Archives for : March2017

Is my faith a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity?

THE CHRISTIAN LANDSCAPE is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers…the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish…

 

For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so.  The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called “nominal Christianity”. 

 

In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity.  They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable.  Their religion is a great, soft cushion.  It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their conveniences.

 

No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism.  John R. W. Stott

 

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?  Luke 14:28-30

 

–Mike Benson

Job 16:2 I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.

The modern saying, “Who needs enemies when I’ve got you for friends?” could well have been used by Job to refer to his friends. “Miserable comforters” — this is what Job called his three friends who had come to comfort him. Job’s friends had come professedly to comfort him, and no doubt were sincere in their intentions. But Job finds no help at all in the speeches of the “comforters” (verses 2-6). Instead of yielding comfort, all that they said served only to irritate, and to deepen his distress.

Are we better comforters than Job’s friends? What should we do when someone we care about has just suffered a tragedy? Crises in life happen to us all. Surely we can think of someone who is currently having a physical/health problems, another has psychological problems and is depressed, another does not have steady employment, another is stressed out carrying for a sick child/parent, another has marriage problems, and another has wayward children. How are we going to help these hurting friends? Or even this, how can we avoid hurting them more?

What do we say to someone whose heart is grieving and broken? How can we in any way be of help to them when they need us the most? Here are 4 easy steps:

(Please read Job 2:11-13)

  1. BE THERE.

Just being there is comforting to a friend. It shows you care about him. Job’s friends came as soon as they heard about his tragic experience. They dropped all of their own affairs and came rushing to be by his side. They stayed with him for seven whole days without saying a word. Just being there is a source of comfort. “I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:36).

  1. BE QUIET.

Some said: “I don’t know what to say by way of comforting them.” Job’s friends didn’t utter a single word for seven days. Sometimes that is the very best thing to do: Be Quiet. Many times, especially when comforting those who are heavy hearted, it is best to simply be quiet. It is better to be quiet than to say the wrong thing. Imagine going to a friend’s father funeral and says: “Well, we all have to go some time.” That’s not very comforting. “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:18).

  1. BE SYMPATHETIC.

When friends are emotionally distraught, it is not a time to lecture them: “See, I told you not to go there.” Being sympathetic means being understanding, non-judgmental, and helpful regarding real needs. Job’s friends didn’t tell him to “cheer up,” or “look on the bright side,” or even assure him that “God works all things for good.” Instead they simply came to “mourn with him” (Job 2:11). Be sympathetic and caring: “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him” (Luke 10:33).

  1. BE EDIFYING.

Speak words of encouragement. When someone we care about is heavy hearted, our carefully chosen words need to be positive in nature. We should comfort them with kind words or memories about their loved ones. We could also comfort them from the Scriptures. If it is a death in the family, we could remind them of the promise of God that we will be reunited with loved ones in glory. “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the sou, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).

The best way to comfort is just be there with the grieving one. Brethren, visit the sick in hospital and go to a wake. Don’t give excuse that you don’t know the family or what to say to this family member when the church member is not around at the bedside; just be there. The sight that church members are concerned about the family is comforting to them. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

Jimmy Lau

Psa 119:97  Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

Getting a Grip on Anxiety

    Although everyone is different, anxiety is a very common plague. Sometimes anxiety paralyzes folks from being productive; sometimes it can lead to ulcers and other ailments; sometimes it effects marriages, as well as other relationships. How do we get a grip on anxiety?

First of all, we focus on God. Sometimes we become overly anxious because our thoughts are too physically oriented. Jesus tells us that His Father will provide if we seek first His kingdom (Mt. 6:33). During a time of persecution, Peter said, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pt. 1:13).

Secondly, to overcome anxiety, we should focus on prayer. This is obviously related to the first point. In Philippians 4, Paul discusses how true peace and joy can be achieved. (Peace is the opposite of anxiety.) He states, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (4:6). Learn to pray about things that trouble you. God cares, so cast your care upon Him (1 Pt. 5:7)! He is well able to bear them for us.

Finally, focusing on others can help with anxiety. Sometimes focusing on others helps us to see how blessed we truly are. Ironically, helping others is extremely helpful to our own well-being. Christ said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

If you are struggling with anxiety, elevate your focus above yourself!

Daren Scrhoeder

Wednesday: “Don’t Worry! That was ____ Years Ago!”

Here is also a new 20 minute audio sermon on forgiveness.
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As an immigrant, my mother lived in constant fear of deportation. You could miss up to four questions on the citizenship test, Mom missed five. The question she flunked on was: “What is the Constitution of the United States?” The answer she gave was: “A boat.” Which wasn’t entirely wrong. The USS Constitution was docked in Boston. But the judge instantly denied her citizenship. My father stormed up to the judge. “What is this? Let me see the test! She’s not wrong–the Constitution is a boat!” The judge rolled his eyes and said, “No, the Constitution is our basic governing document. My father responded, “But it’s also a boat in Boston! The Constitution! Same thing! Come on!” The judge finally couldn’t take any more. He said, “Fine. She’s a citizen. Now get out of here!” So my father said to my mom, “you passed!” “No, I didn’t pass,” she whimpered. “They’re going to come after me!” From then on, any time my mother was even in the proximity of a policeman, she quaked with fear. When I took her to Scotland in 1983, she asked me, “Will I be able to get back in?” “Ma! Don’t worry! That was 50 years ago!” It never ended.” –Jay Leno

Has something ever laid such guilt on your heart? You know, to the point that it consumes you and you can hardly think of anything else?

The great Judge, and Savior of mankind, has promised to forgive us when we repent. Add to that, he declares “Don’t worry! That was _______ years ago!”

I think it’s often difficult for us to let go of our sins even years later. There’s often a fear that someway, somehow, God is still going to hold it to our charge.

Here’s what God says:

I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins (Isa 43:25).
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more (Heb 10:17).
See, if God will let it go, you should too! This is one devotional point that needs repeating over, and over again. So many live their lives dwelling on the forgiven past. God promises that if we sin, and if we repent and ask God to forgive us, He will.

I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!

–Neil Richey

As Christians, we are constantly exposed to an enemy far more dangerous than any swarm of bees.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord

and in the power of His might. Put on the

whole armor of God, that you may be able to

stand against the wiles of the devil”

(Ephesians 6:10-11 NKJV).

In a visit to Makwanpur district in Nepal, I was surprised at the number of bee hives that we saw. There were many groups of several dozen hives clustered in fields along our route.

As we departed the district after a few days of teaching we saw men working the hives, uncovering them, taking out the component parts, and inspecting the health and productivity of the bees.

The surprising part of this, to me at least, was the fact that the workers had protective nets over their heads and faces, but many of them wore short sleeved shirts with no gloves.

They were only partially protected against the stings of upset bees. If the bees were harmless, why wear the nets? If harmful, why not be completely protected? I suppose only the hive workers themselves could account for their choice.

As Christians, we are constantly exposed to an enemy far more dangerous than any swarm of bees. Paul reminds us:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and

blood, but against principalities, against

powers, against the rulers of the darkness

of this age, against spiritual hosts of

wickedness in the heavenly places”

(Ephesians 6:12).

He follows this ominous warning with an emphatic exhortation, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God” (v. 13).

Many of us have heard numerous sermons on the armor of God. We are familiar with Paul’s list of parts–the belt, shoes, helmet, breastplate, shield, and sword.  Though we may have never equipped ourselves with the literal military clothing as it is described, we understand the nature and use of each piece.

It is not difficult to translate that understanding to the spiritual realm and to apply Paul’s lesson to our lives. To successfully battle against sin and temptation, we must have an abundance of faith, truth, peace, and righteousness. That much is clear.

But we may miss the importance of Paul’s adjective, “whole.” It is sometimes said of complex objects, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

For instance a gourmet dish is worth far more than the combined value of each item in the recipe. I suggest that the same applies to the Christian’s armor. Though each virtue is important, its value is lessened greatly if it is not accompanied by the others.

In Greek mythology, Achilles was dipped in water that rendered him invulnerable. However, the heel by which he was held was not submerged. It later became the cause of his demise.

We cannot afford to leave any vulnerable areas by which Satan may attack and defeat us.

It is urgent that we address every part of our lives to assure that each component of God’s spiritual armor is in place, protecting us and equipping us for battle.

Some trust in a good moral life to provide salvation, even though they do not confess Christ or seek to serve God. They rely upon their breastplate, but neglect to carry their shield.

Others choose different elements of the armor, while still rejecting parts they consider less important.

An ancient soldier’s equipment was carefully chosen to protect him from every possible danger. No warrior willingly omitted any part of it.

All was necessary in the battle. That is even truer today for the Christian soldier. We must be fully equipped. Let us never face our enemy unprepared.

–by Michael E. Brooks

The World is a Bad and Bitter Place

The world is a bad and bitter place. Just when we begin to relax and let down our guard, the evil one rears his head and brings sin crashing down around us.

The apostle Paul pictures the entire creation as groaning under the weight of sin. “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now” (Romans 8.22 NET). It was, he said, “subjected to futility” (v. 20).

No corner of the material universe escapes the ravages of sin. The brunt of it is born by the one responsible, man himself.

Pockets of happiness and moments of festivity mask the damage done, but on a clear day the devastation becomes evident for as far as the eye can see.

We complain that the media tells only bad news, but our world is full of evil. The silent desperation too often breaks the surface. The slow slide into the abyss at times turns into a free-fall over the cliff into hell.

Power seeks to dominate. Greed breaks whatever rule for gain. Licentiousness uses people and consumes itself in desire. When given an opening, madness wreaks its destruction.

We note the big explosions, but the cracks appear in every edifice.

The pressure of the prince of this world crumbles the earth into a billion clods of individual despair.

No national pride, no touted progress, no vaunted philosophy can long hide the fissures that sprout from deep within the human psyche.

The majority pretend it isn’t so. Those who see it with clarity go mad.

Into a fevered cauldron of political and social unrest came the Prince of Peace. For a world on fire from its own kleptomania, God gave the water of life, offered from his own human hand. Astride a planet bent on its own destruction, the only Wonder of the World cried “Stop!” and plucks, even today, a few from among the carbonized masses.

“Come,” he says, into a place of wholeness, sanity, and plenitude. Here is blessedness, here is the prosperous soul, here is the society where good prevails and peace rules.

In the kingdom of God have come salvation and power and the benevolent reign of Christ (Revelation 12.10).

The call to enter the kingdom invites to glory and holiness (1 Thessalonians 2.12).

This kingdom consists, not “of food and drink,” nor of physical pleasures and material gains, “but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14.17).

Outside of this kingdom are the unrighteous (1 Corinthians 6.9-10), flesh and blood and all that is perishable (1 Corinthians 15.55), all the works of the flesh (Galatians 5.19-21). The world cannot secretly infiltrate nor blatantly overpower this kingdom. Of this we can be confident (Ephesians 5.5).

In the kingdom freedom and boldness mark its subjects, because love has liberated them for selfless service and for shameless recruitment of those chained by their transgressions and beaten down by a cold and cruel race.

Man for himself becomes God for man and man for the eternal presence.

The walls against the world are strong in this kingdom, but the door is ever open. Inside, the hearth is warm, the table is laden, the laughter is at no man’s expense. At the head sits he with the scars, and at his feet fall his grateful subjects whenever they consider the veil through which he passed for them.

In his council every citizen sits with him, poring over plans to invade the adversary’s realm for yet another rescue. For they remember their own shackles of pain and the unexpected messengers of life who broke their bonds with the Good News of peace.

They absorb their captain’s compassion, and for him they ready themselves to pay any price for he who gave his life for them.

The world is a bad and bitter place.

And we know where refuge is, that wide space and watered plain in the kingdom of God.

by J. Randal Matheny

Job 10:2 I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.

In this chapter Job accuses God of persecuting His own creation (verse 3, 10). He continues to pour out the bitterness of his soul in a pathetic complaint. He says that God, being so much above man, having eyes that are not of flesh, and seeing not as man sees, ought to see that he is innocent (verse 3-7). At the conclusion of this speech, he asks that he could enter “the land of darkness and the shadow of death”, referring to the abode of the dead (verse 18-22).

As we read his complaints, we may remember those days in our lives when we uttered similar ones. When we are in the same situation as Job, we probably will also wonder is this the God we worship. We have been taught that God is love and He is merciful, but why are we suffering? Even if men do not know us and accuse us wrongly, surely, God, with His all-seeing eyes, should know better: “Hast thou eyes of flesh? or seest thou as man seeth? ” (Job 10:4).

Job pleads with God: “Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me” (Job 10:2, ESV). His words imply this: “If I am afflicted because of my sins, show me what that sin is.”

God knows Job is innocent. Job’s suffering is an example to us that personal righteousness will not protect us from trials and tribulations. Job walked with God but he suffered afflictions.

Job’s pain is multiplied by the fact that God will not answer his prayers nor explain to him why he is suffering so severely. I must confess that when my son was diagnosed with a rare form of illness which made his own body immune system fighting against itself resulting in severe loss of platelets count in his blood, I too, ask God why. I want to know why my son. I have been serving God well day and night and so why didn’t He protect my son. I didn’t charge God foolishly and I was thankful that it wasn’t a fatal disease. And, thanks be to God, he has recovered from it.

Can we accept God’s Sovereignty, but question His love? I submit to you that we can’t. It’s like saying you believe but at the same time doubt Him.

But Satan likes for us to think that submitting to the sovereignty of God while questioning His love isn’t that big of a deal. But eventually that whispered questioning of God’s love will lead to direct rebellion against the sovereignty of God and at the end, leads to denial of God. It’s just impossible to believe God is in complete control while questioning whether or not He is loving. Faith is lost once we doubt the love of God.

What is Faith? Hebrews 11:1 explains: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The author is saying that faith is the confident conviction that, like the foundation of a building, stands under and supports a life lived by faith in the invisible God.

Our drawing close to Him faces many challenges from this world. Satan wants us to question God, but to do so it is to question God’s sovereignty. The Creator does not need to answer to His creation: “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9).

Faith is accepting and believing God in all circumstances. God answers prayer. But sometimes, God is silent. And this silence can be frustrating. But accepting God’s sovereignty also means actively trusting God, realizing He is in control and can be trusted. God is silent; but it doesn’t mean He doesn’t care: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Jimmy Lau

Psa 119:97  Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

Desperate times demand unusual leaders Judges 4:8-10

    Have you ever heard of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? It begins, “Listen my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere….” It is a poem that commemorates the actions of Paul Revere on April 18, 1775. The poem was published by Longfellow in a magazine in January of 1861. It has a lot of inaccuracies in it relative to its history. The speaker of the poem is the landlord of the Wayside Inn. Paul Revere tells a friend to prepare signal lanterns in the Old North Church to inform him if the British will attack by land or by sea.

    Revere would wait across the river in Charlestown and be ready to spread the alarm throughout the county. Soon, the signal lanterns are lit, letting Revere know that the British were coming by sea. Revere rides his horse through Medford, Lexington, and Concord, MA to warn the patriots.  

    Today, we will study the historical account of the battle recorded in Judges 4. It is not often that God gives us a poem that praises a historical event but there are a few.

THE ISRAELITES ARE OPPRESSED – (4.1-3):

    Although the idea of a world power would not be born until later, the Cannanites were a very powerful force in that day, very terrifying: they had chariots!  Hundreds of chariots!  Of iron! 

    These are desperate times!  Who will rise up to save Israel?  Who will be the leader?  Who will get up the courage and lead the people into battle?  Who?  Who will take the initiative? A soldier? A warrior? A man? In fact…

THERE IS NOT A COURAGEOUS LEADER IN ISRAEL – It falls to a woman (4.4-10):

    Deborah was a leader in Israel. Deborah was also a prophetess. God sends Deborah a message, a message for Barak, who was in fact a military leader.

    Do you have faith in God? Would you go to battle with the promise of God at your back? God promised to give him victory: “I will draw out to you… I will give him into your hand…”  Barak is too timid to lead. The intense need of the hour is for people who are not afraid to speak up for God, either before their families, before their friends, before their colleagues.

    The author of the book of Judges emphasizes that Barak did not fight without the presence of Deborah – verses 9 & 10.  Deborah was not a usual leader, especially because she was a woman. But desperate times demand unusual leaders.

THE ARMIES FACE OFF (4.12-16):

    The Lord gave them the power to win. Verse 16 is emphatic about the destruction of the army! But, although Deborah gave Barak the glory of the victory in verse 14, it has been remembered throughout the years that it was because of Deborah and her motivation that Barak won!  Without Deborah’s help, the words “not a man was left” would not have been written.

THE GLORY OF THE VICTORY IS GIVEN TO A WOMAN (4.17-22):

    Sisera fled to the tent of Heber, believing that he would find refuge and safety. The savior of Israel is standing at the door with the enemy. Just as the victory was not given to Barak, Sisera did not see his end at the hand of a man! God raises up two women, Deborah and Jael, in order to save the people from slavery, and one wasn’t even a Jew!

    The author closes his story showing how God humbled Jabin and brought peace (4.23-24). Again, the author shows that the victory came, not from Barak, neither really from Deborah and Jael; everything was under God’s control. He gives the victory (4.23).

    You can be an effective leader. Follow God, defend His word, and be courageous in that.

–Paul Holland

A would-be rapist

An eastern newspaper told the story of a woman who was driving home when she noticed a truck tail-gating her. She made a turn, but the truck stayed with her. She sped up, and the truck sped up, too. She ran a red light, and so did the truck!

Panicked, she screeched into a gas station, threw open the door, and ran screaming from her car. The truck driver braked to a stop behind her, and jumped from his vehicle as well. But instead of chasing her, he ran to her car, yanked open the back door, and pulled out a man hiding there! The would-be rapist had been crouched there, unknown to the lady, waiting for his opportunity. The truck driver, from his high vantage-point, had seen him. He had chased the woman’s car, not to harm her, but to save her! *

When it comes to our relationship with God, many people are like the woman in this incident. They spend their lives running from God, convinced he is out to judge them for their sins, when in reality he is chasing them down with an offer forgiveness.

Indeed, God has judged ALL to be guilty of sin.  “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

But God loves us so much that He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins so that we might be saved from our sins and receive the GIFT of eternal life: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Notice the very next verse: “For God did NOT send His Son into the world to CONDEMN the world, but that the world through Him might be SAVED” (John 3:17).  Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our redemption from sin (Ephesians 1:7).

In order to be forgiven of our sins and to receive the gift of eternal life. we must ACCEPT His offer of salvation by placing our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).

From His vantage-point, God knows everything about you – including your sins!  Because of His love for you, He is “chasing” you, not to harm you, but to save you.  He “desires ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  And He WILL save you, if you will only accept His offer on His terms.

Won’t YOU accept His offer?

David A. Sargent, Minister

* From www.illustrationsforsermons.com

He wouldn’t develop a big reputation from what he was doing.

I was talking to a preacher about his work in a small, struggling congregation.  There had been plenty of ‘ups and downs’.  I’ve admired his work there for some time and told him so.  His response impressed me.  He said, “it’s ditch-digging work.”  By that he meant his work was not flashy or spectacular.  There wasn’t any glamour or personal glory to be gained.  He wouldn’t develop a big reputation from what he was doing.  It was just plain, simple, hard work that needed to be done.  Thank God that there are men like him that are willing to do such “ditch-digging.”

We need the spirit that this godly servant expressed.  We need to remember that “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:11,12).

There’s way too much striving for personal glory in God’s kingdom.  We see far too many folks – preachers and others – who are more concerned about how they “look” in the eyes of others than they are about what they are really doing in productive work for the glory of God.  The Pharisees were of this mind-set.  Jesus said that “all their works they do for to be seen of men” (Matthew 23:5).  Sadly, they have many modern day counterparts.

Paul urged us to “let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).  Let’s work hard to develop a servant’s heart.  What needs to be done?  Is it some “ditch-digging”?  If so, then roll up your sleeves and get to work!  Remember, “your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

– by Greg Gwin

What does it mean to be dead?

Paul said we are dead. Specifically, he said we are dead “in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1a).

The typical Calvinist interpretation of that passage suggests that prior to our conversion, we are completely devoid of any good or godly inclinations, or to say it another way, we are totally depraved.

As one author asserts:

[We] “are totally corrupt, in every part, in

all [our] faculties, and all the principles

of [our] nature, [our] understandings, and

wills; and in all [our] dispositions and

affections. [Our] heads, [our] hearts, are

totally depraved; all the members of [our]

bodies are only instruments of sin; and all

[our] senses, seeing, hearing, tasting, etc.

are only inlets and outlets of sin, channels

of corruption. There is nothing but sin, no

good at all.” /1

John Calvin parroted these thoughts when he wrote:

“The whole man, from the crown of the head

to the sole of the foot, is so deluged, as

it were, that no part remains exempt from

sin, and therefore, everything which

proceeds from him is imputed as sin.” /2

Now think about it. Is an individual outside of Christ, prior to conversion, incapable of any good whatsoever as these men suggest? If not, then how can we account for many of the people we read about in the New Testament?

For example:

Devout men in Jerusalem for Pentecost: “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).

If man is totally depraved and thus incapable of any good, then how could these individuals be described as “devout” in verse 5, when their conversion didn’t take place until verse 41?

The Greek word translated devout is <i>eulabeis</i> and means pious. How is it possible to be totally depraved and pious at the same time?

The Ethiopian eunuch: “And behold, a man of

Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under

Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had

charge of all her treasury, and had come to

Jerusalem to worship, as returning. And

sitting in his chariot, he was reading

Isaiah the prophet” (Acts 8:27-28).

If a man prior to conversion incapable of any good, then how can we account for the fact that the eunuch had travelled a great distance to worship and was engaged in studying the Old Testament Scriptures?

According to Calvinists, an individual who is totally depraved is an inlet and outlet of sin, a channel of corruption, and there is no good in him at all. He therefore isn’t capable of homage to the Father much less in learning his word.

Cornelius: Luke describes him as “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always”

(Acts 10:2). It is difficult to find anyone who is more highly spoken of in Scripture than this Roman soldier (v. 1).

Cornelius was devout, believed in Jehovah and embraced the moral and ethical standards of the Law, was generous to those in need, was prayerful,  held in high regard by the Jews, and described later in the chapter as a “just” man (v. 22).

Proponents of Calvinist theology insist that a person outside of Christ is totally depraved and therefore incapable of even the slightest aptitude for goodness until the Holy Spirit acts upon him. If this doctrine is true, how can we account for Cornelius’ behavior?

_________

1/ Jonathan Edwards, The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners, 8-9.

2/ John Calvin, Institutes of The Christian Religion, 302.

—  by Mike Benson

 

The Fall of King Solomon 1 Kings 11

    I wonder if God is angry today, when He sees what is happening to Christians who marry non-Christians and then leave the faith! Solomon is an example of someone who erred, marrying a “non-Christian.” Let’s study Solomon’s example and its results.

HIS FIRST STEP (1 Kings 11:1-3):

    Many sins begin with misplaced love. Love of self; love of money; love of prestige. The last one seems to have been Solomon’s problem (temptation). Solomon’s decision was motivated by love of prestige or even love of peace.

    Solomon was married to the daughter of Pharaoh – and reminds us of the fact that Egypt was the great enemy of Israel in its past! Plus, this was against the law of God (Moses) – Deuteronomy 7:1-4. Relative to kings, especially, listen to the law of Moses – Deuteronomy 17:14-17.

    The first wrong step for Solomon was that he loved something forbidden by God…

THE NEXT TEMPTATIONS BRING SIN – 11:4-8:

    Because Solomon was “madly in love”, he allowed his wives to lead him away from God. This apostasy began in the heart and afterward, Solomon gave himself to idolatry – the most horrible sin for any believer in God! It didn’t happen over night, but gradually…

    We remember the words of God to Solomon in His warning when He appeared to Him the second time in 9:4. Solomon himself recognized the importance of this when he prayed in 8:23. Solomon wrote Proverb 4:23. But now, Solomon, it seems, has forgotten everything – everything.

    But God could not leave things alone…

GOD’S ATTITUDE TOWARD SOLOMON – 11:9-10:

    First, we see that what God does begins in His “heart.” That is, we have a view into the mind of God and if we realized what God thinks about our sins, it is possible that we would sin less!

    God had “commanded him …that he should not go after other gods.” This was a commandment especially to Solomon “but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded.”

    So, because God is holy and right, He had to punish Solomon…

SOLOMON’S PUNISHMENT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES – 11:11-13:

    The first part of the punishment is that God will tear the kingdom away from Solomon and would give it to his servant. The other part of the punishment is that God would leave one tribe for his son, again not for the sake of Solomon, but for David’s sake, for the sake of Jerusalem because God had chosen to put His name there. So, the majority of the tribes (10 out of 12) were given to Solomon’s “Secretary of Treasury & Labor” (Jeroboam) and only two remained with Solomon’s son – Rehoboam.

    This type of mixing religions is called “syncretism.” Solomon mixed true worship to the living God with false worship to false gods. But his decision led, in later years, to the destruction of Jerusalem, and finally, to slavery of the people in Babylon.

    Solomon had the possibility of surpassing David in everything – in money, in wisdom, in prestige. David was a man of war but Solomon had peace his entire life. But he failed to appreciate these blessings and died with much less glory than David. If Ecclesiastes are the last words of Solomon, perhaps he repented. However, he is not listed in the “Hall of faith” in Hebrews 11.

    Solomon was blessed but he wasted the blessings of God. It all began when he married unbelieving wives. As Paul says, “Evil companionship corrupt good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33) and that applies to marriage more than to any other relationship.

–Paul Holland

Xyloplast can be found in the ocean, but it shouldn’t be found in the church

The Starfish that never grows up.

XYLOPLAX. Yep, that’s what it’s called…

It’s an echinoderm. That means it’s classified with other ocean-dwelling organisms like star fish, sea lilies, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and such like. Do a Google search.

Xyloplax (“xylos” means wood and “plax” means plate) was first collected in 1986 on wood in the extreme depths of the Pacific.

The creature is disk-shaped and lacks the “arms” you would typically find on a starfish. It is very tiny.

Think millimeters.

It has tube feet or suckers around the circumference of its body. Marine biologists tell us that these tube feet are used for respiration, locomotion, as well as holding on to stuff. (Suddenly I’m thinking of that clear, gummy thing that holds my Garmin to the front of my car’s windshield.)

It has virtually no gut. Its body is essentially one big umbrella of plates, spines, and tissue which holds it all together.

But the real oddity of Xyloplax is…are you ready for this? It never fully grows up. It never matures like its other ocean-dwelling cousins. It stays stuck in the juvenile phase of a typical life-cycle.

I have to tell you that I find it difficult to get my brain around Xyloplax. How can something stay a baby?

And how can a creature which remains in its infancy breed other infants? Babies don’t produce more babies; adults do.

The Hebrew writer struggled with the same dilemma nearly twenty centuries ago. He asked, “How can folks, who have put on Christ, remain as spiritual infants?”

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food” (Hebrews 5.12).

The very nature of Christianity is to grow, mature, and develop in the faith (cf. 1 Peter 2.2; 1 Corinthians 3.2; Romans 7.4). It can’t stay status quo; it’s not meant to remain static.

Dear Christian, is it possible to track your spiritual development over recent months and years? Are you really growing in the Lord? Do you spend more time delving into the treasures of the Word? Are you exercising your faith? Have you ever had a part in leading another to Jesus?

Xyloplast can be found in the ocean, but it shouldn’t be found in the church…

— by Mike Benson

 

The World We Want?

Girls just want to have fun, we are told. Raunchy comedians just want their tantalizing fantasies to give us a good time. Hollywood just wants to make a buck.  None of this will impact anybody.

Yet people, often these same people, also want to influence others. Sinful urges promotes a world where it can feast on whatever it desires without responsibility, yet it simultaneously can wield power to lessen the grip others have on godliness.

Can deniability of consequences and causality coexist in a world where we can effect social change, alter attitudes and coax consumers’ spending patterns? The flesh would have it both ways.

Yet, a recent scientific study, once again, shatters the illusion that ideas are inconsequential. What happens when people listen to another’s claim that behavior is nothing more than genetic programing?

Azim Shariff and Kathleen Vohs discovered, “We see signs that a lack of belief in free will may end up tearing social organization apart.”  In this Scientific American article focused on studying the impact of a belief in free will, they provide several reasons for their conclusion.  These included: “diminished belief in free will also seems to release urges to harm others” and “people whose free will beliefs had been weakened were less able to inhibit impulsive reactions during a computerized test of willpower” (Sci. Am., June, 2014: 78,79).

Although the flesh thrives upon ideas being both conveniently inconsequential and simultaneously influential, scripture never wavers. Ideas matter. They come in two forms: truth and lies.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2).

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4: 22,23).

How can the Christian navigate their world?

  1. Your words make a difference. Speak the truth in love to those around you.
  1. Don’t buy into the lie that you are immune to digesting ungodly ideas. Today’s media choices influences tomorrow’s living.
  1. Focus your thoughts upon whatever is true, noble, godly, pure, right or admirable.

Jesus said his disciples should be like salt in the world. To fulfill our role, we must be the influence, not those who are being changed.

–by Barry Newton

“Is Our Christianity Appealing?”

Prior to entering the ministry, I was working with a TV station in Kokomo, Indiana. On many occasions I would go fishing with Mike Hammer who was head of the Sports department. He once told me, “Never buy an imitation bait, always buy a brand name.”  He said, “The imitations may look like the real thing but the fish will sense something artificial and avoid it.”

The same is true when “fishing for men.”  If our life depicts anything other than the real thing, people will sense something “artificial” and avoid what we are trying to teach them.

The very first thing we must be concerned about is the *first impression* that we automatically transmit to all whom we come into contact with. Paul writes, “Provide things honorable in the sight of God and all men” (2Corinthians 8:21).

Consider that when businesses advertise, they know their product will be no more appealing than the person presenting the product. For example: Clothing manufacturers don’t just drag someone off the streets to model their clothes.  You will never see a dirty, rusted, dented car in an auto dealer’s showroom. Alcohol manufacturers don’t try to entice people to buy their product by showing a drunk lying in a ditch, or behind the steering wheel of a car that’s wrapped around a telephone pole with dead bodies strewn about. They always show very attractive people who are supposedly able to get exactly what they want out of this life just because they drink their product.

Satan used this same principle in leading Eve to sin (Genesis 3:5-6). He made the forbidden fruit as attractive as possible.

If you went in to the finest restaurant and ordered the finest meal money could buy, if the waitress delivered it to your table with filthy hands or in an uncouth manner, you probably would never return to that restaurant.

Now, you probably know the point I’m trying to make. We have the truth; we have the finest feast in the world to offer people, but if we offer it to them in an unappealing way, they will probably refuse to sit at our table and listen to what we have to say.

There have been times when we have made people lose their appetite for the gospel by serving it to them with unclean hands. This is sometimes true with parents trying to get their children to obey the Gospel, but the children look at their parent’s Christianity and see nothing that’s very appealing.

I’m certainly NOT suggesting we use gimmicks that appeal to people’s fleshy appetites! Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light SO shine…” That is, let it shine is such a way that people will be drawn to God. Peter writes, “Have your conduct honorable among the Gentiles…” (1Peter 2:12).

God used “LOVE” to make Christianity attractive (John 3:16). Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that ye have love one for the other” (John 13:34-35).

We may talk sports or politics with people in a generic way. Such will not draw them to Christ, but it can certainly drive them away! That is, even our speech can make the Gospel UN-attractive.

What attraction does a congregation hold where there is constant bickering and gossip? What attraction does a congregation hold where there is no specific focus? What attraction does a congregation have that is cold and lifeless?

We would probably be shocked if we knew how many of our contacts are actually looking for and desiring to find *genuine* Christianity. Will they find it in us? Or will they find us just as “shallow” as the rest of the religious world?  There is a certain “saintly sanity,” a certain confidence and a certain inner peace in genuine Christianity – do our friends see that in us?

Satan provides us with some real tough competition when trying to win souls, therefore, we should not overlook any detail – after all, we are dealing with life and death.

by Toby Miller

If you had to advise her, what would you have told her?

GET WISDOM!

Dan Miller in his book No More Dreaded Mondays tells a delightful story about a farmer  in a village in India who had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to the village moneylender. The old and ugly moneylender fancied the farmer’s beautiful daughter, so he proposed a bargain. He would forgive the farmer’s debt if he could marry the farmer’s daughter.

Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal, but the cunning moneylender suggested they let providence decide the matter. He told them he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. The girl would have to reach in and pick one pebble from the bag. If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble, she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven. If she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail until the debt was paid.

They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the farmer’s field. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. The sharp-eyed girl noticed he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble. Now, imagine that you were the girl standing in the field. What would you have done? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her?

Careful analysis would produce three possibilities: (1) the girl could refuse to take a pebble–but her father would then be thrown in jail. (2) The girl could pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from debt and imprisonment. Or (3) the girl could pull out both black pebbles in the bag, expose the moneylender as a cheat, and likely incite his immediate revenge.

Here is what the girl did:

She put her hand into the money bag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path, where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles. “Oh, how clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.” Since the remaining pebble was black, it would have to be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the moneylender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl would have changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.

I read that story and think to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  The ability to make good decisions is what the Bible refers to as “wisdom”, and when we face a difficult decision in life, we all desire wisdom.  Solomon wrote, “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.  She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Prov. 3:13-15)

James Draper has said, “Wisdom is the skill to live in a way that is pleasing to God.  It is not simply information in our heads.  It is information that we put to use — where we live, where we work, and where we play.”

Be assured that godly wisdom is not something that you will stumble into by accident.  It’s a pursuit.  It’s a search. It requires an attitude that says, “I want to learn from God how to live, and I want to apply those principles to my life.”  James assures us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom!” (Proverbs 4:7)’

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

The Question No One Asks Job 3:20-26

    There was once a remarkably kind little boy who was a great fisherman. There was a trout stream in his neighborhood that ran through a rich man’s estate. Permits to fish the stream were hard to come by but the boy was lucky enough to have a permit.

    One day, he was fishing with another boy when a gamekeeper suddenly darted out from the bushes. The boy with the permit shouted out a cry of fear, dropped his rod, and ran off at top speed. The gamekeeper pursued.

    About half a mile away, the gamekeeper was in a fast and hard chase of the little boy. But, worn out, the boy finally stopped. The man seized him by the arm and asked, between panting for breath:

    “Have you a permit to fish on this estate?” “Yes to be sure,” the boy said quietly.

    “You have? Then show it to me.” The boy pulled the permit out of his pocket. The man examined it, frowned in confusion, and anger.

    “Why did you run when you had a permit?” he asked. “To let the other boy get away,” he said, “He didn’t have none!”

    The origin of selflessness (altruism) really does perplex those who insist on evolution as the explanation of all of life. You see, evolution requires us to believe that the driving force of nature is to pass on the best genes possible – survival of the fittest. Evolutionary theory would require, then, ultimate selfishness so that the best genes can survive.

    Why do good things happen to bad people? Or, why do good things happen at all?

    That’s the question no one asks and it is the question that Job utters in Job 3.

    Read Job’s words in verses 20-26. God allowed Job to see the light of life. Yes, Job does suffer. Yes, he is “bitter” in soul. He longs for death. So why did God allow Job to see life? Why does God allow good in this life?

    When we summarize biblical teaching, which Job did not have entirely in his hands as we do, we learn:

    1. Being love (1 John 4:8), God created a world in which mankind was morally free.

    2. Being love, God designed man to be able to live in heaven with Him throughout eternity; but man can choose not to.

    3. This world, in which sin is allowed, is not the best of all possible worlds. Heaven is.

    4. The evil that occurs in this world, instigated by Satan and enabled by mankind, will allow God, through Jesus Christ, to completely destroy both Satan and evil.

    5. God, being all-wise, chooses the best possible good to bring about the best possible result.

    6. God, being all-powerful, can accomplish His will without violating human freedom.

    7. This world, full of evil as it is, is the best possible world for reaching God’s intended purpose:

        a. Those who want to be saved can be. Those who want to be lost, will be.

        b. Sin will ultimately be defeated. Righteousness will reign in heaven.

    So, what about poor ol’ Job? Job did not have as much information as you and I do. The love of God is not referenced in the book of Job at all. The grace of God is not referenced in the book of Job. The mercy of God is referenced twice – 9:15 & 16:13. The loving-kindness of God is not referenced in the book of Job. The two characteristics of God that are found in the book of Job are His justice (8:3; 10:3) but especially His wisdom (9:4; 12:13, 16; 15:8; 28:28; 38:36-37).

    God governs this world in wisdom. The good we see and experience flows from His nature. That goodness should motivate us to love and serve Him.

–Paul Holland

Do you know they are all out of step except you?”

As he was drilling a batch of recruits, the sergeant saw that one of them was marching out of step. Walking up next to the man as they marched, he said sarcastically: “Do you know they are all out of step except you?”

“What?” asked the recruit innocently.

“I said — they are all out of step except you!” thundered the sergeant.

The recruit replied, “Well, sarge, you’re in charge — you tell them!”

I understand how that recruit felt because there are times that we as Christians look around at the world and we are out of step with everyone else.  As we walk with Christ, that causes us to say and do things that are very different from what the world does.  Everyone else seems to be agreed on how to walk, but we are out of step.

We may be tempted to think (like the sergeant above) that we are the ones who need to change to get in step with everyone else.  But (like the recruit above) we aren’t the ones who need to change.  And we need to continue to walk in step regardless of how those around us walk.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.” (Eph. 5:8)

“Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you.” (I Peter 4:4)

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (I John 2:6)

If you feel like you’re out of step with the world, don’t let it bother you.  Just make sure you’re in step with God.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Temporary (in)sanity

On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks killed 3,000 and the nation mourned. Prayers reverberated through the homes, offices and streets of America. Church pews were filled, and people recommitted their lives to the Lord.

Days passed, life assumed its routine and the religious fervor was replaced with, “What was I thinking?”

Every day in America, variations of this story happen with much the same results. A beloved Christian will die and their loved ones will examine their lives, realizing they are on the wrong path.

Suddenly, the most important thing in their world is to spend eternity with their loved one in heaven. They attend worship in tears and promise to live for God.

Time passes and routine pulls them back into their normal lives, and God is soon forgotten. Satan returns to his throne, and they wonder at their temporary insanity.

Sadly, what they have mistaken for insanity is actually sanity. They flirted with, truth and found it wanting.

Their all-consuming need to see their loved one has been replaced with selfishness.

God will never truly be real when wrapped in emotion.

We will see a false construct but not the Savior’s eyes.

“When He had called the people to Himself,

with His disciples also, He said to them,

‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him

deny himself, and take up his cross, and

follow Me'” (Mark 8:34, NKJV).

It’s an emotional time when we realize we are a sinner and that we cannot live without the Lord (Acts 8:36).

However, that emotion is grounded in something.

However, raw emotion expressed in a fad or a moment will not bear fruit (Matthew 13:3-9).

If our loved one has lived an exemplary life, showing Christ to us, we can ignore their example, grasp it vicariously or we can  investigate the validity of their claims. We must make Christ real in our own hearts or it will never mean anything (Matthew 13:20- 21).

Jesus is not a moment, he is a life.  We all need to realize that Christ can be found in a time of loss.

However, he must sink in to truly change our lives, transforming us from lost to saved (Romans 12:1-2; Acts 22:16).

Richard Mansel

John 16:33 reveals three facts:

John 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. 

John 16:33 reveals three facts:

  1. CHRISTIANS WILL SUFFER TRIBULATION.

Jesus said: “In this world you will have tribulation,” (John 16:33). The word “tribulation” means “pressure.” It is anything that presses on us – work, life, family, finance, and health.

One thing that troubles many people and even Christians sometimes is the problem of suffering. Some look at suffering in the world and ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “Why do Christians suffer?” But suffering is unavoidable from that day when sin entered into the world (Genesis 3:16-19).

Nevertheless, suffering has its benefits. Paul says: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). It may sound like an oxymoron. How can someone possibly be weak and strong at the same time? When our lives are running smoothly and devoid of trials, we have a tendency to rely upon our own human strength; we don’t think much about God. However, when our life is beset with difficulties and storms, our strength fades away and we become weak. And, it is in time like this that we turn to God and rely upon His divine strength. And when we are relying upon God’s almighty strength instead of upon our own inadequate strength, we become strong.

James wrote: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2-3).

  1. CHRISTIANS CAN HAVE PEACE.

The word “peace” means “at rest.” It is free from agitation. When you stir a pot of soup, you agitate it and everything inside starts to move; they are in a state of agitation. Christ is saying we will have affliction, pressure, suffering, but our spirits can be at rest; we will not be agitated.

This peace does not depend on the circumstances in the world. It is like Jesus who could sleep when the storm was brewing outside the boat (Mark 4:38). The boat was agitated but not His spirit. He was at peace in spite of the storm.

Horatio Spafford, the writer of this beautiful hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, had the world crumbled on him. First, he lost his four year old son to scarlet fever.  A year later, he lost most of his real estate holdings to a great Chicago fire; it ruined him financially. Two years later, while his wife and four daughters were crossing the Atlantic, the ship had a collision with another ship and sank. His four daughters died and his wife sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone.” Several weeks later, as Spafford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daughters died, he penned his peace in this beautiful hymn:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, it is well with my soul.

When he considered the love of Christ and how much the Lord had to give up for his soul, he thought less about his own loss. He found peace in the love of Christ Jesus. The Lord says: “Be of good cheer.” You ask Spafford: “What is left to be cheerful about?” It is this trust in God that I will not be defeated by Satan: Satan wants to break me but I will not be broken.

The scriptures assure us of this peace in Jesus: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

  1. CHRISTIANS CAN OVERCOME THE WORLD.

Christ’s victory is the Christian’s triumph: “I have overcome the world.” Suffering is unavoidable but we can overcome (1 Corinthians 10:13). Trusting in Jesus provides the strength to overcome sin and afflictions: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Christ has overcome sin. Therefore, we can overcome sin: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).

Satan cannot rock the boat when Jesus is the pilot of your life. In Jesus you will have peace. You will have peace when the tempest breaks. You will overcome the stormy seas and sail towards your destination.

Jimmy Lau

Psa 119:97  Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.