Spiritual Leadership In The Church

Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1-2)

Spiritual Leadership In The Church

Over the centuries, the wisdom of human pride has attempted to change the organizational structure of the Lord’s church. The apostles would be shocked at how churches of men have established spiritual leadership far from the pattern of the New Testament. Roman Catholicism began the march of apostasy by creating an incredible hierarchy of man-made organizations corrupted by the whims of carnality. The Protestant response has followed the same pattern of apostasy as men changed the leadership of the church to represent a false narrative of authority. There is a pattern given by the Holy Spirit showing the world the spiritual leadership of the local church that is divine in nature, simple in construction, and complete in the organization.

Jesus is the head of the church, and no man can take that role from Him or usurp a role of authority through Him. The church’s spiritual leadership is found in men called pastors, bishops, elders, overseers, and shepherds. They have the authority of Christ to exercise oversight of the local church alone. Each man (plural) chosen to serve as a pastor must be of a certain character, as Paul outlined to Timothy and Titus. These are spiritual men shepherding the flock and overseeing the local church. In the New Testament, there was always a plurality of men who led the church in the work of the Lord. As spiritual leaders, elders guide the affairs of the church by the authority of the word of God.

Deacons are spiritual leaders in the church as men who must have certain qualities (similar to those of an elder) that separate them as spiritual leaders. The work of deacons is found in the meaning of the word describing a servant’s heart. Elders have targeted characteristics that must be met before they serve as elders. Deacons have spiritual qualities that set them apart to serve in the spiritual leadership of the church. The local congregation comprises men who live spiritual lives doing spiritual work to further the kingdom of Christ.

Preachers must be spiritual leaders. Paul instructed Timothy and Titus to bear the characteristics of spiritual leadership in the quality of their life to lead by example in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith, and purity. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be kind to others, able to teach and learn patience with difficult people. There is much work for the evangelist to do in the work of the church and his spiritual leadership is key to church growth. The shepherds of the church working in tandem with the work of the deacons and the preacher will bring about growth to the flock of God.

In the early church, the apostles chose seven men to care for the widows of the Jerusalem church. These were spiritual leaders with a vital task of church growth. The seven needed to be men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and men willing to take on the work given to them by the apostles. The word of God spread, and many people were converted to Christ through the work of the First Century spiritual leaders working together to teach the lost, care for the needy, and build up the saints’ faith. This pattern must be followed today for the growth of the church.

Many others are spiritual leaders in the church when men take on the role of leading singing, offering public prayers, serving on the Lord’s table, and teaching Bible class. These roles cannot be filled with those who are not spiritual or devoted to the Lord. Women are spiritual leaders when they teach the young people in Bible classes and support their husbands, who serve as shepherds, deacons, preachers, and teachers. Paul illustrated the work of the church by what every part does its share. Spiritual leaders in the church have different roles and – for some – specific requirements that must be met. Everyone must strive to be a spiritual leader in their home and use their talents to be spiritual examples within the church’s work. The church will grow when everyone sees their potential for leadership in the spiritual work of the kingdom of Christ.

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Our Precious Things Are Useless

Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; they are their own witnesses; they neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing? Surely all his companions would be ashamed; and the workmen, they are mere men. Let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, they shall be ashamed together. (Isaiah 44:9-11)

Our Precious Things Are Useless

Idolatry is as old as the world. Worship is innate in men, but the object of worship is a choice. Whom men choose to revere determines the character of the man. There are only two choices when it comes to worship: man will worship himself or acknowledge a higher being and worship Him. Pride does not allow a man’s heart to accept the will of his Creator to direct his steps and his ways because there are restrictions prohibiting desired lusts. If a man subjects himself to the will of God, he is not free to live as he chooses. To placate the guilt of denying the eternal God, the wisdom of man creates his own totem to form in his own desire. The result of idolatry is rooted in the greatest of follies when men create their own gods to fall down and worship, and man must deliver their gods.

Israel was destroyed because of idolatry. Isaiah warns the people of God to reject the gods of men returning to the one true God. A logical approach to idolatry shows how useless idol worship can be. A man cuts down a tree to build a fire and warm himself and uses the same tree to carve an image that becomes his god. The idol does not speak and has no understanding, and yet man worships their precious creation. Idolatry is the greatest of follies for the vanity it creates in the void of human wisdom. Man’s pride will not allow him to admit what he holds in his hand is a lie. What is precious to him is what he has created with his own hand. Man creates his god instead of accepting that God created mankind for worship.

There are many places throughout the world that still worship idols. Great carvings stand in temples worshipped by people who carry home small idols to treasure in their homes with daily worship. To the Christian mind, this is folly. What is remarkable is that while it is easy to see the foolishness of falling down to an idol, one of the greatest problems in the church is found in those who allow the trappings of the world to become their idols of choice. No child of God would believe that falling down to an idol of Buddha would be acceptable before God and yet fill their hearts with the pride of materialism in the kinds of homes, cars, boats, and recreational equipment they possess. An idol is anything considered precious that takes the heart away from God.

It does not have to be a carved image of a creature to be an idol. A job can be an idol that takes precedence over service to God. Living in lovely homes and driving certain vehicles can become the heart’s idolatry. Pride exalts the spirit to trust in the riches of life. Idolatry is alive and well in modern-day America. Those who make treasures of earth their gods worship things that are useless and vain. A man and woman will spend all their life gaining stuff and leave all their stuff when they die. What is sad is they never laid up treasure in heaven. Jesus calls them fools. All the things of life profit nothing. What is precious is lost. Souls are destroyed. Eternity is filled with idol worshippers who sit in torment and darkness and have given up everything for something worthless.

God created man for His glory. All men are formed by the hand of the Lord. The Creator demands His creation honor Him through worship, acknowledging the one true God. Do not be fooled into believing idol worship is only bowing before a carved image. Look around you. There may be more idols than you know. What is more precious – your eternal soul or the useless trinkets of a wasted life? They shall be ashamed together.

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Thank You For The Hard Times

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:2-3)

Thank You For The Hard Times

Life can be a difficult journey filled with sadness, heartache, trial, and despair. Sin is the agency that has brought such misery to the world. Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect peace without disease and heartache when they were in the garden. It seems impossible to imagine a world so void of the pressures of life that everyone endures. The great consequence of sin brings death, and with death the disease of the body and the corrupt hearts of sinful men. Humanity lives under the daily burden of trouble, and there is no relief. Hard times are real times, and life is often measured by how far apart these troubled times are and to what level the soul sinks in the despair of the tragedy of life. Jesus did not come to take the troubles of the world away. He came to allow men to know how to be thankful for the hard times.

It must not be overlooked that when hard times come, Jesus experienced the same burdens. The Son of God took on human flesh, which was a remarkable change from his state of deity. Jesus had to learn to walk like all children must learn, and He grew up with toothaches, skinned knees, and the maladies of childhood. Somewhere in the thirty years of His earthly life, his adopted father, Joseph, died. This filled the heart of Jesus with great sadness. There is no doubt before Jesus began His ministry, He stood at the graves of many people and wept. As His mind grew in the knowledge of the Father’s word, He saw the misery of sin and its burden on the hearts of men. Jesus experienced hard times in His life as Satan sought to tempt Him with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. What made a difference in the life of Jesus was He used the hard times to draw Him closer to His heavenly Father.

If the author of the book of James is one of the half-brothers of Jesus, he would know more than most the impact of hard times in the life of Jesus. Writing to the saints scattered abroad, he begins his letter by exhorting the people of God to rejoice in their trials. James reminds the disciples when troubles of any kind come upon them; they were to consider it a time of joy. That seems counter to how most view hard times. Yet, the spirit of the Christian recognizes that while hard times are not desired, they can be fruitful for building up the godly character. Faith tested is faith triumphant. The purpose of hard times can be used to produce an enduring heart of faith in God. Facing hard times becomes bearable when the character of life is understood. The Christian knows that sin is at the heart of the world’s misery. They also know that God offered His only begotten Son as the remedy for the difficult days of life. Solomon declared in the book of Ecclesiastes that life is hard and life is never fair. The realization for the child of God is that life is short, and God is eternal.

The Lord does not look at the hard times of a man’s soul without compassion. There are many who have carried heavy burdens of sorrow in their lives. What is found in the child of God is the solace of God’s love to be thankful for the hard times to increase their strength, will, and purpose in life to serve God. Blaming the Lord for hard times is accusing the wrong person. Thanking God for the hard times is knowing the love of the Father. No one wants heartache in life, but when it comes, increasing faith and trust in God will be the eternal salve to calm the storms, ease the pain, and find joy in the place of sadness. Thank you, God, for your love. I pray dear God, when I awaken to hard times, I will harden my faith in you to allow your grace to give me peace.

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When A Man Thinks He Is Wise

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

When A Man Thinks He Is Wise

Pride is one of the triads of foolish mistakes all men make when they look at themselves in the mirror. Charles C. Colton wrote, “Of all the marvelous works of the Deity, perhaps there is nothing that the angels behold with such supreme astonishment as a proud man.” The apostle Paul reminded the carnal hearts of the Corinthians that their division of human wisdom was folly compared to the majesty of Jehovah God. Wisdom is much sought out worldwide as men seek to exalt themselves beyond measure. The world’s knowledge has built great monuments, achieved remarkable accomplishments, unlocked secrets of the unknown, and explored the vast universe as no generation before. There is much for human wisdom to boast but compared to the wisdom of God, there is not even a comparison at the atomic level. God’s wisdom is so far above the foolishness of human wisdom.

Men deceive themselves when they boast of their wisdom. Great men declare monumental truths. In every age, the wisdom of the world seeks to exalt itself above the nature of the Divine. And in every generation, the exaltation of human wisdom fails – without exception. The greatest wisdom a man can possess is when he sees himself as the fool that he is compared to the Creator and Maker of the world. What can man create or accomplish that can apex the work of God? Where has the vaulted wisdom of humanity made the plight of man one whit better than the smallest fragment of divine wisdom? Could the Shakespearean wisdom of man create the divine story of Jesus of Nazareth? What principles of human wisdom can find greater worth than the pages of holy writ?

Eliphaz the Temanite was correct when he answered Job that God’s and man’s ways are not the same. God can frustrate the plans of humanity, defeat their schemes, make void the counsels of human wisdom, and do so without any effort. The wisdom of the world is nothing but foolishness as the Divine potter forms the clay to His will. When can man make himself taller than God? The psalmist answers the highest thoughts of men are fruitless and vain. When a man thinks himself wise, he becomes a fool.

The wisdom of the world seeks to destroy the wisdom of God. For two thousand years, the world has rejected the final revelation of the Lord as useless. The Bible represents the complete mind of God revealed to all men for every generation in every place. Nothing can compare to the message of the sixty-six books of divine knowledge filling God’s heavenly library. Anything written by men is foolish and empty. There is only one divine truth, and that is contained in the Bible and the Bible alone. Adding to the divine word will fail. Taking away from the word of God will fail. All men will fail when they embrace the wisdom of the world over the knowledge of God. In the end, men are found to be foolish and God divine.

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The Nethinim

Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding— these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes. (Nehemiah 10:28-29)

The Nethinim

There is little known about a class of people called the Nethinim, which appear in the post-exilic books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Hebrew tradition suggests that Ezra wrote the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles, which reference the Nethinim. Appearing only eighteen times in scripture, the Nethinim are included with the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, and singers of temple worship. The function of the Nethinim was the menial tasks of servitude in helping the priests and Levites carry out their work. These were the lowly servants doing the common labor jobs in temple worship. Someone had to do the undesirable jobs, and the Nethinim were tasked with the work.

The Bible tells the stories of great men like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Isaiah. Families like the sons of Jacob fill the pages of holy writ. Everyone knows the stories about the flood, the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea, God giving the commandments to Israel, and the conquest of Canaan. David’s courage before Goliath is imprinted in the minds of everyone. Great prophets like Elijah, Elisha, and Jeremiah stir the souls of the people of God with power and victory. The return of Israel from bondage, the building of the temple, and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem complete the story of the people of God in the Old Testament. In the midst of all these great stories are a people called the Nethinim that God chose to preserve in the divine record. Their work was menial, hard, and lowly, but God knew them, and He kept their name for all generations to read and take note of.

Nothing escapes the eyes of the Lord. Without the divine record, the Nethinim would have never been known. Their knowledge in the world is firmly established in the record of God’s word. The work they did was not glorious or rewarding. It is doubtful that many Hebrews aspired to grow up and become a Nethinim. There were probably as many Nethinim who longed to be a Levite, priest, or someone of notable character. The lot of Nethinim was to serve, and God took note. Reading the Bible always brings fascinating revelations, especially when the nuggets of God’s hand strike across a page with a simple reference to the Nethinim. Who were they, and what was their story? So little is known about them, but after 2500 years, their names are still on the lips of those who read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

There are a lot of Nethinim in the church today. They may not have the more visible works in the church or names to be remembered. What is a joy to find are the quiet servants working in the kingdom doing what they can to help. It may be menial jobs of cleaning the building, printing and preparing class material, setting the Lord’s Supper in its proper place, working the vast array of electronics to carry the message to the world, mowing the grass, or sweeping off the sidewalks. There are many Nethinim that take food to the needy, help others make their doctor appointments, write cards and letters to the downtrodden, and show the glory of God by finding their place in the assembly every time the doors are open. God remembered the work of the Nethinim through the ages and knew the names of all His faithful who quietly go about their work in the kingdom. These modern-day Nethinim will not have their names listed in the Bible, but they do have their names written in the Book of Life. God knows who you are. Thank you.

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In The Face Of Trial, God Was With Him

And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. (Acts 7:9-10)

In The Face Of Trial, God Was With Him

Joseph is a story of incredible virtue with amazing courage to face life’s most difficult trials. The story of Job is examined for the enormous burden placed upon a man of God, but Joseph faced his reality at the age of seventeen. He was the favored son of a doting father, born into wealth and privilege and destined for greatness. Before Joseph could find his day in the sun, he had to face the darkest trials any man must face. Jacob sent his beloved son to check on the older brothers when they turned on him, wanting to kill him. Reuben interceded before the murderous plan could take place, but while he was gone, the brothers sold Joseph to a caravan of slave traders bound for Egypt.

The hatred of the brothers of Joseph came from their envy of him. He was the favored son and considered blessed because of certain visions and dreams he had received. They hated him so much that they could not speak peaceably to him. When the brothers found Joseph coming to them in Dothan, they planned to kill him and see what became of his dreams. Reuben interceded, hoping to return Joseph to his father. While the elder brother was gone, Joseph was sold for twenty shekels of silver, and Joseph was taken to Egypt.

Life for Joseph was hard and difficult. The journey to Egypt was an arduous journey chained as a slave before being sold on the slave market as a piece of flesh. His work at Potiphar’s house was demeaning and humiliating. Joseph kept his faith in God, believing the Lord had a plan for his life. In time, he showed his fidelity to honesty and was placed in charge of the household. After Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce the young man and failed, she accused him of attempted rape, and Joseph was cast into the king’s prison. He languished again in dark days, but faith helped him rise above his trials. He was in charge of the prison and had free reign to oversee the king’s prison.

One day, two prisoners were brought into the prison. The butler and the baker of Pharaoh had displeased him and were put into the prison where Joseph was. The butler and baker each had a dream, and Joseph was able to tell them the interpretation. As determined by the word of the Lord through Joseph, the butler was restored, but the baker was hanged. Joseph had begged the men to remember him and find a way to release him, but after two years, the butler had forgotten what Joseph had done. The butler remembered the man in prison when Pharaoh had a dream and could not determine its meaning. Joseph explained the dream to Pharaoh and, as a reward, was released from prison and made second in command of all of Egypt.

It was more than twenty-two years from when Joseph was sold by his brothers, and he walked out of the Egyptian prison. For much of his early life, Joseph lived under the dark cloud of trials that would have broken most men. But God was with Joseph. The blessings of the Lord overshadowed the heart of Joseph, who walked each day in his darkness, trusting in the will of his heavenly Father. Joseph would later recount to his brothers how he saw all that happened to him as the working of God in his life. Those dark days of trial made Joseph a stronger man because he trusted in the will of the Lord. Joseph’s trials were not easy, and he did not enjoy them. What makes the story of Joseph victorious is he never gave up on God, and God never gave up on him. Dark days come. Trust the Lord. There is always a bright day when the heart trusts in the power of God.

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Teaching False Doctrine

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1)

Teaching False Doctrine

The early church had to bridge a difficult challenge of doctrine. When the Lord appeared to Abraham to establish a divine covenant, circumcision was the sign of the bond between God and the children of Abraham. Under the Law of Moses, circumcision was required without exception. To be cast out of the favor of the Lord was to be uncircumcised. Every male child was circumcised on the eighth day. When Jesus was eight days old, He was circumcised and named Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Only the Jews were required to be circumcised as recipients of the Law of Moses. Gentiles who proselyted into the Jewish faith were required to be circumcised, but only if they were willing to be subject to the Mosaic Law. Outside of the Law of Moses, circumcision was not required.

Jesus came to bring Jew and Gentile together as one. The Gentile was justified by faith, and the Jew found justification under the law. Both avenues of salvation could not take away the stain of sin. In the death of Jesus, the Son of God reconciled Jew and Gentile together through His blood, thereby establishing the gospel of Christ as the means of salvation. In the early church, many Jews could not let go of circumcision as a means of salvation. The controversy heated up to where many were teaching that without circumcision, there could be no salvation. This doctrine of salvation by baptism and circumcision was false teaching without God’s authority. For the Jew, circumcision was the sign of the covenant, and many were unwilling to accept that God had taken it out of the way. Circumcising a child on the eighth day was not a sin; binding circumcision as a means of salvation was a sin.

The controversy over circumcision illustrates the problem that faces the church in clarifying the reality of false doctrine. Binding law where the Lord never bound is sinful. Teaching doctrines that are not according to the gospel of Jesus Christ is false doctrine. Adding to the word of God is forbidden. The early Jews tried to bind circumcision as a covenant of grace that God never allowed. Paul never taught the necessity of circumcision for salvation because it was not true. He asked Timothy to be circumcised because the Jews in the region knew Timothy’s father was a Greek. Titus was not required to be circumcised. Convincing the first-century Jew that circumcision was unnecessary was a stern message to accept. It became equally hard to remind many of the Jews that teaching salvation by circumcision was false.

Satan tries hard to destroy the souls of those seeking after the Lord. He spins a web of false doctrine to convince the unprepared soul to believe in something untrue. The result is the soul is lost. Teaching false doctrine has eternal consequences. Accepting a false dogma can bring about eternal ruin. One of the greatest tools in the arsenal of the devil is to convince men he does not exist and that there is no such thing as false doctrine. He has effectively created a ‘religious world’ with as many beliefs as Breyers Ice Cream. Everyone gets to choose and pick what church they want to be a part of and how to believe the Bible. In a world of religious diversity, there is no unity among believers in Christ. Churches bear different names by followers who wear distinctive names accepting doctrines not found in the word of God. And no one seems to believe false doctrine is real.

The early church faced the false doctrine of salvation by circumcision. There are many teachings today that are untrue. The eternal result of false doctrine is false hope and a false promise. There is one truth, and that truth must come from the pages of God’s word. Men may say that a difference in interpretation is a blessing from God, but that is the siren voice of the deceiver who placates the unsuspecting soul to accept what is clearly false. Does it matter what a person believes as long as he is honest? There were none so honest as the Jews who said that they could not be saved unless a man is circumcised – and they were wrong. Do not believe something because of what a man says or what you have believed all your life. Believe what God says and demand nothing less.

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What You Know Perfectly

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)

What You Know Perfectly

The expectation of a child is an incredible experience. For nine months, the child grows inside the womb in a marvelous and wonderful way. There are the initial signs of pregnancy, some good, some bad. The woman’s body begins to change as it adapts to the miraculous birth process. As the child grows to full term and begins to move around with little kicks and hiccups, the wonder of the new birth intensifies. One of the certainties of pregnancy is the uncertainty of when birth will occur. Doctors will make predictions of when the child is to be born, but the timing of birth is unknown. And then it happens. Pain begins to set in, and birth begins unexpectantly, suddenly, and forcefully. There is no turning back. Without warning, a child enters the world.

Before the advent of modern medicine, birthing was not as predictable. It came suddenly, and it came with pain. Lots of pain. The cycle of life has continued unabated since Adam and Eve witnessed the birth of the first human being and called his name, Cain. Nothing has changed the process in its simplest form as life comes through the avenue of birth. God created woman to be the only agency that birth can happen in the human condition. The apostle Paul uses a woman’s pregnancy to show the sureness of another great and unexpected event – the second return of Jesus Christ.

There have been myriads of pundits who have declared they know when the Lord will return. In the centuries since the resurrection of God’s Son, men have tried to determine the time of Christ’s return. All have failed because Jesus said that He does not know. If the Son of God does not know when He is to return, how futile a man to exalt himself above Christ. The coming of Jesus will be like a woman with child who cannot know the moment of birth. Interestingly, Paul tells the saints at Thessalonica they knew perfectly when the day of the Lord would be. He does not suggest they knew of the timing of the return since two thousand years have passed and the Lord has yet to return. The Thessalonians knew perfectly that the coming of the Lord was without warning.

In the analogy of pregnancy, everyone knows perfectly well that the day of birth comes suddenly, like a thief in the night. When a person least expects a child to be born, labor starts. The saints knew that Jesus would come without warning. There will be no sixth sense like the animals possess when something cataclysmic is about to happen. Even the animals will not know when Jesus returns. The certainty of the coming of Christ is uncertain, making the knowledge of His unexpectant coming a certainty. When everyone lives in a manner that all is well and nothing can change the world, that is when the Lord comes. They will say everything is peaceful and secure, but then disaster will fall on them because they were unprepared for the coming of the Lord. A pregnant woman knows her day of delivery will come, and that day is certain. She will not know when that day comes, but she lives every day with the evident knowledge that day will happen.

Christians must impregnate their hearts with the reality that Jesus Christ will return one day, and that day will be sudden and without warning. A woman prepares for her day of delivery. The child of God prepares his life to accept the day when the Lord returns. There is a sense in which the Lord returns more often than many know. God will destroy the world one day, and everything known to man will be gone. Jesus will return, and judgment will be given. However, the day of the Lord also can be described as the day of death when the final chapter of life is written. Death is unexpectant and final. Every man and woman should live for the coming of Jesus Christ, but they must also live for the reality of the coming of death. Both will happen, and both will have eternal consequences. Regardless of whether the Lord comes today or death takes life – be ready. The times and seasons of life are known to all men. You know perfectly well the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.

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Confidence In The Saints

Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. (Romans 15:14)

Confidence In The Saints

There are many traits desired for the children of God, and Paul illuminates three of those in his letter to the saints in Rome. While the letter is a heavy, doctrinal treatise of difficult subjects directed toward justification by faith in the atoning work of Christ, the apostle finishes his letter with strong admonitions to offer one’s life as a living sacrifice to God. Included in his final thoughts are three commendations that should frame the life of every Christian. Paul is confident in the Roman saints to exhibit three characteristics that will help build up the local church and help saints grow in Christ. It is important to identify a sense of confidence in others to exhort them to keep the faith. Many things are seeking to discourage the spirits of God’s people. Satan knows that if he can cause despair in the hearts of the saved, he can have sway in their lives. Paul would have none of it. He was confident in the Roman Christians. In his letter, he told them he was persuaded and convinced they could be examples of faith. The Roman saints needed to know that Paul had that kind of trust in their measure of faith. Emboldened by this courageous spirit, the church in Rome could abound in good works.

Paul uses three admonitions to strengthen the faith of the Christians. He knew they were full of goodness. The saints in Rome were kind, benevolent, and ready to do the work of the Lord with love. There was a spirit of unity in the Roman church because of the goodness they had for one another and their concern for others. The gospel spread to the household of Caesar as a direct result of the goodness of the Roman brethren. Paul does not commend the brethren because of their goodness but how full they were to show goodness to all men. The world is dark and foreboding, with little kindness and goodness shown to one another. One of the hallmarks of the Christian faith is the goodness that fills the hearts of its people. The world needs to see a congregation filled with love, goodness, benevolence, and concern. Individual Christians in a community can do much to bring people to Christ when they show goodness at the workplace, in stores, in the neighborhood, and in family life.

Secondly, Paul commends the Roman saints for being filled with all knowledge. He did not suggest they did not need more knowledge, but they were known as ‘people of the book.’ It was evident in the Roman church that the saints loved God’s word and thrived upon its precepts and principles. The spirit of devotion was fully evident in their knowledge of the truth. They continued to hunger and thirst for the word of God. Paul’s letter was a tough discipline of divine law, but these saints had proven themselves worthy of taking his letter and making themselves better because of it. Paul wrote a challenging book in the Roman letter, but he had confidence in how the brethren would receive his letter. There was a time the Lord’s church was known as people of the book who knew much about its content. Sadly, that no longer seems to be the case. One of the great needs in the church is for the members to be filled with all knowledge. The Roman church must be a pattern for the modern church to follow.

Finally, Paul commends the Roman saints for their love for one another. He commends their spirit of admonishing one another. Being filled with goodness and all knowledge, the saints showed the love of God with their love for another. At the end of his letter, Paul mentions thirty-five saints who had encouraged and exhorted him. He knew how important those relationships of congregational unity are to the cause of Christ when brethren dwell together in harmony. The church in Rome was made up of people who did not get easily offended by others. They enjoyed helping one another grow in Christ, building one another up in the faith, and sharing the gospel with others. If there was a need for correction, the saints accepted the admonition gracefully. Teaching was done in love, and the acceptance of instruction was received with love. The Roman church was a spiritual bastion of goodness, knowledge, and love. Something we should all strive for.

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Seek The Lord

Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore! (Psalm 105:3-4)

Seek The Lord

God created man in His image to be near Him and to draw men to Him. As a loving Father, the Lord God longs to be with His creation and fill him with all the divine blessings of mercy, grace, and love. When God formed man from the dust of the ground, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Man was alone in the garden, and the Lord created the woman. Eden was a paradise with every need of Adam and Eve fully met and overflowing. Nothing was lacking. The seasons change the face of the earth with each passing year as the sun, moon, and stars dominate the heavens. Life is a cycle put in motion by the hand of God to give humanity all they need to be happy and find joy.

Through the grace of God, the Son of God came to earth to become a humble servant. Jesus lived as all men sharing in the fleshly body, experiencing all the trials and temptations of the carnal spirit. He brought healing to untold multitudes and instilled a spirit of devotion to those who would follow His Father. Unjustly, Jesus was rejected by the Jews and killed on a Roman cross. Jesus never sinned. He never failed in His relationship with His Father. Jesus finished the work God sent Him to do. Through the power of the resurrection, God promised that salvation would come to those who believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Luke records the story of the acts of the apostles where thousands obeyed the gospel call of the resurrection message. After two thousand years, the same story and the message of hope are found in Jesus Christ.

The Son of God came to earth to open the way of salvation to all who would come. It is here that the real story of humanity begins. God has always provided a means of salvation, whether in the days of Noah, Abraham, Moses, or the prophets. Jesus came to open the doors of eternity to those who would accept His blood as the sacrifice of redemption. The Bible declares the whole counsel of God without reservation. What is lacking and why so many souls have not accepted God’s saving grace is they refuse to seek the Lord. God has provided everything a man needs to be saved, but without the heart of the man seeking the way of the Lord, there can be and will be no salvation.

Salvation does not come without seeking. The glory of the name of God is when hearts rejoice in seeking after His will—seeking after God means to search for Him and to seek to do His will. It is not a passive activity where God will come to man. It is man that must come to God. There is nothing left for God to do than what He has done. Truth and righteousness will only come to those who seek the Lord and His strength and seek the face of God. A spirit of longing moves the heart to seek after God. If a man is apart from God, it is man that has moved, not God. Seek the Lord and find the blessings of eternal life. Refuse to seek Him, and He will refuse you.

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Set The Field On Fire

And Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem but did not see the king’s face. Therefore, Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. And when he sent again the second time, he would not come. So, he said to his servants, “See, Joab’s field is near mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” And Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. Then Joab arose and came to Absalom’s house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” And Absalom answered Joab, “Look, I sent to you, saying, ‘Come here, so that I may send you to the king, to say, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.” ‘ Now therefore, let me see the king’s face; but if there is iniquity in me, let him execute me.” So, Joab went to the king and told him. And when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom. (2 Samuel 14:28-33)

Set The Field On Fire

King David had more than twenty children. His son Absalom, whom he bore by Maacah, daughter of the king of Geshur, was one of his most troubling sons. Much of the conflict in the family of David came as a consequence of the sin with Bathsheba. Absalom’s trouble with his father was pride and arrogance as he sought to overthrow his father from being king. He was a remarkable specimen of a good-looking man, praised by others and recognized for his beautiful long hair. He only cut his hair once a year, and when he weighed it out, it weighed nearly five pounds.

Absalom had a sister, Tamar (the only named daughter of David). One of David’s sons by his second wife, Ahinoam, had raped Tamar and cast her out. His name was Amnon. David was very angry at what Amnon had done but took no action against him. After two years, Absalom arranged with his servants to kill his half-brother when the men were gathered for the shearing of the sheep. Absalom fled to Geshur, home of his mother’s people, where he remained for three years. After this time, David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but the king did not want to see his face. For two years, Absalom lived in Jerusalem and never saw his father. He had three sons and a daughter whom he named Tamar.

After two years, Absalom desired to see the king. He sent a message to Joab to seek an audience with the king. Joab refused. Absalom sent a request a second time, and Joab again refused. After the second denial, Absalom instructed his servants to burn Joab’s field of barley, which was next to his own. The plan worked as Joab came to Absalom seeking answers for the burning of his field. Joab went to David, and Absalom was allowed to stand in the king’s presence when David forgave his son. All of this was a ruse to allow Absalom to return to the graces of his father so he could overthrow him. The treason of Absalom deeply grieved David and caused the king to flee Jerusalem. Absalom’s attempt to overthrow his father failed, and he was killed by Joab when his long hair was caught in the boughs of a terebinth tree, and he was unable to free himself.

There is much to be said about Absalom and his vain attempts to find glory among men. His intense vanity would lead to his death. But Absalom understood the nature of men and how to get their attention. A small part of the story is when he burns Joab’s barley field. Joab had a good reason is ignore the son of the king. David had forbidden Absalom to come into his presence. Joab’s actions were probably not noble or devoted to his king, but he refused the request of Absalom on two occasions. It was not until Absalom burned his field of barley that Joab acted.

Whether for good or bad, sometimes it takes the burning of a barley field to get the attention of men. Barley was a much-desired commodity, and burning the field would have substantial economic consequences. It would also demonstrate the resolve of Absalom. The story revolves around the vanity of Absalom and his pride, but there are lessons from the burning field. Joab refused to acknowledge Absalom until the field was burned. That event sent Joab into action. There are times in life when nothing short of a field burning will men turn and see the message of God. But not always. Some have experienced life-changing events that should lead them to the Lord, but it does not.

Everyone needs a few fields burned in their lives. While there is a high cost to losing a barley field, some good can come from it. Life can be filled with things that challenge the soul. There are stories of great men and women of God who faced insurmountable odds and made their faith stronger. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah faced a furnace of fire and stayed faithful to God. Peter faced his barley field and failed when he denied the Lord three times. However, the experience did not destroy him as it did Judas. Peter grew from his barley field and became one of the most devoted saints of the early church. Saul of Tarsus thought he was doing the will of God until the Lord set his field on fire. Then Saul set the world on fire as an apostle of Jesus Christ. What fields are burning in your life? They are difficult trials, but God wants us to use our fields to draw closer to Him. Sometimes God calls His people with a gentle voice, and then there are times when the barley field is lit. Trust God. He loves you.

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The Constant Change Of Life

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

The Constant Change Of Life

If there is one thing certain about life, it is that life is not certain. Some days go as planned, and some days fall off track. The best-laid plans of mice and men often favor the critter rather than the creation. Life is filled with change. What one expects on this day will not happen on the next. A purpose in life can be changed in a heartbeat. The advice of Solomon is not that life is without meaning, but the wise man will see that life changes are for good. Most people want constants in their lives, and few find them. Not all changes are bad. There is a time to plant and a time to pluck what is planted, which shows the evolution of life that harvest cannot come without planting. Some changes are hard. There is a time to be born, and there is a time to die.

Change is real. There is nothing that can be done about the changes in life because it happens. The body experiences transformations, and all the vitamins, exercise, and healthy eating will not keep a man from disease and death. Fortunes can be lost in a moment. Jobs thought to be secure are destroyed. Joys come suddenly in the announcement of an unexpected pregnancy. Greater opportunities are realized. Loveless lives find love. Unexpected reconciliations find peace in one another. Life is a constant roller-coaster of change, from good to not-so-good things.

The examination of life by Solomon was to remind men that life is never the same and seldom what is expected. Viewing life from the lens of divine understanding helps a soul maneuver the constantly changing river of life. God created man to live in a changing world. Without change, man is nothing. Learning to cope with the many parts of life builds the character of strength. It gives purpose to living. True peace is found by those who embrace change and make life a better place because of change, not in spite of it. The gospel is based on change. If a heart cannot change to accept the grace of God, there can be no hope. Each day is a measure of molding the heart to fit more closely to the will of God – change. When life takes a dark turn, God gives direction and purpose. The man Job experienced incredible change, but he never cursed God and blamed God.

When the winds of change blow across the bow, adjust the sails and allow the Lord to guide the heart to new lands and opportunities. Always look for the good that can come out of any situation. Let change positively influence your life to be a better person and a devoted disciple of Christ. Nothing that comes upon the world will change the love of God. The Lord is always faithful and will never forsake His people. Life may change but not the Lord. He is the only true constant and truth that will never change. There is a time for everything under the heavens, and there is a God who holds time in His hand. Trust in Him and allow His love to guide your heart.

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She Never Gave Up On God

Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there. And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. (1 Samuel 1:1-7)

She Never Gave Up On God

One of the great heroines of scripture is Hannah, mother of the last judge of Israel, Samuel. The life of Hannah was filled with disappointment and pain. She was one of two wives to Elkanah, which by its nature would gender jealousy. To make matters worse, Hannah could not bear children. Her rival, Peninnah, had sons and daughters, but not so for Hannah. She desired to give her husband a child, but the Lord had closed her womb. Peninnah was a vindictive woman who continually gave grief to Hannah for being childless. A woman’s identity was rooted in the blessing of giving her husband a child. To be childless was considered a shameful thing. Elkanah loved Hannah more than Peninnah and showered a double portion on Hannah. Still, Hannah had no children.

It was difficult for Hannah to see the children of Peninnah running around the home when she was barren. Peninnah made a point of making Hannah’s life miserable with taunts about her being barren and making fun of her. The grief of being childless did not diminish Hannah’s love for God. She wept over her condition, but she did not blame the Lord. Her life was filled with misery and complaint. Walking around the market, Hannah would feel the piercing eyes of those who looked upon her childless condition. Tongues would wag from gossipers who whispered unkind things about Elkanah’s wife, who could not give her husband children. Hannah endured societal shame and remained faithful to her love for God.

Elkanah tried to reassure Hannah, but he did not understand why Hannah was childless. Her affliction was tragic, and Elkanah tried to be a loving and kind husband. Nothing seemed to change the story. Hannah remained barren. In the face of her trial, Hannah went up to the house of the Lord year by year. She pled her case to God. Her faith did not waver in believing God would bless her. There was no guarantee she would have a child. Many women remained childless and died, never giving their husbands an heir. Hannah was unsure if God would bless her with a child. She kept her faith. Worship was very special to her; she kept her faith and love for God. Her life was hard, empty, and filled with adversity, and she never turned away from the promise of the Lord. God would bless Hannah with four sons and two daughters. Her first son, Samuel, was dedicated to the Lord, becoming one of the great judges of Israel. Hannah’s faith ‘won the day’ as she continued to worship the Lord and praise Him.

It is easy when life is unfair to turn away from God. Many have faced great adversity and seek solace in the world rather than drawing closer to God. Hannah faced the greatest challenge of her life and never turned away from God. Nothing guaranteed she would have children. She kept her love for God. Her faith did not waver. She worshiped the Lord year by year at the house of God. Faith is strongest when times are hard, and answers are unknown. The Lord does not change. He promises blessings to the faithful, but sometimes those blessings have to wait for eternity. Hannah did not give up on God, and He did not give up on her.

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Judgment And Praise

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)

Judgment And Praise

The desire to please others derives its seed from the carnal nature of man’s need to be accepted. It is important what others think. Peer pressure comes from a yearning to belong, to be accepted as equals, and to be judged favorably through the eyes of others. Many spend their whole lives trying to please others, fearful of what the world thinks of them and how the world judges them. They are never true to themselves as they seek to mold every fiber of their identification to what the world wants. At the end of life, they realize too late that the finicky vacillations of the world can never be pleased, and all they seek to gain is lost. All that is left is a life wasted on the altar of pride to please a world that cares very little and just as quickly dismisses them. Seeking judgment from the world is an exercise in futility and despair. Desiring praise from the world is but for a moment and then forgotten.

Paul recognized the only true worth of judgment and praise comes from God. Many judged Paul harshly, attaching him as an apostle, preacher, and steward of the will of God. The world’s judgments mattered little to Paul because he knew the proper judgment of his worth came from the Lord. The apostle tells the Corinthians it mattered little what they thought of him as he wrote a very difficult letter to a church filled with carnality, division, immorality, and rebellion. His letter was firm and decisive, with hard teachings that would offend most. Paul did not shy away from telling the Corinthians what they needed to hear and boldly addressed the glaring problems at Corinth. If harsh judgments were to be leveled against the apostle, he would only accept what the Lord judged.

The apostle Paul also recognized that he was not the authority for judgment for himself. It is easy for a man to judge himself righteous by his own standards, but this is a failed theology. Paul said he did not trust his judgment of himself. He knew his judgments were flawed. What he may think is the right way may not be what the Lord desires, so Paul admitted he could not make those decisions apart from God. It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge that self can be wrong. Paul would not be judged by others, and he did not rely upon his own wisdom to justify himself. He knew that righteous judgment could only come from the Lord. No matter what a man thinks of himself, God judges without partiality. It is the Lord himself that will examine a man and decide whether he is righteous or not.

True righteousness comes from the will of the Lord, and all righteous judgment will come from the Lord. When all things are considered before the throne of God, the hidden things will be revealed, and all the private motives of the heart will be laid bare before the divine Judge. If any praise is given, it will come from God. There will be no man standing on the final day to give an account of praise to another. All men will bow before the great I AM, seeking His praise and praise alone. Kings and servants will be the same, rich and poor will be judged, and all men will be equal before God – they will be considered unprofitable servants. Praise comes from God, who knows all and understands the heart of every man. Only God will give men the praise they deserve. If they do not receive praise, they will receive condemnation. The judgment of God is pure. No one will be judged who will not deserve what they receive.

Never fear what other men judge and determine to be right or wrong. Seeking the praise of men is an empty life. The only judgment that matters is what the Lord thinks, and the only praise worthy of consideration is the praise that comes from God. Living for the praise of men will bring heartache. Seeking the righteous judgment of the Lord and living for the praise of God will give eternal life. Judgment and praise must come from God.

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The Scythians

Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:11)

The Scythians

Colosse was located in the southwest part of modern Turkey, near Laodicea and Hierapolis and about one hundred miles east of Ephesus. It is possible Paul established the church during his third missionary journey. In the New Testament times, the city of Colosse was a relatively insignificant city with nothing to claim as special to the Roman world. What made Colosse important were the saints and faithful brethren that made up those in Christ in Colosse. Paul’s letter to the Colossians is the most Christ-centered epistle of the New Testament. One of the key messages of the letter is how the church of Christ is made up of contrasting people who seem unlikely to unite under one cause.

Paul encourages the saints at Colosse to seek those things above and put on the character of Jesus Christ. The world was filled with sexual immorality, evil desire, covetousness, and the things of the flesh. Saints must hide themselves in Christ to show Christ in their lives. Setting oneself apart from the world means stopping acting like the world. Christians should not be known for wrathful, angry, and crude language. Their behavior rises above the sensual nature of the pagan world. In the church, relationships are bonded together as one that could never be accomplished outside the grace of God. In the body of Christ, all men are one.

It is hard to understand the change in the early church. Paul reminds the saints that in Christ, everyone is the same. When the church assembled in Colosse, Jews and Gentiles would sit next to one another and sing together. That was unheard of in the world. Jews had little dealings with Gentiles, and the Gentiles refused to acknowledge the Jews. In the church of Christ, racial distinctions are removed. This is further clarified by Paul’s reference to those circumcised and uncircumcised. The new man makes no distinction. Racial and social differences are eliminated. All are the same in the body of Christ as the new man of grace loves men for who they are: fellow sinners in need of grace.

Paul mentions the barbarians who were part of the church. A barbarian was someone who spoke a foreign language from the far reaches beyond the Roman empire. There was contempt for the hordes that lived outside the spread of Roman civility. In the church of Christ, no distinction is made. Is it possible Paul refers to something that happened in the church at Colosse, that people from the outskirts of the empire were part of the kingdom? Was it possible to worship with a barbarian? Paul includes the Scythians from the southern steppes of Russia. Could they have been part of the church? Whether they were or not, in the kingdom of God, Jews and Gentiles, barbarians and Scythians, and civilized and uncivilized, could worship together in harmony and truth.

A modern twist to the reference of the Scythians is that in 2022 the region referred to by Paul is highlighted by the conflict between the Russians and the Ukrainians. In other words, it is possible, in the grace of Christ, to have Russians worshiping with Ukrainians under the umbrella of God’s mercy and forgiveness. The power of the gospel can make that change. In the wisdom of men, the only thing that can be found is the spirit of conflict and war with the Russians and Ukrainians. The relationship between the two countries is hatred and death. In the church, united under the blood of Christ and the power of forgiveness, the church in Colosse could see Russian and Ukrainian joining spiritual hands in worship as they sang together, prayed together, remembered the sacrifice of Jesus, and listened to the word of God together. Scythians can go to heaven. That is how much God loves all men. Amazing.

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Leaving A Legacy

Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” (Revelation 14:12-13)

Leaving A Legacy

Great men seek to leave great legacies. From the ancient Pharoah of Egypt who built colossal works preserved for thousands of years, to philanthropists of the modern age who leave millions of dollars to develop and maintain museums, theatres, charities, and parks, the obsessive need to leave a lasting legacy is found in the futile attempts for human immortality. The Pharaohs built pyramids, ancient kings constructed vast cities, despots created statutes and temples to honor their accomplishments, and museums filled with the antiquities of legacy-seeking men wanting to leave a part of their lives for generations. Sadly, in time, few people know the names of those who sought to establish a dynasty of remembrance for what they accomplished in life. Museums and temples crumble and fall, names are forgotten, and one man’s efforts to be remembered are lost in the dust pile of history.

What is a legacy? The heritage of a man’s life is limited to a small frame of time that is quickly forgotten. He can leave millions of dollars to preserve his memory, but he is soon forgotten. The futility of the human pursuit of immortal glory is the inability of humanity to maintain the story. Time washes away the name, the influence, the contribution, and the legacy. Everything a man works for is lost. J. Paul Getty left $661 million to a museum that bears his name that one day no one will know who he is, and the buildings housing his artwork will be destroyed. That is the fate of all things men build, and there is no lasting legacy. The Vanderbilt legacy of the Biltmore House will be gone one day, as will the legacy of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Hall. All of these philanthropic contributions have value but only for a short time. Legacies are short-lived.

John writes in the Revelation of a legacy that never dies. The early saints suffered under the oppressive hand of persecution. It seemed hopeless for the people of God, but there was a brighter day for those who remained faithful. Death did not diminish the power of the gospel but only enhanced it. Many of the early Christians died at the hand of persecution. Their faith and devotion to the Lord became a legacy that lived on in the lives of the church. Like the great chapter of faith in Hebrews, names became testimonies of faithfulness, devotion, holiness, and love for succeeding generations that still resonate today. Noah died thousands of years ago, but his story is on the lips of children who marvel at the story. Abraham has been buried for eons of time, and his story gives hope to troubled lives. The early Christians faced a harsh world, and yet the voice of Stephen still echoes in the halls of faith, and Paul’s courage to face death with a godly resolve is a lasting legacy.

All men must die. Many chose to fill their lives with building a legacy of human accomplishments, which is vanity. The greatest treasure a man can leave is the image of Jesus Christ. A father and mother who teach their children about God to serve the Lord all the days of their lives leave the greatest legacy a man can possess. There is a heavenly host of godly saints who, in death, left a lasting mark upon the hearts of God’s people through their legacy of faith. Many names are lifted up in honor that few people will know, but for the chosen few that were guided to Christ by that man or taught the Bible by that woman, a divine legacy of truth will never leave their hearts. Life insurance will only leave a monetary blessing that will be wasted and forgotten. The greatest gift given in death is the legacy of Jesus Christ. Their works will follow them. For many generations.

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Miracles Were To Confirm The Word, Not Entertain

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. (Mark 16:15-20)

Miracles Were To Confirm The Word, Not Entertain

The age of so-called “Faith Healers” is not a new phenomenon. Deceiving the people with the allurement of the impossibility has always enticed the simple-minded to believe. There have been multitudes of men and women made famous for their trickeries and delusional antics of healing people through the work of the Holy Spirit. Charismatic churches thrive on the allure of speaking in tongues, casting out demons, and removing disease. The lame walk, the blind sees, and the troubled spirits are cast out; or so it seems. Events called “healing services” draw people in. Miracles are said to be done. Churches fill to capacity. The professional miracle wranglers become wealthy at the expense of the common man.

Jesus commissioned the eleven after His resurrection to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The apostles would become the tip of the spear in the work of evangelizing and establishing the church and kingdom of Jesus Christ. Twelve men would begin the global enterprise in the city of Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they were endued with power from on high. This was not the first time they had experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. During the ministry of Jesus, the Holy Spirit worked through the apostles to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. As Jesus returns to the Father, He sends the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to guide the apostles into all truth. Luke records the story of the acts of the apostles as they take the gospel to the world using miracles as confirmation the word.

Before Jesus returned to the Father, He told the eleven to tarry in the city of Jerusalem, where they would be endowed with power from on high. The eleven tarried in Jerusalem as instructed by the Lord; when on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the eleven and the newest apostle, Matthias. They began to speak in languages preaching the gospel to a multitude of devout Jews from every nation under heaven. The church had begun. Miracles were done. People believed. Souls were saved. Miracles were not the focus though. There were many miracles done by the hands of the apostles and those granted the power, but the emphasis of the early church was preaching the word. As the years progressed, fewer miracles were done because the gospel was becoming embedded into the world – until one day, the power of the Holy Spirit was removed from the hands of men. Miracles ceased. They no longer had a purpose.

The life of the apostle Paul best explains the purpose of miracles. He was a chosen vessel of the Lord to take the message of salvation to the Gentile world. Paul preached everywhere. He was relentless in his pursuit of lost souls. There were occasions when he would confirm his teaching with a miracle. But there were many instances where Paul could have used the power and did not. In the letter to the church at Philippi, Paul mentions Epaphroditus, who was sick almost unto death. God had mercy on Epaphroditus, and he recovered. Why did Paul not use his power to heal his dear brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier? Timothy had stomach problems, and Paul did not heal him. He advised his young protégé to seek medicinal relief. Paul suffered from illness. He tells Timothy he left Trophimus in Miletus sick. All these close friends and fellow workers of Paul and he would not heal them. Why? Miracles were limited to proving the word, not for the entertainment and benefit of others. There is no purpose to miracles today because God has delivered His will through one of the great miracles of divine grace: the Bible. Miracles do not save – the gospel of Jesus Christ does.

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Nothing To Brag About

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Nothing To Brag About

There is a little rooster in all men. The temptation to overvalue self-worth is a constant battle of the heart. Men look at themselves as self-sufficient and self-reliant upon their own merits without regard to others. Society touts the character of independence. There is a badge of honor to achieve success and to claim glory for achievements. Awards and commendations are given for great men accomplishing great things, which measures the wisdom of the human gene as superior. Pride creeps into man’s relationship with God, convincing a man’s heart that he is independent without the need of God. If there is anything to be accomplished and any glory to be achieved, man does so by his own power.

Salvation is a subject that few men understand, and fewer still see the need for. The persuasive power of a prideful heart is to believe that all is well on the Titanic. Since the fall in the garden, the human factor has been measured by disaster, decay, and despair. Everything tried by men failed. Human wisdom could not solve the human problem. The laws of men are empty vats of failed philosophies that never solve the issues of the world. Every generation seeks answers, and they come up empty. Jesus Christ came into a world of darkness and became the light of the world. He allowed humanity for the first time to see hope and believe in the impossible. Through His teaching, the wisdom of man was shown as folly. When Jesus died on the cross, human philosophy railed against the futility of a man dying on a tree. The cross became foolishness to the wisdom of the world. And then Sunday came, and the world was never the same.

On the first day of the week, God raised up His Son, Jesus Christ, and gave all men the one thing they desperately needed and desired: hope. Jesus overcame death and ushered in the path of righteousness to the throne of God. He lived a sinless, perfect life and was murdered by His own brethren. The chains of Hades could not hold Him, and God raised Him up to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, willing hearts could some to the cleansing blood of Jesus and have their sins washed away. Jew and Gentile alike could find salvation in the death of a man from Nazareth. The portals of heaven burst open by the power of God. And man had nothing to do with it.

Salvation by grace is the perfect gift of God. It is only because of a loving Father that anyone has any hope. There has never been a redeeming quality of man to suggest he could save himself. After the fall of man and the world began to fill with humanity, man left to himself destroyed himself. Only eight souls were saved when God brought judgment upon the whole earth. The grace of God saved Noah and his family. Noah would have perished with the world without the knowledge of the coming flood and what to do to be saved. God’s grace opened up a way of salvation, and eight souls obeyed.

No man could have created Jesus Christ. It is beyond man’s wisdom to create a character larger than himself. The Son of God is so far beyond the philosophies of men that there are no comparisons. Where in all the wisdom of humanity could a dying Savior find a place? There is none. God’s grace abounded toward men as His gift of love for His creation. What God did takes away anything man could brag about. What has any man done that deserves boasting? Nothing! The only way to salvation is grace, and without obedience, there is no hope. Faith without works is dead. When men stand before God in judgment, they will not be beating their breasts in boasting. They will be on their knees, thankful for the grace of God.

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Sheep In Need Of A Shepherd

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38)

Sheep In Need Of A Shepherd

It was not uncommon for multitudes to follow Jesus. On one occasion, there were five thousand men, not counting the women and children. The work of Jesus was exhausting. He traveled from the towns and villages dotting the landscape, teaching and preaching to the people. He would enter the local synagogues and teach the people. Not only did Jesus talk for endless hours, sharing the good news about the kingdom, but He also healed every kind of disease the people brought to Him. A man would come to the Lord imploring healing from a lifelong disease. He was healed immediately. Women would come with ailments, and they were cured. Mothers and fathers brought the children to be healed by the man from Nazareth, and the children returned home whole. Lepers were cleansed. The blind received sight. Jesus healed them all.

The work of Jesus was exhaustive. Thousands flocked to Jesus to hear his teaching and receive the wonder-working power of God’s healing. As the crowds came to Jesus, He looked at the multitudes filled with despair and hopelessness. They seemed confused and helpless. Jesus would spend hours teaching about the kingdom and healing all diseases, and the people kept coming. In a reflective moment of the work He was doing, Jesus realized the enormity of human suffering and the need for humanity to find hope. Jesus saw the multitudes as a flock of sheep that had no shepherd.

Sheep are defenseless creatures that cannot protect themselves and cannot provide for their needs. People are like that. No matter the advancement of human wisdom, the multitudes Jesus saw were the same as all creation. Sin took away the joy of life. Without guidance, the world implodes into chaos. The world of Noah had turned so far away from God because they sought to find answers within themselves. Jesus looked at the multitudes coming to Him filled with anxiety, despair, hopelessness, and disease. The Roman government offered no solutions. In the remnant of Israel, there were no answers. The wisdom of Plato and Socrates was empty. What could the world turn to for hope and answer? It was the man teaching in the cities and villages of Palestine who healed everyone of all sickness.

Jesus did not come to cure poverty or take away disease. The sympathy Jesus had for the multitudes is how lost they seemed to be – seeking answers in all the wrong places. God sent His Son into the world to bring light, dispel darkness, and deliver the way, the truth, and life. No man before Jesus and no man after Jesus would bring hope. There was much work to be done to convince helpless man his hope rests in the Son of God. Jesus prayed for helpers to labor in the vineyard of truth to show the multitudes the grace of God. There is no way but the way of the Lord for men to find peace. Only in the truth of Jesus Christ can answers be found. The world is in need of God. God is in need of those who will see the world for what it is and take the gospel of the kingdom to hungry men. The harvest truly is plentiful. Sadly, the laborers are few. The first prayer should be to find men and women willing to take up the banner and share the gospel with their neighbors. Take a look at your neighbors – they – like you – are sheep in need of the Shepherd.

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Why Are You Waiting?

And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16)

Why Are You Waiting?

Saul of Tarsus had come to Damascus to arrest and imprison all those who were followers of Jesus Christ. He had brought serious persecution against the infant church following the stoning of Stephen. Saul was filled with rage against those who preached against Moses, claiming Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. He determined to do everything within his power to destroy those who were of the Way. Because of his persecution, the disciples were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. As Saul approached Damascus, he was struck with a brilliant light and fell to the ground. A voice cried out to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Inquiring who the voice was, Jesus declared Himself to the persecutor, telling him to go into the city and he would be told what to do.

Blinded by the light, Saul had to be led into the city by the hand of those who traveled with him. Three days later, Saul was blind and did not eat or drink. A devout man named Ananias came to Saul, explaining the purpose of God’s plan for his life. Saul would become a witness to all men of the testimony of Jesus Christ. Then Ananias implored Saul to become a Christian. Saul was a devout Jew, but he had not obeyed the gospel of Christ. He believed in the voice he had heard three days earlier and accepted the instructions of Ananias, but he was not saved. His sins remained, and he needed God’s grace.

The message of Ananias to Saul was immediate and demonstrative. Ananias asked Saul why he was waiting. What purpose would any delay have to the will of God? Obedience is not something that can be delayed. The urgency of conviction grasped the heart of Saul. He faced the realization he was lost in his sin and needed the mercy of God. Ananias told Saul to be baptized to wash away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Remission of sins does not come by faith alone. Believing in Jesus alone does not wash away sin. The pattern of salvation as given to Saul was obedience was immediate and that only through the waters of baptism can sin be washed by the blood of Jesus. There is no reason to wait for another revelation. God delivered once the faith that would save men. Delaying for another purpose of the Lord to be revealed is futile.

There are many religious hearts today who are delaying salvation. They believe they are Christians when they have never had their sins washed away. The common doctrine in the religious world is salvation comes by faith only. It is best described by the idea of accepting Christ as a personal Savior, and salvation will be given. This is not what Ananias told Saul. There is never a record of anyone being saved by faith alone. Ananias was responsible for telling Saul what he needed to do for salvation. His message was not to wait and to be baptized. When Saul rendered himself to the will of God in baptism, the Lord would take away his sins. Calling on the name of the Lord was the declaration of allegiance to the will of God.

Do not wait to be told what you must do to be saved. Reject the teachings of human wisdom that deny the essentiality of baptism. Salvation in any other manner will not wash your sins away. Ananias told Saul precisely what he needed to hear, and Saul did not hesitate to do what God told him to do. He arose and was baptized. His sins were washed away. He called on the name of the Lord. God granted His grace and mercy to Saul, and the former persecutor became the great apostle to the Gentiles. There is little doubt as Paul told the multitudes not to tarry and wash away their sins, he remembered that moment in the house of Judas when Ananias told him the same thing. Why are you waiting? What reason do you have to deny the will of God? Arise. Be baptized. Wash away your sins in the blood of Jesus. Call on the name of the Lord.

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The Moon And The Fireworks

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? (Psalm 8:3-4)

The Moon And The Fireworks

Every Fourth of July, the sky in America lights up with brilliant displays of fireworks screaming across the night sky. It is breathtaking to behold the beauty of an ancient Chinese invention that generations have thrilled to watch in great anticipation. There will be a lot of noise, lights, smoke, and often an abundance of confetti with each explosion. Dogs will howl, children scream, and couples embrace under the warm sky of color, bursting on a dark canvas. The sadness of a fireworks display is the length of its pyrotechnic demonstration, which is limited to only a few seconds or minutes. In 2014, New Year was announced in Norway with a fireworks display lasting one hour, one minute, and 32.35 seconds. A total of 810,904 individual fireworks were used for the record-breaking event.

When peering into the night sky, watching the splendor of colors exploding across the darkened sky, one solitary element continues to keep watch. Couched in a fog of cloud is the soft glowing circle of the moon. Its muted color of radiant glow from the sun creates an eerie world of shadows and mystery. The fireworks scream across the heavens and explode, leaving a path of smoke and dust. All of the energy of the firework is immediately dissipated, and it falls back to earth. Crowds are thrilled for the temporary pleasure of a moment’s glimpse, but it does not last. When the smoke clears, the resilient moon continues to watch over the night as it has done since the beginning of time.

The image of the moon becomes more incredible when the mind realizes what the eyes behold is the same orbiting celestial rock that Adam and Eve first beheld on the sixth night of creation. On the fourth day, God created the sun, moon, and stars and set them in the heavens. The moon would be the lesser light and would rule the night. It has steadfastly guided the history of humanity through every generation remaining resilient and trustworthy every night. Abraham used the moon to guide his journeys. David spent many nights peering into the depths of the heavens created by the hand of God. Jesus ventured out of his home in Nazareth, looking up into the starlit sky guarded by the moon. The moon will remain in its place until the end of time, as the promise given to Noah that while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night, shall not cease. And the moon still hangs in the night sky as it has for thousands of years.

Fireworks are the invention of man, and they are, in their own right, an amazing creation of the human genius. But like everything created by man, it never lasts. There is a momentary enjoyment. The sound and visage of colors exploding in the night are exhilarating. And then comes the quick demise and silence. In the morning, the show will be over, and the confetti remnants of the night’s pleasure are strewn across acres of the landscape. The sun rules the day and the moon rules the night, remaining vigilant and constant every day and every night. They never fail, and they never diminish. God created them, placed them in the heavens four days into creation, and they have never changed.

The contrast between fireworks and the heavenly beings is a testimony to the failure of human wisdom and the greatness of God’s word. Fireworks are a work of beauty. The moon is a work of eternal glory. Everything the human mind imagines pales in comparison to the incredible works of creation ordained by the divine Creator in six days of creation. Everything remains in its constant place because God determined the habitation of all life. Man is the highest of God’s creative work and struggles with seeing God in creation. The tragedy of the fireworks display is the glory fades so quickly. So the wisdom, desires, and pleasure of life – only for a moment. When the fireworks settle down, spend some time with your family with the moon. You will be amazed at what you learn from that very ancient sphere that hands so beautifully in the sky. Thank you God for the moon. It is constant and true – like You.

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Freedom Is Of God

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; but the way of the wicked He turns upside down. The Lord shall reign forever—Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146)

Freedom Is Of God

The desire for freedom has always been the pursuit of men. Nations subject their citizens to the despot’s whims and oppression that God never intended for the world. The Lord created all men with the innate desire to have freedom. The blessing of self-choice is what enslaves men to the bondage of sin. Freedom is not just the idea of being free, but true freedom sets the heart free from the bondage of oppression. A dictator may tell his people they are free when they submit to his rule, but when that freedom is based on carnal pride and arrogance of those in power, freedom becomes suppression. There is nothing free about the evil of men forcing their wills on unwilling people.

True freedom is when the individual’s potential is exercised for his good. There is no greater freedom than what is found in the grace of God. The Lord gives freedom to all oppressed by sin’s bondage. Praise must be given to the Lord because His freedom gives all men the full release of what oppresses them. Putting trust in the wisdom of men is foolish. Every generation believes they have the better answer. History is filled with the ruins of man’s failures as he seeks to be his own God seeking his own way. Humanity is incapable of having sufficient wisdom to make the right decisions. Every loss of the human spirit has come when trust is put in men.

Trusting in God bridges time, culture, and wisdom throughout the ages. God made the heavens and earth and, through His great power, ordained such wisdom to guide the thoughts of men. Truth can only come from God. Justice is established by divine wisdom. The blessings of life are best served from the table of God’s abundance. Freedom is found in the word of God. Men seek to be free and can only find true freedom when they submit to the will of God. When men accept the will of God, their eyes are opened, and the Lord raises those who are bowed down. God’s love is shown to the righteous. He watches over the strangers and relieves the fatherless and the widow. Real freedom comes from the gracious hand of the Lord. Not all men accept the freedom offered by God. The way of the wicked He turns upside down. Sadly, they reject the freedom given through the blood of God’s Son.

Celebrating freedom is realizing the joy of serving the one true and living God. There is a need to praise the Lord because of His eternal blessings. Life is filled with daily praise of God’s grace and mercies. What does the psalmist proclaim? “I will praise the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.” Freedom came through the death of Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection. Hope can only be found in the one who made heaven and earth. Thank God for freedom. Its only color is red!

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Trusting God With The Big Things

Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

Trusting God With The Big Things

Following His sermon on the mountain, great multitudes follow Jesus. A leper approaches Jesus pleading with Him to heal him. The leper shows remarkable faith in Jesus, suggesting that the Lord could take away his leprosy if He were willing. Jesus reaches out touching the man, and his leprosy is gone. When Jesus comes into Capernaum, a Roman military officer seeks the blessing of Jesus to heal a servant of his. The Lord marvels at the faith of the centurion and his compassion for the servant. Jesus tells the centurion that He will go and heal the servant, but the centurion believes Jesus can heal him without being there. The servant is healed that very hour.

Arriving at the home of Peter, Jesus sees his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. Jesus heals her. That evening, many who were demon-possessed came to Jesus to be healed. Jesus healed all manner of sickness as the people sought the grace of His healing power. Everyone who came to Jesus was healed. No one left who desired to be healed without the healing power of God. The disciples of Jesus witnessed the power of healing as few men could experience. Traveling with the Lord was filled with multitudes surrounding Jesus, and all the sick were cured of their ailments. The stories of healing should have impressed themselves on the disciples’ minds.

After healing the multitudes, Jesus and the disciples got into a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Four of the disciples were experienced seamen. Suddenly a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. Jesus was asleep in the boat when the storm came. Frantically, the disciples secured the boat as best they could in the face of the storm but to no avail. All of their efforts seemed to be pointless, and their concerns were they were going to drown. Fearful of their lives, they woke Jesus pleading for help. Jesus stood up and rebuked the wind and sea, and suddenly the storm ended, and everything was calm. The disciples were amazed at the power of Jesus.

From an outside perspective of the fearful disciples in the boat with Jesus, it would seem confusing that earlier, they had seen incredible miracles performed by Jesus, and when the storm threatened their boat, they thought they would die. Jesus sleeping during the storm should have been the first sign there was nothing to worry about. The disciples saw Jesus heal a leper. Leprosy was a death sentence with no cure. Jesus touched the leper, and he was cleansed. That was a visible miracle telling all who saw it the great power of Jesus. When the multitudes brought demon-possessed people to Jesus, and He healed them all, the disciples should have realized the power of Jesus reached into the demon world. All of the diseases that people had were healed. None walked away without the grace of God taking away their infirmities and sicknesses. Jesus healed everyone, and the disciples witnessed his power.

Peter, Andrew, James, and John were seasoned fishermen who knew the dangers of the open sea. They had probably experienced the quick storms familiar to the Sea of Galilee. The storm that beset them seemed especially harsh, and they all thought they would drown. Jesus was not disturbed by the storm and was asleep; which should have been a strong message there was nothing to fear. Faith struggled in the hearts of the disciples of Jesus; they trusted Him in the small details but could not trust Him in the larger issues. If they had learned the lessons of healing a leper, demon-possessed, and all the sick, they would never have feared in the storm. Did they take for granted the power of Jesus and become jaded to its power to transform their lives? The storm became personal to the twelve, and they got scared. It was then that they cried out to the Lord. They should have tied things down and hung on because being with Jesus meant there was nothing to fear.

It is easy to point the finger at the twelve for being afraid in the boat, but so often, the child of God will trust God for the small things but struggle in faith when the big storms come. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and He will be the same tomorrow. Yesterday may be filled with great little victories here and there. Today may bring a storm that seems to overwhelm, overcome our spirits and cause doubt to fill the heart. If Jesus can heal a leper one day, He can calm a storm the next day. The small victories teach us that God is faithful, so when the big storms come, we have the assurance that God is still the God of victory. Tie everything down, hang on, and know that while the storm rages, God is in control. He will never leave nor forsake His children. Whatever life brings, Jesus is there, trusting His Father. Follow the lead of Jesus – remain calm. God has got this. And He really does.

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Keep Your Distance

Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

Keep Your Distance

There is a lot of evil in the world, and it has been around a long time. Whenever evil is discussed, it is a cornucopia of things like murder, rape, stealing, torture, adultery, homosexuality, pedophilia, incest, anger, drunkenness, envy, sorcery, jealousy, and the list goes on. Evil is also relegated to the ungodly underworld of criminals and misfits who engage in the heinous crimes of passion and lust. Good people do not consider themselves evil folk. If they can live without any of the identifying marks of evil (see list above), then they feel pretty good about themselves; they have accomplished a level of righteousness and godliness. Sin is often defined by the characteristics of the preconceived major lists of evil things. The heart can believe that without the accusations of evil, goodness will merit acceptance before God.

Paul presents a puzzling challenge to the idea that evil resides only in the major act. After exhorting the saints at Thessalonica to warn the unruly, seek peace with all men, rejoice and pray often and give thanks for all things, he tells the Christians to keep away from evil. A careful reading of the text will show Paul did not warn the saints to keep away from evil but to distance themselves from every form of evil. There is an eternal difference between believing that evil alone will condemn and the reality that forms of evil will also bring judgment. Paul tells the Christians to stay away from anything that looks like, walks, and talks like evil. Every kind of evil needs to be abstained from with the greatest prejudice. He wants the people of God to remember that evil has an allurement that can draw a man to sin if he does not run away and stay away from evil.

In the Old Testament story of Joseph, the young son of Jacob was faced with a terrible situation. He had been sold as a slave to a man in charge of the king’s guards. Potiphar’s wife began to lust after Joseph and attempted to lure him with sexual immorality. Joseph refused, but she continued to put pressure on him daily. One day, she grabbed Joseph, demanding satisfaction, but Joseph ran away. He stood accused of attempted rape, and Potiphar placed him in the king’s dungeon. Joseph could not change the circumstance of being a slave, but he knew the only way to deal with the evil of Potiphar’s wife was to run away. He immediately removed himself from the seductions of Potiphar’s wife. Falsely accused, Joseph did not lose his faith in God but reaffirmed the lesson of dealing with sin in any form and how to react to sin.

The trouble with temptation is that often the greatest allurement is not the act itself but how near the heart gets to the fire. Sin is viewed from the vantage point that being warmed by its coals does not account for sin. The command of God is for His people to stay clear of sin, remove themselves from the presence of evil, and not put themselves in a compromising circumstance that can (and often does) lead to more sin. When a man plays with snakes, it should not come as a surprise if he gets bit. The likelihood is greatly reduced (magnified) that not handling snakes will guarantee the person will not be bitten by a snake. Christians mistakenly believe they can hold sin, and when sin bites, they are shocked and dismayed. Examining why a person falls into sin can be traced to the heart going places and being places they should not have been in the first place.

Adultery begins in the heart. Compromising situations and circumstances develop innocent enough, but then evil abounds because the man void of understanding walks along the street near the temptation. He has gone to the wrong place at the wrong time with good intentions that turn sinful because he did not distance himself from an obvious conclusion. Like a bird seeking a morsel, he is caught in the trap and dies. Drunkenness always begins with the first drink. Believing the first drink cannot lead to sin is folly. If the heart abstains from the evil of drunkenness, the first drink will never happen.

It is possible to live a sinless life if we keep a distance from sin and draw near to God. The reality is the carnal spirit fails so often to measure itself away from the temptation, and the heart is drawn away. Jesus lived a sinless life because He always kept His distance from sin. Every time a man sins, he does so because he is in the wrong place. A man will sin less in life when he can identify the alleys and byways of sin and refuse to travel those roads. Through the grace of God and the knowledge of His word, evil can be more readily identified. It is possible to walk through the woods and get bitten by a snake. Staying far removed from snakes will increase the odds. Sin will catch the heart unaware but exercising discretion and wisdom to refrain from evil will give a greater purpose in life to live godly. Abstain from sin and also abstain from every form of sin.

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Denying The Miracles

Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” (John 11:47-48)

Denying The Miracles

No one denied the miracles of Jesus. The remarkable thing about how the enemies of Jesus viewed the signs He did was they could never and never did suggest a miracle did not happen. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead four days after he died, no one said the miracle of resurrection did not occur. Many of the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus and Lazarus. What is ironic about their plan to kill Lazarus was the acceptance that Lazarus was alive and he needed to die – again. Jesus healed a woman with an infirmity that crippled her for eighteen years, and all the ruler of the synagogue could say was that Jesus should not heal on the Sabbath. On another occasion in a synagogue, Jesus healed a man with a crippled hand. The scribes and Pharisees were enraged at Jesus and discussed what they might do to Jesus.

Raising Lazarus from the dead was a powerful demonstration of Jesus over death itself. When Jesus told the men to remove the stone from Lazarus’ tomb, Martha feared the stench of death would be unbearable. The Jewish custom was to bury a loved one on the day they died and visit the tomb for three days. On the fourth day, the body began to show external signs of decay, and the stench of death increased. The tomb would be sealed before that decaying process began and became noticeable. Martha was horrified at what her brother would be like coming out of the tomb after four days. Her fears confirmed how dead Lazarus was. Many Jews who had come to Mary and comforted her and Martha in the death of Lazarus believed in Jesus. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what had happened.

The reaction of the chief priests and the Pharisees was not excitement over the resurrection of Lazarus. They did not seek Jesus out to know what power He manifested to overcome death after four days. There was no appeal to honor God with the miracle of rebirth. The only thing the religious leaders feared was that the popularity of Jesus would overshadow their hold on the people and lose their influence; the Romans would remove them from the limited power they enjoyed. What was historically ironic about their pride was the refusal to believe they were in bondage to the Romans. The last time Israel was a united nation was when Solomon began to rule in 970 B.C. In 722 B. C., the Assyrians captured Samaria and carried off most of Israel. When the Babylonians came in 606 B. C., the long bondage of Israel began and would last until nearly forty years after Jesus died. In 70 A. B., the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and effectively ended the nation of Israel.

After the raising of Lazarus, the Jewish leaders feared Jesus would take their place among the Romans and destroy their nation. Jesus did not come to dismantle Israel. The son of God came to save men from sin and offer His blood as the means of redemption. The Jews destroyed themselves in 70 A. D. and have never been a nation again. Jesus warned them of the Roman carnage, but they would not listen. Lazarus was raised from the dead, and the chief priests and Pharisees were blinded by their own pride and arrogance, refusing to give God the glory through the signs done by Jesus. The old saying goes, “There are none so blind as those who cannot see.” Everything the world needed to find the love of God was embodied in the man from Nazareth, and the world killed Him. Israel has faded into the dust bowl of history, never to be the nation of God again. Jesus established a kingdom on Pentecost that has spread throughout the world and ruled for over two thousand years. His power and signs prove He is the Son of God. John testifies there were many other signs Jesus did in the presence of His disciples but what is written is proof that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. You have a choice – react like the Jewish leaders who denied the power of God through Christ or accept that Jesus of Nazareth is the divine Son of God. In the final analysis, denying the miracles of Jesus does not deny the miracles but only denies the heart eternal life.

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The Way Of The World Is Not The Way Of The Christian

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:25-29)

The Way Of The World Is Not The Way Of The Christian

When a man draws close to God, he will find himself further away from the world. The life of a Christian is in contrast to the way of thinking characterized by those not bound by the will of God. Israel was destroyed when she became like the nations around her. God had declared His people should remain separate from the world, but they rebelled and modeled their hearts like the nations around them. Jesus taught those who would follow Him must pay a price of separation. Bearing a cross was an individual decision that showed the world the disciple had committed himself fully to the kingdom of God. Throughout the epistles of the early church, the importance of being different from the world is emphasized.

The city of Ephesus was the capital of proconsular Asia, which was the western part of Asia Minor. It was noted for the Temple of Diana, with the largest theatre in the world, capable of seating 50,000 spectators. The Ephesian church faced a hostile influence from the pagan world. Lying, cheating, immorality, and the base nature of the flesh were common, and being a Christian was not easy. Paul exhorts the saints to refrain from the temptations of the world. Lying may have been an accepted way to do business, excel in the community, and treat neighbors, but not for the Christian. As a follower of Jesus Christ, lying was to be put away. The Christian was to stop telling lies. Truth must be on the lips of those who profess Christ. Speaking truth to neighbors was an example of godliness and holiness.

One of the characteristics of a godless world is the increase in anger. People get angry about almost anything. In the modern world, road rage is rising because of the godless nature of hearts filled with wrath, bitterness, and anger. People shoot one another because they get mad. The city of Ephesus was no exception. They followed the wisdom of men that glorified the angry spirit of retribution. Living in a world where everyone seemed angry about everything was challenging. The Christian learns to control his anger and not allow the sin to overcome them. In contrast, saints of God are kind, forgiving, and possess a spirit of love for all men. Anger is not a badge of honor but shame for those who follow Jesus Christ.

Paul tells the saints they should not be accused of stealing. He does not suggest the Ephesians saints were thieves, but the acceptable practice of the world was to take what did not belong to them. Stealing is as much a sin as murder or adultery. An employee will justify stealing from the company, but there is no justification before God. In the Ephesian world, one of the greatest attributes of a Christian is the man and woman who works diligently with their hands to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wages. Christians are to be the best employees and employers because they serve a higher Master, Jesus Christ. Not only does the Christian work hard and honestly, but he also shares what he has with those in need. Few people look at their jobs considering how they can help others. In a greedy world, it all belongs to the selfish heart. The Christian works to share with others.

Finally, one of the differences between a Christian and those in the world is learned by the speech of the child of God. It is common for the world to cuss, use profanity, slander, gossip, and maliciously destroy others. Paul told the Ephesians not to let any corrupt language come out of their mouths. The words of the saint of God are filled with grace, beauty, and love; unlike the world. Christians speak words that are fitting to the word of God. They are known as people of truth and honesty. Everyone that knows the Christian hears words that are not idle or foul. There is a difference in the speech of the child of God and those of the world.

Paul wanted his brethren to see the impact of their lives on the world around them. As lights in the world and the seasoning flavor of salt, the disciple of Jesus Christ stands above the world and its lying, anger, stealing, and corrupt practices. Being set apart from the world is learning to remove these things from the example of the Christian. One of the great tools of evangelism is the example of purity and the child of God continually learning to frame their life upon the graces of godliness. Put away lying and anger, steal no more, and clean up the language. Sound advice. Life-changing.

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The Vanity Of Life

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2)

The Vanity Of Life

There are many ways to begin the writing of a book. The first sentence will set the tone for the rest of the book in capturing the reader’s attention. Solomon begins his thesis on life with the statement that everything is vanity – everything. The book is called Ecclesiastes, after the Greek word for the term “preacher” or “teacher.” Solomon refers to himself as one who calls an assembly. He wants to direct his readers’ attention to the complexities of life and the final analysis of the futility found in seeking worldly happiness. The nature of man is to expend himself completely in seeking after all the things life has to offer, and when he dies, he finds all he gained is lost. Life is not pointless, but it is vanity if a man seeks to gain the whole world and lose his soul.

The vanity of life is the failure of the human heart to know who he truly is. Everything about the world fools the man into believing he will never die. Happiness is found in the things of this world. Life is about getting all the gusto, and the man with the most toys wins. Knowledge is exalted as the god of wisdom. Albert Einstein was one of the smartest men that lived in the past few years, but that knowledge did not keep him from dying. Henry Ford was worth $200 billion, but on April 7, 1947, his net worth became zero when he died at 84. Hugh Heffner created an empire built on the sexual pleasures of the flesh, which all ended in 2017 when he died at 91. No one has reached the apex of gaining all the world has to offer than found in the life of Solomon. He became great and excelled more than any man. Solomon reigned in Jerusalem for forty years, and he died.

Why is life vanity? After examining every aspect of life, Solomon concludes his book with why life is a vain pursuit. Jeremy Taylor said, “Life is short, yet upon this short life, eternity depends.” Life becomes vain when every effort of man is directed to what is here and now. God created man as an eternal creature that inhabits a body that begins to perish upon birth. No man can live forever in the flesh. Death is the consequence of sin, and all men die. Life is only vain when the focus is only on this world. There is nothing vain about a life that knows there is a God, seeks His wisdom, and prepares himself for the judgment. A day is coming when everything a man does in life will be brought before the throne of a righteous judge. Vanity is the sad reality most find in death because they realize too late there is more to life than riches, wisdom, and pleasures.

Solomon found too late in life the failings of his own decisions. He began as a man seeking after the Lord. Later in life, the foreign wives he desired led him away from God. If the book of Ecclesiastes is a testimony to the vanity of life, Solomon defined in absolute terms what happens when someone seeks everything in this world and fails to prepare for the life to come. All that is gained in this life remains but what remains in a life of vanity is nothing. To make life meaningful, full of purpose and hope, turn to the word of God and live for Jesus Christ. At the end of life, it will not have been a vain life but a gained life.

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