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Do you know anyone like Julie?

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

“Dear ‘Julie,’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, ESV).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know anyone like Julie?

Stan Mitchell

A Proverb for the Day (19:19)

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

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NASB).

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

by Jeremy Sprouse

Being a Christian is more than just wearing a name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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–Russ Lawson

THESE AREN’T MY BOOTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We give Thee but Thine own,

Whate’er the gift may be:

All that we have is Thine alone,

A trust, O Lord, from Thee.”

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

–Alan Smith

ARE YOU A FAN OR A FOLLOWER?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Bill Dayton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stan Mitchell

The Lord’s Prayer (updated)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I JUST SPENT $43.87 at the dollar store…

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Mike Benson

 

God Knows Us Intimately

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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–Paul Holland

REKINDLING THE FLAME

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

THE LIGHT OF MY LIFE HAS GONE OUT

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

THE LIGHT OF MY LIFE HAS GONE OUT

P.S. I Found A Match

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

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

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

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

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May you find again your “first love”!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

 

Common sense in evangelism

THEY PUT THEMSELVES in a position to win souls (Acts 18.26)…

Apollos was speaking in the synagogue.  Where were Aquila and Priscilla?  Where are good prospects to be found? Anywhere!  But there are some places where they might be more likely found: visiting our assemblies, attending community Bible studies, and volunteering for charitable organizations.

They knew where their prospect stood and what he believed (Acts 18.25).  We can be so eager to share what we know that we have no idea what others believe, understand, or need.

They listened (Acts 18.26).  Notice this preceded teaching him.

They apparently were not timid or easily intimidated (Acts 18.26).  Apollos was no slouch in his level of knowledge, but they were not afraid to talk with him (1 Peter 3.15; 2 Timothy 2.15).

They knew how to use common sense in evangelism (Acts 18.26).  They understood “taking him aside” would neither embarrass him nor put him in a defensive posture.  They were tactful.

They clearly communicated (Acts 18.26).  They explained.  We must avoid assumption or presumption when we teach.

They undoubtedly possessed the grace of patience (Acts 18.26).  In Bible studies, we will inevitably have to “explain” God’s Word “more accurately.”  It is easy to forget that what we know we acquired over a long period of time.  It takes “prospects” time and teaching to attain to it.  They might not “get” it immediately or the first time they hear it.

They had vision.  They saw a man with many assets and passion for the Lord.  They might have thrown up their hands and given up, but instead they led him to the truth and the church gained one of its most eloquent preachers!  (The Daily Bread, “The Evangelistic Approach of Aquila and Priscilla”)

“So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue.  When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more perfectly.”  Acts 18.26

Mike Benson

 

Poverty Is Not Always Depressing

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18Habakkuk 3:17-18
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17 For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, Neither shall fruit be in the vines; The labor of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no food; The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

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A friend in the U.S. is of Korean descent. We were talking about going to Nepal and he remained silent for a moment, then said, “You know, my family lives all over Korea, some of them in rural undeveloped areas. I don’t really enjoy visiting them, sitting on the floor, sleeping on a hard surface, and seeing how little they have. It is depressing to me.”

We talked about that for a few minutes, and I finally said, “I have found that many of the poorest people who have the least ‘stuff’ seem as content and happy as anyone. I don’t always know what it takes to make one happy, but I am certain it is not simply things.” He quickly agreed.

Habakkuk had learned the same lesson. Early in the book he complained to God about how evil and injustice was prevailing and prospering in Judah. The wicked people had more things than the righteous (1:1-4). That just did not seem right to the prophet.

God’s reply was that justice would be done, and the wicked would receive punishment. A mighty nation from the north would invade and take all their possessions (1:5-11). But that also seemed unjust to Habakkuk.  Those Gentiles were even more wicked than the unfaithful of Israel. How could God allow the wicked to devour those more righteous than themselves (1:12-17)?

In all this argument the prophet seems to be defining righteousness and justice in terms of prosperity. It did not seem just for the unrighteous to oppress the righteous and to be more prosperous. How could God allow that kind of inequity?

Jesus gave the answer several hundred years after Habakkuk’s death. “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15Luke 12:15
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15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

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). But Habakkuk had already learned that lesson. The Lord had taught him that his ways were not always plain to humans. We must be patient and trust him (2:2-20). The prophet’s response was humble, “O Lord, I have heard your speech and was afraid” (3:2).

The final chapter of the book is Habakkuk’s prayer of repentance and acceptance. He submitted to God’s will and patiently waited until God revealed all his purposes. The final verses stand as one of the greatest professions of faith in all Scripture. He simply confessed, “Whatever I have or lack, I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Just as our happiness cannot depend only upon our possessions, so too our faith in God must not be based only upon material blessings. How many have we known who questioned, doubted, or even denied God because of sickness or death? How many turn away in times of economic hardship, feeling that God has failed them?

The truth is that our material circumstance is never a reliable indication of our relationship with God. Paul stated, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”

(Philippians 4:11Philippians 4:11
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11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.

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Do we prefer abundance of possessions? Most of us clearly do. Must we have them for life to be successful and happy? Certainly not! Life is more than just things. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain”

(1 Timothy 6:61 Timothy 6:6
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6 But godliness with contentment is great gain:

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–by Michael E. Brooks

Put A Pebble In Their Shoe

“Have a personal Bible study with somebody? Sorry, not for me! That’s just asking for a never ending argument.” If that’s your view of personal evangelism and Bible study, maybe you need to rethink how you’ve gone about it in the past.

Inevitably, during a Bible study, the time will come when you reach a critical point. It’s that time when you’ve shown a person to be inconsistent, or when you’ve shown a person a passage that contradicts what he was affirming. The Scriptures have backed them in a corner. What happens then?

Well, what often happens next is that we drive and hammer that point home. We don’t let up, and we demand an answer or a retraction? We want to claim victory for our superior logistic skills.

However, the Bible teaches us to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:22 Timothy 4:2
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2 preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

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), but it qualifies the way we are to do that. We are to preach the word with “all longsuffering.”

Friends, coming around to truth sometimes takes time. Mulling something over, and weighing all the evidences may require more than an initial hearing. Therefore, instead of being quick to claim victory, it would be much more beneficial to quickly tell the person with whom you’re studying that he doesn’t need to feel like he has to provide an immediate answer. Encourage him to think about it. After all, the point of a Bible study is not to “win an argument,” but to learn the will of God.

To sum it up, your goal is simply to “put a pebble in their shoe.” Give them something to think about. Leave a thought that nags at them, won’t let them get comfortable, and won’t give them rest until they find resolution through further study. Those with good and honest hearts will have to do something about it. So let’s get after it. Instead of demanding someone to say “Uncle,” simply put a pebble in his shoe and let the word of God work in their heart…or shoe. Give it some thought.

–Steve Higginbotham

O God, Why?

‘O why was I born’
Is not a request
For knowledge and truth.
But more a protest
Against all the hurt,
Unfairness of life
That causes conflict,
Confusion and strife.
Why must I be here,
A part of it all?
And why doesn’t God
Reply when I call?

O where is my God
When I call on Him?
For when I need help
Hope fades and grows dim;
I cannot survive
If He doesn’t give.
The help I require.
How then can I live?
I am not able
To stand on my own,
I do not dare think
That I stand alone.

Why can I not see,
Why can I not hear,
Why can I not feel
The God who is near?
I must learn to see
And hear with my mind,
God is here with me;
In His word I find
The answers I need.
Upheld by His hand,
His love and His grace,
I know I can stand.

By Gerald Cowan

SUPERFICIAL CHRISTIANITY OR SACRIFICIAL FAITH

Webster defines “superficial” as “(1) being on the surface; not penetrating the substance of a thing; as a superficial color; a superficial covering; (2) hallow; contrived to cover something; and (3) not deep or profound; reaching or comprehending only what is obvious or apparent; as a superficial scholar; superficial knowledge.” Superficial Christianity looks good on the surface, but it is of no “value against the indulgences of the flesh” (Col. 2:23Col. 2:23
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23 Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

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). Our Lord calls for sacrificial, not superficial faith. There is a marked difference between the two.

First, a superficial faith produces a comfortable Christianity; one that does not interfere with one’s predisposed life style. It is a “Christianity” that requires no repentance, exacts no restrictions, and asks for no sacrifice. Unaccustomed to feeding upon the word, superficial Christians are incapable of taking more than short doses of the spiritual medicine that is needed to cure their sin sick soul. The meat of word makes them gag. Moral principles that demand hard choices are rejected for mere platitudes that make them feel at ease, and any sermon that runs more than fifteen minutes is viewed as a waste of time and an imposition upon their busy schedule. Once a week, or in some cases only once or twice a year, these nominal believers make their appearance, pay their dues, and punch their spiritual clock – and that at the church of their choice that meets their personal taste in style of worship and brand of theology. Easter Sunday and Christmas are the apex of their spiritual activity. Daily cross bearing means nothing to them.

Second, superficial Christianity will produce a church that is foreign to the blood-bought institution we read about in the pages of the New Testament. The leaders are quick to provide those things that will help increase the numbers, but fall short of improving spiritual maturity. The denominations have long sought to entertain rather than enlighten. C.C. Crawford addressed exactly what I am talking about:

Receiving people into the church is not a process of administering a spiritual anaesthetic [sic]. The church is something more than a haven of rest, where the indolent, idle and tired may congregate. It is more than a house of refuge to which folks may flee from their pursuers. It is more than a safety zone in the midst of the highways of life, into which people may step to avoid the dangers of spiritual injury. It is more than an old folk’s home where the spiritually defective, infirm and incompetent may find shelter and be assured against all want for time and eternity. It is not a sort of spiritual Florida to which people can migrate in order to escape the chilling blasts of a cold, unfriendly world. The prevailing tendency in the present-day church is to make religion too easy. It is kept within the realm of convenience and comfort. Rarely is there a call for real sacrifice. By means of suppers, sales and pay entertainments and various ingenious devices people are tricked into giving. Through entertainments and other alluring programs an effort is made to surreptitiously inject a little religion into the unsuspecting. And when people have come into the church the greatest care is exercised to spare them; so that only a minimum of anything is asked of them. Do we need to wonder that the church is not more aggressive and victorious? It hesitates to propose a program that summons us to heroic effort, sacrifice, even the giving of blood (Sermon Outlines On The Cross of Christ, 86).

I wish that such misconceptions were limited to those in the denominational world, but so much of this “give me” mentality has infiltrated the Lord’s church today. Oh, how I wish it were not so! Having had the opportunity to travel about our country seeking funds for my mission work, I have learned that we have spent too much on creature comforts and neglected the Creator’s commission to go into all the world (Matt. 28:18-20Matt. 28:18-20
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18 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

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Third, superficial Christianity will not save. I am writing to an audience who knows (or at least should know) the demands from our Father and His Son. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matt. 16:24-26Matt. 16:24-26
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24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?

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). “So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33Luke 14:33
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33 So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

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). “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24Matt. 6:24
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24 No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

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). Superficial Christianity is the antonym of genuine saving faith. It is confined to the realm of convenience and comfort. Seldom is there a call for real sacrifice. Suppers, sales and entertainment are the means by which people are brought into the church, and through more exciting and more numerous entertainment and programs they are tricked into believing that they are making sacrifices and living the kind of life God wants them to live. No wonder the church has lost its influence in a world that seems to be overrun with evil and ungodliness. The gospel is no longer considered the power unto salvation, but the power unto sensationalism. There are churches out there that are indeed sensational, with their Broadway style productions and glitter and glamour that thrill men, but they do not offer what it takes to save the souls of men. In this they have long ago compromised.

Go back and read this tenth chapter of Matthew again. Having done that, ask yourself what kind of faith those twelve apostles had as they went forth as “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16Matt. 10:16
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16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

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). With the exception of Judas, each of those men demonstrated a sacrificial faith that is exemplary beyond measure. Go with those men as they were delivered up to the religious councils, scourged for their faith, and “hated of all men” for the sake of the precious name of Jesus Christ. Follow the path those men travelled as they were “set at variance against” their immediate family members, and in the face of such incredible persecution, refused to deny their Lord, compromise the gospel, or flinch at the darts that Satan threw their way.

God help us to return to His great wisdom, and build churches that seek and save the lost rather than seeking to serve and satisfy the masses. Anything else is only superficial Christianity.

By Tom Wacaster

You were drunk last night, weren’t you!

I heard a story about a husband who came home drunk late one night and snuck up the stairs quietly to avoid waking his wife.  He looked in the bathroom mirror and bandaged the bumps and bruises he’d received in a fight earlier that night.  He then proceeded to climb into bed, smiling at the thought that he’d pulled one over on his wife.

When morning came, he opened his eyes and there stood his wife. “You were drunk last night, weren’t you!”

“No, dear.”

“Well, if you weren’t, then who put all the band-aids on the bathroom mirror?”

Despite our many failed attempts, we continue to try to hide our sins from others around us.  King Saul was commanded by God to kill all of the Amalekites and their animals (I Sam. 15:3am. 15:3
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Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

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Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

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Saul knew good and well he hadn’t done everything that God told him to do.  So why did he tell Samuel he had kept the word of the Lord?  Because one of our first reactions to sin is to pretend that everything’s OK.  If we ignore the fact that we have sinned, maybe no one will notice.

And we’ve all done this before, haven’t we?  Remember when you were a kid and your parents were out of the house and maybe you got to rough-housing with your brothers and sisters and in the process the lamp in the living room got knocked over and a piece broke off?  You stuck it back together hoping no one would ever notice and then you went back to your room to get away from the scene of the crime.

But Mom comes home and it doesn’t take her very long to notice.  She comes back to your room and says, “Did you break my lamp?”  And you say, as innocently as you possibly can, “What lamp?”  Because the hardest thing in the world is to admit that we have done something wrong.

The one thing that God desires most when it comes to our sins is the one thing we have the most trouble with — honesty and openness.

“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13Proverbs 28:13
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13 He that covereth his transgressions shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy.

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“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9John 1:9
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9 There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world.

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May you be honest enough to be able to share with God what He already knows.  Only then can the healing begin.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Evangelism with a Roman Catholic

I was recently watching my grand-nephew playing a soccer grand-final and got talking to another spectator who turned out to be a highly educated and articulate Catholic High School teacher – a Mr Ptolemy. (That’s correct, Ptolemy. He was impressed that I knew about the Ptolemies in Egypt arising from the break-up of the Greek empire! BTW, here’s a useful site on the Ptolemies: https://www.thoughtco.com/rulers-of-the-ptolemies-172247 )

We got to talking about all kinds of things, including the connection between pedophilia in the Catholic Church and priestly celibacy, the celibacy which this catholic man seriously disagreed with. He said it was bizarre that the Catholic Church would not allow their own priests to partake of one of their own sacraments – the sacrament of marriage – that every priest authorizes before God in the wedding ceremony!!

I replied that forced celibacy didn’t make sense to me either, but my feeling was based on the Scriptures, and I reminded him of Paul’s words to Timothy – 1 Timothy 4:1-51 Timothy 4:1-5
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4 1 But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 for it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.

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, about the doctrine of demons, “forbidding marriage.”

He didn’t comment, but it was clear he was aware of the Scripture, seeing he was a teacher of Religion in the Catholic System. Mr Ptolemy has my contact details. Who knows where such a conversation may end?

–Name Withheld

How Committed are You to Jesus?

          Sam Houston was a good friend of President Andrew Jackson. They shared the same desire of Texas independence and admission into the union of the United States. President Jackson looked on Houston as a son and Houston returned the affection. On one occasion, Houston wrote a letter to President Jackson saying,

 

          “My firm and undeviating attachment to General Jackson has caused me all the enemies I have, and I glory in the firmness of my attachment. I will die proud in the assurance that I deserve, and possess, his perfect confidence.” (Magnificent Destiny, Paul I. Wellman, 1962, page 177).

 

          How committed are we to Jesus? As committed as Houston was to President Jackson? Could we honestly say that the only enemies we have are because of our attachment to Jesus Christ and His doctrine? Due to this commitment, Houston believed Jackson could have confidence in him. Can Jesus have confidence in us because of our commitment to His truth? Is truth safe in our hands?

 

          In 2 Samuel 23:13-172 Samuel 23:13-17
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13 And three of the thirty chief men went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam; and the troop of the Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim. 14 And David was then in the stronghold; and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Beth-lehem. 15 And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me water to drink of the well of Beth-lehem, which is by the gate! 16 And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Beth-lehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: but he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto Jehovah. 17 And he said, Be it far from me, O Jehovah, that I should do this: shall I drink the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did the three mighty men.

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, King David was in battle with the Philistines. He laments of his thirst. Hearing that, three mighty men break through the camp of the Philistines, defying death and loving David’s life more than their own, and draw water from a well in Bethlehem to bring it to David. The King actually pours out the water as a drink offering to God.

 

          How committed are you to Jesus? As committed as King David’s men were to him? Will we stand up for His truth regardless of the cost? Think of Paul’s words in Acts 21:13Acts 21:13
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13 Then Paul answered, What do ye, weeping and breaking my heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

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: “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

 

          How committed are you to Jesus?

 

–Paul Holland

How sad to come to the end of your life and others not have anything good to say about you!

THE REASON WE REMEMBER GREAT PEOPLE

These are reported to be actual epitaphs on tombstones:

Here lies

Johnny Yeast

Pardon me

For not rising.   (Ruidoso, New Mexico)

 

Here lays Butch,

We planted him raw.

He was quick on the trigger,

But slow on the draw.   (Silver City, Nevada)

 

Anna Wallace

The children of Israel wanted bread

And the Lord sent them manna,

Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,

And the Devil sent him Anna.  (Ribbesford, England)

 

Margaret Daniels

She always said her feet were killing her

but nobody believed her.   (Richmond, Virginia)

 

Anna Hopewell

Here lies the body of our Anna

Done to death by a banana

It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low

But the skin of the thing that made her go.

(Enosburg Falls, Vermont)

 

Harry Edsel Smith

Born 1903–Died 1942

Looked up the elevator shaft to see if

the car was on the way down. It was.    (Albany, New York)

 

An anonymous tombstone:

I was somebody.

Who, is no business

Of yours.       (Stowe, Vermont)

 

In Memory of Beza Wood

Departed this life

Nov. 2, 1837

Aged 45 yrs.

Here lies one Wood

Enclosed in wood

One Wood

Within another.

The outer wood

Is very good:

We cannot praise

The other.    (Winslow, Maine)

How sad to come to the end of your life and others not have anything good to say about you!  Hebrews 11 could be viewed as a collection of epitaphs of many who had died.  The chapter starts with these words:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.” (Hebrews 11:1-2Hebrews 11:1-2
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11 1 Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. 2 For therein the elders had witness borne to them.

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I like how the New Century Version translates verse 2:  “Faith is the reason we remember great people who lived in the past.”  That’s true, isn’t it?  Every single person in the Bible we regard as “great” was a man or woman of faith.  That faith made a difference in the way they lived and responded to God.  That’s why we remember them.

May your life be characterized by faith in God so that those who prepare your tombstone won’t struggle with finding something kind to say.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

 

Have you ever heard of Quartus?

We appreciate your interest in these studies.  Please wait for us to return on 9/19.

It seems we are always wanting more. No matter the subject, and no matter how much we already have, we seem to always want more. But when is enough, enough? Can we be content with “enough.”

Is it enough to have a car, or must we have the latest model? Is it enough to have a house, or must we have a “nice” house? Is it enough to clothe ourselves and our children, or must we have a certain brand of clothing? Is it enough to meet our financial obligations, or must we have additional money to “play” with? Is it enough to be a servant of God, or must we be in the spotlight?

It’s really this last point I want you to consider. Have you ever heard of Quartus? He’s probably unknown to you by name, but he’s mentioned in the Bible. What the Bible records about him is not remarkable. He had no particular fame. He didn’t slay a giant or survive a fiery furnace. In fact I know of nothing that this man did that would cause him to be remembered. But here’s what the Bible says about him, “Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city greets you, and Quartus, a brother ” (Romans 16:23Romans 16:23
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23 Gaius my host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the treasurer of the city saluteth you, and Quartus the brother.

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Did you catch that. “Quartus, a brother.” Nothing more; just a brother. But that’s enough, isn’t it? Whatever else I may or may not be able to achieve in life, if I can just be remembered as “a brother in Christ,” it will be enough!

Steve Higginbotham