Friday, December 23, 2011

Christ Is Knocking at the Door

In Revelation 3:20 it says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." This door represents our heart. Christ can’t enter in unless we open it for Him. He will not force an entrance – we must let Him in. Jesus told of people that were dull of hearing and that would not let Him in. "For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them" (Matthew 13:15). Many things help close the door against Christ. If we allow these things to continue the door will eventually be swollen and become harder and harder to open. Ignorance is no excuse because Hosea wrote, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6). It is imperative that we read our Bible and learn of Christ and then make proper application in our own lives. Some people love the things of the world more than they love Christ (1 John 2:15), and make absolutely no plans for their future end. "Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, That they would consider their latter end" (Deuteronomy 32:29)! Jesus Christ is always ready to save. He stands at the door and He continually knocks — we must let Him in. When He departs, it will be too late. Let’s ensure that we are living for Christ each and every day so that Christ will not say to us, "I do not know you, where you are from" (Luke13:25).

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Tool Conference

The following story entitled “A Tool Conference” was written many years ago by Robert R. Hines. The Carpenter’s tools had a conference. Brother Hammer was in the chair. The meeting had informed him that he must leave, because he was too noisy. But he said, “If I am to leave this carpenter shop, then brother Gimlet must go too! He is so insignificant that he makes very little impression. Little brother Gimlet arose and said, “All right, but brother Screw must go also, you have to turn him around and around before you get him anywhere.” Brother Screw then said, “If you wish I will go but brother Plane must leave as well. All his work is on the surface, there is no depth to it.” To this brother Plane said, “Well, brother Rule will have to withdraw if I do for he is always measuring other folks as though he is the only one that is right.” Brother Rule complained about old brother Sandpaper and said, “I don’t care, he is much rougher than he ought to be, and he is always rubbing people the wrong way.” In the midst of the discussion the carpenter came in to begin the days work. He put on his apron and went to the bench to make a pulpit. He used the screw, the gimlet, the sandpaper, the hammer, the plane, and all the other tools. After the days work was over and the pulpit was finished, brother Saw arose slowly and thoughtfully said, “I’ve been thinking as I watched the carpenter working and I have decided that we are all laborers together. There was not an accusation made against any of us that was not true, but the carpenter used every one of us, and there was not a place where he used any one of us where any other would have done at all.

This little parable should remind us of what the Apostle Paul penned in 1 Corinthians 12, along with our own gifts as a congregation of God’s people. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-20). We need to make sure that we are not wasting time looking down on others because we each have a work to do. The Lord can even use us in our own shortcomings. However, the Lord does expect each one of us to do the work that He has given us the ability to do.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Purpose of the Law

"What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Galatians 3:19-25). We can see in this text that the law was simply a tutor to bring us to Christ and that we are now justified by faith. The word "justified" means that we are free from sin or guilt. It is through faith then that we are sons of God (Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:26-27). True faith is demonstrated by our obedience to God’s Word. Notice if you will what is stated in the book of James: "But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:18-24). The Word of God further says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). We must be determined to put our faith in God, being obedient to Jesus each and every day that we live. Study daily in order to gain faith in Him, and then put your faith to work each day by living for Him in all that you say and do.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Parable of the Talents

In the book of Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14-24 we can read the parable of the talents. In this parable one individual received five talents, another two and another one. Some may question whether the distribution of the talents given these individuals was just since there was unequal distribution. In this parable, verse 15 says “to every man according to his ability.” This was an exhibition of divine economy. Each man received all that he was competent to use. In other words, they only received what they could handle.
       How did the servants use the talents that were given them? We read where the one that had five gained five more. The one that had two gained two more and the one that had one buried it and gained nothing more. When the man returned  to find how his servants used their talents we read where the five and two talent men were blessed because they put their talents to use and gained more. But the man who buried his only talent was cursed.
       What lessons can we learn from this parable? First of all the Lord fully expects every man to act in His service according to his ability. God never expects us to do more than we can do, but He certainly expects us to do the best we can with what we have. Secondly, limited talent is no excuse for not doing the Lord’s service. Each of us has some talent and that talent should be used for the Lord. Finally, we will be rewarded according to our faithfulness and not according to the results. God expects Christians to plant the seed and do the watering. When we do that, then we give God the opportunity to increase.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Testing Your Faith

In James 1:1-12 we read how if we persevere under trials and tribulations that we will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those that love Him. In Hebrews we read that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Yes, it takes a special person, one that really believes in God to be faithful under all circumstances of life. James tells us in verse 2 to "consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials". Why joy? Because when our faith is tested it produces endurance. If we overcome today’s trial, then tomorrow's trial will be easier to overcome and our faith will get stronger day by day!

We read also that if we are lacking wisdom then we should ask God for it because "God gives to all men generously and without reproach" (verse 5). But, we must ask in total faith without wavering because if we waiver or doubt that God will give us what we ask for then He will not. "For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (verse 7-8). We are also told that the "brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position; and let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away" (verse 9-10). The humble will be blessed and the rich will fade away, he and his beauty! Our faith is tested each and every day and the one that perseveres under these tests or trials will receive the crown of life promised by God.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paul's Defense and Jesus' Promise to Us

In Acts 26:18, we find the Apostle Paul before Agrippa, defending his faith. He explains to Agrippa what happened to him on his journey to Damascus. He then explains the words of Jesus and that he is to tell others about Jesus so that others can be saved through Him. “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18).

We too can have life if we live up to what Jesus told Paul. We must first turn from darkness (sin) to the light (walking with God). “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). We must then set our sights on having our domain with God and not with Satan. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, {even} to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Through our obedience to the Word of God we will be moved to turn around so that our sins can be forgiven. Only those who determine to follow God, not Satan, can have forgiveness of sins. “and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). The Apostle Peter wrote, “....repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Once we have been forgiven of our sins and continue to follow God, then we will receive an inheritance! “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build {you} up and to give {you} the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). That inheritance is everlasting life with God our Father to those who are sanctified (which is set apart from sin and drawn near to Jesus)! Paul understood that for someone to do those things, they would have to have faith in Jesus. We will not put aside the world and draw near to Christ unless we have a true faith in Him. “But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). Thomas would not believe in Jesus until he felt the scars of His wounds and realized that he really was looking at Jesus! We must believe in Jesus with a true faith - even though we have not personally seen Him. “Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed {are} they who did not see, and {yet} believed. Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:29-31). Are we really defending Jesus to others as Paul did in his day? If so, we can proudly praise God.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I'm Just One

Have you ever thought to yourself that “I’m just one?” You may have thought things like, “I don’t have great talents. There are so many others. Someone else can do better than me. My work, my efforts, my contributions aren’t that significant.” Have you imagined that no one will notice if you aren’t there and don’t get involved? If so, maybe it would help to spend time remembering some familiar Bible stories. Consider the importance of one person (or just a few persons) when:

Noah saved the human race from total annilation in the global flood.
Joseph overcame being sold as a slave, rose to high office in Egypt, and ultimately helped his entire family in the midst of a terrible famine.
Moses stood up to Pharaoh and delivered the children of Israel from bondage.
Joshua (and Caleb) brought back a good report on the promised land.
Gideon (and his 300 men) won a battle against a huge army.
David defeated Goliath, and in the process encouraged the army of Israel to a major victory over the Philistines.
Elijah withstood the 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.
The prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.) steadfastly proclaimed God’s word even though they were opposed and persecuted.
Queen Esther saved the Jews from Haman’s plot to have them all killed.
Nehemiah single-handedly motivated and led the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
And the ultimate example: Jesus, who suffered and died alone so that you and I could be forgiven of our sins and have the hope of heaven in eternity.

The next time you think, “I’m just one. My work doesn’t matter,” remember that the history of God’s people is the history of a faithful few who did what they could to serve Him! I want to encourage all of us to get busy in the Lord’s kingdom. “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” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Real Test

It is always easier to walk with the crowd, to agree when everyone else is agreeing, to go with the flow. However, it is how we stand when we have to stand in opposition that is often the real test of our faith in God. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). To be a true Christian means to oppose evil. To stand with Christ often means to stand against people and ideas that are set against Him. While a Christian is to be patient and loving, he or she is not to be passive. A Christian is a soldier in a war. Christ displayed such a character. While He was meek and gentle, He could also be aggressive and bold: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3); “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do” (Mark 7:8); “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). It was not that Jesus was trying to be offensive, but in standing for what was right it was necessary for Him to oppose certain beliefs, teachings, and even people. It was necessary to tell people what they needed to hear rather than what they wanted to hear.
          Some religious people who claim to follow Christ are not willing to oppose anything or anybody. They believe the way of Christ dictates a totally positive approach where one never challenges any belief or practice, even if it is in clear opposition to the way of Christ. How much do you believe in God? How much do you trust the Bible as God’s Word? How convinced are you that Jesus is God’s Son? How committed are you to the Bible’s standard of righteousness? If you are truly faithful to God and firm in your devotion to His will, then you must stand against whatever opposes these things.
          It is easy to speak up for Christ when others are doing the same. The real test, though, comes when we must speak for Him when others are speaking against Him or His Word. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). May we always stand up for Jesus, after all, He stayed the course and stood for us!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Doing It "My Way"

When it comes to things religious, it seems like many people today have the attitude of "I'm going to do it my way." This attitude is not new. This was the very attitude that separated the Israelites from their heavenly Father. "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12). "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). Based on these passages of scripture, we can see that if we take the attitude of "I'm going to do it my way," it will ultimately result in spiritual death. There are two ways in which this can happen: 1) Out of ignorance. We can decide to remain ignorant by not studying the scriptures so that we can "do it my way." But God will not accept our ignorance. "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). 2) Out of rebellion. We can know what the will of God is and simply rebel by saying "I'm going to do it my way anyhow." We rebel against God when we knowingly violate His inspired Word by the way we worship (instrumental music, Lord's Supper once a month, etc.), in our recreation (gambling, drinking, practicing worldly things), in our speech, in our dress, and whatever else we may do that violates the teaching of God. God will not accept our rebellion; we must do it His way: "not my will, by Yours be done." Our creator and righteous God also said, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17), and "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). May we all strive to ensure that we are practicing the things of God with a submissive attitude that says, "I'll do it God's way!"  

Monday, October 10, 2011

What Way is the Right Way Religiously?

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). I have found that most religious people know this passage of scripture. In fact, most think that they are following it. Most will claim that they are going through Jesus to the Father. However, while most claim that they know and are following John 14:6, many people must not know this one. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Have you ever thought about how one can preach another gospel? All one has to do is teach something that Jesus did not teach. So, while most religious people believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, they fail to teach His doctrine, all of His doctrine to others. The apostle Paul wrote, “And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). If we really understand this verse, it means that we will do EVERYTHING that God has told us to do through Jesus Christ. It means God’s Word is supreme. It means we must do as God says because that is what His way is. God is after our heart. It is up to us to make sure that we give it to Him unconditionally! Do we really love Jesus? If so, then we will keep His commandments – all of His commandments (John 14:15).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Be Not Conformed to This World

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). This instruction given to the saints at Rome is sorely needed by Christians today. We live in a world in which subjects us to various pressures, calling upon us to “conform.” Just because “everyone else” dresses immodestly, uses vulgar language, is involved in the mad pursuit of material things, is intent on the things of this life that are pleasurable, etc. etc., Christians are under heavy temptation to do likewise. The word “transformed” is the Greek word “metamorphose” which means “to change into another form, transfigure, transform.” The metamorphoses is often illustrated in high school biology by the changing of a green worm into a butterfly. As Christ was transformed into a divine radiance, Christians are to be transformed into the image of Him who created him. “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:8-11). It is a transformation from within, which exemplifies itself from without.

No matter how popular and widespread sin and ungodliness may be, it doesn’t excuse it or make it more acceptable (Exodus 23:2). “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). Thus, Christians are called upon to deny ungodliness and worldly lust and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. This we must do, regardless of what those about us do. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

The life of the Christian is to be different – a pure, clean, wholesome kind of difference that others may see. It’s sad, indeed, when our conduct can’t be distinguished from that of the worldly people around us. Are we careful to conduct ourselves correctly in all of our relationships in this life? Do we strive to keep our lives clean and pure? Let us not be conformed to this world, but be transformed into the very image of almighty God (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Good Speech

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Good speech might be defined as the expression of thought in well chosen words. People are judged by the words they speak and what they do. These are the two things we have by which to know the mind or heart of others. Jesus said, “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). The importance of good speech was also emphasized by the apostle Paul: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). Solomon also let us know the importance of choosing our words carefully: “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20). We will give an account for the words we speak in the day of judgment and that is why it is so important that we think before we speak. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37). We all need to make sure we are careful with the words we speak, knowing that God hears us and that we will have to give an account of our words one day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Being Real

An antique dealer thought that the wrinkled old baseball card that she found might be worth $10.00. After posting it on eBay, she began to wonder if it might be more valuable than she had thought. She removed the posting and consulted a professional evaluator who confirmed that the photo on the 1869 card showed the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team in the U.S. The card sold for more than $75,000.00. Even though the card was creased and discolored, the most important thing was its authenticity – it was real!

Paul and his companions suffered greatly while spreading the gospel of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 6 he listed their outward trials, their inward traits, and their spiritual resources. “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Corinthians 6:4-7). Try to imagine if you will the circumstances in which all these things interacted: beatings, patience, prison, kindness, distress, love. Although broken physically, depleted emotionally, and tested spiritually, the authenticity of their faith in Christ clearly showed through! “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

The point is this – in our walk with Christ, there is absolutely no substitute for spiritual authenticity – being real! It is not enough for us to simply say, “I am a Christian.” We must prove it to ourselves, others, and most importantly to our loving Father by our actions throughout the day. Our spirituality and progress should certainly be evident to all and it will be when we take it seriously. When we do, then it will be real!

O to be like Thee!
O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in they fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Don't Be a Poor Example

A woman in Oregon was caught driving 103 miles per hour with her 10 year old grandson in the car. When she was stopped by the police, she told them that she was only trying to teach him never to drive that fast. I suppose she wanted him to do as she said, not as she did. The Pharisees and teachers of the law seemed to have a similar problem. Jesus had a scathing assessment of them: They were spiritually bankrupt. He held these to groups directly responsible for this sad spiritual condition. As the successors of the lawgiver Moses, they were responsible for expounding the law so that people would walk in God’s ways and have a genuine and vibrant relationship with the Lord. "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). Their personal interpretation and application of the law became more important than God’s law. They did not practice what they preached! What they did observe was done not to bring glory to God but to honor themselves. Jesus exposed who they were – image managers, posers, and hypocrites.

The test of the effectiveness of following Jesus is not just in what we say but in how we live. Are we telling others God’s Word and doing what it says? We must model our lives by words and actions as we diligently follow Him.

Christians, remember you bear His dear name,
Your lives are for others to view;
You are living examples – men praise you or blame,
And measure your Savior by you.
— Anonymous

“Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3)
--- Our Daily Bread, Marvin Williams

Monday, September 12, 2011

Return to the Lord

"O Israel, return to the Lord your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity; Take words with you, And return to the Lord. Say to Him, "Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips" (Hosea 14:1-2).

Robert Robinson had been converted out of a very worldly life of sin, and at the age of twenty-three wrote the hymn, “O Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Sadly, Robinson wandered far from the faith and, like the Prodigal Son, journeyed into the distant country of carnality. Until one day – when he was traveling by stagecoach and sitting beside a young woman engrossed in her book. She ran across a verse she thought was beautiful and asked him what he thought of it. Bursting into tears, Robinson said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” (Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories, p. 52)

The story is told of a lamb that passed a pig pen each day on the way with its mother to the pasture. Watching the pigs wallow in the mud seemed like fun, and on an especially hot day the lamb asked his mother if he could jump the fence and wallow in the cool mud. She replied, “No.” The lamb then asked the usual question, “Why?” The mother just said, “Sheep don’t wallow.” This didn’t satisfy the lamb. He felt that she had “put him down.” So, as soon as his mother was out of sight, he ran to the pig pen and jumped the fence. He was soon feeling the cool mud on his feet, legs, and stomach, as he wallowed deeper and deeper in the mud. After awhile, he decided he had better go back to his mother, but found that he couldn’t move. He was stuck from the weight of the mud which had gotten into his wool. His pleasure had now become his prison, He cried out and was rescued by the kind shepherd. When cleaned and returned to the fold, the mother told him, “Remember, sheep don’t wallow.”

Sin is like that. It looks so nice, and we think we can escape whenever we wish, but it just isn’t so. Our pleasures soon become our prisons. We must remember, “Christians don’t wallow.” The apostle Peter wrote, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Importance of Knowledge

Knowledge is a very important aspect of life itself. Knowledge of life makes it easier to make the right choices. Knowledge of our jobs will allow us to progress. Knowledge of the Word of God will help us gain eternity with Him. As we live day by day we are ever learning and gaining more knowledge. In the religious realm, if we reject knowledge then we too will be rejected. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6). Those who do not retain God in their knowledge will be rejected and will pursue worldly things. The apostle Paul wrote, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:28-32). Knowledge must be gained, applied, and passed on. Jesus said, "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered" (Luke 11:52). It is so very important that we increase in the knowledge of God and be able to translate that knowledge into the wisdom we need to please Him. "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:9-10). Keep studying God’s Word on a daily basis because knowledge is vitally important!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Making Repairs in Our Life

There have been some men who have tried to fix something and just couldn’t quite get it to work. They could not get the item fixed right. If you happen to be one of those men, then you will probably appreciate this sticker that I recently saw on the side of a company truck specializing in home repair:

“We will fix what your husband fixed.”

Whether the problem is the plumbing, electrical, flooring, or bathrooms, it’s usually better off in the hands of someone who is skilled and trustworthy in those areas. That’s the way it is with sin – and the struggles within us that resist our efforts to mend it. Jeremiah denounced the greedy prophets and priests of his day who “healed the hurt of God’s people slightly, saying Peace, Peace!” (Jeremiah 6:14). They did not change themselves nor lead the people to spiritual transformation. So the Lord called the people to follow His way: “Thus says the Lord: "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Centuries later, Jesus, the Son of God said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The parts of our lives that we have tried and failed to repair can be restored by the hand of God. Through faith in Christ, we can be made whole!

Life’s fractures can be mended
By faith in Christ the Lord
At first the pain but then the gain
And usefulness restored.
— Hess

Monday, September 5, 2011

Aiming For the Mark

Our children have recently began taking archery lessons. The first lesson was acquainting them with all the various parts of the Bow, and the various aspects of the Arrow. The second lesson taught them the proper way to hold the Bow, loading the Arrow, and aiming and shooting at the Mark (the target). As I watched this slow but steady progression, it reminded me of how we begin our lessons of life of being a Christian. After learning of Jesus and obeying Him in baptism, we begin our daily walk. As with archery, we will only improve our walk with practice. The more we study and apply all of God’s principles and commands in our life, we will hit the Mark (which is heaven). The Apostle Paul wrote, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12-14). In addition, our prayer life should also be directed toward God with the right aim. "My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up" (Psalms 5:3).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Motivation to Live Righteously

The inspired Word of God says “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). The “grace” in this text would represent our Savior Jesus Christ. He did something for us that needed to be done, that nobody else could do for himself. We needed to have our sins atoned for but we were unable to do that ourselves and so it was Jesus who appeared to all men to put away sin by His great and precious sacrifice (Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 9:26). Since Jesus did this for us, something that we could never do for ourselves, He teaches us that there are now things that we must do in order to live with Him forever in eternity.

We should now be motivated to deny ungodliness and worldly lust. That is, we are not to be involved in ungodly deeds and works of ungodliness. Ungodliness results when individuals have a heart of irreverence and a lack of love and appreciation of Jesus. The inspired apostle Peter wrote, “Now "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18). The difference between an ungodly person and a sinner is that the ungodly is irreverent, without any regard for God or not having respect for things that are divine. The sinner (in this text) is one who is conscientiously wrong, sincerely in error, or honestly mistaken. Worldly lust can overcome Christians from time to time and because we know this is possible we should be aware of it. Worldly lust is to have inordinate desires for those things of the world that are forbidden to Christians (1 John 2:15-17). Be careful, because if we are not careful we can soon be caught up with the pleasures of life that those of the world are caught up in on a daily basis.

Out of true respect and admiration of our Lord and what He willingly did for us, paying the ultimate price, we must be moved to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this world. Christians have a responsibility to shoulder responsibilities and execute them according to what the grace of God teaches. To live righteously is to focus our attention upon the manner of our life. This will include things such as our thoughts, words, and deeds. The Christian strives to do all things which are right and pleasing to God because we know that we are His chosen generation, a holy priesthood, looking forward to a life of living with our Lord forever! Godliness is the very fountain from which all of man’s outward activities flow. We are told to “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us (John 3:16). In return, out of a deep abiding love for Him because of His great love for us (1 John 4:19), we are now determined to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12b-13).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Joy of Being a Christian

Our delight, day in and day out, should be in the ways of the Lord. Christians should definitely have peace of mind and be the happiest of all people who inhabit the earth. When we rise up in the morning until we lay our head down to sleep at night we should be mindful that it is the Lord God of heaven that we diligently serve. It should be our desire to want to love and be obedient to all of God’s teachings. It is our desire to want to read from the holy pages of His inspired word every single day. We look forward to starting each day in communication through prayer to our almighty God. The Christian life is a life of joy as we continue to develop a Christ-like character with each passing day! The Psalmist wrote, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3). Christians love God and appreciate His law. We enjoy meditating on His word because it is so refreshing to us. Christians are thankful that we are saved through the blood of Christ, having been obedient to God’s plan of salvation, so that we can live forever with Jesus when our life on this earth is over. Being a Christian is truly a delight and that is why we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30)!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Danger of Social Networks: Improper Encouragement of Relationships

Social networks may result in improper encouragement of relationships. According to researchers, Facebook, which connects old friends, and allows users to make new ones, is being blamed for an increasing number of broken marriages. Online flirtation tempts people to cheat on their partners. Additionally, other problems may arise, such as having “friends” who have been disfellowshipped, or are otherwise out of duty. Affairs may occur when one goes too near the door of another person with whom they have no rights of intimacy. “Therefore hear me now, my children, And do not depart from the words of my mouth. Remove your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house, Lest you give your honor to others, And your years to the cruel one; Lest aliens be filled with your wealth, And your labors go to the house of a foreigner; And you mourn at last, When your flesh and your body are consumed, And say: "How I have hated instruction, And my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me! I was on the verge of total ruin, In the midst of the assembly and congregation” (Proverbs 5:7-14).  One can be captivated by another in a variety of ways. “To keep you from the evil woman, From the flattering tongue of a seductress. Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids. For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned?  Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:24-29). We must also recognize the dangers of sinful entanglements. “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Evil companions inevitably corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).

Communication technologies enrich our lives in many ways, making the world smaller, providing opportunities for teaching, keeping us in touch with those whom we love, etc. However, these tools can also become a stumbling-block, involving slothfulness and sinful speech, immodesty and immorality, improper associations and evil entanglements. Regardless of your age, gender, or position in life, be an example. “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things--that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:1-8). Let your light shine! “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dangers of Social Networks: Improper Exhibition of the Body

Social networks may result in the improper exhibition of the body. Modest and proper decorum are lost virtues in today’s decadent society. Christians sometimes exercise poor judgment in the pictures they post to their websites, Facebook pages, photo-galleries, etc. Immodesty is part of a broader problem of sexual immorality, reflecting either naivete or knowing rebellion. “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:11-14). The deeds of the flesh include sexual immorality [sinful actions], impurity [sinful thoughts], sensuality [sinful indulgence in things that produce lusts]. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). Let us resolve to not put stumbling-blocks before one another, especially in this area (Revelation 2:14). Let us recognize the Biblical prohibition against all forms of nakedness, i.e., the improper public exposure of the thighs, buttocks, midriff, and chest/breasts. “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

Part 5: "Improper Encouragement of Relationships" (Next Posting)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dangers of Social Networks: Improper Expressions of Speech

Social networks may result in improper expressions of speech. Online communication is often crude and vulgar, harmful and hurtful. The impersonal nature of the medium removes inhibitions that would otherwise restrain uncivil speech. We must not take God’s name in vain, either directly or through the use of acronyms, such as “OMG!” Exodus 20:7 says, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”  Sinful men engage in sinful speech. “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness" (Romans 3:13-14). All forms of corrupt communication must be put aside. “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:8-10). Christian speech must be gracious and appropriate to the needs of the hearers; “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:5-6).

Part 4: "Improper Exhibition of the Body" (Next Posting)

Dangers of Social Networks: Improper Expenditure of Time

Social networks may result in an improper expenditure of time. Surfing the internet in general, and the use of social networks in particular, can become addictive. Avoiding sloth and slumber, we should consider the ant as an example of industrious and timely activity. “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler, Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep--So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11). Solomon exhorts, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). Accordingly, let us redeem the time, making the most of opportunities, recognizing that the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Part 3: "Improper Expression of Speech" (Next Posting)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dangers of Social Networks: Introduction

Recently, Mark Mayberry, a gospel preacher in Alvin, Texas wrote a sermon entitled “Dangers of Social Networks.” As a Christian and fellow preacher, I am very pleased with what he wrote concerning the various aspects of the social networks. Many of the things that he addresses, I too have written articles and preached on within the past year. I am going to use his material, word for word, along with the corresponding Bible passages in a series of posts beginning with this one. There will be a total of 5 postings to include today’s introduction. The next four posts will deal with improper expenditure of time, improper expression of speech, improper exhibition of the body, and improper encouragement of relationships.

Dangers of Social Networks: Introduction
            Through the widespread use of computers and smart-phones, we are able to communicate more easily today than ever before. Many Christians keep in touch with friends and family using Pleonast or Facebook. Others correspond via email, Twitter, IM (instant messaging) or SMS (text messaging). Some prefer to pick up the phone. A few of us still value face-to-face conversations.
            In recent years, social networks have exploded in popularity. With more than 500 million active users, Facebook is the most popular social networking site in the world. 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day. The average user has 130 friends. Collectively, people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.
            Social networks have obvious benefits, keeping us in touch with friends, family, and fellow Christians. Technology can diminish the distance that sometimes separates us. However, we should also be mindful of certain dangers that come from the use of modern social networks.

Part 2: “Improper Expenditure of Time” (Next Posting)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Motivates What You Do?

Our character makeup, the things we do, what we say, where we go, what we wear, is all motivated by what is important to us. Christians are to be motivated by Christ and a sincere love for Him. When that is the case then we will truly live our lives for Him on a daily basis. A Christian that is unfaithful and engaged in the works of the flesh is not motivated to live for Christ. Jesus said: "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). We are either living fully and completely for the one who loved us and died for us or we are not. It cannot be both ways. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). I am uplifted when I see Christians living their lives for Christ because of their love for Him. On the other hand, I am very discouraged when Christians get involved with worldly things and acting like those of the world. We are in the world but we certainly are not to be of the world. We are to be separate, holy, and transformed as we live a life devoted to Christ our Lord (2 Corinthians 6:17; 1 Peter 1:15-16; Romans 12:1-2). I want to encourage every Christian to live in such a way that others can see that it is evident that we are living for Christ and not the ways of the world. (1 Timothy 4:15).

Friday, May 20, 2011

The All-Sufficient Savior

Jesus Christ is for all men, because He is the only and all-sufficient Savior. By His death He made propitiation for the sins of the whole world. “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). In Christ God reconciled the world unto Himself. “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Jesus Christ is the only Savior (Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5).
          Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient Savior. His name is “Jesus” (Jehovah Savior) (Matthew 1:21), and in His death He met and satisfied every demand of the Law and every claim of Divine holiness, so that God can be just and at the same time justify the guilty sinner who believes on Jesus Christ. “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26). Jesus Christ perfectly accomplished redemption when He died on the cross (John 19:30), and He is a perfect and all-sufficient Savior.
          Our Lord and Savior was perfect and He loved us so much that He was willing to suffer and die on the cross so that we can have forgiveness of sins through obedience to His Word. Each one of us should have a passionate desire to live for our Savior each and every day. We should be determined to follow in His steps. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). May we all strive to abide fully and completely in Christ because we realize that He truly is our perfect and all-sufficient Savior!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Our Influence for Jesus

Have you ever stopped to think about how you influence others? Well, it is a fact that no matter what we do, we definitely have an influence on others. For the Christian it is vitally important that our influence reflects Jesus living in us. There are two areas in our life that show others very quickly whether or not we are having a positive influence for Jesus and that is the way we dress and the things we say. Christians will make sure that we always dress appropriately and speak in a way in which God will be pleased with. The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian brethren, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). Jesus said, “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). The only way that we can have a godly influence on others is to make sure that we are trying to please our Father. I am so encouraged when I see Christians behaving like Christians and not like others in the world. Anyone can be worldly but a Christian has learned and understands that we have been bought with a price and that we are here to live for God and do His will. Our eternal destiny depends on what kind of influence that we are trying to have on others every day. Let’s make sure that our influence is centered on Jesus and not those of the world (Colossians 3:1-2). 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Make an Impact for Christ

Over the years my life has been impacted in a positive way by teenagers. I’ve learned that teens are never too young to make a positive impact for Jesus. The teens that have made the biggest impact FOR Christ are those who match the characteristics that the apostle Paul told Timothy about in 1 Timothy 4:12. “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Notice if you will, that Timothy was to be an example in several areas of his life. Young people who make a difference for Christ will control what they say because they will strive to honor God by the very words they utter. Godly teens are those who strive to conduct their lives in such a way that others can see Christ living in and through them. I have been touched by those who genuinely show their love of God because they take to heart the words of Jesus in Mark 12:30. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...” When I am around teenagers who strive to be morally pure and sound doctrinally, tears of joy come to my eyes! The words that the apostle Paul said to Timothy are not just for the youth of today. Everyone of us should put these words to use in our everyday life. When we do, then we will make an impact for Christ in the lives of others.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Are You Raised WITH Christ?

Most every Christian will say that when they were baptized into Christ, then they were “raised with Christ.” It is true that we are “raised with Christ” when we come out of the watery grave of baptism, having our sins washed away. However it is so sad that far too many do not live like they have been “raised WITH Christ.” Actions do speak much louder than words. The apostle Paul wrote, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them” (Colossians 3:1-7).  Christians who have truly been “raised WITH Christ” will demonstrate that fact in their day to day life knowing that they have died to sin, putting to death the carnal things of life. One who now walks with Christ is one who sets their mind on heavenly things and not earthly things. What a great sense of encouragement it would be to all Christians IF all Christians understood the importance of what it really means to be “raised WITH Christ.” All Christians need to “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.....” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Life on earth is very short, eternity is forever. Let’s make sure that we are living WITH Christ and FOR Christ each and every day. Our eternity with Christ depends on it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Obedience to God is a Must!

We often talk about the fact that we must obey God and for the most part every Christian will quickly agree that this is a fact. Unfortunately there are many Christians who are not obeying God in all aspects of their life. We cannot say that obedience to God is necessary and then not try to obey God. Jesus clearly stated that we cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). The disciples were willing to be severely persecuted, even put to death, for the honor and privilege to be able to proclaim God’s Holy and inspired word so that others may be saved (Acts 5:29).
          Why is it so important that we obey all the teachings of God? Because Jesus clearly tells us that He will only save those who obey Him. The Hebrew writer says, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus will judge us by His word. He said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). We must take this very seriously. If we go through life here on earth understanding that Jesus will judge us according to what we have done, then we must DO His will and not just talk about it. We will only be able to reap the benefits of eternal life with our Lord when we are truly faithful to Him as we live here on earth (Revelation 2:10). I want to encourage all of us to please think about what we are doing. Does God really see us living in such a way that we are 100% committed in our life and service to Him. Remember, Jesus will judge us and His judgment is fair.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Common Sense Filtering

The television and movie industry continues to thrive because people watch their programs and movies. Most all of the television programs and movies are filled with inappropriate language and content. We as Christians need to be aware of this and not watch any programs or movies that consist of these things. There are some mechanical devices on the market today that filters out bad language and inappropriate scenes. One device that filters bad language, to include euphemisms is the TV Guardian. This was very popular several years ago (we have had one since 1993), but then they stopped making it. In fact for quite sometime you could purchase the TV Guardian for the television and also some DVD and VHS players that had the filter built in. Unfortunately the TV Guardian quit making the device for a number of years. Recently, however, a new TV Guardian has been developed and can now be purchased that has the new HDMI connections for your TV and DVD players. This new TV Guardian will filter out all inappropriate language and euphemisms. Another very good device known as “ClearPlay,” not only filters out bad language, it also deletes inappropriate scenes. Movies can be downloaded from their web site onto a flash drive and then is inserted into the ClearPlay player. Any DVD movie that you play on the ClearPlay player that has the filters from that movie inserted into the player will then filter all inappropriate language and scenes.
          Both of these devices can help Christians ensure that only suitable material is absorbed into our minds. Christians must make sure that we are only watching and listening to things that would be approved of by God. In the absence of these filtering systems, we must be very, very selective as to what we watch on television and DVD players. In addition, it should also be pointed out that there are no filtering devices whatsoever available at the movie theatres. Any movie with bad language and inappropriate scenes will be shown on the big screen! Christians cannot go to the theatres and watch these shows and be pleasing to God. If we have a filtering device in our home, then we will just have to wait until it comes out on DVD if we feel we have a need to watch it at all. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Saves Us?

It is very interesting to note that the Bible mentions several things that man is saved by. We are saved by baptism, but that is not the only thing that saves us. Baptism is a piece to the overall puzzle of those things which God says saves us. The Bible teaches that man is saved by:

hope (Romans 8:24
grace (Ephesians 2:8)
faith (Acts 16:31)
mercy (Titus 3:5)
words Acts 11:14)
baptism (1 Peter 3:21)
the word (James 1:21)
the truth (John 8:32)
hearing (John 5:24)
obedience (Hebrews 5:9)
the gospel (Romans 1:16-17)
knowledge (1 Timothy 2:4)
belief and baptism (Mark 16:16)
repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38)
calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13)
the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5)
being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5)
faithfulness (Revelation 2:10
God (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:21)
the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)
the blood of Jesus (Matthew 26:28)

Jesus stated very plainly “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). All of the things above “saves us.” Are we ready to accept what Jesus said and do the will of the Father? Our eternity (heaven or hell) will be determined by Christ (John 12:48). It is important that we make the right choice and listen to and then obey the words of God!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Baptism: Sprinkling or Immersion?

In many denominations today individuals are being “sprinkled” instead of being”immersed.” Those “sprinkled” are said to have been baptized. The word baptize is the Greek word “baptizo” which means to dip or plunge. One is not “dipped” or “plunged” into the water when one is sprinkled. We learn from the New Testament that John was baptizing in Aenon near Salim because “there was much water there” (John 3:23). There needed to be “much water” because one is not scripturally baptized until one is plunged beneath the water (immersed). Baptism by immersion represents the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5). The following facts are true concerning “sprinkling.”

Sprinkling – has no suggestion of your buried past (Romans 6:5)
Sprinkling – has no New Testament command to obey (Acts 10:48)
Sprinkling – has no divine example to follow (Mark 1:9-10)
Sprinkling – has no promise of remission of sins ( Acts 2:38)
Sprinkling – has no assurance of hope for the future (Romans 6:3-4)
Sprinkling – has no divine origin for existence (Colossians 2:12)

Furthermore, sprinkling has only the creed and tradition of man for its authority. When an infant is sprinkled, he or she is sprinkled WITHOUT desire, WITHOUT faith, WITHOUT repentance, WITHOUT confession, WITHOUT love, WITHOUT expectation, WITHOUT consent, WITHOUT an inspired example, and WITHOUT divine authority. To sprinkle water on an infant is presumption by the preacher, force by the parents, disliked by the infant, and disobedient on the part of all those who had a part in the forced dedication.

When we consult God’s Word, the Bible, we can find that baptism was ALWAYS accomplished when one was immersed into the watery grave, not sprinkled. When one is laid to rest in an open grave, sprinkling dirt on top of the casket and calling it a burial does not make it so. When one is sprinkled with water and calling it a burial does not make that so. It is only when we believe and obey God’s teaching on this or any subject can we be in the right fellowship with Him. We MUST do His will and not the will of man (Matthew 7:21; John 12:48).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Every Christian's Personal Responsibility

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are responsible for our actions. As Christians we must first understand that we are accountable to God. In Romans 14:12 it says, “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” Since we know that we are accountable to God we then must realize what the areas are in our life where we must take personal responsibility. Let’s examine a few of these:

For what we say: “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
For what we do: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). 
For what we own: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
For what we think: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
For what we know to do: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

Sincere, devoted, and loyal Christians understand that we will give an account of ourselves to almighty God one day. Therefore, we should strive to examine ourselves daily to ensure that we are making the right choices, knowing that is our personal responsibility.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Talk to God Daily

An active prayer life is something that every Christian should have. The Hebrew writer wrote, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Prayer is an effort on our part to reach and commune with our God in heaven. When we read the Bible we are letting God speak to us. When we pray to God we are speaking to Him. When we engage ourselves in an active prayer life we become closer to God. Our families will have a stronger, deeper relationship with one another when we communicate effectively with one another. As parents, we need to talk to our children and our children need to talk to us on a regular basis. That is the way it needs to be between every Christian and our Father in heaven. The more we communicate with Him, then the closer we will be with Him. We have so many things in our life to be thankful for and we need to express our thankfulness to our Father. He needs to hear it from us just like we need to hear words of thankfulness from our own children. Besides letting God know how thankful we are for all the blessings that He has given us, we should also pray for guidance. We have an example of the apostles seeking guidance from God when they were ready to select the apostle to replace Judas. The text says, “And they prayed and said, "You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen” (Acts 1:24). We too should petition God in prayer to help us make good decisions in our day to day life. One of the best ways that we can get closer to God while increasing our faith is to talk to Him often.    

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tragedy Should Make us Think!

Every time there is a natural disaster, such has just taken place in Japan, we are instantly reminded about how quickly things can happen in our lives when we least expect it. As I look at the complete and total destruction of property in those pictures of Japan, I think about the many years it took for people, working together, to build those cities, factories, etc. and in just a moment in time, it was all destroyed. On Thursday, everyone was going about their daily lives, enjoying life and family. The next day, they are homeless, hurt, and hungry. Many of their loved ones have been killed or are missing. I have seen pictures of people huddled together in blankets in a shelter area with no place to go; because there is no place left.

This tragedy causes me to think about the fact that we must be prepared for heaven and that this day may very well be the last day that we have to live on earth. Jesus, Paul, and James all emphasized the need for us to be ready for heaven. The apostle Paul wrote, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Christians can rejoice that we are not “in darkness” and that we strive to live our lives for Christ, being in fellowship with Him. Many Christians have spent their whole life studying and living faithfully, looking for the great reward of heaven. It is a terrible and sad thing when people value “things” of this world more than the treasures of heaven. The fact is, we are all going to die (unless Jesus comes first), and therefore we must be prepared for the day that we die, not allowing it to come upon us a thief in the night. The total devastation that we are seeing in Japan is nothing compared to the devastation that will result for the soul that is not “in Christ” on the day of our death (Galatians 3:26-27). Can it be said of us that we really are preparing and building our lives day by day, looking forward to being with Jesus?  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Make No Provision for the Flesh, to Fulfill Its Lusts"

Most of us probably have several Bible verses that have been among our favorites for many years. I can recall as a teenager one particular verse that helped me make good decisions in my life and service to Jesus. The verse for me was and continues to be Romans 13:14. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Once I put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27), this verse helped me tremendously in making the right choices as a young Christian. I was determined to remove myself from any situation that may cause me to succumb to sin. This verse should help every Christian in so many ways to do the same. If we don’t want to be a slave to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, etc., then we will not take that first drink, smoke that first cigarette, or begin using any illegal or dangerous drugs. We will not have to be concerned with fulfilling our lusts if we do not make any provision for those things in the first place. In the 12th verse of the 13th chapter of Romans Paul begins the verse by saying “Let us walk properly, as in the day….” When we are walking properly, in the footsteps of Christ, then we will strive to not let anything cause us to fulfill our lusts and cause us to sin. Peter wrote, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 1:21). What would Jesus do? That is THE question that should be in our head constantly. When we are determined to follow in His steps, allowing Him to be our priority in life, then we will have peace of mind and a good conscience toward God, knowing that we are truly doing His will (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). May we all let our light shine brightly for Christ, making no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Come Out From Among Them and Be Separate

The apostle Peter says that Christians are supposed to be separate from the world. “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct  because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:14-16). The apostle Paul said, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). God demands and expects His dear children to keep themselves unspotted from the world and to concentrate their efforts in living for Him (James 1:27). The way that we can accomplish this is to transform our mind from worldliness to godliness. Our transformation takes place when we read, study, and understand the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). Instead of getting involved with things of this world we should be teaching the truth and exposing error (2 Timothy 4:2-4; Ephesians 5:11). If we ever feel that we are suffering some kind of persecution in our life because of our Christianity, then we are doing something right. Paul wrote, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). If we don’t stand for something, then we will fall for anything. Take a stand for Christ; don’t let His death be in vain. We must stay focused on reaching our eternal goal of heaven!