Thursday, June 28, 2012
Tyler King gave an excellent devotional talk last night, giving three ways
we can be resilient and keep our fire burning. Several weeks ago, someone
used an earlier wildfire to allude to James' inspired words about the tongue
being a fire. That set me thinking. It is interesting to see how the Bible
uses the imagery of fire.
Fire refines and fire destroys. Zechariah 13:9 spoke of a third of God's
people refined by the fire of trial and made stronger. Peter speaks of a
faith refined by the fire of testing (1 Pet. 1:7). Yet, Jesus recalls how
the inhabitants of Sodom were destroyed by fire (Lk. 17:29). The fire of
judgment is connected with judgment and destruction (2 Pet. 3:7).
Fire brings comfort and fire brings pain. Peter warmed himself beside
slaves and officers at a fire in the high priest's courtyard (cf. Mk. 14:54;
Jn. 18:18). The natives started a fire on Malta out of kindness to bring
warmth and comfort to those shipwrecked, including Paul (Acts 28:3). In
teaching about eternal punishment, Jesus spoke of a furnace of fire
associated with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat. 13:42ff). Jude uses
fire similarly in Jude 7.
Fire gives life and fire brings death. Controlled or prescribed burns
reduce "fuel" for bigger, hotter fires, germinate desirable trees that
renews forests, improves wildlife habitats, improves forage for grazing, and
prepares fields for planting (treesearch.fs.fed.us and bugwood.org). But,
scripture and observation show that uncontrolled, unmanaged fires bring
opposite results (Joel 1:19-20; Ps. 83:14; Jer. 21:14; Js. 3:5).
There are certainly other contrasting uses of fire, in scripture and in
life. As nine major fires blaze throughout the state today, hundreds of
homes are destroyed, lives are threatened, and fears are fueled.
Spiritually, fire can have a positive effect, too. Even the threat of it
can be a deterrent in keeping us faithful. As we witness the fearsome
effects of these physical fires, may we ponder the dichotomous use of fire
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
smoke-free society is, once again, in the news. A number of years ago the
tobacco industry lost a major class action law suit on behalf of individuals
who suffered the harmful effects of smoking and/or other tobacco related
health issues. Involved in the lawsuit were health organizations, government
entities, and a number of individuals. As a result the tobacco industry
agreed to pay billions of dollars in health related benefits in order to
ward off a complete defeat [of course the lawyers got the biggest piece of
the pie, but that is a matter for a different article]. Included in the
agreement was the removal of any advertizing that appeals especially to
youth. Also included in the settlement was an agreement that cigarette
packages would need to include wording that was a little more forceful as to
the harmful effects of smoking and chewing tobacco. It would no longer be
acceptable to simply say, "Smoking may be harmful to your health." The legal
settlement would require that the tobacco industry give a more stern and
detailed warning: "Caution: Smoking causes heart disease, stroke, lung
cancer" - or something to that effect. Fast forward to this century. The
latest requirement coming out of Washington among those who are "reputed to
be somewhat" is that pictures of the lungs and other diseased parts of the
body must appear on each pack of cigarettes. Warnings will increasingly
become more forceful in an effort to, hopefully, move us toward a more smoke
free society. Already cities and states are passing stiff regulations
forbidding smoking in public places. California has become the first state
to pass restrictions on smoking in the privacy of one's own home. But the
tobacco industry is not taking this laying down. It ! would appear, however,
that the tobacco industry has, in the words of an old Timex Watch
commercial, "taken a likin' and keeps on tickin'." In return for this new
round of restrictions and package warnings, the tobacco industry will be
allowed to continue to sell their product. We are somewhat naive if we think
the tobacco industry will now ignore the youth. You can be certain that each
generation must be targeted and new customers must be won over in spite of
the obvious ill effects of using tobacco, if the tobacco companies are going
to survive. To be sure, they will find a way. In return, the next generation
will pay the price of its habit, and smokers and non-smokers alike will
continue to suffer from the sale of tobacco on the public market. Take a
look around! We are seeing a new generation of young people picking up the
habit. It is a great mystery to me why teens begin smoking today in view of
the abundant evidence that proves that smoking is harmful to on! e's health.
Do they not care? Do they not know? We are growing a ne w generation of
tobacco addicts right before our noses (no pun intended). In spite of all
the evidence to the contrary, hundreds of teens are picking up the habit
every day! It would appear that over the last couple of decades we have
relaxed our efforts to inform and warn our youth about the dangers of using
tobacco, and peer pressure has introduced many a teen to the habit. The
following statements appear on the Center for Disease Control web site:
youth_data/tobacco_use/index.htm). These statistics are two years old:
Smoking and smokeless tobacco use are initiated and established primarily
during adolescence. More than 80% of adult smokers begin smoking before 18
years of age. Additionally, adolescent smokeless tobacco users are more
likely than nonusers to become adult cigarette smokers.Youth cigarette use
declined sharply during 1997 - 2003. Since that time, rates have declined
far more slowly.
Youth smokeless tobacco use also declined in the late 1990s and early 2000s,
but an increasing number of U.S. high school students in some subgroups
(such as white males) have reported using smokeless tobacco products in
In addition, the CDC makes this staggering observation: "Each day in the
United States, approximately 3,800 young people under 18 years of age smoke
their first cigarette, and an estimated 1,000 youth in that age group become
daily cigarette smokers." Did you catch the word "daily"? Multiply that out;
at the end of one year 1,387,000 new youth under age 18 will be introduced
to the smoking world and a staggering 365,000 will become daily cigarette
smokers! This does not include the use of cigars or chewing tobacco.
A few months back I received my gas bill from ATMOS energy. Included in the
bill was a pamphlet which warned against the danger of carbon monoxide. Most
folks associate carbon monoxide with the emissions that come from the
automobile exhaust. Natural gas, when burned, also emits carbon monoxide,
and hence the need to make sure that gas stoves, ovens, etc. are well
ventilated. I thought it amusing that this safety pamphlet also warned
against cooking on an open grill in an enclosed room, something I don't
recall ever having seen anyone do. Now before you accuse me of being an
environmentalist wacko, or a stock holder in ATMOS, let me assure you that
my reason for bringing up this whole matter goes much deeper than public
relations. Did you know that one of the effects of smoking tobacco is the
input of carbon monoxide into your body? This little pamphlet enlightened me
to the fact that carbon monoxide does its damage by limiting the amount of
oxygen that can be take n into the blood cells. In short, when we breath
carbon monoxide into the body, we deprive our bodies of the life giving
oxygen needed by the brain. Too much carbon monoxide can, in fact, be
deadly. So why in the world would anyone want to voluntarily pick up a habit
that, among other things, endangers their brain by depriving it of oxygen? I
guess one of the puzzling mysteries of life is why the younger generation is
picking up the tobacco habit at such an alarming rate in spite of the
abundance of evidence that such is harmful to the body. I can only conclude
that they are doing so either (1) because they do not believe the evidence,
or (2) they simply do not care. I have been tempted to stop some teenager on
the street, who I observe smoking, and ask them why in the world they want
to smoke. It is a proven fact (and something which the CDC site confirmed)
that if an individual does not pick up the habit of smoking before they are
21, the odds that he will do so ! at all are quite remote. The same might be
said with regard to drinking and drug use. In other words, if the tobacco
industry is going to get someone to use their product, or if the brewing
industry is to gain new customers among the up-coming generation, they MUST
TARGET the young. This they are doing, all denials to the contrary not
withstanding. When examined in the light of God's word the irresistible
conclusion is that smoking is wrong, Wrong, WRONG. The child of God should
put forth every effort to break the habit. With God's help it CAN be done.
Even more, with God's help, it MUST be done.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals. Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. "Are you a good farm hand?" the farmer asked him. "Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man. Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him.
The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!" The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows."
Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed and also slept while the wind blew.
There's a moral to the little story I just told you and it's basically this: when you're prepared, spiritually, mentally and physically, you have nothing to fear. The hired hand was able to sleep while the storm was howling because he had secured all of the things for which he was responsible.
Here in Southern California we have earthquakes quite often and we're always being warned through the media to "be prepared." Especially for the "big one" that we're told is a sure thing to happen. And, not only earthquakes, but we're also warned to prepare for other kinds of disasters such as fires and thefts. Don't we buy insurance for such things as these? Don't we install alarms to alert us of dangers? Yes, we do.
And the reason we have these alarms and insurance and we stockpile supplies is because the dangerous events and disasters come unannounced, don't they? They come at surprising times. The idea is that we're always prepared.
Now up to this point of our lesson, I've only talked about being prepared for temporal, or earthly, things but, it's the spiritual things that should be our priority in preparedness. Sadly though, most people seem to care more about their material possessions than they do their spiritual ones.
As mentioned already, we take great care and pains to make sure we're prepared for material loss or damage, yet we don't exercise the same care for our souls. Why is that, you might ask? If asked, I might explain my thoughts and understanding in this manner.
I believe it can be traced back to the difference between "faith and sight." In other words, we know what earthly storms and disaster are. We've been in them, or at least seen them on the TV news. I've physically been in typhoons, in earthquakes and been surrounded by massive forest fires wherein thousands of houses were burned up and friends lost everything. I'm sure that many of you have had similar experiences. We know by "sight" what earthly "storms" are.
But with God, Christ, heaven, hell and our soul, we can't realize them with our natural senses, can we? These we have to take on "faith." And that's why I think more people operate by "sight" in the area of preparation. And, even then, many don't even prepare for the earthly "storms" because the "big one" hasn't hit them yet. Since it hasn't happened, maybe it's not going to so why prepare.
You know, it's really an easy equation, when you think about it. If you don't believe something is going to happen, you see no need to prepare for it. And there lies the key word - believe. No belief equals no faith. You're simply not going to act if you don't believe.
Think about it this way: you recall the "5 steps to salvation?" You know, "hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized?" Notice that "believe" is the next step following "hearing." Lots of people "hear" and that's as far as it goes because you have to "believe" to go any further. It's that few who take the "second step" and act upon it. They are the people of "faith" who prepare their soul for "worlds unknown" because they know, by their "faith" that the "storm to end all storms" is coming.
These are the souls who fit the words of James, the ones who "show their faith by their works." (James 2:18) Their belief/faith moves them to act, to prepare for an eternal life in a "place prepared" by God for those who believe the promises made by God in His Word. Just keep in mind that there are two "places prepared" and one of them is for those who do not believe.
Let's wrap up our thoughts today by returning to the idea of "storms." Being a song leader, my thoughts naturally turn to some old hymns that fit with our lesson. One of them is entitled "In The Shelter Of His Arms" and it's some words of the chorus that caused me to relate it to these thoughts. We sing: "There is peace in the time of trouble, There is peace in the midst of the storm, There peace tho the world be raging, In the shelter of His arms."
The other song I was reminded of is: "Stand By Me." It starts off: "When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me..." The gist of the entire song is, that through all the storms of life that come on us, The One who "rules wind and water" is standing beside us and we're in no danger. Because, like the farm hand, we've secured the most precious thing for which we're responsible - our soul.
Parabolically speaking, we can lay our heads on our pillows and sleep when the wind blows because we're prepared for whatever comes "in" this life, but especially, we're prepared for what comes "after" this life.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Out of this social embarrassment, however, has come something very positive. Various online groups have raised over $140,000 to send Karen on "a vacation of a lifetime." In addition, she has received encouraging and sympathetic emails, letters, and Facebook messages from people across the nation (information gleaned from Stephanie Hanes, Christian Science Monitor, 6/21/12).
Most of us will not have our problems and mistreatments captured on a YouTube video. Neither will the kindnesses and good deeds of others toward us be similarly immortalized. Yet, all of us will be hurt and helped by others. We will know suffering and strength. Upon what will we choose to focus? The good or the grime?
Karen Klein is my newfound hero because of how she handled her "banes" and how she focused on her "blessings." There is no indication she is a Christian, but she lives out what Peter tells Christians to do. Concerning mistreatment by cruel masters, Peter tell slaves, "For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God" (1 Pet. 2:19-20). Jesus, whom Peter holds up as an example (1 Pet. 2:21), says, "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Mat. 5:39). You will be assaulted, at least verbally, by people of the character of these sadistic adolescents. Don't let it embitter you. Instead, choose the high road and see the good in life.
contains lots of warnings to Israel and Judah about the results of their
unfaithfulness to God. One of the passages stuck with me and I thought about
it in the context of us living here in America. Notice what God said through
5 I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land.
6 But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot
7 So now I will attack you like a lion, like a leopard that lurks along the
8 Like a bear whose cubs have been taken away, I will tear out your heart.
I will devour you like a hungry lioness and mangle you like a wild animal.
9 "You are about to be destroyed, O Israel; yes, by me, your only helper.
10 Now where is your king? Let him save you! Hosea 13:5-10 (NLT)
Several things stuck in my mind after reading this passage. First, in verse
5 & 6 God said, "I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and
thirsty land. But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud
and forgot me." I wondered if God might not say the same thing about us?
We are the most blessed nation in the world because God made us that way. He
blessed us because we were a nation of people who believed God and
demonstrated it in our Faith our Morals and our Ethics. Life decisions were
not a matter of what some group of people wanted to do. It wasn't a matter
of being afraid to hurt someone or some groups feelings. It wasn't a matter
of what was "politically correct." Our life decisions were based upon what
God said in His Word, the Bible.
But, like the people in the Old Testament, we have "become proud and forgot"
God. And I wonder if like those people, God is already starting to bring
destruction upon us. Many people look at our nation and proclaim "what a
great people we are, because we are so educated, inventive and thrive on
challenge." To a certain degree perhaps that is right, but we would be
nothing with out God on our side.
God told those people in the Old Testament, "You are about to be destroyed,
O Israel; yes, by me, your only helper. Now where is your king? Let him save
you!" He is saying, "You think you are so smart, so much in charge of your
future, but you are not." God said, "I am the true power behind your nation
and when you began to fall and fail go head and ask your king (your
president, your leaders) to deliver you and they will not be able.
I wonder; could God view us in the same way? I believe he can! God told the
people in Ezekiel 18:30, "Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of
Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign LORD. Repent, and turn
from your sins. Don't let them destroy you!"
Go back and read the book of Jonah and you will learn that God judges all of
the nations of the world. Begin now to change your life and urge your
families, your friends, your leaders to bring our nation back in to line
with God's Word.
Free a free online Bible commentary for Hosea and other Old Testament
prophetical books, visit www.abiblecommentary.com today!
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Our "great phrase" for discussion today comes from something said by Jesus that's recorded in Luke 21:19. Prior to that verse He's been giving His disciples some warnings about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. In that verse He utters the phrase that brings about our lesson: "In your patience possess ye your souls." Let's study for a few moments some thoughts inspired by that phrase.
The word "patience," as it's used here by Jesus, means long-suffering or endurance. Another definition would be perseverance. That reminds me of a line from one of my favorite cowboy movies, "The Outlaw Josey Wales." The old Indian chief in the movie is telling Josey about having been to Washington DC with other chiefs and had been told by the President that they must "endeavor to persevere." But really, doesn't several scriptures tell us pretty much the same thing? IE: To be patient?
"Patience" is something to be worked for and, as each one of us have our own individual personalities and make-ups, wouldn't you say that some have to work a little harder than others in gaining "patience?" I do. If a lack of "patience" seems to be a particular stumbling-block in our lives, then we should strive (or endeavor) harder in that area of our Christian virtues. Some of us need to pray for "patience" but not like a man was once heard praying: "Lord, give me patience and I want it right now."
Here's another little thought I had on "patience." I don't think it's an accident that the older we get the more "patience" we seem to have. Now, I grant you that in some areas that might not be the case, but generally speaking, I think that we're just not as "impatient" as we used to be.
How many times do you recall admonishing your children to "just be patient?" It just seems to me that youth and impatience go hand in hand, don't they? The famous author, Sir James Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, once told a young actor who was criticizing everything about a play, "My boy, you will have to be more patient with us. After all, we're not young enough to know everything."
But, I still say that age seems to give us more "patience." And furthermore, I believe that is in keeping with what God intended. A famous man once said that "patience is the art of hoping" and I think we can turn to a scripture that shows us that the famous man's words fit with God's intentions. In Heb. 6:11-12 we find this being said: "And we desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
And we can go to Rom. 5:2-5 and read these words: "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
In support of my opinion of age bringing "patience," I think the above passage, by itself, shows that it's no accident that we should gain "patience" as we grow older. And why I can say that is, because God tells us that it's the "tribulations" of our lives that creates "patience" in us. And don't overlook the part "experience" plays in this equation. It brings about "hope."
Why are the young so impatient? Simply because they haven't lived long enough to experience the trials and tribulations of life that bring about "patience and hope." As a next step in our lesson, perhaps we should look a little bit into this "hope" that's brought by "patience."
The first thing to understand is, that "hope" is a belief in something "unseen." A scriptural reference to that point is found in Rom. 8:24-25 where it says: "For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope for what a man seeth, why doeth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."
Okay, so by our scriptural references so far, we see that it's our "patience" that leads us to "experience" which leads us to "hope" and that "hope" is what saves us. In other words, a belief in something that we can't see, hear, feel or taste is the essence of "faith." And our "faith" is in the promises of God and Jesus Christ. It is our "patience" within us that enables us to wait for those promises.
When we study about "patience" there is one thing that I feel must be mentioned and that is, that many people believe the old saying "cleanliness is next to godliness" comes from the Bible. That is not so. However, the Bible does tell us what is next to godliness and when we turn to 2 Pet. 1:6 we find that it is "patience" and not cleanliness.
One of the things that I see as detrimental about the age we now live in is the effect it has on our "patience." Due to technology, we've learned faster ways of going places and doing things and our "patience" suffers because of it.
One thing - computers - can serve to make my point here. We just can't wait an extra 5 or 10 nanoseconds to get something up on our screen, can we? We have to run out and buy the latest and fastest-operating giz-whizzy on the market because we can't wait that interminable amount of time.
Can't our "societal impatience" carry over into our Christian life? I think that it can and we need to guard against that happening just as we need to guard against any other detriments society throws at us. And why it's so important that we guard our ourselves from allowing the world to effect our "patience" is because it puts our souls at risk. The loss of "patience" can result in the loss of our soul.
Let's recall what the President told the Indian Chiefs; that they must "endeavor to persevere" and apply that principle to ourselves. We must develop endurance to persevere through the tribulations we all face in our lives and when we do, we can then truly understand what Christ meant when he said, "In your patience possess ye our souls."
Thursday, June 14, 2012
busiest month of the year, but I'd like to move it to February. There's not
nearly so much going on then! None the less, today is Father's day! A day
when you can (as a father) revel in the grand idea you had in bringing these
kids into the world. I guess that's why it's so important, because almost
every father knows, there are times you have had second thoughts about these
Now, granted I'm talking about someone else, not myself. Honestly, I never
had those thoughts when my tools went missing, or the grass went unmowed, or
the trash not taken out. Do you think I worried when the boys were out past
curfew or I got "that" call from school to come and meet with someone? Do
you think it bothered me when I know the friends they choose were not the
ones I would have chosen for them?
Yes, of course it bothered me, yes I worried, but not once did I regret the
fact that they were my sons.
Through the years I've gotten the normal Father's Day gifts. As the boys
matured so did the gifts. No longer were they the handmade pictures or
ashtrays they made in school (even though I never smoked). The cards were
mostly hand drawn with squiggly letters and stick figures with oversized
round heads, (Maybe I looked that way to them?) As they grew, the gifts
became store bought, fancier; things they looked hard for to find something
they thought would please me. Very few of the later gifts do I still have,
but hand drawn cards and pictures still have a place in my heart.
David wrote in Psalms 127:4 -5, "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are
sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."
To be blessed is to be happy and I have been both blessed and happy because
of my sons.
If you don't have that relationship I pray that you try to mend it, find it,
fix it, because there is nothing more important.
it's not anything I lose sleep over. I feel secure in who I am, and thus
never been one to spend much money on buying shoes that (I think) will raise
others' esteem of me. Should I now review my position?
An article appeared June 12, 2012 on MedicalDaily.com concerning a study
conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas. The headline is what
caught my eye: The study proposes that 90% of pertinent facts about who I am
be guessed on the basis of my shoes.
63 students looked at photographs of 208 different pairs of shoes belonging
volunteers connected with the study. When asked to guess certain attributes
the shoes' owners simply by looking at their footwear, the study
were right an astonishing percentage of the time. Traits such as gender,
social status, whether the person was an introvert or an extrovert,
or liberal - all of these can be guessed by one's footwear. Or so claims
No one will be surprised to hear that others make judgments of people on the
basis of what they wear or other aspects of their appearance. But how many
us appreciate being so judged? Even if the success rate is 90% (I'm
skeptical of that claim), what happens when I'm in the 10% who are
Could that erroneous conclusion cost me a job or a friendship?
Judge a person by their shoes? That goes against an old adage that says,
judge me until you walk a mile in my shoes." I see far more wisdom in the
Jesus Christ had some important things to say about judging others: "Judge
that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be
and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you" (Matthew
To me that sounds like a warning against the practice of evaluating a person
any outward measure, shoes or otherwise.
The prophet Samuel was sent to the home of Jesse to anoint the next king of
Israel. Jesse had several sons and Samuel was in a quandary over which one
anoint. After seeing the eldest, who looked like a future king, God advised
prophet: "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because
have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at
outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
But here's something else to keep in mind: Sometimes we must make judgments
others - on the basis of what God has told us. In the same chapter in which
Jesus warned against judging, He also commanded us to beware of wolves in
sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). How can we know which sheep-looking
is a wolf? "You will know them by their fruits," Jesus taught (Matthew
Our problem is that we often judge others by our own standards. One thinks
a beard makes a man look unkempt; another sees it as distinguished. We all
One standard, though, rises above all others. When God gives us the basis
which to discern between people, that's the time to make an evaluation.
Timothy D. Hall
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 1Tim. 2:15
In the form of an illustration for our lesson today, let me tell you a little short and amusing story. (It's amusing to me anyway.) It seems a man went to his lawyer's office ever so often for legal advice. He had considerable business interests and his bills from the lawyer were always high.
He noticed that every time he asked for advice, the lawyer would get up from his desk and go to his bookcase and look until he found the book he wanted. Then he would open it and read until he found the law governing that particular case and then give the man the advice he needed.
The man decided that he could eliminate a lot of expense if he just went and bought himself a set of books like the lawyer had and read the information himself. He'd save all those big fees he'd been paying. He told a friend what he was planning on doing and his friend offered him some very sage advice. He said, "There's just one difference between you and your lawyer." The man asked, "Oh, what's that?" His friend said, "The lawyer knows what page it's on."
Think about that little story a moment, especially if you've ever had to make use of an attorney on some legal matter. The reason we pay them their fee is because they "know what page it's on." That's what we're paying for. Their knowledge of where to find the right "page."
For about a year now I've been providing our Wednesday night Bible study with three questions to be answered at the next session. Sort of "homework" you might call it. There are three reasons I started doing this and I'll enumerate them here for you: (1) So that we learn how to find things in the scriptures. In other words, how to "rightly divide" them.
The second reason is: the gain of knowledge from the circumstances wherein the answers are found. And the 3rd reason for my questions is: besides containing the "words of life," a realization that the Bible is an interesting book if studied in a simple and orderly manner. From the comments I've received, the class enjoys this little exercise and they've found that, in finding the answer, they've read a lot of the scriptures surrounding where the answer was found.
One of my goals as a teacher of Bible classes is to make the study of God's Word a fun and enjoyable experience. One of the most common complaints you hear said by people is that the Bible is "so confusing." I believe that it can be if not approached in the right manner. I believe that if it is studied in a structured or systematic manner it isn't confusing. In my opinion, that is exactly the goal of a Bible class teacher - to "unconfuse" (new word) or "demystify" the scriptures and make them understandable. That's my goal anyway.
When it comes to a study of God's Word we're lost if we don't know where to find the answer to whatever it is we're seeking. And this is the reason that many people find the Bible to be a book of mystery. They don't know where to look, or as said earlier, the don't know "what page it's on."
I see the words of Paul in our introductory verse talking about this very thing when he uses the words "rightly dividing the word of truth." If not "rightly divided" it can certainly become confusing. But, if it is "rightly divided" then it becomes a very logical and easily understood book. In the form of a short and simple lesson today, I'm going to talk about some basics involved in "rightly dividing."
Here are some very simply rules you can follow that help remove any confusion when studying the Bible. Let's just call this a "beginner's course" in "rightly dividing." First, one must know who is speaking; who is spoken to; and the circumstances surrounding what was said. As I said, these are basic rules and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to study the Bible.
Let me just mention a few examples that will amplify the rules I just mentioned. God may have said something to Abraham that is needful for me to know because it shows me how God dealt with His People in the past, thus I can know how He deals with them still. But, there is no logical way that I can obey today what God told Abraham to do back then.
God told Noah to build an ark in preparation for a flood, an event that was unheard of at the time. If I started building an ark, telling everyone that God wanted me to build one, it wouldn't be long before a van full of guys in white coats and nets would be at my house. Especially if I used as a reason that God told Noah to build one, so everyone should do the same.
How 'bout we carry this lesson in basics one step further as to the "dividing" of the Word. Perhaps a step in learning "what page it's on." The first effort in taking this step is to see that there are two great divisions of the Bible - the Old and New testaments. Then we learn that there were two dispensations of time prior to the one we're in at the present - the Christian dispensation. The previous two were the Patriarchal and the Mosaic.
Gal. 4:4 we see that Christ came "in the fulness of time" and by doing so, did what the Law of Moses could not do (Rom. 8:3) which was "redeem" us from our sins. (Read Gal. 4:5 and Titus 2:14) He effected this redemption by His death on the cross and established His Church on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2)
The four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are books of introduction that tell us about His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection. The book of Acts is a book of history regarding the early days of the Church and provides a list of conversions which shows us what's necessary for salvation. The epistles tell us how to live before God and our fellow man. In Revelation we get a glimpse of heaven, but most especially in this book, we see who "the winner" is - God!
As I stated earlier, this is just about as simple as I can make a lesson on "rightly dividing" God's Word. The design of my simple little lesson is to help us know how "to find the right page." And, when we know "the page it's on" the Bible becomes a very easily studied book and it's my firm belief that if I can understand it, anyone can. Happy "dividing."
Saturday, June 9, 2012
But Meghan Vogel does. Vogel, a junior runner for West Liberty-Salem High
School (West Liberty, Ohio), won the 1,600-meter title last Saturday at the
Division III girls state meet in Columbus. She won it with her
personal-best time of 4 minutes, 58.31 seconds.
But it's what she did in her next race that makes her a real champion - even
though she finished last in the race.
After running and winning the 1,600-meter, Vogel lined up to race in the
3,200 meter. Her mother and coach, Ann, noted that three laps into the
8-lap race, that Vogel was falling off pace. She could tell that she just
didn't have the energy to contend for another title. Now it would be a
matter of completing the race.
As Vogel rounded the final turn of the grueling race, she saw a runner ahead
of her struggling. With only 20 meters left, Arden McMath, a sophomore from
Arlington High School, collapsed in exhaustion. Instead of running past
her, Vogel stopped and helped McMath get to her feet, put her arm on her
shoulder, and began helping her to the finish line. Just before they
reached the line, with the crowd cheering, Vogel purposefully steered McMath
across the finish line ahead of her.
According to the rule book, a runner is automatically disqualified for
aiding another runner. The officials at this meet, however, didn't
disqualify Vogel. McMath was given 14th place with a time of 12:29.90, and
Vogel -- a real champion - 15th place in 12:30.24.
Meghan Vogel reminds us of a man that devoted himself to achieving a
marvelous goal. He devoted his life to fulfilling this goal. In fact, it
was for this very purpose that He was born and He gave his life in order to
accomplish it. But accomplish it, he did! As he was taking his last
breaths, he was able to say victoriously, "It is finished." He had
completed his task; he was a champion.
In fact, He IS the greatest Champion of all! His name is Jesus, and He is
the Son of God. But because of His great love for us, the Son of God was
clothed in human flesh and lived among us, to identify with us (John 1:14;
Hebrews 2:17-18) and then to die for us.
Jesus came to our rescue when we had fallen because of our sin (Romans
3:23).None of us had the "energy" nor the resources to "cross the finish
line" (heaven). But Jesus came to us and died on the cross for our sins, so
that we might have forgiveness and one day cross the finish line and have
eternal life in heaven.
Jesus was the Greatest Champion not just because He completed His task
successfully, but because He gave His life for us so that we can SHARE in
His victory. He accomplished His task for US. His actions were totally
unselfish. He died so that we might live.
YOU may share in His victory over sin and death if you will accept His offer
of salvation on His terms by: placing your faith and trust in Him (Acts
16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus
before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for
the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38).
Meghan Vogel was a champion, not just because she won a race, but because
she helped someone to cross the finish line....
Jesus is the Greatest Champion of all, not because He fulfilled His life's
goal, but because by so doing, He has enabled EACH of us to share in His
victory - IF- we will accept His offer.
David A. Sargent
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
the great sportsmanship of Meghan Vogel, who was in last place in the 3,200
meter race when she caught up to a flagging Arden McMath suffering from
apparent sodium deficiency and about ready to give up the race. Vogel "put
McMath's arms around her shoulders, half-dragging and half-carrying her
about 30 meters to the finish line" and "pushed McMath over the finish line
before crossing it" (SI.com, via Springfield News-Sun). Her unselfish act
has drawn the attention and praise of many across the nation.
It is interesting to read how the Bible describes Christianity as like
running a race. Paul urges us to "run in such a way that you may win" (1
Cor. 9:24). The writer of Hebrews adds, "Let us run with endurance the race
that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). Running with endurance and running
victoriously are not antithetical. They go hand in hand. We do not have to
finish in first place to win the Christian race. We do have to run all the
way to the finish. That requires endurance.
Haven't you faced times when you were ready to stop? It may have been
temptation, discouragement, fear, guilt, bitterness, confusion, or any
number of things. The net effect, though, was that you had come to the
point of surrender. Isn't it amazing when a brother or sister heroically
comes alongside to carry us toward the finish line. It is one of the proofs
of God's eternal wisdom in designing the church the way He did (cf. Eph.
3:9-11). The church is a community of people, heading in the direction of
heaven. We need each other to successfully finish. That is one reason why
assembling and fellowship are important. We need that association that is
tantamount to assistance in finishing the race. Hebrews 10:24 calls it
stimulating one another to love and good works.
Meghan has been called an inspiration. I agree. What an act of
selflessness and kindness. But, let us remember that we are called to fill
that role on the narrow road that leads to life. Our job is to help as many
as possible finish successfully!
Friday, June 1, 2012
oath of office to the newly elected 40th President of the United States,
Ronald Reagan. For the first time, the inauguration ceremony was held on the
terrace of the West Front of the Capitol.
In his Inaugural Address, President Reagan noted the unique vantage point of
the location of the ceremony:
"This is the first time in history that this ceremony has been held, as you
have been told, on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces
a magnificent vista, opening up on this city's special beauty and history.
At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose
shoulders we stand."
President Reagan referenced the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial,
and the Lincoln Memorial. Then he pointed "beyond those monuments to
heroism" to the far shore of the Potomac River, to "the sloping hills of
Arlington National Cemetery with its row on row of simple white markers
bearing crosses or Stars of David." Each one of those markers, he said, is
a monument to a hero. He then directed the attention of the nation and the
world to one of those markers:
"Under one such marker lies a young man - Martin Treptow - who left his job
in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow
Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a
message between battalions under heavy artillery fire. We are told that on
his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, 'My
Pledge,' he had written these words: 'America must win this war. Therefore,
I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight
cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended
on me alone.'"
There is ANOTHER war that continues to be waged today over the souls of men
and women. Our eternal destiny is at stake! Because of our sin, our
situation was hopeless until One was sent to our rescue.
He came bearing a message of salvation under the heavy fire of the enemy.
In fact, He was the message. He was the sinless Son of God that was sent to
bring the good news (the Gospel) of salvation from sin and to accomplish the
means of that salvation. He came, determined to accomplish the will of God,
"as if the issue of the whole struggle depended upon
Him alone." And it did!
For it was ONLY the sinless Son of God who could pay the price for our
redemption for our sins. He willingly paid that price by dying on the cross
for our sins (Ephesians 1:7).
We may receive the benefits of His atoning sacrifice - salvation from sin
and eternal life -- 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 by being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness
of our sins (Acts 2:38).
Our salvation from sin and the gift of eternal life depends upon Christ
alone. However, we must accept His offer of salvation and life on His
David A. Sargent
How to be saved
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