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Monday, November 30, 2009

Don’t Neglect God’s Book

 

For many years the Bible has been the best selling book, not only in America, but in every country where God's word is allowed to have free run.  Non-profit organizations such as the American Bible Society have devoted untold man hours, and millions of dollars to see to it that the Bible is made available to anyone and everyone who desires to feed on the Book of books.  The fact is, the Bible is the most widely printed, the most sought after, and the most influential book the world has ever had the blessed privilege of reading. The Bible is, without doubt, the greatest book ever written. 

 

Consisting of 66 books, it stands as a monumental representation of heaven's love for mankind.  From the moment that God's word has gone forth to man, Satan has scrutinized, criticized, de-emphasized and sought to minimize the Holy word.  Critics have assailed its "contradictions" and "inconsistencies."  But the honest seeker knows that all such attempts to find fault with Scripture are mere subterfuge, and a whistling in the wind.  The Bible has survived the onslaught of critics, and the more scrutiny and examination the Bible receives, the more it shines.  It has withstood the hammers of infidelity, and weathered the howling winds of higher criticism.  While history books become outdated, and science books re-edited, the Bible remains as fresh today as when it was written and needs no addition, subtraction, or rewriting.  So long as men hunger and thirst after righteousness, the Bible will find a place in their hearts.

 

Have you ever thought of the amazing availability of Scripture in our modern age?  We have ready access to God's word, in print, and on the internet.  Software is available for those who prefer studying at the keyboard of a computer that provides dozens of translations, dictionaries, commentaries, maps, illustrations, and study helps.   I have on my personal laptop four Bible software programs, two of which are absolutely free.  At the click of a button I can look up words, search the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words, consult the wisdom of brethren who blazed the trail in our country in order to restore the church of the New Testament and provide generations to follow a sound and solid footing in the word, and scour the internet for literally thousands of websites and blogs by faithful brethren.  What an amazing age we live in!  And yet, sadly, far too many saints still neglect their sacred responsibility and privilege of studying the word.  In a time when our world needs a strong church to counteract the onslaught of the devil, it seems that we are the weakest we have been in decades; all because of negligence and apathy on the part of members of the Lord's body.  Some years ago I came across the following poem that addresses the problem of which I speak:

 

"UNREAD"

by Cleah Boaz

 

I am a Bible proudly displayed

     for all the world to see.

With my leather cover and gilded pages

     I am open at Psalm 23.

 

But no one ever picks me up

     and lovingly turns a page,

And the place that is open at Psalm 23

     is growing brittle with age.

 

I am a Bible proudly displayed

     On a beautifully carved teak stand.

But no one ever reads the words

     that were penned by an inspired hand.

 

My owner thinks my presence

     is his ticket to Paradise,

But he has never consulted me

     or heeded my advice.

 

I am a Bible proudly displayed

     open but never read.

My owner's soul will starve to death

     for lack of its daily bread.

 

--by Tom Wacaster

 

 

 

The Beginning of Life

Where does life begin? Though there are some who deny it, I believe that
physical life begins at conception, but what about Spiritual life? Where or
when does that begin? Sadly, many who claim the name of Christian have
really never started to live in Christ. That's more important than you might
think. Many people who claim the name of Christian have never discovered the
peace and security that goes along with that relationship. Stop for a moment
and ask yourself how much peace or security you have in you life (or your
heart). You see, there must come a time when we realize that our peace and
security must not depend upon where we are, how much money we have, how well
we like our job or how secure it is. Our peace and security is not dependent
upon who our friends are, how well our spouse treats us or how much our
mother or father loves us. If we want that peace that surpasses the
understanding of mankind in general, then we need to realize that it comes
only though our relationship with and understanding the promises of God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a familiar name to many. Bonhoeffer was a German
minister thrown into prison by the Nazi's in 1943. He opposed the Nazi's on
both political and Christian principals. In spite of being in this Gestapo
prison, he held regular bible studies and worship services for the other
prisoners. One day when he was in the midst of conducting a service for the
prisoners, two Gestapo agents entered and took him away and he was hung the
next day. A prisoner, a British officer who survived wrote these words about
Bonhoeffer.

"Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy
over the least incident, and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he
was alive. He was one of the very few people I have ever met for whom God
was real and always near.'

On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Bonhoeffer conducted a little service of worship
and spoke to us in a way that went to the heart of all of us. He found just
the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment, and the thoughts
and resolutions it had brought us. He had hardly ended his last prayer when
the door opened and two civilians entered. They said, "Prisoner Bonhoeffer,
come with us." That had only one meaning for all prisoners, the gallows. We
said good-bye to him. He took me aside [and whispered in my ear]: "This is
the end; but for me it is the beginning of life." The next day he was hanged
in Flossenburg."

Bonhoeffer understand what Paul was talking about when he wrote Philippians
4:4-7. Notice again the words: "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say,
Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be
careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God,
which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through
Christ Jesus." (KJV)

What about you, do you have this kind of peace and security in your heart?
If not, perhaps you need to spend more time with the Saviour and His Word!

Russ Lawson, Messages

Garbage In - Garbage Out

Today we're going to spend a few minutes discussing a very interesting and intriguing part of the human body. A part that is almost beyond man's capability to understand. It is a part that is both deep, as in vast in capacity, yet sometimes seems to be very shallow. I'm speaking of the "brain." The mind of man.

Even though some don't like to admit it, it is not infinite. As great as it is, and as capacious as it is, it does have its limits. When you think about it, perhaps that's why we'll never really understand all that our minds are capable of because we stuck with using a limited instrument to try and understand it.

I mentioned the word "shallow" in the first paragraph as a descriptive of the brain and I don't want to imply that some brains have a greater storage area than other brains. I think that when you hear someone use the phrase, "he/she has a 'shallow mind," they are referring to the usage of their brain rather than the capacity of it.

As to the actual capacity of the human brain, some expert once opined that our brains can potentially store 100 trillion thoughts. Having said that, I don't think that we can even fathom a number that large. I guess that takes us back to what I said earlier, we're using an instrument we can't really understand to try and understand that instrument.

As usual I have a couple of illustrations available to help get the lesson across here today. The first one involves something a comedian from the 1950's era once said that relates directly to the gist of our lesson, and the second illustration is an acronym relative to the computer age. Those who have computers, or are at least familiar with their intricacies (a mild way of describing that confounded machine) will easily make the connection between the acronym and the lesson.

Our comedian was a guy who, sort of like Red Skelton, was very funny without the use of vulgarity or profanity. He went by the name of "Brother Dave Gardner" and professed himself to be a "Southern" comedian because he believed the earth was a Southern planet. Part and parcel of his act was his "picking" on the famous politicians of his era and, as a result of that, was once asked "didn't he have to be careful of what he said?" His answer to that was: "No, I just have to be careful of what I think."

You see, whether he realized it or not, he was speaking a great Bible truth in that statement. We know that many times in the Bible the word "heart" refers to the "mind" and the great truth I referred to is the one found in Luke 6:45 where it reads: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil; for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh."

In analyzing that verse we see that the "treasure" area of the mind is what we'd call the "storage" area today. In computerese it would be the "memory" or "hard drive." God tells us that our speech and our actions are simply manifestations of what's stored in our minds. Which thought brings us to our second illustration.

The acronym of which I earlier spoke is "GIGO." Since an acronym is a word that is made up of the first letters of other words, GIGO means "Garbage In - Garbage Out." Paraphrasing "Bro. Dave" we say what we think. If our minds are full of garbage isn't it reasonable to think that what we do and say would be of the same nature?

Therefore (I love to use that word), what do you think is the better course here. Is it better to guard against what we say/do, or is it better to guard against what we allow to be stored in our "treasury?" Well, that's a "no-brainer" of a question, isn't it? If we guard against what we allow into our minds, then we don't have to be worried about what we say and do. The gospel writer, Mark, says that it's what "gets into our hearts (minds) that defiles us." (Mk. 7:18-19) so there is where the guard should be posted.

Think about it for a minute. There are literally millions of bits of information, put out by as many sources that are vying for a place in our mind. It doesn't matter which direction you turn, something is trying to get your attention and hoping to occupy a space in your brain. Advertising is the first thing that comes to my mind in this regards.

Here's the kicker to these thoughts here. We have the control over what gets stored in our minds. Whatever is in there now is there because we allowed it in.

So what is the best way of guarding our minds from being filled with evil? The answer is seen in the principle shown us in Luke 6:45. That we fill the available storage space with the "good" rather than the "evil."

What do we guard against? I think John summed it quite nicely in 1Jn. 2:16 when he told us that every evil in the world can be sorted into one of three categories; "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." I think that every TV ad, and every other form of temptation, fits one of those categories. Simply put, we need to guard against allowing evil to have a place in our minds.

If we fill our minds (hearts) with God's Word and everything good, then it won't be said of us as it was some of old that their " ....hearts are far from me."

Ron Covey

The best things in life are free

 

   We have a couple of old sayings in America, "The best things in life are free."  Another is, "You don't get anything for nothing."  While these sayings seem contradictory, they are certainly true when it comes to salvation.

            Paul speaks of "justification" and "life" as the free gift of God (Rom. 5:15-18).  Salvation is offered only as God's free gift to undeserving man. The last invitation in the Bible is our risen Savior's appeal, "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17).

            This is obviously difficult for many to understand, as there are countless "church-goers" who are thinking they can earn salvation by living a good life, generous giving, and their general attention to "religion."  All who propose to bargain for salvation in such a way will be sadly disappointed, for God's salvation is not for sale!

            While salvation is offered as a free gift, there is nothing in the universe that has cost so much in order that this free gift become available to all mankind.

            It cost the WORD, who from the unbegun beginning was God, the humiliating exile from the throne room of the universe to renounce the glory and majesty that was His in order to empty Himself and become fashioned as a man (Phil. 2:5-11). 

            It cost the Father the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, in whom He was well pleased. The Heavenly Father had to watch His perfect, sinless Son suffer shame, humiliation, and death in order to make available the "free" gift of salvation.

            It cost Jesus to plunge His soul into spiritual desolation to the point of drawing from Him the anguish cry: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46).

            It cost, and continues to cost, the Holy Spirit an age-long ministry of patiently pleading for the stubborn hearts of sinful men to obey God's Word (cf. John 16:8).

            Salvation is God's gift, offered free to us spiritual paupers. However, acceptance of the gift is by no means free.  In fact, it's excessively expensive!

            One cannot accept Christ and His salvation on any lesser terms than the complete surrender of self to Him. Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ," (Galatians 2:20). "I count all things but loss" for the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord (Phil. 3:8).

            Preachers have confused this issue with pulpit appeals such as: "You've accepted Christ as Savior, but have you made Him Lord of your life?"  However, no one can accept Christ as their Savior without making Him Lord of their life!

            Dr. Paul Calvin Payne said, "The church today is paralyzed because we have committed the blasphemy of insisting that what was so costly for God shall come so cheap for us!"

            Luke 14, as part of the Gospel, is virtually ignored in this day of "easy discipleship." Take a moment to read Luke 14:33 for yourself.

            Our "consumer mind-set" has programmed us to expect bargain-basement deals and discounts. There are no deals or discounts when it comes to salvation. You either "take up your cross daily and follow after Him" (Luke 9:23), or you don't. Jesus is either your Master, or He isn't (Matt. 6:24). You are either saved or lost.                             Stay Hungry (Matt. 5:6) - - Toby Miller

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Not Guilty by reason of insanity

The inspiration for our lesson today comes from the never-ending source of "current events" we're seemingly deluged with daily. I think that by taking a couple of them from newspapers of the last few days we can derive a spiritual lesson. At least we're going to try.

My first event stems from the almost daily follow-ups regarding the Ft. Hood, Texas shooting massacre and more specifically, the defendant in the case. It was reported that his lawyer has said that his client (the shooter) will plead "Not Guilty by reason of insanity." Surprise, Surprise! Being a retired homicide detective I feel that I'm qualified to speak to this situation more so than the "average bear."

Here is some information you can take to the bank regarding murder (capital) cases. In California an alleged killer (the defendant) is not allowed to plead "guilty" even if caught "red-handed" in the commission of the crime. And, since you know the circumstances of the Texas event as well as I, what better example can you find of one fitting that category than the "defendant" from Ft. Hood? Think about it a moment - in all of the news reports of homicides and the subsequent arrests and court hearings, do you ever hear the defendant plead anything other than "Not Guilty?"

I was always amused at how the attorneys pled out their clients in murder cases because it usually went something like this: "My client pleads Not Guilty AND Not Guilty by reason of insanity." What he is saying is simply: "You've got the wrong guy, my client didn't do it, BUT if the evidence proves that he did, THEN he was crazy when he did it."

Okay, let's switch to the other "current event" although I'm hard-pressed to consider this "current." It's a news report dealing with the latest attempt by Death Row inmate, Kevin Cooper, to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear an appeal of his conviction for the murder (actual slaughter) of an entire family back in 1983. Since his conviction, he has made numerous attempts to have it overturned with the result that, on every occasion, the courts have denied his petition and actually found the case against him to be stronger.

Defendant Cooper has occupied a cell on Death Row for about 26 years now and has still not paid for his heinous crime. And that was just four victims. Who knows how long the trial and subsequent appeals will last in the upcoming case against the Ft. Hood defendant as he killed thirteen people. This portion of our "events" we're using today will enter in to our lesson also. And just so there is no misunderstanding as to my opinion of the "death penalty" or to the executing of these vicious individuals, not only do I believe in the electric chair, I believe in electric bleachers!

Well, having set the stage, so to speak, let's see if we can't apply our "current events" to a lesson here and several little thoughts come to mind. The first thought is this: there will come a time in our future that all will stand before the Great and Final Judge for the pronouncement of sentence. Most of the time you hear this referred to as the "Day of Judgment," but I submit to you that it is more accurate to call it the "Day of Sentencing."

For, you see, the case is being heard and being judged right now, as we live. When we cease to live, the trial is over and only the sentencing awaits. Along with the misunderstanding of the day of the Lord's return is the idea many have in their minds is that it will be a trial setting like we're used to seeing here on earth. That people will get to "plead" their case to The Judge. Maybe even have "lawyers" to plead for them. Not so!

Yes, there will be lawyers standing before The Judge on that occasion, but rest assured, they will only be representing themselves. They will be no different than anyone else at that time. Any preparation for the outcome of the sentence will have to be made on this side of eternity. Like the old Boy Scout's motto "Be Prepared" indicates, this is the only time we have to get ourselves "prepared" because once we're dead, there is no way to change anything. We're simply awaiting our sentence.

It therefore behooves us to do the necessary things during our lifetime to insure that our sentence is the one that we want to hear: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant....enter into the joy of thy Lord." (Matt. 25:23) Our efforts should be like the man who was being interviewed by a "head hunter" for a large corporation and when asked, "What is your purpose in life?" he simply answered, "To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can." Shouldn't that be our goal, our effort at preparation, too?

Another little thought that came to mind is this: the time society takes to execute its judgment upon its evildoers. I cited to you Kevin Cooper who has been tried, convicted and re-convicted several times and is still sitting in prison. When I think about all of the time that has passed and his sentence still hasn't been carried out, I think about something said by William Gladstone, once the Prime Minister of England, who so aptly stated, "Justice delayed is justice denied." It certainly has been not only for society, but for his four murdered victims.

But we don't have to turn to our temporal society for insight into this aspect of our lesson, let's look at the ultimate source of instruction - God and His Word. God told Israel that they were to execute judgment ("without pity") on evildoers of their society upon the rendering of the verdict so that the rest of society would "hear and fear." (Deut. Chapters 13-19)

For our closing passage to today's thoughts let's look at what I see as the clearest understanding of how God perceives the execution of sentence on those who violate society's laws by reading what He says through His servant, Solomon, in Eccl. 8:11: "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil."

Ron Covey

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Escaping temptation, 1 Cor. 10:13

 
 
WHOSE FAULT IS IT?
 
    God has promised a "way of escape" for every temptation (1Corinthians 10:13).  However, that's all God promises, i.e., a "way of escape." We have the responsibility to take the way He provides.
    This is nothing new. It has been this way from the beginning. God provided Adam and Eve with a way to live in the Garden Paradise forever. All they had to do was comply with one condition, "Don't eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" (Genesis 2:16-17). They didn't comply with the condition and were cast out.
    God told Cain and Able how to worship Him acceptably. Able did and his worship was accepted. Cain didn't and he was cursed of God.
    God provided a way of escape for Lot and his wife. However, there were certain conditions that had to be met in order to be saved from the coming destruction of Sodom. Lot complied and was saved. His wife didn't and was lost.
    God provided a way for the Israelites to escape their Egyptian bondage. However, certain conditions had to be obeyed. All who complied with the conditions were saved, and all who didn't were lost.
    God made possible a land "flowing with milk and honey" for the Israelites, but He gave them the conditions of faith and obedience. All but two adults disobeyed and died in the wilderness. The two who obeyed entered the promised land.
    God promised Samson supernatural strength as long as he obeyed certain conditions. Samson did not obey and lost his strength.
    Hundreds of examples could be cited from these accounts that have been "written for our learning" (Romans 15:4).
    "Our God changeth not" (Mal. 3:6). Today, He has given the world a way to be saved. It is the Gospel (Romans 1:16). We must obey the conditions of the Gospel or be lost (2Thess. 1:7-8).
    God's great love motivated Him to make salvation freely available to all mankind. We must demonstrate our love toward Him by obedience. "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments" (2John 6).
 
                                                            --Toby Miller

Being a good steward

 
THE LORD OFTEN taught by parables; in fact, approximately one third of His recorded  teachings  were  in  parable  form... 
 
There  are  no  parables  in  John's gospel, but in the synoptics, these simple memorable stories with imagery convey deep  truths which are central  to His  teaching.  One of  the Lord's  favorite  themes in these parables is "stewardship."  A  steward  was  a  manager-someone  who  managed  the  owner's  farm  or business. Good stewards faithfully used their master's resources to advance his current concerns and increase his wealth. Bad stewards misused their resources for  personal  gain  or  squandered  them  out  of  laziness.  Scripture  teaches  that God is the owner of all we have. David stated, "The earth is the Lord's and all its fullness. The world and those who dwell therein" (Psa. 24:1). Paul reminds us, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have  from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
 
What trust God has placed in us!  This privilege, however, brings with it the responsibility  to  manage  to  the  very  best  of  our  ability  His  assets.  Most Americans regard themselves as sovereign owners, and the money, wealth, and assets we  have  are  exclusively  at  our  disposal  to  advance  our  own  interest. There  is  a  tremendous  difference  in  how we  view  possessions  as  owners  or stewards.  This concept will determine how much we give. As owners we will ask, "How much of my money will  I give  to God," but as stewards  the question will be, "How much of God's money will I keep for myself?"  Statistics  reveal  that  as most American Christians'  incomes  go  up, their percentage of giving goes down! This philosophy is brought about by an attitude that asks, "Do  I want  this? And  (sometimes) "Can  I afford  it?,  from  the owner.   While  the  steward asks, "How will  this affect my  ability  to advance God's  purpose?" The  steward will  always  remember God's  passion  to  reach the lost, and look for creative ways to subsidize this great purpose.  In  this  season of THANKSGIVING,  let us  again  renew our  gratitude  for our  personal  redemption  and  determine  that  if  our  nation  can  have  a  special time to count our physical blessings, God's people can treasure the great spiritual blessings we  enjoy!  As  you  pray with  your  family  this week  let  every family member be reminded of the blessing of salvation!  Jerry Jenkins

Friday, November 27, 2009

Falling Asleep

I heard recently about a college professor who had the mysterious habit
of walking into the lecture hall each morning, removing a tennis ball from
his jacket pocket. He would set it on the corner of the podium. After giving
the lecture for the day, he would once again pick up the tennis ball, place
it into his jacket pocket, and leave the room. No one ever understood why he
did this, until one day. . . .

A student fell asleep during the lecture. The professor never missed a
word of his lecture while he walked over to the podium, picked up the tennis
ball and threw it, hitting the sleeping student squarely on the top of the
head.

The next day, the professor walked into the room, reached into his
jacket, removed a baseball. . . No one ever fell asleep in his class the
rest of the semester!

I would imagine that many of us have had the experience of falling
asleep at a time when we should have stayed awake -- perhaps in a classroom
or during a sermon. In the scriptures, poor Eutychus will forever be known
for only one thing -- falling asleep during a sermon and falling out the
window!

For those of you who aren't familiar with this Bible story (found in
Acts 20:7-12), there was a young man by the name of Eutychus (a side note:
ironically, his name means "fortunate") who attended a worship service where
the apostle Paul was speaking. No doubt, Eutychus was tired and perhaps his
stomach was full. He found a spot near a window where he could get some
fresh air because oil lamps lighted the room and the air would have been a
bit stuffy. We're told that Paul talked on and on until after midnight.
Luke tells us that the young man fought sleep and gradually lost the battle.
When he nodded off, he fell out of the third-story window. Fortunately, the
story has a happy ending as he was raised back to life by Paul.

Those of us who are preachers are inclined to say that the moral of
this story is that you should never fall asleep during a sermon (though I
suspect others may say that the moral is that preachers shouldn't preach so
long -- it can be dangerous!). But of even greater concern than falling
asleep in our worship is the fact that we sometimes fall asleep in our walk
with Christ. We grow weary, we lose our concentration, our mind drifts off
to other things, and the result can be deadly!

The apostle Paul warns us: "Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do,
but let us watch and be sober." (I Thess. 5:6).

Is your mind focused on God? Are you listening carefully to Him,
submitting to His Spirit? If you're growing weary, it's time to wake up!

Alan Smith

I am a bibliophile

 

I have a confession to make and you may have suspected it from many of my previous writings, but I am a "bibliophile." That's just a fancy word for my being a "bookworm." I love books. I love to read certain kinds of old books, newspapers and magazines and I mine them for ideas to write about. They are a veritable treasure house of interesting things that can be applied to a spiritual lesson. However, my expected life span may be facing a drastic reduction if I bring many more of the aforementioned "mines" into our house as my wife doesn't share my "bibliophilic" ways to the extent that I do. So, with that little preamble, I'm going to give you a couple of thoughts to consider today that you might call "ore" from some of my "mining expeditions."

You know, one does not have to be a musician to appreciate a song sung or played "in tune," do they? We all know how discordant it sounds when someone plays or sings "off key" or "out of tune." To say that it's unpleasant is an understatement. Sometimes we say that it "grates on the ears." Sort of like fingernails on a blackboard.

No, we like things being "in tune." We even can carry that principle over to areas other than music, can't we? We like the things of our lives being "in tune." We sometimes use the phrase "being in tune with nature." In other words, being "in tune" in any area we care to discuss means not being "discordant." In the military, being "discordant" is to be "out of step" with the rest of the unit on parade. It is something very easily discernable, isn't it?

Here's a little story, gleaned from a1943 edition of The Sunshine" magazine that sort of sets the table for our lesson on Spiritually being "in tune." It seems that a radio station received a letter from a sheep herder on a remote ranch in the far West. He asked the broadcaster this question: "Will you please strike 'A' on your broadcast." He explained that he was far away from a piano and his only comfort was his old fiddle and it was "all out of tune." The broadcaster did so and a few days later received a letter of appreciation from the old sheep herder and he simply said, "Now I'm in tune again."

Well, in the realm, or area, of religion God expects His followers to also be "in tune." Or, as the Gospel says: to be "in accord." Another Bible word that means to be "in tune" (attuned) or "in accord" is "fellowship." We can turn to various passages that tell us this and speak to the necessity of Christians having their earthly lives "in tune" with God's principles. Passages that warn us of letting ourselves get "out of tune" and thus, "not in accord," or "not in fellowship" with both God and the saints. Let's look at a couple of these passages for a moment.

In Phil. 2, verses 1-2 we see this principle succinctly outlined. I'll take the liberty of paraphrasing here (but please read it for yourself and check me) and give you an overall review of what the Apostle Paul is telling Christians. He couches his message in the form of "rhetorical" questions and the message is; isn't it encouraging, isn't there fellowship, isn't there comfort in being "together" in the Spirit? That it's joyous when Christian's agree wholeheartedly and they are working together in "one accord and one mind." IE: no one is "out of step" and there is no "discord."

For our second passage regarding our lesson principle today, look at the 1st chapter of 1st John. In the first few verses we pick up on the topic John is covering here and it too coincides with our lesson. He's telling Christians that they should "have fellowship" with the writers of the Gospel because they are "in fellowship" with The Father. (Vs. 3) Then a couple of verses later he points out a "discordant" example by saying that one cannot claim "fellowship" with God if they are "walking (living) in "darkness." But then says, if we are "walking (living) in "the light" where He is, then we "have fellowship." IE: "we're in accord," we're "in tune."

I think that we should adopt the words of Paul when he tells us that we should "examine ourselves" (1 Cor. 11 and 2 Cor. 13) often to see if we're "in tune." And, should we find that we might just be "out of step" with God, might be "walking in darkness" we look to His Word where the "true pitch" is found and attune ourselves. Then we can echo the old sheep herder and say, "Now I'm in tune again."

One last thought from an old publication and I think you can easily make the application. It's entitled "Remember Grandma."

Grandma used to get up on Sunday morning, cook a big breakfast for her large family, milk three or four cows, churn the butter, clean the house, kill and dress the chickens for dinner, dress the children, then go with the family in a buggy or wagon five miles to the worship and get there early.

Today, breakfast comes in a cereal box, the milk comes from the grocery store around the corner where the chicken, already prepared, also comes from and the distance to the church building is measured in blocks, or perhaps a few miles, which is traveled in a short time by modern automobile. Yet, some of us just "can't seem to make it" for Bible study. Where's Grandma when you need her?

Ron Covey

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sermon on Acts 2

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Help for the Helpless

In an article in Campus Life a young nurse writes of her pilgrimage in learning to 
see in a patient the image of God beneath a very "distressing disguise."

Eileen was one of her first patients, a person who was totally helpless. "A cerebral aneurysm (broken blood vessels in the brain) had left her with no conscious control over her body," the nurse writes. As near as the doctors could tell Eileen was totally unconscious, unable to feel pain and unaware of anything going on around her. It was the job of the hospital staff to turn her every hour to prevent bedsores and to feed her twice a day, "what looked like a thin mush through a stomach tube." 

Caring for her was a thankless task. "When it's this bad," an older student nurse told her, "you have to detach yourself emotionally from the whole situation…" As a result, more and more Eileen came to be treated as a thing, a vegetable.  But the young student nurse decided that she could not treat Eileen like the others had treated her. She talked to her, sang to her, encouraged her and even brought her little gifts.

One day when things were especially difficult and it would have been easy for the young nurse to take out her frustrations on the patient, she was especially kind. It was Thanksgiving Day and the nurse said to the patient, "I was in a cruddy mood this morning, Eileen, because it was supposed to be my day off. But now that I'm here, I'm glad. I wouldn't have wanted to miss seeing you on Thanksgiving. Do you know this is Thanksgiving?"  Just then the telephone rang, and as the nurse turned to answer it, she looked quickly back at the patient. Suddenly, she writes, Eileen was "looking at me … crying. Big damp circles stained her pillow, and she was shaking all over."

That was the only emotion that Eileen ever showed any of them, but it was enough to change the whole attitude of the hospital staff toward her. Not long afterward, Eileen died. The young nurse closes her story, saying, "I keep thinking about her … 

It occurred to me that I owe her an awful lot. Except for Eileen, I might never have known what it's like to give myself to someone who can't give back." *

When WE were helpless in our sins, Jesus Christ gave Himself for us that we might be saved from our sins (Galatians 1:4).  "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6).

We can accept the GIFT of salvation... through our trusting faith (Acts 16:30-31) by turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), by being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), and by living obediently to His will for the rest of our lives (1 John 1:7).

Jesus offers HELP for the HELPLESS!  When we could do NOTHING to save ourselves, He provided the way for our salvation by dying on the cross for us.  Our response should be one of extreme GRATITUDE that is demonstrated by our trusting obedience to His will.

How will YOU respond?                                                                                        

David A. Sargent, Minister

 

Ye are the salt of the earth

 
 

                                "Ye are the salt of the earth, but what good is

                                    salt if it has lost its flavor." Matt. 5:13 (NLT)

For a few moments today I'd like you to consider the topic of "value," as in what's valuable to us. Oh yeah, I know that there are lots of things of this earth that most everyone recognizes as being "of value." Many we even classify as being "precious." And we also recognize that a lot of our "valuable"commodities fluctuate in value, don't they. This is especially observable in our present economy. One only has to look at houses to easily understand what I just said. There are many more examples I could cite, but I don't believe it's necessary for us to "get it."

There is, however, a common commodity that we're all familiar with and I doubt that we view it as being "valuable" simply because it is so common to us. Of course I'm speaking of "salt." How "common" is it? It's probably the most used condiment in the world. However, you might be surprised to know that only 4% of the salt used in the U.S. is the one we're most familiar with - table salt. Actually, more salt is used to melt ice on roads (10%) than is used on food. The rest (86%) is used in industry and agriculture.

Here's something else that I find interesting about salt. No animal can live without it and no plant (organic-wise that is) manufactures it. The animals (including us) and the plants have to get it from an outside source. Thus, it has always been a valuable commodity, but isn't it great that God provided a continual source of this commodity for man and all other creatures?

Earlier I mentioned its usage in industry and agriculture and I'll add a little more info regarding that by telling you that there are over 14,000 industrial processes in which salt is an essential ingredient. A few hundred years ago, the Europeans paid a heavy tax on salt and so did the early settlers of this country. Another little tidbit of information I found interesting is that the building of the Erie Canal was financed by a 12% tax on salt.

But, I dare say that we just shake some on our food and we don't think about the salt itself or it's value. You know, there are some things we hear said from time to time that should remind us of the value of salt and here's one of them. I know we've heard the old cliche "he's not worth his salt." Since we're talking about "value" here, and I'm just full of "valuable" information, let me tell you the origin of that old saying.

The Roman soldiers used to be paid in salt by their government. In fact, our word "salary" comes from the Roman word for salt. Therefore, if someone was a poor worker, they were considered to be "not worth their salt." Interesting, huh?

But probably one of the greatest, perhaps even the most valuable, assets of salt is seen in the way the Bible uses it - preserving. Let's look for a quick moment at some of the Biblical mentioning of salt, as used to preserve something. In Lev. 2:13 we see the Israelites told to "season with salt" their "offerings" to the Lord and they're told that the reason for this is that they are reminded of their covenant with Him. In another place (Num. 18:19 & 2 Chr. 13:5) we find the phrase "covenant of salt" being used that indicates the purity or fidelity of their agreement with God.

Here's something for you to think about. If Israel had a "covenant" with God (and they did) wouldn't you say that Christians today also have a "covenant," or agreement, with Him? If you read in Hebrews, the 8th, 9th, 10th and 12th chapters, you'll find references to our "covenant" with God being said in phrases like: there is a "new covenant" that has replaced the old one with Israel; that Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross, ushered in this "new covenant" wherein its laws are written "on their hearts and on their minds." And that His one-time "perfect"sacrifice is sufficient for all times and therefore He is the "mediator" of this "new covenant."

Now here's the lesson in a nutshell: the Gospel of Christ is the "laws" of the "new covenant." It's "preserved" in the "hearts and minds" of it's followers, Christians. And guess what? Christians are the "salt of the earth..." The Church, Christians, have the responsibility of spreading the Gospel to all the earth (Mk. 16:15 and Eph. 3:10) and that Gospel is the one that is preached by Paul and the other Apostles and any form or version that differs from it is an "anathema" (a cursed thing).

Therefore, the Church, or Christianity, is the "salt" by which the Gospel is "preserved." As the verse says, if we "lose our savor (flavor)" or our preserving qualities, the question begs; "What good are we? If we don't maintain our own quality, our own value, as "Spiritual salt" then there is no way that we can save (preserve) any other soul. It's a pretty simple equation seen here. If we lose our own soul, how can we hope to save another's?

There's another verse I'd like to point out to you that fits precisely with the conclusion on "salt losing its savor" and it simply reads: "But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." (2Cor. 4:3) Savorless salt and a hidden Gospel does no one any good. Neither does a "light" hidden under a "basket." If we've gotten to that point, then I guess we're like the non-working Roman soldier. We're "not worth our salt."

So then how valuable is our "salt?" It's our most valuable quality because it saves, it preserves our souls AND others with whom we share our "salt."

Ron Covey

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cyberporn

 
IN RECENT YEARS, a number of psychologists and sociologists have joined the chorus of religious and political opponents in warning about the impact of pervasive pornography...
 
They argue that porn is transforming sexuality and relationships -- for the worse.  Experts say men who frequently view porn may develop unrealistic expectations of women's appearance and behavior, and have difficulty forming and sustaining relationships and feeling sexually satisfied.  Fueled by a combination of access, anonymity and affordability, online porn has catapulted overall pornography consumption -- bringing in new viewers, encouraging more use from existing fans and escalating consumers from soft-core to harder-core material.  Cyberporn is even giving rise to a new form of sexual compulsiveness.  According to Alvin Cooper, who conducts seminars on cybersex addiction, 15% of online-porn habitues develop sexual behavior that disrupts their lives.  "The internet is the crack cocaine of sexual addiction," says Jennifer Schneider, co-author of Cybersex Exposed: Simple Fantasy or Obsession?  (Tim McLaughlin)
 
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8; cf. 2 Tim. 2:2).
--Mike Benson

The Shoe Man

       There is a wonderful poem called "The Shoe Man" (author unknown) that I would like to share with you today.  It is a bit longer than normal, but it defiantly worth the read.  Enjoy.

------------------------------------------------

I showered and shaved... I adjusted my tie.
I got there and sat... In a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer... As I closed my eyes.
I saw the shoe of the man next to me...Touching my own. I sighed.

With plenty of room on either side...
I thought, 'Why must our soles touch?'

It bothered me, his shoe touching mine...
But it didn't bother him much.

A prayer began: 'Our Father...
I thought, 'This man with the shoes, has no pride.

They're dusty, worn, and scratched.
Even worse, there are holes on the side!'


'Thank You for blessings,' the prayer went on.
The shoe man said... A quiet 'Amen.'
I tried to focus on the prayer...
But my thoughts were on his shoes again.

Aren't we supposed to look our best.
When walking through that door?

'Well, this certainly isn't it,'
I thought, Glancing toward the floor.


Then the prayer was ended... And the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud... Sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters... His hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear. The shoe man's voice from the sky.

It was time for the offering... And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached... Into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out... What the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft 'clink' . As when silver hits tin.

The sermon really bored me... To tears, and that's no lie.
It was the same for the shoe man... For tears fell from his eyes.
At the end of the service... As is the custom here.
We must greet new visitors, And show them all good cheer..

But I felt moved somehow... And wanted to meet the shoe man.
So after the closing prayer... I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark... And his hair was truly a mess.
But I thanked him for coming... For being our guest.

He said, 'My names' Charlie... I'm glad to meet you, my friend.'
There were tears in his eyes... But he had a large, wide grin.
'Let me explain,' he said... Wiping tears from his eyes.
'I've been coming here for months....And you're the first to say 'Hi.''

'I know that my appearance...Is not like all the rest.
'But I really do try...To always look my best.'
'I always clean and polish my shoes..'Before my very long walk.
'But by the time I get here...They're dirty and dusty, like chalk.

My heart filled with pain... And I swallowed to hide my tears.
As he continued to apologize... For daring to sit so near
He said, 'When I get here...I know I must look a sight.
'But I thought if I could touch you..'Then maybe our souls might unite.'

I was silent for a moment... Knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison... I spoke from my heart, not my head.
'Oh, you've touched me,' I said...And taught me, in part;
'That the best of any man...Is what is found in his heart.'

The rest, I thought... This shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am...That his dirty old shoe touched my soul.

------------------------------------------------

       It is very interesting how sometimes we can jump to conclusions about people before we truly know anything about them.  Especially since our culture labels and stereotypes people so harshly and easily.  It is very difficult not to do the exact same thing in our own minds.  Whether a person is young, old, smart, ignorant, man, woman, black, white, yellow, any other color, scene, emo, goth, jock, nerd, skater, punk, or any other stereotype, let's not to jump to negative conclusions only based on their appearance, but actually get to know them as a person; their heart.  While there are many character assumptions associated with each of these stereotypes, just because a person looks a certain way does not mean they are this way.  Things are not always what they seem to be.  A good appearance is important, but it is not everything.  As we go through this life, let's remember that everyone out there has a precious soul that is either saved or lost and it is so important that we reach out to those who are lost.  1 Samuel 16:7 says, "...for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."  Imagine what incredible good could be done if we put away our preconceived ideas about people and try to reach out to them anyway.
 
--Brett Petrillo
 

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Monday, November 23, 2009

USS New York

 

       I read a very interesting story the other day about a ship called the USS New York.  This is no fishing or transport vessel, it is a full-fledged battleship.  Even though the USS New York does all the normal things that any other battleship does, there is still something that makes this particular battleship especially interesting.  It is unique because it was built with the steel from the destroyed World Trade Center.  This one billion dollar US navy assault vessel includes 7.5 tons of recycled steel from the September 11, 2001 attack.  One woman who lost her fireman brother in the attack made this comment, "It's a transformation ... from something really twisted and ugly" (Times Online).  What a wonderful, feel-good story this is.  September 11th was such a horrible tragedy, it is nice to hear about something good coming out of the carnage.
       When talking about tragedies, one other tragedy that comes to my mind is none other than our own spiritual tragedy caused by our sins.  Our sins have caused terrible carnage to our relationship with God.  We all found ourselves in such a horrific state that we desperately needed hope and change.  Then we learned about the wonderful sacrifice that Christ made for us, and the hope that we can have when we follow and obey Him (1 Peter 2:24).  So we responded by having our sins washed away through baptism (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38, Romans 6; 1 Peter 3:21).  The next thing we know, the Lord has taken something so "twisted and ugly," something that was a result of our own spiritual carnage, and transformed us into something wonderful (2 Corinthians 3:18).
       It is such a blessing to be a Christian.  Let's always remember how we were, and what things were like, before we were saved (Romans 3:23; 6:23).  Wouldn't it be incredibly reckless for the crew of the USS New York to decide that the ship was actually better when it was a twisted and ugly mess?  And what if they decided to tear the ship apart and put it back in the previous condition the steal had been in?  Obviously this would be a very terrible and ignorant decision.  It is also reckless for Christians to go back to the twisted and ugly mess we once were.  Let's always strive to obey and live like Christ has asked us to do, and allow the Lord to continue to mold us into something great (Romans 12:2; Isaiah 64:8).
 
--Brett Petrillo

"With God all things are possible." Matt. 19:26

                       Well, here we are already at the 1st day of March, 2009. Two months have gone by pretty quick, haven't they? Sort of like old Job's "weaver's shuttle." Before we get into our lesson proper allow me to tell you a little tidbit I found interesting about the month we just passed through - February.

Did you know that February originally had 29 days normally and 30 in leap years? Well, it did, by gum. The reason it is no longer that way is because the Roman emperor, Augustus, took a day away from it and added it to the month of August. Named after himself, of course. Now you know the rest of that story.

Okay, now that we've dispensed with the trivial knowledge portion of the editorial, let's get right on into the lesson for today. In a few moments you'll realize (hopefully) how our preamble verse fits into our subject matter. I want to talk a little about encouraging each other as we go through our lives. Both in our physical and spiritual lives, but especially in our spiritual lives.

I do a lot of studying in the book of Proverbs, mainly because we're studying that book in our Sunday morning adult class, but also because I really like the principles of God's wisdom given us there. In chapter 18, verse 21 we're told something that we all recognize as being so true in life. Notice what it says there: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue..."

Does reading those few words help us to understand why James (chapter 3) speaks so much about the mighty little tongue and why we should strive to "bridle" it. That simply means to try our best to control it. It can both "bless" and "curse" and, if not controlled, can cause terrible problems ("fires"). In tying in James' words to our thoughts today, our tongues, IE: what we say and how we say it, can either cause someone to be a child of God, or can send them to Satan. In other words, spiritually can cause "life or death."

I deliberately left off the last portion of the verse in Proverbs when I cited it earlier for the purpose of making this point: the last part of that verse tells us that there are "consequences" (NLT) or results attached to the words of our tongue. Those results can either be good or bad to the speaker depending upon whether they caused "death" or whether they brought "life."

Now, let's see if we can apply our scriptures to a practical lesson. Christians are encouraged to "consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." (Heb. 10:24) To think about ways we can encourage each other as opposed to saying discouraging words.

Let me give you a couple of illustrations that I feel will help amplify our lesson. The first one comes from the Bible and is found in Numbers 13 and 14 and we read there where Moses sent out the 12 spies into the land of Canaan and it gives their report upon their return. It says that 10 of the spies gave an "evil report" and, keeping in mind what we read in Proverbs 18:21, their words caused great discouragement to Israel. So much so that it caused them to wander for 40 years in the wilderness until everyone (with the exception of Joshua & Caleb) who had left Egypt perished. Summary: the words, the "evil report" of the 10 spies, brought about the death of untold thousands of people who could have been saved.

My second illustration is from a little story about a bunch of tiny frogs. It's cute and it also teaches a great lesson. Once upon a time there was a bunch of tiny frogs who arranged a competition. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower. A big crowd gathered about the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants. The race began......

Honestly, no one in the crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. You heard statements such as: "Oh, it's WAY too difficult! They'll NEVER make it to the top." Others were saying: "Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high."

The tiny frogs began collapsing, one by one... except for those, who in a fresh tempo, were climbing higher and higher. The crowd continued to yell, "It's too difficult. No one will make it." More tiny frogs got tired and gave up... But one continued higher and higher and higher. This one tiny frog wouldn't give up! At the end everyone else had given up climbing the tower. Except for the one tiny frog who, after a big effort, was the only one who reached the top.

Then all of the other tiny frogs naturally wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it? A contestant asked the tiny frog how he had found the strength to succeed and reach the goal? It turned out..... that the winner was DEAF!!!

What do I see in the wisdom of this little "frog" story? A cute little picture of how our words can discourage others in the same way that the words of the 10 spies discouraged Israel from continuing on towards the goal of Canaan. Two of the spies didn't listen to the discouraging comments made by their 10 compatriots and guess who made it to the "top?" To the "Promised Land?"

Let's not be like the 10 spies who said Canaan (salvation) is too difficult, the inhabitants (Satan & the world) is too strong for us. Or, let's not be like the crowd around the tower crying "it's too high, it can't be done." Rather, let's encourage each other to keep going, even when the way is rough and tough. The goal, the "Promised Land" is there and "With God all things are Possible."

Ron Covey

Kite Surfing in a Hurricane

Pleasure seekers may receive more than they bargained for.

Let's get one thing straight: Kevin Kearney is an experienced
kite surfer. For those not familiar with the sport, a kite
surfer stands on a small surfboard while harnessed to a sail.
When the wind catches the sail, the surfer is pulled along
the surface of the water at thrilling speeds. According to
Wikipedia.com, the number of kite surfers has grown to about
200,000.

Kevin Kearney must have been looking for the ultimate thrill
when he hitched up his equipment in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
this past Monday. He had heard Tropical Storm Fay was nearby.
He knew the wind speed was more than what he normally dealt
with, but he had safety releases that would unleash him from
the gear if the winds proved to be too strong.

Someone caught the attempt on video and it has been shown
around the world. Kevin was catapulted by Fay into the sands
of the beach, then lifted again and slammed into the side of
a building. It happened so quickly that he didn't have time
to release himself. He remembers nothing of the ordeal.
Doctors say that he's lucky to be alive.

Kearney's episode with Fay seems a perfect illustration
of Isaiah's description of sin. See if you don't agree:
"But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our
righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a
leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us
away" (Isaiah 64:6, NKJV).

Isaiah used images to make his point, and two stand out.
One is the idea of a faded leaf. The site is common in
autumn when dried leaves fall to the ground. People,
Isaiah said, are like that leaf. The second image is that
of the wind, and you know what happens when a gust of wind
sweeps across a dried leaf. The leaf may protest, but what
good will it do? It is at the mercy of a force stronger
than itself. The wind, according to Isaiah, represents sin.

In seeking pleasure, I spot an activity that looks
appealing. Yes, I know that God has labeled the activity as
sin, but I can handle it. Just a little taste and then I'll
walk away. But instead of quenching my desire, the taste
enhances it. Soon I'm completely caught up in that sin. Like
wind toying with a dried leaf, I must now suffer the
consequences of my choice. How much better it would have been
to listen to the Lord!

If you're thinking about kite surfing, find a place where
tropical storms and hurricanes aren't. And if you don't want
to be whisked away to unknown, dangerous territory, steer clear
of sin.

"The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the
unfaithful will be caught by their lust" (Proverbs 11:6).

--Tim Hall

The Sexiest Man In The World

THE SEXIEST MAN IN THE WORLD

Well, today I saw a headline titled, "The Sexiest Man in the World" and was
not shocked that my name was not mentioned. And the fact I wasn't even on
the runner up list didn't surprise me either. I talked to one of my good
friends, Larry in North Carolina and he said he never made the list either.
Neither one of us even realized that there was a competition for this event.
We both figured that they purposely didn't tell us, because they didn't want
the competition!

Now according to Webster's dictionary, the word Sexy is defined as:
"generally attractive, interesting or appealing." I have to say that the old
axiom, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," is definitely true. I saw a
picture of the guy who won and I don't find him attractive, interesting or
appealing. But then those who know me probably think the same thing and
wonder what my wife sees in me!

You know one of the great things about getting older is that you don't worry
quite as much about how attractive, interesting or appealing other folks
find you. Also, those things you find that attracts interests or appeals to
you have changed. The physical part of people isn't nearly as important as
it once was. You learn that your physical imperfections are part of life, we
all have them. As another saying goes, "those who matter in your life don't
care about your imperfections and those who do care don't matter."

That concept is what makes God's church so appealing in a world that focus'
upon the physical. That's why the Apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians
12:12-24 are so encouraging to those of us who didn't win the title of "the
sexiest"! Notice what he says:

12 "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all
its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.
13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or
Greeks, slave or free, and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the
body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to
the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If
the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them,
just as he wanted them to be.
19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?
20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot
say to the feet, "I don't need you!"
22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are
indispensable,
23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special
honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special
modesty,
24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has
combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts
that lacked it." (NIV)

It may be that you didn't win the title either or even get invited to enter
the competition. You see, that's OK, it really doesn't matter, because you
matter to the one's who really makes a difference, our God in Heaven and his
people here on earth.

God has a place for you. It may not be a place of fame and fortune, but it
is better than any mansion you might own on earth. You see the title you
really want is the one that says, "Child of God."

Russ Lawson

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Americans commit suicide with a fork each year than any other weapon

In just a few days we're going to celebrate my favorite holiday - Thanksgiving. It's my favorite for several reasons, not the least of which is the indulging (probably "overindulging") in a great repast. We in the Covey household stick pretty close to the traditional fare, you know what I mean, turkey with dressing and giblet gravy, several vegetable dishes and, of course, candied yams and pumpkin pie. Being diabetic, I can't enjoy the yams anymore, but I'm thankful that God has provided us with artificial sweeteners and I can stuff myself with "punkin' pie."

I've mentioned this before and I'll again remind you of something once said by a pretty astute wag who said that "more Americans commit suicide with a fork each year than any other weapon." For about 2 hours after dinner next Thursday I'll have a full understanding of what he meant.

Another reason that I prefer the Thanksgiving holiday over all the others is, that it's the holiday that seems to direct our thoughts towards gratitude. Towards being grateful for all that we've been blessed with. I'm reminded of something Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1 about a "season and a time for every purpose under heaven" and that causes me to think about the appropriateness of this "season."

Thanksgiving comes in the fall of the year and isn't that the most appropriate time for us to set aside a day to be thankful for the bounty in our lives? Fall of the year is when we have "harvest time." The time, or the season, where we realize all of the benefits of the sowing and the nurturing throughout the earlier seasons of the year. The Bible speaks of things happening in "due season" and that phrase is so appropriate to what we're talking about here. It just seems to be the "season" in which we have the visual evidence of how blessed we've been.

With our minds directed towards our "blessings" it's then only natural that we express our gratitude to our benefactor - God, as we sing in the word of the old hymn "from whom all blessings flow." When you think about atheists celebrating Thanksgiving don't you wonder "Who do they thank?"

I know that this holiday of Thanksgiving is unique to America, but actually it did not originate with us. If you read in the book of Nehemiah, chapter 12, you'll see where, after the completion of the building of the wall around Jerusalem, Israel appointed a day of "gladness" and "thanksgiving" for the blessing of being back in their homeland and being safe from their enemies. You'll also see in that chapter that it was a day "of great joy" and that everyone "rejoiced." That they did as David of old had done by offering "songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God."

Would you agree with me that they were filled with "gratitude" and that this is what motivated them to be "thankful to God?" If you check the Greek and the Hebrew definitions for "thanksgiving" you'll find that they mean having "gratitude," of being grateful, or of "giving thanks." And the key thought there is to Whom we direct our gratitude. To Whom we offer praise and thanks.

One of the things that bothers me about this holiday is that I think it may cause us to have the tendency to only be grateful and thankful just at this season when we should be that way all year round. We should not cease to be mindful of all that we've been blessed with. Oh yes, we've all had hardships and sufferings of some nature, but in reality we've been blessed to a far greater extent than we've suffered.

I guess that one of the things that sort of "gets my goat" is how ungrateful people can be at times. Ingratitude is one of the things about human beings that really bothers me and when I think about how I relate to it, I can really understand how God must feel when we forget or neglect to thank Him for all He's done for us. If I feel slighted when someone shows no gratitude towards me for something I may have done for them, how much more must He feel slighted when men "count the blood of His Covenant" as "unholy." Who are ungrateful for the greatest blessing of all.

I know that I need to make a greater effort to be mindful all year of how richly God has blessed me and to acknowledge to God that I am grateful. That I am thankful and not just one day a year. I'm going to close this lesson today by citing to you a prayer that was once offered by an old Scottish preacher by the name of John Baillie. I think it very fitting to what we've considered today.

        "I thank Thee, O Lord God, that though with liberal hand Thou

         has at all times showered thy blessing upon our human kind,

         yet in Jesus Christ Thou hast done greater things for us than

         Thou ever didst before:

                    Making home sweeter and friends dearer;

                    Turning sorrow into gladness and pain into the soul's victory;

                    Robbing death of its sting;

                    Robbing sin of its power;

                    Making peace more peaceful and joy more joyful

                    and faith and hope more secure.

                                                                    In Jesus' name, Amen."

Ron Covey

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Have you no shame?"

 

"Have you no shame?" How many times in your life have you either uttered that question or, at least, heard it asked of someone? Perhaps even of yourself. In these short few words you've probably deduced that my subject for today is "SHAME." Or, the lack of it in our society today.

What, with all the news reports lately, I'm beginning to believe that the answer to that question is, NO, there's not much "shame" in evidence these days in our society. Maybe I'm now considered "old fashioned" but it doesn't seem that it was that long ago that it was a great shame for an unmarried woman to be pregnant. Not to mention a high school girl.

It was a rare event when I was in high school for a girl to become pregnant and if she did, she was expelled from school and she was looked upon in disgrace by her classmates. There was a tremendous amount of shame attached to her and her family. Quite apparently that isn't so anymore as the schools (read "we") not only DO NOT remove them from school, they provide a nursery and day care facilities on campus for those unwed teenage mothers. To the school system, they are no different from any other student, thus no stigma or shame for their actions.

I'm sure that you heard on the news this past week about the 17 (at last count) girls in a Massachusetts high school who made a pact to get pregnant. The news pundits are all chiming in with their opinions as to why the girls did this and there are about as many different opinions as there are pundits. I feel that my opinion is just as good as their's so I'm going to give it to you.

In my humble opinion, the basic reason for society's apparent lack of shame is that it has removed itself so far from God and His Word that any thought of right or wrong has vanished from it's collective character. The Word of God has always been the basis for our knowledge of right and wrong as it has been the basis for most of our criminal & civil laws. If society leaves it's base of knowledge for knowing what is right or wrong, it adopts its own ideas of what's acceptable behavior. Thus, there is no shame if someone does something "wrong" because they have no knowledge of it being wrong.

Over the past three or four decades we've "enlightened" (digressed) ourselves to the societal position that just about any and all aberrant behavior is okay if we don't physically hurt anybody by it. Society just calls it a matter of "personal choice." Thus we have no shame or stigma attached to these pregnant high school girls, or of same-sex marriages, or of lewd and lascivious lifestyles of entertainers and other notables. Society has over the years removed "shame" from it's collective protocol because nobody cares about what people do. At least that's what I believe causes it.

I think that our society has just about reached the point ancient Israel had reached in Judges 17:6 where it tells us that "...every man did that which was right in his own eyes." We've got a society that does whatever it wants to do, morally speaking, and feels that it's right "in it's own eyes." And, further in my opinion, the various governmental entities, especially the schools, from kindergarten through college, have fostered this moral meltdown of society. As in; don't tell anyone that they are wrong, or that it's wrong to do something the way they want to do it, because we would then be "judgmental." It might warp their psyche or something.

The second "shoe" so to speak, is that, if we don't really punish anyone for a lot of criminal acts, why would there be any punishment for moral acts. And I'm not just talking about "governmental" punishment, I'm also referring to "parental" punishment. We now have several generations of parents who were raised in an ever-more permissive society that their children don't know what punishment is for aberrant behavior. Therefore, it must be okay. Remember the old saying: "What one generation tolerates, the next embraces."

Proverbs 1:7 is the key verse to the understanding of the book of Proverbs and also the key to understanding life in general. The citing of this verse to you helps to amplify what I've been opining on to this point. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." When we take away the very basis of knowledge of right and wrong, what can we expect to occur?

Well, I can tell you what to expect and I base my words here on the source that society seems to have chosen to ignore. First, we run the risk of finding ourselves in the same condition Hosea lamented about in Hos. 4:6: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." But the kicker to that is the words that follow: "because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee..."

I'd like to refer you to a "woe" chapter in God's Word. No, it's not the 23rd chapter of Matthew which is commonly referred to in that vein, but rather the 5th chapter of Isaiah. And I encourage you to read the whole chapter, however I'm going to cite a few of its verses to you here that relate to our subject. Read with me these verses and see if they don't apply to what we're seeing in our society today.

    Verse 18: "Woe (what sorrow) unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity (ropes of lies) and sin as it were with a cart rope. As if to say that they are dragging their wickedness around behind them like a cart. Like they're proud of their sins.

    Verse 20: "Woe (what sorrow) it is for those that say evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. (NLT)

    Verse 21: "Woe (what sorrow) unto them that are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight.

In closing, do you know that man is the only one of God's creatures that is capable of blushing, of being ashamed? The only creature to have been endowed with a conscience? In my humble opinion, I'm afraid that we, as a society, have just about worn that mechanism out. "Have we no shame?" Not much anymore, I'm afraid.

Ron Covey

 

 

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