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Friday, October 29, 2010

United States Bureau of Reclamation

Constructed by the United States Bureau of Reclamation in the depths of the
Great Depression in the 1930s, Hoover Dam was the largest federal project of
its time. Building the dam was hot, dirty and often dangerous work, but more
than 20,000 men, over the course of its construction from 1931 to 1936, were
happy to be employed.

Hoover Dam was originally named Boulder Dam. That's because the initial
planned site was at Boulder Canyon, about 10 miles up the Colorado River
from where it is now located at Black Canyon. The dam was officially named
Hoover Dam in 1947, a name that was restored by a resolution signed by
President Truman.

The Hoover Dam is 726 feet tall and 1,244 feet long. The concrete
arch-gravity structure is 660 feet thick at its base and 45 feet thick at
the top. In all, there is enough concrete (4.5 million cubic yards) in
Hoover Dam to build a two-lane highway from Seattle Washington to Miami
Florida or a four-foot wide sidewalk around Earth at its equator.

This immense structure was built to prevent flooding as well as provide
much-needed irrigation and hydroelectric power to arid regions of several
surrounding states.

Greatly impressive was the fortitude of the thousands of workers that
endured amazingly harsh conditions and extreme dangers to complete Hoover
Dam almost two years ahead of schedule. Its completion, however, was not
without loss. The Bureau of Reclamation has estimated that 107 workers lost
their lives while building the dam.

William Barclay wrote: "Men lost their lives in that project which was to
turn a dust-bowl into fertile land. When the [Hoover Dam project] was
completed, the names of those who had died were put on a tablet and the
tablet was put into the great wall of the dam, and on it there was the
inscription:

'These died that the desert might rejoice and blossom as the rose.'"

When our sins left us in the "desert of death and destruction" (cf. Matthew
7:13-14; Romans 6:23), God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross as
payment for our sins (Ephesians 1:7). Through Him, you and I may have
forgiveness and eternal life.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
God has promised to provide forgiveness and eternal life to those who will:
place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins
in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10),
and be baptized (immersed) into Christ (Acts 2:38).

Jesus died so that those in the dismal and deadly desert of SIN may -
through their trusting obedience - "blossom as the rose" to eternal life.

Won't YOU trust and obey Him?

David A. Sargent, Minister

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Luigi Bobbio, Miniskirt Ban

A very controversial topic has been flooding search engines and news sites the last few days.  It is about something called "The Miniskirt Ban."  Luigi Bobbio, the mayor of a small town in Italy, has proposed to put a ban on miniskirts. This ban should be accepted and go into effect immediately.  Violators would receive up to a $700 fine if caught.  As to be expected, female politicians, women's rights activists, and countless others have been heavily opposing this ban.

       This ban is not just about miniskirts though.  It will also outlaw men going shirtless, sunbathing and undressing in town, blasphemy and foul language, and playing football in public spaces since they often result in fights.  Bobbio had this to say about the ban, "It's a matter of common sense, of common decency" (Christian Science Monitor).  So, let's get this straight.  Under this ban, people would have to dress better, be more decent in public, speak better, and fight less.  Is this law really so bad?  It seems this controversy is not so much about the length of a skirt or women's rights, but that these people simply do not want to be told what to do. 

       No matter what opinions people may have, what is most important is to see what God has to say about all of this.  In 1 Timothy 2:9, God said, "I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly..." (c.f. 1 Peter 2:11-12; 3:3-4; Romans 13:13-14; etc).  Obviously God wants people to dress appropriately.  As we know, modesty is not just for women.  Bobbio must have known this since he included men under the ban as well.  Lust is something that applies to both genders, and God has clearly told us to stay away from it (Matthew 5:8; Romans 6:12-13; 2 Timothy 2:22; James 1:14-15; etc).  God wants both men and women to dress in a modest fashion and in a way that will not bring out lustful thoughts.  If anything, this ban brings people one step closer to what God plainly commands.

       While there is not as much controversy about the "blasphemy and foul language" part of the ban, God has also spoken on this as well.  Ephesians 4:29 states, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth..." (c.f. Matthew 12:34-37; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:8; etc).  Undoubtedly, God wants people to dress well and speak well.

       We live in a world which is at a highpoint on the "indecency scale."  It is encouraging to see a mayor taking bold steps towards "common decency."  Obviously we too should seek to be modest in the way we dress and wholesome in our speech.  However, these are probably commands we have already applied to our lives.  So, beyond that, hopefully some of Bobbio's boldness will rub off on us and we too can stand up for things which are pure, wholesome, and above all else, what God commands (Philippians 4:8).  Brett Petrillo

Go teach and make disciples

 

    Almost exclusively we have come to depend on the pulpit and church buildings to do our teaching for us. We invite the public to our buildings by billboards, radio, TV, phone calls, newspaper, etc.  We tell them how welcome they are, the preacher is superb, the building is well heated and air conditioned, the seats are cushioned, and yet, they still do not come. So we just sit back and complain, "The Gospel has no appeal to anyone anymore!"  This mind-set has led to offering the public "other things" that will hopefully draw them to our buildings, things that appeal to the "flesh."  We think that if our attendance grows, the Lord's Kingdom is growing. This has led to filling church buildings with half-hearted, entertainment-hungry, carnal-minded people who think they are Christians simply because they "frequent a church building."

            The title "Christian" has become so watered-down in definition by the generic public that many don't have a clue what it really means according to the Bible. Ask people if they are a Christian, and they will say, "Yes."  As them if they are a disciple of Christ, and they will look at you as if to say, "What do you mean?"  Perhaps this is why Jesus did NOT say, "Go therefore and make Christians of all the nations…" Rather, He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…" (Matthew 28:19). Only disciples can be called genuine Christians (cf. Acts 11:26).

            Let's face it. A preacher, a sermon, and a church building are the hardest products to sell to a sinner. Why should they come when they don't share our love for the church. Even the few that do come are often bored because they don't understand the mystery of salvation in Christ. Still, the Cross of Christ must be the "drawing power" (John 12:32), not some program that appeals to the flesh.

            We need to stop giving priority to "church building evangelism" and go out where the people are and teach them. A person may attend worship services a hundred times and never hear the one sermon that moves him. But when talking with him personally, a Christian can focus on his needs in the first few minutes of discussion.

            Jesus did not say, "Bring them in."  He said, "Go teach and make disciples…" (Matthew 28:19-20;  Mark 16:15-16).  For one who has been truly converted to Christ and becomes a disciple, worship is the natural out-pouring of love and gratitude. I've been told to preach on the importance of "coming to church." I declined, saying that if we can convert them to Christ, they will be at every service.

            Paul said the love of Christ "compelled" him (2Corinthians 5:14). He said that he labored more abundantly than all, yet it wasn't him, but a realization of the grace that God had toward him (1Corinthians 15:9-10). Helping others come to this same realization is the only work you can do in this life that has eternal value.  Don't waste time and money trying to figure out how to entice people to come to church!  Go teach.   

 

--Toby Miller

Monday, October 25, 2010

Texting In Church

 
I will never be mistaken for the "Ministry Geek," though maybe I could pass for the Abacus Geek or Sundial Geek.  The next text message I send will be my first.  So, while they say that you fear what you do not know, you may be surprised to see me say that I think we should be texting during church services.  Far too many are failing to do so, and it is severely hurting the quality of the Bible classes and worship, not to mention the daily lives of individual Christians.

The texting I refer to is not done with a phone or ipad, but with a Bible.  When it comes to how to worship, far too many never consider, study, or apply the biblical texts that tell us how.  The end result is a vain attempt at worship based upon the foundation of feelings, preferences and personal desires, and the like.  Too many Bible classes, instead of digging deep into the text and seeing what it says, are sessions of "shared ignorance" where we launch off into speculations and obscurities.  A lot of sermons are fluff, current events, funny stories, pop psychology, motivational speeches, and feel good pep rallies, but a serious look at the text of scripture is bypassed and avoided.  The sacred text should be at the forefront, in the foreground, and foremost in our emphasis.  Instead, too often, it is forgotten, foregone, and forfeited.

Texting on phones or similar devices during worship and Bible class fundamentally impairs one's ability to connect with God and one's brothers and sisters there with you.  It is harmful to influence, easily a stumbling block for any who might incidentally see us doing it.  Though it may not indicate disinterest, distraction, and disconnection, it may well portray it.   Yet, when it comes to honoring the text of scripture, let us all be consumed with that.  Let us fill our hearts with it.  Let us properly apply it.  Let us share it freely.  With such things, God must surely be pleased.
Neal Pollard
 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How easy it is to accept immorality

 

     I was visiting in a house not long ago where the TV was on. I couldn't help but notice how blurry the picture was. Eventually, I asked the couple about it. They gave some excuse and said it had been that way for about two years and they had gotten used to it.

            On my way home, I began to think of all the seemingly "blurry" areas in society that we tolerate just because we have gotten used to them. Over the years, many have become used to the scenery of abortion and just tolerate it. "Divorce for any cause? well, that's just the way it is in our society, might as well get used to it."  "Homosexuality? it's always been around and always will, might as well get used to it."  Lying, cheating, and stealing when it benefits one physically? people will always be doing these things, might as well get used to it."  "Living together before marriage? well you know the old saying about not buying a pair of shoes before trying them on! Besides, it seems wise to see if a couple is "compatible" before tying the knot, might as well get used to it."

            Fifty-two percent of Americans believe that pre-marital sex is a morally gray (blurry) issue, so they tolerate it. The same can be said of many other sins that have mushroomed to the spotlight in recent years.

            How about those, who have gotten used to the scenery of worship, the singing of praise, prayer, listening to a sermon, taking the Lord's Supper? They go through the motions, but it means very little. They go to church on Sundays because, well, "that's what you do on Sundays!" They have gotten used to the scenery.

            Paul writes in 1Corinthians 4:16b that "our inward man is renewed day by day." Everyday is a "renewal!" How then can a genuine Christian's vision become blurry if he is renewed everyday?  The answer is that he has swerved, perhaps unknowingly, off the straight and narrow road, and needs help getting back to the path that leads to Heaven.

            Is that you? Have you become used to the scenery? Do you look forward to attending the Sunday assemblies in anticipation of worshiping your Creator? Do you look forward to Bible study wherein you may learn how to better glorify God and enhance your spiritual life? Or, has your spiritual outlook become "blurry?" If this describes you, there are two most important things you must do to correct the problem: (1) spend much time in private prayer,  (2)  spend much time studying your Bible.  Be assured that God's vision and judgment of your attitude and life is not blurry.       

 

-Toby Miller

 

Check out the new "Nehemiah Bible commentary" now on-line at http://www.abiblecommentary.com/biblecommentaryonbookofnehemiah 

Monday, October 18, 2010

How to deal with AN ANONYMOUS LETTER

    I have received several open rebukes, but I have never gotten an anonymous letter criticizing, condemning, or castigating me (nor is this a solicitation for one).   However, I recently learned that a brother who led the congregation in an act of worship received one in his church mail box.  That greatly shocked me!  My theory is that a visitor or non-Christian must have learned his name and found his box via the mailbox directory, since I cannot imagine one of our members capable of such an act.  It does give me the opportunity, though, to tell you my estimation of an anonymous letter.
    An anonymous letter is cowardly.  To get a letter, especially of complaint or criticism, without benefit of knowing who your critic is must be deflating.  Every face you see might be of the one who sent the letter.  Matthew 18:15 is not fulfilled when one remains anonymous.  You give the recipient no way to respond in the way outlined by that passage.  Instead, you fire a nameless nuke at a spiritual relative.  If I stand behind my position or point, I am not afraid to put my name on it.  If I am so convicted about the matter, I should have the courage of my convictions.
    An anonymous letter is powerless.  I cannot see how anyone could take such a letter seriously, except to be hurt at how little the sender thought of him or her.  No credence should be given to a letter the sender so lacked confidence in that he or she left it unsigned.  I would counsel anyone who receives such a letter to give it no more consideration than did the author who thought little enough of it not to stand behind it with his or her good name.
      An anonymous letter is hurtful.  It is impossible to know the motive of the sender, but there is a predictable outcome to such a letter.  The recipient is going to be hurt.  The anonymity is unloving, cold, and impersonal (by definition and design).  What if the letter had discouraged the man from serving the Lord, tempted him to be bitter or angry, or in some way served as a stumbling block to him?  
    I am trying to imagine Christ showing His displeasure for a decision of Thomas' or lesson of Matthew's by firing off an anonymous letter for him to find in his satchel.  Someone may show poor judgment, make a weak argument, express an unfounded opinion, or the like, but we have not responded in a Christlike way through such a cowardly, important, and wounding way.  In bearing the fruit of the Spirit, let us consider what love, patience, and kindness look like.  It does not look like the writer of an anonymous letter.  --
Neal Pollard

 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

There is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents

 
I'm quite sure that most of the world having television sets, along with you and I, witnessed a most extraordinary event this past week. Of course I'm speaking of the rescue of the 33 miners in Chile who were marooned in a small area of the mine, about 2300 feet underground for 69 days. It was one of, if not the most, inspiring, moving, heart-warming and joyous events ever watched on TV.

I did not see all of the 33 come out to the surface, but I did get to see many of them and I have to admit, right here in front of everyone, that it was a very emotional and moving experience for me as I'm sure it was for you also. As the last miner was coming up in the capsule, I began thinking about what I was witnessing and what I had been seeing all through this event and began to formulate the outline of a spiritual lesson in my mind. For the rest of our time and space here, I'd like to share with you my thoughts and I appreciate your consideration of them.

Let's first look back at what we saw occur and sort of set the scene. These are the things about this rescue that stuck in my mind and which brought about this editorial. From the very first miner to the very last one, there was great joy and celebration as each one emerged from the capsule. And what I particularly noted about this joy and celebration was, that it did not wane, did not become "routine" at any time. The rejoicing was the same every time the capsule arrived at the surface with its rescued miner.

And, as we all witnessed, each miner was wearing a pair of dark sunglasses because they were emerging from a world of darkness into the light of day. This transformation also had a bearing on my spiritual thoughts regarding this event. I don't know whether you noticed it or not, but each miner was wearing the same kind of tee shirt. That too, will enter in to our lesson today.

And now, with the scene set, allow me to relate my spiritual lesson to you, based upon the thoughts transpiring with the rescue of these trapped miners. First, let's discuss my thoughts on the joyous celebrations that took place every time the capsule arrived at the surface and a miner stepped out.

In my mind I saw the physical saving of the miner as an illustration representing the saving of a soul. It caused me to recall what Christ said in the 15th chapter of Luke, right after He told His disciples a couple of short parables. These two little stories provided them with a picture of joy and elation. First, He told them about the "lost sheep" and the efforts made to find it - to rescue it from peril. Then He told them about the "lost coin" and the great joy felt when it was found.

He drew His disciples these two pictures for the purpose of pointing out a lesson to them. Notice what He then directed their mind towards in verse 10: that the joy seen in the two illustrations is like that sort of joy seen in heaven when another person is saved. Read His words here with me: "There is joy in the presence of God's angels when even one sinner repents."

When we take the passage in Luke and combine it with some more words of Jesus found in Rev. 3:5, let's look at the picture we get, and with writer's license, allow me to paraphrase this heavenly scene. "When one overcomes the sins of the world, they're clothed in white (purity) raiment, their name stays in the 'book of life' and then Christ announces their name before God and His angels." It's then that I picture the rejoicing and celebration taking place. What a neat picture!

I think that the pure joy we witnessed occurring at the site of the mine rescue as each and every miner emerged is probably as close as we'll come on the earth to understanding the pure joy of the angels around the throne of God. At the emergence of each and every soul that comes forth out of the depths of the darkness of sin and into "the Light." (John 3:19-21 and 1Pet. 2:9)

And now, for our closing thoughts, let's return to the T-shirts worn by each rescued miner. If you noticed, they were worn over their coveralls and were tan in color. After they were discovered to be still alive and trapped, a hole was bored to them that allowed communication and small items to be passed down.

One of the items sent down was an MP3 (small video type player) version of a film about Jesus being in His tomb after His crucifixion and His subsequent resurrection after three days. One of the miners sent a note up thanking them for the film and on this note wrote these words: "I am fine because Christ lives in me. We have prayer services at 12 noon and 6 PM." At the end of this note, the miner wrote "Psalm 95:4."

With that information, let me tell you more about the shirts. After receiving the note, the organization (Campus Crusade for Christ) that sent the video down, had these shirts made up at the request of the miners and they were subsequently taken down to the miners to wear when they came out. If you noticed the shirts you would have seen on the front the Chilean flag and the words (in Spanish) "THANK YOU LORD."

On the back of the shirts, also in Spanish, were the words of Psalm 95:4 which read: "IN HIS HAND ARE THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH; THE HEIGHTS OF THE M0UNTAINS ARE HIS ALSO."

Don't you think that we can use this T-shirt and the statements by the miners to show us a great lesson? I certainly do. And the lesson that I see is this: that, yes, all of the rescuers, the drillers and everyone involved in this most successful saving of 33 lives, are deserving of much honor and glory for their achievement BUT, as said by the words on the T-shirt, God get's the glory first. And that's the proper order for this occasion and all others.

Respectfully submitted,

Ron Covey

Friday, October 15, 2010

Football coach illustration

The story is told of a famous football coach who was on vacation with
his family in Maine. When they walked into a movie theater and sat down,
the handful of people there applauded. He thought to himself, "I can't
believe it. People recognize me all the way up here." Then a man came over
to him and said, "Thanks for coming. They won't start the movie for less
than ten people."

Ouch! That'll deflate an ego in a hurry. That's the trouble with
thinking you're somebody important -- not everyone is as convinced of that
as you are! I heard about one man who was hesitant to go on vacation. When
someone at work told him, "Don't worry. We can get by without you here for
a while.", his response was, "I know, I know. I just don't want anybody
else to find that out!"

Humility. One of the most difficult-to-find traits in our society.
And one of the most important traits in the eyes of God. How often we try
to raise our esteem in the eyes of men when we ought to be showing our
willingness to lower ourselves.

"When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in
the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he
who invited you and him come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and
then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are
invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited
you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have
glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever
exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
(Luke 14:8-11)

Look for an opportunity today to take a "lower seat."

Alan Smith

miners who were trapped in a mine in Chile on August 3rd

 
       At this point there is little doubt that you have heard about the miners who were trapped in a mine in Chile on August 3rd of this year.  In fact, a couple of articles have even come from our Daily Breads.  So, most of you are probably aware of most of the events that occurred there.  However, there are a few details that I was surprised to hear that I wanted to share.
       As we know, the rescue plan was to drill a hole down to the miners and basically bring them up in a type of pod that could be hoisted up and down the hole until all of them were out.  However, because of the rescuers' equipment, and possibly other reasons, they were not going to be able to drill a very wide hole. This meant that the miners would have to be small enough to fit into the pod.  Since this was the case, this only gave the miners two options. (1) Get in shape/stay in shape, or (2) stay in the mine.  If the miners lost weight and stayed in shape, they would be able to fit out of the hole.  However, if the miners did not stay slim enough, they would be too big to make it out and would have to stay in the mine.
       People throughout the world have been rejoicing as all 33 men made it out of the mine a couple of days ago.  These men were only given two options, but obviously they chose to do what it took to get out of the mine.  And who wouldn't?
       Many times in scripture we are given two options as well.  Mark 16:16 says, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned."  There are only two options given here.  We can either do it God's way and be saved, or do it a different way and be condemned.  1 John 1 talks about how we can either "walk in the light," or we can "walk in darkness."  Again, there are only two options.  This is very common occurrence in Scripture.  It's God's way, or the wrong way.  Light or Darkness.  Faithfulness or Lawlessness.  Heaven or Hell.
       The miners were only given two options and they chose to do what it took to get their freedom and their lives back. Spiritually, we are also only given two options.  We can either be lost in the darkness of our sin, or we can be brought out into God's marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).  As we go through our lives, let's keep in mind the two options that we have spiritually, and make sure we make the decisions necessary to keep ourselves out of the dark cave of sin.
 
Brett Petrillo


 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where will the next earthquake strike?

2010 has reminded us of the dangers associated with earthquakes. On January 12 of this year an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck near the capital of Haiti. In the aftermath it was estimated that 230,000 died and a million were left homeless. Six weeks later a more powerful earthquake struck Chile, registering at 8.8 on the Richter Scale. Because it was centered in a remote region, casualties were significantly fewer.
 
With images from the Haiti catastrophe in mind, "uneasy" is a word that describes our reaction to a report earlier this week. Researchers from leading universities have concluded that the San Andreas Fault is more volatile than previously thought. This fault line, which runs virtually the entire length of the state of California, lies perilously close to large metropolitan centers.
 
Based on their studies, researchers feel a quake with a magnitude of 8.1 would not be unreasonable to expect. Such a "wall-to-wall temblor" could produce disastrous results. That sort of scenario is not considered an "if" proposition, but "when". And when it will occur no one knows.
 
Earthquakes are not uncommon in world history. Their proximity to large centers of population determines how calamitous they will be. That's why the presence of the fault lines in California is so worrisome. But what can be done? There's no way to "fix" the San Andreas Fault. About all that can be done is to move away from known faults.
 
Identifying where these faults lie is a key to one's safety. Could that not also be true in our personal lives?
 
The Bible doesn't use this image, but we are certainly warned about common areas of struggle. One such warning is found in Ephesians 4:26,27: "'Be angry, and do not sin'; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." It's not hard to detect this fault line in one's personal life. When things easily irritate us to the point of rage we can see the fault widening. Without positive corrective action (which God can teach us) we are ultimately headed for "the big one".
 
Peter pointed to another common fault line: "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). Fleshly lusts are based on appetites God placed within our bodies. Satan, however, twists them so they become masters rather than servants. When love of pleasure reigns supreme we should see the fault lines widening.
 
Here's one more fault line to consider: "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body" (James 3:2). In case you didn't notice, James' tongue was in his cheek as he made that statement. We all have problems in controlling our tongues. Some, however, don't realize the magnitude of their problem.
 
We all have our faults. How vital it is that we take time to survey our personal landscape in order to know where those fault lines lie! "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). Regular study and meditation in God's word is our best defense.
 
Timothy D. Hall
 
 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia

 

 
       In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia.  Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below.  News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident.  It wasn't a technology problem like radar malfunction, or even thick fog.  The cause was human stubbornness.  Each captain was aware of the other ship's presence nearby.  Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other.  Each was too proud to yield first.  By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.
       It is interesting how people will do just about anything to appear "tougher" than someone else.  Several of us are familiar of people who drive their cars head on at each other and see who will "chicken out" first, similar to the story about the two boats.  People just do not like to change their ways and give up their ground, even if this means other people are put in danger as well.
       What is probably most sad is when people have this type of attitude in the church.  We are all passionate about different topics, traditions, and aspects in our lives, but it is incredibly sad when problems arise as a result of people who do not want to yield to someone else.  There is a story told about an old bridge that is only wide enough for one car to travel across it at a time.  On both sides of the bridge there is a sign that says, "Yield."  So, if two cars were to come upon the bridge at the same time, they would both yield to each other.
       Too often people meet head on and refuse to yield to anyone.  In our lives, everything could be so much better if we all learn to yield to each other and put aside our stubbornness, selfishness, and pride.  Surely this is what Paul had in mind when he said, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).  Too many problems are created and escalated because of people putting themselves before others.  Let's not play "chicken" with each other in the church, but drive towards greater humility and unity.
 
Brett Petrillo
 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Characteristics of the last days

    In 2Timothy 3:1-5, Paul identifies and warns of certain characteristics that will make up the cosmetic of society in the "last days."  The last of these nineteen characteristics is "having a form of godliness but denying its power" (vs. 5).  While the list of sins have always existed to some degree, it is indicated by his warning that a positive progression in the intensity and severity of these things will develop as we near the second coming. These things will appear in greater numbers, be accepted by society, and their magnitude will be unmatched by any previous generation. Furthermore, for the truly faithful Christian, these will be exceedingly "perilous times."  For the faithful, it will be like trying to run up an escalator that's filled with people riding it down.

            In the 1st Century, prophecy after prophecy was fulfilled right before the eyes of those who thought they were God's people (the Jews), yet they refused to see what was happening. Is that scene playing itself out all over again?  If so, we don't want to willingly ignore it (cf. 2Peter 3:5).

            The more advanced our society becomes, politically and technologically, the more "spiritually anorexic" we are becoming -- which is in itself a fulfillment of prophecy (2Timothy 3:13).

            Ironically, while all this rebellion and debauchery is going on, people are talking religion more than at any other time! How can this be? The Bible gives us the answer. 

            In James 2:26, we learn, "the body is dead without the spirit." That is true physically, as well as spiritually. That is, religion is dead when it has no "Spirit" to give it life (cf. Matthew 15:8-9).

            When our spirit leaves our body, we die (Genesis 35:18), and the body begins to decay (John 11:39).  Likewise, when the true Spirit leaves religion, it too begins to decay.

            One day you will die and your body will be placed into a casket. It will be dead and lifeless. People who come to your funeral will still be able to recognize you because you will still have the "form" of your body, but it will be lifeless and powerless because there is no spirit in it.  Likewise, when the true Spirit of God leaves a religious body, that body will be dead, lifeless and powerless -- there may still be the "form" of that religion, or congregation, but the "form" will be powerless because the Spirit of Christ is not in it.

            The basic raw material of a demon is a spirit that is bankrupt of holiness. That being the case, what does that make a man who is bankrupt of holiness? (cf. Hebrews 12:14). There may still be the "form of that man going through the motions of religion, but that's all there is, just the form, there's no power because there is no spirit.

            For too many people who claim to be Christians, their religion begins and ends with their tongue! They may be able to narrate great passages of Scriptures, and flavor their speeches with sanctimonious phrases, but their religion is no deeper than their lips. They have the "form" but no "power" because their commitment to Christ does not come from the heart; they have never tasted of the power and peace that is to come (Hebrews 6:5); they have the form of godliness, but by the priorities they make in their lives, they deny the power thereof. We could call it "costume religion," it looks good, but there is no substance. We tell the unbeliever to "come eat from our fig tree" -- they come, but find nothing but leaves" (Mark 11:13).

            Everywhere we look we can see people with a "form" of godliness, but we see no power in their lives. They are nothing more than living skeletons; and while skeletons are necessary, without a heart to go in it, it's a powerless structure. It's like laying tile on a floor, you must start in the center and work toward the edges. A religion must begin by believing and obeying "from the heart" the doctrine of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:17).  

 

Toby Miller

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Midnight ride Paul Revere

I'm going to talk a few moments today about a sin, a weakness which, to some degree, effects all of us because we are "human beans" and as such, we are possessed of a lot of desires, ambitions and aspirations. And, because we are so possessed, we continually have to guard against allowing any of our desires, et al, to control us. So, I guess that what we're going to consider here is the subject of "pride" and how we need to combat that human trait.

Now "pride" is something that some say is a complex and difficult subject to study and I suppose that's so when you're dealing with about any of our emotions. But, let's not let its complexity keep us from learning a spiritual lesson about it today.

You see, I believe that almost everyone has within them the desire to do good things and to be recognized for having done them. I think that it's human nature to like receiving a pat on the back, an "atta boy," if you will. I also think that what the Scriptures warn us about is the doing of those "good things" for the purpose "to be seen of men" like the Pharisees of Jesus' day. (Mt. 23:5)

Yes, we like to be recognized, don't we? And you know something else? It bothers us when we do something and someone else gets the credit. I don't care who you are, when that occurs we resent it. But, we have to rein those thoughts in and remember that the world doesn't always treat us fair, does it? That's one of the traits of this world, that it's not fair and it's not just.

As a little illustration of worldly unfairness, let me ask you a question: Are you familiar with a man by the name of Israel Bissell? (No, he's not a Jewish vacuum cleaner.) Israel did something that was far greater in scope and more important to our nation's history than another person, yet that other person got all the glory. Got all the praise, even to the extent that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about him. Yes, I'm talking about Paul Revere and his "midnight ride."

Now here's the irony of that event. Paul only rode a distance of 19 miles giving out his warning about the British coming, but Israel rode from Watertown, Mass. to Philadelphia, Pa. giving the same warning. A total of 345 miles that took 4 days to accomplish. His standard warning to all of the towns he passed through was "To arms, to arms, the war has begun."

But, who got all the glory? Who got all the recognition in our history books? It's surmised that the reason for this was that Paul Revere rhymes better than Israel Bissell. Who knows if that's the reason or not, it's just a known fact that just about everyone knows the name of Paul Revere who made a 19 mile ride to alert people and pretty much no one knows the guy who rode 345 miles doing the same thing. And furthermore, I think that a lot of us can sympathize with Israel, can't we?

But, you know what? I don't see either Paul or Israel doing what they did for the purpose of being famous or being glorified by men. That it happened to one of them doesn't mean that he did it for that reason. And that thought can take us on into the lesson part of our study.

To me, the important thing to keep in mind as we do our "good deeds" is: why we are doing them. A great principle regarding this is seen in the Apostle Paul's words to the Ephesians when he was talking about "servants and masters." The basic principle seen there is: that whatever we do, whatever "service" we render, we do it "as to the Lord, and not to men." (Eph. 6:5-7) If "men" notice it and show appreciation, well okay, so be it. If they don't, well okay, so be it. The important thing is - God knows it!

My understanding of the "pride" condemned by the Scriptures is that sort of "pride" that inflates our egos. The Bible refers to that sort of "pride" as being "puffed up." (Get it? Inflates - puffed up) John tells us that one of the three major categories of sin is the "pride of life." (1John 2:16) That tells me that this is something that I need to guard against. That I need to exercise control over. That if I don't, then I'm committing sin by having an "inordinate" type of "pride" by having my ego "puffed up."

Here's another reason that we have to guard against a "puffed up" type of "pride." In 1 Cor. 4:6 we read where it can cause us to think that we're better than others. That, to me, is the epitome of someone that's "puffed up." That the "vanity" of man allows him to revel in the praise of people telling him how great and wonderful he is and then to actually believe that he IS better than the "common" folk.

Remember Israel Bissell's message to the citizens along his route? - "To arms..." I think that we can apply that warning to ourselves as we consider how to combat our natural desires and ambitions. We are at war, much like Paul described his war, with ourselves. With our mind, in that we fight to keep control of our desires so that we don't let them cause us to sin.

James (4:1) pretty much echoed Paul's words when he talked about our "lusts that war in your members (within ourselves)." Have you ever considered that this is what Paul is talking about in Eph. 6:12 where he's telling us who we're at war with? That we're not fighting a war as if we were fighting against a physical army. We're at war with the "darkness" of this world. Against the spirits of wickedness. Now let me ask you, who is the leader of those forces of darkness and evil? If you said, "Satan" you're entirely correct. Nothing would please him more than to seduce us into allowing our "lusts" to control us rather than the other way around.

In closing, I'm going to borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul to describe a condition we can find ourselves in if we don't control our "pride." That descriptive phrase is: "Vainly puffed up by your fleshly mind." (Col. 2:18) How do we combat getting in that situation? It's a very simple formula. It is our "arms" that we take to fight our inner war and we find it in 1 Cor. 13:4, "Love." If "love" is in our heart (mind) it will cause us to be long-suffering when someone else gets the recognition instead of us. We'll be kind to others. Not think we're better than them. We won't be envious of others and I love the last line of that verse where it says that "love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up."

Ron Covey

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Arkansas mud bath

Albert walks in to his doctor's office for his yearly physical exam as
he has done the same time every year that he can remember. The doctor takes
him through all of the motions, does the normal tests and then leaves to get
the results. After about 30 minutes, the doctor returns with a very sad
look on his face.

"Well Doc, what kind of shape am I in this time?" Albert asks.

"Albert, I don't know what to say. The news is bad. Really bad."

"What is it Doc?"

"I hate to have to give you such bad news. I can't find the words to
tell you. I really don't know what to say."

Albert, being a strong man who appreciates straight talk, tells the
doctor, "Ok, don't beat around the bush. Tell me what you know. I can take
it".

"Well", says the doctor, "Let me put it this way. I think that you
should go to Arkansas and visit the hot springs there for a nice relaxing
mud bath. Spend some time soaking in the mud."

"Oh, so I need to relax a little bit, eh? Will that cure me, Doc?"

"No, Albert, it won't cure you. And it won't help you relax. But it
will help you get used to being covered in dirt."

From time to time, we all need to be reminded of our mortality. "As
for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he
flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place
remembers it no more." (Psa. 103:15)

It is only when we are convinced of the limited time we have on this
earth that we feel motivated to plan for where we will spend eternity.
That's why Solomon said, "Better to go to the house of mourning than to go
to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; And the living
will take it to heart." (Eccl. 7:2)

The house of feasting is certainly more fun. But while we are in the
house of mourning, we are reminded that death will come to us all. As
someone has put it, we are all "terminal." May we "take it to heart" and
live accordingly.

Oh, and if you happen to be in Arkansas anytime soon, I highly
recommend the mud bath.

Alan Smith

Monday, October 4, 2010

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen

 
The Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, adopted the Eskimo methods of survival and travel. He was said to be a meticulous planner who minimized risks.  On December 15, 1911, Amundsen and four fellow countrymen reached the South Pole. They were the first. British Captain Robert Falcon Scott seems to have felt sure he would be the first. But, in addition to leaving the Ross Ice Shelf base camp 12 days after Amundsen, Scott's journey to the pole was much more haphazard than his counterpart's.  He and his team took animals and motor sledges that turned out to be more of a burden than a blessing. They did not plan their food and nutrition well. On January 17, 1912, Scott and four comrades reached the pole only to see the Norwegian flag already planted there. They were devastated. And, they were in danger.  The weather turned nastier.  All five men perished, their bodies, diaries, photographs, and last letters discovered by a search party that November (Forging The Modern Age, 128-129).
 
It was head start versus haste, preparation against pride. The contrast between the men's methods predicted the outcome. Frankly, Amundsen adequately prepared for the journey and Scott did not. The price for second place was most high.
 
As we are on a journey to a place infinitely more mystifying and awesome than any point on this globe, we must adequately prepare.  What are our choices, methods, and decisions saying about our wisdom and forethought? So many go through this life either disbelieving that eternity lies on the other side of death or live as though they disbelieve. But, we will all reach that point and place of eternity. May we do all we must do to prepare (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10)!
 
Neal Pollard
 
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Finding a good church

"THE CHURCH OF _______"


       It is always shocking to see how many different religions and denominations there are out there.  In 2006, there was said to be 216 denominations in American and Canada (2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches).  It is incredibly sad to think about how much religious division there has been in the world.  However, something that is even sadder is when individuals and families further divide themselves from God through worldliness and unrighteousness.  This is talking about the people who simply skip out on church in order to participate in something else.  The title of this article is "The Church of ___________."  That blank spot can be filled in by a variety of answers.
       The Church of Sports This is talking about people who chose not to worship God because of sports. With some this is about playing a sport.  To others, it is just about watching a sport.  What does this say about our priorities when we skip out on worship because of sports?  What message would this send to our children when we allow them to miss worship because of sports? Far too many people are allowing their lives to be dictated by sports.
       The Church of Self.  So many people are centered in on themselves.  They will use selfish excuses to miss worship.  "I'm too tired, I need my rest."  "I just don't feel like going."  Our culture has become incredibly selfish. Unfortunately, people end up putting themselves first, and let God take the back seat.
       The Church of Work.  We live in a society that is fast paced and busy.  Everyone has things to do, places to go, and people to see. The problem is when people chose to let it interfere with their relationship with the Lord.  Many people allow work to take the place of church in their lives.  For this reason, work in some ways becomes their "church."
       There are many other ways we could fill this blank.  Each person has their own daily activities and interests, but it is always a problem when God is shoved to the side to make room for something else.  I cannot imagine what worldly and unspiritual messages are being sent to our young people when the adults are missing worship for sports, self, work, and many other trivial reasons.
       When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:36).  How can people be following this commandment of sincere devotion to God when so often God is pushed aside for whatever reason? As we continue to go through life, let's make sure we deny the worldliness and unrighteousness that is so greatly emphasized in our culture, and simply focus on what is most important, Christ.
Brett Petrillo
 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona

Last week I had the great pleasure of touring the Pima Air Museum in Tucson,
Arizona. Being a long-time lover of airplanes and the flying of them I was
agog (I've always wanted to use that word) for several hours while wandering
amongst some of the most unique and best airplanes ever built. I mention
this tour as a lead-in to our lesson today because it is something about
flying that serves me as an inspiration for our topic, which is - "faith."

In a past editorial I spoke on the value, or worth, of things and, for a few
moments here today, I'd like to talk about the value of "faith." I think it
behooves us to look first at a few scriptures regarding "faith," sort of as
laying the foundation of our study here. I think that the first one we
should consider is the Biblical definition of "faith" and find that in Heb.
11:1 "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it
gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (NLT)

Then the next passage that fits perfectly with Heb. 11:1 and is found in 2
Cor. 5:7 very plainly tells us how "faith" applies to our lives. It reads:
"For we walk by faith, not by sight." Paul is referring to how Christian's
live their lives during the time our souls inhabit their earthly bodies. In
other words, we act and operate with the belief that our souls' will someday
return to God and we want them to be in such a condition that God will
accept them back and not reject them.

You see, we believe that, in order for our souls' to be acceptable to God,
we have to live our lives in accordance with His Will and when we do that,
we believe His promise of salvation and a home in heaven awaits us. That is
our "faith." We have a great example, seen in reverse, of what will happen
if we do not "walk by faith." In Heb. 3:16 - 4:1 we find a warning being
given to us to NOT be like the Israelites that left Egypt and failed to make
it into the "promised land" because of a lack of "faith." The inspired
writer says that they were "unable to enter (His rest) because of unbelief."
He goes on to say that the promise of "His rest" awaits us, so let's not
miss it for the same reason the Israelites missed out on theirs.

You see what I meant when I talked about the value of "faith?" The value of
"faith" is equal to the value of our soul. If we don't have "faith"
obviously we don't attach any value to our soul. It's a pretty simple
equation, if you ask me. And here's another easily seen equation: God's Word
teaches that "faith" must be evidenced. It must be able to be witnessed in
order for it to have any value to us.

Evidence equals action. Talk is not action. James most directly teaches that
lesson in the 2nd chapter of his book. Read verses 14-24 and, for brevity
sake, let me paraphrase his words here. He says there that if someone "says"
they have "faith" yet they have no actions that indicate it, then they
really don't have it. That a person's "faith" must be evidenced by their
actions ("works").

In other words, their "faith" must be able to be seen, witnessed. James
cited the example of Abraham's "faith" seen by his offering of his son Isaac
on the altar and look at what he says about the evidence of Abraham's faith:
"his faith was completed by his works."

I think that some words of the Apostle Paul in Gal. 5:6 can give us a great
insight into the value God places on "faith." Basically it lets us know that
the only thing that "counts" with God is "faith working through love." There's
that thought of "works" again. Or action, if you will.

Then if you drop down a few more verses in the 5th chapter (22-23) you'll
see just what actions are observable in a faithful person's life. Notice
that Paul refers to those actions as "fruit of the Spirit" and they include
things like "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control..." Let me ask you, aren't these "fruits," these
"evidences" observable by others?

Let's recap what we've talked about so far. Hebrews showed us that "faith"
is believing without having to "see." 2 Corinthians told us that if we have
to "see" then we're not walking by "faith." Our other passages have shown us
that "faith" requires action on our part. That it must be observable by the
way we operate in our lives. That means that the effects of our "faith" has
to be noticeable. Others must be able to witness our lives and see our
"faith." We see examples of this in how Paul talked about the Churches in
Rome, Ephesus and Colossae when he wrote to them. He mentioned how he had
"heard of their faith" or of how their "faith" was "spoken of." What a great
compliment.

And, in our recap, allow me to reiterate here; if you have to "see" then you're
not "walking by faith." If you say you believe, that you have "faith" then
your life has to show it. IE: there has to be visible proof of that "faith."
The effects of one's "faith" has to be observable by others. If there are no
effects visible, then there is no "faith." Thus a claim of having "faith" is
empty. In other words, has no value.

Now, in closing, I'm going to return to our opening illustration, our
lead-in, and what got me to thinking about this lesson today. It's the
lesson based upon that verse in 2 Corinthians about "walking by faith and
not by sight." "Faith" only applies to our existence on this earth. Only to
our time here in this human realm. Someday, we'll "walk" by sight. We'll
know because we'll see. There won't be anymore requirement for "faith." As
Peter puts it, the "outcome of our faith" will be the "salvation of our
souls." (1 Pet. 1:9) (ESV)

My inspiration for this topic is this: almost four years ago a friend of
mine, a truly gifted individual and a beautiful person lost his battle with
cancer and his soul returned to its eternal home. He was a fellow-hunter, a
fellow-pilot and a fellow-Christian and I still miss him. Why does his death
serve us here with this lesson today? It's because of the inscription on his
gravestone. If you're a pilot you'll understand. If you're not a pilot, ask
one and they'll explain it to you. But, it's something that all of us will
someday experience. It simply reads:

"TRULY VFR ON TOP NOW"

Ron Covey

Friday, October 1, 2010

Clyde Thompson, meanest man in Texas

The Meanest of the Mean

He was ultimately described as “the meanest man in Texas” (a nickname given by an official in the Texas State Prison System). His name was Clyde Thompson, and his life of violent crime began with the shooting deaths of two young men in West Texas in 1928. For the better part of the next three decades, Clyde’s life was spent miserably in one Texas State Prison after another (including a portion on Death Row). During his time behind bars, he killed two other men: one, a guard during an attempted escape; another, an inmate who made the mistake of threatening Clyde’s life.

Amazingly, during the last twenty or so years of his life, this man, once described as the “meanest man in Texas” served as the superintendent of a children’s home in New Mexico, a chaplain and prison minister to hundreds and hundreds of inmates within the same prison system by which he had himself been imprisoned for many years.

How did this happen? Well, what happened was that by the remarkable providence of God, Clyde’s life was spared again and again – even from execution – until something amazing happened. Finally, this hardened, cynical, hate-filled man began, out of sheer boredom, to read the Bible. He was not reading it to search for truth, but because it was the only thing he could get to read. He was not reading for spiritual guidance, but rather to find evidence that the Bible was not trustworthy and that Christianity was a farce. Instead of finding myths and falsehoods, however, Clyde found truths and realities which he could not deny. Ultimately he found life-changing grace and faith in relationship with the Son of God.

Clyde’s story reminds us of another very mean man, a man who in his day was likely regarded by Christians as “the meanest man in Palestine.” His name was Saul, and when we are first introduced to him in biblical history, his delight in life was destroying the lives of Christians. The latter part of his life was also spent in quite different fashion: writing half of the New Testament and traveling all over the northern Mediterranean world spreading the faith he had once despised and planting the church he had once sought to destroy. *

What happened in the lives of these two “mean men” that changed them completely? They were both converted to Christ!

Their HEARTS were changed by placing their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God (see Acts 9:1-6; 16:30-31).
The DIRECTION of their lives was changed in godly sorrow and repentance (see Acts 9:8-17; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
The FOUNDATION of their lives was changed by confessing Jesus Christ (see Romans 10:9-10).
The STATE of their lives was changed from lost to saved, from condemnation to justification, when they were baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (see Acts 22:12-16; 2:38).

Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, gives hope to ALL of us who have sinned (and that is ALL of us, Romans 3:23), saying,

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

If Jesus can save “the meanest of the mean,” He can save US, too.

YOU, too, can be SAVED – and even USED by God to make a positive, eternal difference in the lives of others by living and sharing the saving message of Jesus – IF – you will trust and obey Christ

-- Marshall Underwood and David A. Sargent

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