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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is it wrong to judge others?

 
Today I'd like to spend a little time discussing a topic that seems to pop up every now and then, usually in a class study situation. I'm referring to someone saying something like, we can't judge others because the Bible says we can't and then they cite the above verse.

I deliberately only provided verse 1 of Matthew 7 and did not cite the whole thought being expressed by Christ there because that's the usual pattern the questioner's use. They only quote verse 1 as a basis for their belief that we can't judge others - in anything! I think that the main reason that someone has a false belief in the matter of "judging" others is because, even though they've heard or read the above passage, they've probably never really studied it. That's what we're going to do right now.

As a prelude to the spiritual part of our lesson, I'm going to relate to you a little story that will serve as an illustration to our study of "judging." To our lesson regarding the type of "judging" that Christ is speaking against there in Matt. 7. We'll look at the whole statement made by Christ and we'll also look at a couple of other Bible references on this subject of "judging." But first, the story....

This story was told many years ago by a man who's probably remembered today by only a few reading this editorial. His name was Gabriel Heatter and he was a radio commentator for the Mutual Broadcasting Co. The few who remember him will probably remember his opening line each evening which he started off his WW2 news broadcasts with: "There's good news tonight." Here's his little story that he entitled, "Golden Shoes."

He said that he had met a man who had an unusual watch fob hanging from his vest - a tiny pair of golden shoes. He asked the man what was the significance of the shoes, if they were an award or something like that. The man replied that they were not an award, simply a reminder. He then asked the man what the shoes could possibly remind him of. It's the man's answer that serves our subject.

The man was an executive of a large business organization. He and four other men made all of the decisions for this business. For a matter to be acted upon it must be unanimously agreed to by all five of them or it was to be dropped. One of the matters that once came before them was a proposed promotion of a young man in their company. The other four agreed to the promotion, but this man said, "No, that he felt the young man wasn't qualified. That he filled his current position well, but didn't seem serious enough for a more responsible position. He always had a ready laugh or a funny story for every situation." The matter was dropped.

The executive said that a few days later he happened to be passing by the young man's house and met a doctor just leaving it. He asked the doctor if someone there was sick and the doctor told him "Yes" and that it involved a very strange case. It seemed that the patient was the young man's wife who was very ill and the doctor told him that if it weren't for her husband doing everything he could to keep her spirits up, she might have died a long time ago.

The doctor said that the young man must never let his wife see his concern that she might die at anytime. He must always be ready to encourage her and cheer her up. He added that the young man had just about worn himself out trying to find funny and hopeful things in order to keep her life bright and full of courage. The doctor said, "I couldn't have done it. He changed his whole personality so that he can cheer her up. It's miraculous how he has given her life."

The executive said that he couldn't sleep that night for thinking about how he could get the executive board back together and revisit the matter of the young man's promotion, and what he could do to remind himself, to make him remember a very important lesson. His wife had given him the watch and he had the golden shoes made by a jeweler to always remind him: "to never judge a man unless I could put myself in his shoes and know all the reasons why he conducts himself as he does."

Okay, let's apply our little story to the spiritual aspects of our lesson. First off, we have to add verse 2 to our beginning scripture which is usually neglected by those who misinterpret Christ's teaching in Matt. 7. Verse 2 reads, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

You see, what Christ is talking about here is not that we can't make judgments, but rather HOW we are to judge. Think about it, we make judgments every day. Most of the time we call them "decisions" but aren't our "decisions" based upon our judgments? Of course they are. We even make decisions on who we choose to associate with based upon their actions or deeds. Based upon the open and visible aspects of their behavior. His admonition in verse 2 simply means that, when we judge, we are to do so fairly and righteously, considering that this is how we want to also be judged.

There's a passage, again from the 7th chapter of Matthew, from the same portion of the sermon being preached by Christ where He said, "Judge not......." He says that we are to "beware of" and thus avoid "false prophets (teachers)" and we'll know who they are because we'll "recognize them by their fruits." (Vs 16 & 20) We'll be able to see their actions, hear their words and can judge them by those things.

Here's another quick example of exercising judgment from the scriptures: Romans 16:17 says we are to "watch out for those who cause divisions," who teach contrary to the Gospel and when we recognize them, we are to "mark and avoid them." Again I ask you, aren't we judging, making decisions regarding who we, as Christians are to associate with?

A classic example of "judging" righteously can be seen by looking at good old Job and the judgment passed on him by his three friends. They were looking at all of the terrible things happening to Job and seeing those things as evidence that Job was lacking in righteousness. That he was evil in some way. Of course Job was denying this and rightly so, he was righteous. They couldn't see his heart.

Here's our final thought on this subject today. We cannot judge the "heart" of someone. Only God "knows the heart" (Acts 15:8) thus is the only Judge qualified to judge it because He is the "righteous Judge." (2Tim. 4:8) And, because we want to be judged fairly and righteously, we have to exercise that same spirit when we make decisions based on our judgments.

The same principle involved in "judging" can be seen in teaching and directing others in their Christian walk. In James 3:1 we can read this principle and what it's telling us there is that we are not the standard by which they are to live. IE: we have "warts" just like everyone else. Therefore, we don't want to be judged by the standards by which we judge others.

When it comes to the judgment of another's "righteousness" or "heart" it's not our judgment to make. David gives us who the only Judge qualified to do that in his Psalm 9:8. "He shall judge the world in righteousness, He shall administer judgment to the people in uprightness."

Ron Covey

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Miami's Biscayne Bay

A grand piano recently showed up on a sandbar in Miami's Biscayne Bay, about
200 yards from shore. The piano, which weighs at least 650 pounds, was
placed at the highest spot along the sandbar so that it didn't get
underwater during high tide. The piano has now been removed, but its
placement on the sandbar remained a mystery for several days.

After many theories and false claims, the truth was revealed. The piano had
been placed on the sandbar by a television designer's teenage son who said
Thursday he hoped the idea might help him get into a prestigious art school.
Nicholas Harrington, with video-taped proof of his endeavor, said that he -
with the help of his brother and two neighbors - planned and implemented the
venture by carrying the piano out to the sandbar on the family's 22-foot
boat. Harrington, a high school junior, has hopes that his "artistic
expression" would help him get into Manhattan's Cooper Union College. *

For several days, officials weren't sure how the piano got there, but they
knew someone had to place it there. The tide could not have done it; it
didn't just appear there unaided.

One can look at the universe and make the same deductions. With all the
marvelous design - infinitely greater than that of a baby grand piano -
surely it didn't just appear accidentally! The intricate design of the
Universe gives undeniable evidence of a Designer, and the Scriptures reveal
that the Designer is God.

"In the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth."
-- Genesis 1:1

"For every house [and every piano] is built by someone, but He who built all
things is GOD." -- Hebrews 3:4

Among other things, the Divine origin of the universe indicates that YOU are
no accident! Mankind did not just appear accidentally, aimlessly. The
Scriptures reveal that God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27)
for the purpose of having fellowship with God.

But due to our wrong choices, SIN has separated us from God (see Isaiah
59:1-2).

But God loves us so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus, to die on the
cross for our sins so that we might be reconciled to Him (see Romans
5:6-10). The blood that Jesus shed in His death has paid the price of
redemption for sin (Ephesians 1:7). His atoning blood covers our sins if we
accept the gift of salvation on His terms by placing our faith and trust in
Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31),
confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed)
into Christ so that our sins can be washed away (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

How did man come to be? Why are we here?

We were CREATED by a loving CREATOR! He has also provided the means to His
ultimate purpose for our lives - living eternally with Him - through the
GIFT of His Son.

Won't YOU accept His offer?

David A. Sargent

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why not to eat celery

At the risk of offending celery growers and celery lovers in general I want
to share with you that I don't like Celery. It's not that I have anything
against celery; it's just that I don't like the taste or texture of raw
celery; in fact I don't think it is a particularly attractive plant.

Now, having said that; I also want to say that I love celery; (under the
right circumstances). I don't think that you can make a decent Turkey
Stuffing without celery. Potato Soup does not taste good without celery;
Tuna Salad and Chicken Salad need just a pinch. In fact we use celery to
season many things in our kitchen. Just today I chopped and dried or froze
an entire pack of stalks of celery for our future use. But to eat celery by
itself, even with peanut butter or other fillings whatever they might be, I
just don't like it and won't eat it other than to be courteous to a host or
hostess.

I know some folks who won't even touch celery, they won't try it, they won't
experiment with its various uses. That's sad, because they are missing out
of something good that would be a blessing in their lives.

Celery in our home is an intricate and important seasoning; it complements
and often completes other foods and recipes. It becomes incorporated into
the whole to make what is good, even better. There are some foods that just
do not taste as well without it.

Isn't it the same with some people in our lives or our church families?
There are sometimes folks who we just may not care for. There may not be any
reason we can identify or put our finger on. It may not be even that we
don't care for them, but we just don't click with them, so we don't go out
of our way to know them better.

In the same way as my celery however, these same people may help complete
and make better who we are or the whole flavor of our church family. Perhaps
it's time that you try to expand your horizons and your relationships. God's
church family can grow only when we are willing to experience the fullness
of the Spiritual Gifts He has given to each member.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:3-10 "For by the grace given me I say to every one
of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather
think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of
faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members,
and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are
many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have
different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is
prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving,
let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let
him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give
generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing
mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil;
cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor
one another above yourselves." (NLT)

I still hate celery, (raw), but I try very hard to love and appreciate those
who God brings into my life. I heard a quote which was attributed to Abraham
Lincoln in which he said, "I don't like that man, I must get to know him
better." Is there someone that you need to give a chance to flavor your
life?

Russ Lawson

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A personal regeneration

   

            Some time ago, astronomers observed bright masses of light in the night time skies; they called them "Nebula," and supposed them to be globs of chaotic matter. When the Herschel telescope came along, they discovered these seemingly confused globs of light were, in reality, distant distinct, individual stars, and not just aimless globs of matter that drifted together.

            What the Herschel telescope did for these stars, the Gospel does for man. It seems the majority of men think of themselves as being mixed into a zoological gene pool and assimilated by some means of aimless, universal evolution. However, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is received in the heart, like that telescope, it brings man out of his ignorance, and allows him to see himself as a separate individual being, and compels him to meditate upon his personal eternal destiny.

            Until one has personally encountered Jesus Christ face to face in the Gospel (1Corinthians 13:12) --- until one has personally stood alone in contemplation of Calvary, he will not believe unto eternal life.

            A personal faith allows the believer to enjoy a personal peace. This inner peace belongs to the "individual" Christian himself. Just because I come to Christ does not mean that you will have peace. If you want personal peace, then you must come to Christ individually and personally. Unless you are made aware of the personal and individual nature of salvation, you are going to be nothing more than a "church goer."  There is no doctrine in all the Scriptures that teaches a man can be saved by the faith, service, or holiness of another.

            The Gospel of our salvation involves: (a) a personal calling (2Thess. 2:14), (b) a personal regeneration (Titus 3:5),  (c) a personal perseverance (Rev. 2:10),  (d) a personal holiness (Heb. 12:14), and (e) personal service (Rom 12:1-2). 

            Your sins are washed away in the blood of Christ when you are personally baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38), no one else can be buried with Christ in your behalf.  No one can "show forth the death of Christ" in your life by partaking of the Lord's Supper for you (1Corinthians 11:26), it is a personal responsibility.  Or, to put it in a modern setting: Just because I go on a diet doesn't mean that you will lose weight!

            Too many church members are hiding behind the work of the congregation as a whole. They flatter themselves that the church is growing, while personally doing nothing to help make it grow. On the other side of that coin, they will complain that the church isn't growing, while actually contributing to its decline! It seems that everyone is an "expert" on the problems within a congregation, but few take personal responsibility to become part of the solution.  Judgment unto eternal life is personal: "Each of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12). Our eternal verdict will be based on how our lives were lived in accordance to God's Word (John 12:48-50). But how can we know we are living in accordance to God's Word if we are ignorant of it?!  [Illustration: There are over 20 varieties of mushrooms, but only 6 are edible. If all 20 varieties were spread out on a table before you, how are you going to know which ones are edible? -- unless you "know mushrooms."] Likewise, when you are confronted with many different religious doctrines, how are you going to know which is the right one? -- unless you know your Bible!

            Salvation is a personal, individual responsibility with personal and individual blessings. The world will not understand your life in Christ because it didn't understand Christ. Don't be a "glob of chaotic matter" that wanders aimlessly through this world that is passing away; be an "individual" that shines in Christ.

                 

--Toby Miller                                                                                                                           

Monday, January 24, 2011

Appear righteous without actually being righteous

 
I know that a lot of people like mystery novels, like crime stories, so I'm going to present a lesson today that could fit in either of those categories if our story had been written by man. But, since it wasn't, it is neither a mystery nor a novel. It is a true story, a reporting of an event that included some crimes (IE: sins) being committed and the consequences realized by the perpetrators. No, there's no mystery as to what occurred, but I guess one could be envisioned as to "why" it happened. I think that we'll solve that mystery as we delve into our true crime story as we search for a spiritual lesson.

We find this event being reported in the last part of Acts 4 and the first 11 verses of chapter 5. As a short intro, let me set the scene for you. In the last part of chapter 4 we see the Apostles preaching the word with "boldness." We see the disciples being "united" in their "hearts and minds" by this preaching & teaching. And we see the disciples sharing all that they had with each other so that no one was in need. We see that they were not concerned with "self" nor were they concerned about "possessions." They were concerned with being righteous.

But then, in chapter 5 we see a different attitude come into the scene. Two people who were not possessed of the same spirit as the other disciples. Of course we're talking about the husband and wife team of Ananias and Sapphira. Now we've all heard the story about how they sold some property and came and gave part of the proceeds to the Apostles, sort of like the other disciples were doing only not quite like the rest as their thinking was, shall we say, a bit off of plumb.

Ananias came first with their contribution and, after a short conversation with Peter, dropped dead. The report says that three hours later along comes his wife (now widow, only she doesn't know that) and meets with Peter. He asks her a simple question and upon her answer to that question, she drops dead. What in the world happened here?

Now I just briefly reported the facts, the "WHAT" of the case, but to really understand the "WHY" we need to investigate a little further. Legally speaking, what we have here is a "compounded crime." First off, we have a "conspiracy." A conspiracy is, by judicial code (and the dictionary,) two or more people agreeing to commit a wrongful act. Plus, to be charged with "conspiracy," an overt act by one or more of the conspirators must occur. Ok, back to our first offense, the "conspiracy."

We see in verse 4 that our conspirators, Ananias and Sapphira, "conceived in their hearts" to do what they did. It also tells us in verse 2 that they made an agreement, or a plan, to keep back a portion of the proceeds of the sale. Now, remembering our definition, that an overt act is required, takes us to our second crime or sin.

Offense #2 is the "overt act." The "act": they lied to the Apostles about their gift. But, in reality, who did they lie to? To God, of course. We read that in verse 4: (Peter speaking) "You weren't lying to us but to God." (NLT) It was at this point that the death of our first conspirator occurred.

Then Ananias' co-conspirator, his wife Sapphira, came in. Peter asks her, did you sell the property for so much, and she said, "Yes, that was the amount." That answer, in continuance of the conspiracy, also brought about her immediate death. Think about this though, she had her chance to be truthful, to not continue the lying and deceiving, but she didn't take it, did she? For both their conspiring and their overt acts, they paid the price for their sins. Doesn't it kind of make you wonder what she would have done had she known about the fate of her husband? If she knew the consequences of their sin? I can only say, "perhaps so" and we'll touch on this thought later.

Now, was their sin "not giving enough?" No. If that were the case I'm afraid that many of us would be in dire jeopardy. As we just saw, their sin was compounded in this way: One, they deliberately and with intent to do so - lied to God. We can see how it was "compounded" by looking at verse 9 where it shows us the motive, the purpose, of the conspiracy. To "tempt, to test" (to deceive) the "Spirit of God."

Ok, that's the gist of the case against Ananias and Sapphira. That, in their way of thinking, they could conspire, to "conceive in their hearts," to keep part of the proceeds of the sale of their property, and then by lying about it, convince God that they were giving "all of it."

You know what's sad about this whole episode? That it didn't have to happen. The Apostles weren't requiring the disciples to give everything they owned to them. If you read verse 4 again you'll see that Peter even told Ananias (and I paraphrase) "the property was yours before you sold it (IE: you could have kept it) and even after you sold it the proceeds were yours (IE: you could have kept them or given them away, whatever you desired). SO WHY DID YOU LIE ABOUT IT?

In wrapping up our investigation, here's my summation of the case against Ananias and Sapphira as to why they entered into a conspiracy, why they did what they did in furtherance of that conspiracy, plus unveil our "envisioned mystery." Unreservedly speaking, they did so in order to appear righteous without actually being righteous.

With them serving as examples for us, let me ask a couple of questions. Do you think that there may be many in the world today doing exactly the same thing? I do. Do you think there are many people today who believe that they are deceiving God by their appearance of being righteous? I do. I believe the evidence will show that, in spirit, there are many Ananias and Sapphiras among us today. And another sad part is, that they will still commit the same sins, the same offences towards God, as did our convicted conspirators even while knowing the consequences!

Basically, Ananias and Sapphira thought they could deceive God, could cheat God and get away with it. They didn't and neither will their imitators. Court's adjourned.

Ron Covey

 

 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Financial infidelity

One of the sensitive aspects of running for political office is
knowing that (in many cases) you may have to make known your financial
standing.  Most of us enjoy privacy when it comes to how much money we
have in the bank, what our income was last year, and how deeply in
debt we may be.  A candidate for high political office will likely
have to reveal some of that information.  A failure to be completely
honest will put that person's future in jeopardy.

Many seem not to know that the same truthfulness is needed in
marriage.  A Harris Interactive online poll of over 2,000 adults
showed that 31% had engaged in some degree of cover-up.  For some it
was hiding cash from their spouse (58%); others concealed a minor
purchase (51%).  15% of those confessing such "financial infidelity"
kept a secret bank account.

"Financial infidelity may be the new normal," commented Forbes.com,
who commissioned the study.  But let it be known there is another
truth to be considered.  "These indiscretions cause significant damage
to the relationship," said Ted Beck of the National Endowment for
Financial Education.  That doesn't qualify as a surprising
observation.  Most of us would be deeply hurt if we discovered our
spouse was hiding finances.  We would wonder what else was being kept
from us.

All marriages with which I am familiar are formed on the basis of vows
that both bride and groom make to each other.  Implicit in those vows
is the understanding that they will be as one, just as marriage was
designed to be.  "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate," stated
Jesus in Matthew 19:6.

What would lead a husband or a wife to twist their vows in such a way?
In this case it's money.  The  Bible warns us to be aware of the
potential money has to lead us into dangerous territory.  This
statement is familiar to many: "For the love of money is a root of all
kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their
greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1
Timothy 6:10).  If only more would heed the warning given by God's
word!

The lure of drugs is well known.  We understand that we can become
addicted to certain drugs, and thus we are careful not to come under
their power.  The Bible, though, speaks of the lure of money in
similar terms.  Jesus compared materialism (greed) to idolatry: "No
one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love
the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).  (Mammon is another
word for money.)

Marriage offers us the opportunity to enjoy lifelong companionship and
intimacy; it is a gift from God.  The love of money, on the other
hand, has repeatedly been shown to have the power to destroy
relationships and lead people to do things they otherwise would not.
A choice has to be made: Do we need that faithful companion, or would
we rather reach for the cash?

Before you answer that last question, consider one more truth from
God's word: "Will you set your eyes on that which is not?  For riches
certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward
heaven" (Proverbs 23:5).  The Lord is trying hard to help us see the
best things in life.  Let us determine to be true to our vows, to be
completely honest with our spouses.  People are always more important
than things.
--Timothy D. Hall
 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Colorado bank robberies

 

A Denver Post article from Sunday's newspaper, given to me by Dave Chamberlin, reveals a remarkable motive behind a string of northern Colorado bank robberies.  The January 16, 2011, piece, via The Greeley Tribune, conveys the rationale of Amanda Maslen, one half of the heisting duo who stole $11,000 from six Weld County banks.  Though she was only involved in one of the robberies with her boyfriend, Jordan Kniffen, she was quick to defend them all.  Her defense of the crimes covered three major premises: (a) Kniffen's actions were harmless, since he used an unloaded gun, (b) He "was only stealing from the government or the FDIC," and (c) They deserve the money because they'd had a tough life.  Her words play out like the proverbial shell game, hoping to deflect everyone's attention from the fact that they spent a large chunk of that change on heroin and that anarchy would follow if everyone used similar rationale in their decision-making.

 

But, Maslen represents the fruit of some bad philosophical thinking of our times.  Many do not like moral, ethical, and doctrinal judgments to be universal.  They are afraid of prescriptive (i.e., rule- imposing and rule-enforcing) language.  One may choose a similar line of thinking in situations that they feel to be less harmful, not violent, or even protected by the laws of the land.  Do not many people enter into an extramarital affair or divorce and remarry by saying they deserve happiness, fulfillment, a better spouse or partner, or the like?  Isn't one who has an abortion because it interferes with her educational, financial, or social future borrowing similar logic?  What about the one whose choice of a church because it appeals to or entertains them operate from a like premise?

 

The only way to straighten out the kind of thinking that led to such outrageous action and even more outrageous defense of it is to recognize and submit to the sovereign will of God and His moral absolutes.  We will be judged by the words of Deity (John 12:48).  We can know and be made free by the truth (John 8:32). Truth was realized through Christ (John 1:17).  As we read Scripture, we have an objective standard that is universally applicable (cf. Acts 17:30-31).  Excuse-making is as old as the Garden of Eden.  It did not work then, and it will not work now.  It is infinitely, eternally better for us to soften our hearts and yield our lives to the guidelines of the Bible than to serve our rebellious desires.

 

--Neal Pollard

 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be, so enjoy this day while it lasts

I just celebrated (?) my 70th birthday so our subject under consideration today relates to it and also relates to a commodity that all of us reading this editorial have in our possession at the present "time." See, that's my effort at a clever play on words because our subject, the commodity of which I speak is - "time."

Besides the above quotation, several things have conspired to gear my thoughts up for this lesson and I'll try to relate them to you in an understandable manner. One of those things, strangely enough, is a couple of sundials. One of them is the Kentucky Vietnam Memorial and is one of the most interesting and extraordinary things I've ever seen. It's located in Frankfort, Ky. and if you have internet availability I encourage you to take a look at it at It is truly a remarkable structure.

The other sundial I haven't seen, only read about and what interested me about it was the inscription on it. It's a poem that fits well with a couple of passages in the New Testament that we're all familiar with: Mt. 6:34 and James 4:14. Read with me this inscription and see if you don't agree. "The shadow of my finger cast, divides the future from the past; Before it sleeps the unborn hour, in darkness, and beyond thy power; Behind its unreturning line, the vanished hour, no longer thine; One hour alone is in thy hands - the NOW on which the shadow stands."

Okay, now let me mention something else that entered into the conspiracy to bring about this lesson and it is a common exclamation that we hear all the time. The exclamation: "IT'S ABOUT TIME!" I'm going to adopt that phrase as the title to our lesson here and then run a few spiritual thoughts off of it.

Have you ever thought about what a wonderful gift our God gives us in this commodity of time? I say that it's a gift from God because time does not relate to God, only to man. To life on this earth. Now we don't all have the same amount of total time, but we all share equally in the minutes and hours the day allots. No one has more or less than others. What I'd like you to consider about the commodity of time is how much of a "treasure" it is. You'll see what I mean by that in a moment.

Everything we do in our lives relates to time. Everything takes time. Wise old Solomon penned those now-famous words about time in Ecclesiastes where he said "There's a time for every matter under heaven." (Eccl. 3:1 ESV) He goes on to list several examples of time usage which basically tells us that there is a "time for everything" and that "everything takes time."

There's something else relative to all of us human "beans" and that is, we never seem to have enough time to do all the things we'd like. How many times have you heard people say, "There's just not enough hours in the day." Well, obviously there was enough for us to do the things we did accomplish. I guess what we're saying is that we'd have liked to have done more, but ran out of time. It's this idea about the usage of our time that I'd like to draw our principle lesson from. And this principle will take us back to the concept of time being a "treasure."

Since we all are active to various degrees, thus we all use time, the important thing for us to consider is HOW we use our treasure, our time. Yes, we all have things that have to be done but, we also have what I'm going to call "free time" or "optional time." It's in this area of time usage that we see what really matters to us. Where we really see what we care about most. Maybe it could even be said, what we're concerned about. In short, how we spend our "treasure" shows just what's important to us. Shows just what really matters, doesn't it?

When we think about our Christian lives and we're cognizant of the fact that we have duties to perform while here, both to ourselves and fellow man, but more importantly to God, we have to evaluate our time usage and ask ourselves if we're prioritizing that usage in the best possible manner. To borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul, are we "rightly dividing" our time? As Christians, do we budget it appropriately?

Do you know who serves as a good example of one who does a good job of budgeting their time? The "busy person." Haven't you heard people, on many occasions, say "If you want something done, ask a busy person?" Why is that? Because a busy person has learned how to budget the hours in the day. You see, why we many times run out of time is because, I'm sorry to say, we've wasted it.

Oh yeah, there are lots of things that are seemingly important. That "simply have to be done." I don't have a problem with that thought process, I think that it's simply a matter of us deciding what's important. What has to be done. When we speak of importance what we're talking about is where our priorities are set. Here's the important question to ask ourselves: Does the "dividing" line of our time give us the greater portion of that time or does it go to God? Only each individual can answer that question for themselves.

Now here's something else to consider in regards to how we use our time: did you ever think that others might be watching how we use our time. I mean, if we profess to be a Christian, don't you think that others might be seeing how we spend our time and when they do, is God glorified by our time usage? Relative to that usage, how is our "light" shining? (Mt. 5:15)

Well, in wrapping up our thoughts today, let me just say this: "IT'S ABOUT TIME" that we do some soul-searching regarding the use of our time. That we really consider just how we spend this wonderful gift, this treasure, we've been given. Because, how we spend it paints the picture of what we are to those who know us and it tells them just exactly what we care about.

"IT'S ABOUT TIME" that we take stock of how we budget our time. How we prioritize it, IE: what we put first in our life. "IT'S ABOUT TIME" that we understand just how important the usage of our time is to our soul. When Solomon said "there's a time for every matter under heaven" remember this: "under heaven" refers to our time on earth. It's only here that we're given time to prepare our souls for eternity and "IT'S ABOUT TIME" that we recognize that the saving of our soul is our number one priority. The number one usage of our time.

This "number one priority" leads us into our final thought. Remember the 2nd sundial and the last line of its inscription: "the NOW on which the shadow stands." Let me again borrow a phrase, a warning if you will, from Paul: "Behold, NOW is the favorable time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation." (2Cor. 6:2 ESV)

RRon Covey

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why Did Jesus Ask the Father to Forgive Them When He Knew He Wouldn't?

 

    Most of us are familiar with the request Jesus so unselfishly asked the Heavenly Father while hanging on the cross: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).  However, we also know that God turned away from that request, as Acts 2:23 & 36 reveal that they were still guilty of crucifying the One whom God has made both Lord and Christ. When the people were made to realize this, through preaching, they were "cut to the heart" and asked the apostles "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Without hesitation, Peter responded and said, "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38).

            This is somewhat puzzling; Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic (Mark 2:9); He forgave the sins of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:11); and, He forgave the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), so why didn't He just forgive these people? That is, why did He, this time, ask the Father to forgive them?  Why is it that even though Jesus Himself forgave them,  the Father did not?

            It is my conviction that even in the last minutes prior to His death, Jesus was continuing to "give us an example that we must follow" (1Peter 2:21).

            In 1John 3, we learn many things about "love of the Brethren." The inspired apostle, writing to Christians, says, "Do not marvel, my brethren, if worldly people hate you" (vs 13);  "He who does not love his brother abides in death" (vs 14);  "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (vs 15); 

            It is no marvel when worldly people hate us, but it IS a "marvel" when one who claims to be a "brother" hates us!  The Holy Spirit says, "Such a one is abiding in death" (present tense).

            However, according to Jesus' example, this is a judgment of God the Father, and not us. Jesus forgave His persecutors, God did not.  This is the example that we should follow. The time is coming when God will make all things right. Vengeance belongs only to the Lord, and He will repay (Romans 12:19).  Those who are of a hard heart and impenitent ... those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, are storing up for themselves tribulation and anguish, indignation and wrath of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5-8).

            What a grand and glorious *inner peace* this affords the true child of God. God is shaking the world, but we are not of the world (cf. Hebrews 12:27-28). Don't destroy your soul with anger, hostility and hate; that is not the example that Jesus demonstrated. Jesus says, ""Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12). Remember also that Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). Salt is not only a preservative, it is also an irritant. Jesus did NOT say, "You are the *sugar* of the earth!

 

--Toby Miller

                                                                                                           

Toowoomba, Queensland

CBS News reports that at least 25 people have died since relentless rains
started pounding the eastern state of Queensland, Australia, in November.
Out of the devastation that the floods have caused, a hero has arisen.

On Monday, rapidly rising water in Toowoomba, Queensland, engulfed a car
carrying Donna Rice and her two sons: Jordan (age 13) and Blake (age 10).
Warren McErlean and two others stopped to help the family. With great
difficulty, McErlean, a hero himself, was able to reach the car and he began
trying to pull Jordan out. But the teenager stopped him and insisted,

"Save my brother first."

Jordan, who was petrified of the water, made the courageous decision to risk
his own life so that his younger brother and mother could be saved.
McErlean later described how Jordan helped lift Blake out of the
floodwaters, then begged them to take his mother next as the rushing waters
became stronger.

McErlean was able to get Blake to safety, but before he could return to the
car to rescue Jordan and his mother, a rope he was clinging to snapped. He
watched helplessly as the car flipped over and the rushing water carried
Jordan and his mother away. They both drowned.

John Tyson, Jordan's father, said he was heartbroken but proud of his son.
"I can only imagine what was going on inside to give up his life to save his
brother, even though he was petrified of water. He is our little hero."

Jordan is now hailed as a hero by all of Australia and by all who have heard
of his courageous, selfless actions.

Apparently, selfless love was a trait that is shared by other members of
Jordan's family, including his mother. Tyson said Donna Rice was an
incredible woman who tried to save their son. "They both clung to a tree,
and when Jordan couldn't hang on any more Donna let go and tried to save
him. The last thing she did was to try to save her son."

Jordan and his mother give us a glimpse of the love that JESUS has for us
and the price that He paid for our salvation.

When WE were being "swept to destruction" due to our sins, Jesus came to our
rescue. With great effort and determination, He navigated His way through
the floodwaters of wickedness, intent upon saving drowning victims such as
you and me. This mission led Him to the cross where He paid the ultimate
price for our sins so that we might have forgiveness and the hope of eternal
life (Ephesians 1:7). It cost His life but He willingly gave it to redeem
us (see John 10:17-18).

"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his
friends." - John 15:13

In order to accept His offer of salvation, we must cling to Him in trusting
obedience: placing our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from
our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Him before men (Romans
10:9-10), and being baptized into Christ so that our sins may be washed away
by His blood (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

When it came time for Jesus to choose, He thought of US first. He died so
that you and I might live.

How will YOU respond?

* Information gleaned from CBSNews.com and AOLNews.com

--David A. Sargent

What is a dream?

Dreams are funny things aren't they? How do your explain or describe a
dream? The word "dream" is defined as, "a series of thoughts, images, or
emotions occurring during sleep." (Merriam-Webster dictionary) Of course
dreams are so very different to different people. Some people hate dreams,
because they bring images they fear. Some people on the other hand dream
dreams that are pleasant or let that let them experience things they could
not in real life.

Dreams of this nature do have some draw backs. First they are not real and
second is that we forget them so quickly. Often when we wake we remember the
dream vividly, but after only a few minutes we begin to forget the dream.

We use the word dream in another way also. We sometimes speak of dreams when
we describe those things we imagine, wish or hope we can do or see done. It
deals with our personal visions or goals for ourselves or someone else.

Paul talks about having a dream in Philippians 3:14 where he writes, "I
press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me
heavenward in Christ Jesus." A paraphrase would be, "I'm working hard to
fulfill my dream of one day wining the prize of heaven, which God promised
me."

Some people dream of serving God. Some people dream of having a great
church. Some people dream of having a godly family or a godly spouse. Some
people dream of being missionaries, teachers, preachers or one of many great
things. The problem is that just as with our sleeping dreams we sometimes
forget our dreams, or our visions for ourselves.

T.E. Lawrence once said, "All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by
night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to the day to find it was
all vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for the many act
out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible..."

Are you a dreamer by night or a dreamer of the day? Some people think they
are too old, too young, don't have enough education or too limited in
someway to dream anything anymore. I personally don't think I will ever stop
dreaming. When you stop dreaming dreams you begin to die inside. I want to
serve God and do something for him and his church as long as I draw a
breath. How about you; are you still dreaming or have you given up?

Russ Lawson

Bulgarian pilots kidnapped

"Interruption Of Aid"
 
This is not the kind of news that makes headlines in the United States. For those affected, however, it's tragic. Three Bulgarian pilots were kidnapped on Wednesday as they attempted to fly planeloads of food to refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan. For the people on the ground, this interruption of aid could mean life or death.
 
The plight of those in West Darfur State in Sudan (a nation in northern Africa) has occasionally been in the news. In 2003 many in that area rebelled against the government, leading to a crackdown that resulted in over 300,000 deaths and the displacement of millions. Those millions depend on the assistance provided by the World Food Program.
 
The kidnapping yesterday is but the latest incident of a growing movement to stop food from reaching those who need it desperately. There is great concern for the safety of the three pilots, but there is also tremendous concern for those who wonder when they will be able to eat again.
 
Think of it this way: An automobile accident leaves a family seriously injured. The ambulance that is dispatched to rush them to help is hijacked before it can reach the victims. Would there not be an outrage at such an act? That's the kind of situation seen in Sudan.
 
Have you heard of another crisis affecting billions of people? This plague puts the eternal welfare of all in great jeopardy. Assistance has been sent out, help which is absolutely effective and provides the cure needed. But strong efforts are being made to stop that aid from reaching the ones afflicted.
 
Paul spoke of this evil interruption in 2 Corinthians 4:3,4: "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this world has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." Satan, Paul warned, is doing his best to keep Christ's help from reaching those who need it.
 
Luke wrote about "an intelligent man" named Serguis Paulus who called for Paul and Barnabas to teach him about Jesus. As they taught, however, "Elymas the sorcerer ... withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith" (Acts 13:7,8). Sadly, Elymas is not the only one who has cooperated with Satan. Many have tried to steer people away from the saving truth of the gospel.
 
We learn in Romans 1:16 how important the gospel of Christ is: "... it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." Salvation is the relief that God has sent from heaven. You, I and all who live need this relief. Our eternal destiny depends on it.
 
We must take seriously the Bible's warning that Satan is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8). He will do whatever it takes to interrupt the aid God has sent for you and me. Sometimes he'll use people to steer us away from the power of the gospel; at other times he'll distract us with entertainment. His main objective is to keep God's relief from reaching desperate souls.
 
We have this advantage, however: "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). If we see our need for God's aid, He'll make sure we receive it.
 
Timothy D. Hall
 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

THE CHURCH OF BODY MODIFICATION

       Earlier this year, a 14-year-old girl named Ariana Lacono was suspended from school.  She was not being rebellious or harmful to anyone though.  She was suspended simply because she had a nose piercing, and this violated the school's dress code.  Now, most people would take the easy path in this situation and just take out the nose piercing, but not this family.  See, the reason this story became a headline is because they were claiming that the nose piercing was a way Ariana expresses her religion.  Now, I have heard of people getting a piercing as a physical reminder of what Christ has done, but this went to a whole different level.

       As it turns out, this family is part of something called the "Church of Body Modification."  Yes, you read that correctly.  This is a group of people who heavily support body modifications and are tying it in with religious practices.  So, Ariana was saying that her piercing is a part of her religion and should therefore be accepted by her school.  Sadly, this dispute was taken to the Federal Court and the ruling went in Ariana's favor.

       Most of us probably have never heard of this "church."  I certainly had not.  Essentially this church believes that the body, mind, and soul are connected and are an integrated unit.  Therefore, if a person modifies his/her body, then the mind and soul will be modified as well.  To be quite honest, this "religion" is outrageous and, well, gross.  They support and endorse all types of body modification including all forms of cosmetic surgery, tattoos, piercings, tongue splitting, and body gauges (stretching the nose, ears, and other parts of the body with steadily larger objects).  From what I can tell, this church endorses, literally, any and all ways to change the body and to push the limits of the body (such as fire walking).

       There are several points to consider in this situation: (1) They claim to be a religion and yet they do not seem to worship together, use any scripture, or believe anything in the Bible.  In fact, they support many grotesque and sinful practices.  (2) God wants us to be respectful of our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 3:16).  Romans 12:1 states, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of god, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, well-pleasing to God...."  Certainly it is not "well-pleasing" to God when someone to changes, marks, scars, and damages what God created.  (3) People will do almost anything to get their way and get around the rules.  Apparently, some will even go so far as to make an entire religion about it.  It is sad that people are now using the label of "religion" to get around the rules and do what they want.  These people are using the "members of their body" for sin and self-gratification with their man made religion, but God has instructed us to present the members of our body as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:12-13).  This religion seems like nothing more than a loophole and an excuse to change and mark up the body.

       Our lives should be about living for Christ (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21).  It is not about modifying the beautiful way God created us, or pushing the limits of our bodies.  The Scripture says, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.  If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness...for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die, but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:9-10, 13).  Living and experiencing life physically is trivial in comparison to spiritual living (1 Timothy 4:8).  The real way to live and experience life is by putting the deeds of the body to death and living a spiritual life dedicated to Christ.

 

--Brett Petrillo

 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Merv Griffin show

Alan Smith recalls seeing a body builder who appeared on the Merv Griffin
show a number of years ago. When he got on stage, the body builder stepped
forward and flexed a series of well-defined muscles from chest to calf. The
audience applauded.

Merv asked him, "What do you use all those muscles for?" Again, the
muscular man flexed, and biceps and triceps sprouted to impressive
proportions.

Merv persisted. He said, "But what do you use those muscles for?" And the
body builder was bewildered. He didn't have an answer other than to display
his well-developed frame.

After viewing the incident, Alan Smith wrote: "I think we face the same
temptation. God has blessed each of us with a host of talents and
abilities. But they haven't been given to us simply so we can 'show off' in
front of others. And when we are asked the question, 'What do you use your
talents for?', I hope our response is not to flex our muscles and look
confused. I hope we realize that all that we have and all that we are has
been given to us for a purpose."

For what purpose? God's Word provides the answer.

Our purpose is to live in fellowship with God and bring glory to Him with
our lives.

The PROBLEM is that our sins separate us from God and from life's noble
purpose. Our situation is like the people of Isaiah's day: "Your iniquities
have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from
you, So that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2).

But God has provided a SOLUTION. He sent His Son to die on the cross to pay
the price for our sins so that we might have forgiveness of sins and the
freedom to live life properly (Ephesians 1:7).

Each of us can accept this forgiveness and freedom upon our obedience to the
Gospel ("Good News") of Jesus by: placing our faith and trust in Him (Acts
16:30-31), turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing
Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38;
Romans 6:3-4).

Then, we are to "count ourselves DEAD to sin but ALIVE to God in Christ
Jesus" (Romans 6:11) to fulfill the REAL purpose of life....

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do ALL to the
glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Won't YOU?

David A. Sargent

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How to grow the church

Were I to ask a business man if he had a successful year last year, likely he would gage success on "numbers."   That is to be expected; for who in his right mind would even suggest that his business was a success had said company lost inventory, or even worse, dollars?  To a car dealer, successes is measured in the number of cars sold; to a financier, success is measured in interest earned, or stocks bought and sold.   But you cannot measure church growth in numbers.  Genuine church growth falls outside the realm of the tangible.  Admittedly there are tangible indications of church growth – but the tangible signs of growth can be misleading.  Jesus warned the church at Sardis, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou are dead" (Rev. 3:1).   What is it that gave Sardis a "name that thou livest"?   Was it the attendance figures for the year?  Perhaps it was the number of baptisms; or the many mission endeavors in which she was involved.    Perhaps the congregation had appeared in one of the brotherhood periodicals of the first century as being among the "fastest growing congregations in the brotherhood."   But the numbers were deceiving, were they not?  Keep this in mind, beloved:  Our Lord does not measure true success by tangible numbers!  In all the letters to the seven churches of Asia, not a single one is commended for numbers, neither are any condemned for the lack thereof!   Do not misunderstand, beloved – we cannot avoid increase in numbers when the church is growing – but numbers for numbers sake are not an accurate barometer of true church growth.   

If we focus on numbers we will not develop a climate conducive to the kind of growth God desires.    To illustrate, let us suppose an eldership has a desire to increase the attendance by 20% over the next twelve months.   Simple math would demand that a present attendance of 100 would need to be at 120 by year's end.  So, the goal is set, and every effort is put into achieving that end.   Suppose that by year's end there has been an increase of only 1-2%, or even worse, no increase at all.   The temptation would be to examine the methods being used to achieve the desired increase, and conclude, "We must be doing something wrong!"   Along with the temptation to re-evaluate the "method" would be the danger of minimizing those things that are truly important (and scriptural) and focus even more on the increase in numbers.    Why not, instead, focus our attention on those things that the Bible teaches us will provide for spiritual growth, and trust in God to give the increase?  Has our Lord not promised that if we will sow and water that He will give the increase?  "So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase" (1 Cor. 3:7).  Paul was not minimizing the work of the evangelists, but was emphasizing the importance of focusing our attention on the source of genuine increase – increase, we might add, that can be measured in tangible figures.   Notice that it was the preaching of the gospel to which Paul focused our attention:  "I planted…Apollos watered" (vs. 6).  With these things in mind, we humbly suggest the following spiritual truths that will help us maintain and develop a climate for church growth. 

First, the leaders of a congregation must give attention to developing a positive atmosphere for church growth.   As the spiritual climate about us continues to deteriorate we find ourselves saying (if only among ourselves), "Nobody will listen to the gospel anymore."  Or, "People are just not interested."  A steady diet of such negative thinking will erode and rob any congregation of its zeal to seek and save the lost.  Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that Romans 1:16 ("the gospel…is the power") and Philippians 4:13 ("I can do all things in Christ") are still in the Bible.  

Second, leaders must give attention to developing an attitude of trust among members.  Fault finding, constant criticism, and internal strife will ruin the growth of a congregation.   A good diet of spiritual milk combined with instruction in areas such as congregational cooperation, brotherly love, and trust in God will go a long way to a healthy climate for spiritual growth.

Third, leaders must give attention to old fashioned evangelism.   If a farmer wants a larger crop, he gives attention to planting more seed.  Neglect in this area will result in a small harvest and/or a discouraged and disappointed farmer.  While elders have a great responsibility to address the spiritual needs of the flock, undue attention to the "felt-needs" of the members will result in a small harvest of souls if for no other reason than the fact that it draws our attention away from that which can and will provide growth.  Let us not neglect the great commission (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15).

Fourth, leaders must strive for excellence among themselves and the congregation.  Mediocrity does not attract people – it repels them.   We seek for excellence in the products we buy, and the service we expect from those in the secular realm.   It is our duty to give the very best to God.  "And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether to … ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching; or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting; he that giveth, let him do it with liberality" (Rom. 12:6-9).  Our desire for excellence should be apparent in our worship, our teaching, the building and grounds, etc.  Anything less falls short of the right climate for church growth.

Fifth, leaders must be flexible while remaining steadfast and unmovable.  There are some areas that must not change.  The word of God has been "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) and any attempt to deviate from the God-given standard will be disastrous (Gal. 1:8-9; Rev. 22:18-19).  Thus we encourage one another, "Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).  But when it comes to the method for growth, we must be flexible, willing to adapt to the changing times.   God has given us the amazing world-wide-web (better known as www.com), mobile phones, Ipods, Ipads and email to help us reach the billions of lost souls around us – we would be foolish to ignore these wonderful tools because we are locked in mind set that says, "Well, we never did it that way before." 

Finally, leaders must lead the way in demonstrating a serving spirit while expecting the congregation to follow in their train.   Adapting the words of the late John F. Kennedy, "Don't ask what the church can do for you; ask rather what you can do for the church."  I feel sorry for those anxious souls who give no consideration to working with a small congregation that cannot provide this program or that program and choose instead to place membership with a large congregation that has activities that meets their selfish, and in many instances, their fleshly desires.   When a congregation focuses their attention on programs that appeal to whims and wishes of its members rather than the desires of God, they are well on the way to producing a climate contrary to church growth. 

--Tom Wacaster

Monday, January 3, 2011

A wonderful Christmas season


I suppose that it's become a tradition about now that we editorial writers offer some words of consideration regarding the end of the old year and the coming new one. Well, I certainly do not wish to break or run afoul of that tradition, so I'm going to pen a few thoughts along that line today for you to consider. And, in a sense I guess, we'll see one more instance where we can learn valuable spiritual lessons from our children.

Well, we here at the Covey house just had a wonderful Christmas season. The family gathered as usual. We had lots of laughs and reminisces. A great load of gifts were exchanged. The old dining room table was loaded with good food and I'm the only one that overate (as usual). I know these gatherings, in practicality, really can't be done all year 'round, but I wish they could. I wish the "Christmas atmosphere" would prevail everywhere all year 'round, but we know that won't happen either, don't we? Can't stop me from wishing though.

For our old year/new year lesson, I'd like to enlarge a bit on our recent event of gift-giving. I'd like offer you some thoughts on the giving and receiving of gifts. To sort of put this in proper perspective, what's the greatest gift ever given, thus the greatest gift ever received? My answer to that question constitutes the gist of our lesson.

The easy answer to that question is found in that most familiar verse, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...." God "loved" the crowning achievement of creation, mankind, so much that He gave man the greatest gift possible - His Son's life for man's salvation. There's a verse in Romans 5:8 that speaks directly to this thought of gift-giving and it tells us there that this gift of love was bestowed on us "while we were yet sinners..." That simply means that we hadn't been good and weren't deserving of such a gift.

But, there's another way of looking at this gift and the greatness of it. We got "Light." I'd like to pursue this concept about "light" and maybe I can connect some thoughts about the greatness of the gift of "light." Anyway, this is the gift I'd like to talk about for the rest of our time and space today. IE: The gift we should carry into and throughout this New Year.

To set the stage, so to speak, let's read some passages from the 1st chapter of John. If you read verses 4-9 you'll see that Jesus, God's "only begotten Son" was with Him from the very creation of man. That, at the appropriate time, God sent Him into the world, unto the "darkness" (man) to be "The Light" to lead man out of that "darkness." It also tells us there that the "darkness" didn't "recognize" the Light and the sad state of affairs is, that many still do not. They didn't and they don't, recognize the greatness of the gift that was given them.

But, you know what? There's an answer as to why that is so because we see in John 3:19 that "men loved darkness rather than light..." and that would be the reason they would be condemned. They loved this world and the evils within it more than they loved the gift given them that allows them to escape it. Notice what Jesus Himself said about this situation in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

Now here's a little equation, maybe a segue if you will: Jesus tells us that He is "The Light." But then notice in John 12:36, we find out that those who do follow Him, who walk in the light, are "children of light." Why is that important to know here? Because of something the Apostle Paul tells us about the importance of being "children of light." Because we are so, we've been given the "light of the knowledge" of His Son. (2Cor. 4:6) Back a couple of verses (4) we find out that this "knowledge" is the "light of the glorious Gospel of Christ." I'd say that's pretty important, wouldn't you?

Actually, before we leave 2Cor. 4 and what Paul is telling us here, let's look at verse 7 in regards to our gift of light, of knowledge. Notice there how he characterizes this gift; as a "treasure." And where is this "treasure" left? In our hands. In "earthen vessels." As such, Paul tells us in Eph. 5:8 that "ye are the light of the Lord..." To use a common phrase, the "torch has been passed." Christians are the "children of light" because they "walk in the light" (1Jn 1:7). The "light" that they walk in is the "Gospel of Christ." And it's this "light" that has been left in their charge with which to "light" up the world.

In the 5th chapter of Matthew, Christ gives us more descriptors of Christians. Notice there, that along with being "the salt of the earth" (the preservers) they are "light of the world." Since we now understand exactly what that "light" is and what it means to Christians, we can more fully grasp what He says in verse 16 when he says that we should "let your light so shine before men..." He even gives us the purpose for letting our light shine: it's so the world "may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

That passage in Matt. 5:16 takes us back to something I mentioned at the outset of this lesson; that we might be able to see another spiritual lesson through our kids. When I go back over and consider all that we've talked about here today, I'm reminded of a most appropriate line of a song we're all familiar with. I don't think that I could have come up with a better close to our lesson than these words.....

                               "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine......"

Ron Covey



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