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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Does God matter?

Why God Matters

Does God matter? Some behave as though He does not; living their own way. They curse, drink, gossip, lie, cheat, steal, or commit fornication. To them, God does not matter. However, logic and the Bible teach that God does matter.

God matters because He is the Creator. He made all things through His Son (Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:16, 17). Being the Creator, He is superior to the creature, man (Gen. 1:26, 27). He gave man life, breath, and all things (Acts 17:25). He is not only the giver of life, but the sustainer as well (Heb. 1:2; Acts 14:17). He matters.

God matters because He is the Judge. God is the giver of the law of Christ (Jn. 16:7-15). All men will stand before God and be judged by Jesus Christ according to His law (2 Cor. 5:10; Jn. 5:22; 12:48).  Hence, God matters.

God matters because He is God. The very nature of God demands the conclusion that He is relevant.  God is the Almighty (Gen. 17:1). He knows all things and with Him all things are possible (Psa. 139:7-12; Heb. 4:13; Mk. 14:36). He is self-existent and eternal (Ex. 3:14; Psa. 90:2). The President of the United States matters because he is the president. The CEO of a company matters to people in the company because he is the CEO. The God of the universe matters because He is God.

- by Steven F. Deaton


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Almost is Not Enough

‘Almost’ is Not Enough

It is sometimes said of an individual who has not yet obeyed the gospel, "I believe he is almost ready to be baptized," or that "she is close to becoming a Christian!"
Friend, are you one of those people? Can we not somehow impress upon you:

  • That "almost" is not sufficient to make one a Christian;
  • That being "close" is not the same thing as being "in Christ";
  • That you are still in a LOST condition;
  • That Christ is coming in judgment one day?

It is essential for you to note the words of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 where he states that those "who do not obey the gospel … will pay the penalty of eternal destruction." We URGE you to take a serious look at your life, your need of salvation, and the hope that can be found only "in Christ." Obey the gospel TODAY!

- by Barney L. Keith


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Peer Pressure

Much of God's covenant with Israel of old dealt with human relations. Various and sundry laws pointed out how the Jew was to conduct himself among his peers. One of these admonitions was, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" (Ex. 23:2). This was a very important decree; it showed the danger of peer pressure and pointed out very explicitly the dangers of being led astray by evil men. Peer pressure was an important factor in their lives; it has been from that time to the present. And perhaps as never before, peer pressure is an issue we have to wrestle with.

A leading educator noted that peer pressure is the strongest influence exerted on young people today. He stated that in most cases it is twice as strong as the influence of home and family, and yields a far greater influence than religion. I share this educator's convictions. All young people want to be accepted by their peers. And if to do so means disobeying parents and selling out personal convictions, some are willing to do so just to be a part of the bunch. In dealing with young folks and their problem of peer pressure, we often quote and expound on 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Evil companionships corrupt good morals." I contend this is a very important verse dealing with this subject. This admonition does caution against the dangers of peer pressure being exerted by those who are void of spiritual convictions and virtues. Let us continue to warn our young people of the dangers of their associates that rob them of their virtues.

But is all peer pressure centered in young people? Does this pressure cease when we become adults?  Well, certainly at all stages of life there are peer pressures put on us by those with whom we mix and mingle day by day. The Bible is not silent on this matter. Men and women of God have always faced immense pressures in dealing with their peers.  And when God has spoken, He has always done so with a stern warning against letting our associates rob us of our moral integrity.

One of the most striking examples of this occurred in the life of Peter. Peter is one of our favourite Bible characters. He was truly one of Christ's most ardent followers. We hear him saying, "Even if I must die with thee, yet I will not deny thee” (Matt. 26:25).  We hear him declare, "Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and death" (Luke 22:33). But on that fateful night of the arrest and mock trial of the Lord, Peter "followed afar off" (Matt. 26:53); he stood with the wrong crowd, the enemies of the Lord (Matt. 26:69).  And upon being asked of his allegiance to Christ, he cursed, swore, and denied that he even knew Him (Matt. 26:69-74). Peter, when alone in a crowd of unbelievers who were the enemies of Christ, relented to peer pressure.

What a lesson for the Christian today. I contend that when we are alone, with the wrong crowd, those with no regard for the Lord or spiritual values, we are at the most vulnerable moment of our spiritual life. And so often, like Peter, the pressures from our peers lead to our downfall.

There are numerous other examples in the New Testament on this subject.  Peer pressure played a leading role in the rejection of Christ by the rulers of the synagogue (John 12:42, 43). The Scriptures tell us they believed on Him, "but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God."

Likewise, peer pressure was the deciding factor in the heinous crime of Herod (Matt. 14:1-12; Mark 6:23). Herod feared and respected John, but his oath, along with "them that sat at meat with him" (his peers) prevented him from backing down on his promise, and resulted in the vile deed of having John the Baptist put to death. In this we see the influence and power of wicked men and the insidiousness of peer pressure.

But there is another side of the coin of peer pressure. Not all the characters of the Bible collapsed under the pressure of their associates. Many stood, often alone, in the face of severe pressures put on them by others.

Let us ever be aware of the immense pressures put on us by our peers, especially those with no regard for God and spiritual values. And let us profit from the mistakes others made and redouble our efforts to not yield to these peer pressures as they did.

-by Bob Waldron


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Almost persuaded, but lost

How Much Time Is Left?

A man's house was burning. At the first sign of smoke he had rushed out to buy a fire extinguisher. Before he returned, the roof and walls had collapsed, destroying all his furnishings.

A man's doctor warned him of a bad heart condition. From the doctor's office he went immediately to the insurance salesman, but he was refused in his attempts to provide financial protection for his wife and children.

A man was endowed by God with a strong, healthy body. Because his appetite was stronger than his moral convictions, he squandered his powers until dissipation brought him to weakness. Then disease struck and without a normal reserve of strength, he could not be cured by the surgeon of what would ordinarily have been a minor ailment.

A man had a Bible, knew the church was interested in him, had friends who regularly encouraged him to live more with God. With consistency, he made reasons not to, while his conscience grew fainter, and the black wrong and white right faded into medium gray. When the critical temptation came, he was only faintly aware of it, and certainly he had no moral reserve to resist it.

David said it this way: "For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him" (Psalm 32:6). Jesus said the same thing in describing the five foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-1f).

When the operation begins, it is too late to take vitamin pills. When the battle begins, it's too late to train the troops. When the flood waters rise, it's too late to find a rock foundation. When Satan attacks, they can only resist who have put on their armor.

Memorize that verse now; when you need it, you won't have time. Worship God this Lord's Day; when you need that strength, you won't have time. Repent of that sin now; when Christ comes, you won't have time.  Renew your broken connection with the Lord now; at your funeral, you won't have time. Become a Christian now; in the judgment day you won't have time. Don't be almost persuaded, but lost -- obey the Lord and be saved!

- by James Cooper


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Faithful church attendance

"What is that smell in the kitchen sink?" "Ah, honey, I'll look at it, uh, soon." "When?"
"Uh...soon." "It's been like this for six month now, honey...honey, are you listening to me? Agh!
Look, the drain is bubbling..."

"Mr. Smith, when did you first notice the mole discoloring and becoming asymmetrical?" "Well, um, I
think it was last fall." "Why did you wait a year to get this checked out? I'm pretty sure it's
cancer. To be straight with you, Mr. Smith, I don't know how this will turn out for you."

"Brother Jones, have you noticed that sister Blue is acting withdrawn?" "Yea, she lost her job last
month and her children are grown and gone." "Brother Jones, I've noticed that she's recently stopped
coming on Sunday nights." "Yea, Brother Jackson, we need to go visit her this week." "I know. We've
been saying that...every week." "Well, we'll get there."

May I suggest that none of these three scenarios is likely to turn out pleasantly? Yet, damage and
expense to our material things, or even the loss of physical life to a dreaded disease, are not as
devastating or frightening as the loss of a soul. The tragedy is that there are normally symptoms
that accompany apostasy (i.e., turning away from the Lord). It is not enough to see the symptoms. We
must respond in a timely manner.

One symptom is a decrease in faithful attendance. When individuals who would not miss a service
choose to do something else, an alarm has been sounded. Something is replacing their dedication and
commitment to Christ. When it is odd or noteworthy that someone is missing services, we need to
respond with a card, call, or visit. Somehow, let them know they are missed. Do not lay this solely
at the doorstep of preachers and elders. These folks need to be inundated with our concern. Run the
risk of offending them. Why should they get offended at genuine brotherly love?

Another symptom is a decrease in reliability in doing church work. The tasks they once did and were
counted on to do they no longer do with consistency. Maybe they felt unappreciated or overly
burdened. Maybe they needed relief or at least a break. Or, maybe spiritual struggles and worldly
concerns have overwhelmed them. Whatever explains the cause, respond to the effect. Tell them how
important and special they are. Praise their work. Help them. Encourage them.

Yet another symptom is a change in behavior and withdrawal. This is perhaps the most common
precursor and symptom in a spiritual struggle. Distancing themselves from the rest of the church
family, a loss of enthusiasm for the church, worship, and/or its programs, and a change in
personality within the congregation are all telling signs something isn't right. We are taught that
individuals in a marriage are constantly changing. Those same individuals fill our pews and
participate in the church's work. Let us never take each other for granted or ignore this symptom.

Ultimately, it is not the church's responsibility to stand for an individual in the judgment (2 Cor.
5:10). Yet, we have a mutual responsibility to each other (1 Pet. 3:8). To borrow from the medical
analogy above, when one member of the body hurts, we should all respond to help him or her (1 Cor.
12:26). Please do not be blind to the symptoms of those around you. Ask them how you can help. Do
not let them spiritually die because of our neglect.

--Neal Pollard

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How to Listen In worship

Ever get sleepy during the sermon? (Not mine, of course.) Truth is, any one of us may find our attention wandering now and then. Long attention spans are difficult under the best of circumstances. The preacher bears a heavy responsibility here, for subject matter, style of presentation, relevance, and many other factors which contribute to a "live" wide-awake audience. But the speaker cannot do it all. Nor is it enough to prove by the Scriptures that we should be vitally interested. We know that -- and yet we may need motivation. Perhaps we could even learn how to become better listeners.

Jesus said, "Take heed . . . how ye hear" (Lk. 8:18). Not with dulled hearing and closed eyes, shunning the truth (Matt. 13:15-16); nor with preconceived notions that pre-vent our receiving truth (Matt. 16:21-23). The people I now have in mind do not belong in these categories. But there are "good" people whose minds wander, or are easily distracted; and this article is bold to make some suggestions for getting more out of the sermon and of worship as a whole.

Sit toward the front of the auditorium; close enough to feel the speaker is talking to you. Do this not just to better hear the speaker, but to improve the "oneness" of feeling essential to good communication. It puts fewer distractions between you and the speaker, allows you to better "read" his expressions, gestures, etc. It also makes for better singing and a "closer" feeling for the Lord's supper and other worship. Yes, there are mothers with babies who need to sit closer to the nursery; sick and elderly who need easier access to the rest rooms; and always a certain number who "couldn't care less" about the worship, but come (now and then) for unknown reasons. Leave the back seats for them.

Become a participant, not an observer. In Christianity all saints are priests in a holy, royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5,9). Each is a worshiper; praying and singing with the leader, remembering Christ in the communion, giving freely with the Lord's work in mind, and learning -- repeating in your own mind -- that which is being taught. Being a true learner is not a passive process, but requires distinct participation with the teacher.

Take notes, learn to outline the message. Some are con-tent to jot down the Scriptures used -- and that is good. But this can be done without much thinking with the speaker. If we would make an effort to jot down his main points (in our own brief wording) and note their relation to one another and to the subject, we would find ourselves much more of a participant -- and certainly a much better listener.

Question what you hear. Is that a valid point, proven by the Scripture used? You will not be able to think the matter through during the sermon, but a question mark beside the point will remind you to "check it out" when you are home. This word of caution: one can be a "noble Berean" (Acts 17:11) without becoming an habitual critic of the work of others. Learn constructive criticism, and apply it to your own work.

Listen with the intention of making this your message, when you have time to think it through. How would you tell this to others? How could you improve on it, to fit some-one you need to teach? This point of view can have an amazing effect on your attention span.

Make self-application of the lesson. How can this improve my life for Christ? How does it fit my personal needs? Listen with a tender conscience, ready to learn and adjust your life accordingly.

You can have the blessings of Jesus Christ if you will learn to be a good listener. The Savior said, "Blessed are . . . your ears, for they hear." He also said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matt. 13:16; 5:6). With a little practice on the above, and this kind of incentive, you may not notice the preacher ran overtime.

- by Robert F. Turner


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