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!