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Thank you, but those are not for me. Frog legs I enjoy, but leave the rest of it off my plate, please.

“For every creature of God is good, and

nothing is to be refused if it is received

with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by

the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5

NKJV).

We came back to Khulna Bible College late one afternoon to find the staff and students gathered together by one of the water hydrants where they clean chickens, vegetables or other food to be prepared for meals.

When we went over to them to see what was on the menu, we found them separating hundreds of water bugs from some tiny shrimp they netted out of the school’s pond.

The bugs were not for eating, but represented the amount of work required to obtain some forms of food here.

Two of the students took the net and went back into the pond. They caught a pan full of half-grown tadpoles, and these they did prepare for cooking. Most of the students and staff joined in eating them, and were very happy about the way they tasted. Thank you, but those are not for me. Frog legs I enjoy, but leave the rest of it off my plate, please.

The Children of Israel, under the Law given by Moses, had very strict food laws. Anything not specifically listed as clean was anathema. Peter once stated, “I have never eaten anything common or unclean” (Acts 10:14).

To them it was not a matter of taste, or personal squeamishness. God did not allow it; such food would defile them; therefore they would not, could not, eat it. Nothing could render a “common” thing clean. There could be no exceptions.

In Christianity this has changed. According to Paul’s words cited above, anything created by God is good and may be eaten. To Peter a divine voice had said, “What God has cleaned you must not call common” (Acts 10:15).  What is the difference? Why the change? How can we justify eating now what was abhorrent to God under a former system?

The explanation is simple. Three things are listed which sanctify our food (and all that we have). These are thanksgiving, the Word of God, and prayer.

First, we must remember that we are to receive all things with sincere gratitude. When we take God’s blessings with an attitude that we deserve them and that he owes them to us, we boast in ourselves and take from him the glory due him. When we take them for granted, neglecting the one who gave them, we treat him as unimportant. Gratitude confirms our faith in him and our dependence upon him. It causes us to truly worship and honor him.

Second, we note that foods previously prohibited are now allowed, simply because God said so. His word authorizes us to eat them. We need no other authority or explanation. He is all-powerful. He is King of Kings.

What God permits, no one else can prohibit. For this reason we “speak where the Bible speaks.” We cite “book, chapter and verse” for all doctrine and practice. All things are sanctified by his word -– that is all things addressed or approved by his word.

Third, our behavior is sanctified by prayer. Though this verse is obvious background for our common practice of praying before we eat, it has far more meaning and application than simply that routine. When we ask for God’s authority, and yield ourselves in submission to his will, we ensure that all we do is acceptable to him (James 4:7-8; 10).

When one prays for God’s acceptance and approval it is difficult to knowingly practice that of which he disapproves. Sincere prayer tunes our will to his, and assists us in following it.

Not only our food, but all doctrine and practice should be sanctified by these great principles. We must always be thankful; we must always consult God’s word; and we must always ask for his help and approval in prayer.

Having done those things, we can serve him with joy and peace, never doubting his approval.

 by Michael E. Brooks

Some VERY DISHONEST (but HIGHLY RELIGIOUS) people!

JESUS HAD NOT been through rabbinic training, and it would not be expected that He could sustain a continuing argument from Scripture…

 

 It was this that seems to have astonished his hearers.  They would not have expected a man who came from a carpenter’s home in Nazareth to have been able to teach like Jesus taught.

 

 This is a fine piece of Johannine irony.  He made it clear at the beginning of the Gospel that Jesus is the divine Logos, the Word of God.  Now he sees the Jews confronted by the Logos incarnate and calling him “this uneducated fellow.”  They could not recognize the divine wisdom when they heard it.  Leon Morris, “Reflections on the Gospel of John,” 261

 

 “Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, ‘How does this Man know letters, having never studied?’  Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.'”  John 7:14-16

 

Mike Benson

DON’T WORRY – HAVE FAITH IN GOD.

In this chapter, God shows Job what little acquaintance he had with the untamed creatures that run wild in the deserts and live at large, but are the care of the divine Providence.

1. The wild goats and the hinds, though they bring forth their young with a great deal of difficulty and sorrow, and have no assistance from man, yet, by the good providence of God, their young ones are safely produced, and their sorrows cast out and forgotten (v.1-4).
2. The free spirit of the wild ass (v.5-8),
3. The untameable strength of the unicorn (v.9-12),
4. The silly ostrich which lays her eggs in the sand wanders away from them, and does not stay near them to guard them, as most other birds do (v.13-18),
5. The horse which knows no fear but charges into the battle (v.19-25),
6. The wise eagle which builds her nest high up on the rocks (v.26-30).

The object is to show the infinite wisdom of God, and the utter incompetence of man to explain the mysteries of nature. God is telling Job this: “I know what is going on. How do the wild beasts and birds survive without the care of man? Do you think I would just leave you in this condition and not care about you?”

The lesson for us is this: God cares and provides. “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

Yes, God knows and He cares. God is telling men not to worry too much about their lives: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25).

The problem with us is that we worry too much. It is rightly said that for most of the time, the things we worry about do not happen. My grandfather would not believe a house can cost more than a hundred thousand dollars. Well, I got my house for more than that amount. I thought it won’t go higher but I was wrong; a house costs half a million bucks today. I don’t want to speculate how much it will cost when it’s my grandchildren’s turn to buy a house. Should I begin to worry for them?

Why do some worry so much? It is because of the lack of faith. Worry causes us to be fearful and lose faith in God: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). Some things we just have to leave them to God because they are not within our control. We cannot control what will happen tomorrow. We just need to continue to trust in God: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3: 5-6).

God will take care of us. The animals in the wild survive without men’s help. They never have to attend school. They never have to worry about tomorrow. Yet they survive. God wants us to look at nature and trust in Him.

Let us seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness and He will provide for us (Matthew 6: 33). So, DON’T WORRY – HAVE FAITH IN GOD.

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

Muslims in Europe Coming to Christ Daily

Your Prayers can Change History

Defining moments come our way seldom, but today we have the opportunity to change history through prayer. About 2 million Islamic refugees have fled to Europe within the last year. While governments are reeling with the challenges of integration and resettlement Christians are reaping a harvest for the Master. Because they have been in countries that are virtual prisons, ruled by fanatical Islamists who believe they can force people under threat of death to follow Muhammed, the new freedoms they are finding in Europe are allowing them to make choices for themselves, and they are departing Islam in droves.

Our brethren across Europe are befriending them, telling them the lies they have been taught since birth about Christians hating them are not true. Churches are hosting them for meals and informational gatherings where the refugees are hearing the gospel for the first time and many are responding. In Greece, they are averaging one new convert every single day and in Austria, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, Christians are meeting them in parks and market squares and telling them about Jesus.

Never before have we had this opportunity. Never in history has there been such an opportunity to teach the Islamic world about the Christ. If we can mobilize every church that belongs to the Lord to pray for conversion of these Islamic refugees and support our European brethren through prayer, we can contribute directly to the saving of thousands and demise of the threat of Islam. Will you pray daily? I ask those who lead us in public prayer in our churches to never forget to ask God for guidance as we do His will in this matter. Pray, Pray, Pray!

Bill McDonough

Statistics are overwhelming that children thrive when they have an active father.

Being a father is an extremely important job and one of the most rewarding on earth. When we choose to have children, we are tasked to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Nothing else is more important than raising our children in the Lord and being with them in heaven forever (Proverbs 22:6). We cannot overstate the gravity of the situation.

Are we taking it seriously? Are we asking what kind of people we are raising to send out into the world? Will they be a blessing or a menace? Will they be prepared for living alone? Even secular authorities who have looked askance at men in the past have begrudgingly admitted that fathers are indispensable to children.

Statistics are overwhelming that children thrive when they have an active father.

But what kind should they have?

A complete father is intimately involved in the lives of his children. He has a career and the responsibilities as head of the home (Ephesians 5:22- 23), but he also has children that need him. He will develop a resilient bond with them that is built on trust and unconditional love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Children will know they have their father’s heart and ear anytime they need it. He will be their steady rock who will admit when he is wrong and work to improve and grow.

They will laugh, play and talk. He will know something of their friends, with the help of his wife, and how they spend their time.

A complete father will know his children better than they know themselves. He will study them, knowing their strengths, weaknesses and what they need from him.

He will help his daughters become ladies and instruct them fully about men, dating, life and the traps of each. His sons will learn strength, knowledge, life- skills and an occupation from him. They will learn to be men of God who will lead their homes.

The complete father will model a spiritual leader and instruct his children in how to pray, teach, forgive, love and deal with others. Even as they leave the home, his reach will continue into their future paths.

He will be what his children need and their friends will wish he were their Dad. He will make a difference that will extend to future generations and into eternity.

–by Richard Mansel

I like beef, pork, chicken, fish, and squirrel

PAUL HARVEY, MUCH-beloved radio personality, once quipped, “Vegetarian is an old Indian word for ‘doesn’t hunt well…’”[i]

I like vegetables, but I am no vegetarian.  I like meat – all kinds.  I like beef, pork, chicken, fish, and squirrel.  You didn’t expect the last one, did you?    Did you forget I grew up in rural Alabama?

I’m convinced there are many Bible vegetarians today.  There is no meat in their diet because they don’t hunt well.  They do not search or hunt through the Scriptures as they should.  Jesus declared, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5.39).  Had the Pharisees truly searched, they would have known that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (John 7.52).

In contrast to the Pharisees, the Bereans were great hunters.  Of them, Luke records, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17.11).

THOUGHT:  What about us?  How well do we hunt (2 Timothy 2.15)?  Are we Bible vegetarians?

If we are searching the Scriptures as we should, there will be plenty of meat in our diets.  In fact, there might even be some strong meat or squirrel (Hebrews 5.12-14).  Don’t knock it until you have tried it! It tastes kind of like chicken.  Wade L. Webster

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  Hebrews 5.12-14

[i] Wait, Marianne. Laughter:  The Best Medicine.  Pleasantville, NY:  Reader’s Digest Publishing Company, Inc., 2006, p. 204.

— Mike Benson

 

Is Life Uphill?

Surprised? I’ll admit it. I was. Somewhere along the way I got the idea that the older I became, the simpler life would be.

I doubt that anyone ever told me so (they probably said just the opposite), but I always thought the easy life was just around the next hard decision. Now that I’m over half way home (surely!) I’ve accepted it. Life is uphill. It’s meant to be.

When I was in college I got up every morning at 5 a.m. to go over to the cafeteria to cook breakfast for those who got to sleep until 7.

I dreamed of the day when I could sleep that extra couple of hours.

Then I moved to Guatemala where the diesel-powered corn grinders and the roosters both crank up about 4 a.m. So much for sleeping late.

Life is uphill. You’ll have your own examples. Life does not become easier.

Complexity adds a degree of difficulty which keeps the path tilted uphill. I know now that it’s meant to be that way.

Rather than seeking the level path which takes us comfortably nowhere, let us learn how to run uphill. If that is truly the way life is, then we have been uniquely prepared to do it.

Let us live up to our creation calling. We are, after all, running for home.

Rom. 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

–Roger L. McCown

The Single Minister

“For a man to remain a bachelor, he must either keep a cool head, or cold feet.”

Barnabas, Jeremiah, Paul, Jesus Christ. What do these men have in common? They were single ministers.
Bachelors who served the Lord.

It fascinates me how resistant the church is today to the idea of single ministry. I don’t know how many church members say, “We prefer our preacher to be married.” That single preacher probably prefers to be married, too.

I am heartbroken to say I can name numerous men who have given up their dream of preaching because churches will not hire a man who is single. Is this any way to further the kingdom?

The New Testament tells us that elders are to be the husbands of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2). It says no such thing about a preacher’s wife.

Some suggest a single preacher may “have trouble with the women of the congregation.” Really? Isn’t that a question of character, not marital status? Have you ever known a married man to fancy himself a big hit with the ladies? Hire a man of character, regardless of his marital status.

Others suggest a single man is not mature. Folks, some of the most immature people I have ever known are married.

Still others suggest the wife can be involved in women’s activities. First, this places an unfair and unbiblical burden on preachers’ wives. The Bible says as much about the preacher’s wife as it does about the Hunger Games trilogy. (That was a joke; the Bible says nothing about the ubiquitous movie phenomenon).

The single preacher can minister to an increasingly growing demographic group in our churches, namely, single Christians. These people’s souls are just as valuable as the souls of married people. What is more, a singles group properly motivated can be one of the church’s greatest, most evangelistic assets.

Most startlingly important of all: We have placed a rule on our churches that the Bible never does. When we deny single ministers the opportunity to serve, brethren, we are being unscriptural!

Single women, too, can serve (under biblical conditions, naturally). They served both Paul and the Lord. Why not now?

Paul thought being single was an advantage in ministry.
He said so. “The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:22,23, ESV). Jesus declared there was an honored place for the single, those who have chosen to be single “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12).

Brethren, it’s time someone said something about this! We are limiting ourselves as a fellowship when we shut these good people out of service. On the mission field, single people can serve without the limitations of a married man; in our pulpits they can serve with distinction, just as preachers in Bible times did. The Lord’s kingdom has been hurt by our blinders, our prejudice against single people. Let me be blunt and urgent. It needs to stop!

Have you tried using a minister who is single? Before you dismiss the idea, keep in mind the time he can give to the task, the concentration he can place on it. Or simply do this. When considering a man for ministry, look at his qualifications, his experience, his character. Leave his marital status to the Facebook page.

–by Stan Mitchell

Thomas slammed the door and Maggie was crushed

Thomas and Maggie sat in marriage counseling. Maggie dabbed at her swollen eyes as she cried about Thomas’
refusal to be affectionate to his wife of 32 years.

The counselor asked Thomas why he was cold towards her.

“That’s silly stuff. I won’t do it.”

“Maggie, did Thomas kiss you when you were dating?”

“All the time! I had to fight him off. Thomas even kissed me on our first date.”

“Did he hold your hand?”

Maggie smiled. “Absolutely! He was so romantic, bringing me flowers and candy.”

“Thomas, what changed?”

Thomas frowned. “Isn’t it obvious? I was a kid then. Look at me now!”

“Thomas, do you still love her?”

“Yeah.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“This is stupid. I’m leaving.”

Thomas slammed the door and Maggie was crushed.

A year later, the counselor saw Thomas in the park holding hands and kissing a new woman. Clearly, he had forgotten he was too old for affection.

A marriage without affection is like being frozen. We must be connected intimately with our spouse. Skin hunger is a very real thing.

Living without that connectivity leaves us empty. We cannot be one flesh with another person without affection. Being married roommates is desperately sad.

God commands us to be intimate. We are to be one in every way with our spouse (Genesis 2:18-25). Solomon begins his ode to passion in marriage, with the Shulamite woman saying, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” (Song of Solomon 1:2).

We must never let the passion die in our marriage. Marital love cannot breathe without affection. Our bodies are not ours and we must be fully engaged with our partner (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).

Start today with a touch, a hug and a kiss and rediscover what you have lost!

Richard Mansel

Are you like Job?

Job 31:1 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

In this chapter, Job continues his defense that he is innocent. He begins by saying: “I made a covenant with mine eyes” (v. 1). Job says he would not sin with his eyes.

What covenant did Job make with his eyes? Job says:
1. He will never look upon a woman with lust (v. 1). He says adultery is a heinous crime and is a sin that burns until it destroys everything (v.11-12). He says adultery will be punished by God: “For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges” (v.11).

I wish that every married man and woman would be like Job and make a covenant with their eyes and aware that adultery is a heinous crime that burns and destroys everything and will be punished by God. Christ knows and warns against looking at a woman with lust: “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Husbands and wives, make a covenant with your eyes.

2. He will not look upon his servants’ grievances and ignore them (V.13-15). He maintains he is a fair employer and treats his servants fairly. I like his attitude towards all men when he says all men are created by God and therefore are equal before God: “Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?” (v.15). We are all God’s creation and therefore, equal.

3. He will never look on a poor, or an orphan, or a widow in need and not offer help (v.16-23). He maintains he has been a benevolent person. He knows that God will judge the oppressor and it is this fear that keeps him on his toes: “For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure” (v.23).

4. He will not look upon his wealth and lust after it (v.24-28). He says though he was rich, he has never put his confidence in his wealth (v.24). He will not be overcome by pride because of his wealth (v.25). To him, covetousness is like idolatry; it would be amounting to denying his God: “This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above” (v.28).

Indeed, covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3: 5) and the apostle Paul warns against trusting in wealth and becoming puff up: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

5. He will never look and rejoice over a fallen enemy (v.29-30). He has seen their destruction, and was far from rejoicing in it, and he has never wished a curse on their souls. Solomon says: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Proverbs 24:17). The Christian attitude towards our enemies should be the same: “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink” (Romans 12:20).

6. He will never look upon a stranger and deny hospitality to him (v.31-32). He maintains he has been very hospitable even to strangers. Do we do good only to those whom we love? The word of God says: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

7. He will never look on his sins and try to hide them (v.33-37). He says he will not be as Adam who tried to hide his sins from God (v.33). But he says he will lay his sins before God: “I would give him an account of all my steps” (v.37).

Likewise, as Christians, we are to be honest before God in confessing our sins so that we can receive forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

8. Lastly, he will never look upon somebody’s land and take it by force or deceit (v.38-40). He will not be like Jezebel who took the land of Naboth by deceit and murder (1 Kings 21:1-16). Job has been honest in his business dealings.

Have you made a covenant with your eyes? Our Lord says: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Mark 9: 47).

If you have an eye that is filled with adultery, idolatry, hatred, covetousness, wickedness, or any such sins, you have to pluck it off. You need to be like Job: make a covenant with your eyes.

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

Job and the “good old days”

Job was reminiscing the good old days. He looked back to the years of his prosperity and health he once enjoyed. To Job the period of his prosperity seems long, long ago. He wished he could turn back the clock and return to the past. Those were the days he said when God preserved him, watched over him and blessed him (v.2).

He remembered the days when his children were running around him (v.5). He recalled the days when he was well respected by the community and they waited for his counsel (v.7-11, 21). He recalled his good works and how he had helped the poor and the needy (v.8-16). Oh, those were the good old days in which he felt he had lived like a king (v.25). But those good old days were gone from him forever; at least, as we know it, for the time being.

One thing admirable about Job is that he never forgets that all good things come from God: “as in the days when God preserved me” (v.2b). Job referred his prosperity to God and was grateful to Him for it. Right now as he was wallowing in his misery, he still gave his praises to God for the good old days.

It’s a lesson for all of us: It is right and good to appreciate the divine blessings of the happy past. Job acknowledged that God had preserved him in past days. He was appreciative of God’s past blessings. His present condition did not affect his mind and cause him to forget all that God had done for him.

But not everyone is like Job. God has not been sufficiently appreciated by many. His blessings have not been acknowledged with merited gratitude. When felt deserted by God, the troubled man blasted that God does not love him; not now and never before. How ungrateful!

If you live in Singapore, you live in one of the most abundantly blessed lands in the world. This country enjoys plentiful food, housing, electricity, running water, wealth, air conditioning, world class transportation, first world sanitation, security, safety, and many other blessings. However, this land is also filled with chronic grumblers and complainers. Although there are countless blessings, there seem to always be countless things to gripe about—be it traffic, the economy, food prices, car and housing prices, desire for additional material possessions, ill health, etc. What is the problem? Ingratitude!

Children, have you ever complained that your parents do not love you? Why? Because they didn’t give you certain things you wanted then. But have you forgotten the past so many years they loved and adored you and still do? If they don’t love you, you will be in an orphanage home and not in this comfortable home with your own bedroom.

It has been said that ingratitude is the most common sin. The Israelites were not thankful that God had delivered them out of the Egyptian but kept complaining and disbelieving in the wilderness. Job’s wife had forgotten the good old days how God had prospered her family but told her husband to curse God and die (Job 2:9).

Gratitude is such a rare virtue that the scriptures have to keep reminding us to be thankful. Paul has to instruct the churches to be thankful: “And be thankful” (Colossians 3:5); “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Today may not be the best day in your life; give thanks anyway for it could have been worse. Moreover, in spite of it not being a good day, there are still so many good things to be thankful for. You are still alive and can see your children and loved ones; your children and loved ones are healthy and have food, shelter, jobs and are happy; your husband/wife loves you and is taking good care of you; you have wonderful friends who care about you; you have enjoyed the good old days; and you still feel love and being loved. Thank God for His blessings! Don’t let a tiny black spot on a beautiful picture hinders you from admiring the great piece of art; focus on the picture and enjoy it, and not the black spot.

Let us ever be grateful in whatever state we are in. When it is sunny for too long, we hope for the rain. But when the rain keeps pouring, we wish for the sun again. Sometimes too much of good things make us forget about God and so God sends the rain (pain) to remind us of His existence. Be thankful for the rain!

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

One of the things that most offended the Apostle Paul was idolatry.

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at

Athens, his spirit was provoked within him

as he saw that the city was full of idols”

(Acts 17:16 ESV).

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

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

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

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

Idolatry is a false religion, based upon lies.

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

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit describes this aspect of idolatry:

“For although they knew God, they did not

honor him as God or give thanks to him, but

they became futile in their thinking, and

their foolish hears were darkened. Claiming

to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged

the glory of the immortal God for images

resembling mortal man and birds and animals

and creeping things .. . They exchanged the

truth about God for a lie and worshiped and

served the creature rather than the Creator”

(Romans 1:21-23, 25).

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

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

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

— by Michael E. Brooks

Job’s Response & Ours Job 40:4-5; 42:3-6

Yesterday, we considered God’s response to Job’s “demand” for an audience with the Almighty. The four chapters that record God’s response (38-42) include 63 questions based on the NASV. That suggests that God was wanting to know what Job knew more than He was interested in conforming to Job’s expectations.

    Here I would like for us to meditate on Job’s response and ours, because forming God after our own image is idolatry.

OUR RESPONSE & JOB’S RESPONSE:

    After this barrage of questions from God that illustrate that mankind is simply not in the same category as the God of heaven, in 40:4-5, we have an initial response of Job. Before we try to question God and explain to God what He ought to have done differently or how He ought to do this or that, we would be wiser and show more humility if we were to respond more like Job. “I am insignificant. Once I have spoken. I will add nothing more.”

    A second response to God by Job is in 42:3-6. Our danger today, maybe is not to worship idols, but to have the idea that we know how God ought to do this or that. We are also faced with the danger of trying to force God, to manipulate God, into being the “God” that we think He ought to be. 

    God is not accountable to us. We cannot put Him under a microscope for our approval. The book of Job teaches us that we can trust God because He loves us. He did not lash out at Job the moment Job began expressing his doubts. Rather, God was graciously patient with Job. Did God ever explain to Job that it was, in fact, Satan who was persecuting Job? No, as far as we know, God never explains to Job what happened in chapters 1-2. Maybe Job himself wrote those chapters; maybe he did not. But you and I have them. You and I have the whole story.

    But we do not just have the whole story of Job. We have the whole story of the Bible which includes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our sins and for our salvation. We cannot choose what we like and what we do not like about the nature of God. If we are doing that, then we are making a god after our own image. 

    God created us to serve Him. He created us to worship Him and be in His presence throughout all eternity. The only way we can know God and the only way we can know what God expects out of us is the word that the Holy Spirit gave to us. That’s why it is so important to walk with Christ with His Word in our hands and in our hearts.

    Let us strive to be people who would serve God for nothing, grateful to be in a relationship with Him, Who is so worthy.

–Paul Holland

Strengthen your union daily and never let anything weaken it

At the dawn of God’s creation, God declared that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:1-31). Within this realm of creation, God created mankind.

“So God created man in his own image, in the

image of God he created him; male and female

he created them. And God blessed them. And

God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply

and fill the earth and subdue it and have

dominion over the fish of the sea and over

the birds of the heavens and over every

living thing that moves on the earth'”

(Genesis 1:26-27).

This was God’s ultimate creation since it was man in whom he gave not only the breath of life but an eternal soul (Genesis 2:7).

To his creation of man and woman, God gave instructions as to their worldly union. Man being alone, God deemed that he must have a “help meet” (Genesis 2:18). So from man God formed for him a suitable creation (Genesis 2:21-22).

Man’s response to this new creature was as follows:

“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:

and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24, KJV).

God instituted a union between the man and woman that was to be a binding stronger than steel, yet tempered by love.

The words translated “hold fast” (cleave) is from the Hebrew word dabaq which means, “to cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick to, stick with, follow closely, join to, overtake, catch.”

This God instituted union is manifest in the love that binds man and woman together into one unit. It is because of this love that King Solomon notes:

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and

obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs

18:22).

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved

the church and gave himself up for her”

(Ephesians 5:25).

In essence when a man and woman commit themselves to this union, it is as much a blessing to them as it was to the first man and woman at the dawn of time.

Let us each look into the mirror of our souls and see if we are manifesting such a love in our God-instituted union.

* Take the time to tell your spouse of your undying love.

* Show them your love by your actions.

* Never take each other for granted.

* Strengthen your union daily and never let anything weaken it.

“But from the beginning of the creation God

made them male and female. For this cause

shall a man leave his father and mother, and

cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be

one flesh: so then they are no more twain,

but one flesh. What therefore God hath

joined together, let not man put asunder”

(Mark 10:6-9).

by John E. Werhan

Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned From a Jigsaw Puzzle

1. Don’t force a fit — if something is meant to be, it will come together naturally.

2. When things aren’t going so well, take a break. Everything will look different when you return.

3. Be sure to look at the big picture. Getting hung up on the little pieces only leads to frustration.

4. Perseverance pays off. Every important puzzle went together bit by bit, piece by piece.

5. When one spot stops working, move to another. But be sure to come back later (see #4).

6. The creator of the puzzle gave you the picture as a guidebook. Refer to the Creator’s guidebook often.

7. Variety is the spice of life. It’s the different colors and patterns that make the puzzle interesting.

8. Working together with friends and family makes any task fun.

9. Establish the border first. Boundaries give a sense of security and order.

10. Don’t be afraid to try different combinations. Some matches are surprising.

11. Take time often to celebrate your successes (even little ones).

12. Anything worth doing takes time and effort. A great puzzle can’t be rushed.

13. When you finally reach the last piece, don’t be sad. Rejoice in the masterpiece you’ve made and enjoy a well-deserved rest.

(Copyright 2001, Jacquie Sewell)

There’s much good advice in there for Christian living.  Take #7, for example.  There is much variety in the Lord’s church — not only variety of color, but variety of background, and variety of temperament.

Some Christians would be happy if they were locked in a room filled with books totally isolated from society; other Christians would go crazy if they didn’t have contact with people on a regular basis.  Some Christians are fascinated by the theological arguments of the writer of Hebrews; other Christians are more moved by the depth of emotion expressed in the Psalms.  Some Christians most enjoy expressing their love through doing things to help other people; other Christians get a great deal of satisfaction by writing notes of encouragement or giving hugs.

We sometimes wish that everybody else in the church was “just like me,” but the things that make us different are actually a blessing.  In I Corinthians 12, Paul compared the church to a human body.  He wrote:

“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?  If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?  But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.  And if they were all one member, where would the body be?” (1 Cor. 12:17-19)

Though it sometimes gets frustrating, be thankful for the differences between us.  We need the things which other Christians have to offer.  It is that variety which allows the church to function as a body.  Those differences make us stronger.  Thank God for the variety!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

A Bible study on angels

Angels

Definitions:  Both Hebrew mal’ak and Greek angelos = “messenger.”  Sometimes used of human messengers (Matt. 11:10; Lk. 7:24, 9:52; Jas. 2:25), but in vast majority of uses, refers to divine messengers and heavenly representatives.  Hebs. 1:14 provides the primary biblical definition: “ministering spirits.”  Angels are created beings, not “gods” (Ps. 148:5; Col. 3:16) and therefore not to be worshiped (Rev. 19:10, 22:8-9).

Examples of Revelatory Activities:

Gen. 18 – Told Abraham he would have a son

Gen. 19 – Warned Lot re destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah

Ex. 3 – Appeared to Moses in burning bush & commissioned him to free Israel

Ex. 23 – Led Israelites through wilderness

Hebs. 2:2; Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19 – Delivered Law to Moses

Luke 1 – Announced births of John the Baptist & Jesus

Matt. 4 – Ministered to Jesus after wilderness temptations

Matt. 28 – Rolled away stone at Resurrection & announced it to women

Acts 1 – Present at Ascension, told disciples Jesus would come again

Rev. 1:1 – Delivered the Revelation to John

Note:  All of the above show what a tremendous claim is made in Hebs. 1-2 in saying that Christ is “better than” the angels.

Angels in the Old Testament:

Gen. 16:7-13, 21:17-20, 22:11-18

Ex. 3:2ff

Judges 6:1ff

Daniel 7:10

Deut. 33:2

Angels in the New Testament:

 Messengers of God & ministers to humans – Rev. 19:10; Lk. 15:10, Matt. 18:10;

Acts 12:15; Hebs. 1:14

Visitations to humans – Lk. 1:11-20, 26-38; Matt. 1-2; Acts 5:19ff, 8:26, 10:3ff,

12:7-10, 27:23; Hebs. 12:22; Rev. 5:11

Association with giving the Law – Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Hebs. 2:2

Participants in Judgment – Matt: 16:27; Mk. 8:38, 13:27; 2 Thess. 1:7ff

Splendor – Matt. 28:2ff; Lk. 2:9; Acts 1:10

Observe Christian worship – 1 Cor. 11:10

Miscellaneous – Rom. 8:38; Gal. 1:8; 1 Cor. 13:1; Col. 2:18

Fallen Angels – 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6

“Guardian Angels”?

The concept that each person has a personal angel who watches over him/her is nowhere clearly articulated in Scripture, but people sometimes use these references:

Matt. 18:10 – “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Acts 12:15 – “They said, ‘It is his angel!” (referring to Peter after his miraculous release from prison).

Rev. 1:20; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14 – the “angels” of the seven churches of Asia (although the exact meaning of this is uncertain).

Other Names for Angels:

             “Holy ones” – Job 5:1; Ps. 89:5 & 7; Dan. 8:13

“Sons of God” – Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7 (some say Gen. 6:13, but this is questionable)

“Seraphim” – Isaiah 6:1-3.  Mentioned only in Isaiah; human in form, but with 6  wings.  Function = to lead in worship of God (cf. Rev. 4:6ff, 5:8ff).

Apparently derived from Heb. saraph (= to burn); “burning ones,” “shining ones.”

“Cherubim” – Gen. 3:24; Ezek. 28:14, 16; Ps. 80:1, 99:1; Isaiah 37:16; Ex.  25:18-20; 2 Sam. 22:11; Hebs. 9:5, etc.  Stand guard over the way to  the tree of life.  Wooden images of them were set over the ark of the covenant.  Mentioned 91 times in OT, once in NT. But never clearly defined, and described in a variety of ways.

“Archangels” – 1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 9.  Possibly referred to in Rev. 8:2, 7, 10, 12; 9:1, 13; 11:15.  Only “Michael” is positively identified as an “archangel” (Jude 9; Rev. 12:7), but “Gabriel” is probably to be so identified as well due to the nature of his mission.  Note:  Michael  & Gabriel are the only 2 angels in the Bible who have names.

Tommy South

The world still hates truth

The first amendment to the United States Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” However, as homosexuality and abortion are praised in the media, opposing voices are labeled as deviants and fools.

Public speech is no longer free as the founders intended. Efforts are under way to silence Christians from sharing what the Bible says. But this is really nothing new to God’s people. We have faced these challenges before.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me [Jesus] before it hated you” (John 15:18, NKJV). The Apostles were told to stop preaching Jesus and they replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego stood up to the authorities and refused to stop praying to God (Daniel 3:8-18; 6:10-23).

Paul faced a mob in Ephesus (Acts 19:21-30) and another in Jerusalem (Acts 21:26-40). He was stoned in Lystra (Acts 14:8-20) and faced a shipwreck in Acts 27.

Centuries later, we’re still facing the same powerful spiritual enemy (Ephesians 6:10-12).

Paul faced death on numerous occasions, but he refused to stand down against sin (2 Corinthians 11:22-33). He would not be cowed. In the last recorded chapter of his writings, he said to remain firm in the Word and face the afflictions that will come (2 Timothy 4:2-5).

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

God has not “given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). With courage and resolve, we must be willing to give everything up to stand firm for God’s Word. He is watching and weighing our responses to the pressures of a pagan society.

Will we pass the test?

Richard Mansel

A people. A land. A law.

I was born March 17, 1971 in St. Louis, MO, into the Holland family, which belongs to the “American Family.” The American family dwells on the North American continent. The American family, to which I belong, is defined by its laws, preeminently the U. S. Constitution. A people. A land. A law.

In order for God to become flesh, He had to be born. Therefore, He needed a family – a people – a land and a law. The Old Testament is the story of God preparing for the coming of Jesus. God chose Abraham to be the “Father of his country” because Abraham, in the midst of unbelief and paganism, obeyed God (Genesis 22:16-18).

God took Abraham’s descendants, the Hebrews, into slavery in Egypt. After 430 years, at Mount Sinai, God formed them into a people – the nation of Israel, a “holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The people needed a law; God gave them the Law of Moses to define them as a people. They also needed a land. God had promised Abraham the land under his feet (Genesis 15:18-21). God fulfilled that promise under the leadership of Joshua (Joshua 21:43-45).

Everything was ready in its broad outlines for the coming of Jesus. The plan was for Israel to receive the birth of the Messiah and then proclaim Him as the Savior of all mankind to the entire world. But Israel had a hard time staying monotheistic (believing in one God). That issue began at Mount Sinai with the golden calf (Exodus 32). God eventually sent them into 70 years of slavery in Babylon to cure them of polytheism. The rest of the Old Testament details how God pruned the Israelite nation until He had a “faithful remnant.”

That remnant was composed of such people as Zacharias and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, Nathaniel and others. When the Messiah did come, born of the virgin Mary, the remnant accepted Him, obeyed His word and became members of His new nation – the church.

Read the Bible with its overall theme in mind: The salvation of man through Jesus Christ to the glory of God.

Learn more about the Bible with this FREE Bible study.

–Paul Holland

If you were a member of a persecuted church, how would it change you?

Imagine it’s Sunday morning.  You and your family put on jeans and t-shirts and get ready to go to the mountains.  You carry with you a large picnic basket, and your children carry with them a baseball and a couple gloves.  You arrive at the mountains, pile out of the car and take about a two mile trek on a trail that apparently leads to your picnic area.  As you make your way along the trail, you keep a watchful eye to make sure that no one is following you.  Finally, you arrive at a bend in the trail where you are greeted by two men who point to a hidden cave off the trail about a hundred yards away.  The two men remain on the trail, keeping a vigilant watch.  As you enter the cave, you are warmly greeted with embraces by several other families who have already arrived.  The gloves and ball are put aside, the picnic basket is emptied, a false bottom removed, and four Bibles are distributed to your family.  Lanterns are lit, and the group moves deeper into the cave.  Meanwhile, the two men who were watching the path, now make their way to the cave, cover the entrance with brush, and also join you in a deep recess in the cave.  Everything is now ready.  It’s now time for worship services to begin.

While such a scenario seems so unlikely to ever become a reality for most of us reading this, it is what countless brothers and sisters in Christ have had to do in other times, and in other places in order to worship God without reprisal.

Question: “If you were a member of a persecuted church, how would it change you?”

Would worship become more meaningful to you, and less rote?  Would the bonds of fellowship you have with those who share the same convictions about Jesus be strengthened and treasured more so than they are treasured presently?  Would your prayer life be stronger and more vital to your daily life?  Would you be more willing to overlook personality differences and even conflicts with those who share your faith and who share the willingness to risk their lives?  Would you be less likely to pick flaws with each other and more likely to search out ways to maintain peace?  Would you be less critical about peripheral matters that really seem to bother you today?

“Lord, help us behave more like a persecuted church!”

By Steve Higginbotham

Did you engage in any “April Fool’s Day” tricks?

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘I was only joking’” (Proverbs 26:19 NKJV).

April 1, or “April Fool’s Day” is a much loved tradition in many areas of North America and Europe. From old clichéd routines to elaborate practical jokes, there will be a lot of “ha, ha, I fooled you” peals of triumph. Those who are the brunt of these jokes will mostly receive them with forced smiles and grudging, “yes, I fell for it,” keeping their resentment or bored “oh, no, not that again,” secret thoughts to themselves.

Many such jokes are truly meant to be in simple good fun, without any intention of doing harm or causing embarrassment or shame. The prudent person is mindful of the calendar, knows such things are likely to come his or her way, and takes them in stride, conceding the jokester’s deceptive cunning with good grace.

But Solomon wisely observed almost three millennia ago, not all jokes are innocent of harmful intent. Many who play practical jokes delight in seeing their victims become uncomfortable or even worse. The wise King likened such deceptions to the random shooting of weapons in crowded places. Those are not the acts of a friend in good humor; they are the behavior of someone who is deranged.

Most of the pranks we see are designed to put the victim at a disadvantage. The intent is to deceive, but also all too frequently to belittle. “I fooled you” is a claim to superiority, a victory shout, and the motive of the jokester is poorly concealed. Far too often, the only way some people know to make themselves feel more important is to humiliate someone else. Jokes are to them a means of accomplishing that.

I have long held to a precaution when inviting others to participate with me in mission campaigns. I ask them to please abstain from any practical jokes while we are traveling and working together. We will have enough problems dealing with unfamiliar environments and cultures, not to mention the inevitable rude surprises we will face. We simply do not need to have to watch our backs to protect ourselves from each other. After a long day of preaching, traveling, and crisis resolution, I don’t relish the idea of finding that my “friend” has placed a dead snake under my pillow.

Come to think of it, I don’t know of any circumstance where I would “enjoy” that experience. It might be fun to others to hear me scream (or watch me die of a heart attack?), but not for me. Does anyone see a possible application of the Golden Rule here? It is hard to miss isn’t it? Most jokes are only fun to one half of the participants. The other half is not amused.

In Paul’s list of things that should “not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” we find “foolish talking and coarse jesting” (Ephesians 5:3-4). Rather than spend precious time on such things he recommends “giving of thanks.” Previously he had commanded, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

The jester considers how he might amuse himself at the expense of another. The Holy Spirit urges us to consider how we might encourage the other, and contribute to his or her well-being. As Christians, let us each enjoy our first day of April and use it well. But let us allow others to be the “Fools.”

Michael Brooks