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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid'

NEHEMIAH RETURNED TO the ruins of Jerusalem to restore the city...
He rallied the remnant people of Israel, and they immediately began rebuilding the wall.  Several naysayers and antagonistic groups attempted to intimidate the workers and stall the work.  Then word came to Nehemiah and his workers that the enemies were about to attack.  Listen to the anxious voices around Nehemiah:
We are exhausted: "The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot build the wall."
We are doomed: "Our enemies said, 'Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.'"
We are outnumbered: "Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over 'Wherever you turn, they will attack us.'"
The situation became highly charged with anxiety: Nehemiah's workers were anxious.  The antagonists also became anxious, fearing the Jews might actually succeed in rebuilding the wall and take power.
However, rather than joining in the anxious fray of his people and of their enemies, Nehemiah remained calm, creative, and focus on the goal.  He calmed his people's fears and then galvanized them to action.  In fifty-two days the wall stood at its full height.  Rather than freeze, flee, or even fight, Nehemiah led his people through the emotional pain to which they subjected themselves and accomplished the task.  (Jon Mullican)
"But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Be of good cheer!  It is I; do not be afraid'" (Matthew 14:27).
--Mike Benson

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Bible commentary" on leapfish

The *Bible commentary* profile is now on leapfish!  See it here!

Top Ten list of signs you may not be reading your Bible enough

Someone has composed the following "Top Ten" list of signs you may not be
reading your Bible enough:

10) The Preacher announces the sermon is from Galatians..... and you check
the table of contents.
9) You think Abraham, Isaac & Jacob may have had a few hit songs during
the 60's.
8) You open to the Gospel of Luke and a WWII savings bond falls out.
7) Your favorite Old Testament patriarch is Hercules.
6) Your favorite Bible verse is "Cleanliness is next to godliness."
5) You become frustrated because Charlton Heston isn't listed in either
the concordance or the table of contents.
4) You catch the kids reading the Song of Solomon, and demand: "Who
gave you this stuff?"
3) You think the Minor Prophets worked in the quarries.
2) You keep falling for it every time when the preacher tells you to
turn to First Condominiums.

And the number one sign you may not be reading your Bible enough:

1) The kids keep asking too many questions about your usual bedtime
story: "Jonah the Shepherd Boy and His Ark of Many Colors."

It's hard to over-estimate the importance of reading and studying the
Bible. God's Word is our source of spiritual nourishment, our light in the
midst of a dark world, our mirror to see what needs to be corrected in our
lives. And yet, it is so easy to let other things get in the way and
interrupt time we have wanted to dedicate to Bible reading.

"Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." (Psa.

Have you read your Bible today?

Alan Smith

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bible commentary

profile information is now on this social site:

Bible commentary profile on copytaste

My "Bible commentary" profile has been added to copytaste at this link! 

Friday, August 27, 2010

33 Chilean miners trapped

The incredible news came last Sunday in a note from 2,300 feet underground:
33 Chilean miners trapped for 17 days are still alive! The miners wrote the
note and attached it to a drill being used to reach them. "All 33 of us are
well inside the shelter," said the note. The news brought celebration
throughout Chile and the rest of the world.

The San Jose gold and copper mine collapsed on August 5, and until rescuers
made contact on August 22, the trapped workers struggled to get by on meager
supplies, stretching a food supply meant to last two days into rations for
two weeks. "They had two little spoonfuls of tuna, a sip of milk and biscuit
every 48 hours," said Dr. Sergio Aguilar, a rescue team physician.

Meanwhile rescue efforts continue.

Rescuers have been able to get food, water, and air to the miners through a
narrow hole. Two smaller boreholes are also being drilled to bring in
much-needed air to the sweltering men. Although the men have survived
almost three weeks since the collapse, rescuers say it will take months to
safely dig them out due to instability within the mine. *

The plight - and hope! - of the 33 Chilean miners pictures ANOTHER great
rescue effort.

Due to our wrong choices, WE are "trapped" in sin and doomed for
destruction. And just as the Chilean miners are doomed without help from
above, we are also powerless without "HELP FROM ABOVE" to save ourselves
from sin!

But God, because of His great love and mercy (Ephesians 2:4), sent Jesus to
our rescue. Jesus gave His life to save us from sin (Ephesians 1:7).
Through Him we can be saved.

"For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the
ungodly. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were
still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified
by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." - Romans 5:6,8-9

Jesus will save those who: place their faith and trust in Him (Acts
16:30-31), turn from their sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him
before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) in His name for the
forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will bring to eternal safety those who
continue to follow Him faithfully (1 John 1:7).

"Knowing that someone is coming for you makes it easier, "said John Urosek,
head of emergency operations for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health
Administration, concerning the hope of the trapped Chilean miners.

The Good News (the Gospel) is that Jesus has ALREADY come to the rescue of
those trapped in sin! He is ready to save those who will trust and obey

Won't YOU accept His salvation on His terms?

David A. Sargent

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And the Lord's servant must not strive, 2 TIm. 2:24

Denny Petrillo just delivered one of the best chapel sermons I have ever heard.  He spoke about the advice he received from the late, beloved Bear Valley instructor, Monroe Tharp (hear Denny's lesson here:  In the midst of discussing the importance of loving the brethren, Denny referenced 2 Timothy 2:24.  There, Paul says that the servant of the Lord must be "patient when wronged."  Denny masterfully analyzed the implications of that.  Consider that powerful admonition.
"Be Patient When Wronged."  How do you handle mistreatment?  Do you fly off the handle? Do you get revenge? Do you turn bitter? Do you gossip? Do you rail or have outbursts of anger? Paul says to be patient.  That involves being slow to react, watching your words and attitude, and choosing your course of action deliberately!
"Be Patient When Wronged."  He did not say "if."  Accept the reality that service to Christ will produce times when people will hurt, malign, undermine, or slander you.  Do not take it personally.  Realize that it goes with the service territory. It will not happen every time you work for the Lord.  Often, people will show profound gratitude and offer encouragement.  But, there will be times when you are wronged.

"Be Patient When Wronged."  Be aware that sometimes others, including Christians, will do what is wrong.  So often, your brothers and sister will be so kind, thoughtful, generous, and helpful.  But, the reality is that you will be mistreated in some way.  God anticipated these times and tells you how to react.
This admonition is extremely helpful for preachers, but also for any who have decided to follow Jesus and serve Him and His people. It is the how, when, and what of responding to mistreatment.  As Denny said, you will not be more mistreated than either Christ or Paul.  But, when you are mistreated, you have the instructions for handling it.  "Be patient when wronged."
Neal Pollard

The stupid things people do

When was the last time you did something really stupid? Now just so we are
"on the same page" as they say, let me share the definition of "stupid".
Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as, "given to unintelligent decisions
or acts, (i.e. acting in an unintelligent or careless manner)." They also
share the following synonyms: airheaded, bird brained, bonehead, boneheaded,
brain-dead, brainless, bubble headed, chuckleheaded, dense, dim, dim-witted,
doltish, dopey, dorky, dull, dumb, dunderheaded, empty-headed, etc.

My wife was sick with the flu a couple of days this week and I was acting
care giver. Things went pretty well in general and I was able to keep on top
of just about everything with her and my job requirements. Tuesday evening I
fixed supper, was doing the wash and working on some things on the computer
in the office. We finished supper and I noticed our dog cleaning my plate (I
had carelessly set too near the floor), so carried it to the kitchen and
placed it on the counter, put the wash into the dryer, moved on to the
office and took care of a couple of things. On the way back through the
kitchen I thought I'd have another dollop of food, so I spooned it out on
the clean plate on the counter, ate about half of it and realized the plate
was clean because the dog had cleaned it! I thought, "Oh well, too late to
worry about it now!" Of course the next day I came down with the flu, at
least I think it was the flu!

Again, when was the last time you did something stupid, dopey, dorky or
dumb? For most of us it would be more often than we like to admit. Of course
most of the time we do something stupid, we look around quickly to make sure
no one saw us. (I shared my stupid act with my wife, who laughed way too
hard and who shared it with her sister and the list goes on).

What about the stupid, (dumb) things we do spiritually, do we treat them in
the same way? What about the unkind words, the angry thoughts, the failure
to reference God or put him first in our lives. How do we view our
interaction with our family, friends, neighbors or co-workers, do you ever
do dumb things in those relationships (acting in an unintelligent or
careless manner)? If you answer no, then you are an exceptional human being.
All of us mess up in our lives and our relationships on a regular basis;
it's what we do afterwards that makes the difference.

God's word tells us that we all sin (no exceptions) in 1 John 1:8-9: "If we
claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the
truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive
us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."

As the saying goes, "when you mess up, fess up!" Confession is where change
of the heart begins. That's where we begin to recognize "stupid things" in
advance and stop ourselves before we do them again.

I don't think I ever ate off the dog's plate before and I doubt I will do so
again. I do know however, that I will probably continue to do other dumb
things in my life and relationships. I also know that if I confess my sins,
God is faithful to forgive them. How are you doing in that area?

Russ Lawson

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Miners traped in Chilie

How much are you aware of the current crisis involving the miners trapped in Chile?  There are 33 men trapped under millions of tons of collapsed rock 700 meters (nearly half a mile) beneath the surface.  They are having to ration food to the degree that all of them will sport less than a 26 inch waist line when they are finally rescued (the drill bit that will bore through the rock will be 26 inches in circumference). They could be trapped for months.  Former hostage Brian Keenan, held for four and a half years in Beirut in the 1980s, wrote about the psychological effect this could have on the miners who could be trapped there in the dark, confined emergency shelter for months (  He reports the words of the most senior minor, Mario Gomez, who has the best possible perspective despite a grim, terrifying position. Gomez said, "I want to tell everyone that I'm good and we'll surely come out okay. Patience and faith. God is great and the help of my God is going to make it possible to leave this mine alive" (ibid.).

I have known a great many people who were trapped alive.  They were buried under tons of the rubble of bad habits and addictions, from pernicious pornography to abominable alcohol.  They hate those behaviors, but they have not left that hole for safety. Some have painted themselves into a corner that they feel they cannot leave due to pride, grudge-bearing, or hurt.  They will not say "I am sorry" or "I am wrong," and they are keeping themselves in a deep, dark hole.  Some are stuck in a bad, unhealthy, and spiritually detrimental relationship, and they lie buried underneath their guilt, fear, or anticipated loneliness.  So many have allowed themselves to be buried.  They are miserable, they hate where they are, and they feel trapped!

The Chilean miners are dependent upon help from above.  They cannot save themselves. Oh, that those trapped beneath the wreckage of wickedness could appreciate that fact in their situation.  The great news is that God can rescue immediately.  But we must turn loose of the debris and come to the light.  If those miners could leave that hole today, you know they would!  To stay would be insensible.  So it is with the pit of spiritual despair I've described.  To stay in darkness, hopelessness, and the fear of the judgment is folly!  God is waiting to rescue you.
Neal Pollard

Tuesday, August 24, 2010



While I certainly do not buy into the evolutionary mumbo-jumbo surrounding the discovery, that this creature lived 65 million years ago and evolved into its modern day counterpart, I do believe their discovery to be genuine.  Members of the Smithsonian Tropical Research institute and representatives of several universities, who had been searching in a large coal mine in northeastern Columbia, unearthed a vertebrae of an anaconda that would have been 42 feet long and weighed a ton!  These scientists settled on the understated name of "titanoboa."  I can only imagine what the people of that day called it!  Imagining myself encountering this creature makes me reconfirm every snake-o-phobic feeling I have ever felt.  With the likely tropical conditions of the antediluvian world, snakes (like other living things, including humans) lived longer.  Imagine the intimidation factor this super-reptile would have caused (info taken from Janice Lloyd, USA Today, 2/5/09, 2A).
The Bible refers to the devil as a serpent (Rev. 12:9).  There seems to be Satanic involvement with the serpent that appears in Genesis three, tempting Eve.  From such biblical allusions, man has often attached the image of the devil with the snake.  You may not imagine a 42-foot bone-crushing anaconda when you think of his work, but understand how deadly and dangerous the devil is.  He uses devices (2 Cor. 2:11) and wishes to devour us, his adversaries (1 Pet. 5:8; cf. Heb. 2:14; 2 Tim. 2:26).  The book of Revelation is filled with implications of Satan's work through the Roman Empire to try and destroy the Christ and then His first-century church.  He has worked through man's willing weaknesses and sinful choices to destroy congregations, spouses, parents, children, gospel preachers, elders, deacons, and formerly faithful Christians.  His influence can see in all that is worldly and woeful in our world today.  Let us not paint a mental picture of a docile snake that we can skillfully handle.  Playing with this serpent is the most foolhardy choice we can make.  Only through the Father, Son and Spirit can we defeat this formidable foe.  Let us rely on God's strength and protection to help us fight this frightening force!
Neal Pollard

Colonel Robert Ingersoll spoke at his brother's grave

I sometimes wonder why anyone would choose not to believe in God.  If you question whether or not disbelief is a choice, then please consider the simple fact that every child is born with the ability to look at the evidence and from a very early age will ask his parents, "Mama, where did the earth come from?" or "Mama, who made the stars and moon?"   The despair and hopelessness that accompanies disbelief is enough to drive men away from atheism rather than toward it.  Some years ago I filed the following two incidents that demonstrate my point:

Chicago(U.P.) Clarence Darrow, seventy-eight years old today and waiting to die "without fear or enthusiasm," settled himself in a rocking chair and talked of life and death.  "I no longer doubt," he said. "I know now that there is nothing after death -- nothing to look forward to in joy or in fear." "I am not the agnostic any more, I am a materialist. It took me more than fifty years to find it out. "All my life I have been seeking some definite proof of God – something I could put my finger on and say 'This is fact.' But my doubts are at rest now. I know that such fact does not exist. "When I die -- as I shall soon -- my body will decay. My mind will decay and my intellect will be gone. My soul? There is no such thing."

The great agnostic of the last century, Colonel Robert Ingersoll, spoke at his brother's grave. What an orator he was! What an intellect was his. What a great power for God this man could have been.  President Garfield, who was one of the pall bearers, said that the Colonel broke down and cried like a child in the delivery of that speech. Among other things, Ingersoll said: "Whether in mid-ocean, or amidst the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck must mark the end of each and all.  Though every hour is rich with love, and every moment is jeweled with a joy, it will at its close be a tragedy as deep and d ark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death.  Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities; we strive in vain to look beyond the heights; we cry aloud, and the only answer is our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word." 

This, dear reader, is the epitome of despair.  How much better to be able to say, "I have fought the good fight of faith," or "I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him."  Ingersoll's words are a fair representation of the hopelessness of disbelief.  No wonder the man broke down and wept such tears of disbelief!

by Tom Wacaster

Good intentions are not enough

 He had it all together, and then he came undone. The Truth stood right in front of Pilate, yet he purposely refused to acknowledge Him (John 18:28-38).

            Like so many today, Pilate's mind was nothing more that "play dough" waiting to be molded into whatever shape the world wanted. He didn't have the courage to stand behind his own convictions. He wanted to release Jesus, but crumbled under the pressure of the majority. He felt he had no choice. Going against his own conscience, he finally sent Jesus away to be crucified.

            No one can force me to go against my conscience unless I allow them to do so. No one can frighten or intimidate me unless I allow them such access to my mind.  No one can force me, or even discourage me from following Jesus unless I purposely allow them to have such controlling power over my personal life and convictions.

            Though Pilate had the power to rule a Roman territory, he lacked the power to rule himself.  On the outside, Pilate appeared to be a valiant and noble man, but when he came face to face with the Truth, then we find out what kind of man he really was. He buckled under the pressure of his peers.

            Like so many today who appear to be noble and in control of their lives, when they come face to face with the Truth of God's word, it exposes who is really in control of their lives. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a "mirror" (cf. James 1:23-25), and our reaction and response, after looking into it, exposes who we really are.

            Like Pilate, most of us have good intentions, but good intentions alone are of no value unless followed by demonstrating the "proof of our love" (2Corinthians 8:11) by obedience to our God. We must "take up our cross daily and follow after Him."  This is not just a "suggestion," but rather a command of Jesus Himself (Luke 9:23), as a qualifying characteristic of discipleship. Many fail to receive spiritual blessings from Jesus because they've lost touch with Him through a failure to follow Him according to Truth.

            Few people today are vocally screaming "Crucify Him!" but they are screaming these same words with the way they live their lives. Others, like Pilate, just wash their hands of the matter, mistakenly thinking it relives them of any responsibility. It doesn't.  Neither culture, nor societal trends determines the authority by which we will all be individually and eternally judged. Universal authority has already been designated: "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).

            Don't be a "Pilate," be a "Daniel." If they want to throw you into a lion's den, go, and trust God.

--Toby Miller

Friday, August 20, 2010

Devean C. Duley and Ja'van T. Duley

A Higher Love

"Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?"

When these questions were asked, they were likely intended to be rhetorical questions.  It is expected that a mother would NOT forget, neglect, or harm her nursing child, and that a mother would ALWAYS feel love and compassion for the children she has borne.  Sadly, such is not always the case...

Today a joint funeral service is scheduled in Orangeburg, South Carolina, for 2-year-old Devean C. Duley and 18-month-old Ja'van T. Duley.  What happened to these two little brothers?

Investigators say that the boys' mother suffocated her two young sons last Sunday night after a fight with her own mother, then strapped their bodies into her car and rolled it into a river so it would look like an accident.

"Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?"

In the Greek language, the original language of most of the New Testament Scriptures, there are different words that have been translated "love" in English Bibles.  One of the words is "storge."  This love refers to the love that is shared among members of a family, like the love of a mother for her children.  When the word is used in the New Testament (Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3), it is preceded by the Greek letter "alpha" which negates the word.  It is translated "without natural affection" (KJV), "without love" (NIV), "unloving" (NKJV), even "heartless" (CEV).  In both instances when the word is used, it describes those who have forsaken God, and as a result, have traveled deep into the vileness of sin (see Romans 1:18-32; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Yet consider the initial questions in the context in which they were originally asked:

"Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? Surely THEY may forget, Yet I will not forget you." - Isaiah 49:15

These words were from God through the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel.  These words also reveal God's love for His people today.

Even though WE are stained with the guilt of sin, God loves us and wants each of us to be His child (Romans 3:23).  He gave His only Son to die on the cross for our sins (Ephesians 1:7), so that we might have the opportunity to become His children.  By placing our trust and faith in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), and confessing His name before men (Romans 10:9-10), we can be baptized (immersed) into Christ to have our sins washed away and be added to the family of God (Acts 2:38, 41, 47).

God will NEVER stop loving us!  And the closer we get to God, the more we will love our fellow man, especially our families.

Won't YOU respond to the great love of God by becoming His child today?

David A. Sargent, Minister

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jeff Baker playing third base for the Chicago Cubs

Neal Pollard

Mark Hanstein told me this week about a bizarre baseball incident from earlier this season involving a Major League baseball player who also happens to be a member of the Lord's church.  Jeff Baker, playing third base for the Chicago Cubs, was set and apparently ready to field his position when Dodger catcher Russell Martin hit a searing line drive past him that missed him by only a few feet.  Baker never reacted until after the ball went past him, when he apparently heard it.  Jeff was suffering from an ocular migraine.  Carrie Muskat, who has covered the Cubs since 1981, spoke with him after the incident.  He said, "Instead of getting pain and a headache, it just knocked out the vision in my right eye." Then he said, "I heard it, I saw it for a second barely.  I didn't move. I don't know why, to be honest. I didn't see it very well. I didn't pick it up. I looked in the dugout at [athletic trainer] Ed [Halbur] and he asked me if I was OK, and I said, 'It's not getting better'" (  Martin was hitting a little, round missile that could have given Baker more than a migraine.

Sometimes we cannot see the future consequences of present actions.  Teens, when dating and pressed by hormones and confused by talk of love, can go too far and reap physical, emotional, or spiritual consequences they never saw coming.  Parents can improperly prioritize the goals they have for their children, and inadvertently teach them that something else is more important than God.  Husbands or wives can allow seemingly "innocent" relationships with the opposite sex to blossom into something unwholesome and sinful.  What you don't see can hurt you!
Sometimes we cannot see the power of our influence upon others.  Our words are overheard and they can have a deeper impact on the hearer than we know.  Be they negative, gossiping, biting, hypercritical, suggestive, or profane words, those words can be permanently etched in the memory of the receiver.  Our actions and habits are picked up by the impressionable, the young person, the new Christian, or the newcomer.  What we do or do not do can lead them away from the Lord, though we never saw it coming.  What you don't see can hurt you!
Do not let what you cannot see be your undoing.  There's more than your literal noggin at stake.  There is more than yourself at stake.  Let's make sure we can see clearly the power of all we say and do!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sermon on Isaiah 5:20


    In , we read, "Woe unto them who call evil good and good evil."  However, like most other instructions in the Bible, society, in general, ignores this divine condemnation. There is an effort to rename all sorts of sins trying to make them more "respectable."  For example, the evil of premarital, and extramarital sex is widely accepted as normal in our "enlightened" society. I am told, "Lighten up Toby, that's just how it is these days!" However, the Bible still calls it "sin." Since it is sin, it must be repented of before God will forgive the sinner (Luke 13:5). Furthermore, giving consent to sin is to make one's self guilty of the same (Romans 1:32).

    Social drinking is common among many who claim to be Christians. It is proclaimed that the Bible condemns drunkenness, but a little drinking is okay.  The same passage that condemns drunkenness also condemns adultery, homosexuality, stealing, etc. (1Corinthians 6:9-10).  If a "little" drinking is okay, then so is a "little" adultery, a "little" homosexuality, a "little" stealing, etc.  A homosexual claims that God does not condemn homosexuality, only the "abuse" of homosexuality. If that be the case, then God does not condemn stealing, only the "abuse" of stealing; He does not condemn adultery, only the "abuse" of adultery.

    Another evil that is being called good is the sin of indifference. "Just don't bother me. I'm comfortable just the way I am!"  Our Lord condemned the church at Laodicea because they were "indifferent / lukewarm."  They approached Holy and Sacred things in a much too mediocre way, and had a far too "casual" approach to Christianity (Revelation 3:15-16). Jesus encouraged (warned), them to, "be zealous and repent," (Revelation 3:19), or He would no longer consider them His church.

    While these and many other things go against the grain of modern societal thinking, still, they are truths that must be dealt with if one has any expectation of being saved by Jesus Christ (cf. Hebrews 5:9).  Looking at today's society, we don't have wonder why Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).        Toby Miller 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The truth about tongue speaking

What is "tongue speaking" and do people today "speak in tongues"?  Learn the facts about tongue speaking with this interesting and factual article: 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hugging your dentist

Another funeral this week, made me remember the title to this message.
Because most folks really don't want to "go," when it is time! Let me ask
you, when is the last time you hugged your dentist? OK, I know that isn't
something you even want to think about, but maybe you ought to! I read a few
years back that among professional people, suicide is the highest among
dentist. Why, because almost no one likes to go and see them. Now, I don't
know if that particular statistic is still true or not, but I can understand
how it would be.

I personally don't like the procedures that we have to go through, but our
dentist, is one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. On top of
that, he is kind and has a very gentle touch. His job is kind of like the
old saying, "it's a dirty job, but someone has to do it."

Now I have to admit up front that I haven't hugged him and probably haven't
properly thanked him for the service he does for my wife and me. Most of us
would rather not go to the dentist, but where would we be without them? I
can tell you from experience, IN PAIN! If you go, you have to go through the
cleaning process, then the lecture about the need to floss and brush
regularly. Then you may have to deal with any repair work that needs to be
done (not to mention the dreaded shots). But if you don't go you have to
deal with the eventuality of pain and possibly the loss of your teeth.
Simply, there are consequences to our actions.

OK, now let's take this idea and put a spiritual spin on it. I honestly
can't count the number of times I have heard the phrase, "If I ever walked
in the door of the church, the roof would fall in." It is my experience that
what those who say this or something like it really mean is simply, "I don't
want to go!" Now, they know they should go, because they know at least the
basic idea that eternal life is connected with God's church, but even though
they know it's good for them, they still don't want to go. Much like going
to the dentist, you may get the lecture about the need to take proper care
of our life if you expect it to end up like you would want, that's called
preaching. At some point you will need to deal with the cleaning process.
That is getting rid of all of the things in your life that causes your soul
to rot away and instead of a fluoride treatment you are baptized to preserve
you spirit. Instead of being sent home with a new toothbrush you go home
with a Bible in your hand and instructions to come back next week for your
regular appointment with God's church to worship Him.

Come to think of it, being a dentist and being a preacher is not all that
different, about the same number of people would rather not have to see us!
The greatest difference is that the dentist only sees you when you have a
problem with your teeth, which he can repair (most of the time). For the
preacher (speaking from experience) far too often we only get to see some
people in the funeral home and then it's too late to make anything better.

One of the problems of being human is that we tend to deny just how fragile
our life is and because of that we don't do the things with which we feel
uncomfortable. James speaks to this problem in James 4:13-17 where he says,
"Look here, you people who say, "Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain
town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a
profit." How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like
the morning fog-it's here a little while, then it's gone. What you ought to
say is, "If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that."
Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting
is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do

You still may not want to hug your dentist or preacher, but how do you feel
about getting closer to God? You may not have as much time as you think and
all of the fluoride treatments in the world won't do what God's cleaning and
preservation process will do for you.

Russ Lawson

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Should children be tested in school?

Tests, for the most part, are an inconvenient part of life.  School children do not like to take tests; a patient, prior to proper medical treatment, has to go through what may seem to be a senseless and unending series of tests; the mechanic often has to "test" his work to assure good quality in his craftsmanship.    Tests take time, and in some cases a considerable amount of expense is involved.   However, most of us will admit that tests are valuable.  Who would want to fly in an airplane that had never been tested?   Or who would want to enter into surgery without the benefit of all those pesky little "tests" we have to go through?  I think we know the answer.    


Over the past two or three decades various forms of testing have come under fire by those who would seek to be politically correct.  In some circles it is not "politically correct" to give tests to children at school lest we damage their ego and self awareness.   Qualifications for a job position have often been compromised and in many instances unqualified personal fill positions at work all because management does not want to "offend" his constituents.   The downward spiral of the lack of responsibility among the citizens of this country (or any country) is related in no small way to the unwillingness of leaders to apply the necessary tests in any given circumstance.  The results have been (and will continue to be) disastrous.


Spiritually speaking, every soul (saint and sinner alike) must face those "tests" that come our way throughout our life.  Job faced some of the most severe tests of life imaginable.  You and I are admonished to "prove the spirits, whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1).  We are to "try your own selves, whether ye are in the faith; prove your own selves" (2 Cr. 13:5a).   We are to "prove all things; hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:24).   You see friend, testing really is an important part of life.   We must test every activity, every word, and every thought in the light of God's word.    Only then will be able to stand before the judgment seat of Christ on that great day with the full assurance that we will pass the one great test that will determine our eternal destiny.  That, my friend, is a most sobering thought.


-by Tom Wacaster

There are some things only God can provide

A store manager overheard a clerk saying to a customer, "No, ma'am, we
haven't had any for some weeks now, and it doesn't look as if we'll be
getting any soon."

Alarmed, the manager rushed over to the customer who was walking out
the door and said, "That isn't true, ma'am. Of course, we'll have some soon.
In fact, we placed an order for it a couple of weeks ago."

Then the manager drew the clerk aside and growled, "Never, never,
never, never say we don't have something. If we don't have it, say we
ordered it and it's on its way. Now, what was it she wanted?"


As much as we'd like to think that we can provide everything that
others might need, the truth is we cannot. There are some things only God
can provide.

Maybe you've been in one of those situations lately. Perhaps you have
a family member who has been going through a serious illness. Or maybe you
have a child away at college who is experiencing some trials and is feeling
very alone. Or maybe you have a friend who is going through some tough
times in her marriage.

There are some small things you can do to help, but ultimately you feel
helpless because you can't provide what they really need. And so you pray
to God, because there are some things only God can provide. We sometimes
make the mistake of thinking, "That's the least I can do." No, that's the
most we can do. We have a God who can provide what we cannot. Keep that in
mind today if you're feeling inadequate to meet the needs of everyone around

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we
ask or think, according to the power that works in us...." (Eph. 3:20).

Alan Smith

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Eat, Drink And Be Yourself

   A national restaurant chain has for its latest advertisement slogan, "Eat, drink, and be yourself."  As some slogans can be, that one is pretty harmless sounding.  I wonder if the executives have taken the time to look into the background of the saying.  Without doubt, it makes many people think of the saying, "Eat, drink, and be merry."  This was the counsel the rich farmer gave himself in a parable Jesus tells.  Luke records it, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry." ' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:15-21).   This is the same attitude of life briefly adopted by Solomon in his experiment to find life's meaning (cf. Ecc. 8:15).  He found it was not, "Eat, drink, and be merry."  The rich farmer, through God's extreme measures, learned the same truth.  Paul quoted the Epicurean philosophy, "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die" (1 Cor. 15:32), to show the futility of life if Christ is not raised but the futility of such a philosophy since He did.
   So many today have a self-absorbed philosophy that preaches, "Eat, drink, and be yourself."  "Be merry."  "Tomorrow, we may die, so get all of what you can while you can."  Just remember that such an outlook on life does not have a promising outcome!  We are not here to party.  We are here to prepare what is to come.
Neal Pollard

Monday, August 9, 2010


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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Is botox safe?

       We are all familiar with the name and probably some of the movies of actress Julia Roberts.  I read an article about her today and was somewhat surprised to find out where she stood on the use of Botox and plastic surgery.  To boil it down, she is against these types of treatments altogether.  Here is a statement she made to Elle magazine, "It's unfortunate that we live in such a panicked, dysmorphic society where women don't even give themselves a chance to see what they'll look like as older persons."  What a great statement this is.  Now, I am not implying that any of us use Botox or plastic surgery.  However, we definitely can get enveloped in the pressure to look good no matter the cost.
       It is no secret that our culture is obsessed with looking young, beautiful, fit, and stylish.  Many other cultures have this same obsession as well. Throughout history this is obviously been a struggling point with people.  Matthew 23:27 says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."
       In Scripture, we see a completely different approach.  While outward beauty is sometimes discussed, the major emphasis is on inner beauty (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15; 11:39; etc).  In Matthew 23:25-26, Jesus said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also."
        Even though our culture is obsessed with outward appearances, I appreciate and respect Julia Robert's standpoint. Proverbs 31:30 says, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised."  No matter how much a person puts off the signs of age, they will eventually catch up (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7).  Nearly everything in this life fades and gets ugly as it gets old, but one thing that never gets ugly: inner, spiritual beauty.  In fact, this usually becomes even more beautiful with time.  Let's strive more for that inner beauty and be less worried about the physical beauty that will fade no matter what we do.
Brett Petrillo

When the Euphrates Dries Up


Revelation chapter eight ends with the sobering words, "And I saw, and I heard an eagle, flying in mid heaven, saying with a great voice, Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, who are yet to sound" (Rev. 8:13).  Three woes would come upon "them that dwell on the earth."  The doomsday prognosticators would have us believe that John is describing some far off event in which the world and all mankind will be engulfed in a catastrophe too horrible to describe; an event that would immediately precede the return of Christ.  They view the apocalypse through the eyes of a materialistic mind-set and fail to grasp the message God intended for the readers of this book.   In keeping with the figurative language of the book of Revelation, John warns those who are earthly in their thinking, who seek not the things that are above, that they will, if they persist in their sin, bring upon themselves sorrow and woes of indescribable nature. Such are those who "dwell on the earth."   The "woes" of chapter nine are self inflicted and come upon humanity as a result of their rejection of God's word and/or their obstinate rebellion against the Father.  The "smoke out of the abyss" (9:2-3) is John's way of describing the woes that come upon men as a consequence of their determination to allow error and false philosophy to blind them to the truth (cf. 2 Cor. 4:3-4).  Once blinded, all that awaits is the horrible "sting" of sin from the "locusts" that will descend upon them.  Satan and his allies will rush down upon those who have turned their back on God and His word like horsemen prepared for war, and the final outcome will be complete defeat for those ill prepared to meet the onslaught of the devil and his forces.   


The second woe in Revelation chapter nine envisions a situation in any given society wherein the righteous element is no longer strong enough to ward off the devil and his evil intentions.  The preserving element will have disappeared and the only thing that awaits a nation at that point is God's complete wrath.   At that point the "four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates" will be "loosed," and divine judgment will descend upon men (Rev. 9:13-15).  There are those who would suggest that the "Euphrates" represents the dividing line between the people of God and the people of the world. That river was the eastern most boundary of the Promised Land.  Once the Euphrates dried up, the enemy would have easy and unrestricted access into the land where God's people once dwelt.  In like manner, our "Euphrates" is the holiness of God's people.  Our "Euphrates" is the line of demarcation that separates us from the world, a line that marks us as being distinctive, holy, and the "peculiar" people God so desires us to be.   When our "Euphrates" is breeched, there is nothing to hold back the full release of sin and the onslaught of the enemy.  If we take this position then this sixth woe describes a world where that dividing line between God's people and the people of the world is no longer distinguishable.  The righteous "remnant" is no longer able to hold back the evil that would engulf the world with this horrible "woe."  The same kind of situation existed when God destroyed the word with the flood (cf. Gen. 6:5).  Prior to the destruction of evil men in the flood, the "Euphrates" (figuratively speaking) had been dried up, and the world had reached such a state of evil that God's longsuffering finally ran out.  Wicked men had turned so far away from God that the thoughts and intents of their hearts were only evil continually.  When men reach such a state of ungodliness, God's wrath will no longer be restrained. 


I wonder – has the "Euphrates" dried up in America?  Has the "preserving element" that allows God's mercy to forego divine judgment in hopes that men will repent disappeared?   Is the church having a leavening influence upon society?  Or have we allowed the word to corrupt the church?  Have we become so much like the world around us that for all practical intents and purposes we have allowed the Euphrates to dry up?  Yes, I wonder!


by Tom Wacaster


Friday, August 6, 2010

Cell phones and driving

Highway deaths were up in 2005 for the first time in 19 years. One reason for that, according to a study by the government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is probably no surprise: distracted drivers. Distractions have always been an issue, but the new technologies that have burst on the scene have multiplied the problem.

"Drivers talk on their cell phones, check their e-mail, or send text messages. They get directions from their GPS system, pop a CD into their stereo, change stations on satellite radio, or help their kids with the backseat DVD player."

The study – which tracked hundreds of drivers in the Washington, D.C., area for over a year, and used sensor monitors to gather video and data about their behavior in the vehicles – "found that 8 of 10 collisions or near-crashes involved a lack of attention from drivers" just before impact.

The study found that "a driver's reaching for a moving object increased the risk" of a wreck nine times. Dialing a cellphone increased the risk of a wreck almost 3 times. Drowsy driving increased the likelihood of a wreck or near-wreck 4 to 6 times. 

Distractions cause crashes!

Distractions also cause an even GREATER destruction…

Jesus taught with many parables, one of which was the Parable of the Sower (see Mark 4:1-9).  In the parable, He described how a farmer sowed seed (representing the Word of God) and it came in contact with four different types of soils (representing the hearts of people).

Observe Jesus' explanation of the "thorny soil" (heart):

"Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful" (Mark 4:18-19).

What causes the Word of God to become unfruitful in this type of heart?  In a word, distractions !  The result: DESTRUCTION !  See John 15:1-8.

However, Jesus taught that the heart – the good soil – that receives the Word of God with faith and obedience becomes fruitful unto ETERNAL LIFE!

A "good heart" ACCEPTS the Good News (the Gospel) that Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we might have eternal life.  

A "good heart"
RESPONDS to the Gospel by placing his
faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turns from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confesses Christ before men (Romans 10:9-10), and is baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  

A "good heart" will also
RETAIN the seed of God's Word and through faithful perseverance, bear fruit that leads to eternal life (Luke 8:15; Romans 6:22).

DON'T be distracted...  Focus on the Word of God through your trusting obedience.

Won't YOU?

David A. Sargent

How to deal with hard times

Many analogies have been used to describe our lives on earth: voyages across often-stormy seas, climbing to the summit of tall mountains, fighting daily battles. We steer clear of comparisons like "a bed of roses" because we know one thing for sure: Life is sometimes quite difficult.
What keeps God's people going when those blows are allowed to land? Here are a couple of passages that have helped many:
Hebrews 12:2 - "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." Peter was granted an awesome privilege - to walk on water, just like Jesus was doing. Peter's walk was cut short, however. Why did he begin to sink? Matthew tells us: "But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, 'Lord, save me!'" (Matthew 14:30)
If we concentrate on the blows of life, we may also begin to sink. Let us learn the truth presented in Hebrews 12:2. Let us never stop "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."
1 Corinthians 15:58 - "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." Here is a needed admonition for those who have been disappointed in God's decisions. Some, after suffering hard blows, consider giving up.
Once again, Peter illustrates the concept. On one occasion Jesus' teachings offended many of his followers. Some even turned away from following him. Jesus looked at those who remained and asked, "Do you also want to go away?" (John 6:67)
Peter spoke for faithful disciples of all times when he responded: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:68,69).
We won't always understand God's will for us. Sometimes we won't even like it. But to whom will we go? Only in Christ will we find everlasting life. And one thing more we believe: "We'll understand it all by and by."
Tim Hall

Thursday, August 5, 2010

World View


Have you ever wondered how evil activities can be seen in a positive light?  For example, I wonder how we got to the point in our society that many now view a sexual relationship before marriage as a good thing.  It is now taught that being sexually active before marriage is vitally important in choosing a marriage partner and having a successful marriage. This particular example blows my mind; however, there are many other examples of evil activities being viewed in a positive light.  Things such as: divorce, abortion, homosexuality, denominationalism, and many others.  I saw an article the other day that promoted the use of foul language to reduce stress.  The profit Isaiah wrote, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20)! Yet it seems as if the world we live in does this exact thing.  Those evil activities that should be viewed as wicked are seen as good.  Certainly, for the Christian this should not be the case.  C.S. Lewis wrote "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else".  Through Christ we should see evil for what it is and we should also see good for what it is.  How do we view the world and the activities of the world?  Are we letting society tell us what is right and what is wrong? Or are we letting God? Let us all look to God for the answers to what is right and what is wrong.  Let us view good and evil the way God wants us to view good and evil.  Those who are Christians have a better perspective on life, let us all have this perspective and world view. Garrett Bookout

Kevin Kammer Soda Butte Campground

You may have heard about the mauling death of Kevin Kammer, a 48-year-old man camping at the Soda Butte Campground outside of Cooke City, Montana, on July 27th.  Grizzly bears are noted for their aggressive behavior, but concerns are growing that the culprit responsible for Kammer's death was a photographer baiting wildlife in the area.  Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department officials are looking into allegations.  There was no food in Kammer's tent, and officials called the attack "highly unusual and predatory."  They were mauled as they slept, which is anomalous, unusual behavior.  Experts cannot shake baiting as the likely cause of the attacks.

Whether or not officials are ever able to conclusive prove the currently prevailing theory, one thing is certain.  It is not smart to bait a grizzly bear.  Courting danger is foolish, but not uncommon.  Most of us, to one degree or another, have a sense of adventure; however, there is a point in which the word "sense" is not appropriate to describe the situation.  At some point, behavior is risky, dangerous, and foolhardy.

Temptation is a common problem (cf. Heb. 4:15; 1 Cor. 10:13).  To encounter it, all you have to do is live and breathe.  What is foolhardy is a mindset or philosophy that courts temptation, that puts oneself in places with people doing things that are highly likely to produce sinful, destructive outcomes.  Grizzlies have size, claws, and demeanors that make them obvious threats.  Sin, while more deadly, comes in more subtle and oftentimes very attractive packages.
Let us be Joseph's, ready to literally flee at the dangers of temptation (Gen. 39:12).  "Flee" is a watchword repeatedly uttered in the New Testament, regarding sin (1 Cor. 6:18; 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22).  Baiting ourselves or flirting with spiritual danger is not the behavior of born-again, heaven-bound people.  Let us recognize the schemes of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11) and go out of our way to avoid him.  Any other approach to life does not make good, spiritual sense.
--Neal Pollard


    There's an interesting parallel between the creation of man in Eden and the recreation of man in the early church.  Unity characterized both (Gen. 2:23; Acts 4:32).  At first, both fulfilled their God-given tasks (Gen. 2:15,20; Acts 2:42-46; 4:1). Yet, in both Eden and the Jerusalem church of Christ, Satan didn't stay away too long (Gen. 3:1-5; Acts 5:3).  Ananias and Sapphira, like too many, had not prepared their hearts to fight the sin to which they were susceptible.
    Ananias and Sapphira were too wedded to their wealth. Sometime after the sell of their property and before their offering, they conspired to keep back part of the money for themselves but indicated they were giving all of the proceeds for the church to use for benevolent needs.  Today, some are married to their money rather than their Master.  This obtains when one's giving to God is anemic, when one's pursuit of material things is rabid, and when children are sacrificed on the altar of parents' yearning for money.
    Ananias and Sapphira were too sensitive to their status. This couple's sin came on the heels of Barnabas' incredibly charitable giving. What a contrast between him and them. He would go on to be one of the heroes of the early church.  They were its first spiritual goats. Peter calls their act a "lie" (Acts 5:3-4) and a "tempting" of God (Acts 5:9).  They were guilty of willful sin, and Peter says Satan "filled" (finding a place there, Satan dominated) his heart.  Satan can only get in our hearts by permission (Eph. 4:27). Apparently, they wanted to look good in the eyes of the brethren.  We must check any desire or motive that is impure. Even in doing right, we must be sure we are acting to please God rather than men (Eph. 6:6-7).
    Ananias and Sapphira were too careless about their character.  They were liars, and for this they were rewarded with physical death (Acts 5:5,10). How many give into their weakness or sin problem, only to hurt their church family, their physical family, and destroy themselves?
    In all of these deadly mistakes, Ananias and Sapphira had allowed Satan to fill their hearts. That made them, through willful choices, empty vessels for Satan to occupy and break God's law.  How easily Satan can take advantage of us (cf. 2 Co. 2:10-11).  Though the church will ultimately prevail, let us not allow Satan to win any individual victories among us.  Let us learn from Ananias and Sapphira.
Neal Pollard

July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong set the first human foot on the moon

"Man On The Moon"

The term "bucket list" was not popular back then, but winning the race
to the moon was certainly high on President John F. Kennedy's agenda.
After watching the Soviet Union put the first human in orbit, Kennedy
declared in 1961 that the United States should make it a priority to
put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  To spare you the
math, that was a time frame of only eight years.

For those who weren't alive back then (and even I was pretty young),
that was an ambitious goal.  The U.S. space program was in its infancy
and it would be another few months before John Glenn became the first
American to orbit the earth.  Could we possibly place an astronaut on
the surface of the moon before the '70s?  You know, of course, that we
did.  On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong set the first human foot on
lunar soil.  What a technological feat!  Mankind was bursting with

Yet I read that today is the 80th birthday of Neil Armstrong, perhaps
the most shining icon of the U.S. space program.  I'll confess I don't
know much about Mr. Armstrong since that moon landing.  I've read that
he has maintained amazing humility and has contributed in various ways
to the betterment of society.  One thing I do know is that Armstrong,
like the rest of us, is mortal.

Job lived in what we might today call "primitive" conditions.  Words
he spoke perhaps 4,000 years ago still ring true in our ears: "Now my
days are swifter than a runner; they flee away, they see no good.
They pass by like swift ships, like an eagle swooping on its prey"
(Job 9:25,26).  We live in "modern" times, times when placing a man on
the moon now appears antiquated.  But we're still battling the same
basic issues of mortality.  We all nod in agreement with Job's

James turned the spotlight on people like us when he addressed those
who carefully plan the days ahead.  "Whereas you do not know what will
happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that
appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14).  Yes,
I look back to earlier days in my life and wonder, "Where do the years
go?  Why does life slip by so certainly?"

"Life expectancy" is a familiar term and it hasn't changed all that
much over the last decades.  Though advances have been made in many
areas - communications, medicine, space travel, etc. - we still look
nervously to the future, knowing that a terminal is ahead, somewhere,
where we must get off this train called life.  What then?

"If a man dies, shall he live again" asked Job (Job 14:14).  That
question has not changed.  Science has no ability to answer it.
That's not a slam against science; it's simply to acknowledge that
science deals with the empirical, and spiritual existence is in a
whole other realm.

The Bible, however, can answer our questions about what lies ahead.
Jesus, according to Paul, "... abolished death and brought life and
immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).  We didn't
have to wait to put a man on the moon to find answers to our most
important questions.

We celebrate the accomplishments of mankind.  Some of them are awfully
impressive.  But as we watch our heroes bow to mortality, let us all
be reminded of the appointments looming before us (see Hebrews 9:27).
The One who made the moon as well as man can help prepare us.
--Timothy D. Hall

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You can't take it with you

OF THE DOZENS upon dozens of funerals that I have conducted, I have never conducted one where the casket was occupied by anyone who had anything in his hand...
And none of the suits wrapped around those bodies required pockets.  "You can't take it with you."
Solomon forces us to face that moment we all tend to ignore -- the moment of death.  He backs up three spaces and looks at the crash and says, "This is the grievous evil: Those who have clutched can quickly crash."  Put another way, "Those who grabbed and rose to the top will ultimately release and drop to the bottom."
Can you imagine the scene?  I envision a man who hoarded what he had and then lost it through a bad investment.  I can see another who fights and wins his way to the top, only to have the bottom drop out of his life as the stock market plunges.  And how about the individual who spends himself in a maddening pursuit of some financial goal, who drops dead of a heart attack?  It happens every day.  In Solomon's words, he "toils for the wind."  He departs exactly as he entered life...naked and without a thin dime to his name.  (Charles Swindoll)
"There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: riches kept for their owner to his hurt.  But those riches perish through misfortune; when he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand.  As he came from his mother's womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand" (Eccles. 5:13-15).
-- Mike Benson

Forsaking The Assembly



My travels in raising funds, giving reports, and filling in preaching at various locations has reminded me that our brethren continue to struggle with faithful attendance.  I have visited congregations where the drop in attendance from Sunday morning to Sunday evening is shameful.  A number of years ago I visited a congregation in Texas where the Sunday morning attendance was more than 80, and the evening attendance was only 15% of the morning figure.  Such was not due to sickness, or travels, or some kind of emergency.  That was, as one of the members noted, the regular practice; or what the inspired writer referred to as the "custom."  On the other hand, I have visited congregations where the difference between morning and evening worship is only minimal, and that on a regular basis.  But for the most part, the average decline between AM and PM worship runs somewhere around 30% (give or take a percentage).    The admonition that we "consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together…but exhorting one another" largely goes unheeded by many a weak saint.   


While there are certainly exceptions due to age, health, and perhaps travel obligations, those who miss Sunday evening services do so because they "choose" to be absent.  The heart is the seat of all actions, and where the heart leads the feet are swift to follow.  Habitual absenteeism is a heart problem.  It is reflected in the neglect and apathy regarding the works of the church, and is manifest in the neglect of the worship assembly.   In my commentary "Studies in Hebrews," I included the following excellent quotes from good brethren who have addressed this problem that plagues God's people in every generation:


If we never determine the day here covered, it will not lessen one degree the divine prohibition, 'not forsaking our own assembling together,' which unto this day is still a custom of too many and a curse within the church. The fact that many do it with clock-like regularity but adds weight to the Hebrew writer calling it a custom.  It is a public sin that needs a public confession with penitence to correct it. This is as much a 'not' as those found in Romans 13:9. As we are not to commit adultery, nor kill, nor steal, so we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together....Far more than just the missing, it is the attitude one must have toward the Master that led him to miss which crowns this act with shame. We do not love the Lord, His Church, His Word, His worship, His service and sacrifice as we should or we wouldn't miss! Some, in order to emphasize the grace of God, tend to justify 'missing a few services' or 'missing now and then,' or 'if missing one time would condemn us, then none of us will make it.' The inherent danger here causes us to raise and answer some questions lest some be deceived into thinking they can 'get away' with some known violations (Dayton Keesee). 


Perhaps there is nothing so much needed in current America as a return to the old-fashioned virtue of church attendance.  Our beloved nation was founded by a generation of church-goers; and, although the Puritans and the settlers at Jamestown have been made to appear rather ridiculous in contemporary literature, being hailed as dull, hypocritical, and intolerant; it is nevertheless true that such a caricature is false.  They were not dull or uninteresting.  The eloquent literature of those far-off days denies the current slanders against that generation of spiritual giants who lived on the highest plane of religious conviction, whose emotions ebbed and flowed with the tides of eternity, and whose men of letters, such as Whittier, Hawthorne, and Longfellow, captured in their writings the immortal loveliness of that people.  Moreover, as the noted radio preacher, Charles L. Goodell, said, 'Wherever there is a town meeting house, a free school, a free church, or an open Bible, those forbears of ours might lay their hands upon them and say, `All these are our children'.'  Our greatest institutions are the fruits of their church-going; and when any generation shall forsake the house of prayer and worship, that generation is dangerously near to losing those institutions inherited through the piety of others.  As for the cliché that 'mere church attendance' is without value, we do not speak of 'mere' church attendance, but of wholehearted, sincere, devout, and faithful public worship of Almighty God through Christ; and as for the falsehood that people can worship God anywhere they are, it is refuted by the fact that they don't!  When people do not attend worship, they do not give, nor pray, nor sing God's praise, nor observe the Lord's Supper, nor study the sacred scriptures, all of which things are related to the public worship and have practically no existence apart from it. Then let people heed the commandment in this verse that they should not forsake the assembly of the church; and the fact that some do, as was the case then, is no permission for the faithful to follow an unfaithful example.  Reasons why people forsake the assembly are rationally explained, ardently advocated by them that wish to defect, and established with all kinds of charges, excuses, allegations, and insinuations against the church; but the only true reason for disobeying this basic commandment is simply unbelief, or the carelessness and sin which lead to unbelief (Coffman, page 235). 


The various reasons that men offer for missing the services are ludicrous to say the least.  When business, recreation, personal desires, unexpected company, bad weather, et al, are offered to others as a "legitimate" excuse for absenting one from worship to God, it sends forth the message (whether intended or not) that these things are more important than one's devotion and worship to God. 


There is one more item that needs to be addressed before we close this week's column.  The neglect of the assembly will eventually lead the neglect in other spiritual responsibilities that rest upon the child of God.  Forsaking the assembly is only the first step into the far country; the journey away from God, once begun, will eventually lead the man into the proverbial spiritual (and moral) pigpen.  Such is the inevitable consequence of forsaking the assembly! Think about it!


by Tom Wacaster

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