Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Life Is Tough When You Don't Have Reverse

Wendy Bagwell tells a story about picking up a new Volkswagen at the docks in one of our coastal cities in order to avoid paying the shipping charge. He drove his new car off the docks without receiving any instructions concerning the operation of the vehicle. He knew how to drive and that was all he figured he needed to know. At lunch time, he pulled up to a restaurant, turned off the ignition and went inside to eat. When he came back from lunch he jumped into the car and discovered that he couldn’t find reverse. Finally he had to push the car out into the street by hand in order to continue on his way.

Of course Wendy's Volkswagen did have a reverse gear. He just didn't know how to find it, but think how frustrating it would be to own a car that wouldn't back up. You wouldn’t buy a car without reverse even if the manufacturer were willing to knock a thousand dollars off the sticker price.

Unfortunately many people who wouldn't think of owning a car without reverse try to conduct human relations without reverse. Marriages break up and friendships are severed simply because stubborn people won’t back up. We dig our feet in the ground and just absolutely refuse to say things like, "I was wrong," or "I'm sorry," or "It's my fault, why don’t we just back up and start over?" The Bible identifies the source of this destructive behavior trait and warns, "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). The passage implies that you need reverse in your relationships as much as you need it in your car.

Jesus had an opportunity to emphasize this lesson to the apostles. He talked about the importance of forgiving others who have wronged you. The apostle Peter asked him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." In other words, for the sake of maintaining good human relations you need a reverse. You must not allow pride and stubbornness to stand in the way of a positive relationship with others.

The apostle Paul demonstrated this great quality in his life. John Mark, who traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, for reasons unknown to us, left them in the middle of their work and returned home to Jerusalem. Later, when they were preparing to embark on their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them. Paul adamantly refused to do so and there was such a sharp disagreement that these two servants of God separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him to the island of Cyprus; while Paul took Silas as his traveling companion. Evidently, Mark proved himself to be a wonderful servant of Christ in later years. So convincingly did he do so that, in his last letter, Paul instructed Timothy to bring Mark with him "for he is very useful to me for ministry" (2 Tim. 4:11). Paul did not hold Mark’s past mistake against him forever, but was willing to forgive and reestablish a relationship that had been severed.

For the sake of maintaining good relations with others, don’t forget to use "reverse."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Most Excellent Way

Jonathan Swift once remarked, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another." In the great "love" chapter of the Bible, the apostle Paul urges Christians to develop the quality of love (1 Cor. 13). Love is the "circulatory system" of the body of Christ. Paul wrote these words in the context of having to deal with many of the problems faced by the Corinthian congregation. Many of their problems were due to a lack of love. Notice some of them: abuse of miraculous gifts, division, envy, lawsuits, to name only a few.

One of the characteristics of love is its enriching quality. Paul reminded them that the exercise of spiritual gifts is nothing without love (13:1-3). Love is like mortar that fuses bricks together. It is one of the supreme evidences of genuine discipleship (Jn. 13:35). It is the essence of being God-like (1 Jn. 4:8).

Another characteristic of love is its edifying quality (13:4-7). Love doesn’t tear down; rather, it builds up. Love puts up with much that is not pleasant. It manifests kindness for which every heart hungers. Love is the opposite of envy which ultimately destroys the one whom it possesses. It keeps its chin up and not its nose. Love does not have an inflated opinion of itself. It is polite and courteous to all. It practices good and gentle manners. Love is not prone to violent anger or exasperation. Though injured, love governs passions, restrains tempers, and subdues feelings. It does not love the wrong, nor does it love the fact that wrong has been done. Love is optimistic.

Another characteristic of love is its enduring nature (13:8-13). Miraculous gifts such as prophecy, tongues, and knowledge were only temporary. These gifts assured the truthfulness and certainty of the gospel message (Heb. 2:3). Now that the message has been confirmed there is no longer any need for them, but there will always be a need for faith, hope, and love in every generation.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What Is Death?

In recent years there has been the spawning of a new academic specialty – thanatology, a study about death. Some invaluable work has been done in this field that has been of great help to those whose loved ones have died.

The Bible has much to say about death. It records a variety of ways in which people have passed from this world. For instance, James, the son of Zebedee, was killed with the sword. Absalom, the son of David, was pierced with darts. Achan was stoned by his peers. The aged Eli fell backward off a stool and broke his neck. The earth swallowed Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. The handle of Abner’s spear killed Asahel, the fleet-footed brother of Joab. Samson perished under the rubble of Dagon’s temple.

Secular records relate that the apostle Paul was beheaded, Peter was crucified upside down, Thomas was pierced with darts in India, and James, the Lord’s brother, was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem.

No one knows the circumstances under which he will die. One may die peacefully having reached old age. He may die tragically or in much pain. Regardless, unless Jesus returns before we die, all of us are going to die (Hebrews 9:27).

What is death? Some teach that it is annihilation or cessation of existence. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection because they were not convinced that man has a spirit (Acts 28:8; Matthew 22:23). Jesus told them they were ignorant of the scriptures and of the power of God (Matthew 22:29). He said that God is the God of the living, not of the dead (Matthew 22:31-32).

Death is a consequence of sin. It was introduced to the world as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin and is presently experienced by mankind (Romans 5:12).

Death is a power that is stronger than woman’s charm and beauty. It is more powerful than position and prestige. It is stronger than earthly might or money. It invades all cultures, all social strata, every race and language, the good as well as the evil.

Death is a mystery from the viewpoint of our nature. None want to die. We take preventive measures to delay it, though it will occur some day.

Death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Yet, there is a sense in which it is a blessing for the child of God. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Psalms 116:15). Heaven even announces, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…” (Revelation 14:13).

Death is a tragedy for the unprepared for they will be consigned to hell “…where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

Enoch and Elijah are the only two people who have escaped the throes of death. Unless Jesus comes first, we shall all die. When or under what circumstances we shall die is unknown. How long one lives is unimportant, but it does matter for whom one lives. This world is not a playground but a schoolroom. A person cannot live wrong and die right. Time is the stuff of which life is made…use your time wisely!

Monday, November 21, 2011


During his illustrious career a lawyer was credited with saving 78 people from being executed in the electric chair. Yet, not a single one of them ever thanked him for his effective work. A philanthropist who had given away millions of dollars was heard to say, "Don’t look for gratitude except in the dictionary." Ingratitude is a problem that stalks across our land today.

Jesus experienced the same lack of gratitude when he healed 10 men afflicted with the incurable disease of leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). Only one of them returned from presenting themselves to the priest to express thanks to the Lord for his cure. The apostle Paul said that ingratitude would be characteristic of people "in the last days" (2 Tim. 3:1-2).

A wealthy woman once expressed to her doctor that she was constantly frustrated by a restless desire for more. The doctor wisely replied, "These are usual symptoms of too much ease in the home and too little gratitude in the heart." Material prosperity is not the only cause for ingratitude among some. Forgetfulness is as well. God lamented the fact that the nation of Israel had forgotten him (Jeremiah 2:32) which led to her downfall. Francis Schaeffer once observed, "The beginning of men's rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart." Tennyson Guyer has written a poem entitled, The World Is Mine, that will perhaps help us reflect on how blessed we are during this Thanksgiving season.

Today upon a bus I saw a girl with golden hair;
She seemed so gay, I envied her,
And wish that I were half so fair;
I watched her as she rose to leave,
And saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch,
But as she passed--a smile.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I have two legs--the world is mine.

Later on I bought some sweets.
The boy who sold them had such charm,
I thought I'd stop and talk awhile.
If I were late, t'would do no harm.
And as we talked he said,
"Thank you, sir, you've really been so kind.
It's nice to talk to folks like you
Because, you see, I'm blind"
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I have two eyes--the world is mine

Later, walking down the street,
I met a boy with eyes so blue.
But he stood and watched the others play;
It seemed he knew not what to do.
I paused, and then I said,
"Why don't you join the others, dear?"
But he looked straight ahead without a word,
And then I knew, he couldn't hear.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I have two ears--the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I'd go;
With eyes to see the sunset's glow;
With ears to hear what I would know,
I am blessed indeed. The world is mine;
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

After Death - What Then?

Does man cease to exist? Is his body buried never to be seen again? Does he come back in another form – either human or animal – and continue to live on earth? Is man of a dual nature – physical and spiritual? Does his spirit continue to live in another state to wait for the time when it will rejoin his body at the great resurrection day? If that is the case, where does his spirit go following his physical death? Are the dead in a state of consciousness? Are they aware of activity on earth? These and many other questions flood the mind when reflecting upon this subject. Especially do these questions fill our minds when we attend a funeral.

The concept of life after death is not based on scientific discovery or philosophical conclusions. The study belongs to a realm of experience of which science knows nothing. No one has ever crossed the dreaded gulf that separates time from eternity and returned to bring tidings of their experience on the opposite shores of mortality. A few have made this phenomenal trip from an earthly life, to death, and back to earthly life again, but no one in the Bible has their experience recorded. While the Old Testament furnishes sufficient information to conclude that man continues to live on the other side of the grave, it is the New Testament that sheds further light on the subject.

There are eleven occurrences of the word Hades in the New Testament. One of the most familiar references is made by Jesus in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). Both were in Hades, but one suffered while the other was comforted. Death, then, is not the cessation of life; it only marks the change from one state to another. When physical death occurs, the spirit separates from the body and continues to live in Hades even though the body is buried in the earth (Jas. 2:26).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Is Heaven Like?

There beats within the heart of most everyone a desire to know what heaven is like as well as a yearning to go there. Even pagan religions have some convictions about a realm of existence beyond this world. A variety of concepts about heaven exists among the major cults. Every religious group associated with what is referred to as “Christendom” believes in heaven. The Bible is the only book that can give us reliable information about it.

In heaven there is an abundance of room. Jesus said there are many dwelling places there (Jn. 14:2). The city is laid out foursquare; its length and width and height are equal (Rev. 21:16). There will be plenty of comfortable space for all the redeemed. Stocks and bonds and other investments rise and fall in value with the economic climate of the time, but that which is invested in heaven never deteriorates; neither will it ever be destroyed. Thieves will not be able to rob us of its possession (Mt. 6:20). In the presence of God is fullness of joy (Psa. 16:11). The most beautiful singing known to man will be heard by the redeemed as they sing the new song of victory, triumph, and deliverance (Rev. 5:9; 14:3; 15:3). All the trials and tribulations of this earth will be over and, at long last, sweet deliverance from the presence of sin is experienced. The redeemed will have eternal rest from their constant struggle against temptation in this life (Heb. 4:9; Rev. 14:13). They will have an abiding possession (Heb. 10:34) “which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Pt. 1:4). No disease will enter to ravage and destroy it. Time will no more deeply furrow the brow. Sickness and old age will no longer bend the back or diminish the mind. Heaven’s “walls and gates” will never crumble. Its infrastructure will never deteriorate. All things are new there (Rev. 21:5). The redeemed will be free from any sad experiences in heaven. There will be no tears, mourning, crying, pain, or even death (Rev. 21:4; Lk. 20:36). Death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15:54). There will be no need for physicians and surgeons to practice their occupations there. Hospitals will not even exist. Funeral processions and cemeteries will not be seen along its streets. Heaven is the “beautiful home of the soul” prepared by the Lord (Jn. 14:1-3).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Woman And A Fork

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her preacher and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the preacher was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.

"What's that?" came the preacher’s reply.

"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

The preacher stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

“That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.

"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the preacher.

The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!'

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ‘What's with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.’"

The preacher's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the preacher heard the question, "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the preacher told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us.

Show your friends how much you care. Remember to always be there for them, even when you need them more. For you never know when it may be their time to "Keep your fork."

Cherish the time you have, and the memories you share ... being friends with someone is not an opportunity but a sweet responsibility.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Confusing Messages

There are a number of confusing messages being widely propagated in the world today. Many of these are promoted by well-meaning people who apparently have not considered the logical consequences of their messages. Let’s consider some of these messages.

Drink responsibly. Is this possible? One loses his sense of responsibility when he drinks. Yet, this is the message regularly given in advertisements. By suggesting that a person drink moderately, you are still recommending him to drink. A far wiser counsel is found in the book of Proverbs when it speaks of the affects of alcoholic beverage: At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper” (Prov. 23:32). A person should make every effort to avoid any amount alcoholic beverages. How can a person be demonstrating responsibility when he is purposely consuming a beverage specifically designed to rob him of his good sense?

Here is another confusing message: Don’t drink and drive. This slogan is widely heard during the holiday season, the high school prom, and other similar events. It serves as a reminder that due to a person’s drinking he loses his alertness and places himself and others in danger if he gets behind the wheel of an automobile. A “designated driver” is recommended; that is, someone who has refrained from becoming inebriated in order to drive the others home. Does this mean that it is okay to drink as long as someone has been designated as the driver for you? That is confusing, because the consumption of alcoholic beverage is just as injurious to one’s health as it is to one’s alertness. In fact, there are spiritual concerns as well. The apostle Paul said that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Another confusing message is this one: Don’t drink or smoke if you are underage. Are we suggesting that while this is forbidden behavior for minors, it is okay for adults? The truth of the matter is that drinking and smoking are not safe for children or adults. They cause serious health issues. What kind of message is an adult sending to a child when the adult who drinks or smokes tries to correct the child engaging in these same harmful activities? Jesus describes such behavior as hypocrisy and urges us “…to take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Mt. 7:5). In other words, he is saying that we should straighten out our lives in order to be the proper example to others.

Another slogan that is very confusing is this: Practice safe sex. This slogan became prominent when AIDS became a widespread problem in the 1980’s. Parents and schools alike began teaching children to practice “safe sex.” However, if one practices “safe sex,” he must practice sex. Sexual promiscuity not only has physical dangers associated with it; but has emotional and psychological difficulties, also. The only true way to remain safe from sexually transmitted diseases and psychological disorders associated with immorality is to abstain from it. God knew exactly what he was doing when, through the apostle Paul, he instructed, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). Safe sex involves the unmarried abstaining from immoral behavior and those who are married remaining faithful to one another.

Truly, some familiar slogans are confusing when honestly analyzed. The good news is that the gospel of Christ is not confusing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Seed

The source of this story is unknown to me; but, as it was shared with me, I shall share it with you. A successful Christian business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over his business. Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together. He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you."

The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued, "I am going to give each one of you a SEED today -- one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO."

One man, named Jim, was there that day, and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost, and he planted the seed. Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.

Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by -- still nothing in Jim's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened.

Jim felt sick at his stomach. It was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful -- in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed. A few felt sorry for him.

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the CEO. "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!"

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will fire me!" When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed. Jim told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down, except Jim. He looked at Jim, then he announced to the young executives, "Behold your next Chief Executive! His name is Jim!"

Jim couldn't believe it. "Jim couldn't even grow his seed! How could he be the new CEO?" the others said. Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead! It was not possible for them to grow! All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive!"

     •  If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.
     •  If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.
     •  If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.
     •  If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment.
     •  If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective.
     •  If you plant hard work, you will reap success.
     •  If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.
     •  If you plant faith in God, you will reap a harvest.

So, be careful what you plant; it will determine what you will reap.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Lamb of God

Jesus is eternal, yet He clothed Himself with human nature for a while and walked among us.  In so doing, He experienced the frailties and limitations of mankind.  He thirsted, was hungry, grew tired, experienced pain, and was limited by time and space.  It is amazing that, though Jesus was involved in the creation of the universe (John 1:1-4) and enjoyed a glorious relationship with the other two members of the Godhead, He left heaven and came to earth and lived as a human being for 33 years.  His story remains the most intriguing and compelling story in history.

We are introduced to Him at a very critical moment in history. Adam and Eve had sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that was in the midst of the Garden of Eden. At that moment the blight of sin was introduced to the human race and God cast Adam and Eve out of the garden. Their sin carried the penalty of death, both physically and spiritually. However, in His mercy and compassion for man, God promised a Deliverer who would inflict a fatal blow to Satan, man's adversary (Genesis 3:15). This Deliverer was Jesus Christ.

Every event recorded in the Old Testament proved that man needed a deliverer. He found it impossible to live above sin. At one point, man's wickedness became so great that God was grieved that He had made him (Genesis 6:5-6). He sent a flood upon the earth and destroyed all human life except that of righteous Noah and his family. The animal sacrifices that man was instructed to offer as atonement for his sins were totally inadequate. It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). Not even the Law God gave Israel on Mt. Sinai could deliver man from sin (Acts 13:39), for that law demanded perfect obedience and man is incapable of living such a life.

This situation produced a real dilemma. The cry of man’s soul became, "How can I, a sinful creature, escape suffering the consequences of my sins?" The blood of animals offered upon a thousand altars could not accomplish that need. Neither could he escape the condemnation of sin by observing the Law of Moses because he could not keep it perfectly. If we listen carefully, we can hear that same cry of the human soul today.

The answer to the cry is found in Jesus Christ alone. "In none other is there salvation; for neither is there any other name under heaven given among men wherein we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus willingly left the place of glory and honor in heaven with His Father and came to this earth as a bond-servant and was made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7). He was born to poor parents in a stable. Yet, He has made many spiritually rich. He never owned a piece of real estate where He might lay His head. Yet, He has comforted many and provided them rest for their soul. He was not a world traveler. Yet, He has affected the world as no other person has ever done. He allowed Himself to be ill-treated by man and become the object of scorn. He was shamefully treated and ultimately crucified on a cross. Why? Because, being a sinner, man could not save himself. Jesus died in our place. What a Savior!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Main Problem

My good friend, Ken Joines of Memphis, TN, reminded me of a statement Jesus made, "…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15).  Ken observed that we have not fully bought into that truth yet.  We have problems!  Big ones!!  There are economic problems; social, educational, domestic, and moral problems.  Yet, there is one main problem that underlies all the others.

Today poor people in American enjoy things that were far beyond the reach of even kings only a few generations ago.  We have radios, TVs, cell phones, and computers.  We produce far more grain than we eat or sell. We're able to produce more of nearly everything than we can use.  Everything, that is, except human servants.  We need more doctors, nurses, and teachers than the schools can turn out.  Is there something amiss in a nation that can produce more "things" than we can use or sell and yet fail to produce even the minimum requirements in human servants?  Most of us drive nicer cars, live in better houses, and wear nicer clothes than our grandparents did.  But the nagging question is: Am I a better person than my grandparents were?The fact of the matter is that you cannot measure spiritual and moral progress by the fine houses in which we live or the number of possessions we have obtained.

A disturbing contradiction is taking place.  At a time when we are producing more of everything than we need, crime is higher, divorce is more prevalent, out-of-wedlock births are higher, and pornography and juvenile crimes are off the charts.  One out of every thirty-one people is an alcoholic.  Strangely, we shoot mad dogs but license the liquor dealer!  We claim to be the most civilized nation on earth and yet more than 50 million children receive no kind of religious training.  They are tossed on a stormy sea of moral relativism, unable to make simple choices between right and wrong.

What keeps a nation strong and secure?  Well, if Congress could do it, ancient Tyre would be with us today.  If political machinery could do it, Rome would not have fallen.  If military power could do it, Germany would not have failed.  Solomon said, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).  Goodness has been and will continue to be our strength.  America is on the verge of ceasing to be good and the responsibility to do something about it is ours, whether we like it or not.  Each of us is a commanding officer in the war on crime and sin.

We've spent astronomical sums of money on science and technology.  Yet, not one social or moral problem has ever been solved by them.  We have assumed that if we just raise the standard of living we will improve the quality of people.  Wrong!  Our job is not just to teach a child how to walk, but where to walk.  Merely making environmental improvements will not change us.  When we teach our children to believe that we are just highly evolved animals, they will behave like animals.  They will have no purpose or foundation in life.  On the other hand, when we teach them that man was created by God and was made in His image, we provide them a sense of dignity and a moral foundation upon which to build a good life, not just make a good living. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ethics In An Unethical World

A friend recently said to me, "You don't know whom to trust anymore."  He was not only referring to the economic woes on Wall St. among some of our major financial institutions, but to the small businesses and financial establishments on the local scene, as well.    Among the things which have contributed to these woes are the unethical practices of some.  False advertising is used to promote a product.  Inaccurate weights and measures are used in selling goods.  Businesses cut corners in order to compete for customers.  Some seem to be intent on fleecing the public for their personal gain.  Such conduct makes everyone suspicious of the other.

The health of our entire economic community, as well as our personal relationships, is built upon high ethical standards. When you take your car to a repairman, you want to have confidence in the mechanic and know he will do the work you have requested. You don't want to be told about work that in reality doesn’t need to be done. In like manner, employers have a right to expect an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Who would want to be operated on by a surgeon who cheated his way through medical school? Neither do we want officers who cheated their way through a military academy to command our fighting men.

I'm convinced that business ethics should be taught in our colleges and universities throughout the country. Future business leaders need to be taught a value system that increases profits by producing a quality product and by building greater customer satisfaction and confidence. Primarily, however, the establishment of a good value system begins in the home. Children learn their values from their parents. Honesty and integrity is not instilled in children when they see their parents turn in false income tax forms or refuse to pay their debts. A mother who misrepresents the age of her children in order to get a discount is not teaching them honesty. A father who turns back the speedometer on his car before selling it sets an example of dishonesty.

The apostle Paul said in Romans 12:17, "Provide for things honest in the sight of all men." This statement is not only good advice for business dealings, but its practice is essential to spiritual vitality. Solomon said in Proverbs 11, "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight." The greatest statement on ethical conduct was related by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He simply said, "However you want people to treat you, so treat them" (Matthew 7:12). The practice of this principle would eliminate dishonesty and promote respect for one another. Unethical practices do not need to be employed in order to make a living. Neither do they need to be used to transact business profitably. In fact, when people see that they are being dealt with in a fair and honest way, they will not only come back but tell others, which will greatly improve business.

Undoubtedly, if world leaders treated each other as they would like to be treated, international relations would improve dramatically. If CEOs and other leaders of some of our major corporations had practiced this principle, we might not be facing the financial difficulties we are facing today in America. Treating others as you would like them to treat you is not only good business sense, it’s just good common sense.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In the Absence of God

On the CBS Early Show a few years ago, Jane Clayson asked Anne Graham, "How could God let something like this happen?"  She was referring to the tragic results of Hurricane Katrina as it came ashore on the Gulf coast.  Miss Graham gave a classic response, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.   And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out."  Miss Graham correctly observed that, at least a small but vocal segment, of American society has been seeking to remove the influence of God from our community.

On another CBS program, Ben Stein concluded that this trend started when the atheist, Madeleine Murray O'Hare, complained that she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said okay.  Later, someone else said that we should not read the Bible in school.  And we said okay.  Then, Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem.  And we said okay.   Stein commented, "Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t seem to bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves."

The character of our children of tomorrow is greatly shaped by what they learn from us today. When people deny the existence of God and, thus, seek to remove any reference of Him from society, it isn’t that they no longer believe in something, but they believe in almost anything. Stein observed that it is strange how people believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Messages sent over the internet spread like wildfire, but people hesitate to send messages regarding the Lord. Lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace. Dysfunctional relationships are often glamorized on television while normal family relations are portrayed as abnormal.

Is it any wonder that the very moral foundation of our nation is crumbling? The psalmist wrote, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalms 11:3). God's word, the Bible, is the only viable moral compass for mankind; yet, it is being attacked as being outdated, impractical and unreliable. Frankly, it's wearisome to listen to the vocal minority who loudly protest the Bible's influence in our society. It’s also frustrating to see spineless politicians who willingly give them a listening ear.

Jesus taught us by precept and example how to live the greatest and most productive life we could ever experience. He came to earth that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). He taught us how to get along with one another, how to build strong families, and how to enrich our character. He went about doing good and healing those oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). Jesus willingly died on the cross, not in order to obtain glory from men as a martyr, but that He might provide the hope of eternal life. It is the tragedy of all tragedies for any society to seek to remove His influence from their midst.

In the absence of God men will believe almost anything.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thinking About Love

Allen Webster in the excellent publication, House to House/Heart to Heart, provides the following information about the word "love." According to, there are at least 32,507 books currently in print with the word love in the title (over 145,000 that deal with the subject of love). There are more than 11,000 popular albums/CDs with love in the title. A Google search of the Internet reveals that there are at least 121,000,000 Websites that use the word love as one of their key words.

Love, it seems, is on the mind of everyone. And, why not? Love cements a relationship between a man and a woman when they decide to get married. Their love for one another deepens through the years and, truly, they become as one. Love motivates parents to provide for their children and educate them. When they are physically or emotionally injured, loving parents suffer with them. When children succeed in life or accomplish a significant task, parents rejoice with them. Behind every kind and benevolent deed is love; or, at least, it should be.

Have you considered the fact that there are different kinds of love? For instance, there is the kind of love that is based on mere physical attraction. Unfortunately, some marriages are entered into with no deeper love than this and the results are disastrous. Physical attraction alone is no foundation for a lasting and meaningful relationship. Genuine love is far greater than physical attraction or emotional attachment. It involves more than just a feeling; it includes action as well.

There is no greater illustration of that kind of love than God’s affection for man. Consider these statements from the Bible. "But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). This passage reminds us that even when we are rebellious against God, He loves us. He demonstrated that love by sending His Son to die for us. The "golden text" of the Bible describes it this way: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Through the gift of His Son, God has provided an opportunity for us to be in a saved relationship with Him. In Matthew 7:13-14, we learn that not everyone will be saved. The lost condition of man, however, is not due to God's failure to love him and provide an opportunity for him to be saved. The apostle John declared, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

Of the fact that God loves us, we can be certain. The important question is, "Do we love God?" It is not enough to declare with our lips that we love God. The proof of that love must be demonstrated by action. Jesus said, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). John stated in the inspired text, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (1 John 5:3). One's love for God will change the nature of his language from vulgarity and profanity to purity and praise. His conduct will change from immorality to virtue. His attitude will change from selfishness, vengefulness, and bitterness to servant hood, forgiveness, and kindness. His emphasis will change from "getting ahead in life" to making a life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Discipline in the Home

One of the favorite vacation spots for my wife and me is Gatlinburg, TN. We try to spend a few days each year in this vacation mecca. We enjoy the beautiful scenery and relaxed atmosphere. We spend much of our time walking the main street of Gatlinburg and visiting the various shops. We enjoy meeting people from various sections of our country who choose this as one of their vacation areas. In fact, there are people from foreign countries who visit, as well. It is always a time of refreshing relaxation for us.

On one of our trips, when we were eating at a local restaurant, there was a disturbance at a nearby table. A mother and two of her children were at this table. The oldest appeared to be about eight or ten years old. Evidently, he was being instructed by his mother to do something to which he objected. The child became rather vocal in his resistance and finally hit his mother in the face with a closed fist. We were shocked that a child would treat his mother with such disrespect, especially at such a tender age. We were shocked even further when the mother did absolutely nothing to correct the child for his gross misbehavior.

I'm afraid that what we witnessed is more commonly practiced in homes across America than we like to imagine. Children are growing into adulthood with little or no guidance. They are frequently left to fend for themselves in the development of their character and, more often than not, with tragic results. They grow up having little respect for authority; consequently, they are constantly in trouble at school, have difficulty socializing with their peers, and end up in trouble with the law. More than likely the lifestyle they have developed is perpetuated when they try to establish their own home and rear children. As a result, society’s ills continue to increase in an ever-widening circle.

The administration of proper discipline is one of the fundamental responsibilities God has placed in the hands of parents. He intends that our children be given proper guidelines in life so that they can discern between right and wrong conduct.
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Prov. 22:15). God has said, "Train up a child in the way he should go…" (Prov. 22:6). Part of the training necessarily involves proper discipline.

Here are some ground rules for disciplining your children.
Keep your word. Make no idle threats or promises. Do not harangue. It is hard to find the off-switch on some mothers and fathers once they get started scolding. Be just. Children have an acute sense of fair play. If punishment is involved, make it fit the situation. Teach your child that forgiveness is real; that you have been the recipient of forgiveness yourself. Whenever you can, as the child grows older, discuss situations which reflect on life’s values so that he can construct his own value system. The exercise of proper discipline is not the same as abuse, but is a God-ordained way of teaching children acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Discipline yields a harvest of righteousness in our lives and in the lives of our children. It is the password to freedom; it gives delight to the heart.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Happened Under A Juniper Tree

The prophet Elijah was undoubtedly a man of deep devotion, unquestioning obedience, daring faith, and true humility. In spite of these noble qualities, there was one instance of complete breakdown, humiliating failure and defeat. That incident is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 19. It is recorded that he cowardly fled 100 miles from the presence of the wicked queen Jezebel who sought to kill him and sat down under a juniper tree. He was overwhelmed in self-pity, discouragement and depression. Fear and alarm gripped him. He just wanted to get away from everyone else and be alone. His was a self-imposed isolation. He was at "wit's end" and he even wanted to die. He felt he was the only faithful servant of God remaining in Israel. However, God told him there were 7,000 in Israel who had not yet given over to idolatry.

What contributed to Elijah's condition? For one thing, he was overstrained mentally. He had experienced 3 ½ years of terrific tension in his efforts to encourage Israel to be faithful to God. He was exhausted physically. He traveled a 100-mile cross-country trek from the presence of wicked Jezebel. More significantly, he was out of touch spiritually. He took his eyes off the Lord and looked at his circumstances, especially the threats of Jezebel. He had an unbalanced view of things.

Do you ever get discouraged, become depressed and despondent? Do you ever find yourself in the grip of despair? Does fear ever possess you? Does doubt sometimes assail you? Do you ever experience the feeling that nobody understands? At some point in life, all of us have likely experienced these feelings. That was Elijah's experience also. Perhaps the perspectives God shared with Elijah to overcome his despair will be helpful to us as well.

The cure that the Divine Physician prescribed Elijah involved giving attention to the needs of his body. The Lord’s angel provided food and water. God knows our frame and that we are but dust (Psa. 103:14). He knows we need proper rest, food and plenty of fresh air for our emotional and physical health.

Since Elijah's mental outlook was distorted and unbalanced God challenged him to face up to his fears and problems. Despondency has a knack for picking its facts. Even little problems become greatly exaggerated in our minds. But, emotional strength is not gained by constantly feeding the distortions. Expand your vision to see the big picture rather than the small view that only contributes to your discouragement.

God then gave Elijah a wonderful vision of His power, glory and tenderness (1 Kgs. 19:11-13). When we take our eyes of faith off the Lord and focus on our problems it will contribute to depression, fearfulness and self-pity. "Hope in God" is the antidote for despair (Psa. 42:11). Through the psalmist God tells us, "Be still and know that I am God" (Psa. 46:10). No matter how deep and serious the problems may be in our lives, God cares and is able to help us do something about them. "Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord" Psa. 27:14). Don't ever give up. Place your trust in the Almighty who is able to see you through any trial.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Change the Bottom Button

Have you ever been embarrassed by the discovery that the buttons on your coat or shirt were in the wrong holes because you missed the first button? I’ve had that experience more than once in my life. It is especially embarrassing when you are attending an important meeting or are being introduced to someone for the first time.

Have you ever had a similar experience in some of the important relationships in your life? Perhaps some of the great challenges in your life did not turn out right because you started out wrong. Maybe you got off on the wrong foot with your employer on your first day at work. Perhaps you don’t command the influence you would like or you don’t produce the results you should because you missed the first button. Perhaps you started out on the wrong foot with a neighbor and now you rarely speak to one another. It may be that your marriage is not satisfactory because you started out wrong. Your home relationships are not what they should be because earlier you made some serious mistakes and it is now difficult to overcome them.

It’s so easy to blame circumstances, or education, or society, even our in-laws, or just about anything else, isn’t it, for the mess we find ourselves in right now? One of the best ways to handle the messes we get ourselves into is to openly and honestly admit our mistakes. Come clean with our own conscience and with other people and seek to do right.

Jesus Christ made this promise, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). Now, that is the real answer to the problem; that’s starting out in the right button hole.

Long ago, king Solomon was invited by God to, "Ask what I shall give you." Solomon could have requested wealth, power, prestige, and honor among men. But, he asked for none of these. Instead, he asked that he might have an understanding heart that he might properly govern the people of Israel and discern between good and evil. It pleased God that Solomon had asked for this and he said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold I now do according to your word…I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days." Solomon started out right. He put God and others before himself.

That's the answer for you and me as well. In order for us to start out right so that we can end up right, we must put God first. Doing so will make us better employees, better neighbors and friends, better husbands and wives, and better children.

The wonderful thing about serving God is that we may mess up and get "our buttons" out of order, but we can start all over and he will help us get it right. We can never exhaust his grace or diminish his love for us. He is willing to forgive and help us start anew.

It's amazing what can happen when we make God the priority of our lives! Seek his way, his wisdom, and his strength – FIRST! No matter how tangled or twisted or complicated our lives become, things have a way of turning out much better when we put God in the first button-hole.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Who Are We?

The rhetoric used by the retired preacher of a church where our president once worshipped was in the news a few years ago. The Chicago church where he preached is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Some have wondered if we in the churches of Christ are associated with that particular religious organization. Since the expression "Church of Christ" is used in the title of their religious group, I can understand the confusion. However, plainly and simply stated, we do not have any ties to them. The leaders of that church are fully capable of articulating who they are and I will leave that to them. However, in brief fashion, I would like to share with you some things about the churches of Christ.

We are a people who believe explicitly in the deity of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Bible teaches that prior to one's baptism, he must confess his faith in Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 8:37). Every person in the churches of Christ has made that confession publicly. That affirmation of faith is the foundation upon which the Lord's church is built. When the apostle Peter confessed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus responded, "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:16, 18).

We believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God and our only authoritative guide in religious matters. The apostle Paul said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This passage points to the source of the Bible as being from God and to the sufficiency of the Bible as our guide in life. Manuals of faith, creedal statements, and synod and council decisions are mere human documents that do not possess the same authority or inerrancy as God’s inspired revelation, the Bible. The Bible alone should be man’s religious guide. We must "learn not to go beyond the things which are written"(1 Cor. 4:6).

In the churches of Christ we believe in the non-denominational nature of the Lord’s spiritual body, the church. We are not part of a denominational organization with a central office or headquarters. Each local congregation is self-governing under the headship of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:18). Protestant denominations began in the 16th century, but the Lord’s church began in the 1st century (Acts 2:47). We have no political agenda that we are trying to promote; rather, prayers are made "for kings and all that are in high places" regardless of the system of government under which we live (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We advocate a moral standard that honors and respects our Creator and recognizes the dignity of our fellow man.

We recognize the God-given right of man to make his own choices in life, but we seek to fulfill the divine command to "preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Mk. 16:15). When this life is over and man faces God in the judgment, he will be assigned one of two destinies: either heaven or hell. Jesus is the Savior only of those who obey Him (Heb. 5:9). With the concern and urgency of dying men speaking to dying men and eternity hanging in the balance, we serve God.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Some Important First Things

There is a certain excitement about "first things." Most of us find it easy to remember our first day at school. Our parents probably remember the first time we walked and the first words we spoke. Many of you probably remember your first date. Because they are among the first things we did, we place them among our primary memories.

There is another use of the word "first" that suggests priority. Setting proper priorities in life is one of the biggest problems we face. It is important to assess the value of things in order not to give first place to secondary matters. We often make the mistake of "majoring in minors and minoring in majors." An examination of the New Testament book of Matthew reveals some priorities we need to establish.

The first priority for our consideration is, First the spiritual, then the temporal. Jesus said that we should seek the kingdom of God above everything else (Matt. 6:33). Connected with this admonition is the promise that God will provide our daily needs. God knows all about our material needs – food, drink, clothing, and shelter (Matt. 6:31-32). He is willing to supply them according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19); however, there should be in our life a spiritual emphasis that is superior to our quest for material interests.

Another priority is, First judge yourself before you attempt to correct your brother. Jesus urged us to cast the beam out of our own eye before we criticize another person’s shortcomings (Matt. 7:3, 5). How blind we often are to our own faults, and how quickly we observe the faults and failings of others! The Searcher of hearts urged us to be careful of our attitude toward others. It is much more profitable to mend and restore than to criticize and tear down.

Matthew 8:21-22 provides a third priority for our consideration: First, what Christ wants and then what you want. A man came to Jesus and requested permission to bury his father before following the Lord. At first, it may have seemed compassionate for the Lord to have granted his request, but Jesus knew the man's heart. He knew he was just making an excuse to delay his commitment. We frequently do the same thing. We say that we will become a disciple of Jesus provided we are given the opportunity of doing "our own thing" first. A self-centered person goes his own way instead of the Lord's way. There is only one answer to each of the following questions: Why do you continue that doubtful habit? Why do you pursue that harmful relationship? Why do you allow that crooked method in business? Why do you continue to use profanity? Why do you still visit undesirable places? Why do you not obey the gospel of Christ? The answer to each of these questions is the same. At this time, you do not want to put the Lord’s will first in your life.

Jesus chastised the hypocritical Pharisees for outwardly conforming to God’s will while they inwardly neglected submission to His will (Matt. 23:25-26). The Christian life is not just an outwardly reformed life; it is primarily an inwardly cleansed life. When the inward cleansing is thorough, the outward transformation is soon evident. God does not want merely outward confession, but He desires inward possession.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Global Warming

The debate continues. Extremes are evident. Politicians are divided. The panic button is being pushed. Whom shall we believe? Is there not a middle ground somewhere? I am referring to the current debate on global warming. Books have been written on the subject. A movie has been made to warn people of the impending danger associated with global warming. A former vice-president of our nation has been awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts to warn us of global warming if we continue to destroy the purity of the very air that we breathe. Yet, there are reputable scientists and meteorologists who strongly disagree with several of his arguments and conclusions. They explain that we are in a cycle of weather changes that has been going on for centuries. And here I sit as a novice and endeavoring to understand matters that are often too great for my finite mind.

This year the drought seems to be more widespread and severe than usual.  Our water supply has diminished significantly. Farmers have experienced serious crop failure. Cattlemen are having great difficulty in finding food for their stock because the pastures have burned up due to the lack of moisture. Could we not understand that such might be possible as we consider the reasons for changes in our weather? I know that as humans we do pollute our environment. We all have witnessed this fact. It is good that we are becoming more aware of this problem.

While not trying to diminish the need to clean up our polluted land, water and air, I want to mention another 'global warming' that the world in general has very little interest in. We go about our everyday activities without considering the fact that there is coming a time when this life will come to an end. We buy and sell and get gain without fully realizing that life is like a vapor that lasts only for a short time (James 4:13-17). Many scoffers reason that since there was a yesterday there will also be a tomorrow and things will continue as they have since the beginning of time. But read very carefully the words of the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:7: "The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly." He continues by saying, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn" (2 Peter 3:10-12).

Sin is the pollution of the soul. And unless a person has this stain removed from his soul by the cleansing blood of the Lamb of God, our Savior Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5), he will suffer the inevitable consequence of eternal condemnation. Now this is the 'global warming' that we should be prepared for by "renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions" and living "self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:12, 13).

Friday, July 29, 2011

More Is Better?

The television commercial portrayed a young family looking wistfully at a pleasure boat.  The problem was that they didn't have enough money to purchase the boat.  It was at this point that a particular bank was mentioned as the institution that would provide the needed money to the family through a generous loan.  The next scene depicted the happy family driving off in their car pulling the newly purchased pleasure boat.  Then the statement was made that "more is better" and for one to come and borrow the money from this bank in order to buy whatever one desired.  But, is more, better?  Not necessarily so.

It seems that in every age there are those who equate happiness with material possessions.  Yet Jesus warned against this idea when he said, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15).  There are some who hear the gospel of Christ, but the "cares, riches, and pleasures of life" choke out the influence of the gospel before it has a chance to bear fruit (Luke 8:14).  The church in Laodicea placed too much emphasis on material wealth.  They thought they were rich and had need of nothing, but Jesus described their true condition as being " wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17).  These brethren were rich in the world's goods but poor toward God.

We all need to learn that material wealth can never bring satisfaction, even if we had enough money to purchase everything that our hearts desired.   Solomon illustrates this truth.  He had everything a person could hope for in the way of material gain; yet, when viewed from the perspective of eternity he wrote that material prosperity was vain and a mere grasping for the wind; that there was no profit under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:8-11). Later, from the deep reservoir of his own experience, he wrote the following, "He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase.  This also is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

The possession of material things does not insure peace of mind, contentment, and happiness. Such qualities of the heart come about because of one's right relationship with God.  Paul wrote that "godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (I Timothy 6:6-8). The wise man of Proverbs wrote in chapter 15:16, 17, "Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred." Again in Proverbs 13:7, "There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches."  More is not always better.  A person can be rich as far as material possessions are concerned, yet poor toward God.  It is much better to be " rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God" than to have everything in the world.  Everyone can be happier in this life if this great lesson is learned at a young age. Individuals should seek salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ and "lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:18, 19).

Friday, July 22, 2011


Several years ago there was an elementary teacher named Mrs. Thompson who greeted her fifth grade class on the first day of school.  Seated on the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.  Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn't play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath.  And Teddy could be unpleasant.  In the passing days her frustration with Teddy grew to the point that she actually took delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.

The school where she taught required the teachers to review each child's past records.  She put Teddy's off until last.  However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.  At first Teddy's teachers gave him a glowing report, but things got progressively worse.  Teddy's mother was seriously ill and finally died when he was in the third grade.  His fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school.  He doesn't have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself.  She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's.  His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery store.  Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents.  Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume.  But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.  Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to."  After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.  On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Instead, she began to teach children.  Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy.  As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive.  The more she encouraged him the faster he responded.   By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class.

A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.  Teddy went on to graduate from high school, third in his class.  Four years later he graduated from college with the highest of honors.  He continued his schooling until he received a medical degree.  Through the years he kept in touch with Mrs. Thompson assuring her that she was the best teacher he ever had.

One spring Mrs. Thompson received a letter from Teddy saying that he had met this girl and they were going to be married.  He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.  Of course, Mrs. Thompson did.  And guess what?  She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing.   And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.  They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, "Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me.  Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."  Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back, "Teddy, you have it all wrong.  You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference.  I didn't know how to teach until I met you." 

Are you making a difference in someone else's life?

Friday, July 15, 2011

How Quickly the Gate Opens

An old farmer from the country went to the big city hospital to visit a dear friend.  He was told he would have to park in the visitor's parking lot.   He was surprised when he drove up to the entrance that the little gate lifted immediately.  He drove right in and parked his car in the shade.   He made his visit, returned to his car and drove to the exit, but it didn't open.  It required money to get out.  He paid the fare and mumbled to himself as he drove away, "Maybe they changed my oil and rotated my tires while I was there."

This example accurately illustrates sin.  It is so easy to get involved in sin and is very difficult to get out from under a sinful lifestyle.  Habits are easy to start and so difficult to break.  Satan has always said you can get in now and pay later.  Not only does he get the original price back, but with higher interest.  The momentary, fleeting pleasure of sin is all the bait the Devil needs with some people.  Many people sink into the quagmire of evil without realizing how deadly Satan's slimy pit can be.

It reminds me of how quickly the gate opened for David's sin with Bathsheba.  He saw her beauty.  He sent for her.  She came. He committed fornication with her.  Then he sent her home, thinking all was well.  It would cost him dearly to get out of this parking place.  She was found with child from that little night of fun.  David committed more sin to cover his tracks.  He had her husband, Uriah, killed on the battlefield.  David and Bathsheba lost the child they conceived.  There was also shame and suffering that came from this sin.

Sin is like a chameleon.  That lizard-like mocker can change its colors to meet its surroundings.  Such subtlety with regard to sin has overwhelmed many casual souls.  Sin is dangerous because the Devil is shrewd and man is gullible.

The Devil causes sin to have a certain allure, but those who nibble at the bait are never really satisfied.  The pleasures of sin are deceptive, temporary, high-priced and eternally a poor bargain.  They only produce remorse, corruption and heartache.

Young people, how quickly the gate opens for the first cigarette, or that chew of tobacco, that first beer, or that first act of sexual immorality, but it could cost an arm and a leg, or a heart and a lung.  You could end up paying the maximum cost – your life and your soul.  Sin hides the truth and makes promises that are never kept.  Sin is a dead-end street and a hollow, empty, senseless shell.

Let us not be deceived into thinking that just because there is no price at the entrance, there will be no price at the exit.  We need to pay attention to Paul's words to the Galatians in Galatians 6:7, "Be not deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.   For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."  Indeed, there is a high cost to low living.  The pleasures of sin are just not worth the price that has to be paid.  However, the joys of Christianity are too glorious to miss.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Musical Instruments or No Musical Instruments - Does It Make Any Difference?

The April 1, 2006 edition of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, GA included an article about recent efforts of some in the churches of Christ and the Independent Christian Church to reconcile with each other after 100 years of separation.  The two religious groups were first recognized as being separated by the U.S. religious census in 1906.  One of the major reasons for the split was over the use of instruments in worship.  The Independent Christian Church embraced the use of the instrument in worship; whereas, churches of Christ did not regard their use as being authorized in the New Testament.

The question on the minds of many is,
"Does it really make any difference whether or not an instrument is used in worship to God?  Should religious people be divided over something as insignificant as instruments?"  Undoubtedly, unity is a biblical and noble quest.  Jesus prayed for it (John 17:20-21).  The apostle Paul commended it (1 Corinthians 1:10).  But, at what price should it be attained?

The issue of instruments being used in worship is far greater than the instrument itself.  It really has to do with the issue of authority.  In religious matters, the only two choices available to us is divine authority or human authority.  There is no other.  Either the use of instruments in worship is from man or it is from God.  If from God, then to oppose their use or to divide over it is ungodly and unspiritual.  If from man, then their use amounts to spiritual haughtiness and rebellion.

Divine authority for any action settles the matter whether we accept it or not.  The proper question to ask is,
"Where does God authorize the use of instruments of music in worship in the New Testament?"  Such authorization is nowhere to be found!  That settles it and makes all the difference in the world!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Destruction of Jerusalem

Matthew chapter 24 has been described as the biggest problem in the gospel. Much confusion exists regarding this chapter because of the tendency on the part of many to refer to all the discussion within it to the Second Coming of Christ. Some have even attributed error to the statement of Jesus in verse 34, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished." It is the consensus of many that Christ and the apostles were mistaken. Seemingly, no thought is give to the idea that the exegesis of scholars is at fault.

An examination of this chapter in its proper context will clarify many difficulties. The larger context is found in John the Baptist's statement regarding the eventual downfall of Israel (Matthew 3:7-10). Jesus further pointed to the conversion of the Gentiles and the cutting off of the Jewish nation because of their lack of faith (Matthew 8:10-12). In His conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well Jesus related to the time when worship would not be confined to a particular geographical location (John 4:21). The Jewish nation would become like a barren fig tree and would be cut down (Luke 13:6-9). He severely denounced the empty religion of the Jewish leaders (Matthew 23:1-36) and concluded with a tender and moving lamentation over their spiritual destitution (Matthew 23:37-39).

The immediate context of the Lord's prophecy was prompted by the disciples' questions regarding the destruction of the beautiful temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-3). They mistakenly associated the overthrow of the temple with the end of the world and they wanted to be informed in advance of the signs that would accompany the final coming ( Matthew 24:3). Jesus responded by discussing two comings and two ends of two worlds. The first judgment would fall upon Jerusalem and would mark the end of Judaism. The final judgment would mark the end of the world at which time Jesus would come again, not as a Savior but as a Judge.

Note the signs that would precede judgment upon Jerusalem (Matthew 24:4-28). There would be misleading signs (Matthew 24:4-14) such as false Messiahs (vs. 5). There would also be wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation (vs. 6-7), famines, earthquakes, natural calamities (vs. 7-8), and persecutions (vs. 9-13). The gospel would also be preached to the world before the temple would be destroyed (vs. 14).

Jesus said that when you see the "abomination of desolation," identified as the Roman army in Luke 21:20, you will know the time for Jerusalem ’s destruction is near (Matthew 24:15-28). Its destruction will be extremely horrible and devastating (Matthew 24:29-31). It would occur within the lifetime of those who heard Him speak on this occasion (Matthew 24:32-35). In 70 A.D. the Roman army under General Titus besieged Jerusalem just as Jesus prophesied.

However, by way of contrast the end of time would not have any specific signs that would accompany it. Life will be carried on as usual when suddenly, without advance warning, Jesus will come again ( Matthew 24:36-52; -cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). Man needs to stand in readiness for that great day to come at any moment.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What Is the Church of Christ?

The definitions of words and phrases are critical to good communication. It is often the case that words translated from one language to another lose something in the translation. An example of this is the explanation an American provided a foreign news correspondent regarding the fact that he missed a plane that was hijacked after take-off. He told the reporter that he guessed the man upstairs was looking after him. The newsman recounted the story with these words in his report: "The lucky American had an accomplice stationed on top of a nearby building who was able to warn him of what was taking place so that he could avert getting on the plane."

Some have questioned our affiliation with the organization known as the
United Church of Christ. Others have inquired about our relationship with the National Council of Churches of Christ. The truth of the matter is that the Lord’s church has absolutely no affiliation with either of these organizations. Some brethren among us have used poor terminology with reference to their own identity. They have described themselves with such language as, "I'm a church of Christ-er," or have referred to a minister of the gospel as a "Church of Christ preacher." Even though one may do so innocently, such language places the Lord’s church in the position of being one denomination among many. The identity of the Lord’s church is discovered by properly employing biblical teaching to the research.

Consider the etymology of the term "church." The word refers to a "called out assembly."   As such it has been used to refer to a political body (Acts 19:39), a riotous mob (Acts 19:32, 41), or a religious body (1 Corinthians 11:18). The Lord’s church is composed of those who have responded to the call of the gospel by being obedient to it (2 Thessalonians 2:14).

 Reflect on the negative parameters. The Lord's church is not a material building composed of brick and mortar (Acts 17:24-25; 1 Peter 2:5). The church is not an extension of Old Testament practices. Jesus’ death on the cross took away the old law and established the new covenant (Galatians 3:22-25; Colossians 2:14). Neither is the Lord's church a denominational part of the whole of Christianity; that is, it is not a fragmented part of the whole. The church of our Lord IS Christianity (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Jesus promised to build only one church (Matthew 16:18) and only one was constructed (Ephesians 4:4; 1:22-23). The various denominations that have arisen over the years are the result of man’s efforts, not God's!

Examine the biblical comparisons that are made. The church is described as a body (Colossians 1:18). Christ is the head of the body and all members are subject to Him (Ephesians 5:23). Within the body there is diversity (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) as well as coordination (1 Corinthians 12:15-17). Likewise, members of the body have a mutual concern for each other (1 Corinthians 12:25). The church is called a family (1 Timothy 3:15). Since the church is God's house, is it possible for one to be a child of God and not be in His church? To ask the question is but to answer it. Furthermore, the church is described as the bride of Christ (Romans 7:1-4); 2 Corinthians 11:1-2). Do you suppose Christ would be married to more than one bride? If denominationalism were true, wouldn’t He be guilty of spiritual adultery? Perish the thought! The church is also described as a kingdom. The synonymous use of the terms church and kingdom prove this (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus said His kingdom would be established in the lifetime of the generation contemporary with Him ( Mark 9:1). In the early 60's A.D. Paul wrote that he was in the kingdom (Colossians 1:13). All who presently obey the same gospel Paul obeyed can likewise be in the same kingdom of which he was a part. Hence, the kingdom is not something yet to be established as advocated by premillennialists, but is now in existence. The church is called the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2). In his touching speech with the elders of the Ephesian congregation, Paul stated that the church (God’s flock) was purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). Here's a question for consideration: Can the blood of Jesus save one without being a part of the group His saving blood purchased?

It is imperative that we reject the husks of human opinion and embrace the truth of heaven's instructions. Why not obey the gospel of Christ and become a member of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Are the Ingredients of Spiritual Growth?

          A physician once stated that the secret to a long life was to drink eight glasses of water each day. There is no doubt that following this advice would greatly aid the longevity as well as the quality of one's life. One could wish that the secret to a strong spiritual life would be so easy, but it isn't. However, in Phillipians chapter three Paul does provide some food for thought. In this chapter, Paul reveals his spiritual biography. He points to his past in verses 1-11. There we see "Paul, the accountant." He refers to his present in verses 12-16 where we see "Paul, the athlete." Finally, he describes the future in verses 17-21 and pictures himself as an "alien" in the world.

          We focus our attention on verses twelve through fourteen where Paul unfolds some ingredients essential for spiritual development.

Dissatisfaction (3:12-13a). Though he was a religious giant, Paul was dissatisfied with his spiritual progress. He realized his personal shortcomings and wanted to advance for the sake of the kingdom. When a person becomes satisfied with his spiritual stature he signals the end of spiritual growth. The church at Sardis was satisfied with their spiritual reputation, but Jesus described them as being dead (Rev. 3:1). Laodicea felt satisfied with their status, but, in reality, they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17). Paul's spiritual maturity was shown in the recognition of his own immaturity. So is ours.

Devotion (3:13b). "One thing" is an important phrase. The self-righteous rich young ruler lacked "one thing" in obtaining the true riches (Mk. 10:21). The man blind from his birth did not know many things, but he said, "One thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see" (Jn. 9:25). The Psalmist requested "one thing" of the Lord: that he dwell in the house of the Lord all his life (Psa. 27:4). An ingredient essential for spiritual growth is having singleness of purpose. Just as an athlete succeeds by oncentrating on his goal so the Christian develops by focusing upon his eternal quest. A river that is allowed to overflow its banks becomes a swamp, whereas, one that is properly channeled becomes a power. The spiritually developing life is a focused life.

Direction (3:13c). Paul did not allow his checkered past of opposition to the church hinder his current service to the Lord. In order to grow Christians must break the power of the past by living for the future. Like Paul, we need to accept God's offer of forgiveness and forget the past (Acts 22:16).

Determination (3:14). This verse captures the idea of intense endeavor. The picture is that of a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey. A person does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures in his field of competition, or by watching movies, reading books, or cheering at games. He must get on the field and perform. It may be that one of the reasons why some do not grow spiritually is because the price of success is too great for them. However, the incorruptible crown awaiting the faithful is worthy of relentless pursuit.