Archives for : March2018

Do You Have Any Burdens?

One of the great invitations of the Lord is found in Matthew 11, and it reads: 

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Mt. 11:28-30Mt. 11:28-30
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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Are you fatigued by the tremendous load you now bear? Do you feel as if you have the weight of the world resting upon your shoulders? Do you need refreshing? Then do I have the solution for you. His name–Jesus! His book–the Bible!

Do you bear the burden of . . .

. . . Poor health, the prescription is James 5:14-15James 5:14-15
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. “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.” 

. . . A spouse who is not a Christian, the answer is 1 Corinthians 7:14,161 Corinthians 7:14,16
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”

. . . Loneliness, the companionship is 2 Timothy 4:16-182 Timothy 4:16-18
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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. “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me:… Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

. . . Discouragement, the encouragement is Galatians 6:9Galatians 6:9
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

9 And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

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. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

. . . Being a Christian who sins, the solution is 1 John 1: 4-101 John 1: 4-10
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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. “…But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Do your burdens seem too heavy to bear alone? If you answered yes, you are exactly right. You cannot do it alone. There are some burdens that good Christian friends can help you bear–“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2Gal. 6:2
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

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). On the other hand, there is one friend who can and will help you with every burden. His name is Jesus.

Have a wonderful day, and I trust you’ll search for Jesus–your burden bearer. 

–Neil Richey

Have You Earned Your Place In Heaven?

After making a whopping $50 million donation to a gun control initiative, and because of his work against obesity and smoking, former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg was quoted as saying: 

“I am telling you, if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in…I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

How does that sound to you?  Presumptuous? Arrogant?  The very idea that Mr. Bloomberg could think he could “buy” his way into heaven must be offensive to God.  How less offensive is it when we believe and act like we can earn our way into heaven by…

  • Going to church three times a week.
  • Reading our Bibles daily.
  • Giving generously each first day of the week.
  • Helping the poor.
  • Being a good father/mother/husband/wife/son/daughter.

The above list could go on and on.  Do we, along with Mr. Bloomberg need to be reminded that after all we could possibly do, we are still unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10Luke 17:10
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10 Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do.

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)?  Do we also need to be reminded that our righteousness, the best we can offer, is as filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6Isaiah 64:6
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6 For we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment: and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

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You see, Heaven isn’t a matter of attainment; it’s a matter of atonement.  If we’re in Heaven some day, it won’t be because we earned it.  It won’t be because we wowed God with our own morality and righteousness.  And it won’t be because God’s indebted to us.  On the contrary, it will be because we’re indebted to him!

Steve Higginbotham

Keeping Our Sword Drawn and Sharpened

My first preaching work was in a small farming community in south central Oklahoma.  It was not uncommon to arrive at church services and find someone out front whittling on a stick with a pocketknife.   Most of the time there was no definite purpose for “whittling,” and the end result was a shortened stick with a sharp point at the end.   But every now and then a good brother would be whittling away at a stick for a specific purpose he had in mind.  It also seemed as if each of the men carried a knife that fit their personality and needs.  There were all sorts of knives, of varying size and sharpness.  Occasionally, at one of the fellowship meals, a brother would whip out his pocketknife and slice a tomato in no time flat (I sometimes wondered where that knife had been prior to slicing the tomatoes, but tried not to dwell on the possibilities).  On a number of occasions an attempt to slice the tomato would end up in tomato juice due to the dullness of the knife.  Then the brother would say, “One of these days I’m going to get this thing sharpened.”

Paul admonished us to “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17Eph. 6:17
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

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).  The word of God is a cutting instrument.  It is “living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joint and marrow” (Heb. 4:12Heb. 4:12
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

12 For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

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).  Contrary to post-modern mentality, the word of God is not a dead letter, incapable of accomplishing the purpose for which it is sent forth.  Nor is the word some kind of  flexible, ever changing document that is to be adapted to the culture or thinking of each generation.   Everything I read in the Bible so far as its permanence is concerned leaves the distinct impression that it is sufficient, once for all delivered to the saints, and authoritative in its message.   It does NOT change with the passing of time, but calls upon men to change their lives to meet its demands.   There is a consensus among so-called “theologians” (false, I might add) that the Holy Spirit somehow “illuminates” the Bible, and provides it with power to convict the souls of men.   Unfortunately some of our brethren are teaching such sophisticated silliness.  Charles Ryrie, a well known sectarian preacher, described the work of the Holy Spirit as “making clear the truth of written revelation.”  That kind of mind set essentially robs the word of God of its inherent power, and places one at the mercy of whatever “subjective” feeling he might have on a matter while attributing it to the “work of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter used the sword on the day of Pentecost to prick the hearts of those who would listen to the word.  As soldiers in the army of God, our weapon for slaying the hosts of wickedness is powerful and adequate.  “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12Eph. 6:12
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

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).  To be effective we must keep our sword drawn and sharpened at all times.  With that sword that has been forged by the Holy Spirit, we go forth conquering and to conquer.   “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds); casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-52 Cor. 10:3-5
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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).   In a sense the sword itself (i.e., the word of God) will always be sharp, for error has no advantage over truth and the weapons of Satan are no match for God’s spiritual arsenal.  A sharp sword in the hands of a courageous soldier of the cross will spell victory; but the “ignorant and unstedfast” will “wrest” the “scriptures unto their own destruction” and the destruction of others (2 Pet. 3:162 Pet. 3:16
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

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).   Like that farmer who intended to get his knife sharpened someday, there are those soldiers in the Lord’s army who neglect the word, and when the time of battle comes, their “sword” is either sheathed or they lack the proper training to wield the sword of the Spirit.  They may have intended to “sharpen” their skills “someday.”  But that “someday” never comes, and so far as the outcome, they are no better than that farmer who never quite got around to sharpening his knife, and they have, for all practical purpose, dulled the blade that could otherwise pierce and convict.     A dull sword spells defeat at the hands of the enemy.  Like those country farmers, there are some Christians who keep their instrument sharp.  They can rightly divide the word and thus use it effectively against the forces of evil.  But there are also those in the body of Christ who have allowed their sword to become dull.  One of the most forceful admonitions given to the children of God is that from the pen of Peter:  “But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord:  being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:151 Pet. 3:15
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

15 but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear:

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).  God’s army is a mighty fighting force.  To be effective we must keep our swords sharpened.  To do otherwise makes our fighting instrument dangerously dull and our souls unprepared and ineffective.

By Tom Wacaster

All the trends and tendencies that make the modern left so corrosive, are on display front and center in today’s America

I read an interesting and encouraging editorial in The Weekly Standard this week. When it seems that wrong is on the throne and right is trampled in the gutter, along comes an observation that reminds us that evil will not succeed, and truth will triumph. I share with you two quotes from William Kristol: “All the trends and tendencies that make the modern left so corrosive, are on display front and center in today’s America.”

As Kevin Williamson puts it, ‘We have officially reached peak leftism.’ Williamson interprets this moment as one of leftists desperation.” Mr. Kristol takes all of this as an indication that, for the leftists, time is running out, and at last “some scales are starting to fall from some eyes.” Our struggle for truth and righteousness may, at times, appear to be a losing battle; but it is only an allusion. We have been promised the victory; all we have to do is fight the battle. “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9Gal. 6:9
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

9 And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

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). The full realization of that one truth will make any “bad-hair-day” bearable, will it not?

~~~~~~~ by Tom Wacaster

 

When God is Gone Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Do you recognize the name Corrie ten Boom? She was a Dutch watchmaker in the mid-1940s. The Nazis had invaded the Netherlands and the ten Boom family hid the Jews, and for two years, they helped them escape. Eventually, an informant told the Nazi Secret Police and Corrie ten Boom and her family – eventually 30 in all – were arrested and sent to a Nazi concentration camp.

Eventually, they were sent to the Ravensbruck women’s labor camp in Germany. They held worship services there and Corrie’s sister died there at the age of 59. Corrie herself was 52. Two weeks later, through a clerical error, Corrie was set free but seven days after that, all the women in her age group were sent to the gas chambers.

Corrie ten Boom wrote a book about her experiences, titled The Hiding Place (published in 1971) that was made into a movie in 1975. There is a scene in the movie, set in the  Ravensbruck concentration camp, where Carrie and her sister, Betsie, and 10,000 other women are living in horrible, degrading, hideous conditions. In this scene, Betsie is leading a Bible study among the women. One woman, laying on a bunk bed, mocks their worship. She says, “If your God is such a good God, why does he allow this kind of suffering?”

Dramatically, the woman tears off the bandages on her hands to show the broken, mangled fingers. “I was the first violinist of the symphony orchestra. Did your God will this?”

There is silence. Then Corrie ten Boom steps to the side of her sister and says, “We can’t answer that question. All we know is that our God came to this earth, and became one of us, and he suffered with us and was crucified and died. And that he did it for love.”

Corrie ten Boom’s response was mostly perfect. I would correct one important part of her response. No, God did not “will” Adolf Hitler’s atrocities and the concentration camps and the murder and maiming of Jews and Gypsies and other minority groups. God does not “will” evil to occur. But yes, allowing man the freedom to choose, God does allow man the freedom to abuse what is good and use it for extreme evil.

But this study focuses more on the better part of ten Boom’s response. That response is very much the type of response that Job had in the middle of his suffering. Now Job lived before Jesus so he could not lean on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for hope and assurance. But we will learn in this text that Job’s “life-line” in the midst of suffering was the word of God and Job’s response to that word.

Paul Holland

Job 23:1-9, 16-17Job 23:1-9, 16-17
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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No marriage for those in the military!

Did you know that ancient Roman soldiers were not supposed to marry during their years of service? Now compound this with Augustus Caesar establishing the military term for soldiers at 20 years! Listening to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy suddenly takes on a new level of intensity and single-mindedness.

“No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:42 Timothy 2:4
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As Paul opened his second letter to Timothy, Timothy appears to have been grappling with some fear and embarrassment about the Lord (2 Timothy 1:7-82 Timothy 1:7-8
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). Paul’s words offer to reframe Timothy’s perspective by reflecting on the dedication that even a common soldier had to possess. How much more, then, God’s soldier ought to exemplify a single-mindedness of purpose and devotion to please his Commanding Officer!

As good as a tenacious dedication to God is, Paul knew that such zealousness needs guidance. So he wove into this fabric of faithfulness the lesson of an athlete.

The intense training and discipline required of an athlete was proverbial. To petition to participate in the ancient Olympic games, the prospective athlete was required under oath to pledge that he would train for 10 months.

Nevertheless, such dedication alone was insufficient. The victor would be one who competed by the established guidelines (2 Timothy 2:52 Timothy 2:5
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). Timothy’s service to God needed to be guided by God’s will, not just his own ideas of what was best. How easy it can be to get fired up about our own solutions and agendas.

And finally, Paul added a farmer to this collage of faithfulness. As the hard working farmer is the first one to receive a benefit from the harvest, so too it is only right that God’s faithful and dedicated servant should be first to share in the blessings of his labor (2 Timothy 2:62 Timothy 2:6
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6 The husbandmen that laboreth must be the first to partake of the fruits.

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We can do this. As God’s people we can live the short period of our time under the sun dedicated to serving our Lord according to God’s will. Even if life seems mundane or arduous, we can do this. And let’s not forget, God wants to refresh his workers and it is appropriate to accept refreshment along the way.

by Barry Newton

When you doubt, remind yourself that God keeps His promises.

A Greater Promise – Hebrews 6:1-20Hebrews 6:1-20
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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Horatio Gates Spafford was a lawyer and businessman in Chicago in the late 1800s. He had some serious financial reversals in the great Chicago fire of 1871, and during the time of readjustment, he lost his home. He realized his family needed to get away for a vacation. Spafford decided to take his entire family to England. The four daughters were drowned, but Mrs. Spafford was rescued. She wired her husband, “Saved alone.” After that tragedy, H. G. Spafford wrote the song “It is well with my soul.”

What does Satan use to whittle away your faith? Your confidence in Jesus Christ? Doubt? Disappointment? Discouragement? The Hebrew audience was in danger of leaving Jesus Christ, doubting that He was the sole means of salvation (2:1; 4:11). In Hebrews 6, the writer tells us what we can do to overcome doubt.

In overcoming doubt, we need to…

MATURE IN OUR FAITH:
6:1 – We need to “press on to maturity.” We need to spend more time in Bible study and fellowship with other Christians. It will help us mature in our faith.
So, to deal with doubt, we need to mature in our faith…

KEEP IN MIND THE PROMISES OF GOD:
6:10 – God is not unjust to forget our work and the love we have shown toward His name, ministering to the saints.6:11 – Show the same diligence in order to “realize the full assurance of hope until the end.”

MAINTAIN FAITH AND PATIENCE:
6:13 – The Hebrew writer’s example to imitate is none other than Abraham. God could make an oath by none other than Himself and such He did with Abraham – vs 14.

IT IS ALL BASED ON THE NATURE OF GOD:
6:16 – Men swear by something greater than themselves. 6:17es. 6:17
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– God swore with an oath – desiring to show to the heirs of the promise the “unchangeableness of His purpose.” In 1:2, the Hebrew writer had said that God appointed Jesus as “heir of all things.” (see also Romans 4:13Romans 4:13
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; Galatians 3:29Galatians 3:29
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). Here, we are told that we can benefit from that same inheritance.
6:19 – Here’s our hope:
It is as an anchor of the soul.
It is both sure
It is also steadfast
It is enters into / behind the veil
6:20 – Into which Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us.

SOME OF THE PROMISES OF GOD:
John 14:1-4John 14:1-4
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14 1 Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go, ye know the way.

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Hebrews 13:5Hebrews 13:5
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5 Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee.

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Mark 16:16Mark 16:16
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16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.

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Romans 8:28Romans 8:28
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28 And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.

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Take home message: When you doubt, remind yourself that God keeps His promises.

–Paul Holland

Flattery is a trap. Proverbs 29:5 asserts, “A man who flatters his neighbor Spreads a net for his feet.”

Flattery is saying positive things about people that you do not really believe, and it is condemned in the Bible.

Flattery is a trap. Proverbs 29:5Proverbs 29:5
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asserts, “A man who flatters his neighbor Spreads a net for his feet.”

Flattery is used to gain advantage over someone. “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude 1:16Jude 1:16
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Flattery is deceptive. Paul wrote, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18Romans 16:17-18
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Flattery brings ruin. “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, And a flattering mouth works ruin” (Proverbs 26:28Proverbs 26:28
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It is important that we are truthful in our speech toward others. But we need to be kind in speaking that truth.

Our words should be filled with grace. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6Colossians 4:6
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6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one.

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Our words control our destiny. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37Matthew 12:36-37
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).

Say what you mean and mean what you say but don’t be mean with what you say.

– Larry Pasley

Proverbs 29:5Proverbs 29:5
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Why missionaries ask for money

‘The horrible condition of mankind:’ Why missionaries ask for money

(BNC) by George Hall — I have been watching ads on TV by ASPCA. They represent a noble cause to prevent cruel treatment of animals. The soft music plays as a video of caged, sad-looking dogs appears. A soothing voice tells us of the tormented history of the animals.

They touch our hearts. Perhaps we shed a tear. They ask for money to reach their goal.

In 1974, I went to India to help retrain preachers. Most of my summer was spent in Madras, a huge city, which is filled with starving children. In the early mornings, the “dead wagons” would pick up the dead bodies from the streets.

One time I saw a dead wagon with a few bodies on it. One body was that of a young boy who was about six years old. Another boy, who was alive and was about seven or eight years old, was hugging the dead body. They were probably brothers.

As I write this, tears run down my face.

Other times, I would be walking in the busy streets, and kids would wrap their arms and legs around my legs (often, two kids at a time). They would say to me, “Please, master, please, master.” Once again, my tears flow.

TV commercials picture starving children in desperate situations. It naturally touches our hearts.

They ask for money to feed them and to provide clean water to drink. This is a noble cause.

There were many things that Jesus did. Of course, they were all good. He states clearly His mission. Christ Jesus came to seek and save the lost. His heart was touched to the point of generating compassion for the distressed and scattered people.

We share the pain in His heart as He looks with sad eyes upon Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” Jesus was and is a friend of publicans and sinners. Our troubled eyes focus upon the cross.

The cross is worse than the terrible beheadings by ISIS. The cross brings forth tears of sadness and rejoicing.

Our hearts are touched hundreds of times more for the horrible condition of mankind than for the condition of dogs. Where are the tears for the lost? If we look through the eyes, the tears will come. In Mark 16:15Mark 16:15
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15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation.

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, the Gospel is to go to all, to save people.

We ask for money to help save the lost.

 

 

It seems that a young man volunteered for Navy service during World War II.

He had such a high aptitude for aviation that he was sent right to Pensacola, skipping boot camp. The very first day at Pensacola, he soloed and was the best flier on the base. All they could do was give him his gold wings and assign him immediately to an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

On his first day aboard, he took off and single-handedly shot down six Japanese zeroes. Then climbing up to 20,000 ft., he found nine more Japanese planes and shot them all down, too. Noting that his fuel was getting low, he descended, circled the carrier, and came in for a perfect landing on the deck.

He threw back the canopy, climbed out, and jogged over to the captain. Saluting smartly, he said, “Well, sir, how did I do on my very first day?”

The captain turned around, bowed, and replied, “You make one velly impoltant mistake!”

A cheerful heart is good medicine… (Prov 17:22Prov 17:22
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22 A cheerful heart is a good medicine; But a broken spirit drieth up the bones.

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a)

 

Too often people tear out the Bible pages they don’t like, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.

Bill Keane, creator of the “Family Circus” cartoon strip, told of a time when he was penciling one of his cartoons.  His son Jeffy walked up, looked at his dad’s drawing and said, “Daddy, how do you know what to draw?” He replied, “God tells me.”  Jeffy questioned, “Then why do you keep erasing parts of it?”

What a smart kid!  Whether he meant it or not, Jeffy understood a concept many adults are still struggling to learn.  His mind hadn’t yet been clouded with thoughts, opinions, and other kinds of “baggage.”  He simply understood that if God had really told his Dad what to draw (which God hadn’t), it would be wrong to change it and go against it.

Too often people tear out the Bible pages they don’t like, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.  Maybe it’s because it describes something sinful they are already doing.  Maybe it’s because they don’t want to accept the destination of unfaithful family members who have passed on.  Maybe they just hate God and the Bible.  No matter the reason, it doesn’t change the fact that we will be responsible for knowing and obeying this information (John 12:48John 12:48
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48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day.

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; James 1:22-25James 1:22-25
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22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves. 23 For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: 24 for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing.

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).

Since every word of Scripture is given by God (2 Timothy 3:16-172 Timothy 3:16-17
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16 Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: 17 that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.

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), and since the Bible gives us everything we need to know for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:32 Peter 1:3
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3 seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue;

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), it is vital that we keep all the pages of Scripture firmly where they belong.  God never has and never will want people to add or take away from His words (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:36Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:36
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; Joshua 1:7-8Joshua 1:7-8
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; Proverbs 30:5-6Proverbs 30:5-6
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5 Every word of God is tried: He is a shield unto them that take refuge in him. 6 Add thou not unto his words, Lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

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; 2 Corinthians 2:172 Corinthians 2:17
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; Galatians 1:9-10Galatians 1:9-10
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; Revelation 22:18Revelation 22:18
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18 I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book:

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).  We must always obey the commands in Scripture.  Jeffy understood this concept.  Do you?

Brett Petrillo

If Jesus Couldn’t, Could I?

Expectations have much to do with our contentment. One who places unrealistic expectations upon himself is generally discouraged, and feels as though he is a failure.  I’m convinced that if a person had proper expectations, he would not be so soon moved to discouragement, depression, and despair.  An obvious step to “reeling in” our expectations is to understand the fact that “if Jesus couldn’t do something, we need to stop believing we can.

Consider:

·       Jesus couldn’t make his own family believe that he was the Son of God (John 7:1-6John 7:1-6
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), so why then do we beat ourselves up for sometimes failing to do the same?

·       Jesus couldn’t avoid sadness and sorrow (Isaiah 53:5Isaiah 53:5
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5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

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), so why do we sometimes act as though we expect life to be a bed of roses?

·       Jesus couldn’t go without rest (Mark 6:31Mark 6:31
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31 And he saith unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while. For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

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), so why do we feel guilty if we aren’t on the go 24/7?

·       Jesus couldn’t avoid making enemies (John 15:18John 15:18
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18 If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you.

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), so why are we so surprised when people hate us for our faith?

·       Jesus couldn’t cause all men to repent (Matthew 23:37Matthew 23:37
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), so let’s be content with our best efforts.  We can’t obey for others.

Maybe the first step to contentment is in shedding the guilt that comes from the unrealistic expectations we place upon ourselves.  After all, if Jesus couldn’t do it, why do we think we can?

Steve Higginbotham

Will we be victorious, or will we fall?

SOME TIME AGO National Geographic ran an article about the Alaskan bull moose…

The males of the species battle for dominance during the fall breeding season, literally going head-to-head with antlers crunching together as they collide.  Often the antlers, their only weapon, are broken.  That ensures defeat.  The heftiest moose, with the largest and strongest antlers, triumphs.

Therefore, the battle fought in the fall is really won during the summer, when the moose continually eat.  The one that consumes the best diet for growing antlers and gaining weight will be the heavyweight in the fight.  Those that eat inadequately sport weaker antlers and less bulk.

THOUGHT:  Spiritual battles await us.  Satan will choose a season to attack.  Will we be victorious, or will we fall?  Much depends on what we do now–before the wars begin.  Remember the bull-moose principle: enduring faith, strength, and wisdom for trials are best developed before they’re needed.  Bruce Howell

“I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”  Job 23:12Job 23:12
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25 Things Christians Need to Pray About More

In the hurry of our day to day lives we often stop to say a prayer at one of three times:

  1. When we wake up, right before our busyness begins,
  2. Before we fall asleep, capping off our busy day or
  3. Before we hastily throw food into our mouths

It’s not wrong to pray at these times, but sometimes this repetitive schedule or prayer leads to repetitive prayers (Matthew 6:7Matthew 6:7
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7 And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

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), and before we know it we’re praying the same ole things at the same ole time as usual (at least that’s what happens to me).

This being the case I thought it’d be good to write out a list of things we, probably, don’t pray about all that often. Consider this list as a way to break up the monotony of our repetitious prayers. This list certainly isn’t exhaustive (add more prayer suggestions in the comments below), but can help us to refocus on the fact that we’re talking to the Almighty God of the universe. Praying about things we normally don’t will help us remember that fact. Here are 25 things we need to pray about more:

  1. Our government
  2. Our nation
  3. The community you live in
  4. The homeless
  5. Children without parents
  6. People who do not know Christ
  7. Those that have run away from God
  8. Those that are struggling with addiction
  9. Being a better father/mother
  10. Being a better spiritual leader
  11. Becoming a more active member of the body
  12. Your enemies
  13. The house you live in
  14. Your children
  15. Your preacher/ministers
  16. Your congregation
  17. The hungry
  18. Missionaries
  19. Those dying for their beliefs
  20. Our military
  21. Your spiritual life
  22. Widows/widowers
  23. Those that have recently lost loved ones
  24. The spread of the gospel
  25. Opportunities to reach those that are lost

I hope that this list will help to improve the prayer lives of all who read it. Prayer is too serious an action to be relegated to something rote and routine. Feel free to print this list out or revisit it as you have need.

Our busy lives can bring meaningful prayer to a grinding halt. Take prayer back and make it personal again by infusing new topics into your discussion with God. We don’t necessarily need to pray more, but we do need to make sure that the prayers we’re saying matter and this list of 25 is a good place to start.

Jack Dodgen

The Meaning of Life: Studies in Ecclesiastes “A Practical Side of Wisdom” Chapter 7

For the past two months, we have been focusing our thoughts on the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon writes this book to share his God-given wisdom with man. Part of that wisdom is recognizing the futility of life, especially when God is not in our life. At the end of chapter 6, Solomon asks the question: “Who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life” (vs 12)?

Indeed, who knows what is good in life? I know what is good for me spiritually and, in broad terms, I know what is good for me financially but often, we simply do not know what is the best decision to make. We do understand, however, that we have to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:72 Cor. 5:7
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7 ;

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Yet Solomon gives us several pictures of the “good” life here in chapter 7. It is where Solomon gives us the “practical side of wisdom.” Solomon uses the word “better” eight times in verses 1-10. But “better” is the same word as “good” in Hebrew and he uses the latter word three times in verses 1-11. So, how does “wisdom” look? Solomon gives us a picture.

Wisdom behaves in a way that brings honor and respect to your reputation (vs 1). It also motivates you to consider the end of your life (or the result of a decision) at the beginning of your life (or decision). To use Stephen Covey’s phrase from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Sorrow causes us to reflect on life and to offer a word of encouragement to others (vs 3). Wisdom listens to the advice of others who have “been there and done that” (vs 5). A brush fire burns quickly so that it gives little heat and warmth (not for long-term). That’s just like the laughter of fools. Pleasure might be short-lived.

The wise get angry at oppression but it does not yield to the temptation to bribe (vs 7); rather, wisdom is patient in the face of oppression (vs 8), and is not quick to “fly off the handle” (vs 9).

Wisdom does not live in the past (vs 10). Wisdom can guard against negative turns in life (vs 12). Wisdom recognizes that life will be a series of mountain-peak experiences and valleys of despair (vs 14). Wisdom recognizes the natural ebb and flow of life and that all is in God’s hands.

Wisdom sees that the good suffer, sometimes, and the righteous prosper, sometimes. God has not designed this life to be a one-for-one correspondence between righteousness and His blessings. That is so that man is not “bribed” to be faithful to God.

Wisdom recognizes a balance in life and that one might be a religious “fanatic” without being in a right relationship with God (vss 15-17).

Wisdom makes one strong (vs 19) but it will not get you to heaven by itself (vs 21). Wisdom does not respond to every foolish thing that fools say (vs 21; We need to send that verse to President Trump!).

In short, wisdom guards its reputation. Wisdom reflects on the seriousness of life. Wisdom seeks balance in life. Wisdom finds its relationship with God.

–Paul Holland

John Newton wrote the words to one of American’s favorite hymns – Amazing Grace.

When John Newton left his ship anchored in Southampton, England, in 1748, he was sick. Sick with fever, sick physically and sick spiritually. He was also sick of the slave trade.

Sixteen years later, after working all day and educating himself at night, John Newton became a preacher in the Anglican Church, in the small village of Olney. But John Newton never gave up the clothes that he wore as a ship’s captain.

It was in the early years of his ministry – 1779 – that John Newton wrote the words to one of American’s favorite hymns – Amazing Grace.

A WRETCH / LOSS / BLIND

“wretch” – “a miserable person; one sunk in the deepest distress; a worthless mortal” (Webster). Even a person “despised or scorned.”

You know who I think of – biblically – when I think of a wretch? Someone who in fact, became an exile – Cain. He made himself a miserable person, sunk deep in distress and despised because he selfishly killed his own brother.

In contrast to Cain, consider Paul’s words about himself in 1 Timothy 1:131 Timothy 1:13
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13 though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief;

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. Paul also was a murderer of his own brethren – his Jewish brethren who had accepted Jesus as the Savior.

But just like John Newton, Paul was taught…

GRACE TAUGHT AND GRACE RELIEVED

Many times what we do wrong, we do in ignorance. But grace teaches us that sin is wrong and it teaches us what to do right. Once again, we turn to the apostle Paul in Titus 1:12Titus 1:12
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12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons.

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Christianity is a taught religion and a religion that teaches. That suggests that the primary target of our evangelism is the human ear (Jeremiah 22:29Jeremiah 22:29
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).

I think John Newton may have used the word “fear” with two different definitions. “Grace taught my heart to fear.” That fear is the fear of God (Matt. 10:28Matt. 10:28
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28 And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

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). Grace teaches us to fear God out of a deep sense of respect.

But also, Newton writes “grace my fears relieved.” When we are taught about the love of God, expressed in the gracious giving of Jesus Christ, it relieves the fear we have of being punished for our sins.   I think we could accurately change John’s words in 1 John 4:181 John 4:18
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in which he writes: “There is no fear in love [grace]; but perfect love [grace] casts out fear.”

GRACE WILL LEAD ME HOME

Grace has brought me through many dangers, toils, and snares. Grace forgives. Grace gives a second chance. Grace accepts. Grace renews and restores confidence. Every time we stumble or stump our toe – God is there to help us back up. That’s grace. We do not deserve it. But it’s available.

Grace will lead me home. Jesus never used the word “grace.” It is never on His lips. The word grace is only used three times in the Gospel records and all in the Gospel of John and all in the first chapter. It is used in verses 14, 16-17es 14, 16-17
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.

Observe what Peter has to say about “grace” and going home in 2 Peter 1:2, 3-4, 10-112 Peter 1:2, 3-4, 10-11
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.

TEN THOUSAND YEARS IN HEAVEN

This verse was not written by John Newton. It was a verse in a different song but in 1910, it was added to this song.

First of all, we should note that this verse is very figurative. There is no time in heaven. Heaven is defined by “eternal life” (Matt. 19:16; 43Matt. 19:16; 43
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x), with “eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9Luke 16:9
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9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles.

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), where we will enjoy an “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:172 Cor. 4:17
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17 For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory;

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), in an “eternal house not made with hands” (2 Cor. 5:12 Cor. 5:1
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), enjoying an “eternal comfort” (2 Thess. 2:162 Thess. 2:16
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), and “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12Heb. 9:12
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), which is the “eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9Heb. 5:9
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9 and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation;

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), and an “eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15Heb. 9:15
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), in the “eternal kingdom” (2 Peter 1:112 Peter 1:11
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).

There is no time in heaven. But that’s just the author’s point. Time will not run out. This is a beautiful, poetic way of saying that we will be there with God forever.

–Paul Holland

 

In case you didn’t know …

A 19TH CENTURY biblical scholar tells of traveling one day in Israel and coming across a shepherd and his sheep…

He fell into conversation with him and the man showed him the fold into which the sheep were led at night.  It consisted of four walls, with a way in.

The visiting scholar asked him, “Is this where the sheep go at night?”  “Yes,” said the shepherd, “and when they are in there, they are perfectly safe.”  “But there is no door,” said the visitor.  “I am the door,” said the shepherd.

He was not a Christian man and wasn’t speaking in the language of the New Testament.  He was speaking from a shepherd’s viewpoint.  The scholar looked and him and then asked, “What do you mean you are the door?”

“When the light has gone,” said the shepherd, “and all the sheep are inside, I lie in that open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door.”  Tom Moore

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”  John 10:1-5John 10:1-5
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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Mike Benson

 

The husband said, “She also stole a can of peas.”

I heard about an 80-year-old woman who was arrested for shoplifting.  When she went before the judge in Cincinnati he asked her, “What did you steal?”

She replied “A  can of peaches.”

The judge asked her why she had stolen the can of peaches and she replied that she was hungry.  The judge then asked her how many peaches were in the can.

She replied,  “Six.”

The judge said, “Then I will give you six days in jail.”  Before the judge could actually pronounce the punishment, the woman’s husband spoke up and asked the judge if he could say something.

The judge said, “What is it?”

The husband said, “She also stole a can of peas.”

It’s so true that whenever others are found guilty, we want to make sure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  I sometimes ask people the question, “Do you want a judge (or a police officer) who shows mercy or one who administers justice?”  The answer I get is almost always the same — if we are standing before the judge or pulled over by the police officer, we want mercy; if others are standing there, we want justice.

The interesting thing about God is that He is perfect in His justice while at the same time full of mercy.  How can He be both?  When we are guilty of sin, He finds us guilty to the full extent of the law.  The penalty for our sin is death — spiritual death, separation from God (Romans 6:23Romans 6:23
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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).  But, in His mercy, God has found a way to pay the price Himself.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:212 Cor. 5:21
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

21 Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

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Praise God for being the just and holy God that He is, but praise Him as well for being full of grace and mercy.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

 

Jesus wept

JOB TORE HIS robe and shaved his head…

 

These were expressions of deep sorrow in his ancient culture.  Reeling under the impact of these great losses, Job was too crushed in heart to put up any false front of cheerful courage.  He wept openly with boundless grief.

 

Emotionally, he was allowing the natural grief process to occur.  Some people think that to be spiritual, they cannot cry or let anyone else see their crushed heart.  Some believe it is unspiritual to let their broken spirit show.

 

Not so.  It is unhealthy to not allow the grief process to occur.  If all that emotion remains pent up inside, we become like a teakettle on a stove — ready to explode!  It is emotionally healthy and therapeutic for our souls to cry.  Didn’t Jesus weep over the death of Lazarus?

 

One author addressed this very point:  “I am disappointed that someone, somewhere, many years ago, introduced the ridiculous idea that if you know the Lord, you don’t grieve.  That even if you lose something or someone significant, you shouldn’t weep.  With my whole heart, I disagree!  Granted, we don’t grieve “as those who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:131 Thess. 4:13
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

13 But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope.

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).  But, no tears?  No grief?  I find that unthinkable.  Since when does becoming a Christian make a person less than human. . . .or more than human?”  Steven J. Lawson, “The Invisible War,” When All Hell Breaks Loose, 41

 

“Jesus wept.”  John 11:35John 11:35
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

35 Jesus wept.

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Mike Benson

Anything for Love?

How fond are you of cats? I’m not antagonistic toward cats but I’m not a big cat lover. I would prefer a dog any day over a cat. In fact, I have more allergy problems with cats than I do with dogs; that may be the origin of my antipathy towards them.

Ashley Brooks lives in Charleston, SC and is an avid cat lover. Too much, perhaps. She opened Pounce Cat Cafe back in November. Pounce Cat Cafe is for other cat lovers to come sip wine or drink beer in the midst of twenty roaming kitties.

But Ms Brooks has also suffered from nasal congestion her entire life. It intensified after opening the Pounce Cat Cafe, sending Ms Brooks to the allergy specialist. Yes, it turns out that she is allergic to cats. Rather than cutting back or ending her obsession with cats for the sake of her health, she would rather get a weekly infusion of drugs – allergy shots – to boost her immune system so that she can continue lounging with her felines. She commented to the Post and Courier of Charleston, “They are injecting me with cat so hopefully I won’t be allergic anymore.” (World Magazine, Feb 18, 2017).

While I think that obsession is weird, if not unhealthy, I’m not going further in my criticism of Ms Brooks and others like her who would rather take allergy shots than get rid of their indoor pets.

But, the same behavior is evident when we find ourselves drawn to sins that are inflicting harm to ourselves and others. I’m not just speaking of the obvious – alcohol, drugs, and so forth.

I’m thinking of all sinful behavior that negatively impact our spiritual health, our health with God, and our health with our fellow travelers through life. I’m thinking of sins like sexual immorality (living together without marriage), greed, losing our temper, lack of humility when we’ve been proven wrong, malice, slandering people behind their backs, lying.

The apostle John, the apostle of love, writes: “Do not love the world [Those behaviors and factors in life which the Bible defines as sinful, p.h.] nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-171 John 2:15-17
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

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The best thing for our spiritual lives is to get rid of the “cats” and learn how to live a God-pleasing life that is ultimately more fulfilling. Unfortunately, too many of us would rather take the spiritual “allergy” shots of searing our conscience, rather than getting rid of sin: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-21 Timothy 4:1-2
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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Don’t “drug” yourself with self-deception. Humbly submit to God’s word and His guidance and leave sinful behavior behind.

–Paul Holland