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Friday, March 30, 2012

When is April Fools’ Day?

Ok, first things first, we all know April Fools' Day is coming.  And if you have anyone who is young or even young-at-heart around you, then just expect some kind of prank.  Please consider yourself warned :).

Even though April Fools' Day is not a national holiday, it is recognized by many nations around the world as a day to play jokes on each other.  As you might imagine, some countries have different customs.  In Canada, they traditionally play jokes on people only until noon.  If a person plays a joke after that point, everyone else will call him an "April fool!"  In France and Italy, people will secretly try to tack paper fish on each other's backs and will shout, "April fish," if accomplished.

April Fools' Day certainly is a silly but fun day.  It's funny that we are always trying to make each other look like "fools" on this day.  Interestingly, as I thought about this holiday, I came to realize that God actually talks about April Fools' Day.  Even stranger is the fact that there are people who will "celebrate" it every day of their lives.  What day am I talking about?  It is the day when a person blatantly refuses to believe that God exists!  Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 proclaim, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines the word fool as "a person lacking in judgment or prudence."  We may play jokes and call each other "fools," but the real fools in this life or those who refuse to look at the staggering amount of evidence around us and still proclaims, "There is no God!"  These are truly people who "lack judgment and prudence."

Unfortunately, even believers of God can forget about Him and ignore the evidence.  When we forget and ignore God, it often results in falling away and turning to evil (Psalm 14:1ff, 53:1ff).  Just take a look at the nation of Israel in the book of Judges!

Let's never deny or forget God.  We would be foolish to do so.  This is why it is so important to keep reminding ourselves of what God did for us (John 3:16) and what He wants from us (Acts 2:37-38; Matthew 7:21-27).

Please enjoy a safe and fun April Fools' Day, but by all means, let's never become the fools that God talks about (Psalm 14, Psalm 53).

-- Brett Petrillo

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Colorado forest fire

The picture above is what most people in the Denver Metro area witnessed yesterday evening.  Seeing the plume of smoke was quite surreal.  It was hard to imagine that a forest fire was responsible for this and not some volcano hiding behind the mountains.  As of this afternoon, the fire was 0% contained.  High winds also made the situation worse since air support was unable to lend a hand until today.  In fact, about 3,000 acres went ablaze in a matter of hours during yesterday's high winds.  So far, at least 2 people have died, 16 structures torched, 4,500 acres of forest have burned, 900 homes have been evacuated, and another 6,500 have been warned.

It's quite hard to grasp the power of nature until it is growling on your doorstep.  The power of a forest fire is simply astonishing.  When we keep this situation in mind, it makes the words of James 3:5b-6 resound like never before:

"…See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell."

James is specifically speaking to teachers here, but there is application for all of us.  Far too often we start small fires when we let our words hurt others.  If we are not careful, the fires we start can quickly become uncontrollable when the winds of gossip, lies, anger, and hate come blowing through.  The next thing we know, our words have "defiled our bodies," and "set our lives on fire."  There is no way to completely heal the damage we cause when we allow our tongues to go free.

Forest fires are bad enough.  We don't need any "family fires," "congregational fires," "gossip fires," or fires of any kind for that matter.  Too many people have been driven away from the Lord because of nasty, harsh, and hurtful words.  We must be more careful with the words we speak.  Not only can it jeopardize others' salvation, but our own as well.

 

Friday, March 23, 2012

What is the book of Nehemiah about?

One of my all time favorite Old Testament books to study is the book of
Nehemiah. During the Old Testament Period commonly called "Return from
Captivity," we learn that while under the direction of Nehemiah, the final
group of Jews returned home to Jerusalem after their exile to Babylonian
captivity. Their purpose for coming home was to rebuild the city walls
around Jerusalem--which they did in just 52 days.

The late Johnny Ramsey said:

Some critics of the Bible scoff at Nehemiah as being a bricklayer's book.
But there is a much deeper plot than that in this dramatic section of God's
word. The purpose of rebuilding Jerusalem's wall was to keep Abraham's seed
safe within and the world outside the confines of the city David had taken
from the Jebusites (2 Sam. 6). It was imperative that Israel remain intact
until the coming of the promised Seed (Gal. 3:16) (Practical Bible Studies,
p.p. 111-112).

Nehemiah was such an one to keep them intact. How? Because of his leadership
and prayers.

#1 From Nehemiah we learn qualities that make for great leaders.
Nehemiah was a great leader because he knew how to relate to his people
(Neh. 1:4).
Nehemiah was a great leader because he was able to inspire others to work
(Neh. 2:17).
Nehemiah was a great leader because he didn't back down to opposition (Neh.
2:19-20).
#2 From Nehemiah we learn the value of prayer.
Nehemiah prayed expecting God to answer (Neh. 4:9).
Nehemiah prayed continually (cf. 1 Thes. 5:17).
[Side note: An interesting personal study would be the prayers of Nehemiah.]
Just over 2,400 years ago lived a man with an impressive history. However,
more than that were his impressive messages--messages like how to lead and
how to pray.

There is a sense in which each of us lead. Lead with the qualities of
Nehemiah. Then of course, we all pray. Let's pray like
Nehemiah--continually, and expecting God to do something about our prayers.

--Neil Richey

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bonnie Miller

Bonnie Miller has made headlines, but not in the way she might have preferred.
A story today on Yahoo.com tells of her recent fall from a pier into six feet of
cold water.  Luckily, others were nearby to help fish her out.  But instead of
trying to cover up her accident, Bonnie decided to talk about it in as public a
forum as possible to warn others of the danger she didn't see.

What caused her to fall off the pier that day?  Bonnie was texting as she
walked.  Yes, we've heard the warnings about texting while driving, and such
warnings are needed.  Driving a vehicle demands our full attention; the margin
for error while driving is so slim that all distractions should be minimized.
Now we're learning that distractions can be hazardous outside of the car.

Just last month a video was posted on YouTube.  A Canadian news reporter was
commenting on something as he stood in front of an office building.  While the
camera recorded his report, a woman was seen behind him, texting as she walked.
She didn't notice the steps ahead, and tumbled embarrassingly.  The video has
been viewed almost 4 million times!

What is to be learned from such incidents?  It says something about the
absorbing power of new gadgets.  But it also reminds us that certain activities
need our full attention, even if we think we can do them with less focus.
Imagine being captured on camera falling off a pier while texting!

Stories like these are humorous because no one was injured badly.  What if the
consequences were more serious?  What if a person's eternal well-being were at
stake?

Paul had a warning for the Christians at Ephesus: "See then that you walk
circumspectly, not as fools but as wise" (Ephesians 5:15).  The word
"circumspectly" is "carefully" in other translations.  And Paul is not literally
referring to how our legs move our bodies around; he is urging us to live
carefully.  This type of "walking" is even more important, for the way we live
determines our standing in the sight of God.

Earlier in that chapter Paul again used the image of walking: "For you were once
darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light"
(Ephesians 5:8).  Any of us who have tried to find our way to the bathroom at
night can attest that there are dangers from this kind of unfocused walking.
How can we focus if there is no light?  But God provides the light we need (in
His word) to help us walk carefully.

John gives us perhaps the simplest model of how to walk with proper focus: "He
who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1
John 2:6).  Jesus is the perfect example of how to live.  If we concentrate on
following those divine steps, we will do just fine.  But if we allow things in
this life to distract us, we will find ourselves veering off the course.

Here is the formula for focused walking: "For to this you were called, because
Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His
steps" (1 Peter 2:21).  Pay close attention to the record of Christ's life,
found in the New Testament.  Mark His steps.  Then stay focused as you walk in
those steps.

Timothy D. Hall.
 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Church of God Grill

How many good things is your church doing? It really doesn't matter if you
have only one program or fifty programs being carried on by your church
family. What matters is that you do them well and stay in focus on your
purpose. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16, "In the same way, let your light
shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father
in heaven." (NIV)

A story was told about a church in Atlanta, Georgia. A man noticed in the
Yellow Pages, in the listing of restaurants, an entry for a place called
Church of God Grill. The peculiar name aroused his curiosity and he dialed
the number. A man answered with a cheery, "Hello! Church of God Grill!" He
asked how the restaurant had been given such an unusual name, and the man at
the other end said: "Well, we had a little mission down here feeding the
needy. Later we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to
help pay the bills. Well, people liked the chicken, and we did such a good
business, that eventually we cut back on the church service. After a while
we just closed down the church altogether and kept on serving the chicken
dinners. We kept the name we started with, and that's Church of God grill."

I believe that it is just as easy for us to forget that the number one
business of the church is sharing the good news of God with a world who does
not know him. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:10-11, "His (God's) intent was
that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made
known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his
eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (NIV)

Today our world is filled with so much negative news, fear, hatred, and evil
in general. Our primary reason for being; is to bring light into the world
today, that's who we are and what we should be!

How are you doing, are you fulfilling your purpose? Remember what Jesus
said: "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see
your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Russ Lawson

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