Archives for : January2017

The Right Word at the Right Time

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11,   ESV).

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me,” is often a child’s mantra, but adults will recognize it as mere bravado. Angry words, snide remarks, gossip — all these things knock and ding our reputation and our well-being until we are destroyed completely, broken by their cruelty and thoughtlessness.

We know this, or should. But have you ever considered the potential your words have to build and strengthen, teach and develop? Is there a young person you know who needs a gentle word of guidance? A discouraged church leader who could use an expression of gratitude? A shy individual who needs your inclusion?

A lonely elderly person who needs some company?

An elderly friend would invariably have exactly the right thing to say. I could see him work his way across a room, producing smiles and gratitude every time he spoke. I asked him one day how he did it.

“You always have exactly the right thing to say.

That’s amazing!”

He said, “It’s simple. Before I arrive, I give some thought to each person I will see, and plan to say something encouraging.”

“Plan to say something encouraging.” Is it so simple as that? Usually when words harm, shred and destroy its because we didn’t plan what we would say. We just blurted it out, like a gusher in an oil field shooting out the filthy black stuff. Usually it’s the unplanned words that harm! Think about it.

By Stan Mitchell

How deeply held are your Christian convictions?

What would cause you to leave Christ and his church? What would be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back? How deeply held are your Christian convictions?

I am stunned by the shallowness with which some hold their convictions. If the preacher’s wife doesn’t greet me, I’m “so outta here,” someone says. “If they move the back three pews out of the auditorium, I’ll leave the church.”

Really?

Think about the early Christians. They were burned at the stake, dismembered, thrown to the gladiators, yet remained faithful to God.

How pathetic we must look to these early believers when we surrender our convictions for a pittance! To us the color of the carpet would force us to leave the Lord, to early Christians nothing, not peril or persecution or death would separate them from their Lord.

It was the early church father Tertullian (160-225) who observed: “The more we are cut down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is the seed by which the church grows” (Apology, 50)

Every drop of blood spilt by the martyrs was the seed of another Christian. The Roman Empire could not squelch the early church. Knock one down, and twenty took their place!

This spirit of courage and commitment is reflected in John’s cry of triumph:

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:10, ESV).

They were willing to die for their faith. We complain when we have to sit through half an hour of biblical instruction; we quit the church when it doesn’t serve us to our specifications; we shun our brethren on a whim; when a well-meaning preacher or elder comes to our house and enquires whether we are OK we dump a load of resentments and criticisms on their shoulders.

We could walk away from the church if it was no more than a hobby. We could walk away if its members were not individuals with an eternal destiny, a destiny whose end we might affect by our defection. We could walk away from the church if Christ had not spilt history’s most precious commodity for its purchase.

But we know this is not true. Christianity is no pastime, Christians are discouraged by defections, and Jesus paid the ultimate price for the church. We dare not quit on it.

Stan Mitchell

The Time of My Departure is at Hand

Read carefully what the apostle Paul wrote when he realized the time of his departure from this life was at hand.  He said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

That’s what Paul said when he realized the time of his departure was at hand.  Now, what might we say if we learned the time of our departure is at hand?  Would we say things like…

  • The time of my departure is at hand…I had better get my house in order.
  • The time of my departure is at hand…I had better go mend some relationships.
  • The time of my departure is at hand…I had better repent of some sin I’ve been committing.
  • The time of my departure is at hand…I had better start going to services again.

You get the idea.  When Paul realized his time of departure was at hand, he confidently affirmed he had fought a good fight, finished the race, kept the faith, therefore he had a reward awaiting him.  May we so live our lives that when our time of departure comes, we’re not found scrambling, trying to receive the reward for a race we were unwilling to run.  Give it some thought.

— Steve Higginbotham

One Way to God?

The Baha’i Temple in Chicago focuses on unity – the oneness of God, the oneness of religion, and the oneness of the human race. Baha’is believe there is only one God, the Creator of the universe. Although God may be called by different names in different languages – Yahweh, Allah, Brahmin, God – all these names refer to the same singular force and being.

Baha’is believe that all religions are actually one “ever-folding religion from a single source.” They refer to this concept of “oneness of religion” as “Progressive Revelation.” Do Baha’is have something? Are they on to something? It seems that whether they have tried hard or not, they have been very successful in their evangelism efforts.

If you were to ask Noah if there is only one way to God, what would Noah have answered? Should Noah’s Aunt Bertha have been asked if there is only one way to God, what would she have answered?

How has God defined His nature? “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7).

Following the creation of the golden calf, Moses tried to intercede for the people. The day following the implementation of justice on those 3,000, Moses told the people –Exodus 32:30: “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Then Moses went to God and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin–but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”

Moses tried to be the mediator between God and man. He offered Himself as the sacrifice for Israel’s sin but God refused – verse 33. Moses was a sinner. Moses could not be the Mediator because he himself needed reconciliation with God.

Man needs a Mediator. Man needs help to stay away from golden calves. “The way of man is not in himself. It is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Man needs God’s holiness to make us holy. As Moses says, so we plead, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (33:15-16).

We need God’s presence. We need God to dwell among us so that we can dwell with God.

Is there only one way to God – Yes or No? If you answer “No” – as the Baha’is have done, you not only obliterate truth, which should be objective and unchanging, but you also must redefine every major religion on earth. The Qur’an with its permission to exterminate infidels versus the NT with its teaching on blessing and praying for your enemies (in the words of the Baha’i faith – which is the progressive religion?); the OT with its teaching on physical circumcision versus the NT and its teaching on spiritual circumcision. The God of the Bible tells us there is only one way to come into His presence. There is only one way by which sins can be atoned.

Is there only one way to God? The resurrection of Christ answers with a resounding, “YES!”

–Paul Holland

The Church of Tomorrow

I was about eight years old when I heard the proverb for the first time: “Young people are not the church of tomorrow.” The speaker declared, “They are the church of today!”

I guess I was glad to be included. And I take the point. Young people in churches should not begin a life time habit of non-participation in the Lord’s work. “Get involved now,” the speaker was trying to say.

But I like the original proverb better. “Young people are the church of tomorrow.” I like it because it reminds me of the need to train and develop our youth, or there will be no church tomorrow. It reminds me that preachers, elders, leaders in the church do not develop by accident.

Moses spent 40 years learning leadership as a prince of Egypt. He spent another 40 in the desert, learning its dangers. Finally he spent 40 years leading the children of Israel. God prepared him 80 years for 40 years of service! Usually we see it the other way around. Preparation should be slip shod and hurried.

Young people should be thrust into leadership regardless of their readiness!

This weekend I saw a motel called the “It’ll Do Motel.” I didn’t stay there that night! Any motel with that attitude was not good enough for my custom!

Neither should an attitude of “It’s good enough for the folks we’re with” do for the church. We’re not doing this for the “folks we’re with.” We’re doing it for the Lord!

Young people are indeed the church of tomorrow. We won’t be around for the church tomorrow, they will. We won’t be shepherding the church tomorrow, they will.

We won’t be in the pulpits and the classrooms tomorrow, they will. Will they be ready? Will we have developed their knowledge of the scriptures, their character, their determination to stand for truth?

“And the things you have heard me say in the

presence of many witnesses entrust to

reliable men who will also be qualified to

teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).

The reason this occurs to me is that when I first heard the statement, I was young. I was the church’s future. That doesn’t seem so long ago! Now I am the church of today. If it survives into the next generation, part of that burden falls on me.

—  by Stan Mitchell

Failure hurts

WHEN I WAS 16, I was an accomplished junior golfer…

 

I had played in many tournaments throughout my home state as well as in the United States Junior Amateur.  My goal in life was to play professional golf.

 

At one point, I participated in a state-level tournament and was favored to win.  However, although I played well early on, I choked in the last round and ended up well behind the leaders.  I was devastated.

 

I came home and broke down in from of my mother.  She consoled me, which is what mothers do.  I realize now that I didn’t really need a mother’s tender consolation.  I needed a hard-nosed coach to yank me out of my trough of self-pity and say, “Every competitor goes through failure!  Learn a lesson from it and keep going!”

 

Because I didn’t have that kind of coaching, I didn’t know that getting nervous and tense during a competition was a common affliction in competitive sports.  I didn’t know I could overcome it.  Instead, that one failure made me see myself as a failure–someone who couldn’t handle the heat of competition.  

 

I played in other tournaments and often jumped out to an early lead, only to tighten up and fall back in the pack as the pressure mounted.  My self-esteem was based on my performance–and I was performing terribly!  I went on to land a scholarship and become a club professional for three years, but I never fulfilled my potential as a golfer.

 

Years later, I learned to loosen up, have fun and let go of the tension–and I won a local club championship.  If I had learned that lesson earlier in life, who knows how far I might have gone as a golfer.

 

THOUGHT:  Failure hurts.  Whether you fail in marriage, business or golf, failure undermines your self-esteem as few other experiences can.  But failure isn’t the final word on your life.  It’s just one of the raw ingredients God uses to manufacture success.  Os Hillman, “Confronting the Fear of Failure,” The Upside of Adversity, 194-195

 

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3.13-14 

Mike Benson

ENJOY THE GRAPE

I read a parable recently that bothered me when I read it the first time.  It is a story that was reportedly told by Buddha:

A traveler, fleeing a tiger who was chasing him, ran till he came to the edge of a cliff.  There he caught hold of a thick vine, and swung himself over the edge.

Above him the tiger snarled.  Below him he heard another snarl, and behold, there was another tiger, peering up at him.  The vine suspended him midway between two tigers.

Two mice, a white mouse and a black mouse, began to gnaw at the vine.  He could see they were quickly eating it through.  Then in front of him on the cliff side he saw a luscious bunch of grapes.  Holding onto the vine with one hand, he reached and picked a grape with the other.  How delicious!

That’s the end of the parable.  That’s it???  If you’re like me, you want to know how the story ends.  Does the man get eaten by one of the tigers?  Does he manage to find a way of escape?  We don’t know.  And how can a man possibly stop to enjoy eating a grape while in the midst of such a crisis???

I can’t tell you for sure what the parable was intended to teach, but after giving it considerable thought, here’s the lesson that I gained from it.  We are sometimes so focused on wanting to know what’s going to happen in the future that we fail to enjoy what we have right here, right now.

What is the doctor going to find when I go in for these tests?  How can I possibly meet the deadline my boss has given me since I have more work to do than I can possibly get done?  How will my wife react when I talk to her about the need to go see a counselor to deal with the deep-rooted problems we’re having?  How am I going to pay the bills that are due next week when there’s not enough money in the bank to cover them?  How should I react to the racial prejudice that’s causing students to say ugly things to me at school?

None of those things are unimportant (nor are the countless other trials and difficulties you could add to that list from your own experience); some may even be life-threatening  But today, all day long, I am surrounded by countless blessings from God — a beautiful sunrise, the changing autumn leaves, a child’s kiss, a bunch of grapes, a warm bed, hot water, and the list goes on and on.  Is it possible to focus on the blessings at hand even when we are surrounded by difficulties and we don’t know how the story will turn out?  For a child of God, it is not only possible, it is essential that we learn to do so.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

Are you surrounded by tigers today?  Take a moment to enjoy the grape that God has placed right in front of you.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Sola Scriptura

Purchasing land in Bangladesh can be a frustrating experience because of the difficulty of determining exactly how much land a given parcel contains.

Depending upon the area of the country one is in, land may be measured by acres, hectares, decimals (hundredths of an acre), or cotah. To make it more complicated different sections use different definitions of a cotah. It may be sixty feet by sixty feet in one area, but a totally different size elsewhere. And not everyone will agree on definitions.

In Ezekiel’s visions of the future kingdom of Israel, he sees a man measuring the temple and its courts (Ezekiel 40:5). For those measurements he uses a rod which is “six cubits long.” But each cubit is then described as a cubit and a handbreadth. In other words, he is using a “long cubit” to determine heights, breadths and lengths.

The use of different definitions of terms does not create insurmountable problems so long as the precise definition used for a particular item is understood.

Travelers in the United States know that a gallon of gasoline will be of a particular size, whereas those in Canada will expect a different sized gallon.

Confusion arises when different standards are used indiscriminately, or when an item is described by one standard but delivered in accordance to a different one. This goes to the particular definition of the word standard itself. It is simply an agreed upon principle or object that defines one’s words.

In spiritual matters we have such a standard. It is the Bible, the Word of God. In ancient times measuring rods such as that used by the man in Ezekiel’s vision were called “canons.” That term gradually came to mean the collection of sacred books which made up Scripture.

This canon of Scripture (collection of inspired books) is the standard of Christian faith and practice.

Jesus confirmed this: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; cf. John 17:17).

Unfortunately Scripture means different things to different people. Some add additional books to the Christian Old and New Testaments. Some have totally different sacred volumes, not recognizing the Bible at all. Others seek to honor two or more holy books, choosing sometimes the teaching of one, sometimes the other.

The result of such random selection and variable definitions is the loss of any authoritative standard.

Each one does what he desires to do, and justifies it by the “scripture,” which seems to agree. Paul spoke of those with “itching ears” who would “not endure sound doctrine” but rather follow their own desires; “they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The principle proposed by great reformers of the past was “Sola Scriptura” -– the Bible only. By this principle they called all men to recognize a standard by which all doctrines and religious activities could be measured.

Such a standard depended upon truth and presumed that man can know the truth and by it be free (John 8:32).

The cubit of Ezekiel was different from cubits used at other times. In the modern world dollars and gallons may vary in value or quantity.

But when it comes to Spiritual matters, there is one and only one Canon – one standard which all must follow if truth is to be obeyed and God’s will obtained. That is the Bible, the inspired word of God.

by Michael E. Brooks

The value in studying the Old Testament

For Bloodstained Hands

In 1893 a great “Parliament of Religions” was held in Chicago, Illinois. Members of all the various cults were gathered in attendance: there were Hindus, and Buddhists, and representatives of all sorts of exotic Eastern religions. It was designed to be a great festival of tolerance and ecumenical brotherhood, but a preacher, Joseph Cook of Boston, offered a reminder that not all religions are equal.

During one of the sessions he rose and dramatically announced, “Gentlemen, I beg to introduce to you a woman with a great sorrow. Bloodstains are on her hands, and nothing she has tried will remove them. The blood is that of murder. She has been driven to desperation in her distress. Is there anything in your religion that will remove her sin and give her peace?” A hush fell on the gathering. Not one of the swamis or monks said a word.

In the heaviness of that silence Cook abruptly raised his eyes heavenward and cried out, “John, can you tell this woman how to get rid of her awful sin?” The preacher waited, as if listening for a reply. Suddenly he cried out, “Listen, John speaks. 1 John 1:7 –

‘The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, purifies us from all sin.'”

Not a soul broke the silence that followed; all the representatives of Eastern religions and Western cults sat speechless. Why? Because ONLY Christianity can make that statement: only the shed blood of Jesus can claim the power to forgive “all sin.” *

This is a sublime truth for ALL of us because “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). ALL of us have the stain of guilt of sin in our lives.

What can wash away my sin and yours? Nothing but the BLOOD of Jesus! Peter and the other apostles preached to a crowd in Jerusalem that had the blood of Jesus Christ on their hands. Peter declared, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

Their response: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?'” (Acts 2:37). They wanted to know: Is there anything that can remove our sin and give us peace?

The answer: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'” (Acts 2:38).

Amazing Grace! The bloodstained hands of those who cried out for the crucifixion of Jesus could be washed clean by the blood that He shed on the cross! Jesus made forgiveness possible by dying on the cross as payment for sin (Ephesians 1:7).

In the same way, OUR bloodstained hands can be washed clean by the cleansing blood of Christ when we respond in faith: placing our trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).

Won’t YOU be washed by the blood of Jesus to have your sins forgiven?

David A. Sargent,

Finders Keepers

            You’ve said that before, haven’t you? Probably to a brother or sister. “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” Jerry Laliberte is a plumber in Florida. He was cleaning air ducts when he found $20,000 wrapped up in aluminum foil. He said he briefly thought about keeping the money but then alerted the homeowner. The woman often stashed cash in strange places around the house. So, you might want to check your air ducts.

 

          Honesty when no one is looking – that’s integrity. That’s honesty. Relative to honesty, let me paraphrase Paul’s words in Colossians 3 but alter it relative to honesty: “Be honest in everything relative to those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work honestly, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (3:22-24).

 

          I went to exchange some dollars into Romanian lei one time. The wife of the exchange office owner gave me the lei. I spent some before I arrived at the office and then counted the money. She had given me one million lei too much. That only equaled about $30 but to them, it would be a serious loss. When I returned it, the man was working and I explained what happened. From then on, he called me “The most honest American!” It made a big impression. I also counted my money before I left after that.

 

          If our employer feels like he or she needs to constantly look over our shoulder, it might say something about him or her. They might be a micro-manager. But it also might say something about their opinion of us. They aren’t sure if we’re dependable. On the other hand, if our boss were to say something like, “I know I don’t have to look over your shoulder. I know if you have a job to do, you’ll get it done”, then our integrity is probably intact.

 

          Wherever you are and whatever you do – don’t be honest when people are looking – being people pleasers. Work honestly for the Lord.

 

–Paul Holland

Lessons From LEGOS

The following essay on “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned From LEGOs” was written by Steve Klusmeyer:

“Life might be less complicated for all of us if we each received our own LEGO kit at birth. Yes, I realize there is a choking hazard for children under three. But when you are old enough, you can learn a lot from LEGOs. I have learned that:

~ Size doesn’t matter. When stepped on in the dark, a 2X2 LEGO brick causes the same amount of pain as a 2X8 brick.

~ All LEGO men are created equal (1.5625 inches tall). What they become is limited only by imagination.

~ There is strength in numbers. When the bricks stick together, great things can be accomplished.

~ Playtime is important. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you are building, as long as you’re having fun.

~ Disaster happens. But the pieces can be put back together again.

~ Every brick has a purpose. Some are made for a specific spot – most can adapt almost anywhere – but everyone will fit somewhere.

~ Color doesn’t matter. A blue brick will fit in the same space as a red brick.

~ No one is indispensable. If one brick is unavailable, another can take its place.

~ It doesn’t always turn out as planned. Sometimes it turns out better. If it doesn’t, you can always try again.

I thought about each of these statements as it relates to the church.  Some of the statements apply more than others.  For example, unity is a biblical concept.  When Christians stick together, great things can be accomplished (and color truly doesn’t matter!).

And it is an important biblical truth that every Christian has a purpose.  As Paul describes it in I Corinthians 12 using the analogy of a human body, some of us are eyes, some are hands, still others are feet, but we all have a purpose and a role.

But while it is technically true that “no one is indispensable”, the teaching of scripture is that each one of us is needed and the body suffers greatly if we don’t do our part (I Cor. 12:20-22)

The greatest comparison between Legos and Christianity, though, is that we are indeed a building shaped by God’s own hand.  And every Christian is a part of that building — not a plastic building block, but a “living stone”:

As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (cf. I Peter 2:4-5)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

THE BLESSING OF ANSWERED PRAYER

One of Erma Bombeck’s favorite Jewish grandmother stories involves a grandmother who took her grandson to the beach.  She put a sun hat on him and then dozed off to sleep as the little boy played with his bucket and shovel in the sand.  Suddenly, a large wave came in and dragged the child out to sea. The grandmother woke and was devastated.  She fell to her knees and prayed, “God, if you’ll save my grandson, I promise I’ll make it up to you. I’ll join whatever club you want me to. I’ll volunteer at the hospital, give to the poor and do anything that makes you happy.”

Suddenly, another huge wave came in and tossed her grandson on the beach at her feet. She noticed there was color in his cheeks and his eyes were bright. He was alive!

As she stood up, however, she seemed to be upset. She put her hands on her hips, looked skyward, and said sharply, “He had a hat, you know.”

Though we may not always get everything we want when we pray, the Bible teaches that prayer truly makes a difference.  As James said, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16).

We see it happen time and again in the scriptures.  Abraham’s servant prayed and Rebekah appeared. Hannah prayed and Samuel was born.  Isaiah and Hezekiah prayed, and 185,000 Assyrians were slain.  After three years of drought, Elijah prayed again and rain came.  The church in Jerusalem prayed and Peter was released from prison.  That’s just a small sampling of answered prayer in the Bible.

We’ve seen it happen in our own lives as well.  We do not receive everything we ask for (even the apostle Paul didn’t), but we have seen God’s answers time and again — for sickness to be healed, for safety through difficult times, for the wisdom to make right decisions, for needs to be provided.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (I John 5:14)

Praise be to God — our Heavenly Father — who is willing to hear us and cares enough about us to answer our prayers.  Most of us have been more than willing over the years to carry our burdens to God and tell Him what we want.  May I suggest that you take some time during this time of Thanksgiving to give God your thanks for the many times He has heard and answered.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Suicide and bullying

“I have nobody. I need someone. My name is _______ _______.”

While reading the news, an article caught my attention concerning a 15 year-old girl who had posted a plea for help on YouTube. In this video she described the years of bullying she had endured from her peers.

Because of this constant barrage she had become so desperate and depressed that she had fallen prey to drugs and alcohol. In the end, this young soul took her life. This was a tragic end for one so young with so much to live for.

If you will do a Web search with the words “suicide” and “bullying” it will become evident that society has a serious problem.

According to the Center for Disease Control:

“Suicide is the third leading cause of death

among young people, resulting in about 4,400

deaths per year. For every suicide among

young people, there are at least 100 suicide

attempts. Over 14 percent of high school

students have considered suicide, and almost

7 percent have attempted it.”

Even though bullying is not the reason for all youth suicide, a study in Britain found that at least half were related and that 10 to 14 year-old girls were at the highest risk.

According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying.

As members of the society and especially Christians, we should come to an understanding of God’s truth concerning bullying.

Throughout the pages of the inspired Bible God gives insight concerning the struggles between “strangers” and bullies. The term “stranger” used within the text is often a general term; which can mean homeless person, traveler, or person who is strange to one’s standards of cultural normalcy.

One who bullies is the person who uses force, intimidation or manipulation, to obtain their desired end, usually the suffering of others. It is this action that the Bible calls “wicked.”

In the Bible, there are several passages that deal with bullying.

Cain and Abel in Genesis 4

The flood in Genesis 6-9

Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19

Isaac and Ishmael in Genesis 21

Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25-28

Joseph and his brothers from Genesis 45-50 Gideon and the story of the sons of Baal in Judges 17-21

In addition, there and several stories in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles and others that serve as examples of how God punishes bullies (such as in the many writings of the prophets; specifically Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel); still others are direct commands about not oppressing people, and instructions about how to deal with such oppression.

Bullying has become a societal problem that must be addressed. For the Christian, we have a responsibility to reach out to those struggling and hurting. These precious souls need to know that they are not alone and that there is help available.

by John E. Werhan

What happens after we pray?

We go to God in prayer and plead for his help. What happens next?

In order to answer this question, we must establish some foundation principles.

* Nothing is too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:17).

* God is omniscient (1 John 3:20).

* God never tires (Isaiah 40:28).

* God will never desert us (Hebrews 13:5).

* God wants everyone to be saved (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9).

* Sin separates man from God’s care (Isaiah 59:1-2; Psalm 66:18).

* God listens to the righteous and obedient (James 5:16; Revelation 2:10).

* Prayer requires humility (Luke 18:10-14).

* Prayer must be for our own spiritual good (James 4:3).

God takes care of Christians (Matthew 6:25-34).

* God’s concept of time is different than ours (2 Peter 3:8).

* God’s definition of wealth is different than ours (Matthew 6:25-34).

Christians approach God in prayer, knowing he will reply and do what is best for his children. We trust God completely when we pray (Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 21:20-22).

What happens next is the embodiment of what separates man from God. In his time and in his way, God acts.

However, we cannot see him as he moves all the pieces around through his divine providence (Romans 8:28).

God always works his will but we cannot know what is happening behind the scenes. We just have to maintain our faith, trust and confidence. Walking in obedience and seeking his glory, we continue our Christian walk (Ephesians 4:1).

Humans are naturally impatient, so we must resist that urge because God moves in his own mysterious patterns.

We cannot look to God as one alternative among many. He must always be first in everything (Exodus 20:3).

Trust God and prayer will accomplish extraordinary things. But, we must allow it to unfold as God desires because Satan will be filling us with doubt (1 Peter 5:8; John 8:44).

Like Job, we must fall back on what we know about God and trust him above everything (Job 19:23-26).

God is always faithful but he has millions of things working at once and we are but one piece in a puzzle that is larger than time. Understand what God is going through and be patient as he works and great blessings will be the result.

by Richard Mansel

Discipleship cannot occur on autopilot

C.S. Lewis said “that security is mortals’ greatest enemy.” When we stop stretching and dreaming, we wake up and realize that life has passed us by.

Discipleship cannot occur on autopilot. If we turn off our minds, we can’t follow Christ. How do we give up the fleshly for the spiritual, eschew vengeance in the face of wrong or love our enemies without a conscious affirmation?

Christianity is about transformation (Romans 12:1-2) and we must remain awake and active throughout our days. When we become too secure and comfortable, we become easy prey (1 Peter 5:8).

Asa was the king of Judah and he went against the evil ways of his father and walked in righteousness (1 Kings 15:1-11). He restored the worship of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 14:2-6), and allowed God to lead his forces into battle (2 Chronicles 14:7-15).

Asa’s wealth and power made Baasha, king of Israel, jealous. Baasha came against Asa and instead of turning to God, Asa took a portion of his wealth to seek help from Syria (2 Chronicles 16:1-3.

God sent a prophet to indict Asa of his sin and the king jailed the man of God (2 Chronicles 16:7-10). Even later, when Asa became ill, he relied on doctors instead of God (2 Chronicles 16:11-12).

What lessons can we learn from the story of Asa?

First, familiarity can be a villain. Asa became too comfortable. God’s and Asa’s things became blurred in his mind. He began to take God for granted and decided that God would follow him wherever he went.

As Christians, we serve for decades and we begin to think we’re above the masses and we have things figured out. Then the trap is set.

Second, Asa forgot God’s enormous power (2 Chronicles 14:11; 16:8).

Third, Asa became too big to repent. He had arrived and decided that God favored him, so he could do as he pleased. We foolishly think that we’ve built up enough points so God will overlook our sins (Ephesians 2:8- 10).

Fourth, Asa forgot that we can’t reach our destination without finishing the journey. It doesn’t matter how righteous we’ve been, we’re called to be faithful until death (Revelation 2:10).

When we get too comfortable physically, we get sleepy.

Why should it be any different spiritually?

by Richard Mansel

POLITENESS

The story is told of two polite people who are having dinner together.  On the table there is a dish with one big piece of fish and one small piece of fish.  They politely say to each other:  “You may choose first.”

“No, you may choose first.”

This goes on for a while.  Then the first person says, “OK, I’ll take first.”   And he takes the BIG piece of fish.

The second person says, “Why did you take the big piece?  That’s not polite!”

The first person says, “Which piece would *you* have taken?”

The second person replies, “Why, I would have taken the SMALL piece, of course.”

The first person says, “Well, that’s what you have now!”

New Collegiate Dictionary defines a polite person as someone who is “marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy.”   The quality of politeness is one which seems to be disappearing in our society.  As I grew up, I was taught to say, “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir”, terms not often heard by young people today.  Even the words “please” and “thank you” are not used as often as they should be.

Some might say that politeness is a “small” thing, and it is, but that doesn’t mean it is insignificant.   Politeness is a lot like salt — you don’t always pay attention to it when it is present, but it is very obvious that something is lacking when it is absent.

Of all people, Christians should be most polite because politeness is a characteristic of agape love.  Being polite means being aware of and respecting the feelings of other people.

“Remind the believers to….be ready to do good, to speak no evil about anyone, to live in peace, and to be gentle and polite to all people.” (Titus 3:1-2, NCV)

“[Love] does not behave rudely.” (I Cor. 13:5a)

Make an effort today to see that the love you show to others around you includes the quality of politeness.

Alan Smith

Things to consider

SCARED OF SNAKES?

Most of us are scared to death of snakes and especially, poisonous ones. Well, the thought occurred to me that there is a snake that poisons everybody. It topples governments, wrecks marriages, ruins careers, damages reputations, causes heartaches, produces indigestion, spawns suspicion, generates grief and makes innocent people cry into their pillows.

Even its name hisses. It is called GOSSIP! Office gossip, shop gossip, family gossip, church gossip and even POLITICAL GOSSIP—it makes headlines and heartaches.

Before you repeat a story ask yourself:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it helpful?
  3. Is it necessary?

And if not, please keep it to yourself.

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 NARROW MINDED?

Often the Christian may be accused of being narrow-minded because he insists that we MUST obey Christ completely. Yet, these same critics forget that all of life is narrow.

There is no room for broad-mindedness in the chemical laboratory. Water is composed of two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen. Deviation is forbidden. There is no room for broad-mindedness in music. There are only eight notes in an octave. In the mathematics classroom, things are narrow.  Geometry, calculus, nor trigonometry allows zero variation from accuracy.  The solution to the problem is either right or it is wrong. On the athletic field the game is played by the rules.

How then, shall we expect that broad-mindedness shall rule in the realm of Christianity and morals?

=================

 WHO’S HE KIDDING?

When a person claims he can’t find the time to read his Bible a while each day but never misses the newspaper, who’s he kidding?

When a person says the church pews are too hard to sit on but sits on a bleacher for hours and watches football players push each other around in the mud, who’s he kidding?

When a person says he doesn’t have the time for Christ and the church but spends evenings shopping, bowling or watching television, who’s he kidding?

When a person says he can’t afford to give to the Lord but lives in a comfortable home, drives a nice car and eats well, who’s he kidding?

Certainly not God!

Hillcrest Bulletin, Stephenville, TX

Westboro Baptist, a hate group from Kansas

A soldier fighting terrorism dies a hero and an extremist group pickets his funeral to protest homosexuality.

What does his death have to do with homosexuality? Nothing at all, unless we’ve allowed hate to corrode our minds and hearts and make us irrational.

Westboro Baptist, a hate group from Kansas, protests military funerals to force the government to give up their support of homosexuality.

Ironically, Westboro’s delusional behavior brings sympathy for the sin they hate. In other words, Westboro Baptist is promoting homosexuality as much as anyone in America.

As New Testament Christians (Acts 2:38-47; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4), we combine the lessons learned from the world with a voracious study of Scripture and we become wiser in our walk for Christ.

We become like Westboro when we lose our perspective on reality. Homosexuality, child porn, abortion and pedophilia are repulsive sins but nothing should lead us to lose our spiritual focus (Romans 12:1-2).

We must never allow hatred for sin to open a door for Satan (1 Peter 5:8). The devil feeds that hate like a fire and we go from a Christian sharing what the Bible teaches to Eric Rudolph blowing up an abortion clinic.

Hate steals our soul and destroys everything in its path. It doesn’t care about anyone.

We must never forget that every sinner has a soul (Genesis 1:27; John 3:16) and we cannot close the door to them. We fight against God when we turn away souls.

Homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27), but hating homosexuals will condemn us to hell. God hates sin but he loves all sinners and wants them to be saved (2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 4).

We must never allow extremism to steal God from our hearts. The price is too high.

Richard Mansel

Pet peeves

 

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at

Athens, his spirit was provoked within him

as he saw that the city was full of idols”

(Acts 17:16 ESV).

Almost everyone has one or more pet peeves. Each of us has something which especially irritates and aggravates us. It may be a particular noise (chalk on a blackboard?) or a kind of music or movie. It may be someone else’s personal habits or mannerisms.

Most of us are pretty easily set off, usually by things that are relatively minor in true consequence.

One of the things that most offended the Apostle Paul was idolatry. After decades of traveling in lands where people still worship idols, I relate easily to his experience in Athens. The difference between Paul’s issue and ours is their relative importance.

There is much about idolatry that is offensive. First is its illogical nature (read for example Isaiah 44:9- 17). Living humans make inanimate objects with their own hands, then ascribe to them supernatural powers.  Where is the logic in that?

Idolatry is a false religion, based upon lies.

Idolatry also offends because of its great expense and waste. I have visited cities containing millions of poverty stricken citizens living in filth and hunger, but which were also filled with huge elaborate temples and idols of gold and other precious materials.

Those who built them were impervious to the needs of their fellow humans, and the false gods to whom they were built neither knew nor cared about their suffering.

Finally many idols offend through obscenity and pornography. Pagan religions depict their gods with human-like features and passions, and often show them engaged in profane and obscene acts.

These are not “art” with redeemable qualities, but an attempt to portray the worst and basest aspect of human (and divine) nature, while at the same time titillating and entertaining the worshipper.

The Holy Spirit describes this aspect of idolatry:

“For although they knew God, they did not

honor him as God or give thanks to him, but

they became futile in their thinking, and

their foolish hears were darkened. Claiming

to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged

the glory of the immortal God for images

resembling mortal man and birds and animals

and creeping things .. . They exchanged the

truth about God for a lie and worshiped and

served the creature rather than the Creator”

(Romans 1:21-23, 25).

Idolatry is offensive, especially to Christians who have turned to “the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Those whose spirits are provoked by the sight of idols are responding properly. God himself is offended and enraged by such actions (Romans 1:24, 26).

He will abandon those who do those things to the inevitable consequences of their folly, and visit upon them wrath and retribution (Romans 2:6-11). May his people also be outraged and may they confront such rebellion at every opportunity.

— by Michael E. Brooks

“The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him”

Many injustices in life come from hearing only one side of the story. Reputations become ruined when gossip is spread and those gossiped about are never given the opportunity to explain or tell their side. Groups are divided and churches even split because time is never taken to actually hear and understand the other side of the story.

Instead of listening and talking, judgments are made, angers flare, and relationships are destroyed. We should seek to hear all sides of a story and give an honest effort to understand them and see it from all points of view before we make a decision or give an answer (cf. Proverbs 18:13).

Jeremy Sprouse