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Monday, February 28, 2011

CHARLIE SHEEN'S SERMON

It is passionate and, in his own words, full of zeal.  It is convicted.  It is, we have no reason to deny, sincere.  It is bold and very plain. 

There are a great many today who are averse to negatively judging the religion of others, especially if they are passionate, sincere, and convicted.  "They have their own truth" or "they have their own interpretation," we are told.  Such statements are too often uncritically received and accepted.  Using such "reasoning," we are told that an individual religious group may teach any number of things about worship, salvation, church organization, eternal destiny, marriage and morality, and the like.

Some might go so far as to say that Charlie Sheen is "going off the rails on a crazy train."  In interviews, he is rambling and what he says is enigmatic.  Morally, his lifestyle is diametrically opposed to scripture.  The sitcom of which he is the star routinely glorifies fornication.  So, are we at fault to judge the content of his life, his speech, and his beliefs as being contrary to the doctrine of Christ?

Certainly, a Hollywood actor is an extreme example but what better way to test our hermeneutic, our approach to scripture.  If we would judge that Mr. Sheen's recent activities with a pornography star or his assault of his wife "wrong," on what basis do we conclude such?  To what standard would we hold him or anyone else?  If the standard is scripture, which it should be, is not the best approach to scripture to "handle aright" (2 Tim. 2:15) the Bible and view it as the authoritative standard for every moral, ethical, and doctrinal question in life?  Too often, we pour the Bible into the mould of our desires, preferences, and opinions when exactly the opposite process is what must occur for us to properly reverence the Word of God (cf. Ps. 119:161; our hearts should, like David's, stand in awe of God's words).  May we take to heart the counsel of the apostle John: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 Jn. 4:1). 

 
--Neal Pollard  

Quick start up guide for the Bible

 

This past December I decided that it was time to replace the old DVD player with an updated player that had "blue ray" feature.  When I unpacked the box there were four manuals (one in English, one in Spanish, one in French, and one in German), a special HTML cable to route the "blue ray" signal to the television, and some extra paraphernalia for first one thing and then another.    Everything was included in the box that would give me an "enjoyable experience" with my new DVD player (they even included the batteries).  Most manufactures of electronic equipment have figured out that many of their customers are anxious to "get started" and so they include, along with the owner's manual, a "quick start guide" that enables the customer to get his equipment up and running, even if he does not know what he is doing once he does get it going.   Once the customer has his equipment up and running he is encouraged to take the time to read the owner's manual.   But if I know the human race, by this time most of the new proud owners of the latest in electronic gadgetry are saying to themselves, "Who needs the owner's manual? What do they think I am, a dunce? I can do this on my own."    This same mind set kicks in when it comes to consulting a map to figure out where you are, putting together a complicated piece of lawn equipment, or following instructions for any number of complicated, or not so complicated, items.   Were this mind set limited to the temporal and physical realm in which we live, we might only have to suffer an occasional embarrassment, or at worst, like Tim "the-tool-man" Taylor, make a visit to the hospital now and then.   But tragically this same kind of mind set seems to have infected the masses when it comes to listening to, or consulting with the God of heaven in matters of religion.   I have, on a number of occasions, referred to the Bible as our soul's "owner's manual."  Within the pages of this book are instructions that will provide us with a peaceful and happy life here on earth (Phil 4:7), better health and overall happiness (1 Pet. 3:10), our daily provisions of food, clothing and shelter (Matt. 6:19-33), and the hope of life everlasting when this life is over (Rom. 8:25, 1 Cor.13:13, Gal. 5:5).   When we examine the religious landscape about us it is rather obvious that the "many" (Matt. 7:13) have gone about seeking to establish a system of religion based upon their own wants and desires rather than taking the time to read and study the owner's manual.  "I don't need that manual," or "I'm smart enough to figure this out on my own" seem to permeate the thinking of mankind spiritually speaking.  It seems to me that there are at least four classifications of those who have failed, or are failing, to read the manual.

First, there are those who have never even heard of the manual.  Living in the dark recesses of the earth, they are completely unaware of the Bible, the message contained therein, or it's Great Giver.  These need not live in Africa, or the Congo, for there are some even within the borders of our own United States who have never heard of God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, or the plan for man's salvation.  Millions upon millions living in India bow at the feet of their Hindu gods while millions here in America bow at the shrine of material gain without so much as an inkling of an idea of who God is or the wonderful blessings that await them through His Son Jesus Christ.  

Second, there are those who know about the manual, but have not taken the time to study it carefully.  These have some vague idea as to the system of Christianity, but at some point in time they decided that they do not need God, nor do they need to take the time to read the Bible, or comply with the commandments contained therein.  That "manual" may have been good enough for mom and dad, but after all, "I  have more important things to do than to waste time reading some manual; I can figure this out for myself."

Third, there are those who want a "quick start" in their "Christianity," and, rather than read the manual itself, have relied upon others to read it for them.  Heed is given to their "pastor," or "preacher" upon whom they rely for instructions in religion and the exercise thereof.   The false teachers, with their "smooth and fair speech…beguile the hearts of the innocent" (Rom. 16:18), and these careless souls are carried away with every wind of doctrine imaginable (Eph. 4:14); all for the lack of taking the time to read the instructions.

Finally, there are those who have quickly read the manual or a small portion thereof, and who care not what the Book says but are intent on doing it their way.  "I like it," or "I want it" are the twin manifestations of a selfish heart that despise the narrow-minded pattern of God's word.  Rather than confine themselves to the instructions from above, they are determined to walk in the path of their own foolishness.  They ignore the warning of old, "O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23).  To them, how to worship God is not so important as their desire to worship him. Sincerity trumps truth, and feelings outweigh facts. From those caught up in denominational error to those who have been deluded by the change agents within the body of Christ, the end result will be the same, for "if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into the pit" (Matt. 15:14).

When it comes to life, and the eternal destiny of the soul, it is imperative that you take the time to read the instructions and follow them cautiously and carefully.  You may be able to eventually figure out how to operate that new piece of electronic equipment.  You may even be able to figure out "how to get there from here" without consulting a map.  But beloved, you are NEVER (I repeat, "Never") going to make it to heaven if you do not take the time to read and follow the instructions.

My Old Bible

Though the cover is worn,

And the pages are torn,

And though places bear traces of tears.

Yet more precious than gold,

Is this book worn and old,

That can scatter and shatter my fears.

This old book is my guide.

This is a friend by my side

It will lighten and brighten my way;

And each promise I find,

Soothes and gladdens my mind,

As I read it and heed it each day.

To this book I will cling,

Of its worth I will sing,

Though great losses and crosses be mine;

For I cannot despair,

Though surrounded by care,

While possessing this blessing divine.

 

by Tom Wacaster
 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Perseus Project


In college, some of us went through a brief fad of putting on the gloves and sparring out on the balcony of Burton Dorm at Faulkner University.  It was fun until your opponent and erstwhile friend landed a punch on your schnoz.  Then, finesse and skill gave way to wild flailing.  Fortunately, it was only a fad.

Boxing was one of the ancient Greek games.  According to the Perseus Project, "Ancient boxing had fewer rules than the modern sport.  Boxers fought without rounds until one man was knocked out, or admitted he had been beaten.  Unlike the modern sport, there was no rule against hitting an opponent when he was down...Instead of gloves, ancient boxers wrapped leather thongs (himantes) around their hands and wrists which left their fingers free" (www.perseus.tufts.edu).  There are ancient Greek drawings in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, showing these ancient athletes in action.  The boxers, according to a scornful Plato, are "the folk with the battered ears" (ibid.).

They were prominent enough figures that Paul referenced them by inspiration in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, alluding to these games and their competitors.  He illustrated his own self-discipline as a Christian and preacher by talking about the superior nature of Christianity to such earthly things, from the reward given to the victor to what was at stake by failing to win.  In verse 27, he says, "I box in such a way, as not beating the air."  Maybe Paul had seen a boxer landing facial and body blows, hitting his opponent when on the ground, and delivering leather to nose or ears.  Maybe he had heard the distinct sound of flesh being pounded in such a match.  Paul in essence says, "I deliver these blows to my body, keeping it in subjection to the Lord's will."  I cannot let my flesh win or lose to that dangerous opponent.  In the same way, the Lord calls on us to fight this tenacious opponent called the fleshly self.  If we lose, Paul says, the penalty could not be more severe or the shame more great.

 

Neal Pollard  

 

Why does piracy grow among the Somalians continue?

 Four Americans were killed Tuesday, February 22, 2011, in the north Arabian Sea aboard a yacht owned by two of them, Scott and Jean Adam.  Somali pirates seized the boat last Friday despite the fact that naval task forces from the European Union and NATO have 34 war ships on those waters.  The sea is enormous, and pirate activity in the region is intensifying in numbers and in violence.  In fact, the pirates are escalating their tactics, using "mother ships to launch smaller attack boats, enabling them to strike as far as 1,500 miles from the Samali coast" (www.politicsdaily.com).

Somali officials want intervention to squelch this plague of piracy coming from criminals among its citizens.  Those traversing those waters, whether civilian, commercial or military vessels, must deal with threats to their safety and terror.  Public outcry, among those aware of the situation, is significant.  Yet, their number and their threat grows.

Why does piracy grow among these Somalians, despite the fact that many of them have been captured, sentenced, and even killed?  International opinions are decidedly against them!  Some would say that it has been physical and financial success.  The BBC reports that they took 1,181 hostages in 2010 and were paid millions of dollars in ransoms (goafrica.about.com, 1/18/11).  Some would say that the odd shape of the country, narrow but having a long coast line, or the vastness of the seas they scour, give them a sense of security.  Others say that these pirates are trying to protect the waters off their coastline from international pollution and pillaging of fish and other marine life whereby Somalia's citizens can earn a living.  The answer may not be clear, but the problem is.  Piracy is a growing trend.

Have you stopped to think about the fact that sin does not stay dormant or stagnant in one's life.  Unchecked and unremoved, it grows.  Societal sins may start subtly and sparsely, but when not renounced, they move into the mainstream and are even embraced.  Sin never ceases to be ugly, dangerous, and life-threatening.  Whether one grows bolder in it, enjoys a measure of success despite it, or seeks to justify it, God views it just the same.  So must we!  It is dangerous, devilish, and deadly.  May we ever strive to remove its effects from our individual lives and "let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Mat. 5:16). 

 
Neal Pollard

Kindle e-reader for Christmas present

 

I was surprised this past Christmas to find a Kindle e-reader as one
of my presents.  Though I had been intrigued by the advertising, I
hadn't asked to be given one.  Now that I've had one for a couple of
months, I'm ready to say that I'm impressed.

This device, easily held in one hand while reading, can download books
from the Amazon web site within a minute.  It will hold 3,500 books
and their service will archive any you don't want to keep on your
device.  Other companies have their own versions of the e-reader;
Barnes & Noble, Sony and others are now players in the market.  The
future of book stores has never been more in question as electronic
books grow in popularity.  (Borders book stores are already shuttering
their stores.)

The thought struck me recently that this new medium really doesn't
change the message of the book.  I've downloaded, for example, short
stories by O. Henry, originally produced in the medium of ink on
paper.  But the electronic medium doesn't change the thoughts of this
entertaining author.  My mind still receives the same message as it
would have if I had been reading "the old fashioned way".

The same could be said for mp3 files.  I listen to music on my iPod
that originally was pressed onto vinyl discs.  Since then I've
digitized my favorite LPs, and the medium has changed dramatically.
But the music is still the same.  The medium did not alter the
message.

There was a time, though, when the medium was a major aspect of the
message.  I'm referring now to the Incarnation, the coming of Jesus
Christ into this world by means of a fleshly body.  The medium He
chose - a body like our own - is in itself a message (though He
certainly spoke other messages while in that body on earth).

Here's how Paul described the marvel of the medium: "Have this mind
among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was
in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be
grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being
born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he
humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death
on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8, ESV).

Paul's use of the word "form" is the concept of "medium".  God could
have spoken His expectations straight from heaven, as He did in Old
Testament times (see Exodus 20, for example).  But when God the Son
came to earth in a body like our own - subject to pain, fatigue,
thirst, hunger, etc. - that in itself was a powerful message.

Hebrews 4:15,16 aptly sums up the message Jesus' medium conveys: "For
we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our
weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may
obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Because Jesus experienced life as we know it, we know He understands
our needs.  That knowledge of His compassion draws us to Him more
powerfully than if He had merely thundered laws from heaven.  The
medium He willingly chose is one of the most beautiful messages of
all!

Timothy D. Hall

Monday, February 21, 2011

With God, there are only two categories of men

    With God, there are only two categories of men: (1) the Righteous, and (2) the Unrighteous. The Righteous are His children, the Unrighteous (everyone else), are children of Satan (1John 3:10). The Righteous are saved; the Unrighteous are lost -- pretty simple, isn't it. There are only two who can be our Master: (1) We can make Jesus our Master, or, (2) we can make Satan our Master (Matthew 6:24); and Jesus never "holds hands" with Satan to share leadership over our lives.

            From the very beginning, we see God separating light from darkness (Genesis 1:4). We turn a few pages in God's Book and see God saving righteous Noah and his family while destroying the rest of earth's population with a massive, global disaster (Genesis 7-9).  Even as God closes out His revelation to Man, we find all the righteous safely inside the walls of a city while everyone else is outside the walls where there are "dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers, idolaters, and liars" (Revelation 22:14-15).

            As we come to our own 21st Century generation, we see history repeating itself. In Romans 1:28, the apostle Paul tells of men with "depraved" minds whom God gave up on. The word "depraved," is the Greek word "ah-doc-oh-mohn," and has reference to those who just can't tell the difference between right and wrong. There's probably no better description that correctly personifies our very own generation. The reason for this "inability" is either unbelief in, or ignorance of, the Scriptures. The "reason" doesn't really make any difference as there is no "excuse for sin" (John 15:22 NKJV).  God says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). To be saved, we must come to a knowledge of the Truth (1Timothy 2:4). Only Truth sets us free (John 8:32); only obedience to the Truth will purify our souls (1Peter 1:22). Jesus told the religious Sadducees, "You are deceived not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). On another occasion, Jesus told some very religious people they could not enter Heaven because what they had done in this life was not according to the will of God (Matthew 7:21-23). This particular group of people boasted of all their good works they had done in Jesus' name, but it was to no avail, they were still cast out.

            Evidently, because of their ignorance of the Scriptures and the power of God, some people think that if they can just get close to the Truth, they will be ok on Judgment Day. Therefore, they will associate themselves with a religious organization (usually called a church),  and think they will slide right past the judgment seat of God without being "tested" by the Word (John 12:48;  Romans 14:12;  2Corinthians 5:10). It matters not that they did not "seek the kingdom first," or that they held little regard for the worship assemblies, or that they seldom studied their Bible or attended Bible classes at church. Perhaps it's their "not knowing the power of God" that makes them think that Jesus died on the Cross just so they could live their lives any way they want to, and STILL go to Heaven! 

            Because "righteousness" is revealed in the Gospel (Romans 1:17), and the Gospel is the Word (Col 1:5), and such thinking is against the word, then such people are "unrighteous." -- their master is Satan, and they are lost, as Satan will not lead anyone to Heaven.

            It never ceases to amaze me how people can continue to hear this Truth for years, yet never change their lives, and still think they are in "good standing" with God. If you are living this "lie," it's time to put on the brakes and begin taking your salvation seriously. If you die lost, it won't matter that you ever lived in the first place; in fact, it would have been better that you had never been born (cf. Mark 14:21). Study the Bible; believe it; obey it. "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my way" (Psalm 119:105).

                                                                                             Toby Miller

When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me

Do you judge people? Think about it, do you make judgments about people you
know or people you meet. You may not even know someone; you may just observe
them in some situation. What guides your thoughts and judgments? Judgmental
is defined as: "one who is characterized by a tendency to judge harshly."

One of the interesting things about being a preacher is it seems that most
people outside of the church think you automatically judge them when you
meet them. Sadly, some of those in our churches feel the same way. I'm not
sure exactly why people have that perception, maybe it's the influence of
things they are shown television and movies. (Yes, I have a real problem
with how preachers and Christians in general are portrayed in those medias).

Perhaps it's because they take a quick look at their own lives and think
that we somehow have magic vision that allows us to see any mistake, fault
or weakness. Of course we don't, but have you every felt that way about
anyone? Of course you have, why is it, the first thing you do when you are
driving and see a police car is to look at your speed odometer.

I have no problem stating that almost all of the preachers I have met in my
life are really nice, loving individuals, not judgmental at all. However
because of this general perception I often don't mention that I'm a preacher
when I first meet someone. I have hopes that they will get to know what kind
of person I am before they stick a preconceived opinion on me.

I believe that most preachers are governed by the same example as are all
Christians, that of Jesus our Lord. I don't think I have ever heard anyone
accuse Jesus of being Judgmental, though he had no problem telling people
they were not serving God and going to hell.

The example I first think of is found in John 12:44-50, "Then Jesus cried
out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the
one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have
come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should
stay in darkness. "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep
them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to
save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my
words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I
did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what
to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So
whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."

Jesus makes it clear that there are rules (laws) given by God through His
Word. If judgment is made, it is not by some decision which you or I make,
but it's made by God. We often hear the phrase, "don't kill the messenger,"
meaning the one carrying the message is not the source of the message, only
the means of communicating it. Any judgment or decision is made based upon
the Word of the Master, not on our personal likes or dislikes.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the separation of the sheep and
the goats, or those who follow God's word and those who don't. He ends in
Matthew 25:46 with these words, "Then they (those who do not obey God) will
go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous (those who do obey God) to
eternal life."

When we recognize the difference between someone living in sin or living
righteously, does that make us judgmental? Often we don't have to say a word
to make the difference known, that's the impact of Jesus' words in Matthew
5:16 where he says, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that
they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." As the old
adage goes, sometimes deeds really do speak louder than words!

Russ Lawson

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is Religion an Emotional Feeling?"


A few years ago when I was traveling to an area in which I was unfamiliar with, I stopped and asked a gentleman for directions. Shortly after leaving the gas station I realized that I did not understand very clearly the directions which he had given me. However, I did remember a landmark in which I would have to make a turn to get to the destination that I desired. The only problem was that I did not remember whether I should turn right or left. So, there I was having to make a decision so where did I turn for the answer? That's right I made my decision on what felt right to me. I made the left turn and drove for a good while until I came to an area in which there was nothing but empty fields with some mountains in the background. Due to the fact I was looking for some homes to perform insurance inspections I realized, my feelings were wrong and here I was lost. Furthermore, the sad fact was I had a map with detailed directions laying in the back seat of my car. However, I had took man's directions mixed with what I felt was right and made my decisions and therefore, I ended up not being were I desired to be.

This same principle applies to religion and the spiritual life of people. Do many go on what they feel is right mixed with what men will tell them? Do many listen to men play on their emotions and led to believe it is right due to how they feel. The question is, " Is Religion an Emotional Feeling?"  What does the Bible say?

Jn. 14:6- Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Jesus said that He is the only way to Heaven. Notice here there is no emotional feelings mentioned here.

Jesus also said, Jn. 14:15- If ye love me, keep my commandments. Please notice, there is no emotional feelings on what is right or what is wrong. Religion has nothing to do with our emotions. Our love for God and His Son has nothing to do with emotional feelings, rather it has to do with OBEDIENCE to THE COMMANDMENTS OF JESUS CHRIST, not men.  Nothing to do with how we feel. The Bible says. 1 Sam. 15:22- And Samuel said, Hath the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice, [and] to hearken than the fat of rams.  Once again, God commands Obedience, nothing else.

What I failed to realize and do with my travels at one time has taught me a very solid spiritual lesson. If you have the map follow the directions to get to the desired location. Friends we all have the same map, The Bible. I pray that the destination in which you seek is Heaven. I encourage you not to go upon man or your feelings. What may feel right to you may lead you in the wrong direction. Use God's map and Obey His directions.

If I can be of any assistance in helping you with the map God has given us to help you get on the road to Heaven, please contact me. God Bless each and every one of you.

Shawn D. Slone

Thursday, February 17, 2011

United airlines grounded flights

 

United had to ground its fleet of nearly one hundred 757 airplanes.  That is a financial nightmare in an industry already struggling to keep its head above water, something hurt greatly when it cannot keep its "birds" in the sky.  The airline installed a necessary piece of computer equipment on all 757s back in 2004, but mechanics had not performed all the necessary safety checks.  They have been flying these planes, basically, without explicit permission from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

 

The FAA has industry standards that airlines, like them or not, must follow.  Failure to do so is costly!  There are objective standards, and the agency is blind to brand, label, or headquarters.  Everyone must equally comply (www.usatoday.com).

 

This unfortunate episode, which United is proactively working to resolve, reminds me of something I see far too often in religion.  Jesus, having all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:20), has told us what to teach about salvation, worship, gender roles, church organization and leadership, purpose, and the like.  His inspired Word is the means whereby we measure our compliance.  Unauthorized changes, whether additions or subtractions, constitute a change from what He wills and desires (cf. Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19; Gal. 1:6-9).  If, when we examine scripture and handle it aright (2 Tim. 2:15), we find that we are not in compliance with that for which He has called, we need to conform to His standards.  This is neither legalism nor mere liturgy.  It is obeying from the heart the form of doctrine delivered to us (Rom. 6:17).  It is humble submission, ready and eager to do the Lord's will over our own (Phil. 2:13).  The fact that He went to the trouble to preserve His will in His Word shows us that what we do and how we do it is important!  May we, from the inside out, comply with His standards and do all religious things His way!

Neal Pollard 

 

What was the largest amphibious assault of all time?

What do you think of when you think of power? I generally think of something
that demonstrates power or force, such as Niagara Falls or an Atomic Bomb.
Sometimes we think of power in the form of people or armies, maybe political
power or maybe the power to influence or persuade others (such as he or she
is a powerful speaker).

Of course we know that God is the ultimate power, but being human we
sometimes forget how he works in our world. We think of him only on a
spiritual being that doesn't interfere with the world in which we live.

This concept was brought into focus for me by the following true story:
A teacher writes, "I had been teaching my seventh-graders about World War
II, and a test question was, "What was the largest amphibious assault of all
time?" Expecting to see "the D-Day invasion" as the answer, I found instead
on one paper, "Moses and the plague of frogs."
How would you have answered? Do you think God still has an interest in our
world?
Paul reminds the church in Rome of this fact in Romans 13:1 where he writes:
"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no
authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist
have been established by God."

I like another illustration of God's power in Romans 1:16 where Paul writes:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God
unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to
the Greek."

The word "power" in the Greek is the word dunamis (doo'-nam-is) and is the
same root word from which we get the words Dynamo or Dynamite. So, when
things get difficult in your life or you are facing some crises, don't
forget the greatest power. Don't forget we have a connection to the creator
and sustainer of the universe, Our God!

Russ Lawson

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to overcome anxiety

Nathan Liddell preached a great chapel lesson today from Luke 2:52.  Along the way, he talked about the preacher's need to protect his figurative heart.  He cited the great formula for overcoming anxiety found in Philippians 4:6-9.  He is right.  Notice what Paul wrote there.

 

    "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with     thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,     which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in     Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever     is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there     is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The     things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these     things, and the God of peace will be with you."

 

Anxiety is a common mental ailment. The 2003 U.S. Census bureau determined, based on our country's estimated population of 176.4 million people between 18-64 years old, that anxiety disorders cost an annual $42.3 billion to treat.  13.3% of the population is said to have some type of anxiety disorder, an approximate 23.4 million people.  Anxiety disorders take in depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.  Many people develop more than one disorder.  This is the most common mental health problem in the U.S.  (all via depressionperception.com).  Do you think that Paul's inspired counsel could help with this?  Consider what he suggests in our text.

 

PRAYER (6).  It is what Paul suggests as the substitute for anxiousness.  He says not to engage in the one but to pour oneself into the other.  By having God shoulder the load, the burden is lighter.  He is able to do anything and everything.  We need to petition His help.

 

PRESCRIPTION (7).  Paul promises divine guidance in our lives as we give ourselves to prayer.  I am not making judgments on when medicine is or is not needed in treating stress-induced mental problems, but Paul is saying that the prescription must include staying attached to Christ and the peace we enjoy in Him.

 

PROPER PONDERING (8).  You are the product of your thoughts.  Shad Helmstetter wrote an entire book on this subject entitled, What to Say When You Talk to Yourself.  In it, he said, "All of us talk to ourselves all of the time.  Our self-talk may be in spoken words or unspoken thoughts.  It can take the form of feelings, impressions, or even worldess physical responses...We are thinking machines that never shut down" (36).  But, what are we thinking?  Paul tells us to employ positive, pure thoughts that exalt the Lord's cause and lift our own lives.  You think about the things suggested here and you attack anxiety at its roots.

 

PRACTICE (9).  All the thinking in the world will not lead to peace.  We need to pick out good role models for apparent mental and spiritual health, then follow them.  We need to enact the Christ-life in our personal lives.  When we are busy doing what the Lord wants, we can find purpose and lose the panic.

I am not trying to oversimplify real, medical, and physiological issues.  Yet, let no one discount the divine diagnosis and directions.  Following Paul's urging in this text will help us move from panic to peace, if we will put it to work in our lives!

 

Neal Pollard 

 

Monday, February 14, 2011

False ideas about the church

 
 

    If I were to visit you some evening and explain that I have discovered a new church outlined in the Bible that, if you become a member, you are guaranteed entrance into Heaven when you die, would you be interested?

            Interested or not, you would probably be curious and begin asking a few questions:

"What do I have to do to become a member of this church?" 

            I replied, "Just let me immerse you in water and you'll become a full-fledged member!"

 

You ask: "As a member, what would be expected of me?" 

            My reply, "Nothing in particular."

 

You ask:  "How many services would there be each week, and how often would I have to attend?"

            My reply,  "Well, there would be three services each week, but you don't have to attend them all, in fact, if you just show-up once in a while we'll leave your name on the membership roll."

 

You ask, "If I become a member f this church, what would be my responsibilities?"

            My reply, "Oh, you would have no responsibilities. In fact, you would have to demonstrate no loyalty, no commitment, there are no dues to pay, and you would not have to participate or become involved in any of the work or activities!"

 

            You would probably say, "Toby, are you telling me that the Bible outlines a church that all you have to do to become a member is to be dunked in water, and after that there is nothing expected of me ... that I only have to attend services once in a while ... that no commitment or loyalty is demanded of me ... that I don't have to participate in any of the work ... plus, membership will not cost me anymore than my kid's allowance -- and I'm still guaranteed to go to Heaven?"

            I respond with a modern affirmative: "Yep!"

            You would probably say, "Well, Toby, I may not know much about the Bible, but I do know enough to know that such a doctrine is ludicrous!"

            If that is your response, you would be absolutely correct! There is NO such church revealed in the Bible! Yet, is this not the church that too many have in their heads?  "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20).                                       Toby Miller

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Get it right the first time

 
We have an adage in the United States that simply says, "Get it right the first time!"
Another similar saying that I read recently puts it this way: "Always try to say the right thing, first thing, after doing the wrong thing!" (From Cowboy Etiquette).

A man wrote the following story about the importance of getting it right or confessing when you messed up.

He wrote: "My sister prepared a pasta dish for a dinner party she was giving. In her haste, however she forgot to refrigerate the spaghetti sauce and it sat on the counter all day. She was worried that it might have spoiled, but it was too late to cook up another batch. She called the local Poison Control Center and asked them about it. They advised her to boil the sauce again just to make sure, but felt it would be OK.

That night the phone rang during dinner and a guest volunteered to answer it. My sister could have sunk beneath the table, when the guest called out, 'It's the Poison Control Center. They want to know how the spaghetti sauce turned out.'"

Trying your best to get it right, but being a strong enough person to own up to it when you get it wrong, that's some time tough to do! I've messed up plenty of times in my life, thankfully, most of the time it has been in personal matters that affect no one else. However what about the times when we mess up, when we sin, and it does affect others, how do we handle it then? What does God's word have to say about that?

First what about sin that affects others? James 5:16 tells us, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

While concerning personal sin John writes in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Now here is what is important that we notice before we start applying these passages to someone else. Notice what John says in the context of 1 John 1:8-10, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.."  (NIV)

So, each and every one of us sin at some time. Simply we mess up in trying to live good or righteous lives. It's impossible for us to go though life without sinning. How do we know? Because God's Word says so!

But you see, you have a direct line to the most important poison control center, the one that monitors sin and connects us to God and his forgiveness. Rather than waiting for someone else to find out about what we have done wrong (our sin), maybe it's time for you to have a little talk with Jesus about your life. I do it often!

Russ Lawson

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy

 
 

    For some reason, many think God should be infinitely patient, and infinitely tolerant of their sinful life style. How can I make such a judgment? "By their fruits you shall know them" (Matthew 7:20). By the same mode of judgment, I've observed many who have twisted the Scriptures and have created God in their own image. The old saying that "actions speak louder than words," is nearly always true and reveals a man's character with great accuracy.

            Is your life saying, "God should be infinitely tolerant of my pet-sins;  God should be infinitely tolerant of my neglecting Him and His church;  God should be infinitely tolerant while I live my life the way I want to, and while I worship whenever and however I want to!"

            The Bible does teach us that, "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy" (Psalm 103:8). If we just read that verse, without reading the next verse, we'll not get the complete picture. Verse 9 says, "God will NOT always strive with man, nor will He withhold His anger forever."

            Does anyone really think they can ignore God, ignore Jesus and His church, and in general ignore the Truth, and still have favor with God on Judgment Day? Can a man do all these things and still expect to hear Jesus say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant?" (Matthew 25:21).

            Jesus did not tolerate the self-righteous, hypocritical Pharisees yesterday (Matthew 23), what makes us think He will tolerate the self-righteous hypocrites of today? (cf. Hebrews 13:8).

            Consider the response that Jesus gave His own disciples while sailing across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just miraculously fed thousands of men, yet the disciples were concerned that they had failed to bring bread to eat on their journey. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said metaphorically, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees."  The disciples did not understand this saying. Jesus seemingly becomes a little impatient. These disciples had spent much time with Him; listened to much teaching; witnessed many miracles; yet were unable to pick up on His metaphorical cue. He says, "Do you not perceive nor understand? You have eyes to see but cannot see; you have hears to hear but cannot hear! Is your heart still hardened?" (Mark 8:17-18). This is similar to Hebrews 5:12, "You've been Christians long enough that you should be teachers, yet you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the word of God."

            In the very next chapter, we hear Jesus saying to the multitude, "You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you?! (Mark 9:19).

            Many cannot handle the often depicted angry and vindictive God of the Old Testament -- the God who is described as a "consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 9:3);  the God who flooded the earth, and later incinerated Sodom-Gomorrah. They cannot connect that God with the *meek and lowly Jesus* (who loves all the little children of the world).  But when we come to the New Testament, we learn that the Father and Son are "One" (John 10:30); They are in perfect unity (John 17:21); and the Son is even subject to the Father (1Corinthians 15:27-28). As Paul writes, "They suppress the Truth" (Romans 1:18). The result? We are left with an incomplete picture of Jesus, whom people think loves them so much that He will just let them live their sinful and irreverent lives and save them ANYWAY! They say, "Speak to us of the Lamb of God, but speak not of the Lion of Judah!"

            This is why so many religious people are committed to Christ only in-so-far as it is convenient.

                                                                                  Toby Miller

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Most Expensive Meal in History

Did you hear about the expensive meal at Burger King in Palmdale,
California? George Beane ordered two Whopper Jr.s and two Rodeo
cheeseburgers when he pulled up to the drive-through window. The cashier
forgot that she had entered the $4.33 charge on his debit card, and she
punched in the numbers again without erasing the original ones -- creating a
total bill of $4,334.33! The electronic charge went through to George's
checking account and left him penniless.

It was promoted as "the most expensive meal in history." That seems a
little extreme to me. I'm sure there are many other meals which have
brought a higher tab than that. But, I would like to cast MY vote for the
most expensive meal in history.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate some fruit which turned out to
be extremely expensive. It cost them their home in the Garden of Eden. It
cost them their relationship with one another. It cost them their
relationship with God. And additional costs have been passed down to every
man and woman who have lived on the face of this earth ever since.

The truth of the matter is that sin always has consequences. We play
games in our mind and try to deny it because we like to play with fire
thinking that we'll never get burned (even though everybody else has). We
like to flirt with sin thinking that "I can do this and it won't hurt
anything" but it always does. Sometimes, like Adam and Eve, sin affects our
relationship with others around us -- husbands, wives, children, parents,
church family, friends. And sin always affects our relationship with God.
And if our sin remains unforgiven, it can cost us our eternal home. It's a
high price to pay for a few moments of selfish enjoyment.

Listen to this warning from James: "When tempted, no one should say,
'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt
anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged
away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin
and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my
dear brothers." (James 1:13-16)

Don't be deceived! Partaking of sin will result in a bill far greater
than you ever could have imagined. Even greater than the cost of burgers in
California these days.

Alan Smith

Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path

Have you ever been lost? I mean really lost? It's easy to do when we are
unfamiliar with the area we are traveling through. Some of us have been lost
and some of us still are, aren't we.

When we first arrived in Africa, Dan Bell the missionary we were joining
took me out into the bush. He pointed out the tire tracks of our vehicle and
said, "Always pay attention to the tire tracks, they'll show you how to get
back". (normally we would meet a man from the area who would guide us to the
village to which we were traveling, but often we went back without them.)

Stanley Jones tells of a missionary who got lost in an African jungle,
nothing around him but bush and a few cleared places. He found a hut and
asked the man who lived there if he could get him out. He said he could.

"All right," said the missionary, "show me the way."

The man said, "Walk," so they walked and hacked their way through unmarked
jungle for more than an hour.

The missionary got worried. "Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is
the path?"

The man said, "Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path."

You see the place we need to go is unfamiliar to many people. That's not a
new problem in it'self. Notice the conversation that takes place in John
14:4-6, Jesus said: "You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas
said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know
the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one
comes to the Father except through me." (NIV)

Most of us are heading in a lot of different directions in our lives. We
plan our lives out in stages. We plan what we will do when we get out of
school, then where we will work and where we will live. We make plans for
getting older and what will happen in our lives then, but what about after
that? Someone once said, "if you don't know where you are going, you'll be
sure to get there."

There is only one who is the path! He is the way, the truth and the life! Do
you know him? If you're lost and struggling to find your way, maybe it's
time meet the one who is the only true path!

Russ Lawson,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli

    I remember while in Advanced Infantry training, dressed in full combat gear and carrying a backpack that weighed at least  700 pounds (!) while on a forced march through ankle-deep sand; I decided death would be easier. Everyone in the platoon was nearly exhausted. Then the Drill Instructor started singing, "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…"  He commanded us to sing, and somehow we found the breath to do it. Amazing – as the unified voices of each Marine filled the air, strength came from *somewhere.*  We all finished the march.  There was something about lifting our voices together in song that gave each of us strength and encouragement to withstand a common burden. 

    Funny how singing can, in one situation, cause one to be filled with energy and stamina; in another situation cause an inward, emotional joy, and at other times cause a lump to form in your throat and tears to fill your eyes.

            In the OT, we see singing associated with work, worship, and even military activities (Gen. 31:27;  Ex. 32:17-18;  Isa. 16:10).  Singing is an important and powerful part of our lives. It expresses our deepest emotions, motivates athletes, motivates soldiers, unites masses of people, and celebrates significant events. However, it's most important use has always been to worship and praise God.

            It really isn't surprising that God commands New Testament Christians to sing; God's people have always been a "singing" people. Being delivered from Egyptian bondage, "Moses and the children of Israel sang to the Lord" (Ex. 15:1ff).  Consider all the "Psalms" (songs) that David wrote;  When Babylon devoured Judah and led the people into captivity, they said to the Israelites, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" (Ps. 137:3). This was said in a mocking sense, but is proves that God's people had a reputation for being a singing people.

    Singing was part of the spiritual life of Jesus. In the synagogue, He sang with the congregation. In the upper room after Jesus had shared the last Passover meal with His disciples and instituted the Communion, we read, "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives" (Mark 14:26). 

    When Paul and Silas were prisoners in jail, they were singing hymns to God and the other prisoners, plus the guard were listening to them (Acts 16:25). Undoubtedly, the singing played a part in the conversion of the guard.

            Out singing is motivated by, "Letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly" (Col. 3:16), thereby "being filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18).  The source of our enthusiasm is God – it is NOT the result of being "emotionalized" by an organ, or "energized" by guitars, drums and tambourines. We "make melody in our hearts to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). Our singing is not to entertain one another or show-off our talents.

            We often sing in preparation for taking the Lord's Supper – to prepare our hearts for prayer – and encourage someone to respond to the invitation. But perhaps the greatest reason to sing is summed up in the great old hymn, "I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free, for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."

            We should not take lightly this important area of our worship. Singing from the heart, Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, will substantially help us to grow in our spiritual nature.  However, until you lay your sins at the foot of the cross, and begin obeying the Gospel you have nothing to sing about.   

--Toby Miller

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