Archives for : October2017

God’s $20 Bill

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this?” Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” He proceeded to crumple the bill up.

He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. “Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.

“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We may feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes.”

Whether dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless! The worth of our lives comes not in what we do, but in who we are.

~Author unknown

58 1/2 long hours

MILLIONS OF AMERICANS were RIVETED to their television sets in October of 1987 as rescuers worked feverishly to save “Baby Jessica,” a one-year-old girl from Midland, Texas, who found an abandoned well shaft in her aunt’s backyard, fell into the 8-inch hole, and plunged 22 feet down the pipe…

As word spread of Jessica’s plight, the residents of Midland literally stopped what they were doing to offer whatever assistance they could in the rescue operation, or to just stand by and offer moral support.

Our nation watched as rescue crews and volunteer citizens joined hands to dig a shaft parallel to the one that trapped Jessica.

The rescue effort was hampered by a layer of super-hard rock.  However, the rescuers were spurred on by the sound of Jessica’s cry which could be heard from beneath the surface.  Her moan from beneath served as an encouragement to rally the troops to do whatever was necessary to save her.

For 58 1/2 long hours, they worked and worked.  When paramedics finally covered a terrified Jessica with gobs of petroleum jelly and slid her out of the pipe into freedom, and the flood of bright television lights, an entire nation cheered in union at her salvation.

THOUGHT:  Although we cannot rescue souls who have already died and gone to torment, we can be motivated by their anguished cries (cf. Luke 16.24, 28) to work diligently to keep those who are still living on earth from going to that awful place.  BJ Clarke

“And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” Luke 16.23-24

Mike Benson

 

What did I learn in services?

Hello.

I am the eight-year-old who sat behind you in services last Sunday morning. I don’t go to worship much. I’m a kid. If I go, someone (usually my grandmother) drives me.

What did I learn in services?

I learned the Lord’s Supper is a time when people check their emails on their cell phones.

I learned the sermon was the time to balance your checkbook.

I learned that although some Christians sing the hymns, Christians can also sit with folded arms refusing to participate.

I learned worship is a time when I can chatter with my friend about practically anything except the spiritual matter at hand.

I learned worship is no big deal and that Christians only come here for social purposes, or out of habit.

Hello,

I used to go to services when I was a kid, but it’s been a long, long time. Last Sunday I came back, hoping to find something to fill my life which is, to be candid, in a bit of a mess. I was so nervous I would either be ignored or embarrassed because I did not fit in.

I sat behind you. You smiled and introduced yourself before worship began. I observed you singing your heart out. I watched the deeply respectful manner in which you took the Lord’s Supper. I watched you nod your head in agreement during the sermon, look up the Bible passages, and help your children find them too. Although I liked the preacher’s sermon very much, the silent sermon you preached was even more impressive.

I learned worship is a big deal, and the Lord is a very real factor in your life.

I think I’ll come again next week.

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:261 Corinthians 11:26
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26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come.

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, ESV).

“But if … an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called into account by all. The secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24,251 Corinthians 14:24,25
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one unbelieving or unlearned, he is reproved by all, he is judged by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed.

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“… so that in everything you may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10Titus 2:10
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10 not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

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Dear brother and sister in Christ: In worship, others are either encouraged or discouraged by your attitude toward proceedings. Sure, God is watching, and that should be enough, but please be aware others are watching too.

Stan Mitchell

 

Almost half of Christ’s recorded sayings relate directly or indirectly to money

It’s interesting to note that the subject matter of stewardship is of extreme importance to the Lord—both in and out of the home. Jesus said, “…Who then is that faithful steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” (Lk. 12:42Lk. 12:42
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42 And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?

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). Add to that, Christians are to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pt. 4:101 Pt. 4:10
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10 according as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God;

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), and elders are to be “blameless as God’s steward” (Tit. 1:7Tit. 1:7
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7 For the bishop must be blameless, as God's steward; not self-willed, not soon angry, no brawler, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre;

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). Paul said that apostles and preachers of the first century were to be “stewards…found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:21 Cor. 4:2
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2 Here, moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

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So, as you can see, stewardship is mighty important to the Lord. In fact, as one writer stated, “almost half of Christ’s recorded sayings relate directly or indirectly to money. One out of every six verses in the Gospel Accounts concerns man and his possessions. Nineteen of thirty-eight parables deal with material possessions. Sixteen times more is said about stewardship in the New Testament than about baptism and thirty-two times more than about the Lord’s Supper. Christ said more about money than about repentance, the new birth, heaven, and hell (as vital as these subjects are).”

As important, and as much as the Bible has to say about stewardship, one would think that our families would have better control of the resources that God has let us borrow. The fact of the matter is, poor stewardship is having a real impact on our homes. For example, in 1994, Robert Sullivan asked couples to give reasons for why they argue. The number one reason was money. In point of fact, money problems are one of the leading causes of divorce—four to one over anything else. Someone retorted, “Until debt do us part” is closer to reality than the vows the couple actually made at their wedding.

The following statistics are noteworthy: 1. Many are spending 20% of their income paying off short-term debt. 2. 70% experience living paycheck-to-paycheck. 3. 90% will not be able to retire with dignity. 4. A number of people have an average car loan lasting 55 months and costs about $380 per month. 5. The average college graduate is carrying about $3,000 in credit card debt.

Now, here’s where we want to get into our hearts. Our children are really smart. They’re watching our every move, even as it relates to our finances. How are we doing when it comes to teaching our kids about good stewardship? Are we showing them practical ways to be thrifty? Are we encouraging them not to spend more than they have coming in, and doing so by example? Are we teaching them the value of a dollar—how to make it, save it, give it, and spend it? This is a fundamental lesson we should be teaching them from their youth (Dt. 6:6-9Dt. 6:6-9
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6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; 7 and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates.

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–Neil Richey

You never know; a whole village might be converted.

The Woman and the Rabbi

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did'” (John 4:39John 4:39
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39 And from that city many of the Samaritans believed on him because of the word of the woman, who testified, He told me all things that ever I did.

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There they sat, the rabbi and the woman. Her life had been wild and self-indulgent. She had been married five times. No doubt in her village she was the subject of lurid speculation. As the young people would say these days, the encounter was “awkward.” She had enjoyed all there was to enjoy from life – wine, men and song. No doubt she was at the well in the heat of the day for a reason – she was an outcast, the subject of hurtful gossip and innuendo.

Yes. She had been hurt. Had her life been one of sinful selfishness? Certainly. But she had been hurt by the “righteous,” the moral pace-setters in her community.
There was little chance that these people could draw her back to God. There was little chance that they wanted to do so.

So the last thing she wanted that day was to converse with a preacher! And she probably wanted to discuss her personal life with this man as badly she wanted to meet a crew from 60 Minutes!

When Jesus came to Sychar, he did not consult a manual on evangelism technique, nor did he follow some “Church Growth” model that was all the rage. Mission methods often suggest converting prominent members in society – chieftains or patriarchs, who will in turn affect those over whom they have influence. So Jesus made contact with the village’s most scandalous figure.

Why did he do this? Probably because she was the first person in that town he met! She was not a Church Growth technique; she was a person, created in the image of God, and whenever Jesus comes into contact with someone, that person is elevated!

Ancient Church Father Tatian observed: “Jesus came to the fountain as a hunter … he threw a grain before one pigeon that he might catch the whole flock.”

It might be nice to convert the CEO of General Motors or the president of our nation, but in the meantime we might consider doing what Jesus did: Why not befriend the young person in the pew beside you? Why not talk to a lonely neighbor about coming to church? Why not speak to a visitor to worship, standing over there by himself and looking a little, well, awkward.

You never know; a whole village might be converted.

by Stan Mitchell

 

There was a hole through the entirety of the text from the front cover all of the way through the 17th chapter of Revelation.

Protect your heart

I met Ellis Cowart in the latter part of the 80s.

A friend had told me about the abundance of whitetail deer on Mr. Cowart’s property, so I made a special point to introduce myself and see if I might be able to get permission to hunt.

He was a very gracious man and said I was welcome to come over anytime I desired. That was music to my ears, and within a few days I harvested my first five-pointer.

But my memory of Mr. Cowart revolves not so much around his land or that first buck, but that initial meeting in his living room.

He wore faded blue overalls. He sat in a large, overstuffed recliner and spoke in a calm, reassuring way.

Behind his head, above the recliner, sat a small glass shadow box. Encased inside was an even smaller, well-worn pocket New Testament.

What struck me about the contents of the shadow box was that the Bible had been mounted open to the latter part of the book of Revelation. There was a hole through the entirety of the text from the front cover all of the way through the 17th chapter of Revelation. A small rifle bullet was fixed there in the center of the New Testament.

My curiosity got the best of me, so I asked Mr. Cowart if he might tell me the story behind the New Testament and the bullet in the shadow box. Here’s what he said:

“Me and my buddies were in Patton’s army in World War II. On morning we got caught in the middle of a fierce gun battle with a German infantry. Small arms fire and shrapnel was flying everywhere.

“Suddenly, one bullet smashed into my arm, one grazed my forehead, one hit the edge of my helmet, and one hit me squarely in the chest. As it turned out, I had been keeping this small pocket New Testament in the front my jacket and it actually prevented that last murderous projectile from penetrating my chest. ‘The Word’ quite literally saved my life. The bullet stopped right there in Revelation 17.”

I have often pondered on that incredible footnote in Mr. Cowart’s life. It reminds me of a passage from Scripture.  James wrote:

“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and

overflow of wickedness, and receive with

meekness the implanted word, which is able

to save your souls” (James 1:21James 1:21
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21 Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

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Good reader, where’s your Bible right now?

  • Do you meditate on the word and allow it to permeate the inner man (Luke 8:11-15Luke 8:11-15
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    11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience.

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If soldier and Scripture teach us anything, it is that we must keep the Word of God near our hearts (Psalm 119:24Psalm 119:24
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24 Thy testimonies also are my delight And my counsellors. Daleth.

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The enemy is intent on our destruction. He’ll stop at nothing, and he’ll use every weapon at his disposal, including and especially fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16Ephesians 6:16
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16 withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.

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They’re aimed at the very core of our faith, and unless you and I protect ourselves from his assaults, we’ll die and lose something far more precious than our lives — we’ll lose our souls (Romans 1:16Romans 1:16
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16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

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; 2 Timothy 3:152 Timothy 3:15
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15 And that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

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— by Mike Benson

 

 

How to be Humble in a Haughty World Or Humble Yourselves in the Sight of the Lord

 

          In a dog-eat-dog world, a premium is placed on pride and self-assertion. As Rachel looks for a job, she is encouraged to “brag on herself.” In God’s world, a premium is placed humility. Proverbs 15:33Proverbs 15:33
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33 The fear of Jehovah is the instruction of wisdom; And before honor goeth humility.

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: “The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”

          How can we be humble in a haughty world?

 

ACCEPT YOUR OWN VALUE AND POTENTIAL

            “True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us” – Tryon Edwards. Consider the story of Nebuchadnezzar and his dream recorded in Daniel 4. In verses 20-22, Daniel tells the king that God is the one who had given him that position. Nebuchadnezzar should have appreciated the gift and not think that he gave it to himself!

 

PRAY FOR HUMILITY/PROPER SELF-REGARD

            As with all Christian virtues, we need to pray for humility. Then, we need to be prepared for what God will do to teach it to us! Read Deuteronomy 8:2, 16Deuteronomy 8:2, 16
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2 And thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or not. 16 who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not; that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end:

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. In the story of Manasseh, he was haughty and God humbled him in a terrible way (2 Chronicles 33). Pray for humility but be prepared for what God may do to teach you!

 

RECOGNIZE THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF OTHERS

          Philippians 2:3Philippians 2:3
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3  doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself;

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says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It doesn’t hurt us to recognize the achievements and abilities of others. If we want to, we can allow it to motivate us to do better.

 

HAVE A PROPER VIEW OF YOURSELF

          Paul wrote in Romans 12:3Romans 12:3
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3 For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think as to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith.

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: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” We need to remember our own limitations.

 

HAVE A PROPER VIEW OF YOUR OWN KNOWLEDGE & EXPERIENCE

            We need to remember that our own knowledge and experiences are only a drop in the bucket compared to the entire experiences and knowledge of the human race. So, Paul writes in Colossians 3:12Colossians 3:12
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12 Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering;

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, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”  Someone said: “Many would be scantily clad if clothed in their humility.”

 

–Paul Holland

Fore!

 

            I am not a fan of golf. Local preacher-buddies keep encouraging me to go with them but they would not play by my rules. You can use a bat instead of a club. You can use a t-ball tee instead of a golf tee. There are no penalties for landing in the sand trap or the water hole. The one with the highest score wins – after all, if I have to do more work and expend more energy and walk further, I deserve to win. And let’s try to get a hole in ten instead of a hole in one – that’s too limited.

 

            A golf ball is distinctly shaped. It has between 330 and 500 dimples in it. The golf ball did not have dimples until about a century ago. Then, golfers discovered that balls will go further because of the cuts, scrapes, dents and dings it had in it. Additionally, golf dimples can be tailor-made to the golfer and his swing.

 

          Two points can be made from the golf ball (the most use I get out of a golf ball). First, we need the “cuts, scrapes, dents and dings” in life if we want to go far. That is, the trials we experience in life make us better people. James, the Lord’s brother, wrote: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2-3). The next time you suffer from trials in life, remind yourself that God is creating something in you that will make you better.

 

          Secondly, just like balls that are specially designed for golfers, our series of trials, you might say, are specifically designed for us by God. No temptation that has overtaken us is uncommon. The unique series of trials is unique to us. We are each unique with our own set of strengths and weaknesses. God, in His wisdom and understanding, has designed our lives to accentuate our strengths and to prune our weaknesses. He does it because He loves us.

 

          Let me alter slightly Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 10:131 Corinthians 10:13
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13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.

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: “No trial has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tried beyond your ability, but with the trial he will also provide the lesson to learn from it, that you may be able to mature.”

 

–Paul Holland

Hell: Is it real? What is it like? Who will go there?

HELL

WHAT IS HELL?

  1. An Eternal Abode of the Wicked (Matthew 25:46Matthew 25:46
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    46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

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  2. A Place of Darkness (Matthew 25:30Matthew 25:30
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    30 And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

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  3. A Place of Punishment (Matthew 25:46Matthew 25:46
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    46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

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A PREPARED PLACE

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels:”  (Matthew 25:41Matthew 25:41
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41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels:

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SATAN’S DWELLING PLACE

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet:  (Revelation 20:10;  see Matthew 25:41Matthew 25:41
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41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels:

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ABSENCE OF GOD

  1. Rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus; who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (II Thess. 1:8-9ss. 1:8-9
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    8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, And feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents. 9 I have compared thee, O my love, To a steed in Pharaoh's chariots.

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  2. Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:11-13Matthew 25:11-13
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    11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.

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  3. Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31Luke 16:19-31
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    19 Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day: 20 and a certain beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table; yea, even the dogs come and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham's bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried. 23 And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted and thou art in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us. 27 And he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house; 28 for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 But Abraham saith, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead.

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DESCRIPTION

  1. Outer Darkness (Matthew 25:30Matthew 25:30
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    30 And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

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  2. Furnace of Fire (Mathew 13:42).
  3. Everlasting Fire (Matthew 25:31Matthew 25:31
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    31 But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:

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  4. A Place of Torment (Rev. 20:10).
  5. Everlasting Punishment (Matthew 25:46Matthew 25:46
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    46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

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  6. The Second Death (Rev. 20:14).
  7. Lake of Fire and Brimstone (Revelation 20:10)

ETERNAL

  1. “And these shall go away into  Eternal Punishment; but the righteous into Eternal Life.”  (Matthew 25:46Matthew 25:46
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    46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

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  2. “And they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation      20:10.)

WHO WILL GO THERE?

  1. The Wicked (Revelation 21:8Revelation 21:8
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    8 But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.

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  2. The Disobedient

(II Thessalonians 1:7-9).

  1. The Deceived

(Matthew 7:21).

  1. All whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life

(Revelation 20).

-Frank Briscoe

His was the way of the towel, not the sword or human wisdom or power.

JESUS’ UNIQUE METHODS were a clear sign to the people, or should have been, that He was going to be a different kind of leader, not modeled after the traditions and standards of the world (cf. Mark 7.6,  9; 1 John 5.19)…

The Father’s business had to be conducted by the Father’s rules, which included leadership methods.  He did not use the contemporary models of leadership:

.  The conquering Roman general

.  The Greek orators or debaters

.  The successful merchants and businessmen

.  The senators or governors of the Roman Empire

.  The Jewish model (cf. Matthew 23)

.  The success guru

.  The democratic-political model

.  The dictator

.  The savvy financial management model

.  The great strategist model

.  The “most popular person” model

.  The CEO, boss, motivator, or manager model

How simple!  The radical leadership concept introduced by Jesus:  shepherding sheep.  He cut across all models of leadership in His day.  The norms and expectations for leaders who would be world-changers were radical to observers, and even in our day by those who don’t understand the Father’s business.

Jesus chose the shepherd model for Himself and for those who would be His followers.  These under-shepherds would change the world with this simple, but demanding, model of leadership.  The kingdom would be perpetuated by no other means.  The shepherd model would lead Christ’s church to victory; not the oppressive, bossy, dictatorial leadership models of Rome.

His was the way of the towel, not the sword or human wisdom or power.  Church leaders would be shepherd-servants like their Master; they would be known by their love for Him and for one another (John 14.15; 13.34-35)…  J.J. Turner, “The Shepherding Model,” Shepherds, Wake UP!” 16-17

“Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’”  2 Samuel 5.2

–Mike Benson

 

Do you know anyone like Julie?

The following was a letter I sent to a young lady who made a serious mistake several years ago. Just in case any readers ever make mistakes, perhaps you could consider this a letter to you, too. Let’s call this young lady Julie.

“Dear ‘Julie,’

‘I know the last couple of months have not been kind to you. I know you face a lot of fears. Will I be healthy? Will the child be healthy? Will I be able to manage as a mom, perhaps by myself? Will this little one be able to grow strong in Christ?

One fear you need not have is that your heavenly father is mad at you.

You’re a wonderful young woman who has a lot going for her. Charm, love, spirit, a sense of humor and intelligence. You have a great future, as a person, as a Christian and as a mom.

You know the story. It’s one of the first you ever heard in Sunday school. In Genesis 3:8Genesis 3:8
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8 And they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah God amongst the trees of the garden.

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, after Adam and Eve sinned, we read something quite remarkable:

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves” (Genesis 3:8Genesis 3:8
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8 And they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah God amongst the trees of the garden.

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What’s the first thing God did after they made a mistake? Did you see it? We always see the other thing — man hiding from God, the fear, the guilt. But what else did you see there?

Here it is, young lady, because I want you to know this for certain. The first thing God did when Adam and Eve made a mistake was to go looking for them.

He did that because God always looks for us. He still does.

Remember the shepherd who had ninety-nine sheep, yet went looking for the lost one? Remember the woman who had nine coins, but spring-cleaned the house to find the lost one? Remember the father who already had a son, but looked far down the road to see if his other son was coming back (Luke 15)?

God does not only love sons, he loves daughters, too.

You must know that God’s love does not diminish when we face hard times and make mistakes. God goes looking for us. What does he do when he finds us? He offers us his help. His powerful, compassionate, wise help.

If you ever need to talk, don’t hesitate to do so. You can grow from this. That’s what God wants! Just let him help you.”

Note: Julie acknowledged her mistake before her church family. She had to quit college and take care of her child. It’s been six years now, but she has found a good Christian husband who loves her as her heavenly father has always loved her.

Redemption, preceded by repentance, followed by recovery! That’s the way God does things!

Do you know anyone like Julie?

Stan Mitchell

A Proverb for the Day (19:19)

“A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19Proverbs 19:19
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19 A man of great wrath shall bear the penalty; For if thou deliver him, thou must do it yet again.

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NASB).

Sometimes you have to stand back and watch a person you love commit mistakes and fail, then be there to help them learn and put their life back together. A person with a hot temper must learn to control their anger. If they won’t listen to reason, they may need to learn by facing the penalty for their actions. If you are constantly bailing someone out of trouble, you are enabling them to continue living recklessly and foolishly. By bailing them out, you may not only be enabling them, but putting them into a worse situation. This kind of behavior tends to escalate and it is better to face a smaller consequence sooner than a greater consequence later (e.g., offending someone verses getting tossed in jail for fighting).

by Jeremy Sprouse

Being a Christian is more than just wearing a name

Christianity is really under attack at this time in our world, it is seems especially in our country. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. If you set back and be nothing, or do nothing, have no opinions or thoughts that differ from those which are deemed “politically correct,” then you will be left alone. If however you have strong beliefs and either act upon them or express them, you can expect to be attacked. That’s the nature of Satan and those who have been persuaded to believe as he teaches.

It is interesting to see and hear those who are on the side of evil, those who proclaim that God is dead, or that the Bible is no longer relevant or is outdated, screaming out their hateful criticism of Christians. However let me remind you that being a Christian is more than just wearing a name. It is a life style, woven through our belief in what is morally right or wrong. It effects our relationship to our world and those who share this world with us.

The following story makes a good point: A preacher and the president of a soap manufacturing company went for a walk together. The president said, “What good is Christianity? Look at all the trouble and misery of the world! Look at the anger, at the division among people. It’s still there, even after years, thousands of years, of teaching about goodness and truth and love and peace. Still there, after all the sermons and teachings. If Christianity is good and true, why should this be?” The preacher said nothing.

They continued walking until he noticed a child playing in the gutter. Then the preacher said, “Look at that child. You say that soap makes people clean, but see the dirt on that youngster. Of what good is soap? With all the soap in the world, over all these years, the child is still filthy. I wonder how effective soap is, after all!”

The president of the soap company protested, “But preacher, soap cannot do any good unless it is used!” “Exactly,” replied the preacher. “Exactly.”

You may not be able to change much of the world, you may not be able to stop all of the hate that is being directed towards those of us who claim to be Christians, but just like with dirt, you have to start washing somewhere. Little by little the whole body becomes clean if we don’t stop washing….

Of course the washing starts with ourselves. Peter wrote long ago, “to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also, not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (1 Peter 3:20-211 Peter 3:20-21
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20 that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: 21 which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ;

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What good is Christianity? It gives us a moral compass that points to God! It makes us clean and it saves those eternally who are washed clean, (1 Corinthians 6:9-111 Corinthians 6:9-11
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9 Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

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–Russ Lawson

THESE AREN’T MY BOOTS

It was the usual muddy day in the country.  The first grade teacher, Miss Brown, had just finished putting the 36th boot on the 18th pair of little feet and was anxious to finish the last pair so she could go to lunch.

The last pair of boots was for little Johnny Smith, a quiet boy.  Miss Brown had a very difficult time getting his boots on as they were a bit too small for his growing feet, but she finally won the battle.

To her dismay, little Johnny looked blandly up into her face and announced, “Teacher, these boots aren’t mine.”  In a hurry, but wanting to be kind, Miss Brown groaned, but with grim gentleness removed the boots and straightened her aching back.

Whereupon Johnny continued, “They’re my little brother’s, but Mommy said I could wear them to school today.”

I feel like little Johnny because I, too, can say, “These aren’t my boots. These aren’t my clothes.  This isn’t my house.  This isn’t my car.”  As a child of God, I recognize that everything in my possession belongs to Him, and He has merely allowed me to use them for a while.

“For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psa. 50:10Psa. 50:10
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10 For every beast of the forest is mine, And the cattle upon a thousand hills.

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The word the Bible often uses to describe this relationship is the word “steward.”  In the first century, a steward was a servant who was left in charge of the household.  Everything in the house was his to use, but he was also held responsible and had to give an account for what had been done with it.

It makes a tremendous difference in my perspective to realize that all I have belongs to God.  He has merely given me these things to use for a while (and then I have to give an account).  Listen to these words by William How which we often sing:

“We give Thee but Thine own,

Whate’er the gift may be:

All that we have is Thine alone,

A trust, O Lord, from Thee.”

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this?  For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You.” (I Chron. 29:14-15)

–Alan Smith

ARE YOU A FAN OR A FOLLOWER?

     By definition a fan is one who is an enthusiastic admirer.  Fans (especially Buffalo Bill fans ) will dress in special colors, and buy all sorts of paraphernalia to decorate their cars, walls, desks, that let everyone know what team they support. They do not care about the elements, such as SNOW! Fans may follow in the sense that they will travel great distances to see their favorite team play, but that is the extent of their following. One notable difference between a fan and a follower is the fact that it is rare to find a fan who has ever played  the game they  love. As we all know, there is a huge difference between participating in a sport/activity versus merely watching from the sidelines.  In our spiritual lives we can choose to be a fan or a participant as well. Scripture clearly teaches us that Jesus has called us to follow and be actively engaged in the life He has given us in Him. (Matthew 16:24-25Matthew 16:24-25
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24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.

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, 1 Peter 2:211 Peter 2:21
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21 For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps:

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    Jesus not only calls us to follow Him but gives us clear teaching so that we can know for sure that we are. A real relationship with Christ involves absolute conditions and commitments.  If we are not involved in the life of God in our daily lives we can be sure that we are still on the sidelines acting as a fan of Christ rather than being engaged in the life and work following God requires of us. Jesus provided four designations for true disciples (followers). We are His followers IF we daily “…abide in (His) Word” (John 14:15John 14:15
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15 If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.

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. Do we know the truth that will set us free? Do we daily feed on the Word of God? We are His followers IF “(we) have love for one another” (John 13:35John 13:35
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35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

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. How are we doing in our commitment to the body life of the church? We are His followers IF “(we) bear much fruit” John 15:1-8John 15:1-8
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15 1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples.

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. Are we growing in our spiritual character and outreach to the lost? We are His disciples IF “(we) take up our own cross” Matt. 16:24-26Matt. 16:24-26
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24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?

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Are we dying to selfish living? Let’s all decide to follow Jesus and participate in the ministry of reconciliation we are all called to be a part of!!

–Bill Dayton

Even in the Bible, it seems, goats get a bad rap.

I read recently that a trade union is upset because a college campus has purchased twenty goats to clear up an overgrown portion of the college campus. The union objects that by using the goats the University of Western Michigan has taken jobs away from union workers. Apparently the reason the university employed the four-footed mowers rather than two-footed is environmental. Goats do not spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere the way a rider mower might.

They’re not kidding around, either. The goats are making quick work of the brush, eating through scrub, poison oak, everything. But union leaders insist this is ba-a-a-a-ad for employment. It seems the four-footed mowers will eat anything, and are thus scape goated for the poor employment in the region. So we are faced with a dilemma. Do we support jobs or the environment?

Even in the Bible, it seems, goats get a bad rap. Recall that at the end of time, the sheep will be on the right, the goats on the left (Matthew 25:33Matthew 25:33
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33 and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

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). The older brother in the story of the prodigal son bemoaned the fact that though his wayward brother was being given a fattened calf, he had not even been given a goat to celebrate with his friends (Luke 15:29Luke 15:29
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29 But he answered and said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, and I never transgressed a commandment of thine; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

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). As already suggested, an Israelite who had sinned could bring a goat to the high priest, admit his sin, then place his hands on the goat, as if to transfer the guilt from Israelite to animal. The goat was then let out of the camp, symbolically taking the sin with him (Leviticus 16:8Leviticus 16:8
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8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for Jehovah, and the other lot for Azazel.

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). (Don’t worry, the ubiquitous creature, of all animals, is well suited to surviving in the wilderness. Goats, as we have already observed, can eat anything).

So sheep are considered innocent and pure, while goats are generally thought of as mischievous and destructive. Also, they threaten jobs in Michigan, apparently. Perhaps goats should organize a union of their own?

It seems that goats get no respect. Not that you will hear them bleating about that. They just eat. Even in tandem with bulls, however, goats are not sufficient to take away sin (Hebrews 10:4Hebrews 10:4
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4 For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.

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All of which is a good way to remind ourselves that when it came to our sin, the Lord did not leave it up to either four-legged creature; he offered the ultimate sacrifice: himself (Hebrews 10:5-7Hebrews 10:5-7
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5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, But a body didst thou prepare for me; 6 In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure: 7 Then said I, Lo, I am come To do thy will, O God.

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). I do not know whether to side with the humans or the goats in Western Michigan University, but I am relieved beyond words that the Lord gave himself for my sins. Nothing and no one less could have done the job.

Stan Mitchell

The Lord’s Prayer (updated)

Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.

If scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.

Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That’s no offense; it’s a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.

For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God’s name is prohibited by the State.

We’re allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They’ve outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.

We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the ‘unwed daddy,’ our Senior King.
It’s ‘inappropriate’ to teach right from wrong.
We’re taught that such ‘judgments’ do not belong.

We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.

It’s scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school’s a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!
Amen

–Source uncertain; some attribute this to a 15 year old student

I JUST SPENT $43.87 at the dollar store…

How could I spend so much money at a place where things cost only one dollar?  I went in to buy paper cups and craft sticks for a church project, along with Spanish moss, if they had any pretty gift bags.

Turns out the store had all of these things — and much more.  Like this cool nail file that has green sparkly flowers on one side.  Paper towels, sunglasses, a magazine that’s only slightly out-of-date.  Chewing gum.  I even found a darling yellow hat for my granddaughter.  And this purple pill organizer that lets me put all my supplements for the week in one place.

Wait.  I’m beginning to see how I could spend $43.87 at the dollar store.  I did it one dollar at a time.

Little things tend to add up.  A cookie here, some ice cream there — a pair of jeans that won’t zip.  A week too busy for devotional reading, a day so crowded that there’s no time for exercise, an evening when one TV show turns into hours spent staring at the tube — then I wonder why I’m feeling sluggish, physically and spiritually.

But it works in a positive way too.  One little act of kindness, one smile at a hassled clerk, one card sent to brighten someone’s day — and the world doesn’t seem as hostile, as hopeless.  So here’s to little things.  Well managed, they can have big results.  Mary Lou Carney

“For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?” Genesis 30.30

–Mike Benson

 

God Knows Us Intimately

          One night recently, I laid awake listening to Rachel’s breathing – soft, rhythmical. For those of you who know her, Rachel has a strong personality. That is, she thinks independently; she’s active; she has lots of ideas; she doesn’t mind sharing her opinion. After sixteen years of marriage, I know her well. I know what makes her glad/sad, what makes her happy/mad, what makes her elated/upset, what makes her grin/cry.

 

          God knows each of us better than that. He knows us better than we know ourselves. God’s children, Israel, were in slavery in Egypt. A Pharaoh was on the throne who was afraid of Israel and oppressed them grievously. Early in Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh, God told the Egyptian monarch that if he did not let Israel go, “Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn” (Exodus 4:23Exodus 4:23
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23 and I have said unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me; and thou hast refused to let him go: behold, I will slay thy son, thy first-born.

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          God knew Pharaoh’s heart. He knew what would motivate him. God gave Pharaoh nine chances to change his mind. But each plague had the effect of hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh’s attitude was such that it would take a strong hand to make him blow his gasket. So, that’s what God did. Pharaoh would not submit the easy way. So God took the life of Pharaoh’s firstborn. That did it. That final plague was the temperature that caused Pharaoh to spew out the Israelites with their arms full of money and clothes (Exodus 12:35-36Exodus 12:35-36
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35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they asked of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment. 36 And Jehovah gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And they despoiled the Egyptians.

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          God knows us intimately. Because of God’s promise in 1 Corinthians 10:131 Corinthians 10:13
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13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.

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, we know that God will not allow us to be so overwhelmed with negative emotions that we have to break under its load. He will not allow us to be overwhelmed with doubt, fear, temptation, trials, etc. that our only response is to break. He will not allow it to happen. He knows us that intimately.

 

           “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:32 Thessalonians 3:3
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3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and guard you from the evil one.

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–Paul Holland

REKINDLING THE FLAME

An old lady had been married for many years when suddenly her husband died. This is what she put on his tombstone:

THE LIGHT OF MY LIFE HAS GONE OUT

Not long afterward she met, fell in love with and married another man. After thinking at some length about it, she went to the monument maker and had him add this to the tombstone:

THE LIGHT OF MY LIFE HAS GONE OUT

P.S. I Found A Match

Reminds me of what happened to the church at Ephesus.  There was a lot of activity in that congregation.  They were commended for their perseverance, their refusal to tolerate false doctrine, and their labor for the cause of Christ.  But there was something missing.  The “light of their life” had gone out.  They lost the first love they had for Christ, and it had reached the point that they were doing lots of “religious works” without love as a motivator.

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works….”  (Rev. 2:4-5Rev. 2:4-5
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4 But I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love. 5 Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.

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Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a similar situation.  You’re doing all the “right” things, but that love you once had for Christ just isn’t there anymore.  Perhaps you need to find a match and rekindle the flame.  It’s important to do that before the light truly goes out in our lives:

“….or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Rev. 2:5Rev. 2:5
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5 Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.

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May you find again your “first love”!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith