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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples

How much are you really in control of your life? I mean we all would like to
say we are 100% in control of our lives, wouldn't we. We make the decision
as to where we live, where we work and what we do. We would like to say that
we are in control of our families as far as our eating habits, our
entertainment and the learning environment of our children and
grandchildren. Yes, we would like to say that, but we know in the reality of
our world it just isn't true. There are far too many things about which we
have no control.

Could it be that we are too concerned with controlling too much that goes on
in our world? What is it that concerns you? What is it that you pray to our
God about? What requests do you make?

There is an interesting incident found in Luke 11:1-4. Jesus is asked by his
disciples to teach them how to pray. He responds with a simple outline for
prayer. Notice the text:

"One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his
disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his
disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your
name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our
sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into
temptation.'"

He begins by praising God and then deals with what to ask. He said, "Give us
this day our daily bread". You can't get much simpler than that. Really what
he was saying was, "Lord, Meet my needs for the day!"

Could you really be satisfied making that kind of request for yourself?
Just, "Lord, give me what I need." That demonstrates total trust in God and
I wonder if most of us really trusts God enough to say that? To give Him
control of our lives, to not give us that for which we ask, but what we
really need. To trust Him enough to let him start opening and closing doors
in our lives and rejoice in what comes our way.

Most of us can't do that can we? We feel more comfortable taking a shopping
list with us when we pray. We say, "Lord, give us this day our daily bread."
Oh, and make that whole wheat not white and by the way, we prefer this
certain bakery.

I challenge you this week to try to turn your life over to God. I challenge
you to begin to pray simply and with trust that God really is able to make
all things turn out for the good in our lives (Romans 8:28). Do you believe
that? If you do then challenge yourself to give up control of your life and
live like you believe it!

May our God guide you and give you what you really need!

Russ Lawson

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding

 

    In considering Paul's statement in Philippians 4:7 concerning the "peace of God which surpasses all understanding..." I began to wonder, just how much do we, as carnal human beings, truly understand, especially about the *invisible things* created by Christ in heaven and on earth (cf. Colossians 1:16).

            We know there are things that God has revealed to us, but there are also things that He has kept "secret" from us (Deuteronomy 29:29).  Ever wonder what those "secret things" are?

            You probably remember the old question: "How can a black cow eat green grass, give white milk and yellow butter?"  In the same vein, how can I eat food and part of it goes to nourish my brain, other parts strengthen my bones, some turns into antioxidants that cleans my blood, etc., etc..

            We understand all the elements involved in a tornado, but why is it that often all the elements are present and a tornado doesn't form?  We know "how" electricity works, but we don't understand "why" it works.  Why is it that our massive, gargantuan solar system operates with such minute precision that we can predict where the tiny planet of Pluto will be a thousand years from day after tomorrow?  Why is the law of gravity consistent throughout the universe?

            These, and ten thousand other questions, and they all surround "physical" things!  If we understand so little about physical things, how little must we truly understand about "spiritual" things?  Again, Paul himself says even the "peace of God surpasses all understanding."

            I often wonder about the sin of sexual immorality. The Holy Spirit says (through Paul), that "every sin a man commits is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (1Corinthians 6:18). There seems to be something especially destructive about the sin of sexual immorality. Maybe that's why Satan is using "sex" to permeate every ounce of our society.  Somehow, it is especially detrimental and damaging to one's personal soul and spiritual well-being, as well as his relationship to God. While it may seem to the majority that the promiscuous, uninhibited life-style is, at least acceptable, among consenting adults, what is truly happening to a person's soul when they are intimate with someone outside the boundaries of God's Law?  No one can genuinely know, but we do know that something happens, and it isn't "good."  That's where faith comes in -- "without which no one can please God" (Hebrews 11:6).

            If we put all things under a microscope, we would have to admit that we really don't understand much at all.  There's only one solution: *faith* which comes by hearing, believing, and aligning our lives with God's Word (cf. Romans 10:17), even if doesn't make sense to us, and even if we don't understand the reasoning behind certain commands.

                                                                                                           Toby Miller

Monday, August 22, 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Today is the first day of a big event for Colorado, the USA Pro Cycling
Challenge. It will be historic for at least one reason. The race will
include two 12,000 foot passes--Cottonwood (12,126) and Independence (12,
085). The first twelve miles up Cottonwood is on dirt! It will challenge
the more than 120 pro racers from 12 nations, chiefly because of an altitude
most of these racers are unaccustomed to facing. Performance in that thin
of air is necessarily reduced. Bicyclists have to guard against going too
fast or too slow. They must find that right "middle gear" and essentially
stay in it consistently.

Isn't that the way it goes? Stay contented in a spiritual rut, traveling
the low roads, and you can pretty well coast along. But, strive to climb to
new heights and the challenge really begins! Pushing yourself out there to
evangelize is uncomfortable and in some cases hard. Being distinct and
different from the world when such is demanded by the Bible is difficult.
Defending an unpopular Bible truth can be painful! Being an active,
involved father and devoted husband can be inconvenient and time-intensive.

Involvement in church work, faithfulness to church services, self-discipline
in personal spirituality, and the like produce stiff challenges in our
"upward call" (Phil. 3:14). Bible terminology calls the "heavenward way"
narrow and difficult (Mat. 7:13-14). We need help to make it to that "rock
that is higher than" us (cf. Ps. 61:2). The truth is that while climbing
those new heights gets easier with practice and experience, it will always
be more difficult to reach up to God than to remain content and comfortable
in the valley of mediocrity! Accept the challenge of true Christianity and
go higher!


Neal Pollard

Sunday, August 21, 2011

profane prophets and priests

"Updates and upgrades." I get them all the time and I'm pretty sure that you do too. It just seems that about everything we have, product-wise, is always being "updated." Especially computers and their programs or our cell phones. I mean, you can buy the latest giz-whizzy on the market and within a short period of time, it needs updated or upgraded.

By now you're probably wondering what product updates have to with a spiritual lesson so, to relieve your wondering, the rest of this editorial will be my attempt at doing just that.

I'm going to use our commonly seen "product updates" in a parabolic way of showing how this phenomenon has influenced certain aspects of the Church and religion in general. We're going to consider the general topic of false doctrines and refresh our minds as to how God looks at man's efforts at, shall we say, "updating" His Word.

Let me just remind you that false doctrines run the gamut of being totally absurd to just being "a little bit different" from The Word. Or, maybe as a carpenter might say it: from being "completely out of whack" to being just "a half-a-bubble off plumb." Here's the problem with either of those categories, and it's not the degree of being "off" that's the problem. The problem is that both are unacceptable to God, regardless of the degree of separation.

In my feeble little brain, here's how I tie the "updates" parable to our topic of discussion. You see, when you get notice of an "update/upgrade" for whatever product you own, what that's telling you is that something better is now available. That product you bought was good at the time of purchase, but now it's been made better. Thus, it's been updated. Upgraded.

God provided mankind with His Word - The Bible. It is His wisdom, His program if you will, and it provides mankind with everything he needs for his soul to receive eternal salvation. So, think of it this way, if man comes along and says that he's designed something different he's, in effect, saying that he sees a better way. He's "upgrading" the original.

Sadly, we even see this phenomenon creeping into the Church, don't we? We see some advocating the joining with other denominations in some sort of unity movement. Or in the forming of specialized groups for worship service. It's almost as if those advocating the changing of Church doctrine in order to be more modern in matters of religion are, in effect, "updating" the system - the doctrine. It's like saying that God just doesn't understand our modern times and His doctrine needs "updating." His "program" needs to be "upgraded."

Many of you might not be old enough to remember something that occurred during the 1960's, but a professor in one of our southern universities once made the pronouncement that "God is dead!" Well, that caused somewhat of a hullabaloo for awhile, but then sort of passed on into being old news. My point in recalling this episode is that I think we're now to the point of saying that God isn't dead - He's just old-fashioned.

Someone once said that one of the things we can never understand is "the folly of man." Probably no truer words were ever spoken, not only regarding religion and God, but just about everything else. It just baffles me how seemingly intelligent people can think that they have the ability to change anything God has said in His Word. That they actually believe that they can "update" the Bible.

That they think that whatever changes they see as being "better" will be OK with Him. Perhaps they think that since "God is love" and they're doing something "religious," then it"ll be OK, He will "sign off"on their "updates." Perhaps we should look at some scripture (in the "original program") and see if we can determine how He feels about His Word being "updated."

In the legal justice system we have a thing called "case law." That's simply a record available to be looked at to see what was ruled on in past similar cases. I believe that "case law" also exists in the Bible that's available for us to look at and see just what God "ruled" in regards to a similar case of changing, or the advocating of something different from what He had set in place. I found this "case law" in the 23rd chapter of the book of Jeremiah, the prophet of God. Let's study it a moment.

In today's vernacular, those who want to "update" the doctrine of God are called things like "change agents" or "false teachers." In Jeremiah's day they were referred to as "profane prophets and priests." (23:11) We read in that chapter that they earned those titles by teaching (advocating) something different from what God had said for them to teach.

From His words in verses 9-11 I think we can safely say that He was not pleased with what His prophets and priests were teaching and how they were living. He says things like "My heart within me is broken because of the prophets: all my bones shake...." He goes on later (verses 16-17) to warn the people not to listen to their words because they will only "make them vain" which basically is saying that they are just "filling them with false hopes."

It's in verse 16 that we see the passage I cited at the beginning and shows us why the prophets/priest's teaching filled them with false hope: because they spoke "a vision (a doctrine) out of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord." He goes on to further say that the false and profane prophets were telling the people, "you'll have peace" and "no evil shall come upon you."

I ask you, isn't that the same thing the false teachers and "change agents" of today are saying? "Don't worry, everything will be okay." ("You'll have peace"). "God is love, He won't punish you." ("no evil shall come upon you"). You see, what's happening here is that our modern-day false teachers are doing the same thing Jeremiah's false prophets did: teaching a "vision from their own heart" and not the Word "out of the mouth of the Lord."

I would further opine that if Jeremiah's false prophets were, in the eyes of God, as the "inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah" (vs. 14) I don't think that He's going to see the purveyors of false doctrines today any different. At least that's what the "case law" tells me.

Let me just finish our lesson here with some final words of Jeremiah that I feel completes the thought of both false doctrinal teachers and those who follow them. Those who believe that their words, their "visions," their "updates" are safe and they'll have "peace." Read them with me as we close:

"Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them and cause my people to err by their lies and by their lightness: yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord."

Ron Covey

 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Who will be in heaven?

 

    Do you realize that only Christians are going to Heaven? The Bible no where even hits that one who is accountable will go to Heaven unless that person is a Christian.

    Do you realize that every Christian is in the "family of God?" Since God adds the saved to His church (Acts 2:47), and the church is His family (1Timothy 3:15), then every single individual who is in the family of God will also be in His church.

            Are you saved? That is, are you a Christian? If you were living in the first century with your current loyalty to God, would you be considered a Christian?

            What it meant to be a Christian in the first century was clear and unmistakable.  There was no arguing about how one must be baptized; no arguing about whether or not one needed to worship in spirit and truth; no argument about whether one needed to "seek His kingdom and His righteousness first" in order to be saved (Matthew 6:33).  Does this describe you?

            In Acts 11:26, the disciples were called "Christians" - - no one else, only disciples wore that name.  If you were a disciple of Jesus Christ in the first century, then you were a Christian. A disciple of Christ is a "follower" of Christ.  Does this describe you? Are you a follower?

            Based on Matthew 7:20 ("by their fruits ye shall know them"), it seems that many, if not most, think that Jesus follows THEM.  They have the idea that being a Christian simply means to have Jesus "handy" in case they might need Him for some reason.  What about you? Do you follow Jesus, or do you expect Jesus to follow you?

            Do you think that when you're too tired to get out of bed and worship that Jesus will stay there with you? Do you think it is Jesus who has led you to be inactive in His church? Do you think that when there's a major sporting event, a huge sale at the Mall, or even a county Fair and you decide to skip worship and attend one of these events, do you think Jesus will follow you there?  Jesus did not allow even the Cross to deter Him from doing His Father's will (Philippians 2:8) -- do you think a sporting event, a sale at the Mall, or a county Fair would deter Him?

            Being a Christian means being a *servant* of Jesus Christ. But, like many things, Satan has cleverly "flip-flopped" our understanding of this, causing us to think Jesus is OUR servant. Analyze your prayers sometime, whether public or private, and note how many things you are "telling" Jesus what He needs to be doing: "Heal the sick, comfort the afflicted, make the church grow, bring us back at the next appointed time" etc., etc.

            Since the church is depicted as the "Bride of Christ," let me ask the men something: What if your wife treated you like you treat the church? What if she was as loyal to you as you are to the Lord's church?  Would you even consider marrying someone who showed the same amount of love toward you as you do toward the church?   Little wonder that Paul encourages us to "Examine yourselves and see whether you are in The Faith" (2Corinthians 13:5).  Sometimes the truth hurts, but it only hurts when it needs to hurt.        

Toby Miller

WALKING IN THE LIGHT

                       
     A young Marine and his commanding officer board a train headed through the mountains of Switzerland.  They can find no place to sit except for two seats right across the aisle from a young woman and her grandmother.
     After a while, it is obvious that the young woman and the young soldier are interested in each because they are giving each other "looks."  Soon the train passes into a tunnel and it is pitch black. There is a sound of the smack of a kiss followed by the sound of the smack of a slap. When the train emerges from the tunnel, the four sit there without saying a word.
     The grandmother is thinking to herself: "It was very brash for that young soldier to kiss my granddaughter, but I'm glad she slapped him."
     The commanding officer is setting there thinking:  "I didn't think the young Marine was brave enough to kiss the girl, but I sure wish she hadn't missed him when she slapped and hit me!"
     The young woman was sitting and thinking:  "I'm glad the soldier kissed me, but I wish my grandmother had not slapped him!"
     The young Marine sat there with a satisfied smile on his face.  He thought to himself:  "Life is good.  When does a fellow have the chance to kiss a beautiful girl and slap his commanding officer all at the same time!"
     It is difficult to know exactly what is happening in the dark (as shown by three of the four characters above).  There's no light by which to gain a proper perspective.  Walking in darkness can be especially dangerous.
     It's not surprising that the apostle John frequently used the images of light and darkness to describe our walk with God.
     "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:5-7)
     I pray that your walk today may be in the light of God's love.  --Alan Smith
 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The prayer of the upright is His delight

Last week's editorial lesson was inspired, in part, by a prayer offered by Bro. Hall and several people told me they liked the lesson derived from it. I thought, perhaps, that I'd continue on with the same topic, "prayer," for today's lesson as there is just a myriad of things we can consider about that subject. We'll just take a quick look at some prayers by others and also learn a little about "how we're to pray, what to pray for" and even "how not to pray."

If we think about it for a moment, we can all recall passages in the Bible that relate to prayers, can't we? How about a couple of well-known and oft-used ones: "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Prov. 15:16) and "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16) And there are many more that I could cite to you, but let's look for a few moments at some examples of prayers, both of a serious nature and some more of a humorous kind, but all instructive.

I'll start off with a few prayers offered in, shall we say, a "lighter vein." A preacher once included in his prayer a petition that the Lord keep him "humble and poor." One of the elders was heard to whisper loudly, "Lord, if You'll keep him humble, we'll do the rest."

If you recall, in past editorials, I've written about the excesses, the misleading, and even the outright lies, of the advertisers of our world today and I was reminded of those previous writings when I read the following statement by a preacher. (Is this pick on preachers week?) A preacher was asked his opinion of advertising in America. He hesitated a moment and then said that he wouldn't make any direct comment on advertising itself, but he was certainly willing to pray for those who made a living at it.

Okay, one more quick and humorous prayer example: a minister (gonna get another preacher) was hosting a garden party for members of the congregation at his home when he remembered that he had neglected to invite one of the elderly sisters. He called her to apologize for his oversight and invite her to the party, however she told him, "It's no use, I've already prayed for rain."

Well, there's some humorous, yet instructive examples of prayer. Now let me switch to some prayers by others that are both instructive and also relate to things that relate to our society today. Prayers that tie in with a lot of the news we're seeing almost on a daily basis. These are some prayers spoken by Peter Marshall who was the Chaplain for the U.S. Senate for many years. Here's a short example: "Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change. And when we are right, make us easy to live with." (Amen!)

Don't we sometimes hear our brethren pray for wisdom to know what to do and also for the strength to do what is needed? Of course we do. I'd venture to guess that this is a common prayer in all congregations. Well, following is a prayer offered by Chaplain Marshall that I feel applies both to Christians and the members of Congress: "Help us, O Lord, when we want to do the right thing, but know not what it is. But help us most when we know perfectly well what we ought to do, and do not want to do it." (Another Amen!)

My final prayer example by Peter Marshall is one that has within it a phrase that is so meaningful and moving to me that I just had to include it today. I think that you'll easily see this phrase and hopefully will appreciate it as much as I did when I first read it. It's a little long, but worth the effort to read it in it's entirety.

"Help us, our Father, to show other nations an America to imitate - not the America of loud jazz music, self-seeking indulgence, and love of money, but the America that loves fair play, honest dealing, straight talk, real freedom and faith in God. Make us to see that it cannot be done as long as we are content to be coupon clippers on the original investment made by our forefathers. Give us faith in God and love for our fellow man, that we may have something to deposit on which the young people of today can draw interest tomorrow."

Allow me to interpolate those words to Christianity. Let us show others real Christianity and not some sort of imitation. Let us "shine our lights" on the real freedom offered by Christ from a world of "self-seeking indulgence" and "love of money" or, simply stated, a world of sin.

But the phrase I truly love is: let us not be "coupon clippers" on the "original investment" made by Jesus Christ on the cross and our Christian "forefathers," many of whom died violent deaths bringing The Word to the world. Rather, let us also continue that work of spreading The Gospel and thereby have something to deposit to our account with God. If we do, we'll draw the interest in heaven.

I'll close today with a poem penned about 175 years ago by James Montgomery.

                Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, Uttered or unexpressed;

                The motion of a hidden fire, That trembles in the breast.

                Prayer is the burden of a sigh, The falling of a tear;

                The upward glancing of an eye, When none but God is near.

 

Ron Covey

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rick Dellinger

Rick Dellinger recalls: "I encountered a mean, barking dog. He had the look
that said, 'If I live long enough, sooner or later, I'm going to bite you!'
As is my habit, I tried to entice the dog to let me pet him, to which he of
course, wanted no part, and became even more vicious. As I came close
enough to see his teeth, I snatched him off his feet, and wrapped my arms
completely around him, thus disabling his means of attack....

As I examined him, he had this look of distress, almost desperation in his
eyes, and it was then I noticed the huge thorn in his front paw. I decided
I must remove the thorn at once, and he decided at once I would not! As the
battle raged, eventually I won. I put him down, and imagine my surprise, to
find he wasn't near the snarling, mean dog I had imagined. Because of the
removal of the thorn, he now was a dancing, prancing, full of love
puppy-dog, who seemingly had no care in the world."

Dellinger continues: "Thus is the SIN in our lives. It becomes a THORN in
our lives which, if allowed to, consumes our very being."

In Psalm 32, we read the words of a suffering psalmist:

"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in
the heat of summer" (vs. 3-4).

Why was the psalmist suffering - wasting away and without strength? It was
due to the "thorn" of his sin! He was trying to keep silent about it so
that no one else would know, but his guilt was making him miserable.

But then he realized that there was another option. If he would acknowledge
His sin and repent, then God would remove the thorn! So, he turned to the
Lord:

"I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I
will confess my transgressions to the LORD,' And You forgave the iniquity of
my sin" (v. 5).

Each of us through our wrong choices has been pierced by the thorn of sin.
Then, if our consciences have not become seared, our hearts are pierced with
guilt.

But there IS a remedy.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins so that we might
have forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7).

Due to the "thorns" of OUR sins, He was mockingly given a crown of thorns
(Matthew 27:29) and His body was nailed to the cross as payment for our
sins. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might
become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Once we ACCEPT His offer of salvation, we can KNOW the joy and blessedness
of forgiveness (see Psalm 32:1-2).

We accept Christ's offer of salvation 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 (immersed)
into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).

Dellinger concludes: "Christ says He can remove the sin, IF we allow it.

Many times we fight the CAUSE, many times we fight the SOLUTION, but when
it's finally removed, how sweet it is to know His grace."

YOU can have the "thorn of sin" removed from your life and thus know the
sweetness of God's grace if you will trust and obey Him.

Won't you?

David A. Sargent

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10

Looking at the time in which we are living is very difficult. It truly seems
that there is almost no good news to be heard. The economy, millions without
jobs, the wars going on world wide, and the riots we read about in places
that are supposed to be stable, food shortages, fuel shortages and then
there is death and destruction which we will never understand. The list
could grow quite long if we wanted it to, but these are the times in which
we live.

Paul Harvey wrote these words about our times: "In times like these, it is
helpful to remember that there have always been times like these."

Keeping things in perspective is sometimes hard to do, but I heard about a
wise grandmother that could help us all in this area.

It seems that a little boy is telling his Grandma how "everything" is going
wrong: School, family problems, health problems, etc. Meanwhile, Grandma is
baking a cake. She asks her grandson if he would like a snack, which of
course he does. "Here, have some cooking oil." "Yuck" says the boy. "How
about a couple raw eggs?" "Gross, Grandma!" "Would you like some flour then?
Or maybe baking soda?" "Grandma, those are all yucky!" To which Grandma
replies: "Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they
are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!"
She continued, "God works the same way in our lives."

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 tells us, "What has been will be again, what has been
done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there
anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here
already, long ago; it was here before our time."

What can we do, how do we react when our world is falling apart and we have
been warned that history is going to repeat it 'self or our world (even our
personal world) has no chance to avoid unwanted changes, no matter what we
do? I would suggest to you, that we must focus on that which is unchanging,
that which gives us hope for the future that will never change.

In Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 King Solomon reminds us: "Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into
judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."

Do you want security? Do you want Stability? Do you want the promise of a
life that is not subject to the changes of this world? Then put your faith,
your life, and your trust in the hands of our God! In our unstable world
there is stability if you know where to look! I love Romans 8:35-39 where
Paul writes: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble
or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it
is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as
sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than
conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death
nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor
any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our
Lord." (NIV)

In times like these where is your trust, your security, your stability?

Russ Lawson

THE "DOUGHERTY GANG"

  

It sounds like pure fiction!  Three siblings seemingly rotten to the core.  What triggered their criminal rampage that took them from Florida to Colorado, leading them to shoot at multiple police officers, steal cars, rob banks, and involve themselves in multiple high speed chases with law enforcement?  At the end of the manhunt, the eldest, a 29-year-old woman who was a stripper by profession, repeatedly fired at officers on the scene until she was finally shot in the leg.  Their photos, splashed all across the media, reveal three normal-looking young people.  Yet, between them, they have 20 felony charges in their criminal history.  There is unwed pregnancy, sexual perversion of multiple kinds, and an arsenal of weapons and ammunition they used freely until their capture.

We want to know what happened to create such monsters?  What kind of home training (or seeming lack thereof) did these three receive?  What would make them embrace such reckless, dangerous anarchy?

May I suggest that these three have exhibited an extreme example of a popular mindset in our culture?  What was on display in this crime spree was utter, unadulterated selfishness.  The FBI implied there may be a disdain for law enforcement, but one does not need to be privy to their tweets and texts to see that.  Reports are that on a social media account, the sister said, "I love to farm and shoot guys and wreck cars.  I'm a redneck and proud of it" (ajc.com).  This was self-centeredness and disdain for authority at its most unabashed.

Their parents certainly take the pressure off of any of the rest of us in a contest for "worst parents of the year."  But, let us consider that we are instilling values in our children, by example, by neglect, by intentional teaching, and by what we prize and value.  We are giving the next generation its worldview by the decisions we make and rationale we employ.

I am not saying that we are raising firearm-crazy rednecks, but we are raising our children to have certain values and priorities.  They will become what we are helping to make them.  That sobers me to no end.  What a great responsibility God has placed upon our shoulders!  He will hold us accountable for the direction in which we are setting them.  Many people will talk about our children in the years and decades to come.  What will they say about them?  May words like "godly," "committed," "faithful," "spiritual," "unselfish," and "servant" modify others' descriptions of them!  May we be modeling those very traits before their impressionable eyes. 

Neal Pollard   

 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stories about army boot camp

      "My brother and I arrived at boot camp together. On the first morning, our unit was dragged out of bed by our drill sergeant and made to assemble outside. "My name's Sergeant Jackson," he snarled. "Is there anyone here who thinks he can whip me?"
   My six-foot-three, 280-pound brother raised his hand and said, "Yes, sir, I do."
   Our sergeant grabbed him by the arm and led him out in front of the group.  "Men," he said, "this is my new assistant. Now, is there anyone here who thinks he can whip both of us?"
   It's nice to have someone that is big and strong who "has your back"! It's the feeling you may have experienced as a kid when the class bully picked on every day at school, until the day your big brother walked in with you. He didn't even have to say a word. Everyone knew that to mess with you was to mess with him, and nobody wanted to mess with someone bigger and stronger than they were.
   There may be times in our lives when we feel like we can take on the whole world and come out on top. But those times are rare. More often, we feel overwhelmed by the challenge of a world that seems much bigger and stronger than we are. If we arrogantly want to know if there's anybody who thinks they can whip us, be assured there are folks who will be quick to take up that challenge.
   However, those of us who are Christians need to remember that we don't face any challenge alone. God's Spirit lives within us and God has promised to be with us. With the confidence that comes with that knowledge, we are able to ask, "Is there anyone who thinks they can whip both of us?" and the answer is a resounding, "No!" because "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (I John 4:4).
   That's why, when Moses was hesitant to go to the land of Egypt and confront Pharaoh, God said, "I will certainly be with you." (Exodus 3:12)
   When Joshua was hesitant to take over the leadership of the Israelites, God said, "As I was with Moses, I will be with you. I will not leave you and forsake you." (Joshua 1:5)
   When Gideon thought he was too insignificant to be a leader, God said, "Surely I will be with you!" (Joshua 6:16)
When Jeremiah thought he was too young to be a prophet, God said, "Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you." (Jeremiah 1:8)
   When Jesus sent out the apostles charged with the task of sharing the gospel with the whole world, Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20)
   When we are faced with an overwhelming responsibility to live out the message of Christ in an antagonistic world, we need to remember that we have the same promise -- God will be with us. And "if God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). Take courage, my brother (and sister) -- there's nobody strong enough to whip the both of us! Alan Smith

 

Getting There From Here

I am sure that all of us have, at one time or another, had someone jokingly say, "You can't get there from here."  Uncertain as to the ability of someone to grasp directions, we first seek to put them in a position where the instructions are simple and easy to follow.   Take for example the story of a salesman who was seeking to locate a family who had requested someone to contact them regarding a sale or delivery.  The family lived in the back woods of east Texas, and every attempt to navigate the roads that had neither name nor number for easy reference produced a growing frustration on the part of the would-be salesman.  Finally the salesman came across a old farm house, and sitting on the front porch was an elderly gentleman sipping on a cup of coffee and reading his newspaper.  The salesman stopped and asked directions to his destination.  The famer leaned back in his chair, and commenced to provide instructions: "Go south on this road, and make the first turn to your left.   Travel about 3 miles, cross the bridge, and follow the narrow, winding road that runs parallel to the creek bottom.  This will dump you out on a gravel road, at which point you will want to turn back to the left.  From there, go about 6 miles south, till you come to a small house on your right."    Anxious to get to his destination, the salesman said "Thanks," and scurried off to his car and in search of his customer.  After more than half an hour driving, he ended up right back in front of the farmer's house.   Frustrated, the salesman asked for an explanation.  The farmer replied:  "I wanted to see if you could follow directions before I tried to explain to you how to get to your destination."

 We might chuckle at this hypothetical anecdote, but in many respects life is like that.   One of my favorite prophets is Jeremiah.  Here was a man who had the courage of a lion, and a determination to follow God's instructions at all costs.   Judah needed to repent, and Jeremiah was commissioned to call the nation back to God.  Before the prophet completed his mission he would be mocked, maligned, and mistreated by his fellow Jews.    God told Jeremiah, "Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth" (Jer. 1:9b).    Jeremiah's commission is clearly stated in chapter 1:10: "See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant."   Pay close attention to the order of the words.  Before Jeremiah could "build and…plant" he must first "root out…pull down…destroy, and throw down."    In order to build it was important for Judah to know, "You can't get there from here!"  Before progress could be made it was essential that the rubbish be cleared away.   The heart and soul of Judah needed to be changed.  Jeremiah could not reform that which was corrupt – he could not get Judah to where God wanted them to be from where they were!  

 The application of this principle is far reaching.  Let us, for example, consider the present state of our government.  Fiscal responsibility is run amuck; morality means little or nothing to many (if not most) of the politicians in Washington and/or our state governments.   Methinks that Washington (from the White House, to the Halls of Congress, and including the Judicial branch) needs a lesson in simple hermeneutics.   The Constitution seems to mean nothing in many circles.   Sensible thinking individuals seek for a return to law and order and allegiance to the Constitution.   Unfortunately, "You can't get there from here!"   Perhaps those who are seeking to "throw the bums out" are much wiser than those who simply want to reform the bums who are presently there!

"You can't get there from here" most certainly applies to those caught up in religious error.  Before you can implant the pure and engrafted word into the heart of an individual, it becomes necessary in many cases to remove the error that dominates their thinking.   Political correctness and relativism stand as gigantic roadblocks to any attempt to break down error and supplant it with truth.   If you attempt to point out error you had better be ready to be labeled "judgmental," "hyper-critical," or "homophobic."   Phil Sanders commented on just such a mind-set: "The thinking of the day is not so much to deny the reality of truth as it is to dismiss it with the back of the hand.  Truth becomes trivial, irrelevant…Whatever is said may be taken back so that it may not offend.  Truth must be made to become uncertain so that no solid foundation will have control over our lives; no one group can ever dominate again" (Sander, Adrift, page 26).  That kind of thinking has to be broken down before we can hope to bring a person to a knowledge of and obedience to the truth.  

 "You can't get there from here" is most certainly applicable to those who once "tasted of the heavenly gift…and then fell away" (Heb. 6:4-5).   If you have ever tried to carry on a logical and scriptural discussion with a liberal brother in Christ (an oxymoron if I ever heard one), you quickly realize "you can't get there from here."  Before you can convince those who think instrumental music is "not a salvation issue" that it indeed IS a salvation issue, you have to break down the walls of the liberal mindset.   Until the liberal is brought to the point where he can understand and apply what we call the "authority principle," it will forever remain true that "he cannot get there from here."

 All too often the lost soul deludes himself into thinking that he is on his way to heaven (whatever his "definition" of heaven might be).   Repentance means nothing to him – he wants salvation on HIS terms rather than God's.   As one author put it: 

 We have turned to a God that we can use rather than to a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our needs rather than to a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves.  He is a God for us, for our satisfaction – not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way throughout the marketplace.   And so we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy.  We imagine that He is benign, that he will acquiesce as we toy with his reality and to co-opt him in the promotion of our ventures and careers…And if the sunshine of his benign grace fails to warm us as we expect, if he fails to shower prosperity and success on us, we will find ourselves unable to believe in him anymore (David Wells, God In The Wasteland, page 114). 

 Remove repentance from the picture and "you can't get there from here."   The same can be said about any and every command that God has placed at the threshold of the church.   If a sin sick soul thinks he is going to make it to heaven in his sin, or in spite of his sin, he will awaken on the Resurrection day to realize his tragic condition (Matt. 7:21-23), and will learn, too late, that "you can't get there from here." 

 Finally, there are scores of lukewarm, indifferent, uninvolved, absentee members who seem to think that God's grace will somehow overlook their mediocrity and usher them into the eternal abode when Jesus comes to gather the faithful unto Himself.   They will learn, too late, that the proverb is as applicable to them as it is to all the lost.   Unwilling to commit themselves to the Lord Who died for them, or to take seriously the responsibilities laid upon their shoulders

By Tom Wacaster

 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why does man exist?

J.M. Boice told an amusing story about Yogi Berra, the well-known catcher
for the New York Yankees in the 1950's. During a game, Hank Aaron came up to
the plate to bat. Yogi Berra began his usual chattering and tried to
distract Aaron. Yogi said to him, "Henry, you're holding the bat wrong.
You're supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark."

Aaron didn't say anything in return. When the next pitch came, he smashed it
into the left-field bleachers. After rounding the bases and stepping back on
home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, "I didn't come up here to
READ!" *

Why are YOU here? What is your purpose in life? What is the reason for your
existence?

Some have made prosperity their purpose in life. These will "spend" their
lives making money to "spend" upon material possessions. Big bank accounts,
the finest of houses and cars, and luxurious vacations are the top
priorities in their lives. Jesus warned, "Take heed and beware of
covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things
he possesses" (Luke 12:15).

For others, the pursuit of knowledge is their quest in life. To seek to grow
in knowledge is worthwhile, but we must be sure to seek the right kind of
knowledge. It is possible to know a lot, yet not know those things that are
most important. The lives of many today are characterized in the Scriptures
as those who are "always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge
of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7).

Some pursue worldly pleasure as the sole reason for their existence. Some
continue to live by the Epicurean philosophy of old: "Eat, drink, and be
merry, for tomorrow we die." This philosophy fails to recognize the fact
that we have been created accountable beings which one day will give account
of how we have lived (Romans 14:12). Again the scriptures warn of many who
are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4).

Others seek position, power, popularity, and the list goes on and on.

What is YOUR reason for existence?

The Scriptures teach us that we were created by our Creator to worship and
serve Him. To glorify God is our reason for existence (see 1 Corinthians
10:31). This means that we have been created to magnify and exalt the Lord
our God as we humble ourselves and submit to His authority. Our reason for
existence is found in doing God's will, NOT our own.

When we choose "OUR WAY" over God's way, we SIN, and this is the wrong way
that leads to disillusionment and destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-14).

But God loves us so much that He gave His Son to die on the cross for our
sins so that we might be forgiven of our sins, understand the real reason
for our existence, and live with Him for eternity.

Blessed are those who choose GOD'S way: those who place their faith in Jesus
(Acts 16:31), repent of their sins (Acts 17:30), confess Jesus before men
(Romans 10:9-10), are baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts
2:38), and live their lives to the glory of God -- for they have recognized
their true purpose.

Won't YOU realize your true purpose in life by trusting and obeying God?

David A. Sargent

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This is your bible - Dow Jones

I saw a headline on an article today which caught my attention. It read:
"This is your bible - Dow Jones". It was, of course, a catchy line to sell
you information on how to better survive financially in our world today.

I didn't care for their analogy at all, but I understand many people use the
word "bible" in different ways. Originally the word simply meant "book".
Today the word "Bible" is applied to many other books such as The
Carpenter's Bible, etc. The word "Bible" in most cases, in our common
understanding it refers to The Word of God given by inspiration of the Holy
Spirit to men in days gone by. Take a look at your dictionary or do a search
on line and you will see that is the most understood meaning.

The thing that bothers me about the heading I mentioned is that it plays on
the change of values in our society that has turned money and financial
security into the god of some people. They proclaim: "This is your bible -
Dow Jones," but is it really?

What is your greatest concern? Yes, you can argue that "you must have
security for yourself and your family," but what is your greatest concern,
Financial security or Spiritual security?

Do you remember the parable told by Jesus of the rich farmer in Luke
12:16-21? Notice again the words of "THE REAL BIBLE": "And he told them
this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He
thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build
bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say
to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life
easy; eat, drink and be merry." "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very
night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have
prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up
things for himself but is not rich toward God."

Yes, it is important to prepare the best you can for yourself and your
family, but what about preparing for the life after this one? Jesus had
something to say about this in Matthew 6:19-21 notice what he said, "Do not
store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and
where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break
in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

"This is your Bible - Dow Jones". I don't think so, what about you?

Russ Lawson

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Phil Sanders' book Adrift

I  am profitably engaged in reading Phil Sanders book, Adrift, in which he deals with postmodernism in the church and how it has affected our attitude toward authority and/or divine pattern in churches of Christ.   I have scarcely scratched the surface of this 250 page book, and like Nehemiah of old I am "astonished" at the absolute nonsense that permeates the thinking of those in high places of academia.   Professors have brain washed this generation into believing that truth is not absolute.  To put it another way, truth is changing, "fluid," adapting itself to the times – so they say!  Some years ago Alan Bloom made the same observation in his book, Closing Of The American Mind:  "There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students' reaction: they will be uncomprehending" (Bloom, page 25).   Let me state up front that any affirmation that truth is not absolute is not only a lie, it is self defeating.  If truth is NOT absolute, then how can one making such a statement that "truth is not absolute" be absolutely certain in the certainty of that which he has affirmed?  At the same time, post modernism is inconsistent.  If an astrologist tells the average person there are 278,732,168 stars in the universe, he will believe him.  But if a painter hangs a sign which reads "wet paint," that same person thinks he has to make a personal invitation to see if it is correct.   Why is it that the scientific community can make some of the most outrages statements regarding the origin of man, and average Joe Bazooka will believe him without so much as a simple investigation into the truth of the matter?   It seems that with the passing of time the American public has become increasing gullible.   This may explain why the educational system has swallowed the false doctrine of evolution "hook, line, and sinker!"  It may explain why homosexuality no longer seems to be a matter of morality, why Islam and Hinduism are increasingly popular, and why our politicians in Washington can't seem to practice fiscal responsibility.  It may also provide an explanation as to why scam artists are so successful, and the American people are growing more foolish.   We are reaping the fruits of half a century of modernism that has been fostered upon the unsuspecting and gullible.  Brother Sanders has summed this up so well: 

 

Since the sea of uncertainty has no rudder, it cannot determine which direction to go.  We may drift wherever we please, but we may not make moral judgments. No one may impose any morality on anyone else so choosing one true direction over another is impossible.   The thinking of the time suggests we must allow going in many directions at once; every alternative is right.  The words of the theme song from Mahogany ask, "Do you know where you're going to?"  The postmodernist cannot say. He may know what he has ceased to be, but he has cut all ties to the past. He is not so sure what he is right now and really does not know what he is becoming.  He cannot say what he is becoming because he cannot determine with any finality where he is going. Since he is committed to remaining free from determining where he is going, he will not allow anyone to tell him. It is the worst of postmodern sins to decide and point.  Again, the ultimate commitment is absolute and moral theological freedom (Sanders, Adrift, page 30).

 

If you find that kind of mind-set confusing and illogical you must remember that the Christian thinks different from the world – as he should.  Once a person buys into the lie that there is no absolute truth, that all is relative to the age in which we live, he begins the journey toward the kind of sophisticated silliness demonstrated in postmodernism.   Fortunately, the only sane way of thinking is that which possesses a faith in God, a belief in the inspiration of His word, and the absolute reality of truth.   Personally, I would rather hold fast to the word of God, imbibe its teaching, and embrace its promises than to cast off my rudder and compass and find myself adrift on a sea of hopelessness and happenstance.    You are either going to believe in God, Christ, and the Bible, or you are going to embrace anything that comes along.  Those, in my estimation, are the only two alternatives.  --Tom Wacaster

 

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