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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Cards

CHRISTMAS CARDS

Christmas Cards, "Bah Humbug," some say. They cost too much, no one really
reads them anyway. It's too expensive and takes too much time to send them."

Some may say those things, but not at our house, at our house we love
Christmas cards. We love receiving them and love sending them. Granted in
the present economic situation in our society we don't mail as many as we
once did. But still they are an important part of our lives. Many of us have
been forced to send an "electronic" greeting now, which is a great avenue of
staying in touch, but I still cherish the old fashion paper cards also.

Each card, each letter, each greeting, (electronic or otherwise), has a
message of hope, a message of love, they share precious thoughts and
insights about our relationships. We love to get the Christmas letters that
often come with the cards, because the truth of the matter is that far too
often we just don't stay in touch with those we really care about. We mean
to do better, we mean to call, write or visit, but as they say, "life
interferes" with our plans.

Christmas cards may be the only time in the year that you communicate with
someone you really do care about in your life. We are separated by years and
miles from many of our dear friends. People that we love and truly cherish,
but some we have not seen for years. People who have touched our lives and
helped make us who we are today.

Christmas cards remind us that there is a bond of love and friendship
through Christ that can never be parted. As long as we put Him first in our
lives we will touch and be touched by others.

We have some old friends that taught us a lesson about Christmas cards years
ago while living in Africa. They kept their Christmas cards on the dinning
room table and each day when they asked God to bless their food they also
chose one card and ask God to bless those people that day also.

Many of you have been a light to our paths in this life fulfilling Jesus'
Words in Matthew 5:14-15, "You are the light of the world, like a city on a
hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a
basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to
everyone in the house."

So in this electronic age my wife and I wish each of you a "Merry Christmas
and a very Happy New Year". And, May God Bless us Everyone.

Russ Lawson

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Things people want in a church

What Are You Looking For?

 

Many people are looking for a “new church home.”  Perhaps they have recently moved to different community. Perhaps they feel a desire to make religion a part of their lives, either for the first time or a renewal of earlier interest. Having children sometimes prompts parents to seek spiritual training for their family. Often, people are looking for a new church because they are dissatisfied with their old one.

Whatever the motive, people are looking for a new church. But what kind of church? What are they looking for? What are you looking for?

-    Some are looking for a traditional church, just like the one they left behind or the one they grew up in.

-    Some are looking for an innovative church, one completely different from anything they have ever experienced.

-    Some are looking for a convenient church, one which is located nearby that will minimize their travel time.

-    Some are looking for a friendly church, one that will quickly welcome them and make them feel special.

-    Some are looking for a large church, where they can get lost in the crowd.

-    Some are looking for a small church, where they can get to know everyone well, or in some cases where they can be more prominent and exert more influence.

-    Some are looking for an exciting church, one with emotionally stirring assemblies.

-    Some are looking for an entertaining church, where the music is like a concert and the preacher is part comedian.

-    Some are looking for a tolerant church, where no one will rebuke them if they (or a family member) live a sinful lifestyle.

-    Some are looking for a providing church, one with all kinds of programs and services such as day care, schools, recreational outings, exercise classes, etc.

-    Some are looking for an elite church, where they will be able to make a name for themselves or make some good business contacts by mixing with the upper class.

Something’s missing here, isn’t it? What we ought to be seeking is a truthful church, one that follows the New Testament pattern, upholds God’s revealed truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and keeps the emphasis where He put it: on man’s spiritual needs.

What we are looking for in a church says a lot about us. Honestly, are we trying to please God or ourselves?

- by Frank Himmel

_______________________________________________

 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shooting Ferguson Missouri

Selected Concern

 

When a Ferguson, Missouri policeman recently shot a man who reportedly had assaulted him but was unarmed, the incident grabbed widespread attention.  The national press made it the lead story for several days. Citizens rioted. Social activists came and made bold speeches. President Obama made a public statement about it. Attorney General Holder sent a team of investigators and promised the full resources of the federal government, then made a personal visit.

Meanwhile, just 300 miles to the north, the city of Chicago has averaged more than a murder a day this year, including one on August 20 when a nine-year-old boy was shot while playing in his yard. His story was barely a blip on the national radar.

Why is there so much more interest in and concern about one killing than another? Reasons vary. You decide in this case. What I would like us to think about is the concept of selective concern as it relates to our own lives. Are we more concerned about some applications or violations of God’s law than others?

Take honesty, for example. I have known a few brethren who from all appearances were quite honest when it came to financial matters, yet they seemingly thought little of misrepresenting others’ statements or positions. Is that any less dishonest?

Israel’s wilderness experiences taught them that God was outraged at their idolatry, fornication, and open rebellion, but no more so than He was at their frequent complaining. How many of us would put complaining and idolatry on equal footing?

In the church, some would be appalled at the suggestion to bring in instrumental music, yet they seldom sing. When it comes time to appoint elders, some meticulously examine a potential appointee in regard to the family qualifications, then turn around and minimize a character or ability requirement.

Are we as concerned about positively doing right as leaving off wrong? Or vice versa?

Jesus’ story of the lost brothers in Luke 15 illustrates the problem. The younger son was lost through bad conduct. His older brother wouldn’t have dreamed of engaging in such immorality, yet he was eaten up with self-righteousness and bitterness. Although he did not see it, his bad attitude made him just as lost.

Consistency is always a challenge. So is honest self-evaluation.  Nevertheless, we must do our best.  Remember God’s charge: “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you” (Jeremiah 7:23).

- by Frank Himmel

 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What does it mean to suffer for Jesus?

What does it mean to partake in the sufferings of Christ?

 

This question is answered with the free Bible study located at this link (pdf file on the sufferings of Christ).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

No man today would depart from the plain word of God if he had full confidence in God

Lack Of Confidence...The Besetting Sin

The besetting sin of the human family is a lack of confidence in God, manifested in every kind of departure from the word of God. If our confidence in God were what it should be, we would never want to turn aside from his way.

Eve lacked confidence in God, and so she followed the devil; Adam lacked confidence in God, and so he followed his wife. Why did Abel do what God said and why did not Cain do what God said? Abel had confidence enough in God to follow his commands; Cain did not.

No man today would depart from the plain word of God if he had full confidence in God; and the elders of Israel would not have asked for a king, had they not lacked confidence in God's way.

 - by  R. L. Whiteside

 

Can God Count On Me?

Can God Count On You?

Do you love God? How much? Are you willing to be fully committed to him in every way? Is there anything you would not do for God (Mark 12:29-30)? We live in a world that is constantly at war, at war with sin (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). Whose side are you on?

Can God count on you to increase your knowledge of his word so you can defend it against false teachers and their disciples? "You must continue growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). God wants us to go beyond a state of spiritual infancy and advance to maturity (Hebrews 5:11-14). We do this when we pray, study, and apply the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Will you resolve to study the Scriptures on a daily basis?

Can God count on you to defend the truth against every foe? Too many people will defend the gospel if someone they do not like is perverting it. But, if one of their friends perverts God's word, they tend to be very tolerant, or they will make excuses for them. When truth is at stake, we should have no friends except God. Do you find yourself wetting a finger and sticking it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing before you take a stand on a controversial issue? The Bible says stand (Ephesians 6:13-14; Jude 3)!

Can God count on you to take an active role in the work and worship of the local congregation? God has not placed the responsibility for building up the local congregation on the shoulders of only one person. The evangelist's role is to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:1-5); the elders oversee (Acts 20:17, 28-32); the deacons serve (Acts 6:1-6), and everybody is to work!  In short, everybody's must work if we are going to grow.

Can God count on you to be uncompromising in the fight against sin, shame, and immorality? When people in the work place laugh at homosexuality, unscriptural multiple marriages, the use of alcohol and drugs among the nation's youth, teen pregnancy out of wedlock, do you go with the flow or do you plead God's case (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:9-21)? If God can count on you, prove it!

- by Ron Daly

 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Moral Relativity Vs. Moral Clarity

Our society is infected with moral relativity, that is, nothing is definitely right or wrong; it all depends on your perspective.  Moral relativity has been responsible for a wide acceptance of abortion, adultery, fornication, drunkenness, lying, etc.

The Bible says there is right and wrong, good and evil (Lk. 6:45). The Bible provides us with moral clarity! It states that abortion (murder), adultery, fornication, drunkenness, lying, etc. are evil (Mk. 7:21-23; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8).

As the people of God, we are to have moral clarity, discerning between good and evil (Heb. 5:14). The way we distinguish between right and wrong is by having a reliable standard. Men are not that standard, as their opinions and ideas change from one generation to the next. Men are responsible for blurring the line between right and wrong. The only reliable standard of determining good and evil is the Word of God!  "Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way" (Psalm 119:104). We know good and evil only by knowing God's will (cf. Rom. 7:7).

The hosts of sin assail moral clarity by pushing moral relativity. When the lines are blurred, any sin can be justified. Therefore, we need to maintain moral clarity, knowing right from wrong by knowing God's word.

- by Steven F. Deaton

Can We See The Bible Alike?

-    Moses said we could (Deut. 29:29).

-    David said we could (Ps. 119:104).

-    John said we could (Jn. 20:30,31).

-    Jesus prayed that we might (Jn. 17:20).

All of these spokesmen for God have declared that through study of the Scriptures we are enabled to see them alike.

There are some things that HINDER a clear understanding of the Bible:

-    Relatives (Matt. 19:29; 10:34-37)

-    Pride (Prov 14:12; 16:18; Rev. 3:17-18)

-    Majority opinion (Ex. 23:2; Matt. 7:13-14,21)

-    False doctrines (Matt. 13:14-15; 2 Thess. 2:9-12)

-    Satan (2 Cor. 4:3-4)

If we will accept only the word of God (1 Pet. 4:11), we would not only see the Bible alike, but understand and practice it alike (1 Cor. 1:10).

- by Johnny Polk

 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rio Bravo movie

I love the Cowboy Culture of the 1950's and 60's! Of course, like many of you I was raised with Cowboys (and Cowgirls), being a main influence on Television and in the movies. You learned why the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad. You learned morals and ethics, you learned respect for others, you learned respect for property and you learned what was acceptable to say and what wasn't, you even learned about the concept of "work ethics".

Though he has been dead for a number of years, no one portrayed what a Cowboy was better than John Wayne. Some say he did it better than anyone else. John Wayne's characters could ride and fight with the best, but he always let his concern for others show through also. He portrayed for us the importance of qualities such as honor, loyalty, bravery and commitment.

In the movie "Rio Bravo," Wayne's character made a statement that echo's much of Christ's teachings about commitment and what he expects from us, when he said "Just showing up doesn't get the job done!"

Jesus tells us, 'If you love me you obey my commandments"! (John 14:15) Because you see, just showing up at worship service "doesn't get the job done," it doesn't do what God demands of us.

I know you may get tired of seeing me refer to this concept so often in my writings, but I do it because I see it as a major problem in the churches throughout our land. People want to wear the name Christian, but they don't want to take it any further than that. Being a Christian means our lives have been transformed from the very foundation of our being. It means as Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) It means that you are dead to self and alive to Christ. It means… that we finally understand that just showing up doesn't get the job done. It means we finally understand what it means to be buried with Christ and raised as a new creation (Romans 6:3-4). How about you, do you really understand that "Just showing up doesn't get the job done?"

--Russ Lawson

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I can’t get no satisfaction

Back in the 60's one of the big hit songs was, "I can't get no satisfaction," by the group called "The Rolling Stones". It spoke to the constant battle and failure in life to find satisfaction by doing what society expects you to do. Many of us "baby boomers" grew up listening to this music. Many embraced the philosophy of rejecting social norms or socially accepted concepts of right behavior. Today we live in a world where the accepted thing is to just "do your own thing," or "just do whatever makes you happy".

Sadly, this idea has penetrated the minds of many of those who are trying to "find God" or "worship God in their own way". The problem is that though our society may have been bent enough to allow folks to do pretty much whatever they want and still be accepted, God doesn't.

You might be inclined to ask, "What gives you the right to make such a statement?" "Who made you the judge of the world?" My answer is that no one made me the judge of you, it always has been and always will be God that judges. Jesus himself said, (if you accept Jesus as authority in religious matters), in John 12:47-52, "If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." (NIV)

You see somewhere in life many have been convinced that "as long as you love God, you can pretty much do whatever you want and still be acceptable to him". Yet, Jesus said, "If you don't do what I have said you will be condemned". The apostle John shared these words with us in 1 John 5:3, "Loving God means keeping His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome".


So, are you looking for satisfaction? Have you tried looking more closely at what God asks of you? Read the Psalms and see what the writers equate with joy and happiness. You'll find it is having a real relationship with God, not just a nodding acquaintance.

--Russ Lawson

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Equal rights ordinance is heating up in Houston, Texas

Politics and Religion

(Houston, TX, October 2014) "The battle over a controversial equal rights
ordinance is heating up in Houston, Texas, with revelations that the city
has subpoenaed church sermons, among other documentation, from five local
faith leaders.

Officials have requested that these preachers deliver communications that
have focused on homosexuality or the contentious equal rights ordinance,
which these individuals have fervently opposed.

The subpoenas, which were issued last month, seek, "all speeches,
presentations, or sermons related to the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker,
homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or
approved by you or in your possession," according to the Houston Chronicle."
(Theblaze.com)

This is Satan continuing to chip away at our Christian Freedoms. Just a
couple of years ago I urged the members of our church to contact the leaders
in government regarding the "Hate Speech" bill that was being proposed. This
bill was passed and can be used against ministers who choose to speak out
against the sins of our nation practiced by many. Sadly; many in world and
our churches ridiculed the idea as foolish to think that the government
would try to hinder what teaching takes place in our churches. They were
wrong! I believe the following quote describes the problem well:

"Our society is still trying to answer the question, do politics and
religion mix? The first amendment of the United States Constitution reads,
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor
prohibit the free exercise thereof." What the first amendment is saying is
that government should stay out of religion, but religious people can
exercise their faith in the influence of public policy.

Over the past fifty years, lawmakers have misinterpreted the Constitution.
We've majored in the first part of the amendment while abandoning the second
part, and in doing so, we have disenfranchised the gospel, politically,
socially, judicially, and culturally. Like a sponge with the water squeezed
out, ours is a society with Jesus squeezed out, and we are living in a
fifty-year experiment of building a nation without God. No prayer. No Ten
Commandments. No sermon at graduation. No Sabbath. No respect for marriage.

Those things may be contributing to factors to some of today's problems: We
have massive teen drug abuse, school shooting sprees, and an adolescent
suicide rate up 350 percent since 1960. It's time to ask, cannot politics
and religion mix?" (Stephen M. Crotts)

It's time that we understand the importance of God's Word once again. It's
time for us to stand and be counted and call into account those who govern
us. Jesus said this in John 12:47-50 "If anyone hears my words but does
not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the
world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me
and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them
at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me
commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to
eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."

Russ Lawson - Messages From The Heart
Blog: http://messages-from.blogspot.com

Messages from the Heart is sent several times each week written by Russ
Lawson.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

FW: Not So Fast

I think Steve Higginbotham is a great writer. I enjoy reading his weekly
devotional e-mails called, MercEmail. You can read his latest articles -
along with other good study material - and subscribe to his MercEmail list
at www.preachinghelp.org

Earlier this week, Steve sent out another MercEmail entitled, "Not So Fast."
He shared a story and made a splendid application about the dangers of
jumping to conclusions too quickly.

About an hour after Steve sent this latest edition, he followed it up with
another e-mail to all of his subscribers. Here is part of the content of
the message:

Well, I did it again. Why is it that every time you make fail to proofread
your articles, you see the mistakes about 2 seconds after you hit the "Send"
button?

It's not that I know grammar, for I religiously follow the following ten
rules in my writing.

1. Don't use no double negatives.
2. Make each pronoun agree with their antecedent.
3. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
4. Don't use commas, which aren't necessary.
5. Try not to ever split infinitives.
6. Always use apostrophe's correctly.
7. Don't write run-on sentences they are hard to read.
8. Corect speling is esential.
9. Mixed metaphors are a pain in the neck and should be thrown in the lake.
10. Unnecessary use of the word "that" is a mistake that many people make.

So you see, it's not a matter of knowledge, just a matter of performance.
Sorry about that! :-)

Then Steve included a revised edition of the article in the remainder of his
e-mail.

As you began reading his list of rules, did you immediately note the
problems in grammar, punctuation, and spelling? Of course, we realize he
was making a point in a humorous way. What a clever way of demonstrating
some of the rules of English by also showing the ways that the rules are
broken!

Yet, perhaps we need to understand another lesson: we ALL make mistakes!
Despite our best efforts, we mess up. "For all have sinned and fall short
of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

But God still loves us. In fact, "God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
Because Jesus died for us, we can have forgiveness for our sins and receive
the gift of eternal life.

God will grant forgiveness and give the gift of eternal life to those who
place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in
repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are
baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse those who
continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

Before we start pointing out the mistakes of others, stop and think. Not so
fast! Remember, we ALL make mistakes and we ALL need to submit our lives to
the Savior so that we can be forgiven.

Won't YOU?

David A. Sargent
www.purevolume.com/listeners/howtobesaved 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sticking your fingers in your ears

STICKING YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR EARS

I ran across an interesting translation of an old scripture this week that
stuck in my mind. The version you may be more familiar with is this one:
"But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped
their ears that they should not hear."(V11)

Here is the modern translation: "Your ancestors refused to listen to this
message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to
keep from hearing. They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could
not hear the instructions or the messages that the LORD of Heaven's Armies."
Zechariah 7:11-12 (NLT)

I can imagine a spoiled child (or adult), sticking there fingers in their
ears and saying, "Nah.. Nah. Nah. I can't hear you". I understand that we
may not actually do those things, but how often do we hear something from
God's Word and decide we don't like it, so we won't do it? Maybe it's a
"silent rebellion."

I read about an old Japanese legend that tells of a man who died and went to
heaven. Heaven was beautiful full of lush gardens and glittering mansions.
But then the man came to a room lined with shelves. On the shelves were
stacked piles of human ears! A heavenly guide explained that these ears
belonged to all the people on earth who listened each week to the word of
God, but never acted on God's teachings. Their worship never resulted in
action. When these people died, therefore, only their ears ended up in
heaven.

All throughout my years of ministry I have continually encouraged people to
not only hear the Words of God, but to respond to those words with a changed
life. To do the things in this life God expects of a Christian. Too many
enjoy coming "to church," but then forget why they came. They hear the
words, but refuse to register them as something actually being required of
them in this life. They have put their fingers in their ears and have
"selective hearing" as far as responding to what is required by God.

I have shared many times the story of meeting a man and having a bible
discussion regarding a point on which we disagreed. I opened the bible and
pointed out a scripture that (in my mind) clearly stated the truth regarding
the subject. I asked the man what he thought and his response was, "I don't
know what it means, but it doesn't mean what it says." (Did I mention that
this man was a minister also?) To me it seemed as if he had stuck his
fingers in his ears and refused to listen to God speaking to him.

You see, sticking your fingers in your ears in not the answer, digging
deeper into the Word of God is! Here is how we should and must respond; in
Act 17:11 we read: "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than
those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness
and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

Might I suggest using your fingers to turn the pages in your Bible, rather
than stop up your ears!

Russ Lawson

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Learning to let God use you...

Learning to Let God Use You.

I've long been convinced that every person has a talent; every person has a
gift that they can use for God. It might be an ability to do only one thing
for one person or you might be able to do a lot of good things for a lot of
people. It may be the ability to serve and please God in a personal way, but
everyone has something.

I have also been long convinced that the greatest problem people have in
using there talents is just doing it. If we have a problem it is the fact
that you need to make your life accessible to God to use whatever you have.

I read about a man who applied for a job as a handyman. The prospective
employer asked, "Can you do carpentry?" The man answered in the negative."
How about bricklaying?" Again the man answered, "No." The employer asked,
"Well, what about electrical work?" The man said "No, I don't know anything
about that either."

Finally the employer said, "Well, tell me then what is handy about you." The
man replied, "I live just around the corner."

Sometimes the greatest ability we can have is availability. To be where God
can call us, and be ready to respond to his summons. That is the greatest
asset a disciple of Christ can have.

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells a story about a master giving three servants
different amounts of money to manage for him. The first two did alright;
they used the money (called Talents) wisely. The third man didn't use it
wisely, but buried it so it wouldn't be stolen. Jesus concludes the story
with these words:

(And the third servant said) "I was in fear, and went away, and buried your
money in the ground: here is what is yours. But his lord in answer said to
him, You are a bad and unready servant; if you had knowledge that I get in
grain where I did not put seed, and make profits for which I have done no
work, Why, then, did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I
would have got back what is mine with interest? Take away, then, his talent
and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will be
given, and he will have more: but from him who has not, even what he has
will be taken away. And put out the servant who is of no profit into the
outer dark: there will be weeping and cries of sorrow." (Matthew 25:25-30).

What's the moral of the story? God expects us to use what he gives us wisely
and help increase the blessings to the kingdom. How handy are you at doing
that?

Russ Lawson

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Forgotten promises

On September 11, four passenger airliners were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda
terrorists so they could be flown into buildings in suicide attacks, (also
referred to as 9/11). These were a series of four coordinated terrorist
attacks launched by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda upon the United
States in New York City and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area on
Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed almost 3,000 people and
caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage. (In part
from Wikipedia.)

I'm passionate as I remember these events. I remember clearly watching the
Morning New Programs that morning and seeing these events play out. I called
my father and mother and told them to turn on the news and see what was
happening. I remember the panic this caused in our community. People started
panic buying thinking it was the beginning of a war. Cars and trucks lined
up at gas stations believing there would be a shortage and I remember the
gas stations taking advantage of the panic and marking the gas up to $10 per
gallon.

I also remember the change in our society that took place at that time.
Suddenly people realized that they needed something they couldn't provide
for themselves, something their jobs and their money couldn't provide. They
needed hope! They needed assurance that there was someone who could offer
them what they could not find anywhere else.

In droves people flooded into the churches of our land. There were prayer
vigils that lasted all night long, there were special services and
gatherings in the churches throughout our land, hoping and praying for
assurance. There were thousands of people who made promises to God that they
would change their lives, they recommitted themselves to the values which
are found in God's Word. It was a nation wide revival!

I also remember that the fear that fueled this revival soon was lost when
people realized it wasn't the end of the world, that it wasn't World War
three. I remember all of the broken promises which were made to God. I
remember all of the commitments that weren't commitments at all, only a
kneejerk reaction.

No, people haven't forgotten 9/11, but they have forgotten that God needs to
be a part of their lives every day, not just in times of crisis.

Let each of us remember 9/11 and the terrible things that took place with
both anger and sorrow for what was done. But perhaps some of that anger and
sorrow needs to motivate us to repentance as we remember we have abandoned
our promises to God. If you don't, then don't be surprised when he abandons
you in your time of need.

The writer of proverbs shares God's thoughts about this with us in Proverbs
1:24-28. Listen to his words. "But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard
all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when
disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you when calamity
overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I
will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me." (NIV)

Russ Lawson

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bible words associated with salvation

1. Salvation/Saved

2. Atonement

3. Justification

4. Redemption/Redeemed

5. Reconciliation

6. Propitiation

7. Forgiveness

 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What is your gift?

The question of personal or spiritual gifts or talents is often confusing.
Folks often want to understand more about the gifts they might have and how
to use them. Perhaps more important to some is the question of "what will be
expected of me if I discover my gift or talent?"

One of my favorite sources of illustrations is the comic strip Calvin and
Hobbes. In one of the strips, Calvin is talking to Susie (remember, his arch
enemy) about a test they had just taken.

Calvin asked her: "What grade did you get?" Susie says, "I got an A." Calvin
replies, "Really? Boy, I'd hate to be you. I got a C." Curious, Susie asks,
"Why on earth would you rather get a C than an A?!" Too which Calvin smugly
replies "I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep everyone's
expectations."

Some of you may be afraid to do too much, afraid that people (or even God)
will expect more than you are currently doing. You're right, people may, but
God already knows what you are capable of; you can't hide it from him like
you can other people.

I guess through the years since the beginning that's been a constant
problem. Far too often people want to do only what they have to do, not what
they are capable of doing.

I remember many years ago some of our family visited my Grandmother Lawson.
When you went to grandma's you were put to work. She took my cousin Kenny
and me out to their huge garden and told us, "You boys pick beans until you
fill up this bushel basket." Now we were probably only around 12 years old
and not much interested in picking green beans. We came up with a plan to
fill bushel basket faster. We took the time to stack each bean in the basket
so that it leaned on another bean, yet left a lot of empty space. Now
looking back I see that we probably spent more time stacking beans than if
we had used the time to pick the beans in the first place. But as I said, we
were only 12 years old; wisdom wasn't our strong suit at that time.

I've seen other folks who spend more time avoiding work than doing it. They
generally live miserable or at least unhappy and unfulfilled lives. God has
given us so much in this life. He has granted us the right to have eternal
life after this one on earth ends. Could it be that just maybe we need to
look at what we can do instead of how not to do it?

In Luke 12:48b Jesus tells us, "From everyone who has been given much, much
will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much
more will be required." Personally, I think he still means what he says, how
about you?

Russ Lawson

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Postage by Mail!"

by Tom Wacaster


"Postage by Mail!"  That was the banner on the mass mail out by the United States Post Office a few years ago.  Imagine the convenience; avoiding long lines at the post office; you could conduct all your business through the mail using the little order form that was attached.   You could even purchase your 1st class stamps by filling out the form indicating how many books you wanted and then multiply it by the 41 cent cost of each stamp. The only problem was, the cost of 1st class stamps had gone up to 44 cents by the time we received the offer with its enclosed form.  It reminds me of the time the Postal Service wanted to conduct a workshop somewhere in the upper mid-west in order to explain to Mr. Average Joe some of the problems within the Post Office and get some input from the man on the street on how to improve efficiency.  The only problem was the announcements on the workshop were not sent out until four days AFTER the deadline for participants to sign up.  Efficiency!  What has happened to efficiency?  No doubt you have heard someone moan, "The service here is just not what it used to be!"   We have more products on the market than ever before.  But things wear out faster than ever before, too. 


Now, before you criticize the Postal Service, or your local merchant, let's ask ourselves if WE are as efficient and punctual, and "quality-minded" as we ought to be.  Someone noted, "
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives."  The late Vince Lombardi wrote, " The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor."   Quality in our service to the Lord demands the same degree of intensity and dedication as is demanded in any other walk of life.  The difference is that our eternal destination will be determined to a large degree by our willingness to put forth the effort to achieve such lofty heights.  The apostle Paul expressed the depth of our soul's devotion with these words:  "And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us...let us give ourselves to our ministry…he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness" (Rom. 12:6-8).  "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ" (Phil 1:9-10).   The effectiveness of this congregation, or any congregation of God's people, will be in direct proportion to the total number of members who are determined to provide the highest quality of service to the Lord.   A fellow preacher shared this most fitting illustration:  While on a trip to Switzerland, an American businessman was watching a Swiss clockmaker carving the case of an ornate cuckoo clock.  As the businessman watched the clockmaker carve out the case, he was astounded at his slow rate of progress.  The business man finally said, "My good man, you'll never make much money that way."  The clockmaker replied, "Sir, I'm not making money, I'm making cuckoo clocks."

Perhaps the quality of our devotion to the Lord would improve if each of us gave greater consideration to exactly what it is we are to do as God's children.   Solomon admonished his readers: "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might" (Ecc. 9:10).   It is unfortunate that this Biblical ethic has been lost in what we sometimes call "progress" and/or "development."  Too many are satisfied with "good enough."  How many of us give our best in every situation?  Oh, perhaps in our service unto others we attempt to couple quality and service together.  On the job we are quite proficient; some are even perfectionists.  But let's take a look at another area of our lives, and consider this question.  Do you give your best to God?   Do I give my best to God in my attendance with the saints?  Am I diligent in putting forth an effort to "forsake not the assembly," or do I allow first one thing and another to interfere with that important obligation?  When I habitually miss services can I honestly say that the quality of faithfulness is what it ought to be?   When I am called upon to help in a public way, do I make every effort to be there?  What about my Bible study? Am I really giving my best to grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord?   And what shall I say about my appearance on Sunday morning?  Is my dress such that it reflects an effort put forth to make myself presentable to God?  Or do I just throw on some casual clothes, careless about my appearance before God and my example before others?   You see, my friend, when we become careless in our service to God, and become satisfied with "good enough," we contribute to the demise of efficiency.   I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that once my quality of service to God begins to decline, it is not long before service to my fellow man suffers as well.  For if we are not careful with regard to the more important matters of eternity, what makes us think we will be concerned about the temporal matters that have no lasting value?  Take a close look at yourself in the "mirror" of God's word (Jas. 1:24) and ask again, "What has happened to efficiency?"  Think about it!

 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Free audio sermons

A new web link to promote "free audio sermons" is now up at http://www.filesnack.com/files/ctiads5p 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Give thanks in all circumstances

 
 
                   "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  1 Thess. 5:18 (ESV)
 
Friday past was America's annual reminder of the start of our great nation, to wit: Independence Day.  Actually more accurately said; The Declaration of Independence Day.  Seven long and arduous years would pass before we were truly independent from England and became our own sovereign nation.
 
We celebrated our unique holiday pretty much like most everyone, you know, we did the American "thing."  We had several friends and members of our church family over and we BBQ'd up a storm, ate ourselves to the verge of gluttony and generally enjoyed each others company for a few hours.
 
The temperature was in the mid-90's and kind of humid, but we had the air conditioner working to keep the house nice and cool.  All of our guests arrived in nice air conditioned cars and some even had to travel from up to 20 miles or so away.  No one broke down on the way here either.  Plus, I have received no information about anyone having any trouble whatsoever making it back to their homes.  From all accounts it was a good day wherein Christians got together and enjoyed a great fellowship.
 
I prefaced the main part of my lesson today with the above comments for a reason.  That reason - to make us aware of, and appreciative of how blessed we truly are as Christians living and serving in our "vineyard."  I'm going to attempt that goal by bringing you up to date, so to speak, on what is going on in other "vineyards."  Specifically, the "vineyard" of East and Central Africa.
 
I think the best, the most dramatic and meaningful way to do this is to cite to you some news from that "vineyard."  It's the latest "report" by one of our brothers who is toiling faithfully in that area.  On a periodic basis, I receive from Bro. Francis Wechesa a report of his and the church's activities in the East and Central Africa "vineyard."  I'll use my writer's prerogative here by condensing this latest report, but I can provide it to you in full should you desire to read it.
 
Briefly let me give you a little personal information regarding Bro. Wechesa.  He is a Gospel preacher and teacher in the country of Uganda.  He is also the director of the Uganda School of Evangelism located in Busia, Uganda.  The school is an extension of the Bear Valley Bible Institute and his work is overseen by the Woodland Oaks church of Christ in Houston, Texas.
 
Personally, I find his reports inspiring and as I relate his latest to you, I hope that you will see why I am inspired by them.  Following is my synopsis of his latest report that talks about his recent efforts in his "vineyard."  His latest class at the school graduated on May 14th and between that date and June 25th he was preparing for the next class.  On June 26th he left for Uvira, Congo, a distance of 452 miles, where he was asked to preach and teach.  He arrived there on the 28th of June about noon and began teaching at the local congregation at 3:00 PM that same day.
 
In route there he had crossed the border and while doing so he became the victim of what we might refer to as an "official misleading."  Because of the "misleading" Bro. Wechesa did something that he would later come to regret.  But, on with his "report."
 
On Sunday, the 29th Bro. Wechesa preached the morning worship service and after eating lunch, he and one of the brethren got on a motor bike and went to Baraka, Congo, a distance of roughly 60 miles.  He said that for about 80% of that distance the road was very rough and rocky with "broken bridges" to cross.  They arrived late at Baraka due to suffering two blowouts on the motor bike.
 
After getting to where they were to stay, they were visited by the local District Security Officer who asked for his passport.  Bro. Wechesa told him that an official at the border had kept his passport and had given him a visa instead.  He gave the visa to the officer who looked at it then informed him that he wasn't allowed to be in Baraka.  That his visa was only good for being in Uvira.  He kept Bro. Wechesa's visa and ordered him to meet with him in the morning.
 
At the meeting the next morning, the officer questioned Bro. Wechesa's reason for being in Baraka and Bro. Wechesa tried to explain why he was there - to teach to Word of God.  It's then that the officer told him that this whole thing could be "forgiven" if he paid $100 to the officer.  Otherwise, he would be taken to the police station for further questioning.  He also searched his bags, his computer and looked at all the pictures on his camera.
 
After giving the officer what he wanted, Bro. Wechesa was told not to spend another night in Baraka.  You know, the old "Git outta town by sundown" thing.  Did Bro. Wechesa immediately leave town?  No he did not.  He went to where the brethren were gathered (two of which had ridden a motor bike 155 miles to hear him speak) and Bro. Wechesa preached "The Word" to them.  He mentioned that the church in Baraka is the only one in Congo that has a building where the congregation can meet for worship.
 
Also, before leaving, he taught 3 lessons on "World Evangelism" and then left "before sundown," headed back to Uvira and home to Uganda.  When crossing the border this time a different officer was there and when asked for his passport, Bro. Wechesa explained that they had kept it when he came through the first time.  This officer found it and told him that it is unlawful for him to leave his passport and warned him never to do it in the future.  After all that he went through, Bro. Wechesa said that "he'll certainly be more careful" next time.   He arrived back, home on July 3rd "tired but thankful to God for a safe trip."  He asks that we continue to pray for "The Lord's work" in Busia, Uganda.
 
 
Let me just offer some closing thoughts relative to my opening comments and Bro. Wechesa's report.  How far did you travel to get to worship today?  Was the road rough and rocky and the bridges washed out?  I know that my journey took about 15 minutes and I traveled in an air conditioned vehicle.  I had no blowouts that had to be repaired in order to get here.
 
Did we have to cross any national borders and be subjected to searches by law enforcement?  When we got here, did we have a nice, comfortable (A/C'd) building in which to gather and worship?  You bet we did.  In looking back over this lesson, are you more appreciative of the conditions in our "vineyard?"  Are we aware of just how blessed we are?  If not, then I have either failed miserably in my efforts today. OR, the "peace of God" does not "rule in our hearts" and we are not "thankful."  (Col. 3:15)
 
If option number 2 be the case, that our hearts are not "thankful," then we do not "glorify God" and we possess "foolish and darkened hearts." (Rom. 1:21)   But, if we are moved to recognize how blessed we are, then we can echo the words of David when he says: "I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me."  (Psa. 13:6)
 
Ron Covey   
 
 
 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Alan Bloom's book, The Closing Of The American Mind

 

Unified In Relativism and Allegiance To Equality
by Tom Wacaster

It has been more than twenty years since I read Alan Bloom's book, The Closing Of The American Mind. It still occupies a place on my bookshelf, and although published in 1987 it remains a popular and profitable book for the inquiring mind who desires to know what is happening to our society and why. An oft quoted part of that book is very revealing:

There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative...The students' backgrounds are as various as America can provide. Some are religious, some atheists; some are to the Left, some to the Right; some intend to be scientists, some humanists or professionals or businessmen; some are poor, some rich. They are unified only in their relativism and in their allegiance to equality [emphasis mine, TW].

The fruits of that kind of thinking are coming to fruition, and the harvest is not encouraging in the least. This particular philosophy (if we can call it that) has literally saturated the American society, yea, the whole of the western world. Part of that fruit is the insane stress on political correctness and the inability and lack of desire to judge any behavior as wrong or sinful. Like any other philosophy "falsely so called," this one is insidious and runs contrary not only to scripture, but to plain old common sense. The most recent example of political correctness is the furor over the Washington Redskins football team. A week or so back the Federal patent office stripped that club of its exclusive rights to the name "Redskins" in an effort to appease a small handful of native Indians who find the name "Redskins" offensive. Even though 9 out of 10 native Americans do NOT find the name offensive, the small percentage who do have won the day, and political correctness has claimed yet another victim. I am not a big football fan, but the intrusion of the government into matters that ought not to concern them is just another example of modern day sophisticated silliness. What concerns me, however, is the impact that this 21st century philosophy is having on our morals as a nation and the Lord's church in particular. Let me explain.

There are two planks in this insidious philosophy. The first is the desire for unity at any cost. Bloom calls it "allegiance to equality." Redistribution of wealth, a government nanny state, entitlement programs, equal pay for everybody-the list is endless but the goal is the same. All men must be brought to an equal plane in the name of fairness, regardless of the cost.

On the moral front this battle is being waged against those who want to "impose their morality upon others." Have you ever noticed that certain words and phrases have a connotation that will actually bias the thinking of otherwise reasonable thinking men and women? "Homophobia" is a good example here. The homosexual community is presently pushing for this particular kind of equality. It is not an equality with regard to human rights, but an equality that wants acceptance, regardless of life style. The bottom line is that they desire a muzzle be placed on the mouths of all those who oppose their practice. This, my friends, is the kind of equality under consideration. If law makers can be convinced that opposition to ungodly behavior is really inequality gone to seed, then the politically correct crowd will succeed in muzzling the mouths of those who presently oppose their practice by passing laws favorable to immorality. On the religious front it is toleration and agreement to disagree. It is not so much the desire on the part of the leaders to become united in practice as it is the desire to muzzle any opposition. "You do your thing; I'll do mine; and let's not criticize one another." But in order to attain such "equality" it is necessary that there first be a removal of any absolute standard. Hence, the second plank: the modern gospel of relativism. "Nothing is absolute; nothing is certain; you can't know anything for sure." Now, one might expect the world to think this way. Wickedness and error have always sought to cast off the restraints of God's will (Psalms 2:3). But of late we are hearing some of our brethren advocate the same kind of thinking.

On the far left we find those who are nothing more than relativists. They have climbed aboard the bandwagon of relativism and proclaim without fear of God or man, "You can't know anything for sure!" (I wonder how they can be so sure about that!). But what is it that has backed them into this corner? It is, I believe, the desire for the kind of equality spoken of above - equality to do as they please, and simply agree to disagree, while muzzling the mouths of those who might criticize. Again, to accomplish their desired end, there must be a removal of any absolute standard. This is the very reason some of our once faithful brethren have abandoned a proper approach to the Scriptures and are now calling for a "new hermeneutic." There is simply no way to authorize what they desire to practice, so every attempt is being made to approach the way we view Scripture. "It is a love letter," "We must focus on the 'core gospel,'" "Doctrine is not important," et al have all become the flag around which the liberals rally, all in the name of relativism and equality.

We are presently witnessing a headlong plunge into a full acceptance of this two planked error in the Lord's church. First, there is the desire for some kind of unity. A noble desire, based of course upon the prayer of our Lord recorded in John 17, but alas not the type of unity of which Jesus spoke. Enter plank one: "Let's agree to disagree." Workshops are organized which invite men of every shade and color (doctrinally speaking) with no intention of addressing error, but rather presenting a "united front" regardless of differences in doctrine. Known false teachers are not rebuked, but revered and respected. Opposition is squelched by subjective thinking rather than objective reasoning. No longer is it the false teacher who is the enemy, but those who cry out for truth and justice. Enter plank two: remove or ignore the standard. Lip service is given to a "thus saith the Lord" while sound, Biblical arguments are ignored. The "fruit" which error bears is looked at through colored glasses, and the circle of relativism and equality is now complete.

The Lord is the epitome of truth and righteousness, and He never subscribed to the kind of nonsense plaguing the thinking of some. To the contrary, He was plain, pointed, and precise in what He taught and practiced. He rebuked error, refused to compromise in the least, and lived a life that was absolutely sinless in every respect. His message, and that of His apostles, was anything but political correctness. Hear their message: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruit ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:15-16). "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them" (Romans 16:17). "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them" (Ephesians 4:11). Does that sound like political correctness? Quite the contrary. I close with the admonition of the apostle Paul: "Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8).

~~~~~


Sunday, June 29, 2014

The churches of Christ greet you

 
                                 "The churches of Christ greet you"   Romans 16:16 (ESV)
 
Have you ever told someone, usually in response to their question, that you attend the church of Christ?  And then had them ask, "What's the church of Christ?"  I'm pretty sure that this has happened to most of us during our Christian lives.  Well, I got to thinking about those questions and thought that I'd provide a brief overview of just who and what the "church of Christ" is, what it stands for and it's purpose for being in the world.  Perhaps if you're ever asked these questions (again) this lesson might help you answer your interrogator with some simple and ready answers.
 
Who are these people, those who are members of the "church of Christ?"  If asked that, you might want to refer them to 1Pet. 2:9-10 where we see that the members of Christ's church are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
 
You might even take another step here and refer them to Eph. 3:10 where the apostle Paul says that it is "through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known." That right there tells us the "purpose" (vs. 11) for the church.  It was God's "eternal purpose" to save the souls of man through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is therefore the "purpose" of the church to make His Gospel known to the world. 
 
We are the "earthen vessels" spoken of in 2Cor. 4:7 that are tasked with making known this "treasure" (Christ's Gospel) to the world.  In other words, the church is the system developed by God from the beginning and installed by Jesus Christ.  It is His "church" and the only one called that in the New Testament.  Pretty awesome responsibility, isn't it?
 
Ok then, if the church's mission is to get the "message" out to the world, then just what is the "message?"   Again, this is not a complicated answer.  It's the same "message" that Paul traveled throughout his world preaching: "But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles."   (1Cor. 1:23)   I really don't see that much has changed today from Paul's day.  The Jews still stumble at accepting Christ and much of the world regards the Gospel as folly and refuses to believe.
 
Perhaps then a question is asked, "How do they worship?"  Here again, the answer is simple.  John 4:24 answers it this way: "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."   We recognize that God is not a human being, not the "old man in the sky," but a supreme being, a "spirit" that is all powerful and is the creator of this world and everything in it.  As such, we believe that what He says is "truth."   "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."  (John 17:17)
 
You've no doubt heard it said that the "church" is of the "Restoration Movement."  It is, but that simply means that the "church" strives to restore the worship of God, in truth, back to the original New Testament church.  The one which Jesus Christ identified in Matt. 16:18 when He told Peter that "on this rock (that He is Christ, the Son of the Living God) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
 
Interestingly, a leading theologian by the name of Dr. Jung once wrote a book entitled "The Church."  In it he lamented that religion had lost its way because it has become "burdened" with "traditions" and has failed to be what Christ planned on it being.  His remedy: go back to the Scriptures and see what the church was in the beginning and follow that example.  This is what the "churches of Christ" seek to do constantly.
 
The only creed that the "church of Christ" has followed since its inception is what the Bible says.  Not what man says or what synods, religious conventions or some earthly headquarters decides is worship.  In the beginning, each congregation of Christ's church was autonomous, which simply means that it is independent or self-directing.
 
One congregation does not tell another congregation what or how they should do.  If we're all operating "as the Bible speaks" and on that basis alone, there is no need for a hierarchy of congregations.  Really, the only true connection we have with other congregations is that we all recognize that we are members of the same family.  We're all brothers and sisters of each other and with Jesus Christ (Mark 3:25)
 
The basis of that connection can be read in John 13:34-35.  Here's our connection: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
 
There are several other practices and things that differentiate the "churches of Christ" from all of the other religious bodies of the world.  I just don't have neither time nor space to cover all of them in this one lesson today.  What I plan on doing is to cover those differences in a future lesson and will provide scriptural proof of why we practice our religion as we do in the church.
 
As a wrap up to this editorial, let me just say it this way.  We, the "church of Christ" have our faith centered only in the word of God, His truth.   Everything we do in our worship and in the fulfilling of the "mission" is done on the basis of "faith."  And one thing that we must always remember when it comes to how and why we are different is simply this: "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."  (Rom. 14:23)
 
Ron Covey
 
       

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Colossians 3:1 - "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God"

About a year ago we got a newer car. It's a nice car and it comes with some
nice features, one of which lets us take our music recorded on CD's and
record it to a "memory stick", then insert the memory stick into the car and
play the music. The only problem is that I have not been able to get this to
work. I've worked on trying to get this to work properly for the past year
now and finally by accident found that I was trying to get it to work with
the wrong settings. I even broke down and read the manual and didn't find
this information. It seems that the music had to be recoded in something
called "MP3 format".

Now for all of you "Tech Savvy" folks out there this may have seemed like
the obvious answer to the question, however to me it wasn't. Honestly, I
have fairly good computer skills; however I've never "ripped" music before,
so I had no skills in this area. When I thought that the settings might be
the problem I began doing some searching and found the answer.

You know, it's no different with our relationship to God. There are lots of
folks in this world of ours who struggle to know God or at least to try and
have some kind of a relationship with him. The problem is that they just
can't seem to get it to work. Sometimes folks try for years to figure it out
and some eventually just give up.

I believe sometimes it is that the settings just are wrong. What settings
you might ask? The settings of our heart and mind!

Notice a couple of scriptures that give us some insight. In Colossians 3:1
we read: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on
things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." And in
Colossians 3:2 it continues, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly
things." It's really hard to focus on God when your focus is really
somewhere else. It's like trying to talk to someone when they are listening
to their MP3 player or IPod.

Jesus himself talks about the ongoing struggle to know and serve God in
Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the
kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in
heaven." Why? It's all about our focus!

Perhaps it would be better to say, It's all about getting the settings
right? It's about living in such a way that we are pleasing to God by
obeying His Words, which is doing his will. So, if you want to know God or
build a relationship with him, then get into His Word and do what He says!
Get our heart set on things above. Perhaps the apostle John says it best in
1 John 2:3 with these words, "We know that we have come to know him if we
keep his commands." How are you doing?

Russ Lawson

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Life is sometiems difficult

How much do you trust God? I really mean this, how much do you trust God? Do
you believe that he cares for you? Do you believe that no matter what
happens in your life that he is right there beside you? Do you believe that
if you live faithfully he will someday take you home to heaven? As
Christians we must believe these things, because that is the hope we have in
life; that is what our faith is about!

Philip Yancey, in his book REACHING FOR THE INVISIBLE GOD, tells of his
father in law, a Bible teacher and committed Christian. The older man's
faith troubled him in his final years. A degenerative nerve disease confined
him to bed, preventing him from sharing in most of the activities he
enjoyed. In addition to his own illness, his daughter battled a debilitating
form of diabetes.

During the most severe crisis, he composed a Christmas letter and mailed it
to family members and friends. He expressed his uneasy feelings about many
things he had once taught. What could he believe with certainty? The old
Bible teacher staked his faith on three realities. Here is his list: "(1)
Life is difficult, (2) God is merciful, (3) Heaven is sure."

Is life difficult? Yes! It is rarely any other way, but God's word assures
us that we have a loving God who is merciful to his children and that the
promise of heaven is sure. We believe it, because he said.

Jesus encouraged his disciples with these words found in John 14:1-3: "Do
not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My
Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you
that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may
be where I am."

Has that promise ever changed? No, God's promise to us remains the same no
matter what difficulties come into our lives. The writer of Hebrews
encourages us with these words. "Because God wanted to make the unchanging
nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he
confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things
in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of
the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an
anchor for the soul, firm and secure." (Hebrews 6:17-19).

What is the anchor for your soul during difficult times, what is your hope?
It must be the "unchangeable" promises of God, because those are the only
ones that really last!

Russ Lawson

Saturday, June 7, 2014

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (Jn. 15:13)

      
We've been blessed by God to observe another Memorial Day this year of our Lord, 2014.  A day in which we pay honor to our military veterans, especially those who paid the ultimate price, who gave their "last full measure of devotion" to keeping alive those freedoms that we so much enjoy.
 
Before getting into the body of our lesson today, I'd like to address a circumstance that's more and more prevalently seen leading up to holidays.  A circumstance for which I personally have a particular loathing.   I'm speaking of the commercialism of our holidays. We've come to expect to see TV ads, newspaper ads and mailers from vendors trying to sell us a product somehow related to the coming holiday.
 
I am opposed to the commercialism of all of them, but especially that of Memorial Day.  That's a day set aside to pay honor to our military and as far as I'm (and others) are concerned, it's a dishonor to intrude on that day of remembrance by those using it for commerce.  I mentioned that "others" also feel this way and I'll cite to you something one man did in addressing this intrusion.
 
When he receives an ad from a vendor about a product for Memorial Day he sends them back a note telling them that it is "inappropriate" to promote Memorial Day for marketing purposes.  He concludes this note with this statement: "Memorial Day is NOT on sale — millions of patriots have already paid the full price."  I add - AMEN!
 
In March of this year our country honored 24 veterans, whose service spanned from WW2 to Korea and Vietnam, with the Medal Of Honor.  The highest award for bravery that can be bestowed.  I wasn't opposed to their receiving that award, it's just that it would have been nice if most of them could have been alive to receive it.
 
A pet peeve of mine (I have many) is to hear someone refer to them as having "won" the Medal Of Honor.  You don't "win" this medal, it's not a contest.  They are "awarded" it, thus they are "recipients" - not "winners!"  I'd like to cite to you one of those "recipients" as the inspiration for our lesson and I have to condense my citation due to space necessity.
 
Back in the 1970's a class of cadets were working their way through the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co.  There was a older man named Bill Crawford there who was employed as the janitor in their dormitory.  Sort of as the general nature of things, since he was quite a bit older than the cadets, they didn't pay very much attention to him. 
 
However, they did notice that he was quiet and very conscientious about his job.  He kept the area spotlessly clean and the bathrooms gleaming.  But, they just thought, "Well, that's his job to clean the floors and toilets."  They did notice that he didn't move very fast and that sometimes he shuffled when he walked.  Perhaps caused by a previous injury.  Basically, he was just part of the fixtures.  He just blended in with the woodwork, so to speak.
 
One day one of the cadets happened to be reading a book about WW2 and came across the story of a major battle in Italy.  It talked about a soldier in that battle, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, who had been awarded the Medal Of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty."
 
Thinking that old Bill, the janitor, might be the William Crawford of the battle, they confronted him at the dorm and showed him the page in the book.  When they asked if that was him, he very quietly replied, "Yep, that's me."  When they asked him why he hadn't ever spoken to them about it he replied with some words I deem as very pertinent in thought to our lesson.  He simply replied, "That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago."
 
Bill continued on with his job as a janitor for the academy until he was able to retire.  His quiet and humble attitude, coupled with the way in which he approached his job, had a great and positive influence on the cadets who knew him.  One of them writing that he had learned many valuable and unforgettable lessons from his association with Bill.  He died in 2000 at the age of 81 years and is the only enlisted man buried at the Air Force Academy.
 
Well, how do we apply this?  I see several ways and I'll give you as much as space allows.  First, Bill's humble character reminds me of several admonitions we find in the Scriptures regarding a Christian's attitude.  One of the basic characteristics of a Christian is "humbleness" (Col. 3:12) I think we can also look at some words Peter wrote about this in 1Pet. 5:5-6. "...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He many exalt you."
 
Next, I noted his attitude towards doing his job to the best of his ability, even though he would have had what many would consider, a valid excuse for slaking off.  (He was wounded so badly he had been listed as killed in action.)   But, he did not let any infirmity keep him from doing his job.  To the degree that those around him were impressed by his work ethics.  In the same way that a Christian's work ethics should be noticeable.
 
A Christian is required by God's instruction to have that same type of attitude to their temporal life's work.  And, especially, towards their spiritual life's work.  God's Wisdom tells us how our attitude should be in regards to our jobs.  Please read that wisdom in Proverbs 22:29 and in Romans 12:11.  But read with me here the words of 1Thess. 4:11-12.  "....Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
 
Now, let me refer back to Bill's statement about the "one day" in his life.  I see this as an example of a Christian not "resting on his laurels."  You see, our spiritual life's work doesn't consist of just one day - one event.  Rather, it is all day, every day for the entirety of our earthly lives.
 
Like most of us also do, Bill got to retire from his job, but Christians do not retire from Christ's service.  Our duties may change as our abilities change, but our "severance package" doesn't "kick in" until we pass from the earth.  While here we may experience many of life's tribulations.  We may have sickness and pain.  We will certainly be tempted by the devil but, "be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life."  (Rev. 2:10)
 
Paul, in Rom. 12:11 says that we are to give "honor to whom honor is due."  I know of no one of this earth more "due" of honor than those who have "laid down their life for their friends."  But, as honorable as that is, above and beyond that is:
 
    "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.      (1Tim. 1:17)
 
 
Ron Covey

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