How Parents are Destroying our Schools

          America’s school system is in a mess. It would be difficult to find someone who would disagree. The difference lies in the solution. The Heritage Foundation regularly points out that spending on education has sky-rocketed over the past three decades while scores have flat-lined. More money is not the problem.

 

          From my experience in school as well as a parent, America has great teachers and superb equipment and facilities. I did have some teachers that should have chosen a different profession but overall the teachers were (and are) great. They love their students and love to teach. They will go out of their way to help any and every student move forward. A major hindrance is the federal department of education with its dubious mandates and testing. All that does is add stress to the teachers and their students.

 

          But I am convinced that America’s schools are suffering more than anything else from delinquent parents. Speak to a school administrator and he or she will relate something to the effect that many parents tell the schools: “You’ve got my kid eight hours a day. Make them behave!” Too many parents have turned the discipline and instruction of their children over to the school system. But that’s not what the school system is for!

 

          Back in the day when our educators were preparing students to land on the moon, very little time was taken up with disciplinary matters. Most of the time was devoted to instruction time. Today, the opposite is true. Teachers have to consistently discipline those who are disruptive which takes away from instructional time with the well-behaved.

 

          That suggests that the biggest cause of our failing schools are parents who are failing. They don’t teach the children to sit down and listen. They don’t teach the children to want to improve themselves. They don’t teach the children to respect authority. They don’t teach the children to listen twice as much as they talk.

 

          Dads are too busy working to spend time with their children at home. Dads may be well disciplined with their jobs but fail to pass that self-discipline on to their kids. And, if they are at home, too often they’re not involved in their kids’ education. Moms are too busy working as well. Or, for whatever reason, they aren’t teaching their children to respect their teachers and listen attentively.

 

          In an article on National Review Online entitled “We have a Parenting Problem, Not a Poverty Problem,” Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute addresses this very problem. We need young people who have children after marriage and then get jobs and then raise their children. Will America ever wake up?

 

          Proverbs 19:18 – “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.”

 

–Paul Holland

But He said to them

JESUS CHRIST WAS constantly engaged in controversy with the church leaders of His day…

 

They were critical of Him; He was even more outspokenly critical of them.  

 

He did not hesitate when necessary to dissent from their views in public, or to warn the people of their false teaching.

 

“Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” He said to His disciples.  John R.W. Stott, “Authority: Tradition or Scripture?”, Christ the Controversialist, 65

 

“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”  But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him.”  Matthew 12.1-3

 

Mike Benson

It ain’t just the preacher who needs to be holy

A sermon on holiness.

Are you in this cave?

A hunter took refuge in a cave during a rainstorm. After he had dried out a bit, he decided to investigate his temporary home and turned on his flashlight. Imagine his surprise when he discovered he was sharing the cave with an assortment of spiders, lizards, and snakes! His exit was a fast one.

If the unsaved world could only see, it would realize that it is living on the low level of murder and lies, surrounded by that old serpent Satan and all his demonic armies. Like Cain, the people of the world try to cover up their true nature with religious rites; but they lack faith in God’s Word. People who continue to live on this level will eventually be cast into outer darkness with Satan to suffer apart from God forever.

Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire ‘BE’ Series”–Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), 1 Jn 3:11.

Count Your Blessings

An American preacher told of being on a mission trip to the island of Tobago where, in a worship service, a woman requested the song, “Count Your Blessings.”  She did so by raising a hand without fingers and speaking from a face with neither nose nor ears.  She was a member of the leper colony where the service was being held.*

Erma Bombeck once wrote: “An estimated 1.5 million people are living today after bouts with breast cancer. Every time I forget to feel grateful to be among them, I hear the voice of an eight-year-old named Christina, who had cancer of the nervous system. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she thought long and hard and finally said, ‘I don’t know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have everything!’ The kid is right.” **

Have you counted your blessings recently?  Are you thankful?

The Amplified Bible gives this reading of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].”

Did you catch that?  “No matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks.”  It can be difficult to follow this instruction, especially if our circumstances are challenging.

But if a woman with no fingers can sing “Count Your Blessings,” can’t WE find the blessings in our own lives?  If a little girl suffering with cancer can find joy in two sticker books and a doll, can’t WE rejoice in the blessings that we have?

“In Christ Jesus,” there are countless reasons to be thankful, even in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances.

The most difficult and deadly “circumstance” is to be lost because of our sins (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 6:23).  But God loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:24).  Those who accept His offer of salvation through their trusting obedience are placed “in Christ” where all spiritual blessings are enjoyed (Ephesians 1:3) – blessings like the forgiveness of sins, the hope of eternal life, peace that surpasses understanding, and being a part of God’s family.

One accepts God’s offer of salvation and is placed “in Christ” when he: places his faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turns from his sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confesses Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and is baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27).

No matter how difficult your current circumstances may be, YOU can have every reason to be thankful if you accept God’s offer of salvation and life on His terms.

Won’t YOU?

David A. Sargent

You used WHAT word?!

After today’s a.m. service a woman said she wanted to speak with me.  This lady has been visiting with us for a short period of time and is not a member of our congregation.

This visitor wanted me to know she heard me use the word “sin” in today’s sermon and she approved.  She also told me she had not heard a preacher use this term in the last 15 or so years.  In the denominational churches she has been attending, no preacher has been willing to say the word “sin.”  She said other words not being used are judgment, hell, and righteousness.

We have come to a time when some who call themselves preachers are unwilling to say what the Bible says.  Like Isaiah’s time (30:10), people have this mindset:  “Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.”

Regardless of the culture in which we live, the words of 2 Tim. 4:1-5 will always be timely:

I charge (thee) in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.  But be thou sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry.

Brad Price

Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone?

In 1693, Thomas Shepherd wrote the song entitled, “Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone.” Two of the verses of that song read as follows:

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.

The consecrated cross I’ll bear,
Till he shall set me free,
And then go home to wear,
For there’s a crown for me.

I like that song for several reasons, but one is that it teaches one’s cross comes before one’s crown.” That fundamental truth seems to have been lost to many people, for how often do you hear of people giving up and quitting when difficulty arises?

How often have you heard of preachers who quit preaching, elders who quit shepherding, deacons who quit serving, Bible teachers who quit teaching, and Christians who quit following Jesus because of some difficult circumstance? It happens far too frequently than it should. Let someone hurt one’s feelings and he quits. Let someone criticize one’s work, and he quits. Let someone forget to thank one for his work, and he quits.

The common thread that runs through all of these situations is that someone has forgotten that one must bear a cross before he is privileged to wear a crown! Don’t lose sight of this truth. Work comes before rest. Sacrifice comes before reward. Struggle comes before victory. And humility comes before exaltation (2 Cor. 4:17).

So what about you? Are you bearing your cross in this life, or are you spending your time kicked back, daydreaming about how your crown is going to fit? Let’s get to work. There’s much to do. We have a cross to bear. Or, must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for me.

Steve Higginbotham

Turn on the lights and it won’t be dark anymore

Presence.  We all value it whether we realize it or not.

I can remember a frequent routine that used to take place in our house when my youngest son was about six-years-old and my youngest daughter was about two-years-old.  It would be evening, the family would be upstairs, and I might ask my youngest son to retrieve something from the first floor.

He would quickly say, “But dad, no one’s down there.”  To which I would say, “I know.”  Then he would reply, “But it’s dark and the lights are out.”  I’d say, “Then turn on the lights and it won’t be dark anymore.”  Then he’d say, “But I’m afraid.”  And I’d say, “There’s nothing to be afraid of, now go on down there and get what I asked you to get.”  Finally, he would turn to his two-year-old sister and say, “Hey Anne Marie, do you want to go downstairs with me?”

Through the years, I’ve laughed about that.  I mean, what’s a two-year-old girl going to do to help you when you’re scared? (Actually, I think I figured out his logic.  I think he planned on sacrificing her to the “monster” while he made his get-away!)

Anyway, to seriously answer my question, “What’s a two-year-old girl going to do to help you when you’re scared?”  Presence.  She’ll give you her presence.  We value presence more than we may realize.  Our fears aren’t as great when we’re with someone else.  The darkness doesn’t seem quite as dark.  And our imaginations are kept in check by the presence of others.

Friends, being alone is scary!  In fact one of the frightening things about Hell is that the presence of God will not be there, and we will be all alone (2 Thessalonians 1:9).  But thank God for two-year-old little girls who will go downstairs with their older brothers, and thank God for Jesus who promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

–Steve Higginbotham

Wife wanted: No drinking, no tobacco, and under the age of 40

Do you know J.C. Baughman? Ladies, if you’re single, you might want to introduce yourselves. He’s looking for a bride—and not just looking—he’s advertising. J.C Baughman lives in Granbury, Texas, but he’s not too hard to find. He’s the one driving around town in a truck with his tailgate covered in handwritten chalk, asking for women to consider being his wife.

Now, he’s not too picky. He only has three requirements for his lady: No drinking, no tobacco, and under the age of 40. Granted, he’s not under the age of 40—he’s 65—but if you’re interested in a life of “love”, you must have been born after 1975.

At the same time, I wouldn’t call him Texas’ most eligible bachelor. He lives in a shack, has been divorced twice, and has served jail time for smoking pot. And, I can’t over emphasize that he’s advertising for a wife…on his tailgate…with chalk. How could anyone turn him down? If you’re interested, call Romeo’s number on the tailgate.

You might be wondering if I’ve gone crazy. What in the world does this have to do with a “church” article? Not much…other than this thought (and hopefully a good laugh for you)—aren’t you thankful that Christ doesn’t advertise for His bride?

The church is the “bride” of Christ (Revelation 22:17).

Because of that relationship, it makes even more sense why Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).

Christ doesn’t publicly humiliate Himself for someone to accept the “marriage” relationship, nor does He need to. His death and sacrifice secured the church’s existence.

But unlike Baughman, Christ is “picky” about his bride’s qualifications. He’s not picky about who comes, because the offer is for all. He’s picky about how we come. To become part of His bride, you must be washed in His blood through baptism (Acts 2:38). You must know Him and listen to His voice (John 10:3, 14). You must have a true, healthy relationship with the groom, honoring Him in all things (Ephesians 1:22, Colossians 3:23).

If you aren’t part of the bride of Christ, Christ desperately wants you to be, but He’s not going to beg. He’s not going to advertise. He will never cheapen the beauty of the relationship.

He simply waits in love.

Will you accept His proposal?

–Jacob Hawk

Not all wounds are bad

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love, faithful are the wounds from a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy,” (Proverbs 27:5,6, ESV).

Wounds always hurt, but not all wounds are bad. A nail in the foot — dirty and jagged — is a bad wound. So it is also when two cars collide, and the fragile human bodies within are bruised and broken.

But a surgeon’s skillful cut, though the wound is painful, is calculated and designed to help in the end. The wound, cut clean and carefully, will ultimately heal.

That’s the way a friend’s “wound” is, too. The difference between the rebuke of a true friend and a false friend is easy to see. The true friend’s wound — carefully thought out, worded and reworded until the rebuke is perfect, is aimed to help.

A false friend cuts you jagged with his words, unthinking and uncaring, then pours saccharin on the wound, sweet but unhelpful. How much better to have a wise and caring friend tell you what you need to hear, and then add the cleansing antiseptic of his compassion to it.

Antiseptic stings…and cleanses!

by Stan Mitchell

What makes you angry?

“When they heard this, they were furious and

plotted to kill him” (Acts 5:33 NKJV).

 

“Then he said to me, ‘Depart, for I will

send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ And

they listened to him until this word, and

then they raised their voices and said,

‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for

he is not fit to live'” (Acts 22:21-22).

I was in a discussion with fellow missionaries recently when the conversation turned to the psychology of mob action. One man, referring to his experiences in Islamic countries, stated, “Someone cries ‘Allah Aqbar’ and everyone starts fighting with sticks and weapons.”

There are numerous instances of this in the Bible. In Acts 5, the Jewish leaders were made angry by the claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. In the story told in Acts 22, Paul’s life was endangered because he dared to say that the Jews were not the only people whom God loved.

Our secular society might point to these incidents and use them to condemn religious faith. To many all believers are fanatics, willing to go to war or commit violence on behalf of their creeds. This is simply intolerable to their way of thinking.

While I certainly agree that war and violence are not appropriate ways to express Christian faith, I do find a positive lesson for us in these incidents. The Jews of the first century cared enough about their religion to respond passionately in its defense.

I must ask, how many of us are deeply enough involved in our religious beliefs to even perceive a true threat? And if we do, how many love their religion enough to defend it with such passion? As wrong as they were in so many ways, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were not wrong in their love for God’s Law.

Granted, they were wrong in their understanding and application of the Law. They were wrong in their personal hypocrisy. They were even wrong in their exclusive appropriation of God as belonging only to them. But they were very right in their zeal for the true God.

Genuine religion is not and never has been a promoter of unjust war and violence. When those things result from religious motives, one can be assured that men have perverted and misapplied faith.

Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Love, not hatred; peace, not wrath–these are the marks of faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ.

In all of the time he spent on this earth as a human, the only time we are told of Jesus’ demonstrating anger was because of the desecration of God’s Holy Temple (John 2:13-17). He could overlook any insult or threat to himself, but would not allow his Father to be disrespected.

Should not that also be our stance? Men cannot truly harm us (Matthew 10:28). They may destroy the body, but cannot harm our eternal soul. It is in the hands of God. He is our refuge. He deserves our worship and our love.

“I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to

be praised; So shall I be saved from my

enemies…The Lord lives! Blessed be my

Rock! Let the God of my salvation be

exalted” (Psalm 18:3, 46).

by Michael E. Brooks

ADD-ON OPTIONS

A local farmer came to the conclusion that the local car dealer had profited greatly by all the add-on options that increased the price of cars sold to the hapless farmer over the years.  Then, one day, the car dealer came to the farmer to buy a cow.  In the spirit of justice, the farmer attached the following price information to the cow:

Basic cow   $500

Two-tone exterior   $45

Extra stomach   $75

Product storing compartment   $60

Straw chopper   $120

Four spigots at $10 each,   $40

Cowhide upholstery   $125

Dual horns   $15

Automatic fly swatter   $38

Fertilizer attachment   $185

TOTAL:   $1,233.00

Aren’t you glad God doesn’t charge us for all the extras He provides us in life?  You know what I mean — the beautiful sunrise and sunset, the changing color of the leaves in fall, the glory of the stars at night, the beautiful scenery ranging from the majestic mountains to the pounding surf of the ocean.  How blessed we are!  And not a single penny extra!

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!

For His mercy endures  forever.

Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!

For His mercy endures forever.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!

For His mercy endures forever:

Him who alone does great wonders,

For His mercy endures forever;

To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,

For His mercy endures forever;

To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,

For His mercy endures forever;

To Him who made great lights,

For His mercy endures forever —

The sun to rule by day,

For His mercy endures forever;

The moon and stars to rule by night,

For His mercy endures forever.”   (Psalm 139:1-9)

As you go through this day, try to be mindful of each and every blessing you enjoy from the hand of God.  It is so easy to take everything for granted.  But, how richly God has blessed us!  Praise and thanksgiving be to our Lord!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Proverbs 18:18

“The cast lot puts an end to strife and decides between the mighty ones” (Proverbs 18:18 NASB). This Proverb is probably referring to such legal cases that are drawn out and neither side is clearly right or wrong. In such cases, the casting of lots was used to settle what men could not decide (cf. Proverbs 16:33). This concept is useful in our lives as well.

If you cannot come to a common conclusion with a friend or loved one, you may need to compromise or use such matters as a coin toss or draw straws to decide the matter (as long as all parties agree on and honor the method). In addition, many waste time constantly waffling between a couple of choices never coming to a conclusion which one is better. There may not be one that is better than another, but a decision needs to be made. Sometimes we don’t know enough to make a good decision so we just have to pray, pick one, and run with it.

Jeremy Sprouse

DEALING WITH CRITICISM

A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband.  Suddenly, her husband burst into the kitchen.

“Careful,” he said, “CAREFUL!  Put in some more butter!  Oh no!  You’re cooking too many at once.  TOO MANY!  Turn them!  TURN THEM NOW!  We need more butter.  Oh no!  WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER?  They’re going to STICK!  Careful.  CAREFUL!  I said be CAREFUL!  You NEVER listen to me when you’re cooking!  Never!  Turn them!  Hurry up!  Are you CRAZY?  Have you LOST your mind?  Don’t forget to salt them.  You know you always forget to salt them.  Use the salt.  USE THE SALT!  THE SALT!”

The wife stared at him. “What in the world is wrong with you?  You think I don’t know how to fry a couple of eggs?”

The husband calmly replied, “I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m driving.”

Criticism.  We’ve all experienced it.  Sometimes it is justified, sometimes it is not.  But none of us like it.  No one enjoys being told they are doing something wrong.

Guy Woods has written, “Inasmuch as criticism is inevitable, we must, in order to be happy, acquire an ability to rise above it.  He who is overly sensitive to the opinions of others is at the mercy of every gossiper of his acquaintance.  Some folks purr like a kitten when stroked by praise; but when criticized, they become resentful, discouraged, and quit.  It is highly essential that everyone discover a technique for dealing with the adverse opinions of others, and use it regularly and effectively.”

Let me offer several brief bits of advice when you are criticized:

(1)  Expect criticism.

Realize that the more active you are, the more criticism you will receive.  There’s an eminent British cabinet officer’s wife who is said to have kept this embroidered motto on their living room wall:  “To escape criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”  Who catches the criticism?  It’s the ones who are out there in the middle of things with their sleeves rolled up.

(2)  Criticism can serve a useful purpose.  Learn from it.

Recognize that some criticisms are certainly deserved.  Even when critics are unkind and when they exaggerate our failures, there may still be some truth in what they say.  So, when faced with criticism, we need to look at the situation honestly and ask these questions:  Is it true?  If so, how can I overcome the condition that caused it?  If not, is there something I can do to eliminate future criticism of the same type?

“The ear that hears the reproof of life will abide among the wise.  He who disdains instructions despises his own soul, but he who heeds reproof gets understanding.” (Proverbs 15:31-32)

(3)  Having gotten any benefit we can from criticism, we need to forget it.

There are times when people will criticize you and the best thing you can do is just to keep on serving God.  We’ve got to accept the fact there is no way that unfair criticism can be dealt with.  In a lot of situations, the more you may attempt to answer criticism, the worse the criticism becomes.

Paul said, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court.  In fact, I do not even judge myself.  For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but he who judges me is the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

As we receive criticism in our lives, may God help us to be honest enough and humble enough to look into our hearts and make changes that are necessary, and gracious enough to ignore that criticism which is unfair.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Will women get along?

It isn’t a mystery that women often have difficulty getting along with other women. The entertainment business makes billions turning women into combatants.

Anyone who has worked with females in schools or in the workplace has likely seen the carnage that can result from squabbling women. Supervisors can spend an inordinate amount of time brokering peace among them.

God’s people have not been immune to this truth and countless souls have been lost, as a result. God’s people have dealt with squabbling since creation. Sadly, very often it occurs because women are arguing, gossiping or jockeying for position.

Some well-known examples from Scripture are:

Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 16).

The wives of Jacob(Genesis 29-30).

Hannah and Peninnah (1 Samuel 1:1-7).

Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-5).

“And besides they learn to be idle,

wandering about from house to house, and not

only idle but also gossips and busybodies,

saying things which they ought not” (1

Timothy 5:13, NKJV).

Women and men of God must rise above this type of behavior and be good examples. Men have been destroyed by pride and machismo for as long as humans have been on earth. Both genders have their weaknesses.

However, Christians are called to something better.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but

be transformed by the renewing of your mind,

that you may prove what is that good and

acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans

12:2).

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved,

let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness

of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness

in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Women and men of God must:

See souls rather than sins.

Separate people from their weaknesses.

Never forget who we are as saints.

We cannot bring fleshly problems into the Lord’s Church. His kingdom has a new way of living and thinking. Become dedicated students of God’s Word, to learn how we ought to conduct ourselves in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:1).

When Christians will not follow this advice and insist on starting trouble, pray for them and refuse to participate in their sin.

Sadly, far too often, spineless husbands are afraid to anger their wives so they allow them to persist in their sins. Both of them are doing the devil’s work!

When will God’s people grow up and truly make a difference in the world?

by Richard Mansel

That decision will fall to us. Which will we pick?

Each of us is awaiting a trial that will decide our eternal fate. Each moment, we grow closer to the decision and the verdict. When it comes, there will not be an appeals process. No higher court exists nor can we lie or depend upon our legal team to circumvent the law.

In this courtroom, neither skin color, heritage, wealth, prestige or our network of associates will have any bearing on the decision. Exhaustive research on rare court cases will be pointless because we will not even have a lawyer. We will stand, bare and alone, before the bright lights and burning vision of the judge.

Every person will have their own trial and it cannot be avoided. Every thought and action of our lives will be available to the court. We will be unable to hide or shirk this responsibility. The floor will not swallow us nor can we flee.

The judge will be gracious, merciful and patient. Yet, he will be bound to the law (John 12:48), and the inescapable result, the one we have chosen. As strange as it sounds, we will decide our own fate. However, not in the way we may imagine.

In this courtroom, Christ will be the judge (2 Corinthians 5:10; John 5:22) but we will be judged by the works that we have done, ones that have been faithfully recorded by God (Revelation 20:12). Our own lives will seal our fate.

When the verdict is read, we will either enter heaven or be doomed to hell (Matthew 25:31-46). The end will be upon us and we will feel the ultimate joy or the ultimate nightmare. The extremes cannot be more stark or vivid.

Which will we decide? All of us would choose heaven but most of us will live for hell (Matthew 7:13-14). Christ is full of grace, mercy and longsuffering (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; 2 Peter 3:9). Yet, we will make the decision by allegiance. Our actions and attitudes will decide whether we have chosen Christ or Satan.

Christ has all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3), but he demands that we give up everything for him (Mark 8:34; Romans 12:1-2). Christ has given us all that we need but he cannot make us choose him.

That decision will fall to us. Which will we pick?

by Richard Mansel

Mark 16:20 – This passage no more authorizes the use of snakes in worship than it authorizes the drinking of bleach

Snakes, gasoline and demons (Part 1)

“These signs shall follow them that believe…” (Mark 16:17)

Some years back, when I lived in Appalachian Kentucky and conducted a weekly radio program, I aired a program that argued against snake-handling as a biblically-sanctioned religious activity. Some might say that was a more dangerous stunt than the snake-handling itself. During the course of that program (I still have all the manuscripts), I said concerning Mark 16:20:

This passage no more authorizes the use of snakes in worship than it authorizes the drinking of bleach…Yet, if the passage teaches one, it surely teaches the other, does it not? Why snakes and not bleach? Why not snakes and bleach? I’ll tell you why, because you can get away with handling a snake for a long time – especially if you know what you’re doing – but you can’t get away with drinking bleach even once!

Up to that point, I had never seen anyone “drink” anything deadly as an “act of faith.” But just recently, thanks to the marvel of the internet, I saw some lunatic preacher in South Africa feeding gasoline (petrol) to crazed members of his congregation, telling them that it was pineapple juice. It just goes to show that people will do practically anything – including risk the lives of their followers – to make their point and gain a following. This kind of thing gives too much fodder to the skeptics. It is illogical and reckless, and should be prosecuted as a crime. Instead, because it is religious, people are willing to excuse it.

This first article will explore the reasons why modern snake-handling is a farce, and the second will speak to the more general concept of the miraculous age, and its duration.

First, this makes a total mockery of the intelligence of the Christian faith. Modern snake-handling (and petrol sipping) does not reflect what the Bible teaches. Snake handlers teach that this is a test of faith. This passage (Mark 16:19-20) does not teach that preachers (or anyone else) should bring snakes into worship. That is like saying because the Bible mentions the word “Ark” that everyone should build one.

Modern snake-handling as a religious act is nothing more than a learned behavior (and a dangerous one, see here). We challenge anyone to find a biblical example of such. This is nothing more than a sensational cultural phenomenon. It is forced upon the Bible text, sincerity notwithstanding. Erroneous handling of the biblical text is more dangerous than the handling of snakes (2 Pet. 3:16).

Second, modern snake-handling does not reflect what is otherwise taught in this passage. The practice of religious snake-handling is grossly inconsistent. The passage that allegedly authorizes this misguided phenomenon also says many other things as well. Jesus said some other signs will accompany the believers, too:

In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mark 16:19).

Why aren’t there churches as ardently dedicated to casting out demons? Or drinking poison? Or all three? Why do the snake-handling churches not speak in tongues? Why do the tongue-speaking churches not drink poison?

Of course, someone would say that God hasn’t chosen each church to have each “gift.” Or, someone might say that the Pentecostal church has been given the gift of tongues, and the South African church of which we spoke earlier was given the gift of drinking poison. And the Catholic church was given the gift of casting out demons. And the evangelical churches/ministers were given the gifts of healing, like Benny Hinn. But interestingly, even they do not accept this reality. Many Pentecostal churches, for example, teach that tongue-speaking is a sign of salvation, not an optional gift bestowed on one group.

Further, this assumes that each of these divisions that claim to be Christianity, are true representations of New Testament Christianity. In the New Testament era, gifts were dispersed among the individuals of a given congregation (1 Corinthians 12:1-12), as needed, not spread out between differing congregations. But even if they had been, to claim, for example, that Catholics and Protestant evangelicals are just different “congregations” of the Lord’s church is to not understand the nature of the Lord’s church at all. That idea is more deceived than those who suck gasoline from an evangelical pastor’s bottle.

The fact is, these things did happen incidentally around and to the apostles of the Lord. There were occasions when demons were cast out of people. There were times that the apostles spoke in languages they had not studied (Acts 2:1f). There were occasions where they were bit by venomous snakes, and lived (Paul, cf. Acts 28). Everything Jesus said would happen, undoubtedly happened at one time or another. However, according to verse twenty, it was only to confirm the revelation of God (New Testament) before it was completed in written form (more on this in Part 2).

Third, if snake-handling is authorized by God, then it is not optional. If we do not “handle snakes” as believers, we are at worst sinning, at best lacking faith, by by refusing to participate. If not, why not? False doctrines are not nearly as dangerous as why they imply at their logical ends.

Finally, modern snake-handling – and, in fact, all those who propose that biblical miracles are still being conducted today – does not accurately reflect what the Bible teaches about the duration of the miraculous age. This will be the subject of part two of this article.

Rick Kelley

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 3:17-18 NKJV).

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 12:15). 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 4:11).

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 6:6).

–by Michael E. Brooks

TELL ME WHOM YOU LOVE

The following fictitious story was written by S.I. Kishor.  I have shared it before but want to share it again.

“John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn’t, the girl with the rose.  His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library.  Taking a book off the shelf he found  himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind.  In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner’s name, Miss Hollis Maynell.  With time and effort he located her address.  She lived in New York City.  He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond.

“The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II. During the next year and one month the two grew to know each other through the mail.  Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart.  A romance was budding.  Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn’t matter what she looked like.

“When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting – 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York. ‘You’ll recognize me,’ she wrote, ‘by the red rose I’ll be wearing on my lapel.’  So at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he’d never seen.

“I’ll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened:  A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim.  Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers.  Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive.  I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose.  As I moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips. ‘Going my way, sailor?’ she murmured.

“Almost uncontrollably I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Hollis Maynell.  She was standing almost directly behind the girl.  A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat..  She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes.

“The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. I felt as though I was split in two, so keen was my desire to follow her, and yet so deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own.  And there she stood.  Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. I did not hesitate.  My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify me to her.

“This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever be grateful.  I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment.  ‘I’m Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell.  I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?’

“The woman’s face broadened into a tolerant smile.  ‘I don’t know what this is about, son,’ she answered, ‘but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat.  And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street.  She said it was some kind of test!’

“It’s not difficult to understand and admire Miss Maynell’s wisdom.  The true nature of a heart is seen in its response to the unattractive.  ‘Tell me whom you love,’ Houssaye wrote, ‘And I will tell you who you are.'”

Thanks be to God that He doesn’t choose to love only those who are attractive.  As Paul said, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8).  God loved us when we were unattractive (to say the least).

And he calls us to do the same:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34).  Loving only those who are attractive (or pleasant or loving) is easy.  Are we willing, like God, to love the unattractive, the unpleasant, and those who don’t love us in return?  Tell me whom you love, and I will tell you who you are!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Imagine a warm little pond filled with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts giving rise to the first life.

The naturalistic Imagination

Imagine rice turning into mice. For Jan Baptist van Helmont, who lived from 1580 to 1644 A.D., this seemed reasonable. In fact, he proposed a recipe for making mice from rice.

Today it seems incredible that anyone could be so gullible and ignorant of the ongoing processes in biology. Herein lies both the fundamental flaw and the raw power of the naturalistic imagination.

At any given time a ceiling of scientific understanding limits our understanding of life’s true complexities.
Our ignorance fuels our ability to imagine the impossible and the absurd.

Imagine a warm little pond filled with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts giving rise to the first life. About a hundred and fifty years ago Charles Darwin dreamed of just such an event. He could imagine this being a possible scenario because he assumed a simple living cell to be little more than a simplistic protoplasm.

While some of Darwin’s aficionados still believe life could arise through such a simple process and for lack of a better explanation some biology textbooks still muse that maybe life began in a manner similar to this, scientists involved in origin of life studies have moved beyond rice producing mice and warm prebiotic soups creating the first living cell.

Imagine a small incremental change to an organism that is passed on to its descendants. Imagine these changes accumulating over vast periods of time to eventually produce an entirely new species.

Research is now revealing that there are limits to how much an organism can change, in spite of our ability to imagine an unending progression.

Today’s naturalistic imagination of how life arose or how species came to be will always seem feasible given our current level of ignorance. Without fail, all such nature-based stories regarding origins eventually lie abandoned on the pile of an outdated era’s curious speculation.

While naturalistic stories flare then wane, the plausibility of another story simply continues to grow.
With the discovery that functional information defying naturalistic explanation exists at the very heart of all life, the best explanation for life rests with the ancient witness – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

— by Barry Newton