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Friday, December 31, 2010

God gives us the Spirit

 
 

           Most who receive this article believe in the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who comprises the one God. The Three are mentioned together in several verses in the Bible, e.g. John 15:26. We teach and talk much about the Father and the Son, but it seems the Holy Spirit is shoved back into a corner and covered-up with a blanket; and at times it seems we are embarrassed to even mention the Holy Spirit in connection with the Christian's work and salvation.

            I'm not sure why such an attitude exists. The Bible plainly teaches that when we are baptize into Christ for the remission of sins we receive a "gift," (Acts 2:38), and that gift is the Holy Spirit whom God gives to all who obey Him (Acts 5:32).  It is the Spirit that dwells in us (Romans 8:9); it is the Spirit that strengthens us in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16); it is the Spirit that makes intercession for us in our prayers (Romans 8:26); and it is the same Spirit by which we are sealed as a guarantee of our eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2Corinthians 1:22).

            I'm not going to debate "how" God gives us the Spirit, or "how" the Holy Spirit works in us the way He does; I simply accept the fact that the Bible says we have a "gift;" that gift is the Holy Spirit, and believe it.

            Some hear the term "Holy Spirit" and automatically become afraid they are going to be sucked into the wild charismatic movement. Admittedly, there are a lot of abuses surrounding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but that is not a legitimate excuse to ignore the truth.

            Some talk and even boast about the Holy Spirit working in them, but their lives do not produce any "fruit of the Spirit."  Others can talk about the Holy Spirit in very scholarly terms, but never enjoy or experience the "fullness of the Spirit" (cf. Ephesians 5:18), which is evidenced by their lives; and still, others, for all practical purposes, simply ignore Him. All these lay side-by-side in the "valley of dry bones" (cf. Ezekiel 37:4ff), a pitiful but realistic picture of many lifeless congregations.  However, there is that rare person who doesn't talk frequently about the Spirit, yet his life is a powerful display of the Spirit's presence and activity.

            One thing that must be understood, if the Spirit is truly living and working in your life (Philippians 2:13), Jesus Christ will be magnified -- not you! (John 16:14).

            Many churches today have no life in them because they are appealing to the fleshy appetites, comfort, and entertainment of the members. Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63).  Here we see an unbreakable cohesion between the inspired Word and the Spirit. Since the Spirit is God, it is impossible for Him to be unfaithful to His own word (2Timothy 2:13). 

            If you have the Spirit of God dwelling in you (Romans 8:9), as you mature in grace and knowledge, you will begin producing the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23). No fruit -- no Spirit. Take an honest look at your life, as well as the congregation with whom you worship -- Do you see "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? When you walk out the church doors and interact with believers and non-believers in the same sphere, can you tell a difference between the two? It seems to me that there should be a difference between the person who has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, and the person who does not! If people are being "led by the Spirit" (Romans 8:14), then their lives should be exemplifying love, joy, peace, kindness, etc.  There is much more to God and following in the footsteps of Jesus than just getting a bunch of good people together to hold a church service. Most will intellectually admit they received a "gift" from God at baptism, and this "gift" is the Holy Spirit -- but I'm not convinced we have internalized and processed this Truth in our hearts. (continued next week...)  Toby Miller

 

 

                                                                                                    (Some thoughts in this article were edited from "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vantawn Lork

On December 24, Vantawn Lork died in a motorcyle accident en route to evangelize the lost in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia.  He had turned 31 back in June and was preaching in Phnom Penh.  His two brothers, Chann and Sokchea, are gospel preachers we at Bear Valley fully support as they work in the Siem Reap area.  I only met Tawn once, but his brothers are full of life, jokesters, and mischievous until it is time to talk the gospel.  Then, they could not be more serious!  But, they and their fellow Cambodians, as well as other third-world inhabitants I have met in places like Thailand, Tanzania, Kenya, and Bangladesh, remind me of how many blessings I routinely take for granted.

Many of them do not have drinking water in their homes, but must go elsewhere to fetch it.  They eat one meal a day, and sometimes they are not that blessed.  They must travel in countries where there are many hazards, and some are thrilled just to have a bicycle.  They are susceptible to diseases that, with cheap, proper medication, are most benign, but many of them do not have access to the medicine.  They often must save for several years to earn enough money for a dowry and thereby enter into marriage.  They face fierce social, religious, familial, and sometimes physical persecution.  Their life expectancy is low.  They understand what David meant when he spoke of walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  They make very little money, and the idea of social security, retirement plans, or even property and house ownership is so foreign to them as to be unknown. 

Today, you may be having a great day or you could be having a bad day.  You may be going through the biggest trial of your life so far.  You may be facing a fearful future.  Whatever life is handing you right now, take a few minutes to reflect on the many ways God has blessed your life particularly in a material way.  When was the last time you thanked Him for running tap water, antibiotics for only a couple of dollars a bottle, clean hospitals with competent personnel, heating and cooling, real windows, doors, and walls on your house, dependable transportation, paved roads, and religious freedom?  This is not an attempt to make you feel guilty for your prosperity, only a reminder that God in His sovereignty has allowed you to have such blessings.  Be grateful, and use what He gives for His cause and His glory!     Neal Pollard

 

Sbsolution for failed New Year's Resolutions

I know lots of people make New Year's Resolutions. However, I don't! It's
not that I think they are a not good thing for people to do, I understand
that it is really helpful to some people. Yet to other people it is a source
of pressure and sometimes depression when they fail to keep them.

I saw a Newspaper cartoon this week that showed someone setting up a booth
to give absolution for failed New Year's Resolutions of the past year.
Cartoons many times are a commentary on our society, so what does that say
about us? It says that most of us have high ideals and set great goals, but
we are not the best at carrying them out.

I believe that part of the problem of making and keeping goals may be
personal motivation. After all, what makes this goal or resolution important
to you? Why would you want to keep or accomplish whatever you decided on as
a resolution? What is the most important thing in your life and why would
you want to add to or improve that thing?

For me, setting goals (or making resolutions) is a continual thing. The
level of importance of some things changes as our life changes, which is why
I never stop setting new goals. When you stop setting goals you begin "just
sitting!" That's why some folks stop being involved with church or other
people. They have come to a point in their lives where they are no longer
challenged by new goals; they are just sitting, waiting for life to be over.

Let me share what I think is the most important resolution you can make (if
you make one). It is to know Christ and his power in your life. The apostle
Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 2:2 "For I resolved to know nothing
while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."

Life has a way of getting so mangled up by the world that sometimes it's
just difficult for us to focus, to remember our goals or our resolutions. If
we will set a goal of Christ being the most important person in our lives;
the focus of our lives changes. Christ begins to over shadow everything else
in our lives and our relationships.

There is an old hymn from the 1800's that has these words: "I am resolved no
longer to linger, charmed by the world's delight. Things that are higher,
things that are nobler, these have allured my sight. I will hasten to him,
hasten so glad and free, Jesus, Greatest, Highest, I will come to thee."
(Palmer Hartsough, 1896).

What are you resolved to do this coming year and beyond?

Russ Lawson

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Market Street in San Francisco

 
For our lesson under consideration today I'm going to editorialize on a subject that we don't really like to talk about. No, it's not taxes. It's that other "sure thing" in life - death. It's not a popular topic simply because it's an unpleasant event and no one in their right mind wants to die. Therefore. it's a subject that gets avoided most of the time, but several things of late have caused me to think about this culminating event of our lives and so for today, we'll spend a few minutes looking at this phenomenon called death.

There are several things about death that spark my editorial thoughts. One is that whether it's sudden or prolonged, it's still an unpleasant happening, isn't it? But, it's something that we have to face in some form or fashion and to understand as a fact of life.

Recently in the news was the tragedy down in the San Diego area where four motorcyclists were hit by an automobile and killed. Having, for many years, ridden motorcycles for work and pleasure, this event struck a little closer to home than other sudden deaths, if you know what I mean. One minute they're riding along enjoying the moment and suddenly their lives are snuffed out like a candle. We can't pray for their safety because it's too late for that. At this point we can hope and pray that they had made the proper preparations in their lives that their souls now rest in paradise.

In another example, I was watching a film taken in1906 of Market Street in San Francisco. It was interesting to see this early effort at film making, especially to see the old vehicles (horses and wagons and first automobiles) and the dress of the people. It was a crowded scene with thousands of people going about their daily lives. Sort of a microcosm of time seen in this brief little film. Why this film fits our topic here today is, it was taken one week prior to the famous earthquake and subsequent fire that destroyed the city and wherein thousands of people perished. I thought as I watched the film, they were going about their routine daily business and didn't realize that they only had a few days left to live.

One more little example showing the sometimes suddenness of death is something I happened to read a few weeks ago. It's the headline of the Tombstone (Arizona) Epitaph's (town newspaper) first edition following the famous "Gunfight at the OK Corral." It simply read: "THREE MEN HURLED INTO ETERNITY IN THE DURATION OF A MOMENT." Alive one minute, dead the next and residing in a condition that never ends and there is no possible way of changing it.

How many examples could be cited as representative of sudden death? Way more than we have time and space to mention here. Just think about the wars our country's citizens have died fighting in. Over 620,000 in the Civil War alone. And war just emphasizes how sudden and terrible death can come. Plus, emphasizes how sad an occasion it is.

You know, as sad as sudden death is, the one scenario of death that always touched me was, what I call, the "lonely death." I saw and investigated this type of death many times while working as a Homicide Detective. It was always sad to me when I had to respond to a location where someone had been found dead after several days of not being seen.

A particular location that stands out in my mind is some apartments that are no longer in existence, but were well-visited by our police department. We'd find someone who lived alone, in a small one-room apartment with very few amenities and no evidence of family or friends present. Here was a person who died alone without anyone to seemingly care about them. I didn't know them, but that didn't matter, I was still saddened by their death and the manner in which it arrived.

As briefly mentioned earlier, after the onset of death, after the spirit has left the mortal body, there's nothing that can be changed to effect the life hereafter. The soul's eternal resting place is fixed. I guess what strikes me as being so sad on many occasions of death is that, I have every reason to believe that the deceased did not make any preparations in life to meet God after life. Yes, physical death is sad enough, but eternal death is beyond my comprehension of sadness.

Let's go back to the Bible verse cited at the onset of this lesson. The one from Deut. 32:29. Take a few moments and read this chapter leading up to this verse and look at what God is saying here. We'll do this by defining some of the words of the verse. "They" are the Israelites, the people who God had saved from captivity in Egypt by great and wondrous things and who had followed Him for awhile.

That "they" would be "wise" and "understand" the condition they had gotten themselves into by going away from God and His precepts. That's what the word "this"in the verse means, IE: their current situation as being sinners. As being unsaved. That they would "consider their latter end!" And this is what we'll close our thoughts today with, the understanding of what's meant by the "latter end."

The Hebrew word used here that's translated "latter" in English means: "the last or the end, hence the future." It makes reference to time as "at the end." Interestingly enough, one of it's other meanings is "reward." I see it as interesting because God tells us in His Word that He bestows two "rewards." A "reward for the righteous" seen in Psalm 58:11 and, just a few verses further on from our starting scriptural reference, in Deut. 32:41 we see the other reward: "I will render vengeance to mine enemies and will reward them that hate me."

This is what we should be "wise" about and "understand." What God has done for our salvation from captivity. The captivity of sin. That the only time that we have as mortals to prepare our souls for the "latter end" is while we're still alive. While the "breath of the Almighty" is still within us. (Job 33:4) As shown us by the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:20-31), there is no way of changing our final destination once death has occurred.

Death can come suddenly and without warning. But really, it can't come "unexpectedly" because we know it's coming. We just don't know when. Wouldn't you say that it's better to "expect" it to come at any time? If you "think" it might be "wise" for you to get prepared, as far as God is concerned, keep in mind these words of David in Psalm 146:4...

                        "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth;

                                in that very day his thoughts perish."

Ron Covey

 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Singing an invitation song

While delivering and having the invitation is an expedient rather than obedience to a specific command, it seems a very wise and judicial custom.  If someone has heard the gospel preached and the plan of salvation delivered, they may never be more inclined to obey than in the moments directly following the invitation delivered.  Whether we are talking about members responding to ask for prayers or confessing sin struggles or a lost sinner expressing a desire to be baptized, the invitation is a vital moment of decision for several at any given service.  Perhaps because it is such a "fixture" in our services, occurring at the end of each lesson, it can make us, individually and as a whole congregation, lax about how we should behave leading up to and during the invitation and the "invitation song."  Consider some suggested advice for "invitation etiquette."
  • Select an invitation song that convicts, persuades, and admonishes.  Some songs do this much better than others, as evidenced by indexers efforts to list certain songs as "invitation songs."
  • Avoid the pregnant pause.  The song leader who is ready to begin leading the song as soon as the preacher stops speaking helps prevents that dramatic time lapse that may be enough to break one's train of thought who is mentally wrestling with the decision to respond.
  • Avoid the rack rattle.  As listeners who are thoughtful of one another (including those deliberating over whether or not to respond), let us be careful not to drown out one's thoughts by pulling out our songbooks as we anticipate the preacher "winding down" his sermon.  Most of us know most of the songs well enough that we probably don't need the songbook for the first line anyway.  It is a courtesy to the preacher and potential responders when we refrain from the racket of pulling out the songbook as the invitation is offered.  If you must get the songbook ready while the preaching is still going, go the extra mile to remove it without making any noise!
  • Moving lips should be singing.  The invitation or the song that follows it is not the most ideal to handle logistics, further worship planning, and similar discussions.  Who knows but that we may be carrying on some conversation in such a way as completely distracts one who might have been readying to respond?  If a dialogue with someone is necessary, why not discreetly excuse yourself and the other person to some place outside the auditorium, if possible?
  • Be prayerful.  How powerful would it be if all present not intending or needing to respond were in prayer for anyone who might be wrestling with that decision?  Satan is looking for any obstacle or scheme (cf. 2 Co. 2:11) that will keep someone away from Jesus.  By silently praying for these ones as we sing, who knows what impact will be made in this matter?
Perhaps there are other "etiquette tips" that could be added.  Certainly, the preacher should give thought and preparation to that final part of his sermon, emphasizing urgency and eternity.  He should not make false promises of concluding a sermon without "keeping his word."  With that, let the rest of us consider how we can partner together with him to make each invitation as impacting and effective as possible.  ---  Neal Pollard

 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Deut. 32:29

                                                                                            Deut. 32:29

For our lesson under consideration today I'm going to editorialize on a subject that we don't really like to talk about. No, it's not taxes. It's that other "sure thing" in life - death. It's not a popular topic simply because it's an unpleasant event and no one in their right mind wants to die. Therefore. it's a subject that gets avoided most of the time, but several things of late have caused me to think about this culminating event of our lives and so for today, we'll spend a few minutes looking at this phenomenon called death.

There are several things about death that spark my editorial thoughts. One is that whether it's sudden or prolonged, it's still an unpleasant happening, isn't it? But, it's something that we have to face in some form or fashion and to understand as a fact of life.

Recently in the news was the tragedy down in the San Diego area where four motorcyclists were hit by an automobile and killed. Having, for many years, ridden motorcycles for work and pleasure, this event struck a little closer to home than other sudden deaths, if you know what I mean. One minute they're riding along enjoying the moment and suddenly their lives are snuffed out like a candle. We can't pray for their safety because it's too late for that. At this point we can hope and pray that they had made the proper preparations in their lives that their souls now rest in paradise.

In another example, I was watching a film taken in1906 of Market Street in San Francisco. It was interesting to see this early effort at film making, especially to see the old vehicles (horses and wagons and first automobiles) and the dress of the people. It was a crowded scene with thousands of people going about their daily lives. Sort of a microcosm of time seen in this brief little film. Why this film fits our topic here today is, it was taken one week prior to the famous earthquake and subsequent fire that destroyed the city and wherein thousands of people perished. I thought as I watched the film, they were going about their routine daily business and didn't realize that they only had a few days left to live.

One more little example showing the sometimes suddenness of death is something I happened to read a few weeks ago. It's the headline of the Tombstone (Arizona) Epitaph's (town newspaper) first edition following the famous "Gunfight at the OK Corral." It simply read: "THREE MEN HURLED INTO ETERNITY IN THE DURATION OF A MOMENT." Alive one minute, dead the next and residing in a condition that never ends and there is no possible way of changing it.

How many examples could be cited as representative of sudden death? Way more than we have time and space to mention here. Just think about the wars our country's citizens have died fighting in. Over 620,000 in the Civil War alone. And war just emphasizes how sudden and terrible death can come. Plus, emphasizes how sad an occasion it is.

You know, as sad as sudden death is, the one scenario of death that always touched me was, what I call, the "lonely death." I saw and investigated this type of death many times while working as a Homicide Detective. It was always sad to me when I had to respond to a location where someone had been found dead after several days of not being seen.

A particular location that stands out in my mind is some apartments that are no longer in existence, but were well-visited by our police department. We'd find someone who lived alone, in a small one-room apartment with very few amenities and no evidence of family or friends present. Here was a person who died alone without anyone to seemingly care about them. I didn't know them, but that didn't matter, I was still saddened by their death and the manner in which it arrived.

As briefly mentioned earlier, after the onset of death, after the spirit has left the mortal body, there's nothing that can be changed to effect the life hereafter. The soul's eternal resting place is fixed. I guess what strikes me as being so sad on many occasions of death is that, I have every reason to believe that the deceased did not make any preparations in life to meet God after life. Yes, physical death is sad enough, but eternal death is beyond my comprehension of sadness.

Let's go back to the Bible verse cited at the onset of this lesson. The one from Deut. 32:29. Take a few moments and read this chapter leading up to this verse and look at what God is saying here. We'll do this by defining some of the words of the verse. "They" are the Israelites, the people who God had saved from captivity in Egypt by great and wondrous things and who had followed Him for awhile.

That "they" would be "wise" and "understand" the condition they had gotten themselves into by going away from God and His precepts. That's what the word "this"in the verse means, IE: their current situation as being sinners. As being unsaved. That they would "consider their latter end!" And this is what we'll close our thoughts today with, the understanding of what's meant by the "latter end."

The Hebrew word used here that's translated "latter" in English means: "the last or the end, hence the future." It makes reference to time as "at the end." Interestingly enough, one of it's other meanings is "reward." I see it as interesting because God tells us in His Word that He bestows two "rewards." A "reward for the righteous" seen in Psalm 58:11 and, just a few verses further on from our starting scriptural reference, in Deut. 32:41 we see the other reward: "I will render vengeance to mine enemies and will reward them that hate me."

This is what we should be "wise" about and "understand." What God has done for our salvation from captivity. The captivity of sin. That the only time that we have as mortals to prepare our souls for the "latter end" is while we're still alive. While the "breath of the Almighty" is still within us. (Job 33:4) As shown us by the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:20-31), there is no way of changing our final destination once death has occurred.

Death can come suddenly and without warning. But really, it can't come "unexpectedly" because we know it's coming. We just don't know when. Wouldn't you say that it's better to "expect" it to come at any time? If you "think" it might be "wise" for you to get prepared, as far as God is concerned, keep in mind these words of David in Psalm 146:4...

                        "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth;

                                in that very day his thoughts perish."

Ron Covey

 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Can cows predict the weather?

Someone asked me about all of the "predictions" that people are beginning to
make, so here are some thoughts on the matter. You see, in the midst of all
of the holiday preparation and celebration we often forget one of the annual
happenings at this time of the year. As we near the beginning of a new year
we begin to see in the grocery store check out lanes, papers which boldly
proclaim someone's predictions for the coming year. I never buy these
papers, but do enjoy reading the covers and often laugh at what is predicted
for the coming year. I view these predictions like the farmer I read about.

It seems that a farmer was describing his lifestyle to a touring group of
city folks who were visiting his farm. "One of the benefits of this
profession," he explained, "is that we have built-in weather predictors."
"What do you mean by that?" asked one inquisitive visitor. "Well when the
cows are standing," the farmer explained, "it means no rain is likely for
the next twenty-four hours. When they're lying down, it means it's going to
rain."

On our bus trip, "another visitor said, "I noticed that half your herd were
standing and the other half were lying down. What does this mean?" The
farmer smiled and answered, "That means half of them are wrong."

Today, people feel free to make predictions or prophecies about almost
anything. Most don't claim that they are guided by God, but a few do. Some
predict coming events of a religious nature or a judgment from God. We need
to understand that without God's help there is no real or trustworthy way to
predict what is going to happen in the future. In fact God gives us a way to
tell whether those who predict the future are speaking the truth or not. In
Deuteronomy 28:18-22, God gives some instructions regarding prophets and how
to tell if they are real. Notice what God says:

"I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I
will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I
command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the
messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf. But any prophet who falsely
claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must
die. But you may wonder, how will we know whether or not a prophecy is from
the LORD? If the prophet speaks in the LORD's name but his prediction does
not happen or come true, you will know that the LORD did not give that
message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be
feared." (NLT)

God makes it simple for us doesn't he? If someone claims to bring a prophecy
from God and it doesn't happen, then they are not from God and we shouldn't
listen to anything they have to say. I guess they should be thankful they
are not living under the Old Testament law as it says they also were to be
put to death.

So as you see the predictions (prophecies) begin to roll out in the next few
weeks, think about how accurate they have been in the past. That will give
you an idea of whether or not to pay any heed to them or not. After all,
even half of the cows are right sometimes!

Russ Lawson

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wife plans to divorce her husband as soon as she can find a way to do so without making him happy

A Big Commitment

Dan Erickson reported in an online sermon that Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "I read where one wife plans to divorce her husband as soon as she can find a way to do so without making him happy." In spite of the fact that the Bible says whoever finds a wife finds a good thing (Proverbs 18:22), millions of people find themselves under a mountain of marriage misery. Their experience mirrors what the late great Minnie Pearl once said about marriage — "Gettin' married's like taking a bath in a tub of hot water. After awhile, it ain't so hot." So it would seem for many. The fire has fizzled and the love didn't last. These past fifty years have seen America become the most divorce-prone nation on earth. Many who said "I do" really didn't, at least not "until death do us part." More like, "until debt do us part." Instead of "so long as we both shall live" the real truth for many is "until one of us is tired of it." In spite of the fact that God is on record as saying He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), large numbers of people now view divorce as being morally neutral, a liberating and life-enhancing option to be exercised if/when the marriage magic disappears. Rock star Rod Stewart, himself twice divorced, verbalized the casual attitude toward marriage he and millions of others have acted out. He said, "I think marriage vows should be changed, because they've been in existence for 600 years, when people used to live until they were only 35. So they only had to be with each other for 12 years, then they would die anyway. But now, it's a big commitment because you're going to be with someone for 50 years. It's impossible. The vows should be written like a dog's license that has to be renewed every year." (http://archivestcm.ie/irisheminer/2001/05/01/story1794.asp).

Stewart's statement reminds us that millions have simply lost their way as regards marriage and God's will for it. Men have by and large rejected what the Lord has to say about marriage and divorce. Many criticize the Bible's teaching on this subject as hard and unfair. While I would never accuse Rod Stewart of being a Bible scholar, he is right about one thing – marriage is a big commitment. Three verses from 1 Corinthians 7 remind us just how big — "Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: a wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. . . .A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord" (verses 10-11, 39). The point in this article is not to deny that marriage is rough, tough work, sometimes more sour than it is sweet, more hurt than it is happiness, more give than it is receive. Anybody who says it isn't has never been married. But none of that changes the fact that a marriage must be based on commitment, not convenience, if it is to last. A good marriage is not easy but neither is it impossible. What is required is a deep-seated commitment to the will of God and one's mate.

Dan Gulley

 

First reference to Murphy's Law

Do You Know Murphy?

One of the icons of American society is Murphy. Murphy who you might ask,
well, Ed Murphy (as near as I can find out)! You may not actually know him,
but he has exerted a big influence in our society! What this particular
fictitious character is known for is his "law." I would almost bet you can
recite it from memory: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

The first reference to Murphy's Law was in the April 1956 issue of
Scientific American in the "Amateur Scientist" column. In part the column
read: "Dr. Schaefer's observation confirms this department's sad experience
that editors as well as laboratory workers are subject to Murphy's Laws, to
wit: (1) If something can go wrong, it will. (2) When left to themselves,
things always go from bad to worse. (3) Nature always sides with the hidden
flaw."

Believe it or not, the government is actually credited with the creation of
Murphy. In Navy educational cartoons of the 1950s there was an aircraft
mechanic named Captain Ed Murphy who bungled everything he touched and of
whom they repeatedly said: "If there is any way to do it wrong, he will."

There was a revision of Murphy's First Law added shortly thereafter: "If
anything can go wrong (with a mechanical system), it will, and generally at
the moment the system becomes indispensable."

We who try (and more often than we would like, fail) to live godly lives
have adapted the saying in this way: "No good deed goes unpunished." I
believe I have said that on more than one occasion myself. It's generally
said with humor about some situation, but sometimes in the utmost sincerity.

The problem with believing Murphy's law, is that it breeds a spirit of
pessimism! It kills the spirit of one trying to do some good deed and for
one reason or another fails or is misunderstood. Many people in the time of
Jesus actually thought Jesus had tried and failed to restore God's kingdom.
They didn't understand that it was a Spiritual kingdom he had been sent to
establish. They discounted God's working and God's plan for this world.

Today, how many things have you or the church tried, which seem to have
ended in failure? It often makes us want to give up and causes people to
say, "We tried that and it didn't work". To think like that breeds pessimism
and kills the spirit of God's people. For God's People, Murphy's Law is a
lie! When we believe we have failed at something we discount God's working,
His power and His plan for us and this world!

In Isaiah 55:8-9 we read: "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says
the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just
as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your
ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Maybe it's time we forget
about Murphy and begin to realize that God really is in charge of this world
and trust him to do the right thing!

Russ Lawson

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live?

            Some has said, "It is not science nor atheism that will quench the light of the Gospel in our day and age; rather it will be the proud, sensuous, selfish, hollow-hearted church-goer who professes to be a Christian who will quench it."  I believe that this is a truthful analysis.

            In the parable of the Sower (Luke 8:5-15), Jesus mentions four kinds of "soils" (heart-soils). He mentions the hard hearted; the shallow hearted; the heart that is choked with the riches and pleasures of this world; and, the good hearted.  Ironically enough, when people hear this parable, most "assume" they are "good soil."  Why? Well, because we like ourselves -- we think we are a pretty good person -- and we don't want to think that we might be lost!  How about you? You do fit into the parable somewhere.  Do you assume your hear is "good soil?"

            It's been my observation over the past 40 years (even before I was a Christian and still looking for the Truth), that many (if not most) American church-goers are on "thorny ground."  Thorns are anything that distracts us from God.  When we pile the things of the world on top of our commitment to God, our spiritual life suffocates.  A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, secret sins, social activities, and recreation are piled on top of it.

            Let me ask this: Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God's Kingdom (God's Rule), in your life? or are you slowly choking it out by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?  Are you satisfied that you are "godly enough" to sneak into Heaven on Judgment Day, especially when comparing yourself with others you know? (Which is not a wise thing to do - 2Corinthians 10:12).

            In Revelation 3:14-19, Jesus addresses the church in Laodicea. He accuses the church of being "lukewarm," and encourages them to repent so that He is not forced to disown them.  Physically, the church had need of nothing, but spiritually Jesus Himself said they were "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked -- and didn't even know it!  Now, I'm forced to wonder why God recorded such a negative thing about one of His congregations --- shouldn't He have just left it out of His Book?! --- shouldn't He have been more positive and upbeat?! How in the world does God expect His church to grow when He says things like that?!

            We need to understand that "The eyes of God do NOT go to and fro throughout the whole earth searching for big, physically rich, congregations!"  "His eyes go to and fro throughout the whole earth searching for those who hearts are faithful to Him (2Chronicles 16:9).

            Do you truly hate sin? (Psalm 119:128). Are you truly sorry for your own sin, or are you merely sorry because of the penalty God has placed on sin (Romans 6:23)?  The mind-set of the lukewarm goes something like this: "My buddy has cheated on his wife 10 times! and I've only cheated on my wife 5 times -- so I'm not nearly as bad as he is!"

            To put it plainly, the term "lukewarm Christian" is an oxymoron, i.e., there is no such thing. The thought of a person calling himself a Christian without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd. Only "disciples" are called Christians (Acts 11:26)!

            Were these "church-goers" at Laodicea saved? Well, Jesus Himself said that spiritually they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked -- does that sound like they were saved?  They COULD be saved, but before they could do that, they had to "repent."  God's grace is available, but He will not force it on you, you have to come and get it (Matthew 11:28-30). If you want to be saved, you have to LIVE like you want to be saved.        

 

--Toby Miller

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken, Psalm 17:22

The other day Bro. Russ Lawson and I were exchanging e-mails about things said by children that were both humorous and profound at the same time. Funny and yet great lessons seen in their statements. Perhaps I should say, their way of seeing things. Since those e-mails I've been thinking about this lesson so I'm going to try and use "children" and their views and ways of assessing things to teach us "old folks" some, what I hope turns out to be, valuable lessons.

Yes, I feel that humor and laughter is good for us, not only health-wise, as Solomon says, but also soul-wise. And, in my humble opinion, children are masters at saying things that are humorous, that make us laugh, but also make us think. The reason that I feel they are "masters" at this is because they do it so innocently. They are just inherently honest (sometimes brutally so) in their statements or questions.

And that's because they haven't acquired "grown-up" tendencies like "guile" yet. They don't have any "malice" (evil intent) in their hearts. Those detrimental things of man have to be learned simply because they haven't lived long enough to acquire them. With their guileless ways, and with their humor, they can teach us great lessons. Let me provide you with some of these and see if you don't agree.

A little girl was sitting on her father's lap looking at a mirror. She asked, "Daddy, did God make you?" "Certainly, my dear," said her father. "And did He make me, too?" she asked. He answered, "Certainly, my dear, what makes you ask?" "Well," she answered, "it seems to me He's doing much better work lately."

Another little girl came home from Church and her sick mother asked her how the service went and what the lesson was about. The little girl replied, "Don't be scared, you'll get your quilt." Perplexed, the mother called the preacher, told him what her daughter had said and asked him what she meant. The preacher said that his lesson was entitled: "Be not afraid, thy comforter is coming."

I've got to be politically correct and not just cite "girls" so here's a couple from little boys. Little James was listening to his Sunday school teacher read them the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and read the part where Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and turned to salt. The little boy raised his hand and asked, "What happened to the flea?"

One little boy was visiting at his grandmother's house and was looking through the big family Bible on the coffee table when something fell out of it onto the floor. He picked it up and saw that it was an old leaf. "Grandma, look what I found," he called out. "What have you got there, dear?" she replied. With great wonder in his voice, he answered, "I think it's Adam's underwear."

Now I've got to revert to some personal experiences for more lessons delivered by children. In telling this one I have to admit to you that I hate going to the dentist, but several years ago I had to knuckle-down, buckle-down and go have a tooth problem taken care of. This was one of those clinics where patients are worked on in little open cubicles. You know the type.

Well, I was seated in my torture chamber and had gotten my "needle" when here came two little girls about 6 years old and their mother. They put one of the girls in the chair next to mine and the other girl a few cubicles away. The mother kept moving back and forth between her two daughters, trying to keep them calm and unafraid. She probably should have concentrated on me because the two little girls were doing just fine. I was the nervous wreck.

About the time she was to get her "needle" I turned towards the one next to me with the idea of maybe reassuring her that it would be alright, but I think she realized that I was the one needing the reassurance because she looked over at me, smiled the brightest smile anyone ever saw and waved to me. But it was her sister that provided the real strength and assurance.

Just about the time the dentist was ready to start drilling on me, from the cubicle down the way came the voice of the little girl singing, "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world..." For a moment you could hear a pin drop. You could hear sighs coming from other cubicles and then one of the assistants started singing with her. I don't possess the words nor the ability to adequately describe the feeling and the atmosphere that came over that whole clinic right then. I thought of the words of David, repeated by Christ in Matt. 21:16, "...out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou has perfected praise." And I remembered the words of Isaiah, "...and a little child shall lead them." (Isa. 11:6)

Mary Howitt, an English author, penned these words about children and I'd like to share them with you here. "God sends children for another purpose than merely to keep up the race - to enlarge our hearts; and to make us unselfish; and full of kindly sympathies and affections; to give our souls higher aims; to call out all our faculties to extended enterprise and exertion; and to bring round our firesides bright faces, happy smiles and loving, tender hearts. My soul blesses the great Father, every day, that He has gladdened the earth with little children." AMEN!

A preacher and his family were once traveling in route to another town where he was to preach in a Gospel meeting. He hadn't told his children exactly where they were headed so, after some time on the road, his six-year old daughter asked him a question and it's in this question that we find one of our closing thoughts. She asked, "Dad, when we get to where we're going, where will we be?"

The other portion of our close is a phone conversation I once had with my 3 ½ year old granddaughter. She was very upset because her "baby rabbits" had died. They were really just wild rabbits that lived in a hole in their back yard, but she considered them "hers." Her dad had buried them and her mother (my daughter) had told her that they had "gone to heaven." With all the innocence to be found in the thinking of children, she asked me, "But Papa, how can they go to heaven when they don't know the way?

I don't think that I need to elaborate or speak any further to those two last questions. I think that you can fill in the answers to them. I will say this though, isn't it a great lesson seen in the question of "...when we get there (our final and eternal destination) where will we be?" And, if we want that destination to be "heaven," then we had better "know the way."

Ron Covey

 

 

 

 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Freed-Hardeman College

"When You Think About It ..."
 
As a student at Freed-Hardeman College (now a university), I struggled to please my professors. One in particular was quite demanding. At the time I looked forward to escaping his lectures and (especially) his exams. Years later I view those times differently as I realize I learned much under his tutelage. When I stop to think about it, I'm thankful to have been one of his students.
 
"Think" is, in fact, the basis of the word "thank", authorities on word origins tell us. And that makes perfect sense. A young child assumes it is the parents' responsibility to provide food, clothing and shelter. Later in life they understand the sacrifices their parents had to make. As they think more about what was involved, they're thankful (if they're honest and reasonable souls).
 
In 1863 Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation to a nation embroiled in a painful and impoverishing civil war. Few families on either side of the conflict could say they had not been affected. Yet Lincoln urged all to set aside a day - the last Thursday of November - to remember how richly they had all been blessed.
 
As Lincoln reviewed some of the blessings the nation had enjoyed, he added this: "No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God." He then called upon every citizen to take time to give thanksgiving and praise to God, and to also repent for sins committed against one another during the warfare.
 
147 years later we face far different situations as a nation. We are more abundantly blessed than then, generally speaking, but more seem to be forsaking and forgetting God. To turn away from the source of our blessings would be a major mistake for an individual or for a nation.
 
These words of Psalm 33:12 are universally true: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance." Other "gods" have been tried and found completely powerless throughout history. Only the one true and living God can provide what any people need.
 
Bad things happen when people choose not to think about God. Paul wrote about a dark downward spiral of values and behavior in Romans 1. What led to such a deterioration of these people? The answer is found in verse 21: "Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful ..." Is it such a big deal to give thanks to God? Paul clearly thought so!
 
In another place the apostle gave this admonition: "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Today, a national day of Thanksgiving, is an opportunity to revive within each of us what needs to be a daily practice.
 
Enjoy the feasting you'll likely see today. Spend time with loved ones and catch a football game or two. But please don't overlook the importance of the main focus - a day to give thanks.
 
"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!" (Psalm 68:19). Think about the load He has given you. And while you're thinking about it, take a few moments to give Him thanks.
 
Come to the light God offers! Study His word, the Bible. Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Get in touch with us if you'd like to discuss these ideas further.
 
Timothy D. Hall

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bing Crosby movie Holiday Inn

There is an old Bing Crosby movie titled, "Holiday Inn." It's one of those,
boy meets girl, they fall in love and then something comes between them
movie. Eventually they are reunited, but in the middle of the separation
part Bing sings a song titled" I've got nothing to be thankful for."

I believe that there are many people (maybe you), who today are singing that
same song. We tend to look at our lives and focus only upon the
difficulties, not on the blessings. I know what it's like to be down and
discouraged, to look at your live and wonder how you are ever going to get
past this last round of bad luck.

I can encourage you to count your blessings, to remember all the Lord has
done for you. I can encourage you to focus upon the good stuff in your life
and upon God, but that's probably something you already know and most likely
don't want to hear again.

So, what do you do or what have I done? Well, Jesus gives some instructions
to his disciples in Matthew 26:41 at a time when he is facing his death. He
tells them: "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The
spirit is willing, but the body is weak." It may seem overly simple to hear
the words, but you (and I) need to pray more because we can't overcome our
difficulties by our own power. We want very much to handle our problems all
by ourselves, but even though "The spirit is willing, the body is weak."

Think about it, even Jesus, when faced with a terrible death, found his
strength through prayer, (read the whole text). We plan and plot and make
lists and talk to friends, counsel with those we thing might have some
special knowledge to impart to us, when what we really need to do is talk to
God about it.

You may be dealing with very difficult problems right now. Some folks are
really struggling with physical ailments. Some are struggling with problems
with children (both young and old). Some are struggling to keep their
marriages together. While some are struggling because of the economy or lost
jobs. Some are struggling to make their house payments and some are facing
foreclosure.

Some of these people are members of our church family or our physical family
or friends or neighbors. So, pray! Pray for yourself, but also pray for
those around you, because though you may never know it, they might be
struggling, just like you! (1Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing.")

Russ Lawson

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wabush, a town in Labrador, Canada

Wabush, a town in a remote portion of Labrador, Canada, was completely
isolated for some time. But recently a road was cut through the wilderness
to reach it. Wabush now has one road leading into it, and thus, only one
road leading out. If someone were to travel the unpaved road for six to
eight hours to get into Wabush, there is only way he or she could leave: by
turning around. *

Each of us, through our wrong choices, arrives in a town called Sin. Once in
Sin, we are trapped and doomed to destruction (Romans 6:23), unless we find
a way out. As in Wabush, there is only one way out: a road built by God
himself. Jesus said,

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except
through Me."
-- John 14:6

Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins (Ephesians 1:7). Through His
atoning sacrifice, we find the way out of Sin and into the Heavenly City
(cf. Hebrews 11:16), where there is eternal life and eternal joy. Through
the "curtain" of His flesh and His blood shed for our sins, Jesus has opened
up a "new and living way" out of Sin into the Most Holy Place (Hebrews
10:19-20).

But in order to take that road, one must first turn around. That complete
about-face is what the Bible calls REPENTANCE, and without it, there's no
way out of town.

Here is the complete way out of sin: place your faith and trust in Jesus
Christ (Acts 16:30-31), turn from your sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31),
confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into
Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Then, we must continue to
follow Jesus by seeking to follow Him faithfully (1 John 1:7).

Jesus said: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the
way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because
narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there
are few who find it." - Matthew 7:13-14

There is only One way out of Sin and that is His Way!

Won't YOU turn away from the road that leads to destruction and, through
your trusting obedience, turn to Jesus, the Way that leads to eternal life?

David A. Sargent

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Needless worry

                "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will

                    be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

                                                                                    Matthew 6:34 (ESV)

                    "Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble."

                                                                    George Washington Lyon

You've probable suspected, by the reading of the above quotations, that our topic of consideration today is going to be a few thoughts regarding "worry" and/or "anxiety." Well, your suspicions are correct so let's sally forth.

What inspired my thoughts on this subject today is a TV commercial I've seen many times recently that shows a cute little dog worrying about his bone. He can't sleep, can't be content or at peace because of his worrying whether his bone is safe and the musical background is a song with the words "worry, worry, worry" and "trouble, trouble, trouble" being repeated. I think it's advertising some insurance company, but regardless of who's paying for the spot, I like the commercial and it helps me introduce my thoughts today.

Yep, one of the things we humans seem to do an excessive amount of at times is "worry." Some worry more than others do, but we all do so to some extent. We worry about things like "health," or we worry about "business'" (or lack thereof). We worry about "family problems" and, in keeping with the hot topic of today, we worry about "traveling," especially the flying kind of traveling. We even worry about the "weather," don't we?

Now here's what's sad to me, and I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to this phenomenon, sometimes we worry about things we have no business worrying about. What I'm saying is, that we sometimes worry "needlessly." And, in so doing, we put stress on ourselves that needn't be there.

Maybe I'm being too simplistic here, but here's a solution that I see: if we're facing a situation that we can do something about - do it! If we can't - then pray that God will give us strength to get through it. But, worry isn't going to help the situation.

As I see it, here's the problem regarding worry and anxiety. It can compound whatever the problem is by bringing on physical health problems. It's like adding fuel to an already burning fire. By "health problems" I mean things like "intestinal illnesses, skin problems and nerve problems." Now I'm not the only one who has noticed this, look at something said by Dr. Charles H. Mayo, of the Mayo Clinic. "Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt."

While we're talking about "needless worry," here's another good example. We tend to worry about things that we think "might" happen. When we engage in this kind of worrying it's not very long before we've projected it on out to it's "worst-case scenario." To the extreme possibility, however remote that possibility might be. It's then that we find ourselves in a full-blown anxiety attack and it's all in our mind!

Here's a humorous little illustration of what I'm saying about "projecting" our worries. It seems that a man was worried over something to the point that he couldn't sleep. He said, "I counted sheep and after reaching 10,000 of them, I sheared 'em, combed the wool, had it spun into cloth, made into suits, took them to town - and lost $21.00 apiece on them. I haven't slept for a week."

I just thought that to be an amusing way of making this point; that we sometimes mentally magnify things that "might possibly" occur in the future, but most probably will not. What's going on here is, that our minds are dwelling on something in the future while we are living in the present. I ask you, isn't this what Christ is warning us about in Matt. 6:34? Doesn't it also fit with the quote by George W. Lyon about the "interest on borrowed trouble?"

Another venue I've noticed about what many people worry about is that they worry over what they "DON'T" have - materially speaking. They're not content with what they "DO" have and contentedness is the antitheses of worry. Here's my opinion, paraphrased from Christ's words in Matthew: be thankful for the material blessings that you do have and don't be anxious and worry because someone else has more. When Christ said for us to "not be anxious," or worry, in Matt. 6, He was talking about being anxious about material things. (Read verses 25-34)

Trust me, you have more than lots of other people and to worry about what you "DON'T" have is to NOT be grateful and thankful for what you do. With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up next Thursday, let's use this occasion to remind ourselves to be grateful and thankful for what we've been materially blessed with.

Now for a closing thought. In the context of our lesson today, "worry" is not the same as "concern." Preparation for the future is not worry, it's concern and that's different. The word "concern" means things like: "care about" and "consider" or "have regard" or even to "take heed." With those definitions in mind, let's see if we can't close our lesson with a thought appropriate to the occasion.

Wouldn't you agree that we should "consider" our future existence and make preparations for it? In looking at the temporal aspects of our future, we have to keep in mind and understand that we're not guaranteed "tomorrow" (James 4:14) but, it's the eternal future that we should be more concerned with. That we should "care about" and when we do have that care and concern, we make the right preparations for our eternal future according to the Gospel of Christ.

By exercising this care and concern, thus making our future preparations "sure" (2Pet. 1:10), we eliminate any and all anxiousness and worry about our soul's salvation. It's the one thing a true Christian would have no reason to worry about. When we're prepared for the future that God has prepared for His people, I think we can echo the sentiments of Robert J. Burdette who said:

"There are two days in the week about which and upon which I never worry. Two carefree days, kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension. One of these days is Yesterday, and the other day I do not worry about is Tomorrow."

Ron Covey

Friday, November 19, 2010

Edgar Renteria World Series MVP

            It is dumbfounding how often professional athletes are hailed as heroes. Most of the time this is unfounded and for shallow reasons.  Usually these athletes soak it all in and even egg it on.  Despite these marks of arrogance, there are occasional selfless acts which deserve praise.

            When the World Series came to an end this year, shortstop Edgar Renteria was named the World Series MVP.  Renteria is a native of Colombia and has been idolized there for some time.  With this being the case and his recent MVP award, his home country was going to plan celebrations and parades in his honor.  However, Renteria humbly asked that they cancel any parties or parades for him.

            Why would he do something like this?  Why not just soak in all of this praise and adoration as a hero?  As it turns out, northern Colombia has been devastated by floods lately.  It is estimated that 900,000 people are currently homeless.  With this in mind, Renteria asked that any available money that would have been spent in his honor instead be used to help out those in need.  In fact, the whole reason Renteria even said this publically was to raise awareness of Colombia's situation and hopefully encourage others to help as well.

            I do not know much else about Renteria's character, but this was an incredibly selfless act.  It is so easy in this life to become centered on ourselves.  It is all about what "I want," what "I need," and what "you can do for me."  It is nice to see someone putting himself aside for others.

            As we know, this is a biblical concept.  We are told to put God first (Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:5) and others above ourselves (Mathew 22:38; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8; etc).  Now, you probably will not have to turn down a massive celebration thrown by an entire country in your honor.  If you do, I would like to have your autograph.  However, there are little acts we can do everyday to put others before self.  We know ways to do this, but many times we fail to do them.

            It is easy to get caught up in ourselves.  We do live in a very self-centered society.  It can be hard to put our own wants and desires aside to help someone else.  But this is exactly what God wants us to do.  Whether it is as big as turning down a country's celebration, or just helping out our family and friends, let's look for those opportunities where we can do something good for others and put them above ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4).  -- Brett Petrillo

 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yona Williams, Interesting Facts About Ancient Kings

There are some interesting facts about kings throughout history.  Egyptian King Pepi II is said to have had the longest reign of any king, holding the position 90 years from 2272-2182 B.C. Emperor Charlemagne could read, but could not write.  Frankish king Pepin the Short earned the name through his slight stature, standing only four feet, six inches tall.  His wife was known as "Bertha the Big Foot" (Yona Williams, Interesting Facts About Ancient Kings).

Kings and other rulers have ranged from savage and fierce to pathetic and effeminate. There have been magnanimous and moral kings, but many more depraved and vile ones.  In the history of Israel, many of these descriptions would have fit kings serving God's people.  Hosea, still pleading with Israel to return to God, reviews Israelite history. In the process, the prophet reminds the people that God wished to rule over them as their only sovereign from their very beginning.  They were ravaged and destroyed; yet, He still wished to rule over them.  Hosea reminds them that back in Samuel's day He only relented and allowed their foolish wish to be granted.  He had not rejected them, but they had instead rejected Him as king.  He reminds them that they truly had no other king but Himself.

We have earthly rulers whom we must honor (1 Peter 2:17) and for whom we must pray (1 Timothy 2:2).  Yet, God still wants to rule in His church and in His people's lives in a theocracy. He would remind us that, though we are to be respectful and obedient to the laws of our nations, He is our ultimate sovereign. We must obey Him above and before all others (Acts 5:29).
 
Neal Pollard

 

faith in prayer

How are you doing in talking to God lately? This time of the year we spend
more time thinking about our blessings and for what we have to be thankful
don't we? Most of us will gather in a few short days and offer a prayer of
thanksgiving to God for the food on our table. But, I wonder, do we really
believe that God actually hears your prayer. I mean, we go through the
motions, bow our heads, say the right words, but do we really think anyone
hears us other than those around us?

James gives us some interesting insight into prayer in James 1:5-8 where he
writes: "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to
you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that
your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty
is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.
Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their
loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in
everything they do." (NLT)

They say that in some things "a little child shall lead them." When our
oldest son Kirk was only about 5 years old and was kneeling beside his bed
one night saying his prayers (from the heart). He prayed, "And God, thank
you for my grandma, because she gives me everything I want."

I thought of this also when I read the following story about prayer. It
seems a minister's little six-year-old girl had been so naughty during the
week that her mother decided to give her the worst kind of punishment. She
told her she couldn't go to the Sunday School Picnic on Saturday.

When the day came, her mother felt she had been too harsh and changed her
mind. When she told the little girl she could go to the picnic, the child's
reaction was one of gloom and unhappiness. "What's the matter? I thought
you'd be glad to go to the picnic." her mother said. "It's too late!" the
little girl said. "I've already prayed for rain."

So when you gather with your friends and family (or just pray alone),
remember to pray from the heart, nothing wavering or doubting and know for
certain that Our God hears you.

Russ Lawson

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ron Herman

Kathy and the wife of one of our deacons in Virginia were studying with a sweet woman who was eventually baptized and who remains faithful to this day.  The woman lived in an apartment in a higher crime area.  In the midst of one of their studies, her huge, heavily tattooed, and obviously drunk nephew came downstairs weeping openly and profusely.  Apparently he had been eavesdropping on the study and felt, perhaps aided by the large, nearly empty bottle of liquor, a need of God.  Up to that point, Kathy and her co-teacher was unaware this nephew was in the apartment.  It turns out that this young man faced stiff legal problems as a convicted drug dealer who would not leave that lifestyle.  He was miserable, frightened, and utterly directionless.

The girls were able to leave Donna's apartment safely, and the young man attended on a Wednesday night not long after this incident.  After a brief devotional and the extending of an invitation, this young man responded.  Knowing only his Catholic background, he went up to the very front and knelt right in front of the pulpit.  It seems that nearly all of us were frozen by this unexpected move.  It was unorthodox.  As he made the sign of the cross repeatedly, it was uncomfortable.  No doubt several wondered, "How should this be handled?"  While we all stood and sang, mired in perplexity, Ron Herman, one of our elders, walked up to the young man.  Perhaps many of us thought, "Good, Ron will escort him to the front pew to the 'scriptural' place for handling responses." 

No.  Ron immediately modeled Christ in a most compassionate way.  Ron knelt beside him, putting his arm around this big, burly young man.  He quietly, gently discussed with him the nature of his problem that moved him to respond.  Ron was affirming, smiling, and empathetic.  After the song, Ron informed the congregation that this young man wanted us to pray for him.

So far as I know, this young man has never obeyed the gospel.  In fact, soon after his public response, he was incarcerated.  But I learned a lot about what matters most that evening.  Ron was a professional educator, serving in school administration for his long, illustrious career.  Oh, how much he taught us that night. He was a shepherd exemplifying Christ to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).  Too often we get uncomfortable when we need to get unseated, and we get embarrassed when we need to get encouraging.  So many among us are hurting and are unsure of what to do.  They are unsure of how we, the church, will respond.  Let us have the love and courage to respond just as Christ would.  Just as Ron did!
 
Neal Pollard

 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Karl Rabeder

An Austrian millionaire decided to get rid of his millions. Karl Rabeder
owned a $2.2 million lakeside villa in the Alps, a farmhouse on 42 acres in
France, 6 gliders, and an Audi A8. But he said "the biggest shock" of his
life was realizing how empty "the five-star lifestyle" was. "For a long
time I believed that more wealth and luxury automatically meant more
happiness." "I come from a very poor family where the rules were to work
more to achieve more material things, and I applied this rule for many
years." But after a while, he felt he was working "as a slave for things I
did not wish for or need," adding, "I have the feeling that there are a lot
of people out there doing the same thing." And so.. he decided to give it
all away!

He sold his business, got rid of the gliders and fancy car, and decided to
raffle off the house in the Alps and put the farmhouse in France on the
market. He began to support orphanages in South America and created a
charity that helps self-employed people in six Central and South American
countries get their businesses going. He himself moved to a small two-room
apartment in Innsbruck. *

There was ANOTHER rich man who came to Jesus with a very important question:
"Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"
(see Matthew 19:16-22).

Jesus responded: "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
Then He referred the rich man to some of the commandments of the Old Law,
which was in effect at the time. The rich man stated, "All these things I
have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you
want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you
will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." The Scripture records:
"But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he
had great possessions."

Two wealthy men: One gave his riches away; the other couldn't part with
them. What was the difference?

The one who "gave it all away" recognized that earthly riches don't satisfy
our deepest needs. That for which many seek to find fulfillment in their
lives, he found to bring emptiness instead. He found happiness in helping
others.

The one who couldn't part with his riches forfeited the real Treasure:
ETERNAL LIFE. The love of money - "temporary treasures" - superseded his
love for Christ. See 1 Timothy 6:10.

Must we give up everything to follow Jesus so that we may have eternal life?
Only that which is sinful and that which hinders us from following Him.
Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins so that when we trust
and obey Him, we may have the forgiveness of sins and the GIFT of eternal
life (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 6:23).

In order to accept His offer of salvation and eternal life, we must: place
our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins and idolatry
in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and
be baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
Then we must follow Him faithfully, continually seeking to do His will (1
John 1:7).

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own
soul?" (Mark 8:36) Even a millionaire is poor and miserable if he doesn't
recognize the True Treasure.

Won't YOU trust and obey Jesus today so that you may inherit the greatest
Treasure of all?

David A. Sargent

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sermon illustration for thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving approaching in a couple of weeks, I thought you would
enjoy this excerpt from a book entitled, "Weather Prognosticators and the
Media: Fallacies, Facts, and Fun in Forecasting" by Norm Macdonald:

"Turkeys will thaw in the morning, then warm in the oven to an
afternoon high near 190 F. The kitchen will turn hot and humid, and if you
bother the cook, be ready for a severe squall or cold shoulder.

"During the late afternoon and evening, the cold front of a knife will
slice through the turkey, causing an accumulation of one to two inches on
plates. Mashed potatoes will drift across one side while cranberry sauce
creates slippery spots on the other. Please pass the gravy.

"A weight watch and indigestion warning have been issued for the entire
area, with increased stuffiness around the beltway. During the evening, the
turkey will diminish and taper off to leftovers, dropping to a low of 34 F
in the refrigerator.

"Looking ahead to Friday and Saturday, high pressure to eat sandwiches
will be established. Flurries of leftovers can be expected both days with a
50 percent chance of scattered soup late in the day. We expect a warming
trend where soup develops. By early next week, eating pressure will be low
as the only wish left will be the bone."

While many of us in the United States will be enjoying a delicious
feast in a couple of weeks, may our outlook truly be one of thanksgiving.
May we be reminded once again of the source of our bountiful blessings. I
love the cartoon that shows a bewildered-looking fellow sitting at a
Thanksgiving table loaded down with turkey, dressing, hot rolls, and all the
trimmings. The caption reads: "Alvin the atheist realized he was at his
lowest point, for he felt grateful but had no one to thank."

We do have someone to thank. May we do it not only on Thanksgiving but
every day with hearts overflowing with gratitude.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down
from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of
turning." (James 1:17)

"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving..." (Psalm 95:2)

Alan Smith

Monday, November 8, 2010

How close are we to the appointed day?

 

 

    We know that God has already appointed a day in which He will judge the world according to righteousness (Acts 17:31). That is, there is a specific time already fixed in the mind of God in which this earth and all life as we know it will come to an end. When Jesus spoke to His disciples of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, they asked, "When shall all these things be?" (Matthew 24:3).  Good question!  Concerning the destruction of the heavens and earth (2Peter 3:10), we need to ask the same question: "When shall all these things be?"  That is, "What time is it? How close are we to the appointed day?"

 

    God has kept the earth rotating around the sun at an angle of 23 1/3 degrees for at least 6,000 years.  The Law of Christ has already been in existence more than three times longer than the Law of Moses.  More than at anytime since the first century, men are mocking the Bible and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2peter 3:4).  Our knowledge is doubling every four years (Daniel 12:4).  And, our earth is "waxing old like a garment" (Isaiah 51:6), already supporting over six billion people, and that is expected to double in the next twelve years. How many people can the earth support? Just what time is it?

 

    In the rat-race of our society, there's the tendency for our faith to grow lazy and go into hibernation. That would be a tragic mistake, because our world is moving toward a certain fixed destiny. The Bible summarized this "certain destiny" in two simple words: THE END (1Corinthains 15:24).

 

            Paul writes,  "…and knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed."  (Romans 13:11).    No one knows the day nor hour when our Lord will return (Mark 13:32-33), but we do know that we are 24 hours closer than we were yesterday at this time. Are you ready? Are you following Jesus – the Word? (John 1:1). If you are not following Jesus, you will not end up where He is, and He is in Heaven (Ephesians 1:20).  Peter writes, "…what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1Peter 4:17-18).   - - Toby Miller

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Colonel Charles D. Roby

             "Let no ravages of time testify to the coming generations that we have forgotten,                             as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic."

                                                                                                Gen. John A. Logan, 1868

A few months ago I received a card from a Christian sister in Colorado thanking me for a particular editorial that she said was very moving to her as it reminded her of her brother who died in the Vietnam conflict. In her card she briefly cited some of his career, and since today's editorial topic will be about our country's observance of Veteran's Day, I'd like to dedicate today's thoughts, first to the glory of God, and secondly to the memory of Col. Charles D. Roby, killed in Vietnam in 1967.

Col. Roby, by all accounts, was a hero. In Vietnam he was an F-4 Phantom pilot, but before that he was a fighter pilot in the Korean War, flying 200 missions in that "action." As another career distinction, in 1951 he was the first pilot to have to bail out of his plane using the new "ejection seat." He died in the service of his country in 1967 at the age of 39 years. In 1990 his remains were finally returned to the family and he was subsequently buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Yes, he was a hero, but in reality, no more so than any of the other 58,000 plus killed in that conflict for their country.

Yes, next Thursday, November the 11th, is a special holiday here in America - Veteran's Day. It's not a holiday of gift-giving, of feasting, of play/sporting events. It's a day of solemn remembrance by those of us alive today of the sacrifices of our military veterans that allow us to live in the greatest country that God ever blessed this earth with.

We call it "Veteran's Day" here in America, but in Canada it's known as "Remembrance Day." I like both of those designations and I think I'll just combine them here and call it "Remembering Veteran's Day." And, I think it extremely important that we always, as in continually, remember what our veterans have done for us. That we remember them, not just one day a year, but all year round.

The mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan was asked by a reporter what she feared the most. Her answer to this question goes directly to our thoughts today. She said, "That people will forget the sacrifice made by our sons." Keep this statement in mind when we come to the close of this lesson. And keep in mind, "sacrifice" doesn't have to mean the ultimate - death. War brings sacrifices in the form of both visible and unseen wounds too.

I can almost guarantee you that if we did not set a day of remembrance, a day of commemoration for our nation's veterans, within relatively few years they and their sacrifices would be forgotten. God knew this was the nature of man and no doubt was the prime reason He commanded Israel of old to observe various memorials. They were to set up "physical" types of memorials, such as "monuments" (Josh. 4:1-7) and "times" such as the "Days of Purim" (Esther 9:28) for the express purpose of not forgetting what God had done for them. Wouldn't you agree that the setting up of special times and days to remember our veterans serve the same principle?

President Lincoln, referring to those who had died in battle at Gettysburg, said in his famous address, that they "gave the last full measure of devotion" and then went on to tell us what the object of that "devotion" was: that their "nation might live." Later in his address he made this recommendation: that we should "highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."

Lincoln's words at Gettysburg remind me of a letter I once read that was penned on August 14th, 1945, known now as V-J Day, the end of war against Japan in WW2. I won't cite to you the whole letter, but just mention a couple of lines that Sgt. Ralph Lewis, Jr wrote in his letter that day regarding his buddies that he'd lost in battle. He wrote: "Today the world must remember them - and tomorrow, the next day and forever! The day the world forgets, they will have died in vain."

A while back I heard a song written by an elementary school music teacher and performed by his third-grade class. It is a song not sung "about" the military, but rather "to" the military. It's entitled "Thank You Soldiers" and the words go like this:

    When I lay my head down every night, and go to sleep in peace,

    I can stay there knowing all is well, while you're standing on your feet.

            Keeping watch, protecting shore to shore, in the air and oceans too,

            defending freedom at all cost, for the red, white and the blue,

Chorus:     Thank you, oh thank you, men and women brave and strong,

                     To those who serve(d) so gallantly, we sing this grateful song.

    The soldiers who have traveled on, to countries far and near,

    in peace and war you paid the price, for the cause you hold so dear.

            That we may wake each morning bright, and know that freedom rings,

           because of your great sacrifice, your country joins to sing.

Chorus:     Thank you, oh thank you, men and women brave and strong,

                     To those who serve(d) so gallantly, we sing this grateful song.

I asked you earlier in the lesson to keep in mind the words of the mother of the soldier killed in Afghanistan and I'd like to return to the thought expressed by her, to wit: that she feared that people will forget the sacrifices of our sons. As grave as that danger is, I have a far greater fear and that is, that people will forget God's sacrifice of His Son so that man won't have "freedom" for just a period of time, but will have "freedom" for eternity.

We should always possess a devotion addressed to remembering our veterans but, with even more devotion, we should remember the sacrifice of Christ. In the Bible, God uses a phrase of warning to His people which illustrates His knowing the propensity of people to forget things. That phrase is "lest thou forget." Even after all the miracles that He had done for them in freeing them from slavery in Egypt, He knew that, given time, they'd forget. In Deut. 6:12 He warns them: "Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."

With our focus on the first two words of that verse: "Then beware," allow me to close these thoughts with some words penned by Rudyard Kipling that apply both to the remembrance of our veterans and remembrance of our God.

                        "God of our Fathers, known of old,

                          Lord of our far-flung battle line,

                          Beneath whose awful Hand we hold,

                          Dominion over palm and pine—

                          Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

                                    Lest we forget — Lest we forget!"

Ron Covey

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