People often try to dismiss such relationships as “flings”, “indiscretions”, or “affairs.”

A campfire can be hypnotic.  Young children must be carefully watched as they stand before such a fire.  Those too young to realize the dangers of fire may play with something that will lead to great harm.

A man near Fresno, California was recently caught on video doing something similar to playing with fire.  A motorist filmed the craziness of this bicyclist who had grabbed onto the back of a tractor-trailer rig traveling on Highway 99 at a high speed.  To make the situation even more dangerous, the cyclist was not even wearing a helmet (though we’re not sure a helmet would help much in a crash at that speed).

“What was that guy thinking?!” we naturally wonder.  Maybe a better question would be, “Was that guy thinking, or was he under the influence of some powerful drug?”  Either way, he was definitely playing with fire.  Probably, my next disclaimer is unnecessary: Don’t try this at home!

You don’t have to hitch your bike to a speeding truck to reap tragedy.  Hosea wrote about the lives God’s people were living: “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).  His point is clear: When we live in violation of God’s will in order to experience pleasures and thrills, we’re headed for disaster.

Similar wise counsel is found in Proverbs 6:27-29: “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?  Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?  So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent.”

People often try to dismiss such relationships as “flings”, “indiscretions”, or “affairs”.  One man several years ago defended his infidelity by pleading what he thought was obvious: “God wants me to be happy.”  I believe that God does want us to be happy, but that doesn’t release us from carefully following His commandments.

Moses stated a truth long ago that we need to know: “And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24).  “… for our good always”

Children will become angry if they’re not allowed to play in the campfire.  Should we value their happiness more than their safety and well-being?  A good parent knows that doing whatever is necessary to keep their child happy will eventually lead to disaster.

When we’re tempted to latch onto some fast-moving temptation in order to experience a thrill, let’s pause to remember why Jesus came: “… I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Copyright, 2018, Timothy D. Hall

“THE LAW OF SOWING AND REAPING”

While the parable of the sower is designed to impress upon our minds the importance of going forth with the “seed of the gospel,” the principle of sowing and reaping is applicable to so many areas of life. Even in this parable there are significant implications. For example, in order to harvest a crop, we must plant the seed. Failure to sow the seed due to indifference, laziness, or out-right rebellion will result in crop failure, or no crop at all. We can also learn that it is important to sow the right kind of seed in order to get the desirable crop. The seeds of humanism, evolution, materialism, or any other ‘ism’ were scattered more than half a century ago and the harvest is now coming to fruition.

In this article I want to take a look at this law of sowing and reaping from another stand point. Sir Robert Watson-Watt holds the distinct honor of being awarded the most money for an invention used in WWII. His invention of radar not only impacted the military during that war, but has become a vital part of our daily life in other areas as well. Ironically Mr. Watson-Watt because the victim of his own invention when he was stopped for a speeding violation some years later. He wrote the following poem about his experience:

Pity Sir Robert Watson-Watt,
Strange target of his radar plot.
And thus, with other I could mention,
A victim of his own invention.

There is an interesting question presented by Jeremiah to those rebellious Jews who had sown to the wind and were about to reap the whirlwind. Consider Jeremiah 5:31: “The prophets prophecy falsely, and the priests rule by their means; and my people love to have it so; and what will ye do in the end thereof?” Here were men who should have been prophesying the truth. Instead they spoke lies. They failed miserably in communicating the truth of God to Israel. The priests were no better. A careful study of Jeremiah chapter five indicates that the nation was sick from the head to the foot! The populace preferred the smooth and slick speech of the false teachers to the truth of God’s word. Men have not changed much since that time, and today the smooth speech of the false teachers seems to have captured the minds of the innocent and unsuspecting. The question Jeremiah presents to the people is sobering: “And what will ye do in the end thereof?” Too few consider the consequences of their action before running head long into some path of ungodly behavior.

We do not know much about Asaph, author of the 73rd Psalm. In twenty-eight verses the inspired writer seeks to impress upon our minds the eternal truth that “not all things are as they might seem to be!” When he focused his attention on the wicked all he could see was their prosperity and ease of living. They did not appear to be “in trouble as other men” (73:5a); they were not “plagued like other men” (73:5b). They were proud (73:6), violent (73:6), and they had “more than heart could wish” (73:7b). They blasphemed the God of heaven (73:9), and appeared to enjoy life to the fullest. So discouraged was Asaph that he confessed that his “feet were almost gone”; that his “steps had well night slipped” (73:2). He really thought the wicked had it better in this life.

But then something remarkable happened that changed his entire perspective on life. In Psalm 73:16-17 he wrote of that life-changing experience: “When I thought how I might know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God, and considered their latter end.” It is precisely at this point that Asaph realized the value of the law of sowing and reaping. If the lazy student could see the latter end of his poor study habits, and project himself to that point in time when would receive that report card that pronounced that he had failed, oh how different things might have been in those days and weeks leading up to the final exam. If the young man or woman who is tempted to give in to the lusts of the flesh could see the end result of their foolish decision to throw caution to the wind and go about fulfilling their fleshly desires rather than remain pure, what a difference it would make on that one occasion when the pleasures of sin for a season would draw them away from God. If that man brining the cup of strong drink to his lips could somehow look down the road and envision the effects of drunkenness and debauchery, he most certainly would turn away from the course he was about to pursue. I am not suggesting that knowing the outcome would, in every case, keep someone from pursuing a foolish course of action, but I think I can say that it would go a long way toward resisting the temptation at the moment. If that rich man who built his “bigger barn” could have seen that his soul would be required of him that very night, perhaps his interests would have been on the heavenly rather than the earthly, and he would have busied his day doing good unto others rather than scheming what he might do for himself. Someone once pointed out:

Every action leads to results or consequences. If you plant to please your own desires, you’ll reap a crop of sorrow and evil. If you plant to please God, you’ll reap joy and everlasting life. What kind of seeds are you sowing?

The only “seed” that will produce an everlasting harvest of good is the seed of the gospel. In view of the law of sowing and reaping, why would we want to sow anything else?

By Tom Wacaster

 

TAMING THE TONGUE

SERIES:       “TAMING THE TONGUE” 

Topic:  “To Tell The Truth”

Texts:   Ephesians 4:25;  Matthew 5:33-37

Aim:  to learn why honesty is so important.

 LIE DETECTOR TEST:   In tonight’s conversation we will consider the importance of HONESTY in our speech, but first:  just for fun, let’s check out our “lie detector” ability with the following “TRUE – FALSE” questions.

DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Do you think you can usually tell when someone is being dishonest?  Can you identify when someone is lying to you?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:  1.  Who do you suppose would be more likely to tell you a lie:  a stranger, or someone you know and see every day?  Why?              2. In your opinion, which kind of falsehood would be more destructive in the long term:  telling a lie to a stranger, or telling a lie to someone you know and see every day?  Why?

DISCUSSION QUESTION:  All of us have been on the receiving end of dishonesty at one time or another, but:  How do you FEEL when you realize that someone has been lying to you?

Last week we learned that we can use our speech to TEAR others down or we can use it to BUILD them up.  In this conversation we will consider a sin that can tear down the bonds of trust between people:  Dishonesty!  Please TURN to the book of Ephesians (near the middle of your New Testament), Chapter 4.

READ Verse 25.   In this verse we are told that one reason we must be truthful with our brothers and sisters is because “we are members of one body.”      DISCUSSION QUESTION:  Why do you suppose Paul reminds them of their mutual membership in the church?  And, what does that suggest to you about dishonesty?

DISCUSSION QUESTION:  Paul’s comment about being “members of one body” reminds us that if we are UNTRUTHFUL, we will eventually be considered UNTRUSTWORTHY.  How might it affect the quality of our life if we gained a reputation for being dishonest?  What are some of the ways it could hurt ME if I lie to YOU?

DISCUSSION QUESTION:  The seriousness of the sin of dishonesty may be seen in the fact that in Revelation 21 (the next-to-last chapter in the Bible) when the Lord is discussing the judgment to come, he says “All liars will have their place in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” (verse 8)    Dishonesty is so serious that it not only damages our relationship with others, but also can destroy our relationship with God!   Why, then, do you suppose falsehood is so prevalent?  What are some reasons why people are tempted to tell a lie?

DISCUSSION QUESTION:  People often speak of a “little white lie.”   Do you think that some types of falsehood are different from others?  Are there degrees of dishonesty? Why, or why not?

 DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Do you believe it would be morally right to tell the complete truth IF you knew that it would hurt someone’s feelings?  Why, or why not?

DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Should you divulge everything you know IF you realize it would cause great harm to someone else?  What if innocent people would die as a result?  In your opinion, what is the difference between DECEPTION and DISCRETION?

[Background Note:  For cases in which complete disclosure would endanger innocent life, we could consider the midwives who protected newborn baby boys from Pharaoh (Exodus 1:15-22);   Rahab who hid the spies (Joshua 2:1-24);   Jonathan, who did not tell his father Saul of David’s whereabouts (1 Samuel 20:28);   and perhaps Jesus, who instructed his followers on several occasions to keep quiet about what they knew (Matthew 8:4, 16:20, 17:9).  It is important to note that in each of these cases the people involved were unselfishly trying to protect OTHERS, not selfishly manipulating the truth to promote THEIR OWN interests.]

    DISCUSSION QUESTION:  Proverbs 26:28 says, “A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”  Flattery is a very specific form of dishonesty.  How can you tell when someone is “buttering you up” and how do you feel when you realize they’re doing it?

Background Note:  The Scriptures contain many condemnations of flattery.  See Psalm 12:3; Proverbs 29:5;  Romans 16:18;  1 Thessalonians 2:5.

 DISCUSSION QUESTION:  Proverbs 28:23 says, “He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.”  And, Proverbs 27:5-6 tells us, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”  Why is it so difficult to be totally honest with a friend when you realize he or she is headed in the wrong direction?  Why is it hard to “rebuke” someone when they need it?

 DISCUSSION QUESTION:  If you really want your friends to be candid in their responses, what do you need to do?  Is there something you can do to encourage your friends to be totally honest with you?

Now TURN to the gospel of Matthew (the first book of the New Testament), Chapter 5.  READ Verses 33-37   DISCUSSION QUESTION:  When people back up their statements with strong expressions like “I swear” or “Cross my heart,” does it make them seem MORE believable or you or LESS credible?  Why, or why not?

RE-READ Verse 37   DISCUSSION QUESTION:  What do you think Jesus means when he says, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your “No,’ ‘No’”?  What does this statement mean to you?

SUMMARY STATEMENT:  Jesus said that we must be a people whose integrity is so well known that we don’t need to back up our statements with oaths.  If we are habitually untruthful, people will come to consider us as untrustworthy, and if we are untrustworthy, then our dishonesty breaks the bonds of trust and confidence on which our relationships must rely.

© Dan Williams

HONESTY QUIZ

TRUE – FALSE        1. Most children are not capable of telling a lie until they reach the age of 4 or above.    [FALSE    About 70% of children from 2.5 to 3 years old tell lies, and in fact some are quite good at it.]

TRUE – FALSE        2.  Young children will lie about their actions, but not about their feelings.  [TRUE]

TRUE – FALSE          3.  Men are twice as likely as women to “call in sick” to get a day off from work.  [TRUE.  29% of men have pretended to be sick to get off, compared to 14% of women.]

TRUE – FALSE       4.  Men are more likely to lie to make themselves look good, while women are more likely to tell a lie to make others feel good.  [TRUE]

TRUE – FALSE       5.  According to some researchers, non-verbal signs that indicate someone is telling a lie include:  avoiding eye contact, licking the lips, and stuttering or stammering.  [PERHAPS TRUE.  Other indications cited are rubbing the nose more often, blinking less often, clearing the throat, and shifting in the seat.]   

TRUE – FALSE      6.  A policeman can usually spot a liar more accurately than can a judge.   [FALSE.  Cops guess right only 50% of the time;  judges accurately identified 62% of liars;  CIA agents, who receive special training in behavioral clues, can spot liars 72% of the time.]

TRUE – FALSE      7.  A polygraph machine, better known as a “lie detector” machine, always provides an accurate analysis of whether a person is telling the truth or not.  [FALSE.   Repeated scientific studies have demonstrated that polygraphs have an accuracy rate of only 80% to 90%.  An article in this month’s issue of Radiology, however, suggests that MRI brain scans may be more accurate in detecting deception.]

 TRUE – FALSE     8.  College students today are more likely to cheat on homework and exams than previous generations.  [TRUE.  Multiple studies have found that cheating among both high school and college students has increased significantly, with estimates of occasional cheaters ranging from 60% to 75%.]

 TRUE – FALSE    9.  The worst cheaters in college are the business majors.   [FALSE.  But they ran a close second.  A survey of nearly 50,000 students at 69 schools found that 26% of business majors admitted to serious cheating on exams, but they were edged out by journalism majors, 27% of whom said they cheated on exams.  QUESTION:   What would you guess was the major with the most honest college students?  ANSWER:   Scientists:  Only 19% of science students said they cheated on their exams.] 

 TRUE – FALSE    10.  Professional politicians are much more accomplished liars than the average person.  [TRUE.  Successful politicians tend to be much better at concealing non-verbal cues that they are being dishonest.]

 [Sources:  http://www.intelihealth.comwww.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2209445.stmBusinessWeek, “Biz Majors Get an F For Honesty,” February 6, 2006, p. 14;   www.rd.com/content/openContent.do?contentId=15355;

www.virginia.edu/topnews/textonlyarchive/October_1996/campaign.txt;   AARP Magazine, Jan/Feb 2006, p. 16]

 

 

What Are You Thinking?

Joy for the Journey – A Study of Philippians                        David Owens

Sermon 16: “What Are You Thinking?”               Text: Philippians 4:8-9

Introduction:

  1. Whenever I got into trouble as a boy, which happened once in a while, my mother would ask me: “What were you thinking?”
  2. Can you guess what my favorite answer was?  “I don’t know.”
  3. Truth is: most of the time I wasn’t thinking, or at least I wasn’t thinking clearly enough!
  1. In reality, our brains are always at work.
  2. Even while we are sleeping, our minds are still engaged – thinking, processing, planning, and trying to resolve problems.
  3. Our mental computers never shut down.
  4. Scientists say that about 10,000 thoughts go through the human mind each day (I would have guessed that the number was higher than that).
  1. Because our brains are doing so much thinking, it is important to evaluate just what we are thinking.
  2. What kinds of thoughts are running through our minds?
  3. What kinds of thoughts are putting down roots?
  4. What kinds of things are our minds really focused on?
  1. Why is it so important that we evaluate our thoughts?
  2. The answer is: because we are what we think.
  3. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Beware of what you set your mind on for that you will surely become.”
  4. Here is a more well-known quote from Emerson: “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
  5. Where did the destiny begin? With a thought – in our minds.
  6. The King James Version of Proverbs 23:7 says: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
  7. All of us are a product of our thoughts.
  1. The spiritual battle begins and is ultimately won or lost in our minds.
  2. Proverbs 4:23 tells us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
  3. The apostle Peter gave this command: “Prepare your minds for action…” (1 Pet. 1:13).
  4. The apostle Paul explained: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
  5. Paul also commanded: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2)
  1. My aim today is to encourage and challenge us to keep our minds focused on what is pure and true.
  2. In our text in Philippians 4:8-9, Paul commanded the Christians in Philippi to lift the level of their thinking.
  3. In our last sermon from this series, a couple of weeks ago, we examined the preceding verses and determined that if we were going to survive and thrive, we needed to be joyful, graceful, and peaceful.
  4. I want us to add to that list that we need to be thought-full – full of the right kind of thoughts.
  5. Allow me to share some suggestions for winning the battle of the mind.
  1. First, Allow Only Good Thoughts to Stay In Your Mind.
  2. Paul spelled out in detail the kinds of things we ought to be thinking about.
  3. He wrote: 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:8-9)
  4. Let’s briefly examine more closely each of these items from verse 8.
  5. We need to think about “whatever is true” – opposed to things that are false and deceitful – notice that this is at the beginning of Paul’s list.

– We often start with the most important when we are listing things.

  1. We need to think about “whatever is noble” – in contrast to things that are ignoble, dishonorable or unworthy.
  2. We need to think about “whatever is right” – as opposed to things that are wrong or unjust.
  3. We need to think about “whatever is pure” – in contrast to the things that are impure, unholy, or dirty.
  4. We need to think about “whatever is lovely” – as opposed to things that are unlovely or ugly.
  5. Some commentators say that “winsome” is the best translation of this word.
  6. Webster defines “winsome” as “causing joy or pleasure; pleasant; cheerful; merry.”
  7. We need to think about “wherever is admirable” – rather than things that are disreputable or scandalous.
  8. We need to think about “whatever is excellent” – in contrast to things that are inferior or second-rate.
  9. Finally, we need to think about “whatever is praiseworthy” – rather than things that are shameful or punishable.
  10. That is a very all-encompassing list, don’t you think?
  11. But the list becomes a good test that we can apply to our thoughts.
  12. When we begin to think about something we can stop and check that thought against this list.
  13. We can ask: Is this thought true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy?
  14. If our thought doesn’t pass the test then it needs to be eliminated immediately.
  1. Now let’s ask the question: What kinds of thoughts are always true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy?
  2. Answer: God’s thoughts – God’s Word.
  3. The very best thing we can fill our minds with is God’s words – God’s truths, principles and promises.
  4. Look with me at Psalm 19:7-11.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.

The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;

they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

  1. God’s Word is so good! God’s Word is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, righteous, and precious!  It is so valuable – it is priceless!
  2. That being true is there anything better than God’s Word that we can put in our minds and be thinking about?
  3. And the only way to get God’s Word into our minds and hearts is to put forth effort to listen to the word, read the word and study the word, and meditate (think) God’s Word.
  4. We learn from Psalm 19 that knowing God’s Word is not just a good idea, it is a matter of survival, and without it there is no spiritual growth nor any ongoing reward.
  5. But when we treasure God’s Word and live according to it, then there is great reward.
  6. To win the battle of the mind, we must put only good things in our minds, and God’s Word is the very best thing we can put in our minds and keep in our thoughts.

A second suggestion for winning the battle of the mind is…

  1. Don’t Allow Bad Thoughts to Get a Foothold in Your Mind
  2. I know that it is impossible for us to keep all bad thoughts from ever entering our minds, but we don’t have to allow them to stay there.
  3. The old saying is true: “You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from nesting in your hair.”
  4. When bad thoughts enter our minds – thoughts that are opposite of what we have just looked at, we need to kick them out – like birds, we need to shoo them away.
  5. It really is that simple – we need to stop the bad thoughts in their tracks.
  1. How can we overcome those bad thoughts and bring them to an end?
  2. A primary way to do it is by fighting them with the truth of Scripture.
  3. Paul instructs us to “take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)
  4. We see that Jesus used the Word of God to fight the temptations of Satan in Matthew 4.
  5. With each temptation, we countered with “It is written…”
  6. So how can we fight bad thoughts with Scripture.
  7. If your bad thought is something impure, then you can learn a Scripture that commands purity and use that verse to dispel the temptation.
  8. If your bad thought is something untrue that is causing you to fear, then learn a truthful promise of God that can be thought about to push the bad thought away.
  9. If your bad thought has to do with hatred or revenge, then focus on God’s commands to love your enemy, or focus on Scripture that reminds you of how much God has forgiven you.
  10. If this seems too simplistic, then keep in mind that this is the method the Psalmist proposed in Psalm 119.
  11. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” (vs. 9)
  12. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (vs. 11)
  1. I think it is important that we talk for a minute about the need to reduce the evil that enters our minds.
  2. I realize it is impossible for us to never see, hear, or think about something evil or impure, but it is important that we do our best to keep that which is evil or impure out of our minds.
  3. When we are trying to eat in a more healthy way, we watch what we eat and try not to take into our body things are unhealthy – like processed foods or things that are high in salt or sugar.
  4. In the same way, if we are trying to have a healthier mind, then we need to try not to take into our mind things that are unhealthy.
  5. That means we have to be careful about the things we are reading, watching, listening to, or surfing on the internet.
  6. As you know very well, much of the media – TV, movies, music, books, magazines, social media, and websites promote what is false, ignoble, impure, unlovely, and detestable.
  7. That is not to say that everything about TV, movies, music, books, magazines, social media and websites is evil, but if we are honest in our assessment, we would have to admit that a lot of it is.
  1. So, what am I trying to say? We need to be careful about what we allow to enter our minds.
  2. Why am I saying that?  Because whatever is in our minds has an influence on us.
  3. Anyone who says that they can fill their minds with that which is evil without being affected by it is fooling himself or herself.
  4. That person may not be able to recognize the effect immediately or overtly, but they are being affected nonetheless.
  5. Solomon asked the rhetorical question: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? (Prov. 6:21)
  6. What is the obvious answer? No he cannot.
  7. You can’t play with fire without being burned!
  8. Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” (Mt. 12:34-35)
  9. What we allow to come into our minds gets stored there and it does have an effect.
  10. If what we allow in is good, then the effect is good.
  11. If what we allow in is bad, then the effect is bad.

Conclusion:

  1. And so, just like my mother used to ask me, I ask you: “What are you thinking?”
  2. The apostle Paul understood the power of the mind and he understood the importance of filling our minds and focusing our minds on only good things.
  3. I pray that each of us will fill our minds with God’s Word and with every other good thing, but I also pray that we will keep that which is evil out of our minds.
  4. Let’s keep in mind that we are products of our thoughts.
  5. Charles Swindoll explained this truth this way: “Thoughts form the thermostat which regulates what we accomplish in life. My body responds and reacts to the input from my mind.  If I feed it with doubt, worry and discouragement, that is precisely the kind of day I will experience.  If I adjust my thermostat forward – to thoughts filled with vision, hope, and victory – I can count on that kind of day.  You and I become what we think about…Happiness, like winning, is a matter of right thinking, not intelligence, age, or position.  Our performance is directly related to the thoughts we deposit in the memory bank.  We can only draw on what we deposit.” (Come Before Winter, Charles Swindoll)
  1. We notice that Paul ended this section with another promise of peace – He wrote: “And the God of peace will be with you.” (vs. 9)
  2. We want the God of peace to be with us, don’t we?
  3. When looking at the entire verse, we notice that Paul was again challenging them to follow his good example.
  4. Paul wrote: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.”
  5. So, we need to think the right things, and we need to practice the right things.
  6. And when we think the right things and do the right things, then we know the God of peace is with us.
  7. Isaiah wrote this wonderful promise: “You [God] will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
  8. Have you disciplined your mind to be steadfast in trusting God?
  1. Let me end with a story of a boy with a one-track mind.
  2. One day a teacher asked this question of a little boy in her class: “Johnny what is your favorite animal?”
  3. Little Johnny replied, “Fried chicken!”
  4. Being a vegetarian and PETA supporter, the teacher sent Johnny to the principal’s office.
  5. The next day the same teacher, wanting to give Johnny a second chance asked him: “Johnny, what it your favorite living animal?”
  6. Again, little Johnny answered, “Chicken.”
  7. The teacher asked him, “Out of all the various kinds of animals, why is your favorite animal a chicken?”
  8. Little Johnny said, “Because I love fried chicken!”
  9. Off to the principal’s office Johnny was sent again.
  10. The next day, the teacher, wanting to take Johnny in a different direction asked him, “Who is the famous person you admire most?”
  11. Little Johnny replied, “Colonel Sanders!”
  12. Little Johnny had a one-track mind!
  1. I want to encourage us to have one-track minds, not on fried chicken, like Johnny, but one-track minds on the things of God.
  2. One-track minds that focus on Jesus and doing our best to think like Jesus and act like Jesus.
  3. One-track minds that do all we can to fill our minds with that which is true and noble, right and pure, lovely and admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
  4. How blessed will our lives be if we have minds focused on those kinds of things?
  5. How much of a blessing to God and to others will our lives be if our minds are focused on those kinds of things?
  6. Surely the God of peace will be with us and do amazing things with us and through us, when we have our minds focused on the right kinds of things!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

The Bible Exposition Commentary, Philippians, by Warren Wiersbe, Victor Books, 1989

Where will you be this Wednesday night?

Have you heard the joke that’s going around about the man who was waiting his tum on Judgement Day? He was standing at the end of a vast multitude of people when he heard a great commotion at the head of the line, near the pearly gates. As the noise gradually made its way down the line the man anxiously asked those in front of him, “What is it? What’s it all about?” Soon those in front joyfully passed the word back: “They’re not counting Wednesday nights! They’re not counting Wednesday nights!”

We chuckle with recognition at that joke, mainly because we know some who would be relieved to hear such news. In every congregation, there are those whose spiritual thirst is easily quenched by an hour on Sunday morning and thus they rarely, if ever, participate in any of the other services of the church.

The joke reflects a mindset that occasionally becomes explicit when I am asked, “How many times do I have to come?” Even though the question may be sincerely asked, I would suggest that such an attitude betrays a mistaken, perhaps even legalistic, approach to church attendance.

If you are a once-a-week Christian (or a once-in-a-while attender), and you are wondering how you would fare on Judgement Day, I would suggest that the real issue to consider is priorities, not performance. As you decide whether you will return for Sunday night worship or Wednesday night Bible study, ask yourself this question: What will I be doing tonight INSTEAD OF worshiping God?

If your alternative is more pressing or urgent than meeting with your brothers and sisters to worship God, then by all means, don’t come to church. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus pictured the priest and the Levite passing by the beaten and dying traveler, presumably on their way to Jerusalem to worship (Luke 10:30-37). Their example reminds us that church attendance by itself is worthless if we are not willing to live right before God and with others (Jeremiah 7:1-11), so if you are needed to care for a sick neighbor or friend, skip the assembly.

On the other hand, if you consistently look for excuses to miss the fellowship of your brothers and sisters, only to find yourself sitting at home watching trivial television programs, you need to stop fooling yourself and rearrange your priorities.

We don’t attend any worship service or Bible class in order to “punch our ticket”: we come to encourage others and be encouraged by them (Hebrews 10:24-25); we attend to grow spiritually because church is a place where we are encouraged to be less like the world and more like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:12-18); and most of all, we assemble to offer praise to our God with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29). My worship, like my giving, is to be the expression of a grateful heart (Colossians 3:15-17), not a grudging duty to fulfill.

So, do Wednesday nights count? That depends. They do if you are hungry and thirsty for righteousness (Matthew 5:6); they do if you, like the earliest disciples, are “devoted to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42); and they do if you are looking for a place where you and your family will be encouraged to be less worldly and more spiritual.

Where will you be this Wednesday night?

Dan Williams

“Trading My Handle”

Darian Lipscomb is a 15-year-old who lives in Prospect, Virginia.  His life was pretty average for a teenager until the truck showed up.  Answering a knock at his door earlier this week, he looked out to see a large truck with his name on its side in bold letters.  “Hey, Prospect,” the sign read; “Does anyone know Darian?”  A photo of basketball hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal was beside the caption.

Carnival Cruise Lines was behind the search for Darian.  It seems Darian had taken the SnapChat handle of @CarnivalCruise in 2012 after going on his first of four cruises with his family.  The cruise line is about to launch its newest ship, Carnival Horizon, and wanted to barter with Darian for the handle.

What would this Fortune 500 company offer a small-town teenager for his handle?  How about a free cruise aboard the Horizon for him and his family, valued at more than  $5,000?  They will be the first to board the new liner, and Darian will be given surprises at various points along the cruise.  Darian didn’t hesitate; he knew a good thing when he saw it.  (Now, of course, he’ll have to find a new handle for SnapChat.)

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus announced to His apostles and to the world that the confession Peter had just made of His divinity and messiahship would be the foundation of the church He would build.  The word Jesus used, “church”, is from a Greek word which means “those who have been called out”.

Why would Jesus be calling people out?  Will He offer us a cruise, or something else of value?  Peter answers: “But [Christians, the church] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).  To be “a chosen race … a people for His own possession” is more than an honor.  It means that God will provide for and protect us; we are now part of His family.

And what does God ask of us in return?  He wants our “handle”.  If we are to be “His own possession” we will naturally respond to His directions and requests.  We will no longer call our own shots, but will be guided by Heavenly wisdom.

Paul told us what it means to be “the called out”: “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Christ stands at our door knocking, hoping we’ll open (Revelation 3:20).  Why is He calling us to come out?  “… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  We would be wise to answer His call.

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.

Copyright, 2018, Timothy D. Hall

Why Marriages Fail

Why do marriages fail? Pundits offer a number of reasons, but these explanations don’t tell the whole story.

For example, marriages do not fail due to incompatibility. Every marriage is comprised of two people who are incompatible in some respects. In successful marriages, partners learn how to adapt to each other’s interests. Their differences become a source of strength, rather than a source of conflict.

Marriages do not fail because of money. Our grandparents were far poorer than we are, yet there were far fewer divorces in their day. Somehow they figured out that money – or the lack thereof – was simply something a couple dealt with. When they said, “for richer or for poorer,” they meant it. Poverty was a shared experience that brought them closer together, rather than driving them apart.

Marriages do not fail because of in-laws. God decreed that a man should “leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Gen. 2:24). A failure to cut the apron strings when entering a new relationship with a spouse can generate a lot of problems. But the in-laws generally can’t be blamed for the problems. They can’t intrude into the marriage unless the couple allows them to do so.

Marriages do not fail because of sex. Of all the incompatibilities that a couple has to struggle with, this is probably the biggest. Men and women have completely different libidos, and it takes some couples a long time to understand each other’s needs in this area. Some couples never do reach that understanding. But that doesn’t mean a marriage is doomed. Successful marriages have this problem, too. They just learn to adapt.

Marriages do not fail because of kids. Of all the reasons offered for a failed marriage, this is the most inexcusable. Raising children to be happy, well-adjusted, productive citizens is a primary reason for marriage in the first place. This job can be exhausting, exasperating, and expensive. But if a couple remains patient and committed, it will be the most rewarding achievement of their life. If children become the source of marital discord, there’s something else going on behind the curtains.

All of these issues may contribute to a failed marriage, but they are not the underlying cause. The main reason that marriages fail is simply selfishness. One or both parties in the relationship consider “self” to be more important than “spouse.” Armed with that attitude, every difference, however trivial, becomes a potential battleground that can destroy the marriage.

Self-help books on sex, children, money, etc., can be good resources for helping a young couple cope with marriage. But the best resource is a thorough indoctrination in the Biblical meaning of “love” – treating others as more important than self.

– by David King

People of Faith (2) (Hebrews 11:1-40)

 

 We’re thinking about Heb 11, the great “Faith Chapter” of the Bible. But as Dave Phillips points out, the Hebrew Bible doesn’t actually have a word for “faith.” Several words are used there to describe being faithful, as well as to describe the act of believing. But overall the OT describes faith more than it defines it. (One Word Study Guide, 110)

  1. That means that the author of Heb 11 is being very “OT” in his way of speaking about faith.
  1. Yes, he defines faith in v. 1 (“the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”), but most of the chapter is spent describing or illustrating faith in the lives of various people of the past. Actually, the author creates a kind of mosaic of faith, with each OT personality making up part o the larger picture.
  1. Last week, in studying these “People of Faith,” we learned that People of Faith (1) trust in what they can’t see, & (2) act on what they believe.
  1. But there’s far more for us to learn from Heb 11 about being “People of Faith.”
  1. People of faith are not spiritual “superheroes.”
  1. Our culture is currently fascinated with superheroes of all sorts, people with superhuman abilities to do things ordinary mortals could never do. I suppose this taps into some deep-down wish that we could be more than we are – able to fly, superhuman strength to cope with problems, dangers, & obstacles in life, the ability to be a hero who rescues others.
  1. Sometimes maybe we think the people in the Bible, these “heroes of faith” in Heb 11, must have been people who had spiritual strengths & abilities just not available to you & me.
  1. The exs. in Heb 11 show that just isn’t true. In fact, there are some definite surprises among those listed, some very “un-super” heroes:

(1) V. 11 – “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.”

  1. But go back & read Gen 18:11-15. When Sarah first heard she would bear a son, she laughed! Then, when the angel asked her why she laughed, she lied & denied it. So in what sense was she “accepting the promise by faith”?
  2. Most likely, her eventual acceptance of the promise was preceded by a (very human) skepticism that such a thing was possible. After all. . . .
  3. So she was slow to believe, at first skeptical, then later came to embrace the promise that God had made.
  4. That makes her kind of like us, doesn’t it?

(2) V. 31 – “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, b/c she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”

  1. Wait a minute! How does a prostitute get in among the heroes of faith!?
  1. According to Josh 2:8-9 she believed that God was behind Israel’s victories over the Canaanite cities they had defeated. They were “disobedient,” but she “gave a friendly welcome to the spies.”
  2. Notice also that James 2:25 gives Rahab as an ex. of obedient faith, & Matt 1:5 lists her as the wife of Salmon & the mother of Boaz (who married Ruth), & so she was the great-great-grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:21-22). That makes her an ancestor of Jesus Himself!
  3. So it turns out that faith can be operative in the life of someone whose life was at one time far from pleasing to God.
  4. Again, kind of like us, isn’t she?

(3) Gideon (v. 32) – remember his story?

  1. Asked God for a sign of victory over the Midianites, Amalekites, & the “people of the east” who had invaded Israel (Joshua 6-7).
  2. So he put out a fleece on the ground; if in the morning the fleece was wet, but all the ground around it was dry, that would be his sign. And it happened.
  3. He still wasn’t sure, so put out the fleece again – this time, if the ground was wet & the fleece dry, he would know God was with him. Again, got what he asked for.
  4. Then God tested him by telling him to pare down his army, so it would be obvious that the victory was due to God & not to Gideon’s superior military strength. Ended up winning the battle with only 300 men!
  5. So, here’s an example of someone who was hesitant to take God at His word, but ended up doing so. Kind of like us!

(4) V. 32 – Samson is listed along with several others whose stories aren’t told in Heb 11, but still listed as exs. of faith.

  1. But according to Bk of Judges, he was hardly an admirable character.
  2. A classic case of a powerful man who was totally out of control. Supposed to live under a Nazirite vow all his life, but broke its stipulations one by one. Last one was not cutting his hair; when allowed that to happen, was taken captive by the Philistines, & died as their prisoner. A sad story of poor judgment & disobedience.
  3. What’s so faithful about that? Just this: After all of his mistakes, he called on God for strength – & received it.
  4. Cost him his life, but he won a great victory over, not just his enemies, but over the enemies of God’s people.
  5. So, it turns out that faith can exist even in the life of someone who makes a ton of mistakes! Sound like anyone you know?
  1. Well, the writer says, “time would fail me to tell you” the stories of all these people – & it fails me, too. But I think you get the point: People of Faith are just people – but people who, in spite of their sinful pasts, spiritual weaknesses, slowness to believe, & human failings take God at His word & are faithful to Him.

(1) Not one of us here who can’t do exactly the same thing!

(2) All of us can be People of Faith – we don’t have to be “superheroes”!

  1. People of Faith not only live by faith; they also die by faith.
  1. Vs. 13-16. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, & having acknowledged that they were strangers & exiles on the earth.”

 

  1. Notice that this statement comes in the middle of Ab & Sarah’s story. They are the ones who “died in faith, NOT having received… “ (The “all” in v. 13 probably refers to all of the OT characters in this chapter, but in context seems to refer especially to Ab & Sarah.)
  1. In Gen, two of the promises God made to Abraham were a land that his descendants would inhabit & descendants as innumerable as the stars in the heavens. We know God fulfilled both those promises.

(1) But here’s the thing we often forget: Ab didn’t live to see the fulfillment of either promise!

(2) At the time of his death, the only land he owned was his & Sarah’s graves. Would be generations (& centuries) before his descendants possessed the land.

(3) And remember, he didn’t live to see that multitude of descendants either. Lived 175 yrs (Gen 25:7) & saw the births of 8 sons, numerous grandchildren & great-grandchildren, but nothing like the vast numbers God had promised. That came about long after he was dead.

(4) Still, Ab lived as though he could “see” all of it, b/c he saw it by faith! – Heb 11:14-16: “For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for tem a city.”

  1. The point? Ab wanted what God wanted for him. So, was willing to live his entire life, certain that God would fulfill His promises. Didn’t have to “see” the fulfillment. He trusted God that much! So he was willing to die, still believing that God would keep His word.
  1. As Neil Lightfoot points out, “The patriarchs did not die disappointed, but with hope.” (Everyone’s Guide to Hebrews, 152).
  1. For you & me: If we’re People of Faith, we don’t have to see every problem worked out, every goal accomplished in our lifetime, every hope & dream realized. B/c we trust in a God who will eventually give us a homeland, “a better country” than anything we can now imagine.
  1. There are probably some things you’ve been working toward & praying for for years. You wonder at times if you’ll ever live to see their fulfillment. Truth is, you may not – but that’s okay. B/c you’re trusting in the goodness & power of God to fulfill all of His promises. Not everything may work out the way you want, but you know God won’t go back on His word, & those unrealized hopes & dreams may yet come to fruition by His mercy & grace.
  1. So what do we do? We keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep being faithful. That’s what People of Faith do. Leave it in God’s hands, knowing He won’t fail to keep His word. READ vs. 32-39.
  1. You see, there’s a part of this story of all these People of Faith that includes you & me, & the writer mentions us in the last 2 vs. of this great chapter. READ vs. 39-40.
  1. Those faithful people of old couldn’t see the full realization of their hopes & dreams, b/c they could only be finally realized with the coming of Jesus, the Great High Priest. They “did not receive what was promised” – NOT b/c God isn’t faithful, but b/c they had to wait for the fullness of time & the fullness of God’s plan, so that “apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

So what the writer was saying to the people who first read Hebrews, he’s saying to us also : Never mind the obstacles, never mind the suffering, never mind the delay. Trust in God, that He will keep His word & fulfill all of His promises – to us, as well as to them. Keep on being People of Faith!

 Tommy South

Whole Body Donation!

What are you doing with your body? Some people choose to “donate their body to science” upon their death for transplant purposes as well as medical research and education. It’s not for everybody, but it is actually a way to use your body to serve others. As a gospel preacher, I’m not pushing the idea of donating your whole body to science. But I am pushing another kind of “whole body donation” – the one pushed by the apostle Paul 2,000 years ago in Romans 12:1! After spending eleven chapters declaring God’s love and sweeping plan to save mankind through an obedient faith in Christ, Paul appeals to readers at Rome to make a “whole body donation” – not after they die, mind you, but before! And not to science, but to the Savior! Hear it – “I beseech you there- fore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Beautiful! Since Christ loved us and donated His body on the cross as a sacrifice to bear our sins (1 Peter 2:24), the only reasonable, logical response possible is to donate our bodies back to God in sacrificial service – not after we die, but as “a living sacrifice”!

People do all kinds of things with their bodies while alive. There are tummy tucks, nose jobs, face lifts, mud packs, milk baths, skin grafts, skin treatments, and skin therapy. There are hundreds of sprays, oils, cremes, lotions and potions galore. With these you can rub it in, rub it on, rub it off, wipe it on, wipe it off, and smear it around. If you prefer you can spray it on, spray it under, spritz it up, wet it down, tease it over, dry it off, glue it down, paint it on, pump it up, and peel it off. To reduce weight people diet it off, run it off, walk it off, bike it off, hike it off, swim it off, sweat it off, and some say shake it off! If that doesn’t work you can squeeze it in, pull it over, push it down, lift it up, force it under and (thanks to modern medical technology) some people choose to suck it out (liposuction)! You can fake your bake (artificial tan), fake your hair (if it’s turning grey or turning loose), fake your eye color (contact lenses), and fake your fingernails. There’s the wonderbra to enhance the front, and now, according to an AP article a number of years ago, there is a “bottom-boosting pair of jeans” which “promises to make your derriere look delightful without one sweaty minute of aerobics.” If you are into jewelry, there are diamonds for the fingers, bracelets for the ankles, chains for the neck, and rings for the ears. If the urge hits you, you can pierce not just your ears but your nose, lips, cheeks, tongue, navel, and other body parts we ought not mention. From head to toe and from front to back, Americans are painting and piercing and decorating and doing all kinds of things with their bodies. My aim here is simply to remind us God desires for us to donate our bodies to Him – not after death but while we live! What right does God have to make that appeal? Listen – “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in you body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God wants you – heart, mind, body, soul! Think about it.

By: Dan Gulley, Smithville, TN