Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Choosing Our Friends Wisely

How important it is to select the right friends. Solomon said: “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go” (Proverbs 22:24). In the very next verse he gives us the reason for such a command. He says: “Lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.” There have been many young men that has started down the road to drinking, adultery, hopelessness, drugs, and prison because he picked the wrong friends. Young lady, young man, select your companions on the basis, not of money or fame, but on the solid rock of character, religious convictions and moral judgments.

Money and fame are fleeting; but godliness and truth will last forever. Paul wrote to Titus: “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 2:12-13). A true friend will stand by us when money is gone. Witness the story of the prodigal son. When his money was gone, his friends were gone. These were some friends weren’t they? A true friend will be there and stick by us even in the very worst of circumstances. We must be sure to choose our friends wisely.

Did you ever think about what it takes to have friends? In order for one to have friends, one must make himself friendly. In Proverbs 18:24 the wise Solomon wrote: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Friendliness is a characteristic of Christianity. In adversity one must be helpful; in distress, we must be warm and consoling. Solomon said: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Indeed, if I am at all times helpful and useful to others, I can not only serve my God, but I can make friends at the same time. Also, when choosing our friends, we must make sure that they have our best interests at heart. As a Christian we want friends that will help us get to heaven and we also must strive to help them reach heaven.

Did you know that one of the most admired characteristics of friendship is loyalty. Let us look at two examples of this which show the opposites. First, Onesiphorus, a friend of the apostle Paul was loyal and devoted. Paul said of him: “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain” (2 Timothy 1:16). Here was a man that this beloved apostle knew that he could count on. Do you have friends like this that you just know that you can count on to be there for you when you really need them? But on the other hand, one of the most disappointing things in the life of Job must have been that his friends turned against him in time of need. They said he was evil because he was suffering so much. It was bad enough that Job was being tried with the loss of his family, friends and the terrible physical problems. But now his so-called friends turn against him. He said: “He has removed my brothers far from me, and my acquaintances are completely estranged from me. My relatives have failed, and my close friends have forgotten me. Those who dwell in my house, and my maidservants, count me as a stranger; I am an alien in their sight” (Job 19:13-15). Yet through all of this he still remained faithful to God. A friend is not one who deserts his brother in time of need. Jesus did not turn away from his friends but comforted and helped them in time of need. Would you do the same for your friends? Often, we say we will but when the situation arises where we must take a stand to show our loyalty will we really come through? I would hope that I would, and I would hope that those that I call my friend would do the same for me. If we are loyal to Jesus, calling Jesus our friend then we must show Him our love. How? By doing what Jesus asks of us. He said: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). It is very important to choose our friends wisely and then be there for them when needed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Don't Worry About It

Worry or anxiety is distracting care. It is natural, in a way, to be anxious but we should not worry to the point of distracting us from important things. One cannot live the fullest life if he always worries about all the little things and often things that one cannot do anything about. Paul said: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). This word worry simply means to draw in many directions. Worry draws our mind away from our business and duties and puts it on things we probably cannot do much about anyway. We are afraid of what is going to happen - but it seldom does. Sometimes such worry leads to physical sickness. Do all we can about a problem, and then put faith in God that all will be well. But we can’t put faith in God if we are not a Christian first.

I have always tried to live by this general rule when it comes to the area of worry. If I can’t directly change, control, or alter the situation, then all I can do is pray to God concerning the situation and then just leave it in God’s hands. For example: If I were to send my daughter on an airplane to see her grandparents in another state, once that airplane took off, I can no longer change, control, or alter that airplane. I can only pray to God that she be safe and have a safe trip to her destination. If I worry about the situation, all that I will accomplish is to make myself physically sick. We need to learn and trust to put our cares and anxieties in His hands and let Him who has power over all things to direct the steps. When we do, then our life will be so much easier, and we will be able to fully concentrate on those things in which we can change. Put our trust, faith and hope in God first, then all will work out to His glory. 

The Harm in Worry
Worry drains our energy. Have you noticed how tired we are after we have been worrying about something in which we have no control over to change. Mental work is hard work, and it tires us the most possibly, when we are in deep pain of worry. So, one cannot live a full, fruitful life with worry always in their mind. We are using up energy which we need for more useful things. And besides a drain on our energy, it is a waste of time. What can be done when our mind is occupied with fear of that which might happen? While I am worrying, I should be using my mental faculties to do something constructive. I should be doing my work; or doing something for others. In fact, one of the best antidotes of worry is going out and helping others - which gets our mind off ourselves. I read of a man once who was so accustomed to worrying that he often worried because he had forgotten what he was worrying about. Faith in God is the remedy for worry!

Faith Repels Worry
Worry is anxiety to the point of distraction. We are usually afraid of what will happen. But trust in God as to the future is the great antidote of worry. With trust in God that He will do what is right, why should we worry? This is not to say nothing unpleasant will happen. But it does say we have a faith in the providence of God that whatever happens, God holds the future in His hands. Again, Paul said: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). It is said that we believe our doubts and doubt our beliefs. When Peter saw the great waves around him while walking on the water, he began to sink. Jesus said: “O thou of little faith.” If God feeds the birds and beautifies the flowers, will He not care for His greater creation? I encourage each one of us to read Matthew chapters 5 through 7 and gain a better, deeper understanding of the hand of God.

Trust in the Lord
Worry decays the mind, makes one miserable, wastes time and energy and makes our friends unhappy. Why worry? Faith in God is the answer to our worry problem. Thousands pop pills, others drink liquor, and many go to the psychiatrists. But the best tranquilizer is faith in God, obedience to the gospel, and living the Christian life. Yes, trust in the Lord is the answer. So, we want to be happy? Here’s how. Trust in the Lord, become a Christian by being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27), and then live a faithful life in His service (Revelation 2:10). Then, come what may, we know we have a home in heaven after life. But without that faith, or trust in the Lord, what future do we have to look forward to? Yes, the Lord knew what it would take to make men happy here and hereafter. Therefore, don’t worry about it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Abundant Living In Christ

Science has found ways and continues to search for ways to add to life, but the problems with most of us is, “how to add life to our years.” Abundant living is an art, and many do not find fulfilment and beauty in life regardless of years.

Abundant living is not found in materialism. A long existence does not guarantee happiness or success. The oldest man who ever lived was Methuselah and he was 969 years old. Even so, he probably did not accomplish as great things as others such as Moses, David and Paul who lived a much shorter time. Little is said of his accomplishments, but books are written on Paul and Moses. Furthermore, the abundant life is not found in secular knowledge. Solomon was one of the wisest men who ever lived, but much more is said of David, the great king of Israel, and the father of Solomon. In fact, Solomon himself said, “In much wisdom is much grief” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). Furthermore, the abundant life is not accomplished by wealth. The wise man also said of this: “It is vanity and vexation of the Spirit” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

Jesus came to this earth so man can have and enjoy that abundant life. In John 10:10 he said: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” I ask that you think about the seriousness of life. If we would first strive to serve Jesus, then the other things will fall into place. We can’t do it alone - we need Jesus Christ. The prophet Jeremiah said: “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). You are encouraged to live your life for Christ. It is only when we “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), that all these things shall be added to our life. 

Strive to Be Optimistic
Also, to be successful in life, there must be optimism and to have an abundant life, there must be optimism centered in Christ. The Christian and the Bible calls it Faith. So often people think it strange that Christ would require something for which they can see no reason. Paul answers: “We walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7), and “I can do all things in him that strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). I cannot do all things by myself, but with His help, yes with faith, that is also optimism in Him, I can keep going and expect to receive the crown. Without Christ, how could one be optimistic about world affairs? How could one be optimistic about the moral breakdown of this country? But if one is in Christ, we can say, regardless of what happens in this life, my future is assured - in perfect happiness afterwards! Jesus tells us to “ faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Who Christians are Also Known As

Children of God: I became a child in the Thetford household by natural birth. I became a child of God by Spiritual birth. When I was born, nobody asked if this baby would be in the Thetford household. No one had to ask what my last name would be - because they already knew. When Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again, he was very confused, but then Jesus told him he must be born of the water and spirit. This is baptism. Notice the passage of scripture: Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).

If you want to know what the new birth is, look at the practice of the inspired apostles as they taught and practiced the new birth under the great commission. This is found in the Acts of the apostles. To the Galatian brethren, Paul said: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). Some say the new birth is affected by faith only. Jesus said one must be born of both water and spirit. To say “water” here refers to natural birth from the mother's womb is nonsense and Jesus did not talk that way. That is why when Nicodemus responded to Jesus’ question concerning the new birth, thinking that one must literally be born again of woman, Jesus made sure that he understood that it is only through the water and spirit that one can enter into heaven. Have you been born again? If not, you will not get to be with Jesus in eternity. Why not put Christ on in baptism before it is everlastingly too late.

When you hear the word saint, what comes into your mind? There is a popular idea that a SAINT is one who has served well in life and has been honored in death. He is “canonized” and so honored. One can travel to the Vatican and see statues of such men circling the famous St. Peter’s square. But on close examination of the Bible, I find no such idea for the word “saint.” Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth addresses Christians as SAINTS. Yet he found many evils in the lives of these living saints. A saint is a Christian, a child of God, and carries the idea of his holiness or godliness. But how did these Corinthians become saints? In Acts 18 Paul preached in Corinth on his second tour, and in verse 8 the record says, “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.”

We can look to the Bible and find many other occurrences on how one becomes a saint. In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to the Jews, and they were pricked in their heart because they knew for sure that they had just crucified the Son of God, Jesus Christ. They asked: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, be saved from this perverse generation. Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:38-41). We can learn from this passage of scripture that when a person is baptized, he is baptized into Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he becomes a saint, or a Christian.

Members of the Body: In 1 Corinthians 12:12-20, the apostle Paul compares the church to a physical body. Members have a definite relationship to the head. The spiritual head is Christ. Paul writes: “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.”

As the arms, legs and eyes, etc., take orders from the head in our bodies, so the members of Christ’s body takes orders from Christ. How does one become a member? The Corinthians were members of the body. How did they get that way? We read where they were “all baptized into the one body.” Note two things: First to get into the body, baptism is necessary. It is absolutely irresponsible to speak of getting into the body by faith only. It is contrary to this passage of scripture. Next, he says there is one body. There are not hundreds of churches, or bodies, as the religious world says, but only ONE. He says, “but now there are many members, but one body.” Nothing can be plainer. One body, and that one body is the church says Paul in Ephesians 1:22-23.