Avoid this rut or you’ll be in it for the next 25 miles!

In the Register and Tribune Syndicate, Frank Clark writes:

Years ago when the western U.S. was being settled, roads were often just wagon tracks. These rough trails posed serious problems for those who journeyed on them. On one of these winding paths was posted a sign which read: “Avoid this rut or you’ll be in it for the next 25 miles!”

A habit is something you can do without thinking–which is why most of us have so many of them.

A habit is one of the components that shapes and molds our character.

I remember hearing that from a thought you have an action, from an action comes a habit, from the habit comes a character, and from the character is a destiny.

What are some of the habits that you have that are currently shaping your character and ultimately leading you to a certain destiny?

  • What about your words? Words show what’s in a person’s heart. Does your speech indicate a heart of purity, mercy, kindness, love, and holiness? Or, are your words vulgar, constantly critical, hateful and ungodly? The Bible says, But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Mt. 12:36Mt. 12:36
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    36 And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

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  • What about your body? When we think of bad habits, we often refer to things like smoking, drinking, and drugs. While, these are certainly bad habits, they’re not the only bad ones that have a negative impact on the physical body. We often shy away from discussing poor eating habits and lack of physical activity, out of fear of offending. But the reality is, when we overeat and sit all day, we’re not doing our body any favors. The Bible teaches that bodily exercise is profitable (1 Tm. 4:81 Tm. 4:8
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    8 for bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.

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    ), and that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:191 Cor. 6:19
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    19 Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own;

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  • What about your spirit? Are you engaging your soul in practices that will strengthen your Christian character? Do you read your Bible daily (Acts 17:11Acts 17:11
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    11 Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.

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    )? Are you regular with your prayer life (1 Thes. 5:171 Thes. 5:17
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    17 pray without ceasing;

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    )? Do you assemble as often as humanly possible with your brethren for worship, Bible study, and fellowship (Acts 2:42-47Acts 2:42-47
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    42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. 46 And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.

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Horace Mann said, “Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it every day, and at last we cannot break it.”

Today, what threads will you weave that will shape who you will ultimately become and where you will eventually go?

I hope you have a totally awesome day!

–Neil Richey

Will we respect the Presidency?

A sister in Christ was vocal about her political beliefs. She filled her time with political television and radio. It was the center of her being.

One Sunday in Bible Class, we came to Peter’s command to “Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:171 Peter 2:17
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17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

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). She scoffed and with a disgusted look said she refused to honor the President. We then looked at Paul’s insistence that we pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-21 Timothy 2:1-2
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2 1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men; 2 for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity.

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Only hate can cause us to look God in the eyes and defy him because of the way we feel about a human being. We can lose our souls because of this attitude. We cannot be in Christ if we have hate in our hearts (1 John 1:5; 2:91 John 1:5; 2:9
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5 And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 9 He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now.

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Jonah hated the people of Nineveh and refused to take the Word to them (Jonah 1:1-3Jonah 1:1-3
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Jonah 1 1 Now the word of Jehovah came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah; and he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah.

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). God got his attention before he begrudgingly complied (Jonah 3).

Hate fills our eyes with blood and we are unable to see the good in those we disdain. We assign evil motives to them no matter what they do.

Hate breeds suspicion and superiority. They are trapped in our web of delusion and we become a prison warden holding them in a maximum security super-cell.

As Christians, we must examine ourselves to determine our strengths and weaknesses. Sports, religion and politics are areas that can magnify character flaws. We must keep our heads and remember we are Christians before we are anything.

Christians can become filled with hatred and hostility as they use the Bible as a weapon of destruction.

Instead of leading people to heaven, they want to send more people to hell.

Satan will take our weaknesses and manifest them. If politics or sports makes Satan’s job easier, then we must abandon sports and politics (Exodus 20:3-5Exodus 20:3-5
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3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them, for I Jehovah thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me,

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; Matthew 5:29-30Matthew 5:29-30
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29 And if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand causeth thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body go into hell.

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). Whatever we place in front of God, no matter how harmless or altruistic it may appear, has to be banished.

Nero was in power when Peter said to honor the king. He would eventually execute Peter and Paul. He blamed Christian for the burning of Rome and had some of his family executed to protect his power. Two leaders before Nero was Caligula, who was criminally insane.

Josef Stalin killed 40 million people. Hitler killed nine million in the Holocaust and millions more in World War II. Pol Pot killed one-third of Cambodia’s population and Idi Amin Dad killed more than half a million Ugandans.

We have never had a President who was in the league of these maniacs. The person in power is immaterial because God ordained the office, not the man.

In Romans 13, Paul outlines very clearly the responsibility we have as citizens. In 13:1, “every soul” is emphatic in Greek and refers to “every living being.” No one is immune.

The authority of government is “ordained” of God and we must respect it. If we disobey the government we disobey God. When our government aligns itself against God’s, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29Acts 5:29
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29 But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.

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, NKJV; cf. Proverbs 14:34Proverbs 14:34
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34 Righteousness exalteth a nation; But sin is a reproach to any people.

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17 The wicked shall be turned back unto Sheol, Even all the nations that forget God.

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).

If these leaders conduct themselves contrary to God’s will, then we must continue to pray for them and to be more active in spreading the Truth of God’s Word. While it is unlikely that any of our Presidents will be Christians that does not change God’s directive to obey and honor our President.

We must be Christians first in everything. Whatever we do that endangers that goal must be banished from our lives because Christ must always have the glory (Ephesians 3:20-21Ephesians 3:20-21
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20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.

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by Richard Mansel

DOES GOD KNOW ABOUT THIS?

There’s a couple in Arkansas who gave their six-year-old son strict instructions to come home from playing every afternoon no later than 5 p.m.  He is allowed to play with his friends, but his parents are quite serious about his curfew. If he’s not home by 5 p.m., they begin to worry and call around the neighborhood to find out where he is. The boy knows this, though, and is careful to arrive every day on time.

One April Monday, however, the day after Daylight Saving Time went into effect, the boy was late coming home. When he finally arrived, a few minutes before 6 p.m., his mother scolded him for being late. “You know you are to be home by five,” she said, “and here it is nearly six.”

Puzzled, the little boy pointed out the window. “But the light,” he protested, “the light; it’s the light that tells me when to come home.”  Realizing what had happened, his mother smiled and gently explained that the day before the time had been changed, that everyone had reset their clocks and, now, the daylight lasted longer.

The boy’s eyes narrowed.  “Does God know about this?” he asked suspiciously.

It’s easy to see why a young boy would ask such a question, but no matter what the circumstance prompting the question, the answer to “Does God know about this?” is always, “Yes, He knows.”  David reflected on this quality of God in Psalm 139:

“Lord, you have examined me and know all about me.  You know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts before I think them.  You know where I go and where I lie down. You know thoroughly everything I do.  Lord, even before I say a word, you already know it.  You are all around me — in front and in back — and have put your hand on me. Your knowledge is amazing to me; it is more than I can understand.” (Psalm 139:1-6Psalm 139:1-6
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For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. 139 1 O Jehovah, thou hast searched me, and known me. 2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising; Thou understandest my thought afar off. 3 Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, And art acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word in my tongue, But, lo, O Jehovah, thou knowest it altogether. 5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, And laid thy hand upon me. 6  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain unto it.

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At times, it is a bit frightening to realize that God knows so much about me, but ultimately it is a comforting thought — that someone knows so much about me, yet still loves me.  Because God knows me so well, He knows my deepest needs.  May you take comfort this day in the realization that God knows everything about you there is to know, and that He loves you dearly.

Have a great day!

 

Alan Smith

The one who did wrong is responsible for the wrong

WHEN YOU FORGIVE, you’re saying nothing about the responsibility of the one who did wrong…

The one who did wrong is responsible for the wrong, period.

Forgiving someone does not absolve that person of responsibility for her or his actions.

It does take the relationship out of the mode where one punishes the other, but it shouldn’t diminish the responsibility for the wrong that was done.  Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, Susan L. Blumberg, “Forgiveness and the Restoration of Intimacy,” Fighting for Your Marriage, 219

“And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”  Luke 11:4Luke 11:4
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4 And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation.

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Mike Benson

 

Women carrying heavy loads of wood piled on their backs

AN ADDED BURDEN

I read once about a missionary who was living in Africa. He was disturbed over something he was seeing. The women walked around with heavy loads of wood piled on their backs. Their husbands, on the other hand, carried nothing more than a walking stick and walked several yards in front of them. It was considered an honor for the women to carry these heavy loads for their husbands.

Feeling sorry for them, this missionary saw a need for some wheelbarrows. So he sent a telegram back to the United States, ordering 200 of them to be shipped immediately. When they arrived, he showed the women how to load the wood in the wheelbarrows.

A few weeks later, he returned to the village to find the wheelbarrows all parked in a neat row — unused. He asked, “Why aren’t you using them?” One woman explained, “Well, you see, when we got the wheelbarrows loaded and all of that up on our backs, they were just too heavy!”

That incident suggests the way a lot of people have experienced religion. It holds out a promise to them of a fuller, richer life where all their problems will disappear. In reality, it just brings additional burdens — one more thing to do, one more thing to worry about.

That’s the way, in fact, that the Pharisees saw religion — a list of rules to be kept, a pile of commands that they saw as their responsibility to enforce. Jesus rebuked them, saying, “You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46Luke 11:46
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46 And he said, Woe unto you lawyers also! for ye load men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.

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But Jesus offered something that the Jews found nowhere else – a relief from those burdens.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30Matthew 11:28-30
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28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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Do you find religion is a burden for you, or have you discovered the “rest” that Jesus intends his followers to know?

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

 

So listen to this, please.

Do a little exercise for me, would you please? Find your pocket dictionary, and look up the word “worship.”

 

My Webster’s says: “Honor, dignity, worship. See worth & ship.” Other terms the dictionary gives include, “reverence, devotion to a deity, a church service or other rite showing this, extreme devotion or intense love and admiration.”

Now do something else. Look at the words which precede and follow “worship” in your dictionary. These include “worn,” “Worn-out,” “worry,” “worrywart,” “worse” and “wound.”

I find a certain irony in that!

I am convinced that one day it will be proven scientifically that Saturday evenings are actually several hours shorter than other evenings and that pollen which causes drowsiness is emitted every Sunday morning!

Scientists will also find that inanimate objects such as children’s socks, Bibles and lesson plans conceal themselves when we are already late and in a rush to get to church.

And of course it’s on Sundays as we pull out of our driveways that we remember the stove was still on! It’s as if some gremlin was determined to make our preparation for worship a harried and chaotic experience!

So listen to this, please.

If you come to services flustered and upset, come! If you come a little late, come! If you come fearful or heartbroken, come! There is a reason why some call the auditorium (that cold, Latin noun) a “sanctuary.” This time and place should be one of refuge and comfort from the turmoil of the outside.

Here our brethren meet our fears with a gentle touch.  Here we enter the presence of God, who is merciful and loving. Here we can cast our anxieties at the foot of the cross. Bring in those fears and frustrations, and lay them at his feet.

That’s what he intended.

“Come to me all who labor and are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest. Take my
yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am
gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find
rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28,29Matthew 11:28,29
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28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

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ESV).

 by Stan Mitchell

SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS

A preacher was taking a group of Christians on a tour of the Holy Land.  He had just read them the parable of the good shepherd and was explaining to them that, as they continued their tour, they would see shepherds on the hillsides just as in Jesus’ day.  He wanted to impress the group, so he told them what every good preacher tells his people about shepherds.  He described how, in the Holy Land, shepherds always lead their sheep, always walking in front to face dangers, always protecting the sheep by going ahead of them.

He barely got the last word out when, sure enough, they rounded a corner and saw a man and his sheep on the hillside.  There was only one problem: the man wasn’t leading the sheep as the preacher had said.  No, he was behind the sheep and seemed to be chasing them.

The preacher turned red.  Flabbergasted, he ran over to the fence and said, “I always thought shepherds in this region led their sheep — out in front.  And I told my people that a good shepherd never chases his sheep.”

The man replied, “That’s absolutely true… you’re absolutely right… but I’m not the shepherd, I’m the butcher!”

May this story serve as a reminder to those of you who serve as shepherds (pastors) of God’s people.  It is a point made clear in Peter’s writings as well:

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (I Peter 5:2-3)

May those of you who serve as shepherds strive always to be in front of the flock, leading by example, rather than driving it from behind.  And may those of you who are are part of the flock follow whole-heartedly those who are true shepherds and be wary of those whose motives are sinister — there are butchers out there as well as shepherds!

Alan Smith

At a very early age my mother taught me a child’s prayer:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born and a time to die………(Ecclesiaste3:1-2)

 Just as there was a time when we were born, there will also come a time when we will die. We know not the time of our death; we know not the place of our death nor do we know what the cause of our death will be but one thing is an absolute certainty, we will die (Ecclesiastes 3:2Ecclesiastes 3:2
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2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

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Hebrews 9:27Hebrews 9:27
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27 And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment;

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). Hence the need to make adequate preparation for that day when we shed these earthly bonds and fly away to the eternity that awaits (Acts 17:30-31Acts 17:30-31
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30 The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: 31 inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

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; Romans 14:12Romans 14:12
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12 So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.

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10 For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

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At a very early age my mother taught me a child’s prayer:

“Now I lay me down to sleep,  I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”

While this is known as a child’s prayer, I believe there is something in it that serves as a most solemn warning to all of us. It just seems to this writer that countless numbers of people are expecting the day of their death to bring about some kind of extraordinary change for them that they will not make while alive. Many are those who have heard the gospel of Christ proclaimed time and time again and will say that they believe in God yet continue to reject his word. Great masses of people expect to stand before their God in the judgment and hear that they have been forgiven when they have not been obedient to him (Heb. 5:8-9Heb. 5:8-9
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8 though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation;

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; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; 22 Thess. 1:7-9; 2
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7 and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, 8 rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: 9 who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 2 1 Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; 2 to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; 3 let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, 4 he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; 9  even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: 12 that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 whereunto he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours. 16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

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John 9). God’s laws are inviolate; don’t expect to be saved eternally without complying with them (Matt. 7:21-23Matt. 7:21-23
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21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

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; Luke 6:46Luke 6:46
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46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

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). After death it will be too late to believe. too late to repent, too late to confess, too late to be baptized for remission of sins (Mark 16:16Mark 16:16
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16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.

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: Acts 2:38Acts 2:38
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38 And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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: Rom. 10:10Rom. 10:10
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10 for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

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; Acts 22:16Acts 22:16
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16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.

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). After death it will be too late to do those things we know we should do (James 4:17James 4:17
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17 To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

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, 1 Cor. 15:581 Cor. 15:58
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58 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.

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); too late to be faithful (Rev.2:10). After death it will be too late to do those things that will put you into Christ. Hear Paul as he proclaims, “behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:22 Cor. 6:2
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2 (for he saith, At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee, And in a day of salvation did I succor thee: behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation):

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). To die out of Christ and expect to be saved eternally is to expect the impossible. One day you were somebody’s little boy, somebody’s little girl and perhaps you were taught to pray this child’s prayer. Today, even though you are no longer a little boy or little girl, if you are in Christ, you can pray this little prayer with a fervent knowing that one day this weak, frail human body will be changed into a body most glorious (1 Cor. 15:42-581 Cor. 15:42-58
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42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 Howbeit that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; then that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is of heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: 57 but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.

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To God be the glory forever and ever.

Charles Hicks

What good is Christianity?

Christianity is really under attack at this time in our world.  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, it is 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

A Proverb for the Day (19:17)

“One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deed” (Proverbs 19:17Proverbs 19:17
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17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto Jehovah, And his good deed will he pay him again.

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Helping the poor is a good investment. God takes it personally how we treat the poor and unfortunate (cf. Matthew 25:40, 45Matthew 25:40, 45
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40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me. 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.

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10 for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye showed toward his name, in that ye ministered unto the saints, and still do minister.

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by Jeremy Sprouse

Leopoldo Ducany

I read an article about a gentleman from the Philippines by the name of Leopoldo Ducany.

One afternoon, Leopoldo’s wife brought him a fish which she had purchased at the local market.  She asked him to clean it so she might prepare it for supper.  The meal-to-be was wrapped in a year-old newspaper.  As he tore away the paper, Leopoldo noticed an ad for a free Bible study.  The ad prompted a response, and before long, he was regularly receiving Bible correspondence materials.

At the conclusion of the series of lessons, Leopoldo requested baptism and was added to the body of Christ (Acts 2:47Acts 2:47
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47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.

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27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.

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THOUGHT:  If we can (a) reach a man on the other side of the world with (b) a year-old newspaper wrapped around a dead snapper, then (c) don’t you think we can reach our local communities with the saving message of Christ…?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19Matthew 28:19
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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:

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8 But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

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Mike Benson

 

You probably need a renewed outlook.

CAUGHT IN THE vise of depressive feelings, Elijah felt like the loneliest man in the world…

“So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword.  I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:141 Kings 19:14
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14 And he said, I have been very jealous for Jehovah, the God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

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Depressed, and desiring nothing more than a quick exit from life, Elijah somehow imagined he was the last godly man on the planet.  He felt as if he had no support–even though he had just been part of a fantastic miracle and gained the rousing support of God’s people.  He had allowed one evil woman to fill up his whole radar screen and ruin his outlook.  But then God shared some information that must have stunned the melancholy prophet:

Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:181 Kings 19:18
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18 Yet will I leave me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

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God was saying, “I have 7,000 on your side, and you’re letting one person sound like a million.”  Wayne Cordeiro, “Early Warning Signs,” Leading on Empty, 62-63

THOUGHT:  Elijah wasn’t alone, but that’s how he felt.  Discouragement distorted his view of reality and he lost perspective.  Are you discouraged?  You probably need a renewed outlook.  All of us get discouraged, feel overwhelmed weary at some juncture in our lives.  Jesus says, “You’re not alone…”

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30Matthew 11:28-30
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28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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Mike Benson

 

I don’t think I can take another winter in Minnesota

ARE YOU UNHAPPY WHERE YOU ARE?

Government surveyors came to Ole’s farm in the fall and asked if they could do some surveying. Ole agreed, and Lena even served them a nice meal at noon time.

The next spring, the two surveyors stopped by and told Ole, “Because you were so kind to us, we wanted to give you this bad news in person instead of by letter.”

Ole replied, “What’s the bad news?”

The surveyors stated, “Well, after our work here, we discovered your farm is not in Minnesota but is actually in Wisconsin!”

Ole said, “That’s the best news I have heard in a long time!  I just told Lena this morning that I don’t think I can take another winter in Minnesota.”

That joke reminds me that many people think they would be happier if they were living somewhere else (“the grass is always greener on the other side”).  They think that moving will make their lives better. They’re unhappy with their friends or their family and they think a change of location will fix their problems. They feel miserable in their job or neighborhood and they want to escape. Everything would be so different if they just lived somewhere else.

How much better we would be if we could learn to have the contentment that the apostle Paul did, who was able to say, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12Philippians 4:11-12
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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. 12 I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want.

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May God fill you with his joy and peace so that you can can be content wherever you are right now!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Right decisions

“Sir, What is the secret of your success?” a reporter asked a bank president.

“Two words.”

“And, sir, what are they?”

“Right decisions.”

“And how do you make right decisions?”

“One word.”

“And, sir, what is that?”

“Experience.”

“And how do you get experience?”

“Two words.”

“And, sir, what are they?”

“Wrong decisions.”

There’s a measure of truth in that. Though we can (and should) learn from the mistakes of others, experience truly does seem to be “the best teacher.” The experience of making wrong decisions in the past should help us to learn so that we make better decisions in the future. But are we willing to learn?

Paul is a great example of someone who learned from his past mistakes and, as a result of that experience, made better decisions in his effort to serve God.

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man….” (I Timothy 1:12-13)

Father, once again I come asking forgiveness for the many times I’ve let you down. As I confess to you my transgressions, I pray that you will help me to learn from my mistakes — to recognize the consequences of following my stubborn will, to realize the heartache you feel when I turn a deaf ear to you, to learn from my error the need to follow your word more closely. I have made wrong decisions, but I pray that the experience of doing so will help me to develop the wisdom necessary to make better decisions in the future, as I strive to draw closer to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

God’s $20 Bill

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

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

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

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

~Author unknown

58 1/2 long hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Benson

 

What did I learn in services?

Hello.

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

What did I learn in services?

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

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

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

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

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

Hello,

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

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

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

I think I’ll come again next week.

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

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“But if … an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called into account by all. The secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24,251 Corinthians 14:24,25
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24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one unbelieving or unlearned, he is reproved by all, he is judged by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed.

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

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

Stan Mitchell

 

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

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

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10 according as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God;

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7 For the bishop must be blameless, as God's steward; not self-willed, not soon angry, no brawler, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre;

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2 Here, moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

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

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

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

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

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–Neil Richey

You never know; a whole village might be converted.

The Woman and the Rabbi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You never know; a whole village might be converted.

by Stan Mitchell

 

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

Protect your heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and

overflow of wickedness, and receive with

meekness the implanted word, which is able

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

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Good reader, where’s your Bible right now?

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

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If soldier and Scripture teach us anything, it is that we must keep the Word of God near our hearts (Psalm 119:24Psalm 119:24
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

24 Thy testimonies also are my delight And my counsellors. Daleth.

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The enemy is intent on our destruction. He’ll stop at nothing, and he’ll use every weapon at his disposal, including and especially fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16Ephesians 6:16
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

16 withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.

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They’re aimed at the very core of our faith, and unless you and I protect ourselves from his assaults, we’ll die and lose something far more precious than our lives — we’ll lose our souls (Romans 1:16Romans 1:16
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

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; 2 Timothy 3:152 Timothy 3:15
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

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

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— by Mike Benson