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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Helping the poor -

 
How should Christians help the poor? What are some good guidelines for benevolent help? Should Christians help all who ask?
 
J.C. Ryle offered these thoughts on Luke 14:12-13 in his commentary on Luke (2:157-158):
 
The "evil consequences of an excessively literal interpretation of this passage, may be seen in the well-meat but grossly abused charities to the poor, which were to prevelant in the country before the Reformation, and which are still to be seen in Roman Catholic countries on the Continent at th present day.  It is notorious that profuse charity to the poor, given indiscriminately, and without inquirty, does not real good, foster idleness, rears up a class of professional mendicants, promotes dissolute and profligate habits among beggars, and enormously increases the very evil whichit is meant to relieve."

What does the Holy Spirit do?

              "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you

            into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he

         shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come."

                                                                                                                    John 16:13

        "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."

                                                                                                                Romans 8:14

A while back we had a series of lessons in our midweek Bible class on the Holy Spirit. During that study I made some notes to myself on this subject with the intent to someday editorialize on it. Well, today's the day.

Now I'll be the first to acknowledge that there have been a myriad (means "a whole lot") of writers, preachers and teachers that have already written a myriad of books and lessons about the Holy Spirit and "He" has been studied from just about all angles possible. But, the fact that others have opined about a particular subject before has never deterred me in the past and it won't today. I'm going to throw my proverbial "two cents" into the arena for you to consider.

I'll also tell you, as regards some of the other writings on this subject, that many of them are very "deep" in nature, obviously stemming from a deep-thinking person, but my thinking ability operates in fairly shallow waters, shall we say. Based upon the above provided passages and some others that I'll refer you to, I intend to offer you, at least what I perceive to be, a pretty simple lesson. So, let's get started.

The direction of my lesson today is to show what the Holy Spirit is, and what He does. I refer to the Holy Spirit in the masculine gender because that's how the Bible refers to Him (John 16:13). And, in doing so, I'll present it in a manner that I hope will be easy to understand and not as confusing as some lessons I've read and heard on this subject.

Let me start off by asking you if you've ever been lost? Like in a forest or a wilderness area that you were unfamiliar with? I've been a hunter all of my adult life and I have to answer that question with a "yes." And, trust me, it isn't hard to do either. But, when that happened I had gotten separated from my companions and was out there on my own. Now, let me tell you something else from my hunting exploits. On the hunts where I had a "guide," I never got lost.

You see, in my simple way of understanding, and regardless of what some people will tell you, the Bible is not hard to understand, so here's my definition of what the Holy Spirit is and what He does.

Simply stated, the Holy Spirit is a "Guide." Jesus called Him "the Spirit of Truth" and told His disciples that when He came, He would "guide them into all truth." Then when you turn to Romans the 8th chapter, verse 14, we find that those who are "led by the Spirit of God" are those God considers to be His children.

God's Word, "The Truth" that was brought by the Holy Spirit, also refers to Him as "The Comforter." (John 14:26) That title is not deep or confusing when you consider the picture we've drawn here. If you answered in the affirmative my earlier question about ever being lost, can you not easily see what a comfort a "guide" can be? How comforting it is to know that you have someone that "knows the way" to home or safety?

Allow me a little writer's discretion here in order to paraphrase what Christ told His disciples would happen when The Comforter came. He told them that He would lead them "into all truth." That He would "teach them" and that He would bring to them "remembrance of all things." (John 14:26) Thus, the Holy Spirit provided The Gospel of Christ to those who put it on paper for us to know. I ask you, does it take any great mental leap for us to see how the Holy Spirit "guides" us today?

The underlying theme of the book of Proverbs is to know and understand the "wisdom of God" and to know that by following it as a guide, that it will lead its followers to righteousness. Proverbs also points out that "man's wisdom" is a poor guide and if we follow it, we'll be lost. Not just while traveling through life, but lost eternally. Basically, we could say that there is no "comfort" in following the lead of man because the ways he guides us may look alright, but at the end of the trail we'll find that he's led us into "the ways of death." (Prov. 14:12)

Okay, here's the simple culmination to our simple lesson on the Holy Spirit. We have the choice of following whatever guide we want to follow. We can follow ourselves, but if we do so we'll find that we have no way of finding our own way to heaven. We're a poor guide and heaven help us if we are so presumptuous as to try to lead others there by our reckoning. (Remember the "blind leading the blind?")

If we choose to follow some other guide who may tell us they know the way, just understand that they are no better as a guide than we are. We're still going to be lost in the "wilderness of sin." The only reliable guide we can have to lead us to the place of eternal safety, and be our Comforter on the way, is the Holy Spirit. That's why Paul told us in Romans that those who "are led by the Spirit of God" are children of God. (I encourage you to also read verses 1-27 in Romans 8 regarding my presentation of the Holy Spirit.)

And here's the final thought we can derive from Paul's statement there. In hunter's terms, God only has one "licensed guide" and that is His Holy Spirit. Thus, those following "unlicenced guides" cannot and will not be His Children. Again, it's a matter of choice and should we so choose, just be forewarned that there will be no comfort either on the journey or at the end.

Ron Covey

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Southern California, a hot-bed of earthquake activity

 

For our editorial lesson today I'd like to talk for a few moments about "preparation." As in, how prepared are you for an event that, as I write this, is still coming at sometime in the future. And, I'm sure that you can figure out the "event" of which I speak. The great day of our Lord's return. Also known as, the Day of Judgment.

When you think about it, that really is a misnomer. It could more accurately be entitled: The Day of Sentencing. The "judgment" is going on right now. Our lives are being judged by the only "righteous Judge" (2 Tim. 4:8) and when our days come to a close, there is no way of changing anything. Our case has been heard and, in keeping with the theme of our lesson, there will be no more time for preparation to be made for this event. Our soul will just be awaiting sentencing.

In thinking about "preparation" or "being prepared" we have numerous examples to look at that can help illustrate our lesson today. We here at Highland are located in Southern California, a hot-bed of earthquake activity. Periodically we're shown where the faults are located by our local newspapers and television stations. And, we're always being advised to prepare for "the big one" by having our "earthquake kits" stocked and ready. I wonder how many of us do.

And, there are other examples we can look at regarding "preparation." How about New Orleans? Do you think very many of the inhabitants were prepared for the devastation of the hurricane and the flood due to the subsequent breach of the levee? Even though they lived within sight of the levee and had been warned of its insecurity? Obviously they weren't.

We saw in the great fires of a couple of years ago that many of those whose houses burned down were not prepared insurance-wise for a catastrophe. Every now and then we hear about someone lost in the mountains because they went hiking there and were unprepared for weather changes or unfamiliar territory.

Christ gave us a great example of "being prepared" when he told His disciples the parable of the "wise and foolish virgins" in Matt. 25:1-13. They all knew about the wedding and they knew that they would have to wait for the wedding party to arrive, it's just that they didn't know exactly when their arrival time was to be. In other words, they did not know how long they would have to wait. You know the story, half of them were prepared and half not prepared even though they all had the same information and knowledge.

I heard a story the other day about a man who I'm going to hold up as an example of one who IS prepared and it's his story that inspired my thoughts today.

It seems that there was a man whose job is to find executives for large companies. They call them "headhunters" and they basically recruit executives from other companies to switch to the ones they work for. This particular "headhunter" had what he thought was a great system for analyzing a potential executive. It was a system designed to get the interviewee relaxed and off guard and then ask them a question that would consternate them and he'd watch their reaction.

His system was to disarm them by offering them something to drink and then take his coat off, undo his tie and prop his feet up. He would then engage them in a conversation about sports, family, travel, whatever, until he felt that the person was relaxed. Then he'd sit up, lean over and look them directly in the eye and ask: "What's your purpose in life?" He said that it always amazed him how many of them would fall apart at this question.

It's one of his interviewees that turned the tables on him with his answer to "the question." When the headhunter looked him straight in the eye and asked him his purpose in life, the man simply replied, "To go the heaven and take as many people with me as I can."

The headhunter said that, for the first time in his career, he was speechless. And I would imagine so, because he had encountered someone who was prepared. Someone who was ready, because that's what "prepared" means. I would say that this man would be one who had brought extra oil for his lamp, wouldn't you?

Here's our lesson. Ask yourself the same question, "What's your purpose in life?" and then think about your answer. Or, let's put it this way - "How much oil did you bring for your wait for the bridegroom's arrival?"

Ron Covey

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Governor Lew Wallace

I've been thinking for some time now about writing a short series of editorials about The Bible. Today I'll commence with that endeavor, so this editorial constitutes the first installment of the series. I don't know how many installments there will eventually be, but probably not a whole lot. And, they will be interspersed with other lessons.
As most of you know by now, I'm a history buff so it stands to reason that our first lesson in this series will relate to history. I'm going to use the life and the accomplishments of a famous American to illustrate this lesson today, and especially his own remarks about one of his accomplishments.
This famous person of which I speak is a man named Lew Wallace. Some of you may be asking, "Who's he? What's he famous for?" And, I'm sure that some of you recognize his name right off. He was (and is) a tremendously interesting character in American history. I'll talk briefly about his accomplishments and then focus upon one of them to make our point.
Lew Wallace was born in Indiana in 1827, a state where his father was later to become Governor. In 1846 the U.S. became engaged in a war with Mexico that lasted until 1848. Lew served as a Lieutenant with an Indiana Regiment during that conflict. After the war, he became a lawyer, but according to his own remarks, didn't care much for that occupation so did not really engage in it.
He served as a State Senator in Indiana until the Civil War began, whereupon he was appointed Colonel of an Indiana outfit. Before the war was over, he had been promoted to Major General. He served on the commission that tried the assassination conspirators of President Lincoln. After the war, he was appointed Governor of the New Mexico Territory where he was involved in quelling the Lincoln County War and thus was acquainted with Billy the Kid.
Following his term as Governor of New Mexico, he was appointed by the President to be the U.S. Minister to the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). He had one other accomplishment that we're going to look at in a moment, but look at what we've seen about him already. He was an officer (Lieutenant) in one war, a Major General in the Civil War, a lawyer, a State Senator, a Governor and basically, an Ambassador. A pretty interesting and successful life in those achievements alone, isn't it? But, he was also an author of both books and poetry and it's in this realm that we draw our lesson.
Lew Wallace is probably more known for one book that he wrote than any of his other achievements. That book is entitled: "Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ."
Actually it's in the background of the writing of this book and his own comments, plus those of other authors and historians, that provided me with my thoughts for today's lesson.
The first thing I'd like to comment about is, that Lew Wallace was not a Christian when he started out to write this book. His initial idea was to present Christ as a mere man and not as Divine. He became a Christian through his study of the life of Christ while preparing to write the book.
It was said that an atheistic friend of his once made a prediction to him that within a few years all of the little white churches in Indiana would only be a memory. They'd all be gone, as would religion in general. Wallace said later that he had no answer with which to argue his friend's assertion because he had no personal convictions regarding God or Jesus Christ. He said in his memoirs about writing the book, that he was ignorant of such elemental Christian things as God, life-hereafter and the Divinity of Christ.
He immediately decided to study them in order to have his own convictions about these things. Do you know what source he used as a study guide? The Bible itself. And this was at a time (1880) when there was a great upheaval of religion in America and many of today's false doctrines were being founded. There were many other "sources" he could have looked at, but he didn't. The Bible alone.
In studying the Bible, he said that he would trust his own logic and training to lead him to the proper conclusions. It's through this study, and the use of his training and intellect that he became convinced that Christ was indeed the Son of God and was Himself Divine. It's reported that he said that no man can read the Bible with an open mind desiring to know the truth in regard to Jesus Christ without becoming convinced of His divinity.
So, his most famous work, what he considered to be his greatest accomplishment, the book, "Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ" was changed from its original concept of Jesus Christ being just another man, to the presentation of Jesus Christ as the Divine Son of God. And the study of the Bible alone, convinced the author, Lew Wallace, to become a Christian.
That's all that's needed for Christianity. If we use the Bible, the Word of God, as it was intended to be used, as the sole source of man's approach to how to be pleasing to God, there would be no divisions in religion. No false doctrines to delude mankind. It worked for Lew Wallace. It will work for anyone.
Ron Covey

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Punxsutawney Phil

 
In Groundhog We Trust

We might as well get ready for the reports. On February
2, just as in years past, there will be news reports
from Punxsutawney, PA.

This town of just over 6,000 residents attracts
thousands for the annual ritual of the groundhog.
Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his burrow on that
date. The nation will wait anxiously to see if Phil
sees his shadow.

The tradition began in this Pennsylvania town in 1886,
but goes deeper in time in Europe. If the groundhog
sees his shadow, we are told, he will be frightened
into returning to his burrow and another six weeks of
winter weather will ensue.

Everyone hopes Phil doesn't see his shadow!

Does anyone today really believe this method of
climatology? Do we put away our winter clothes if we
hear that Phil didn't see his shadow? Or is it just
good-natured fun that doesn't affect any of our
decisions?

Sadly, many approach their religion in much the same
way. Though they profess belief that Jesus emerged from
his grave long ago, nothing really changes in their
lives as a result of that belief.

Their values, their behavior, their speech — they're
all about the same as anyone else's.

Paul wrote about how our lives should change: "For if
we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God
will bring with him those who sleep in him"
(1 Thessalonians 4:14).

Because Jesus rose, we will all be raised one day. And
then what? That's the point at which our faith begins
to show.

Peter was more direct: "Therefore, since all these
things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought
you to be in holy conduct and godliness" (2 Peter
2:11).

The fact that Jesus rose from the grave and will return
to earth some day should affect the way we live in the
meantime.

Punxsutawney Phil is based on nothing more than fables.
Our religion in Christ is not based on fables. "For we
did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made
known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter
1:16).

Peter knew his faith was based on reality. So is ours
if we follow the apostles' doctrine.

We'll all chuckle and wink knowingly when we hear the
report from Pennsylvania next week. Then we'll go on
with our lives as if nothing happened. May that never
be the case with the way we view Jesus' resurrection!
 
 by Tim Hall

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Livermore, California

Let Your Light Shine

Hanging from the ceiling of a firehouse in Livermore, California is a light bulb.  This light bulb has become very popular recently, and it has stirred up much attention.  It even has its own web-site.  From this web-site you can read all sorts of information about the light bulb, and you can actually watch it 24 hours a day.  So why has this light bulb been given so much attention?  It is because this particular light bulb has been functioning for over 106 years.  I do not think I have to tell you, but that is a long time for a light bulb to be functioning.  This makes me wonder how many people this particular light bulb has effected.  How many people would have been lost in a dark room if it were not for this light bulb showing them the way?  This makes me think of what Jesus once said when He told His disciples, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).  How many people have you effected in your life?  How many people would be lost in a dark world if not for your light showing them the way to the Father?  I will probably never live to be 106 years old.  Most (if not all) of you will never live to see 106 years, but while you are here, let your light shine.

 

--Garrett Bookout

 

Anton Chekhov

"Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice."
Anton Chekhov, Russian physician, playwright and master of the short story (1860-1904)

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Can a world created by a loving, omnipotent God experience devastating earthquakes as the magnitude 7.0 in Haiti


Haiti: Hated or Loved?

Bertrand Russell, a 20th Century atheistic philosopher, claimed that no one could sit by the bedside of a child with a terminal disease and believe in a loving God. 1

A question that is surely being asked now: "Can a world created by a loving, omnipotent God experience devastating earthquakes as the magnitude 7.0 in Haiti ?"  Before this quake perhaps 80% of the people lived in abject poverty, with children composing about half the population.

A song entitled, "Tell Me the Story of Jesus," contains the following lyrics:

"Tell of the years of His labor,
Tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted,
Homeless, rejected and poor...

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain."

During the course of His brief earthly life, Jesus, God's one and only Son, bore excruciating (this word derives from "crucifixion") sorrow and suffering (cf. Hebrews 12:2).  In spite of all this, can there be any doubt of God the Father's constant love for His Son?  At Jesus' baptism, God's voice from heaven said, "This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

Fanny J. Crosby, who wrote the lyrics of "Tell Me the Story of Jesus," lost her eyesight when about six weeks old (due evidently to a medical mistake).  Instead of blaming God or saying there is no God or no loving God, her long life of 95 years was filled with writing over 8,000 hymns of praise.  She came to view her blindness as a special gift from God that stimulated other gifts and talents. 2

The Bible teaches that whatever one's lot on earth, whatever mixture of happiness and tears, life after death for people of God can be described as eternal joy and complete absence of "mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:3-4).

Bertrand Russell felt unable to reconcile the situation of a terminally ill child with belief in a loving God...  A minister who had experience with dying children challenged this unbeliever to explain what he himself could offer such a child.  An atheist could only say something like, "Sorry, that's how it goes.  This is the end of everything for you."

Contrast this hopeless declaration with such promises as in John 3:16 -- 
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

God loves Haitians and all others in the world.  He provides and offers to ALL hope in this life and eternal life through His Son.  "Whosoever will" may accept His offer by believing and trusting Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27).

Will YOU accept His offer?

-- Allen Dixon & David A. Sargent

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"State of the Union" address

"The State Of Things"

Last evening Barack Obama, President of the United States of America,
delivered the annual "State of the Union" address.  The speech is as
much a tradition as it is a message designed to convey information.
George Washington delivered the first such address in 1790 in New York
City (which then served as the infant nation's capital).  The U.S.
Constitution mandates that the President make such a summary of the
condition of the nation's affairs "from time to time".

Our purpose is not to examine the content of President Obama's speech,
but to merely note that it is customary.  It's a good thing, we
believe, to step back and assess how things are going for the country,
and to propose new policy or to criticize outdated methods.

Congress is not the only place where such speeches are delivered.
Virtually every state of the Union now has such an event.  On January
6 of this year, the Governor of California delivered his "State of the
State" address.  Citizens of Arizona heard a message from their
governor on January 11, and a "State of the Commonwealth" speech was
heard in Kentucky on January 6.

What might happen if each of us developed an annual "state of my life"
message?  Would we see things we normally don't?  Would we be moved to
address deficiencies we presently have?

King Hezekiah of Judah received such a challenge from God: "In those
days Hezekiah was sick and near death.  And Isaiah the prophet, the
son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, 'Thus says the Lord: "Set
your house in order, for you shall die, and not live"'" (2 Kings
20:1).  "Set your house in order" meant that Hezekiah would first have
to take inventory.  How else would he know what needed to be set in
order?

The account in 2 Kings 20 goes on to state that the king was given a
reprieve.  Instead of facing imminent death, Hezekiah was granted an
additional 15 years (2 Kings 20:6).  But did the added time mean that
he no longer had to set his house in order?

How does God see me?  James says we can know how we appear to the
Lord: "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is
like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes
himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was"
(James 1:23,24).  Discovering how God sees us is a simple matter: Read
His word, the Bible.

That's precisely where so many fail.  With so many activities
demanding our time and attention, Bible reading ranks low on our list
of priorities (Christians included).  Churchgoers used to be
conversant in the details of this Holy Book.  Spiritual IQs today, we
suspect, have dropped sharply.

God challenges us to prepare a "state of my life" address, looking
honestly into His word for the standards He has set.  We would do well
to imitate the example of some Luke mentioned: "These were more fair-
minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with
all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether
these things were so" (Acts 17:11).

Begin searching the Scriptures today.  Learn what God thinks of your
current condition.

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

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I don't know why God just doesn't let me die


One of the problems with our society (maybe most) is that there are often too many people who want to be the leader and not enough followers. I remember in grade school that all of the guys wanted to be the captain (the chooser) of whatever game we were playing. They wanted to be in control of things, not a new idea, but often it goes on far too long and affects far too much of our life.

It's surprising how early this trait arises in our lives. Our daughter-in-law Mylinda shared with us this incident about our 2 ½ year old grand daughter, Allison. She told us she is in the grips of what is known as the "terrible two's" and wants everything done her way, so they are fighting that battle now. One day last week her older brother went in to her bedroom to kiss her good night and as he was leaving she commanded, "No, you sit down".

Allison is trying to find her place in the pecking order of the family, she it trying her best to have things done her way and in her own way, to control things and people around her. When it doesn't work she sometimes even turns to trying the "tantrum," but she has yet to figure out that doesn't work either, it often brings chastisement.

Here's the problem. She is only two and we expect two year olds to act that way, it is part of growing and finding out the limits of family and society. The problem is, that some of us, full grown adults, have not yet figured out that we can't always have it our way. That we are not in command or in control of the world, our society and sometimes even what happens in our own lives.

I read of a preacher visiting an old man in a nursing home with a variety of health problems. He told the preacher, "I don't know why God just doesn't let me die!" To which the preacher replied, "Well, maybe God has something else he wants you to do." The old man screws up his face in a scowl and said, "Well, I'm not going to do it."

I think this happens to many people in our world. Things don't happen in their lives the way they want, they are no longer in control and sadly, far too often with those who claim to belong to God. They said, "Lord here is my life, use me," but when their life takes a turn they don't like they say, "I'm not going to do it."

Do you remember those troublesome words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20? He said, "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (NLT) That should be our goal, that attitude should be what we are striving to develop in our lives. The problem is that far too often we take the attitude of a 2 year old and say, "No, you sit down," "God you do what I say," "you do what I ask," or even, "you don't love me because you didn't make my life come out the way I wanted."

At some point, if we ever hope to be happy in Christ, we will need to realize that we are not in control of our world. When we can grow to the point of giving up control and submitting ourselves to God, we will find happiness, effectiveness and peace.

Russ Lawson

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Pro life Super Bowl commercial

TEBOW'S FINEST ACCOMPLISHMENT
Neal Pollard

I am an admitted "Gator Hater."  Growing up a huge fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, it is expected of you not to like the University of Florida.  It is nothing personal; it is wholesale, institutional prejudice.  While I am not likely to ever root for their football team to have a winning season, their soon to be alumni, superstar quarterback is now one of my heroes.  I have tried to ignore his wholesome image and even his deep, religious conviction. Wag your head in shame at me if you will, but he killed my Bulldogs every year!

But his latest effort has me in permanent awe of him.  It did not happen on any gridiron.  It happened in a production studio, the work of private donors who paid the exorbitant cost for Focus On The Family to run a 30-second-ad during the Super Bowl.  Feminist groups (one of them called it "extraordinarily demeaning and offensive") and abortion advocacy groups, all of whom I thought were supposed to be pro "choice," have excoriated Focus, CBS, and the Tebows, for running a "divisive" advertisement (I suppose "pro-choice" must mean "for" the "choice" of "abortion only"?).  They are circulating online petitions to get the ad removed from the ranks of Super Bowl commercials (which includes some illustrious, wholesome spots--remember last year?!).  Tebow held a news conference to address why he would appear in the ad, and he simply said he was standing up for what he and his mom so strongly believed to be right.  Tim's mom, Penny, supposedly shares her decision not to have an abortion despite her doctor's recommendation that she do so.  Several advocacy groups automatically conclude that this makes it a political commercial. Perhaps they fear a likable sports superstar telling the public that it is a good thing to choose life will be harmful to the cause they seemingly cherish dearly.

Tebow has been criticized roundly and repeatedly for dragging his faith out onto the field.  It may cost him endorsements.  In the current culture, it might even hurt his NFL draft position (although I would not hold my breath for that; have you seen him play?!).  There is much hypocrisy here.  Feminists groups ignoring the repeated, worsening sexual objectification of women in nearly any type of commercial.  Abortion groups decrying someone promoting the "other" choice.  Critics who do not mind hedonism, materialism, agnosticism, and the like paraded, but convulse at any sign of theism.  
Yet, here is what stands out most to me.  Tebow is willing to risk criticism, personal loss, and stigmatism to stand up for principles firmly rooted in biblical teaching.  
What am I willing to risk for my Lord and His will?  Thanks for the challenge, Tim.  I wish you well.

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Charles Gordon

"If you tell the truth, you have infinite power supporting you; but if not, you have infinite power against you."



Charles Gordon, British army officer and administrator (1833-1885)

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"WHO IS A GOD LIKE YOU?"

Micah is a book that is filled with some hard, divine judgment due to some pretty wicked behavior on the part of both Israel and Judah (1:1).  God, through Micah, calls them His enemy (2:8).   They devise evil on their beds at night and carried it out in the morning light (2:1). They hated good and loved evil (3:2). Their spiritual leaders led them away from Him (3:5ff).  They were anxious to do evil with "both hands" (7:3) and were willing to betray even their own brother (7:2).  These were grim moral times among the people of God, yet Micah's message is filled with future hope and even promises concerning the Messiah (5:2) and a passage Jesus quotes in His ministry (7:6).  
Micah ends the prophesy with some of the most hopeful language of the entire Old Testament, when he says,

 
"Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing
over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever, because He
delights in mercy.  He will again have compassion on us, and
will subdue our iniquities.  You will cast all our
 sins into the depths of the sea.  You will give truth
 to Jacob and mercy to Abraham which You have sworn
 to our fathers from days of old" (7:18-20). 
Micah asks, then answers, one of the most important questions of all time and eternity.  Who is a God like the God of the Bible?  
Examine the world religions and their gods are fallible, human, and unsafe to follow.  They do not possess nor dispense truth.  The idol gods are made by hands.  The gods of self are made by minds.  But the God of the Bible was not made.  He made all.
God is unique, according to Micah, because of many basic, important qualities:
  • Ability and willingness to forgive (18)
  • A mercy which mitigates His holy anger (18).
  • A compassion that subdues iniquities (19).
  • The giver of truth (20).
  • The One who keeps His promises (20).

Consider how valuable each of these five basic traits is to how we view our past, present, and future.  God possesses everything we need and gives to those of us who ask and submit to Him.  Why would we look elsewhere for God than where He clearly makes Himself known to us?  As the youth song suggests, "There's no God like Jehovah!"
 
 --Neal Pollard

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Get thee up into the high mountain Isaiah 40:9

       "Get thee up into the high mountain." 
              -- Isaiah 40:9

Our knowledge of Christ is somewhat like climbing one of our Welsh
mountains. When you are at the base you see but little: the mountain
itself appears to be but one-half as high as it really is. Confined in
a little valley, you discover scarcely anything but the rippling brooks
as they descend into the stream at the foot of the mountain. Climb the
first rising knoll, and the valley lengthens and widens beneath your
feet. Go higher, and you see the country for four or five miles round,
and you are delighted with the widening prospect. Mount still, and the
scene enlarges; till at last, when you are on the summit, and look
east, west, north, and south, you see almost all England lying before
you. Yonder is a forest in some distant county, perhaps two hundred
miles away, and here the sea, and there a shining river and the smoking
chimneys of a manufacturing town, or the masts of the ships in a busy
port. All these things please and delight you, and you say, "I could
not have imagined that so much could be seen at this elevation." Now,
the Christian life is of the same order. When we first believe in
Christ we see but little of him. The higher we climb the more we
discover of his beauties. But who has ever gained the summit? Who has
known all the heights and depths of the love of Christ which passes
knowledge? Paul, when grown old, sitting grey-haired, shivering in a
dungeon in Rome, could say with greater emphasis than we can, "I know
whom I have believed," for each experience had been like the climbing
of a hill, each trial had been like ascending another summit, and his
death seemed like gaining the top of the mountain, from which he could
see the whole of the faithfulness and the love of him to whom he had
committed his soul. Get thee up, dear friend, into the high mountain.



EVENING:

       "The dove found no rest for the sole of her foot." 
              -- Genesis 8:9

Reader, can you find rest apart from the ark, Christ Jesus? Then be
assured that your religion is vain. Are you satisfied with anything
short of a conscious knowledge of your union and interest in Christ?
Then woe unto you. If you profess to be a Christian, yet find full
satisfaction in worldly pleasures and pursuits, your profession is
false. If your soul can stretch herself at rest, and find the bed long
enough, and the coverlet broad enough to cover her in the chambers of
sin, then you are a hypocrite, and far enough from any right thoughts
of Christ or perception of his preciousness. But if, on the other hand,
you feel that if you could indulge in sin without punishment, yet it
would be a punishment of itself; and that if you could have the whole
world, and abide in it for ever, it would be quite enough misery not to
be parted from it; for your God-your God-is what your soul craves
after; then be of good courage, thou art a child of God. With all thy
sins and imperfections, take this to thy comfort: if thy soul has no
rest in sin, thou are not as the sinner is! If thou art still crying
after and craving after something better, Christ has not forgotten
thee, for thou hast not quite forgotten him. The believer cannot do
without his Lord; words are inadequate to express his thoughts of him.
We cannot live on the sands of the wilderness, we want the manna which
drops from on high; our skin bottles of creature confidence cannot
yield us a drop of moisture, but we drink of the rock which follows us,
and that rock is Christ. When you feed on him your soul can sing, "He
hath satisfied my mouth with good things, so that my youth is renewed
like the eagle's," but if you have him not, your bursting wine vat and
well-filled barn can give you no sort of satisfaction: rather lament
over them in the words of wisdom, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!"
--Spurgeon

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irrational fears

       "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
                        The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
                                                                                                                    Psalm 27:1
"I'm afraid of __________." "Or, I'm afraid that ___________." Have you ever made either of those two statements? I'm sure that you have as I know that I've certainly done so on occasion. And I'm pretty sure that we've all said or heard those things being uttered before so I'm going to spend a few moments today discussing "fears" and "being afraid."
Now I'm not going to talk about "irrational fears," you know, those kinds of fears that rational people don't think about. The kinds of fears that are unreasonable or illogical. Fears that are "senseless" or that have no basis to be a fear. I'll give you a prime example of this type of fear in a moment.
But first, let me remind you of a condition of fear mentioned quite a few times throughout the Bible. In several places it states that they were "sore afraid." We don't hear that condition mentioned much anymore, do we? The best definition I ever heard of "sore afraid" was given by an old black preacher who once said "Brethren, if you be 'sore afraid,' you're flat-scared."
My example of an "irrational fear" is one that I will relate about myself. I have to journey back to the days of my youth and that gets to be a longer trip every time I do so. Back to the time when Hollywood first started producing the "horror" movies. The first horror movie that I ever watched was "The Thing." Not the bloody, gory remake, but the original black and white version where James Arness played The Thing.
For a long time after seeing that movie I had trouble going to sleep at night because of an irrational fear brought on by that movie. You see, there was a closet in my bedroom and inside that closet was a crawl hole into the attic of our house. I would lay there in bed watching that closet door until I finally went to sleep because I knew that The Thing or some other form of mutant monster was going to come through the crawl hole, into my closet then right out that door and get me.
Granted I can look back and recognize that fear as being irrational, but let me tell you, at 9 years old, there was nothing senseless or illogical about it at all. And that's one of the points I want to make in our discussion today. Our fears change with time, don't they? Our fears change in nature as we get older. The things that we feared when we were young, when we were in our 20's, 30's and 40's have been sort of put aside and different ones have taken their place.
I'm no longer afraid that the Martians are going to come and destroy us. I'm not afraid that "the Bomb" is going to drop on Los Angeles and wipe us all out. I guess that I'm really not afraid of what other men can do to us. Yes, we live in a violent world and can be a victim at any time, but my fears really don't dwell on that. I think that as we get older we tend to better understand what is important for us to be afraid of.
Oh yes, I am "concerned" that, because evil abounds in our world, something could happen to myself, or more especially, to my loved ones. I think we accept the possibility that things like that can happen to anybody at anytime. But what I've become "afraid of" is different at this stage of my life and I'm reasonably sure that most of you feel the same way.
When I look about me at my little corner of the world and then see the other corners in the news, I'm afraid: that people have forgotten God. I'm afraid: that perhaps our country has become so much like Israel of old that we've left God and gone too far to ever return to being a "God-fearing" nation.
I'm afraid: that, as a nation, we've accepted so much aberrant behavior that it will cease to be aberrant to us. That to our society it will become "normal." And, I'm afraid: that we're already seeing that this has happened in our younger generation of people. In relation to this situation, there's an old saying that is so true: "What one generation accepts, the next generation embraces."
No, I don't worry anymore and I'm not afraid anymore of what man can or might do to me. I'm not even afraid of outer space aliens or atom bombs. With the peace of mind that comes with being a Christian, I can take the words of Jesus to heart when He said for us to "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul..." (Matt. 10:28)
But, what I do need to be afraid of is His warning immediately following that statement: "but rather fear him which is able to destroy both the soul and the body in hell." You see, the "HIM" in that verse that can destroy my soul is ME.
I need to be afraid: of allowing Satan to get a hold in my life and cause me to leave God. I need to be afraid: of losing or forgetting any part of my armor and not being able to stand against "the wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6:11). I need to be afraid: of allowing the carnal man to overcome the spiritual man. Why do I say these things? Because when you're afraid, you'll be on alert. You'll take precautions to not let it happen. Or, you'll watch that closet door to make sure it stays closed.
Ron Covey

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The gospel is God's power to salvation

In Rom. 1:16 Paul said the "gospel is God's power to salvation" to "everyone that believes." Do you believe the gospel is God's power to salvation? Are you looking for a sermon on "the gospel is God's power to salvation?" There is a free sermon about the gospel and how it is God's power to salvation at www.abiblecommentary.com at this link:
 

Adolphe Monod

"Between the great things we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing."


Adolphe Monod, French theologian (1802-1856)

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Monday, January 25, 2010

ARE YOU MARRIED?

 
    "Turn O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you..." (Jeremiah 3:14). This verse teaches us that the physical nation of Israel was spiritually married to God. Furthermore, it was the OT Law that was the "marriage contract" between them.
    However, while married, Israel had forgotten her vows and obligations, thus committing spiritual adultery. "Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers" (Jer. 3:1). "Thou hast forsaken Me" (Jer. 2:13). Even the preachers in God's Israel were committing spiritual adultery by preaching falsehood (Jer. 23:13-16). As a result, God divorced physical Israel and refused to take them back. In Jer. 7:16, God told Jeremiah, "Don't even pray for these people, for I will not hear thee!" 
    In God's law, there are two situations that allows for re-marriage. One of them is the death of the marriage partner. In Romans 7:4, we learn that since "God" died (in the form of Jesus), the Jews were freed from their first marriage covenant, so they could marry again.
    Before the marriage, there is the betrothal. In 2Corinthians 11:2, "For I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a pure virgin to Christ"  How? By adorning them in "sound doctrine." We are told, "Adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (Titus 2:10).  Without the adornment of the doctrine of Christ, man does not have God with him (2John 9).
   Has the "Bride's attire," i.e. "sound doctrine," been forgotten today?  Paul warned, "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine..." (2Timothy 4:3). It's only TRUTH that will set man free (John 8:32), nothing else!
    Glamorous preachers, with smooth tongues may recite cute nursery rhymes, bedtime stories, quote poems, give dissertations on philosophy, and shallow sermonettes, but such things will never convict any man of his sins, or convert him to Jesus Christ.  Today, as always, there is a need for preaching sound doctrine.  Think of the consequences if Peter had preached a nicely polished, generalized sermonette on the day of Pentecost, rather than telling the people they were guilty of crucifying the Son of God (Ax 2:23).  A tragedy today is that many good and honest people are not being told what they must do to be saved, and being misinformed, they are never married to Christ.
    God was greatly concerned when Israel forgot the Brides Attire (sound doctrine), and He charged the priests and prophets with spiritual adultery, with walking in lies, and compromising His word! (Jeremiah 23).  Do you think God's attitude has changed when modern preachers do the same thing? or do you believe "Our God changeth not" (Malachi 3:6).
    By adorning one's self with the doctrine of Christ, the sincere penitent believer surrenders his life to Christ to love, honor, and obey throughout this life.
    One is not spiritually married to Christ until his relationship with the world is changed, and that relationship changes when one believes, repents, and is baptized in the right way for the right reason (Romans 6:3-7; Galatians 3:27). Baptism is the completion of the marriage "ceremony."
    As the wife is subject to her "head" (1Corinthians 11:3), so is the church subject to her "Head" (Christ - Ephesians 5:24). There is no authority on this earth that has any authority over the true church that is "of Christ" (Colossians 2:20-22).  He has "all authority" (Matt. 28:18), and He is Head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), and all things are to be done according to His authority (Colossians 3:17). If things in the church are not done according to His authority, the conclusion is simple: It is NOT His church!                               - - Toby Miller

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Inherit the rewards of Christianity

I'm not sure what to entitle today's lesson. Last Sunday we discussed the current economic situation and "greed." I'd sort of like to stick to using the current news about the economy and see if we can't draw some spiritual applications from it. At least we're going to try, so here goes.

Personally speaking, I'm not affected directly by the stock market, mainly because I've never had enough money to consider investing in it, but like everyone I will be affected by the domino effect of the "value" of things going down. I've always had a pretty simple philosophy when it came to money - if I had it I spent it and when it ran out, I quit spending. And, like most of us who worked for salary, most of it went towards paying the bills and for the family necessities of life.

One of the things I see that helped bring about our current economic situation is, that a lot of people were like me in a partial sense. They spent their money, but when it ran out, they didn't quit! They spent a lot of money that they didn't really have, running up huge debts and never considering that someday there might have to be an accounting. Guess what? Someday is here.

I have one other thought about the stock market, and I stress right here, that this is simply my opinion and, in the realm of opinions, it's probably no better than any other persons' on the subject. But, it is mine and one of the reasons that I never seriously considered being involved with the stock market is because I considered it no different that any other form of gambling.

See, I told you we might cross opinions. I just saw the market as me giving someone else my money and telling them to invest it for me and hopefully it will increase in value and I'll make money. Or, even if I did my own investing, it's still a gamble as to whether it would be of value to me later on. Now this is an important point that leads us into the spiritual aspect of our lesson.

Value. Or, what is valuable to us? One of the things we can take note of when times get economically strained, like now, is that the value of our "things" change, don't they. When we have to pare down to what's important in our lives, a lot of things that we placed value in are suddenly relegated to a lower position. Yes, our values change when times get tough.

Money suddenly takes on a different aspect, doesn't it? That can be easily seen and proven by the news of a lot of people pulling their money out of banks and savings institutions and figuring that they can do a better job of protecting it than they can. And the current financial mess seems to prove them right. So, let's talk a moment about "money."

A famous person once said, "Sharing money is what gives it it's value." I agree with that premise because, when you really think about it, money does us no good unless it's used. Hoarding it may let us hang on to it a little longer but, when you get right down to it, it has no value until it's used. So, the idea then is to use it wisely. I think that another underlying cause for our economic/financial mess is that many did not make "wise use" of their (or others) money. And, I fully understand that in many cases, that is not realized until "after the fact."

Now here's our spiritual application to "money." Do you know that Christianity is just like money in the aspect of value? What I'm saying here is, that you're Christianity has to be used to be of any value. You cannot "hoard" Christianity. That would be like "hoarding" the Gospel, the Good News given to the world by Jesus Christ.

If you wish to make an application of this principle to the "stock market" we can do so in this manner. If we are going to "invest" in The Gospel, in Christianity, we have to put something into it. We can't just say we're Christians, we have to actually do the things that Christians are directed by The Word to do. And, the major difference between "investing" in Christ and "investing" in the stock market is that there is no gamble in Jesus Christ. Heaven and eternal life is a sure thing if we "use" our Christian "money," IE: our talents for the cause of Christ. Then, and only then, does it have a value to us. By the way, Elvis Presley was the "famous person" who made the quotation about "sharing money."

One last thought here regarding the value of Christianity. Even though the "Gospel is free," as in, it's a "gift," we can't buy it or in someway merit it, we still have to make an "investment" in it. We "invest" our temporal, physical lives in our Christianity and all that implies, for a return on that investment in the form of eternal life in paradise with Christ and The Father.

Christianity, therefore, is not a hobby. It is our life's work and is the only sure investment we can make. We know how shaky investing in things of this world can be, don't we? One last quotation and the lesson is yours. In regards to the Gospel being "free" notice something said by a man named A.J. Gossip in 1924. I think it fits nicely with our thoughts today. He said.... "The Gospel is free, as free as the Victoria Cross. Anyone can have it that's prepared to face the risks."

We can all inherit the rewards of Christianity if we're prepared to face the responsibilities that come with being a Christian, not merely claiming to be one. And if we do, we'll receive the greatest return on an investment that one can possibly get. Because it's guaranteed by God and not man.

Ron Covey

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preacher in Vietnam

MY DEAR FRIENDS...,
 
You know around here we are experiencing hardships, but we thank the Lord He is comforting us and caring for us in every way.  When we experience misfortune, adversity, distress and hardship, only then do we see the real blessing of the Lord poured down on us in such a way that we cannot contain it.
 
We have been obliged recently to leave our modest apartment and for over two months have been living on a balcony.  The rain has been beating down and soaking us.  Sometimes in the middle of the night we are forced to gather our blankets and run to seek refuge in a stairwell. 
 
Do you know what I do then?  I laugh and praise the Lord, because we can still take shelter in the stairwell.  I think of how many people are experiencing much worse hardships than I am.  Then I remember the words of Scripture, "To the poor, O Lord, You are a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat" (Isaiah 25:4), and I am greatly comforted. 
 
Our Father is the One who according to the Scriptures does not break the bruised reed nor put out the flickering lamp.  He is the One who looks after the orphan and the widow.  He is the One who brings blessings and peace to numberless people.
 
I do not know what words to use in order to describe the love that the Lord has shown our family.  I only can bow the knee and my heart and offer to the Lord words of deepest thanks and praise.  Although we have lost our house and possessions, we have not lost the Lord, and He is enough.  With the Lord I have everything.  The only thing I would fear losing is His blessing!
 
Could I ask you and our friends in the church to continue to pray for me that I will faithfully follow the Lord and serve Him regardless of what the circumstances may be?
 
As far as my husband is concerned, I wass able to visit hiim this past summer.  We had a 20-minute conversation that brought us great joy...
 
I greet you with my love.
Mrs. Nguyen Thi An (Letter found in "Margin," by Richard A. Swenson)
 
(Note: Mrs. An's husband was a preacher in Vietnam.  Their church was closed by police, he was thrown in prison.  Without official papers, she and her children were forced to live on a balcony outside an apartment.)  THOUGHT: Could you pray Mrs. An's prayer?  Do you have her faith?  Could you be content in her circumstances?
 
"Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."  Philippians 4:11
 
--Mike Benson

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UNCLE STUFFY AND THE 6 INCH HEELS


Our youngest son Seth loves children and in return children respond to that love and love him right back. The one problem is exists is that small children have trouble saying the name Seth, so years ago one of them started calling him "Stuffy" and it just stuck.

This past week uncle Stuffy was watching our grandchildren, Christopher, 8  years old and his little sister Allison, 2 (going on three), while their parents went out to see a movie. Stuffy and the children had a great time and everything went well. It seems that Allison had gotten some little girls high heel shoes as a Christmas present. Her mom says that Allison loves them and wants to wear them constantly. For awhile she even wanted to take them to bed with her.

When our oldest son and his wife came back to the house that evening uncle Stuffy was sitting on the sofa with his feet up and the kids playing in the room. Hanging off the toes of his size eleven feet were Alison's little 6 inch long high heel shoes. She had hung them there trying to share her most favorite thing in the world with uncle Stuffy.

You know, "our most favorite thing" is usually apparent to others. If we love cars we talk about cars constantly. If we love our house, it is the topic of conversation we most often bring up. If it is our children or grand children, people who know us, know about them. We share that which is important or special or exciting to us in hopes that others with think it important or special also.

The thing about sharing is that as we sometimes don't want to do it. Maybe we have a favorite piece of Jewelry we like to wear and have others admire, but don't really want to loan it out for someone else to wear. It may be that you have a "high class" set of tools that you are proud of, but no one else is allowed to touch. It could be that you have special, maybe even expensive books that you love, but won't let anyone else touch or read. You see the point is that most of us have something which we enjoy, treasure or cherish for some reason that is important to us. We may want to tell others about that, but don't ask us to actually share our treasure with others.

I think that some of us are like that with Jesus. We love going to church, singing the songs even praying to God, but we aren't willing to share him. I'm not sure why that is; I'm confused about the difference between sharing Jesus and sharing pictures of our grandchildren. Aren't they both important, don't we love both?

What I want to do is to encourage you to take a serious look at your life and see what your life says you really love. When you talk with people do they see what is important to you? You see, life in general has a way of getting us sidetracked from what is really important. Work, kids, clubs, collectables are all important on some level, but someday they will all be left behind. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven," (NIV).

Maybe it's time to take Jesus out of the display case, pick him up off of the coffee table, take him out of the tool box or safe and share him, really share him with others. If a little 2 ½ year old girl shared her most precious thing with uncle Stuffy, what can we share with those around us?

Russ Lawson

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

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Is God a respector of persons?

God is NOT a respecter of persons. For a free sermon on outline on how God is not a respecter of persons visit this link: http://www.abiblecommentary.com/godisnotarespectorofpersons.

A Sure Investment

One year ago the stock market peaked at a record high.  Yesterday, it plunged 679 points, deepening the current financial crisis.  This was the sixth day in a row in which the Dow suffered a triple-digit loss.  Since the peak one year ago, "frozen credit, record foreclosures, cascading job losses and outright fear have seized the market and sapped 39 percent of its value." *

In the midst of these financial woes, Eddy Gilpin asks, "What if, during these uncertain times, you could be offered a sure investment – one that would absolutely pay the greatest dividends and guarantee the safety of your capital outlay?"  I am interested, aren't you?

GOOD NEWS: There is such an offer!

This offer does not consist of those things that are material and temporal, but with those that are spiritual and eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).  This offer centers in eternal, heavenly treasures, not the fleeting treasures that this world has to offer.

Jesus said, "Do NOT lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your TREASURE is, there your HEART will be also" (Mat 6:19-21).

"What a plan! " writes Eddy Gilpin.  "A guarantee of EVERYTHING you have invested; a SURE thing in times of uncertainty; an unparalleled return on your investment – and ALL backed by the greatest 'Guarantor' ever!..
There are no market fluctuations that can alter it, no 'runs on the bank' that can stop it, no corrupt politicians that can destroy it, no institutions that can crash it, and no panic that can devalue it.  It is the only SURE investment we can make."

The offer has been made by God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Due to 
our sin, we are "bankrupt" in debt.  But due to His great love, God sent Jesus to 
"
pay the price" for our sins by dying on the cross on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21).  "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

To accept God's offer, we must: believe in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, when we continue to follow Him faithfully, He will continue to "erase our debt" (1 John 1:7).

Don't put your trust in uncertain riches! Accept God's offer of salvation and eternal, heavenly treasures today!  

It IS the only SURE investment you can make!

 -- David A. Sargent, Minister

 

"Growing In Christ"

 
 

 

The late Gus Nichols once shared the following humorous illustration with his readers:  "If a man were given a mule, a goat, a bee, and a skunk and assigned the task of making a working combination of them in order to accomplish a given work he would throw up his hands in disgust and say, 'That is impossible.' Yet, in almost every church there is a kicker, a butter, a stinger, and a stinker, and the elders have the task of trying to make all of these a united working group with the faithful of God's children" (Words of Truth, 12-10-1976).  Making the members of a local congregation work together sometimes presents a formidable task to even the wisest of godly elders.   I preached on this passage a number of years ago under the heading of "Let's Learn to Knit," from Ephesians 4:16 where Paul mentions that the "the whole body [is] framed and knit together."  The connotation in this word "knit" suggests the idea of closeness, beauty, and harmony.  Such should be the goal of every member of a local congregation.  Think with me about the growth and work of the local church and at least some of the elements mentioned in Ephesians chapter four that lead to the accomplishment of spiritual maturity.  What are some of the essentials of growing in Christ?

 

First, we must have Christ as our head (Eph. 4:15b).  There are other passages in this epistle that express the same thought.   God "gave him to be head over all the church" (Eph. 1:22).  "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body" (Eph. 5:23).  There should be no difficulty in understanding the implications of someone being the head of any organization.   In our work place we have our "boss"; in sports teams have a "head coach"; and in the military there are generals and captains from whom the orders are passed along to the enlisted personal.   A congregation will only function and grow to the extent that its members recognize that Christ is the head of the church.

 

Second, we must have growth as our goal.  A goal is defined thus: "to increase in size, amount, or degree."  Growth is more than "swelling the ranks." A congregation can grow in number and never mature or increase in the grace and knowledge of Christ.  Nor is growth an increase in "frenzied activities."  Many a congregation is involved in work, but little of that work accomplishes the purpose for which Christ set us in the church in the first place.   Some years ago I read of a congregation of the Lord's church that hosted a two day "seminar" offering classes on everything from financial guidance to home cooking.  No, growth is not an increase in frenzied activities.  Finally, growth is not simply chalking up an impressive attendance record, or impressive figures regarding the contribution.   In his second letter to the church at Thessalonica the apostle Paul had these words:  "We are bound to give thanks to God always to you, brethren, even as it is meet, for that your faith growth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth; so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure;  which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer (2 Thess. 1:3-5).  There are some words worth examination in these three verses.  The first of these is the Greek word 'huper-auxano' and is translated "your faith growth exceedingly."  It is not just an increase, but an increase beyond or in great measure.  The second word is 'pleo-nadzo' and is translated "abounded." It simply means an unusual amount, or that which abounds.  The difference between these two words (huper-auxano' and 'pleo-nadzo') is this:  while 'huper-auxano' is internal, as the organic growth of a tree, 'pleo-nadzo' is expansive, as a flood would irrigate the farmland.   The third word is 'oiki-do-meo' and is most commonly translated "edify" or "build up."  It is used twenty times in the New Testament and is one of the most often used words to refer to growth, both of individuals and congregations. Here is the point:  there are some things that simply do not edify: strife about foods and dietary habits, endless questionings about fables, and so forth.   On the other hand, those things that do edify would include preaching the whole counsel of God, following the authority of the apostles, Christian duty motivated by love, etc. 

 

Third, to attain unto growth we must have truth as our basis.  Two major threats to the growth of the church are false teachers who hesitate not to use unscrupulous means in order to corrupt the truth, and unstable disciples who can be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.  This is why our Lord warned of false teachers and described them as "ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7:15).  This is why Paul warned of false teachers (Romans 16:17-18), as well as Peter (2 Peter 2:1 ff). 

 

Fourth, we are have love as our motive.  Actually truth and love are co-joined in the chapter in that we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  Neither is complete without the other.   But when we speak the truth, it is to be in love of what?   At least three things come to mind:  love of the Lord (John 14:15), love of the recipients of our message (Gal. 4:16), and love for the word of God itself.  Our relativistic age with its political correctness and post modern mentality has somehow concluded that disagreement is unloving and intolerable.  The late R.L.Whiteside wrote:

 

Much is said about preaching the truth in love, and so it should be preached…The preacher should so love the truth that he will not sacrifice any of it nor pervert it, and he should so love people that he will not withhold from them even one unpleasant truth. He that does either of these things loves neither the truth nor the people. We frequently fool ourselves; we think we do thus, and so to spare the feelings of others, when it is our own feelings that prompt us.

 

Beloved, if we are going to grow a congregation, it will take Christ as our head, growth as our goal, truth as our basis, and love as our motive.  Any of these elements lacking will wreck havoc in the congregation, weakness in the child of God, and an utter failure in our attempt to grow in Christ.

 

by Tom Wacaster


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