, we are headed for disaster.

Solomon advised us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

He also encouraged us to:  “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge; For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you.” (Proverbs 22:17-18)

If you’re inclined to tell others, “I don’t want to hear anything that you have to say”, you may want to reconsider.  The time may come when you wish you had listened.

Alan Smith

I kill you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no

longer I who live, but Christ who lives

within me. And the life I now live I live by

faith in the son of God who loved me and

gave himself for me”(Galatians 2:20, ESV).

Juan Carlos Ortiz, an evangelist in Argentina, was fond of declaring as he baptized people: “I kill you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Now there are some doctrinal places where we might disagree with Mr. Ortiz, but I like this statement!

There should be a distinction, sharp as a north wind in December, between the person who is plunged into the baptistery and the one who rises out again that extends beyond the location of their next place of worship. A change so fundamental is supposed to occur that the Apostle Paul calls it a “new creation altogether”(2 Corinthians 5:17).

Christians are to be distinguishable from their neighbors. They are also supposed to be distinguishable now from the people they were then.

The same foul attitudes and language, the same selfish actions should be disappearing. Sweet dispositions of love and service, self sacrifice and submission to whatever God has to say should be emerging.

Of course we hope for growth, but it should be emphasized, the change that Christ calls being “born again”(John 3:3,4) is the principle premise of Christianity.

Not only can we become better people, we must. God calls us to. The same old carping and criticisms, arrogance and thoughtlessness so common in the world should not be so with us.

When you were baptized, when you were “killed” in the name of Jesus Christ, who was raised? You? Or Christ?

—  by Stan Mitchell

People see Jesus everywhere around them, except for one obvious place: the Bible.

A Massachusetts man opened his garage and saw Jesus and, maybe, Mary looking at him from the stains of a pizza tray. From that “spiritual” experience he observed Ash Wednesday and attended his denomination’s meeting for the first time in 20 years.

People find Jesus and the “Blessed Virgin” Mary in all sorts of unlikely places: imprinted in foods, outlined in trees and in concrete, traced in plastic, cloth, wood, and rock, all supposedly by miraculous or mysterious means.

Such sightings, however, take on the character of seeing figures in the shape of the clouds. It takes a good imagination and not so much faith. Sometimes one wonders how much the possibility of appearing in a 30-second news clip influences these vain imaginations (see Romans 1:21).

What the pizza-tray owner should have seen on his dirty pan was the message kids write on the back window of dusty cars: “Wash me.” Maybe he saw something religious in the stains because of an unclean conscience.

People see Jesus everywhere around them, except for one obvious place: the Bible. In Scripture God presents the exclusive and totally accurate picture of Jesus of Nazareth, promised Messiah, Son of Man, Son of God, Lord and resurrected Savior.

When Scripture is rejected, however, it appears that the religious impulse in the human heart refuses to be squelched and therefore imprints itself wherever it can find expression. Even on a pizza pan.

Reading the Bible won’t get you on the nightly newscast, but it will, if obeyed from the heart as the infallible word of God, get you into heaven.

Meditating on Scripture and doing the divine will revealed therein won’t make Jesus pop up in the crockery, but it will restore in every heart the divine image in which we were created.

After all, isn’t it better to have Jesus stamped in the heart than on a pizza pan?

“[You] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator”

(Colossians 3:10).

Reading the Bible won’t get you on the nightly newscast, but it will, if obeyed from the heart as the infallible word of God, get you into heaven.–  by J. Randal Matheny

The firstfruits belong to God

“The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord our God” (Exodus 23:19 NKJV).

Some friends and I visited a tea estate in Darjeeling, India. This district is one of the most famous tea producing regions in the world, and this plantation is well-known.

The owner of the estate was present, and when employees informed him of my visit he came down to greet us and invited us to have a cup of tea with him.

Before he served the tea he told us a little about the various grades and the methods of production which he employs. The very young top leaves of the tea bush are cut once each week for a period of ten months. Then the bush is allowed to rest for two months.

The very finest flavor, according to this expert, is found in the first cutting of each year. Those are the tenderest leaves with the most delicate aroma and taste.

Having thus educated us, he then poured us each a cup of that cutting, called the “First Blush” of the season.

After we left the estate I was amused at the reaction of my companions. They immediately began laughing at the “colored water” we had been served, plainly preferring a stronger more robust flavor. Those leaves which sold at a high price to other markets were useless to them.

A basic principal of Old Testament worship was that the firstfruits belong to God. What were those firstfruits?

The phrase is often applied literally, meaning that which is first produced. The first male calf, the first male child, and the first grain harvested from the field are all firstfruits. God taught Israel that this portion of their production was to be given to him.

In New Testament worship and service, we are to honor God early and often. We should not put off spiritual matters until the end of the day, when we have finished all other priorities, and give him the scant remains.

Let us give him the firstfruits of our time, talents and resources.

But the meaning of the word does not end there. “First” sometimes indicates chronological order. However, it may also indicate value or importance. That which is first in our lives may not receive our immediate attention, but that does not detract from its value to us.

This definition of firstfruits is given in Numbers 18:12:

“All the best of the oil, all the best of the new wine and the grain, their firstfruits which they offer to the Lord, I have given them to you.”

The first of the harvest was to be the best of the harvest. Only the best could be offered to God.

We too must give God the best. When ancient Israel offered defective animals to God as a sacrifice, the prophet Malachi proclaimed:

And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably? says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:8).

Christians today do not offer animal sacrifices in worship. But we understand that the same principle applies. Worship is the honoring and exalting of God.

One does not honor another by giving them defective presents. We would not so treat our loved ones at Christmas, nor our employers or governmental authorities. And we must not treat God in that way either.

When we give to God let us give him our first and our best. Let us show him our respect and our love. He cannot be worshiped with anything less.

by Michael E. Brooks

Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded the song, “Who’ll Stop the Rain”

In 1970, Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded the song, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and it has been a radio favorite ever since./1 The song is profound and the question it poses is timeless. Every day, the same question is being asked all over the globe.

The first verse says:

Long as I remember the rain been comin’ down Clouds of mystery pourin’ confusion on the ground.

Good men through the ages tryin’ to find the sun.

And I wonder, still I wonder who’ll stop the rain.

Rain in the song is not water but trouble, pain and heartache. The song illustrates the eternal search for the end of crime, disease, pestilence, genocide and war. Throughout human history, we have searched for someone to stop the rain.

Undoubtedly, the song was influenced by the turmoil of their day. The years 1963-1970 witnessed the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Civil Right leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy. The extremely unpopular Vietnam War led to riots, protests, increased crime and the Kent State University shootings.

Many years have passed since 1970, yet the rain continues to fall. The world is once again in a heightened sense of fear because of persistent wars, failing economies, terrorism and natural disasters. We search everywhere to find an answer and an avenue of peace

Political candidates promise resolutions. However, the rain continues to fall. Revolutions come, cultural trends evolve, yet the rain continues to gather at our feet.

No one in the flesh has the answers, only more misery.

Israel looked for someone to stop the rain. They sought release from Egyptian bondage. God freed them and they still found problems and gave up, asking to go back to slavery (Exodus 16:3).

Moses went up on the mountain to receive the Law from God and the people gave up again (Exodus 32). God promised them a homeland and they saw only hardship and returned to their defeatism (Numbers 13:26-29). When Jesus came, Israel ignored him because they wanted a political and military leader to give them prosperity and military peace so the skies would always shine.

Instead of pursuing answers among sinful humans, the Lord teaches us that true happiness is found spiritually in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). In the fleshly world, the rain will persist.

In Matthew 7:24-27, we find two houses. One is built on faith and obedience and it withstands the storms. The other is constructed on disobedience and it crumbles.

We learn from this story that rain falls on both houses and will continue to do so. We cannot stop the rain, ever (Matthew 6:34; cf. Matthew 5:45).

The answer lies in dealing with the rain. Through Christ, we cling to the Rock, so we can withstand the storms (Hebrews 13:5). In prayer and the Word, we maintain calm, faith and peace knowing that in Christ we cannot be destroyed (Romans 8:1).

Who’ll stop the rain in the world? No one. But in Christ, it will not matter because the rain cannot hurt us!

___________

1/ http://youtu.be/lIPan-rEQJA

Richard Mansel

The narrow road

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew  7:13-14, NASB)

Jesus said, “…narrow is the way that leads to life…” But with the tolerant chorus, claiming to represent the 99%, and occupying anywhere from Wall Street to down the street, one might ask the question:  “How wide is narrow?”

Well, first, the Bible’s use of narrow is not to be confused with the term “narrow-minded.” That denotes bigotry, bias, and prejudice, and connotes a lack of progression in thought and actions.

Instead, the concept expressed by the Greek word for “narrow” here is a tight, compressed space that Jesus says many will choose not to travel. It is a lonely, rugged, costly path that requires travelers to sacrifice excess “baggage” (Hebrews  12:1-2) in order to pass through successfully.

There is room for more to travel this way. But Jesus asserted contrary to Jewish sentiments that the overwhelming majority will choose the equivalent of the four-lane highway. That way is easily accessible, fully-lighted, government-supported, and popularized by word-of-mouth, societal mores, and conventional wisdom.

Unfortunately, if its travelers do not get off in time, the final exit for this course lures all who negotiate it to spiritual destruction.

So, how wide is narrow? In short, it is just wide enough.

It is just wide enough to include all righteousness and exclude all wickedness (Ephesians 5:9; I John 1:9; 5:17; Psalms 118:19-20).

How wide is narrow? It is just wide enough to redirect the misdirection that post-modern morality casts upon spiritual discernment propagated by scripture (Psalms 14:1-5; Isaiah 5:20-21; Jeremiah 10:23-24).

How wide is narrow? It is just wide enough to mix both the bitterly received rebuke with the sweeter sounding encouragement (2 Timothy 3:16-4:1-2), and allows room for that godly sorrow which leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

How wide is narrow? It is just wide enough to allow time and space to forgive all who sin (I Timothy 1:15; II Peter 3:8-9), dispense ample grace (1 Timothy 1:13-14; Romans 5:20-21), and take all steps that may lead anyone to the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4; 2 Timothy 2:24-25).

It is just wide enough for everyone—all genders, all races, all colors (Galatians 3:28); it does not discriminate. Most importantly, it is wide enough for you and wide enough for me if we are spiritually directed enough to take it.

And it is my hope and prayer that all who read this article are inspired to make the right choice regarding this narrow, lonely, ancient path, spurned by most, but needed by all.

Thus says the LORD,

“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,

Where the good way is, and walk in it;

And you will find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Jeremiah 6:16 (NASB)

by Patrick Medlock

Blackmail Through Snapchat

There are some things you hear that you simply can’t believe. You say, “No. No way. That’s not happening. Is it?”

There’s an epidemic going around with Snapchat and our teens. Snapchat, if you didn’t know, is a photo/video/texting service that allows people to quickly send messages and funny animations back and forth between their friends. Lots of services do this, but the distinguishing feature of Snapchat has been that the pictures and videos are only available for a short time, a few seconds, and then they disappear.

In case you didn’t know, Snapchat, as quoted by its own creators, was originally designed for sexting – sending nude photos back and forth so that they self-destructed after a few seconds, to never be seen again, and to only be seen by those viewing it at that time.

Only it doesn’t work that way.

Because we always find loopholes. Whether it’s with scripture, our taxes, or Snapchat, we always find loopholes to justify what we want to do.

Teens are now using Snapchat to blackmail one another.

Let me walk you through a scenario. A scenario that a friend recently told me about that actually happened.

Girl meets Boy. They hit it off. Both are upper-middle school, age 14. They immediately friend each other on Snapchat, because if you’re between the ages of 13-18 these days and don’t have Snapchat on your phone, you might as well be wearing hand-me-downs and shoes from 1998.

Things are fine for a while between Girl and Boy. They send goofy pics with text on them, all of it harmless.

Then one day, Boy asks Girl to send him a nude picture of herself. She does.

Why does she? She wants approval from this Boy. She wants to be sexy. She wants him to like her. She also figures that, “Hey, he’s only going to be able to see this for 10 seconds, right? Because Snapchat photos go away.”

Only they don’t. Not when the Boy takes a screenshot on his phone.

It’s a handy tool on iPhones – you can take a screenshot of what’s on the screen by hitting the power button and the home button at the same time.

The Girl had not thought of that.

So the Boy blackmails her. “I have the photo,” he says. “Send me a video of you doing _____ or I send this picture to all your friends.”

Now, there’s lots of things that should not have happened here. But regardless, this is apparently a regular occurrence between teens on Snapchat. In talking to my friend about his situation, he said that the girl had said “Yeah, of course. This is a normal thing that happens. Especially with kids in high school.”

Parents, how are we letting this happen? Are we that clueless?

You know of a good way for this not to happen? Don’t let you children have this app!

Parents, this is out of control. We always want to assume that our child would have the sense not to do something like this, but we would be naive and wrong.

Check your children’s phones today. Have them delete Snapchat, along with any other apps that hide use from parents (apps like Whisper, Yik-Yak, and Tinder come to mind). Ask the hard questions like “Have you done this before? Do you know people who do? Have you ever been asked to send nude photos of yourself?”
Parents, make a stand. Now. Before your child gets into lots of trouble.

Chad Landman

Eph. 6:4 – “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.”

The Bible’s use of narrow is not to be confused with the term “narrow-minded.”

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew  7:13-14, NASB)

Jesus said, “…narrow is the way that leads to life…” But with the tolerant chorus, claiming to represent the 99%, and occupying anywhere from Wall Street to down the street, one might ask the question:  “How wide is narrow?”

Well, first, the Bible’s use of narrow is not to be confused with the term “narrow-minded.” That denotes bigotry, bias, and prejudice, and connotes a lack of progression in thought and actions.

Instead, the concept expressed by the Greek word for “narrow” here is a tight, compressed space that Jesus says many will choose not to travel. It is a lonely, rugged, costly path that requires travelers to sacrifice excess “baggage” (Hebrews  12:1-2) in order to pass through successfully.

There is room for more to travel this way. But Jesus asserted contrary to Jewish sentiments that the overwhelming majority will choose the equivalent of the four-lane highway. That way is easily accessible, fully-lighted, government-supported, and popularized by word-of-mouth, societal mores, and conventional wisdom.

Unfortunately, if its travelers do not get off in time, the final exit for this course lures all who negotiate it to spiritual destruction.

So, how wide is narrow? In short, it is just wide enough.

It is just wide enough to include all righteousness and exclude all wickedness (Ephesians 5:9; I John 1:9; 5:17; Psalms 118:19-20).

How wide is narrow? It is just wide enough to redirect the misdirection that post-modern morality casts upon spiritual discernment propagated by scripture (Psalms 14:1-5; Isaiah 5:20-21; Jeremiah 10:23-24).

How wide is narrow? It is just wide enough to mix both the bitterly received rebuke with the sweeter sounding encouragement (2 Timothy 3:16-4:1-2), and allows room for that godly sorrow which leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

How wide is narrow? It is just wide enough to allow time and space to forgive all who sin (I Timothy 1:15; II Peter 3:8-9), dispense ample grace (1 Timothy 1:13-14; Romans 5:20-21), and take all steps that may lead anyone to the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4; 2 Timothy 2:24-25).

It is just wide enough for everyone—all genders, all races, all colors (Galatians 3:28); it does not discriminate. Most importantly, it is wide enough for you and wide enough for me if we are spiritually directed enough to take it.

And it is my hope and prayer that all who read this article are inspired to make the right choice regarding this narrow, lonely, ancient path, spurned by most, but needed by all.

Thus says the LORD,

“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,

Where the good way is, and walk in it;

And you will find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Jeremiah 6:16 (NASB)

by Patrick Medlock

“Dear parents, … I want you to spend more time with me … that we do more experiments at home.”

The Other Letter

According to Wikipedia, IKEA is a multinational group of companies that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture (such as beds, chairs and desks), appliances and home accessories.  As of January 2008, it is the world’s largest furniture retailer.

IKEA Spain recently conducted an experiment with 10 families that included children.  They asked each child to write a letter to “The Three Kings” (Santa Claus equivalent).  When asking Santa for a gift, the kids focused on material items and toys.  Responses included:  “I want… a game … a guitar … a Wii.”  One little girl pointed to several items on a page of a Christmas catalogue and said, “This, this, this, and this.”  “A piano” and “a unicorn” were some other items that children requested in their letters.

Then the children were given these instructions: “And now you’re going to write another letter: to your parents.  What would you ask your parents for this Christmas?”

At first, many of them were a little confused.  But after thinking about it for a bit, each of them wrote “the other letter.”

The parents were then given the letters that their children had written to them.  They were amazed by their children’s words.  Here are some of the children’s requests:

“Dear parents, … I want you to spend more time with me … that we do more experiments at home.”

“I’d like it if you paid a little more attention to us…”

“I’d like it if you would have dinner with us more often…”

“I want you… to tickle me…”

“…and read us a story.”

“I want us to be together one whole day…”

“I want to play, Mama; I want you to play cowboys with me…”

Overwhelmingly, the kids just wanted to spend more quality time with their parents.

The parents were asked if they were surprised by their children’s requests.  After some reflection, they indicated that they really were not surprised at all.

When asked what they had learned from their child’s letter, one couple responded:

“To spend all of the time we have, the most that we can, with our children.”

“Imagine!  You want to give them the best you can and the best is YOURSELF.”

Another “Letter” (actually a book of letters, the Bible) reveals that God loves us so much that He wants to give us salvation from sin and eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

These gifts required the giving of Himself.  God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ to be “God with us” and to die for us so that we might be reconciled to Him and live eternally with Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).  At the heart of this Good News is that God wants YOU to be His child and to live with Him forever.

In order to accept God’s offer of salvation, eternal life, and relationship, one must place his faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, as one follows Jesus faithfully, the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse him from all sin (1 John 1:7).

In the IKEA experiment, the children were also asked, “If you could only send one of the two letters, which one would you send — the one to the Three Kings or the one to Mom and Dad?”

One little boy responded, “Wow!  That’s a very difficult question!”

But after some thought, he replied, “The one to my mother.”

“The one to my parents,” another girl said.

“To Mom and Dad.”

They ALL chose the second letter: the one to their parents. *

Won’t YOU choose to accept God’s invitation to become His child and live with Him forever?

David A. Sargent