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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Apologetics of Thanksgiving
 
 
    Our family went recently to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at the movie theater. While watching the previews, we saw an advertisement for St. Jude Children's Hospital. It is for their Thanks and Giving fund-raising campaign.
 
 
    They have an all-star cast doing the advertisements - Jennifer Anniston, Robin Williams, Michael Strahan, and others. One statement made by Robin Williams caught my ear. "If you have healthy children, give thanks" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60NEqP_8iP0). The ad is also seen on TV.
 
 
    Thanksgiving. The word means "giving thanks." Look at that word - giving. It takes an indirect object. Giving to whom? How can you give anything unless you are giving to someone? The very idea of giving thanks requires a person to receive the thanks.
 
 
    So, when you are talking about children or good health or life in general and you give thanks, there has to be someone who is worthy to receive the thanks. Someone who is appropriate to receive the thanks.
 
 
    Can I really give my wife thanks for my children? She clearly had a lot to do with it but she did not create the child. She did not give neither me nor herself the child. Someone bigger and more powerful than the two of us gave us the child.
 
 
    My point is that the very idea of thanksgiving requires the existence of God. To give thanks "to the stars" is nonsensical. To give thanks to the wind is just as ludicrous.
 
 
    I do not know to whom atheists offer thanksgiving but when they do, they implicitly affirm the existence of God, to whom all thanksgiving ultimately belongs.
 
 
    "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
 
 
    The next time you hear an atheist express thanksgiving, ask him/her thanksgiving to whom?  Let us be thankful to God for big gifts and small.
 
--Paul Holland

 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas, A time to remember

CHRISTMAS A TIME TO REMEMBER

'"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to
Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of
David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to
him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the
baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him
in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in
the inn." (Luke 2)

We realize that Christmas is a holiday established by men; however it is
based on the remembrance of the birth of the Christ Child. Christmas has
always been a family celebration, which is why it has such appeal to us.

As we look at this scripture which we all know so well, we remember that in
the earliest of beginnings, Joseph heard the angel as he appeared to him in
a dream (Matthew 1:20), with a message from God. When he realized it was a
message from God he knew that he could trust Mary. They were committed to
one another as husband and wife, a family, while much of the world would
have rejected the situation.

They were also committed to the care for the baby, which God had given them.
So in reality, the Christmas is a celebration not just about God sending a
Savior, but it's about human love as well.

Did you know that the most popular American song ever written is Irving
Berlin's "White Christmas?" The tune is simple, but the message touches the
heart. Berlin wrote these words that I'm pretty sure that most of you know
by heart: "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to
know. Where the tree tops glisten and children listen to hear the sleigh
bells in the snow." It brings memories of home and family.

Christmas is about remembering the sacrifice of God who "thought it not a
thing to be held onto" to stay in heaven, "but humbled himself and took on
the form of a man." Christmas is a time to celebrate family. A time to renew
love, celebrate with friends and family that we may not have seen since the
last Christmas.

In the celebration of Christmas we see a God who humbles Himself and a young
couple who have the most amazing experience at the birth of their son, the
king of the universe.

Let me wish each one of you a joyous Christmas and you celebrate the gift of
God and the love of family.

Russ Lawson

Thursday, December 12, 2013

$10 Off Coupon LifeWay Christian stores

An Astonishing Choice
by Tom Wacaster

"Now at the feast the governor was wont to release unto the multitude one prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. When therefore they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" (Matt. 27:15-17). I don't know where the "custom" originated that allowed the Jews to select some prisoner for release, but likely it had to do with Rome's attempt to appease the Jews by granting liberty to some political prisoner. After all, Israel was almost at constant odds with Rome politically.

Little did Pilate imagine that this Jewish mob would, when given the choice, prefer a cold-blooded killer over a man Who went about doing good, and against Whom no charge of wrong could be levied. Oh yes, Barabbas was a "notable" prisoner; no doubt a seditionist, a zealot who hated Rome and Rome's occupation of the Promised Land. Somewhere in the recesses of the not-too-distant past this man had taken someone's life. Arrested, tried, and convicted he was confined to a prison in Jerusalem to await his execution by crucifixion. Here was a murderer, a seditionist, deserving of the death that awaited him along with the two thieves who would eventually be crucified with Christ. Little did Barabbas imagine that in the early hours of the very day of his scheduled execution he would be granted not only a stay of execution, but a full release from prison. In an attempt to appease the angry mob, Pilate offered the Jews a choice. Knowing the Jews had delivered up Jesus out of je alousy, he asked, "Who shall I release to you? Jesus, or Barabbas." It is rather ironic that the name "Barabbas" means "son of father" ("Bar" meaning "son of," and "abba" meaning "father"). That dark night in Jerusalem, Israel was given the choice between two men as to whom they would accept, and whom they would reject. Jesus was the Son of the Father of all men; Barabbas the son of some unnamed man. Was Barabbas' earthly father still alive? Did he live in Jerusalem? Was he aware of the fate of his son, and the turn of events that would set this man free? No information is provided. But this we know about the "father" of each of these men. The father of one, if alive, or even aware of his son's life, must have hung his head in shame. The Father of the Other was "well pleased" with the love and obedience demonstrated by His Son's short thirty-three year earthly tenor.

To appease the crown, Pilate gave the mob a choice: Jesus or Barabbas! The governor must have been shocked to hear that the people preferred this vile, wicked murderer to Jesus. But that is the choice they made. And their choice echoes through the halls of history revealing the extreme to which men will go when they are determined to rid their lives of Jesus. The atheist selects Barabbas over Jesus when he rejects the abundant evidence of the existence of God and deity of Jesus. He plays the fool (Psa. 14:1) and willfully closes his eyes to the abundant "proofs" that declare the glory of God and shows His wonderful handiwork (Psa. 19:1). In exchange he offers nothing to the world but a bleak outlook on life and an eternity filled with hopeless non existence.

The profligate likewise selects Barabbas over Jesus when he follows in the footsteps of that notorious criminal who had little respect for life and no respect for authority. Desiring to live a life of debauchery, the profligate rejects every attempt to reign in a life that is out of control, and chooses instead to continue his journey into the dark night of indulgence and self pleasure.

The unethical abortionist, unloving mother, and uncaring society select Barabbas over Jesus every time a baby is torn from his mother's womb and the masses of a society remain silent without so much as a whimper or wailing cry! Right and wrong mean nothing, and the value of human life even less to those who chose Barabbas over Jesus so that they might escape the responsibility that comes with bringing a child into this world.

The list goes on! The homosexual selects Barabbas over Jesus for an unholy, perverted life style. The religious leaders and foolish followers who perpetrate, perpetuate, or participate in religious error have selected Barabbas over Jesus. The child of God that turns back to the filth of the world has made a bad choice. Every lukewarm, indifferent, undedicated, uncommitted child of God who allow pleasure to come between them and their God, have selected Barabbas over Jesus. Cowardly elders who choose to appease rebellious members rather than have the whole counsel of God preached, have likewise selected Barabbas over Jesus.

Yes, the choice those Jews made on that fateful day has been repeated by untold billions. When men choose a person, philosophy or policy over Christ, have they not called for the release of Barabbas over the Christ? "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Whether in person, principle, or way of life, when men choose to "crucify" Christ afresh they are asking for Barabbas over Christ. Every time someone rejects the authority of Christ for tradition, family religion, or a moral life style contrary to the teaching of the New Testament, they have asked for Barabbas over Jesus. When we turn away from Christ and give in to anger, selfishness, envy, jealousy, hatred, evil speaking, we have chosen Barabbas instead of Jesus.

Each of us will eventually find ourselves in the shoes of Pilate. Not to try Jesus, or to hear the arguments of the rebellious mob who rejected and crucified our Lord. Like Pilate, each one of us will, at least one time, face the decision of whether to choose Jesus or Barabbas. Dear friend, what choice will you make? Barabbas or Jesus?

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness

I've mentioned before that we have a little 7 pound, 11-1/2 year old dog.
Since we are a long distance from our children and grandchildren, she fills
in that place lots of times. Through the years we have learned to interpret
many of her "silent communications". This morning however we had a problem
with that "communication". She (the dog, not my wife) will often sit and
stare at us and we have a series of questions we ask and then try to judge
her response to the questions. She has us trained well enough that we often
get the answer right quite quickly. This morning we went through that common
procedure and kept getting mixed signals. It seemed she wanted her kibble/
food and yet when we provided it, she didn't eat, she just sat and stared at
us. My wife said, "I don't think she knows what he really wants." Finally my
wife determined that the dog just wasn't feeling well today and picked up
some of her food and held it in her hand and the dog took a few pieces at a
time and ate.

How often are we like that in our lives? We feel discontent, loneliness, or
no sense of purpose. We stumble around mentally, trying to figure out what
is missing or why our lives are unfulfilling. We would go to God and ask
him, but since we can't figure it out ourselves, how can we approach God?

Unlike us who have a family member who is a dog, God never has to wonder
what the problem is or what we need. He knows everything about us, but that
does not mean we should not try and put our needs into words to the Father.
The scripture clearly tells us that talk to God about everything and all
times. God has however provided a way for us to communicate when we are
tongue tied or just don't know how to express our selves.

Paul tells us in Romans 8: 26-28 "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our
weakness. For example, sometimes we don't know what to pray for in the right
way. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be
expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the
Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with
God's own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for
the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for
them."

All of this is to say simply, trust God to give you what you need, even if
you need (at times) to be hand fed.

Russ Lawson

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rich man and Lazarus story - is it true?

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

A week ago on Thursday we got up and started our day as we normally do. Went
about our business, I working in my office and my wife going with another
church member to visit one of our widowed members. Then I received a call
from Ohio that my wife's twin sister had died in Troy and everything
changed. The next morning we were up at 3 a.m. And heading for the airport
for that long flight home. I made the comment that the morning before I
could never have imagined that we be on a plane the next morning. What a
difference a day makes!

I know that many of you have experienced the same thing, a loved one dies,
an accident changes life dramatically for you, you loose a job, a sudden
illness, your house burns down or any number of things can happen. From that
point on your life is changed. You wish you could go back and do things
differently, say things differently, change relationships, but you can't.


Here is a story from God's word that makes that point. "There was this rich
man that lived in a huge mansion. He loved to party, loved his fancy cars
and loved to be seen with his super model girlfriends.

There was also a homeless man named Lazarus that hung out, outside of the
rich mans gate. When he could he would sneak around to the kitchen door and
beg for scraps or hunt though the trash cans for food.

Lazrus was filthy and dirty and covered with sores. He often would wake up
with stray dogs licking the blood that was dripping from the oozing sores.

After awhile Lazrus died and God took pity on him and had his soul brought
to a place called, "Paradise," where he was comforted and cared for.

Not long after that the rich man died and his soul went to Hell and he was
in constant torment.

As he looked off in the distance he saw the prophet Abraham with Lazrus
laying in his lap being cared for.

The Rich man cried out, "I'm being torchured here and burning up in this
fire, please let Lazrus bring me just a few drops of water.

Abraham said, "Sorry, but that can't happen. Do you see that huge canyon
between us, it ws put ther just so you would have to stay where you are and
live with the choices you made in life... and we can't cross over either.

The Rich man thought about his life and remembered his family still in the
world. He cried out, "Well, what about my father and brothers, can you send
Lazrus back to warn them about this place and what's happened to me?"

Abraham said, "No, that can't happen either and it wouldn't do any good
anyway.They have preachers and the bible, they need to listen to them,
because even if someone came back from the dead they would just think it was
special effects or a trick of some kind. They wouldn't listen then any more
than they do now." (Luke 16:19-31 Paraphrase by R. Lawson)

Now here is the point: Get your life right with man and God while you still
have time. There is no going back, there are no 'do overs,' there is no
"restore function" like you have on your computer. You make your choices and
then live eternally with the consequences. The question for each of us is,
if there is no tomorrow for you are you ready for 'forever'?

By Russ Lawson

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The book of Ecclesiastes

This Sunday, Oct. 6th, 2013, our morning Bible class will start out on a journey of study in the book of Ecclesiastes. I've taught this book before and I think it's a tremendous study of the wisdom of Solomon seen in his explanation of the relative value of earthly things versus spiritual things. I told the class last week that we'd be seeing a phrase repeated throughout this study regarding the "earthly things" and that phrase is: "all is vanity." With that thought and phrase in mind, I'd like you to consider some thoughts based upon it.

A few years back someone coined the phrase "beautiful people." The way it was used then, and still today, applied to those people being either wealthy or practiced in the ways of temporal/worldly pleasure. Or both. This got me to thinking about what really constitutes a "beautiful person" so I thunk on it for awhile and I'm going to share my thoughts with you here.

My first thought is that the world is hung up on this idea of physical beauty, isn't it? And, being the astute and observant people that we are, we know that not everyone is not beautiful in the way that the world looks at beauty. Oh, the TV wants us to believe that everyone looks like the beautiful and handsome actors seen in the commercials, but we know that isn't true, don't we? But, they want you to believe that if you drink (X-brand) beer, you'll be a "beautiful person" too, just like the ones seen in the ad.

But, there's another category of products that really whet my editorial juices, plus make me laugh when you really stop and think about it, and that is the cosmetics offered for sale. Think about this - only "beautiful people" are seen in their commercials, yet they're selling a product to make people look better. That must mean that they recognize that there must be people who are not beautiful, but by using their product, they can be. Like the models seen in the ad. Why don't they use plain, unattractive people in their ads and then show how the product improved them to the beautiful stage? You know the answer to that.

How this thought fits with our coming study of Ecclesiastes is simply this: the cosmetic products are advertised in the manner that they are so that they appeal to our "vanity." Because most everyone wants to be beautiful too. And if they use the same cosmetics that the beautiful people use, they too will be one of the "beautiful people."

Some years ago I read that the cosmetics industry was an 18 billion dollar a year business and I'm pretty sure that figure has been surpassed by today's market. And, from what little research that I've done (noticing prices in stores and ads), they don't make becoming beautiful cheap, do they. And furthermore, this "vanity" and these products are not relegated to just women's "vanity," a lot of men are just as "vain." Don't believe me, just check out the ads for all the men's products available in the cosmetic marketplace.

It's been opined that if a woman went through one of the current glamour/fashion magazines and used all of the products in it and they worked as advertised, she'd have "silky-smooth, blemish-free, firm, perfectly textured, youthful skin, devoid of lines and wrinkles." She'd have a "natural-looking glow" along with a "natural glowing blush, huge expressive eyes with long, dark, thick yet soft eyelashes."

She would also have "soft, smooth, kissable lips" covered with a "frankly fabulous color." Her hair would be one of the following descriptors: "Full-bodied that glows with health, shiny, shimmery, soft and sexy." And the hands, can't forget the hands, can we? She'd have "moisturized fingernails covered with a shimmery sheen" or more likely today, be beautiful fake nails applied by a specialist in such products. As to her complexion, we could go on for several paragraphs about that but, suffice it to say, it would be "beautifully tanned, rich deep and long-lasting."

This industry and it's product sales in the billions is built upon the "vanity" of human beings. I'm reminded of another word that sounds a lot like "vanity" that is applicable to the real result of aforementioned commercials and that word is - fantasy.

Of course, there's the old saying "Beauty is only skin-deep" and that old wheeze fits perfectly with our thoughts here. You see, that's as far as the cosmetics can go. They cannot have any effect on the inner person. They may be able to "cleanse the skin" but they can't "cleanse the soul."

An interesting thing I found about the cosmetics industry is that there is really no control over it by the government other than if a product makes mis-leading claims or is known to be harmful if used. Plus, the industry is very careful to NOT promise that their product will chemically alter the body in any way because it is regulated by the "Food And Drug Administration." If they did that, they would then come under the regulations of the "drug" category and not the "food" regulations. So, they walk a very tight line in advertising their products.

Oh, they can make their product sound good by the terms they use in their ads, but don't really say anything that gets its category changed. A good example of this is seen by the use of the term "hypoallergenic." Know what that means? If not, join a large club of people who don't know either. But, you got to admit that it sure sounds scientific, doesn't it?

Actually, there is no standard definition of that word. Basically it means that their product contains no known allergens. And, since there isn't a large amount of allergens available, the company would be stupid to include one in their product, wouldn't they? The use of that word is only designed to sound like it really means something which then allows them to charge more money for the "hypoallergenic" product.

Solomon talks a lot in Ecclesiastes about putting one's trust and faith in things of this world and how worthless that is as far as what's really important to mankind. Remember, everything of this world is "vanity." So, instead of spending a lot of time, effort and money on things that cannot affect the most important part of us, our "soul," that is where we should concentrate our "cleansing" efforts. Because, no matter how beautiful or ugly our human forms are, they have no bearing on where our soul resides eternally.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us what does have a bearing on where our soul rests forever. It tells us what part of us needs to be "cleansed," or allegorically in keeping with our editorial today, where we need to apply our beautification efforts. It says there that upon the occasion of our death "the spirit returns to God who gave it." And, it's the condition of that "spirit," that "soul" when it "returns" that determines how beautiful we are to God.

It should have no "wrinkles or blemishes." It didn't have them when God issued it to you and, in order to arrive back to Him in an acceptable condition, all the stains of the world must be removed. Not just covered over, but "washed" clean. And there is only one product available that has any cleansing effect on the soul - the "blood of Jesus Christ." "And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." (Rev. 1:5)

Acts 22:16 tells us how this product is applied: "baptism" into Christ's blood will "wash away your sins." The attempt to use any other product, or to use it in a manner different from the "label's" directions, won't work. Should that be tried, either case, we can only apply Solomon's words here: "All is vanity."

Respectfully submitted,

Ron Covey

Friday, October 4, 2013

I will never forgive her

Robert Pattinson is a name many people are familiar with, especially teenagers. Others might better know him as Edward, one of the main characters of the popular movie series, Twilight. While he has wooed many on and off the screen, a recent interview with Australia's Sunday Style tells a lot about his character. Pattinson said, "I don't ever feel the need to forgive or expect people to be. I judge people on their actions. I don't really care if it's wrong or right, I give them the benefit of the doubt. If they do something I can't be bothered to deal with, I just cut them out" (Yahoo).

 

No matter the situation or the circumstance, this should never be the attitude of a Christian. Scripture makes it very clear that we are to be people of forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32). Peter and Christ once had a conversation on this very topic: "Then Peter came and said to Him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven'" (Matthew 18:21-22).

 

The message is obvious; we are to forgive others as many times as necessary. When we forgive we are letting go of our anger, resentment, and ill feelings towards someone. This doesn't mean there won't be consequences for actions, but it means we will let it go. We won't continue to bring the past back up or use it as a leveraging stab during an argument.

 

So, we know we should forgive, but why? Jesus gives a very clear answer, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 5:14-15). Since we want our sins to be forgiven by God, we must also forgive others.

 

Brett Petrillo 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Behold, NOW is the accepted (favorable) time; behold, NOW is the

Last Monday, the 16th of September, 2013 began as a day just like many days before it. The normal occasions and events of life were going on with men and women going to work, kids going to school and the taking care of the routine, everyday chores. I'm sure that no one was expecting their lives to be suddenly over or drastically changed in the first few hours of that day. But, they were!

I doubt that any of my readers are unaware of the terrible and tragic event that took place that morning at the Naval facility in Washington DC. An event wherein a deranged gunman shot to death 12 innocent souls and wounded many others. And, we've all heard the pundits and "experts" talk about it ever since its onset, offering their opinions as to the cause of it. Don't be alarmed here, I'm not going to opine greatly to the myriad opinions already expressed in the news media.

What I do intend to do here is use this incident as an illustration to a spiritual lesson. I think that it will serve to show us a picture of a very important teaching and warning given by Jesus Christ. A lesson that something like this tragic event brings home to us in a very graphic way.

However, I will say this much about what happened Monday in DC. I've noted that, since the event began unfolding, the "experts," with much hand-wringing and convoluted thinking (as they usually do) have been putting forth various reasons as to why this event occurred. Trying to offer their opinion as to the cause of the event. Their reasons ran the gamut from "violent computer games" to "lack of mental treatment of the shooter" to the always handy argument, "the availability of firearms."

It's almost as if they're trying to find a way to relieve the perpetrator of being responsible for what occurred. A way of shifting the responsibility from the one doing the killing to someone or something else, such as the mental treatment availabilities, to the lack of security, to the availability of firearms.

All of this just relieves those committing these atrocities of any personal responsibility for their actions. It has to be somebody or something's (usually societies) fault. Why can't it simply be that there are evil people amongst us in this world and they are accountable for their actions? And that's my only opinion on this incident that I'll express here.

Okay, now that I've pontificated somewhat on our illustrative event, let's get on with my reason for citing Monday's event and why I feel it will serve to show us a spiritual lesson. I see it as painting us a graphic picture of something Christ warned us about in the 24th chapter of Matthew. Please open your Bibles to that chapter and follow along with me as we study verses 37-44.

When you read that passage you'll easily see that He's talking about life going on pretty much as usual. About the daily goings-on in peoples lives. They'll be eating and drinking, marriages will be taking place, women will be preparing food and men in their workplace. IE: The normal activities of life, in general, going on. No one is suspecting the end of it to come suddenly upon them.

On Monday last, people were going about their everyday, normal activities such as men and women seeing their spouses off to work, I'm sure, with never a thought that this would be the last time they'd see them alive. That some tragic and untoward event would take them away. BUT IT DID!

These sorts of events have always happened and always will happen so long as this world exists. They occur because we live in a world beset with danger and evil. We never know when we walk out the door of our house whether we'll walk back in. Just like those twelve people whose souls went home to God last Monday.

Yes, in that 24th chapter of Matthew, Jesus is talking about His 2nd coming to earth at the end of time. But, here's the main point of this lesson and the important thing to understand here - our "end of time," our "day of judgment" comes at the moment we draw our final breath.

Whatever status our soul is in at that time determines where that soul will reside for eternity. Whatever condition it's in, saved or unsaved, it will remain in that condition. Simply because there will be no more time available to change anything.

You see, time only exists on this earth. It does not exist in the hereafter. That's why we're admonished to "take heed of the time we have, because we don't know when it will end." (Mark 13:33) Paul, in Rom. 13:11 tells us, pretty bluntly I might add, that it's "high time we woke up because salvation is near." He also said something about "time" in his letter to the Ephesians (5:16) that is so appropriate to our thoughts and the illustration today: that we should be "redeeming the time, because the days are evil."

I particularly like the words spoken by James as they apply to our lesson today. In 4:14 he wrote in regards to time: "We don't know what will happen tomorrow because our life is like a vapor, it's here for a short time and then it's gone." (Paraphrased by me) We know that for a fact, don't we? Last Monday vividly proves James' words.

And because of that fact, I'm going to close by citing two more verses to you. The first one is the last verse (44) of our passage in Matt. 24 that sums up Christ's warning there: "Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (ESV) And finally, because we have no guarantee of another hour of life:

                            "Behold, NOW is the accepted (favorable) time; behold, NOW is the

                             day of salvation." 2Cor. 6:2

Ron Covey

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Proverbs 23:22

do not despise your mother when she is old" (Proverbs 23:22 NASB). One of
the greatest ways we honor our parents is by listening to them. They are
older, have more experience than us, and deserve our respect especially if
they are godly parents. This does not mean they are always right, but we
should at least hear them out.

Jeremy Sprouse |

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to find the right guy to marry

A couple's garage was piled high with duck decoys, fishing rods,
hunting boots, waders and outdoor gear of all kinds. Staring at the mess,
the wife sighed, "I hope I die first, so I don't have to get rid of all
this."

"Look on the bright side," the husband said, "If I go first, you can
put an ad in the paper. When all the men come by to check out the gear, you
can pick out a replacement for me."

Looking at the pile the wife said, "No, any guy who would want all this
stuff would not be my type."

It's true that we can learn something important about a person by
paying attention to what that person is interested in. It's critical that
single Christians understand this. Whatever captures the interest of the
person you are dating, whatever they spend their time and their money on,
will tell you a lot about that person (and, whatever you do, don't go into
marriage thinking you can change that!). Decide early on what "type" of
person you are looking for in a spouse. If you meet someone whose interests
obviously lie in areas that are ungodly or unspiritual, keep looking until
you find someone who's "your type".

And I believe that God is looking for people who are "his type". I
don't mean by that that God is looking for people who are perfect. But God
is looking for people who have a passion to be with Him just as He has a
passion to be with us. I think that's what James meant when he wrote:

"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?
Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy
of God." (James 4:4)

When we focus on adopting the attitudes of this world -- such as
selfishness, pride, and materialism -- and when we show by our actions that
we want more than anything else to be a part of this world, God says,
"Anybody who would want all this stuff would not be my type."

Rather, here's what He's looking for -- "Draw near to God...Purify your
hearts...Lament and mourn and weep...Humble yourselves in the sight of the
Lord." (James 4:8-10). That's God's type!


Alan Smith

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Making a Difference

The following story comes from John Shay, Sr.:

A group of dinner guests were sitting around a table discussing life.
A CEO decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What's a
kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to
become a teacher?" He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about
teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

To stress his point, he said to another guest, "You're a teacher,
Susan. Be honest. What do you make?"

Susan, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness, replied, "You
want to know what I make? I make kids work harder than they ever thought
they could. I make a C+ student feel like the winner of the Congressional
Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in
absolute silence.

"You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. I make them
criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write. I make
them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math and perfect
their final drafts in English. I make them understand that, if you have the
brains and follow your heart, and if someone ever tries to judge you by what
you make, you must pay no attention because they just didn't learn."

Susan paused and then continued. "You want to know what I make? I make
a difference. What do you make?"

It was James who wrote, "Brothers and sisters, not many of you should
become teachers." (James 3:1, GOD'S WORD). He points out that teachers will
be judged more severely. He could just as easily have said that teachers
have a greater responsibility, a greater challenge, a greater opportunity to
affect the lives of people in a negative way. It is impossible to teach
without using words, and with greater use of words comes a greater danger
that the words will do harm.

But thanks be to God that there are those who face that challenge and
assume that responsibility and make a diligent effort to use their words as
an opportunity to affect the lives of people in a positive way. Those of
you who are teachers -- who can begin to measure the tremendous effect that
you are having in the lives of the children (and adults) in your classrooms?
You may not see the results of your efforts for years. In fact, you may
never get to see the results. But you do make a difference.

Those of you who are schoolteachers are teaching not only the basics of
education, but you are teaching values and character. Those of you who are
Bible class teachers are filling the minds and hearts of our children with
stories of faith that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Those of you who are preachers are strengthening the family of God and
bringing salvation to the lost.

So, my hat is off to all of you who are teachers because I know exactly
what you make. You make a difference!

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's
gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is
serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach." (Romans 12:6-7)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Meghan Rutledge X-Games motocross 12-lap race

 Meghan Rutledge had a comfortable lead approaching the last jump, turn, and stretch of the women's X-Games motocross 12-lap race.   She accelerated into the jump, launched into the sky, and began pumping her fist victoriously as she sailed through the air. Doing so caused the front of the bike to tip forward. She then landed awkwardly, lost control, and crashed. In the blink of an eye, three other racers passed her on the final stretch and she went from certain victory to a meager fourth place.

How heartbreaking! As the announcers said so well, Meghan Rutledge went "from the pinnacle of joy to the depths of defeat" (ibid). The worst part about the whole situation is that it was completely her own fault. She let pride step in the way before she had actually achieved victory.

In 1 Kings 20:11, the king of Israel responded to his prideful enemy with a wise taunt, "Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off." In other words, one should never claim victory before he has achieved it. In battle, those who had the privilege to take their armor off were typically the victors of the war. Meghan Rutledge was boating of victory and it ironically caused her defeat. In this case, pride literally came before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).

Jesus said in Revelation 2:10 that those who are "faithful until death will receive the crown of life." These are people who finish the race and live godly lives until the end. Some feel their place in heaven is already secured and arrogantly try to coast in with their remaining time in life (1 Corinthians 10:12). It only takes a moment for our pride to get out of check and cause us to fall. May we never think we have won the spiritual race before we cross the finish line.

Let's learn from Meghan Rutledge's mistake. Let's always keep our pride in check and never celebrate any victory before we have actually achieved it.
 
--Brett Petrillo

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nanga Parbat

It happened this summer near the summit of the ninth highest mountain on earth, Pakistan's 26,660-foot Nanga Parbat. More than a dozen people were at Base Camp. Late on a Saturday night, gunmen, local villagers, dressed in military uniforms invaded the camp. They spared three Pakistanis in camp who, though of a different dialect and locale, convinced the attackers they were of the same faith. Then, in what the shooters called revenge for the death of Osama bin Laden, they shot 11 people-3 Ukrainian, 3 Chinese, 2 Slovaks, a Nepali, a Pakistani, and a Lithuanian. Not one was an American. It was something even more than brutal. It was completely misguided (via news.national geographic.com).

 

These deaths were tragic no matter what, but the perpetrators were so blinded by anger, grief, and revenge that they took it out on the wrong people. Eleven families are left to grieve, a mourning made worse by knowing their deaths were a case of mistaken identity. What a tragic story!

 

While we would never don assault rifles and senselessly fire upon innocent people, we can cause innocent victims of our own "misfiring." When we allow our anger to get away from us, we can take it out on perfect strangers (e.g., road rage), the wrong people (e.g., misplaced anger), or even a person who happens to be in the line of fire when we are in a bad mood. Christian influence is scarred and tainted by the Christian who cannot control his or her temper, whether in the privacy of the home or a more public forum. James tells us man's anger doesn't accomplish the righteous life God desires (1:20). Solomon writes that anger rests in the bosom of fools (Ecc.7:9). Proverbs 14:17 says, "A quick-tempered man acts foolishly." Repeatedly, God tells us to get a hold of ourselves. We can assault with rapid-fire words, fierce body language, and outbursts of anger (Gal. 5:20), severely wounding others but threatening to cause our own spiritual death. May we remind ourselves of the power of our reactions. Let's not just keep the gun on safety. Let's remove the rounds!

 

--Neal Pollard

 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Proverbs 22:12

"The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge, but He overthrows the words of the
treacherous man" (Proverbs 22:12 NASB). God will not allow evil to win. This
is seen in the many failed attempts to destroy and discredit the Bible.
Since at least the time of the prophet Jeremiah, men have tried to destroy
the Word of God. Even so, more manuscripts of the Bible have been found than
of any other ancient text and it remains a Best Seller today. This proverb,
however, is really talking about us. Knowledge begins with fearing God
(Proverbs 1:7). If we know and follow the ways of God, the same God who has
preserved His Word will preserve us. Those who do not will not be allowed to
succeed.

Jeremy Sprouse

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Proverbs 22:9

"He who is generous will be blessed, For he gives some of his food to the
poor" (Proverbs 22:9 NASB). The giving of ourselves and of our resources
seems like it would detract from our lives, but it is one of the greatest
pathways of blessings open to us. Often, we are too focused on ourselves. We
want that new phone, that new TV, that new car or whatever to bring
enjoyment into our lives. The problem we find, however, is they never bring
lasting blessings into our lives. If we will put our own interests aside and
help others, though, we will find meaning and purpose in our lives. We will
have made an impact and we will be blessed. As Jesus taught: "It is more
blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

Jeremy Sprouse

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Restoring New Testament Christianity

The Restoration Plea is Valid
 
            Our family recently returned from an 18-day mission trip to Romania. While there, we worshiped with two congregations. The first is in Iasi, with a population of around 350,000. We met with the Christians and the parents of one of the Christians. Among the parents, the father is a Romanian Orthodox; the mother is a Protestant. We, of course, are members of the church of Christ. Which of the apostles was an Orthodox? Which was a Protestant?

            The second congregation, where we evangelized for two weeks, is in Cluj, population – 309,000. The Sunday we worshiped there, we had a 7th-Day Adventist in the audience, an Orthodox, and another man who slipped out before I had a chance to visit with him.
 
            Certainly, we all believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior. What we disagree about is how to respond to Jesus. That is the essence of the restoration plea. The man who slipped out of the assembly in Cluj did tell one of the Christians that it did not matter in what order we do the "plan of salvation", just as long as we get it done. Really? Is it okay to be baptized first and then believe? Into what, then, are you baptized? Why be baptized if you have no faith in anything?
 
            Furthermore, Jesus said clearly that faith comes first: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). Observe, too, that Jesus puts "baptism" before "salvation." Does it matter how we respond to Jesus? Twisting His words leads to destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
 
            The restoration plea is simply the recognition that man gets off track sometimes and has to get back on track. The restoration plea is simply repentance on a larger scale. We see this embodied in the command of Christ to the church in Ephesus which was not on the right track:
 
            "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent" (Revelation 2:5).
 
            The restoration plea, then, has three components to it: 1.) Remember the pattern or standard which has been handed down to us. That pattern, of course, is found in the New Testament (2 Timothy 1:13). We absolutely must recognize that there is a pattern for Christian worship and work and we must follow that pattern (Galatians 1:8-9). 2.) Repent. Stop doing those things that are not in or according to the pattern. 3.) Do the works that are in and according to the pattern.
 
            That's the restoration plea. It is still valid because it would obliterate and annihilate all the denominational schisms in the world. It would unite all believers into the one body of Christ on earth. It would be a powerful testimony to all the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and agnostics in the world that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It would recognize the authority of Jesus to tell us what to do and how to worship.
 
            "There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).
 
--Paul Holland

Friday, July 12, 2013

Let’s Help the Poor

            The Paris church of Christ conducts an active food pantry in our community. Last year – 2012 – we served 3,724 families. The families can come once a month; I do not know how many unique families we serve. I haven't gone through the four 4" notebooks we use for the paperwork and counted individuals or families.
 
            I believe in helping the poor. Many of these families or individuals are elderly and/or retired, live on a fixed income, and need help making the ends meet. If those individuals had been allowed to invest their FICA tax in private business since the 1930s (instead of an imaginary "lock-box" that has been raided by politicians too many times to count) they would probably be millionaires by now. They would not need to get a box from us.
 
            I am more concerned and disappointed in the young men and women who come to the food pantry. These are young, healthy and otherwise capable who are unemployed. The longer they are unemployed, the older their skills become and the more out-of-touch with the current trends they become. They are discouraged and disheartened. They don't want hand-outs but most of them have no choice.
 
            God wants us to be concerned about the poor. Early in the Law of Moses (Exodus 22 & 23), the Lord tells the Israelites to treat the poor fairly. The apostle Paul said helping the poor was something he was "eager to do" (Galatians 2:10). We have a legitimate debate in our country today about how to help the poor. One thing the current administration has done for me is stirred an interest in economics. Economics is not as hard to understand as you might think.
 
            The reason why government spending does not create jobs for the poor is not hard to understand. Paris just had our Martin Luther King Jr. Bypass widened to four lanes. This was "stimulus spending." I do not know how much a worker was paid to build the road. But, let us suppose it was $40,000 each year for the two-years it took. Where did the government get that $40,000 to pay that worker? The only source the government has for money is basically taxes. So, in order to pay that worker $40,000 to build the road, the government has to tax $40,000 out of the economy to pay him. Can you see, now, how simple it is that government spending does not create jobs? It only shifts the money from one sector to another. It took $40,000 (in taxes) out of the –say medical industry – to give $40,000 (in stimulus spending) to the transportation sector. But ultimately, no new job was created.
 
            But the problem is actually worse. The government cannot tax $1 out of the economy and put exactly $1 back in to the economy through "stimulus spending." The reason is because the government always has to pay itself. It has its own buildings and utilities and salaries (many of them six-figure salaries) to pay and all that has to come out of the money it takes through taxes. You can easily see how the government has to tax far more than $40,000 out of the economy just to pay that one person his $40,000 to build that road.
 
            The taxes that are imposed are imposed on those people and businesses who would otherwise have given a job to someone "on the margin" of society – the people who come to the food pantry. President Obama – or even Governor Beshear for that matter – could lower my tax burden to absolutely zero. Obviously, I am a member of the middle class but I still could not give someone a job. I could not pay someone enough money with my tax savings to support his/her family.
 
            The fact of the matter is that it takes someone wealthy – making $150,000 or $200,000 or more – who can give a job to the people who come to our food pantry. But if these people are being taxed to pay for six-figure salaries and buildings and SUVs in Washington, D.C., they can't give anyone a job in Paris, KY.
 
            When a person works and produces, he/she feels important. They are contributing to their own mental health, taking care of their own families, as well as contributing to the gross domestic product. Marriage is also one step that helps lift women and children out of poverty.
 
            Any parent knows that if you consistently do everything for your child, he or she will grow up dependent and ego-centric. The same natural result occurs when you give an adult everything. They appreciate what they have more when they work for it. To work, they need business men and women who can hire them.
 
--Paul Holland
 

Self-Radicalization

 
            In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama has suggested that the Tsarnaev brothers were "self-radicalized." He is not the only one who is promoting this idea. The New York Times does as well, particularly in the May 6th edition.
 
            Several so-called experts have suggested that these terrorists – homegrown terrorists – have decided within themselves to be terrorists without any external influence. On the other hand, the experts suggest, these terrorists have much in common with "anti-government extremism" – read "Tea Party" between the lines.
 
            These homegrown terrorists are not part of a group; they are not jihadists, for example. They may listen to imams on the internet or study bomb-making on-line but they are not part of an overall effort. The most notorious homegrown terrorists in recent years are: Timothy McVeigh, Major Nidal Hasan, Faisal Shahzad, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
 
            But what do these men have in common? Islam. Sure, McVeigh was recruited by the Ku Klux Klan but he fell in cohorts with Terry Nichols who spent time in the Philippines among "radical" Muslims. The other three are better known for their contacts with Islam.
 
            President Obama and others are trying to detach these men from their religious ideology. That's why they are all promoting an idea of "self-radicalization." The idea that Islam can be inherently violent does not fit with the multiculturalist idea that all cultures are equal. Having read the Koran twice and a dozen books, most of which were written by Muslims on Islam, I believe it is a fair assessment to say that Islam can promote violence even it does not require violence.
 
            But no one influences himself to do evil or to do good. Jesus clearly taught that we are influenced by one of two sources. "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other" (Matthew 6:24). Paul teaches the same principle in Romans 616: "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?"
 
            We are either slaves of sin or slaves of obedience. It depends on which Master we serve. If we want to stop suicide bombers, we've got to preach and teach the Gospel of Peace.
 
--Paul Holland
 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Proverbs 9:1-2

"Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars; She has
prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; She has also set her table"
(Proverbs 9:1-2 NASB). This chapter of proverbs will summarize chapters 1-8
by comparing and contrasting the invitation of wisdom (9:1-6) with the
invitation of foolishness (9:13-18) and by showing the uselessness of
correcting those who ignore wisdom (9:7-12).

Here, walking the path of wisdom is compared to taking part in a great
feast. Jesus uses a similar idea in the Parable of the Wedding Feast
(Matthew 22:1ff). Notice wisdom has prepared a place for those who accept
her invitation. She has built her house and hewn out her seven
pillars--wisdom is well established in a grand house. Seven often refers to
perfection. It is a number that indicates sufficiency (cf. Proverbs 6:16,
6:31). Wisdom has also prepared a feast for those who will come to her to
enjoy the fruits of her labor. If we answer the call to learn and heed Godly
wisdom, we will be partaking of advise that is well established and that
which will make life enjoyable and grand.

Jeremy Sprouse

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