Archives for : August2017

Maybe you ought to just stay put for awhile

YOU CAN BE sure the process of relinquishment and preparation in life can get confusing at times…

Moses tried to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt but things suddenly took a turn toward disaster. He and the Israelites ended up at the shore of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army hot on their heels. Pharaoh had just come from the deathbed of his firstborn and there was vengeance in his eyes and violence in his heart. His pursuit of the Jewish people was relentless, and Moses knew he was coming.

The people said, “We ought to go back to Egypt.”

Moses said, “Stand still.”

God said, “Go forward.”

THOUGHTS: Sometimes we find ourselves in a similar place. People around us ask, “What are you doing moving in that direction? Go back to where you were comfortable.” Meanwhile, a leader you may respect may say, “Maybe you ought to just stay put for awhile. Maybe the timing is just not right.” The only way to find your way among conflicting opinions is to ask this question: What does God say (in His Word)? “Go forward.” Tommy Tenney, Up is Down and You Die to Live, “The Daily Chase,” 147

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.”
Exodus 14:12-14

Mike Benson

 

If I were choosing things to put on display for all the world to see, what would I select?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV).

Most people in less developed countries use much less space in which to live than the majority in the United States. Many families of two or three generations occupy tiny homes of one or two rooms. Not only do the people have less room for themselves – there is also very little storage space for possessions.

There are two obvious reasons for this latter fact: space is expensive and hard to obtain and they normally just don’t have many possessions to store. Their houses characteristically lack closets, attics, basements or storage out-buildings.

If those existed they would be mostly empty. Well, that is not correct; more family members would be living in them.

When a family does acquire extra bedding, dishes, clothing or some special keepsake, there are two favorite ways to store them. The first is the metal box. These vary in size from a normal packing trunk or foot-locker, to a box about the size and shape of a chest style freezer.

These will typically hold blankets, heavy winter clothes, and the like. Since they can be locked securely, and the house may not be secure, they also contain any valuables (jewelry, etc.) which the family may possess.

The other method of storage is the “showcase,” basically the same as our china cabinets or display cases. This is where special dishes, keepsakes and memorial items are not only kept up safely, but put on display for others to see and enjoy. Usually it is only the more prosperous (i.e., middle class and above) families that have these.

Seeing these special places and their contents leads me to ask myself two questions.

First, if I only had that much space in which to secure my possessions, what would I keep in them? That is, if I could only own as much as I could use at one time, or store in a small trunk, what of all that I own would I keep?

What means the very most to me? Could I be happy with only that amount of worldly things?

The second question is, “If I were choosing things to put on display for all the world to see, what would I select?” This reflects upon my pride of ownership, and my sense of self-identity. What would speak to others about me in such a way as to make me comfortable?

Among my possessions there may be things that I would be happy for all to know about, but there may be some which I would just as soon be less well known.

We talk about “not airing our dirty laundry in public.” Not all possessions are material things. Some have to do with our attitudes, habits, actions, and reputations.

We publicly demonstrate our true selves either deliberately or thoughtlessly. But they are out there, plainly seen, telling others who we are.

Jesus suggests that the most valuable possessions we have are those which can be stored eternally in Heaven with God. Though he may have in mind our prayers and offerings (see the story in Acts 10:1-8 about Cornelius), it is likely that he includes much more than that.

Every good deed or kind word which believers do is credited to them and will be rewarded (Matthew 10:40- 42).

We should be less concerned with displaying our earthly possessions to men, and more occupied with living righteously before God. It is the spiritual showcase which should contain our treasures.

–by Michael E. Brooks

 

God’s training ground

THE WASTELAND IS God’s training ground…

 …There are half a dozen different things God does to the person going through the wasteland.  While there, you usually just spin your wheels.  It’s so discouraging.  You feel like God’s not hearing your prayers, He’s not letting you break through.  And the truth of it is, He is hearing your prayers, but He’s not letting you break through.

 

The wasteland isn’t caused by sin.  …It’s like when Joseph was in prison – those times.  In neither case did he sin to go to prison.  God brought him into prison and it was a long and difficult wasteland of preparation of his confidence, his capacity, his character–everything.  And then, when the wasteland was over, he walked out and ruled the biggest and most powerful nation in the world.  Bruce Wilkins

 

“And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”  1 Peter 5.10

 –Mike Benson

It can kill or make alive

JERRY KRAMER, AN offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers, played on championship teams for legendary coach Vince Lombardi…

 

Kramer recalled the following story from his days of playing for Lombardi:

 

“One day during the first year I play for him, he rode me unmercifully, pointing out how slow I was, how weak I was, how stupid I was.  He convinced me.  By the time I dragged myself into the locker room, I suspected I was the worst guard in league history.  I sat in front of my locker, head down, contemplating quitting, when Lombardi came up behind me, messed up my hair and said, ‘Son, one of these days you’re going to be the greatest guard in the league.’  Suddenly I was 10 feet tall, ready to do anything for him.”

 

THOUGHT:  In a simple way, Kramer’s story reveals the great power of the tongue.  It can kill or make alive.  Wade L. Webster
 

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18.21

 

Mike Benson

Apostates come from homes where religion is emphasized less overall than non-apostates.

RELIGION BEGINS IN the home…

That’s where we are first able to come into contact with God and where the religious seed is often first planted.

Certainly many, many people come to the Lord who weren’t raised in a religious household. However, when compared with those “raised religious,” the latter are less likely to fall away.

One study concluded “The reported emphasis placed on religion in one’s childhood home is one of the best predictors of later religiosity. Apostates come from homes where religion is emphasized less overall than non-apostates. This is especially true of teenagers who fall away immediately after leaving home.” So powerful is the family’s influence on apostasy that one study found that children from “religiously inactive” homes were nearly four times as likely to fall away later in life as children from “religiously active” homes. In that study, a “religiously active” home was one where the entire family attended church services weekly; there was also a high amount of prayer, Bible study, and religious discussion in the home. A “religiously inactive home” was one where the parents did not attend services and there was no other religious activity at all.

Of course the reasons why this is so are self-evident: Family has a crucial influence on coming to faith in the first place; it then logically follows that it would have an effect on apostasy. In fact, there is substantial research pointing to the all-important role of the family in developing faith.

In one study, over 40% of those surveyed said the family was the primary influence on their religion.

What’s startling is to note that we are talking about processes that unfold over time. The research is saying that the quality of religious experience one is exposed to at, say, age nine greatly influences the likelihood that he will fall away at, say, age 23. Brian Simmons, “The Causes of Falling Away, Part 2,” Falling Away–Why Christians Lose Their Faith & What Can Be Done About It, 85-85

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22.6

Mike Benson

 

WHAT’S ON THE OTHER SIDE?

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room. He said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. I need to know what to expect when I go to heaven. Please tell me what lies on the other side.”

The doctor wanted to offer comfort to his patient, but he didn’t know what to say. Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?! Then why do you want to go to heaven if you don’t know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?”

The doctor was uneasy and was holding the handle of the door. From the other side came a sound of scratching and loud whining. As the doctor opened the door, a dog sprang into the room with his tail wagging and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He’s never been in this room before. He didn’t know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing: I know my Master is there, and that is enough. And when the door opens, I shall pass through with no fear, but with gladness.”

It’s true that while we are given a glimpse of what lies ahead, there is a great deal that we don’t know and often wonder about. Will there be a literal street of gold and a gate of pearl? Highly unlikely. Those kinds of images may be helpful in understanding how precious heaven is, but they are not of much value in helping us to know exactly what it will look like.

And quite frankly, it doesn’t matter to me, for two reasons. First of all, I trust my heavenly Father to provide nothing less than the very best for His children. And secondly, as the doctor in the story above pointed out, the only thing that really matters is that we will be in the presence of God. Living in a shack in His presence would be preferable to living in a mansion apart from Him. Whatever else heaven may be, its essence is that we have the opportunity to have intimate fellowship with God.

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’ ” (Rev. 20:12)

Recently, I read a quote that has convicted me more than anything I’ve heard in a long time. John Piper asked the question, “If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”

It makes me wonder if we’re anxious to get to heaven to have the opportunity to be with God, or if we just want to go because it’s a place where we’ll enjoy ourselves and have all the comforts and pleasures that we’d like to have right now. Think about it.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

The Titanic’s Deck Chairs

Within the early hours of April 15, 1912, the Titanic slid below the icy waves of the North Atlantic. Two hours and forty minutes earlier a deadly iceberg had sliced along the hull.

Let’s wind the clock back on that fateful night to about 9 p.m.

As the ship’s clocks tolled nine and lights flickered throughout the ship, all was well aboard the Titanic.
It was just another wonderful luxurious evening at sea. Churning through the water, the deadly encounter still lay nearly three hours ahead.

It is not difficult to imagine as a night grew stronger, a crewman realigning the deck chairs in straight rows for the coming day. How meaningful was this work? Apparently, meaningful in every way.
Straight rows not only would provide an aesthetic appeal for the following day, they also contributed towards his paycheck. Good honest work!

And yet, in less than three hours, as rivets popped, metal tore and water gushed, whatever meaning seemed to have existed immediately began to evaporate. For how much significance can there be in how the chairs look on a sinking ship?

Ecclesiastes points to this ultimate destroyer of purpose and significance — our own personal Titanic end.

“Everyone shares the same fate – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, … This is the unfortunate fact about everything that happens on earth: the same fate awaits everyone” (Proverbs 9:2,3).

When nothing is gained in spite of the effort, if the result will be the same regardless, then everything is as futile as trying to grasp the wind.

As for those of us attempting to find solace in creating a better tomorrow, if this world is all that exists then humanity along with our planet is hurtling toward the heat death of absolute zero. Whether we take care of our planet or help humanity is completely meaningless. A lifeless planet wandering through space pronounces all prior activity vain.

Praise be to God who has penetrated death’s cruel barrier! Because of Christ’s resurrection, our activity is not merely rearranging chairs on a sinking ship. What we do now can make a difference for eternity. God enables meaning to flood into our lives.

If it were not for God raising his Son and through him offering life to us, our lives would be a bleak existence.

by Barry Newton

DiscipleSHIFT

No, it’s not a typo.  I meant to type “discipleshift” rather than “discipleship.”  The reason for the “shift” is to bring to our attention some “shifts” in our thinking and conduct that may need to be made in order to conform ourselves more perfectly to the will of God.

  • When we view discipleship as just an event, and not a process, we need a discipleshift.
  • When we view church membership as being more about having your name on a roster rather than having a function, we need a membershift.
  • When our mantra for stewardship is “give till it hurts,” rather than “give cheerfully,” we need a stewardshift.
  • When we are more proud of our American citizenship than we are our heavenly citizenship, we need a citizenshift.
  • When we view Christian fellowship more as a function where our bodies are fed rather than a function where our spirits are fed, we need a fellowshift.
  • When we view church leadership as being more about “calling the shots” than being out front, serving as examples, we need a leadershift.
  • When we are more concerned about how our worship is received by our members and visitors than the way God receives it, we need a worshift.

Give it some thought.  Are there some “shifts” that need to take place in your life?

–Steve Higginbotham

Searching for Widow Jones’ farm

No Big Secret

I heard recently about a “big city” boy who was preaching in a small country town. He wanted to learn everything “country” so that I could fit in. As he was searching for Widow Jones’ farm, he got lost on the back roads. He saw a farmer walking into his barn so he stopped for directions.

The farmer was just beginning to milk his cow but took time out to tell the preacher how to get to the Jones’ farm. “By the way, ” the preacher asked, “Do you know what time it is?” The farmer leaned in to the udder of the cow and said, “12:30.”

The preacher started to leave but he just HAD to know. He told the farmer, “Hey, I’ve just moved from the city and I really want to know the ways of the country. How could you tell what time it was?”

“Sit right here on this stool, son.” The preacher did.

“Now, grab hold of that udder.” He did.

“Now lean into the cow and lift up on the udder.” The preacher did.

“Lean over and look right over there on that wall. See, that’s a clock. When the little hand is on the 12…”

Sometimes it appears that other Christians have a special “secret” to be able to do what they do or to know what they know. But the truth is, there’s no secret. The story is told about someone coming to Gus Nichols, a great preacher, and saying, “Brother Nichols, I’d give my life to know the Bible as well as you do.” It is reported that Nichols’ reply was, “That’s exactly what it took.”

There’s no secret to knowing the Bible — just a determination to spend time studying the Word of God. There’s no secret to always having time to devote to the Lord’s work — you just have to make the time. There’s no secret to developing spiritual maturity — it’s a lifetime commitment to growing up in Christ.

There’s no secret: “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Alan Smith

DO NOT Commit Random Acts of Kindness

A while back a bumper sticker read: “Commit Random Acts of Kindness”

The Bumper sticker is wrong. Christians are called to a way of life; not random acts, but habitual practice. We are called to practice that which reflects God’s own character and righteousness. It is said, “Justice is one side of the coin of love, the other side is Mercy.” Both the Old and New Testament proclaim mercy as characteristic of God.

“[B]ut God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7, ASV).

Notice the emphasis on:

Rich in Mercy
Great in Love
By Grace
Demonstrates the exceeding riches of his Grace and Kindness

“And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”(Exodus 34:6-7).

Notice the parallels to the emphasis above:

Merciful
Gracious
Rich in Mercy
Forgiving – Grace and Kindness in action

Jesus took our sins upon himself, bearing those sins, and paid the due penalty for our sins. Forgiveness is not a free-pass; someone paid. We love to talk about God’s mercy, but we’re somewhat troubled by the second part of Exodus 34:7. The part that says:

“…and that will by no means clear the guilty…”(Exodus 34:7).

God forgives, yet refuses to declare the guilty innocent. It is in Jesus that God shows how he can justify (acquit) the transgressor and still remain just (Romans 3:26). So great is his mercy, he pays the judicial wrath against sin, bearing the penalty we have earned.

Justice is rendering to each their due, protecting rights and punishing the guilty, whereas within mercy, is included the idea of not rendering earned punishment. God mercifully does not call us into account for our sinful acts immediately, but grants time for repentance. God’s mercy brings with it the full weight of responsibility to practice mercy.

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). “Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

In the story of the good Samaritan Jesus asked:

“Which of these three, thinkest thou, proved neighbor unto him that fell among the robbers? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. And Jesus said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:36-37).

Twice Jesus quoted Hosea: “I desire mercy not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13 and 12:7). Among the Hebrew words we translate “mercy” is Hesed, there is no precise English equivalent to the word. This characteristic of God covers the ideas of goodness, kindness, and compassion. It is closely related to the Greek “charis” which we translate as “grace”. Love (agape) does more than just practice justice. Justice (mispat) renders each their due, but love goes beyond simple rights and protections. Mercy is to be practiced by those who have known God’s mercy.

“For the one who has shown no mercy will be judged without mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

Rather than “random acts of kindness,” love incorporates Hesed into our daily practice toward all those who are made in the image of God.

by Scott Wiley

Man despises cause and effect, but there have always been consequences for sin

God uses everything to accomplish his will. He planted seeds in the Old Testament so the New Covenant would be easier to understand.

As Christians, we pursue the threads in Scripture to gain a deeper understanding of God’s plan and the doctrines that pertain to us.

In Genesis 6, we find rampant sin upon the earth. The minds and hearts of men were consumed with evil (Genesis 6:5). Accordingly, God decided to wipe out all life except what he put into the ark (Genesis 7:1-12).

Noah preached the Word of God while he constructed the ark (2 Peter 2:5). In more than one hundred years, no one was converted except for his family. Then they entered the ark and were the only humans to survive.

The dividing line was righteousness (Genesis 6:5-12).  Those who were with God were saved, everyone else was lost. It didn’t matter how kind, loving or generous they were. All that mattered was whether they were faithful to God.

Man despises cause and effect, but there have always been consequences for sin (Psalm 14:1-3; Romans 3:10- 18,23; Ezekiel 18:3-9,19-23).

God works by his own standards. Fickle human standards are completely immaterial to the Lord. When we judge God by fleshly criterion, we are insulting the Father.

When the humans and animals exited the ark, the ship passed out of service (Genesis 8:13-21). Yet, it was not finished.

The imagery of the ark was a precursor for the Church.  God built the Church and expects us to do exactly as he commanded (Genesis 6:22; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

Righteousness is the only standard for being saved from sin today, just like the ark. When we submit to Jesus, we are immersed into Christ (Acts 2:38,42,47; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

All who were in the ark were saved. All who are in Christ will likewise be saved (Romans 8:1). Being in Christ was just like being in the ark. We are there by God’s standards and he allows us to remain there because we walk by faith (Hebrews 11:6).

Everyone outside of the ark died. The same will happen to all those who are outside of Christ. Human standards will have nothing to do with that criterion.

The concept of the ark is then found on judgment day.  Righteousness will once again be the criterion for salvation. Everyone in Christ will enter heaven, and everyone else will be lost (Revelation 20:11-15).

We may believe there are the lost, the saved, and the good people, but the Lord only sees the lost and the saved. No one outside of Christ will be saved even if they are in religious groups that are sincere and committed to the Lord (Matthew 7:21-22).

Man does not want our eternal destines to be this clearly delineated but has God never made decisions based on what we wanted. And he never will.

Righteousness is our only hope (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:1).

So, come to Christ today!

–by Richard Mansel

Are you unprepared?

Unwilling to Prepare

Many people at the judgment will say to the Lord, “I’ve been a good person.”

Many have never been guilty of what they consider to be serious positive transgressions of God’s commands.
They think they should be admitted to heaven solely on the basis of their conduct. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees considered themselves good people.

In Matthew 25, the end-of-time pictures Jesus paints were not about people who had been bad, as such. All of the pictures are about people who could have prepared for eternity, but did not. They knew what they needed to do, but decided to leave those things undone.

The five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) should have known their lamps would likely go out, but instead of preparing for that eventuality, they ignored it until it was too late.

The one-talent man’s problem was that he was unwilling to work (Matthew 25:14-30). He had been given an amount of money that represented an opportunity which he hid in the ground. He was called wicked, not because he was a bad person, but because he was afraid and didn’t want to work.

When Jesus judges the world in righteousness, some will be condemned because they knew there was work to be done, but they just didn’t want to do it (Matthew 25:31-46). These people were not bad; they just failed to do the things Jesus wanted.

Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty and you gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked and you clothed me not: sick and in prison and you visited me not” (Matthew 25:42-43).

Friends, there is more to being faithful than just avoiding those sins we think will condemn us. Remember what James wrote, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

How many will be turned away from heaven who just are unwilling to prepare?

–by John Henson

She was cool, attractive, quick on her feet

Venting

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11, ESV.).

Back when I was doing undergraduate studies (this goes back some time), I was working at a local television station. I took news off the “wire,” composed it to the teleprompter so it could be read by the newscaster. The young woman who did the news that night was the station’s star — cool, attractive, quick on her feet.

One evening the sound technician was having trouble.  Her mike was not on. She spoke engagingly into the camera for several moments, her eyes shining with sincerity and concern about the story she was telling.

Then the word got through — “the mike’s not on” — and she stopped, pursing her lips in annoyance.

They put up the usual notice — “Please stand by, we’re having technical difficulties.” After a moment they thought they had it right, she spoke into the camera again, and presently the director shook his head again.

The mike was still dead. They switched to a commercial break while technicians worked desperately.

But our star had seen enough. She turned to the unfortunate sound man and commenced a prolonged, colorful dressing down. The subjects she covered were wide-ranging and personal, including the circumstances of his birth, the character of his father, and several other exhortations and encouragements.

Unfortunately, the sound man had finally found the problem, repaired it, and our “Lady of the News Desk” was now telling him off on a “live” mike! Several counties and a metropolitan center heard her give her supporting cast a piece of her mind.

Most of us couldn’t afford to give someone else a “piece of our mind.” There wouldn’t be much left for ourselves. Giving “full vent” to our anger — “losing it” completely we might say today — is a great image of someone losing complete self-control.

Remember, the emptier the kettle, the quicker the boil!

by Stan Mitchell