Weep with those who weep

You may forget with whom you laughed, but you will never forget with whom you wept.

I found the above quote in an old little booklet called “Good Stuff.” It reminds us of the importance of being there for others when we’re needed.

Often times we may find it difficult to “be there” for others. The difficulty does not come from a lack of interest or care. The difficulty comes from the awkwardness of not knowing exactly what to do or say to help the hurting.

The simple fact is that there is hardly a time when we could do or say anything that would completely remedy the situation. Pain that produces tears needs more than minutes … it needs weeks, months or maybe even years. But the minutes that we offer and give still matter!

You may have never heard the quote at the beginning, but if you can remember the quote at the end, you will understand the importance of the little things that help us to be better equipped to help with the big things of life. The quote is grouped with a list of things that may not always be easy to do, but they are always worth it.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Romans 12:14-16 NKJV)

#grief, #help-others, #mutual-support

Be careful how you use this point when talking about the church

I’ve heard it countless times over – “If your church doesn’t have the name of Christ on it then it has the wrong name.”

This is a point oft used when discussing the nature of the church with members of denominationalism, or putting-down denominationalism while talking with members of the church. Either way, one should be careful how this point is used. As a matter of fact, if you take the point as it stands, I’m not so sure the point should be used at all!

In the context of a conversation revolving around church names such as Baptist, Methodist, Adventist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian, (amongst numerous other churches who bear the names and teachings of their man-made and woman-made founders) talking about a scriptural name of the called-out body to which God desires all to belong to is obviously a conversation worth having (Acts 2:47). But we must be careful in drawing lines God has not drawn because we like the way an argument makes us sound.

Let me explain what I am saying as plainly as I can.

I am not ashamed to say I am a member of the church of Christ (Romans 16:16). Not in the least! But neither am I ashamed to say I am a member of the church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2), a member of the church of the first-born (Hebrews 12:23), or even a member of the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15). Perhaps it would even be valid, in the spiritual sense of the church being God’s temple today (2 Corinthians 6:16), to say I am a member of God’s house of prayer (Matthew 21:13). I am not ashamed of these church names because they are found in the same source of spiritual authority to which we call all of the denominational world to submit to – God’s word!

You see, for obvious reasons, placing an emphasis on the identity and ownership of the church through the name of the church is a valid challenge to the majority of the denominational world (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13), but insisting that the church of the Bible wear one specific name while several scriptural names remain available makes our “plea of unity” as denominational in nature as the rest of the divided religious world.

Remember the goal of the restoration movement … the goal of breaking down denominational lines without creating new ones.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.” And again: “I will put My trust in Him.” And again: “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”” (Hebrews 2:10-13 NKJV)

#church-of-the-bible, #restoration-movement, #restoration-principle

He who has ears to hear

You may have heard of the latest great viral debate – is it yanny or laurel?

After hearing it yesterday I told my wife it probably has to do with what a person’s ears can hear over a digital speaker since people can obviously speak either of the words out-loud and we understand each other.

Sure enough, that is what’s going on. Keeping in mind that the quality of the audio device producing the recording has a bearing on what can or will be heard, and frequently the age of one’s ears, the basic premise of the original recording had to do with high and low-frequency recordings. People with ears attuned to high-frequency sounds heard “yanny” and people with ears attuned to low-frequency sounds heard “laurel”.

There is also another level of recorded frequencies that cause some people to hear one thing while some people hear another – the spiritual frequency.

Unlike the yanny or laurel debate, the ability to hear the spiritual frequency of God’s word has nothing to do with our physical ears but rather with our mindset. Our mindset changes and controls what we are capable of hearing. You can call it a point of view driven by resonating sound of spiritual sensitivity.

Correctly hearing God’s word is vital to a right relationship with God (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Jesus spoke much about this important point. This is why he spoke in parables! To test the ears (hearts) of his hearers (Mark 4:1-12). A test that continues to have more riding on it than “yanny or laurel” to this day.

So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (John 2:18-21 NKJV)

Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’ ” But not even then did their testimony agree. … And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”” (Mark 14:57-59; 15:29-30)

#hearing, #hearing-the-words-of-the-lord, #spiritual-illustration

A perennial first-century sticky-note

For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.” (2 Peter 1:12-15 NKJV)

Verse 15 is interesting to me. It is as if Peter is saying that his letter would be a perennial first-century sticky-note. A note worth leaving and a note worth reading.

The apostles cared deeply for the church (2 Corinthians 11:28). Worried about the spiritual health of God’s congregations, because of the reality of false teachers and their doctrine (Acts 20:28-31), the apostles left numerous warnings throughout the scriptures about the importance of clinging to the grace and truth of the faith that had been delivered through heavenly inspiration (2 Peter 1:16-21).

God’s word is meant to stick in our minds. Remember is a word used more than once in the New Testament alone. No less than 39 times to be exact. This does not include phrases like “keep in memory” and its various translations (1 Corinthians 15:2).

I’m grateful for the letters that have stuck around for nearly 2,000 years, and for the letters that have managed to stick around much longer. They give us so much insight to the way God has dealt with humanity and to the way he is going to deal with us (2 Peter 3:9-13). And that is the way God wanted it (John 16:13). Neglect these sticky notes and we’ll miss out on the message that deserves our attention.

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,” (2 Peter 3:1-2 NKJV)

#2-peter, #apostles, #inspiration-of-the-bible

Some lessons are best taught by momma

There are some lessons best taught by momma, especially to daughters.

Mommas, your children will remember you reading the Bible to them longer than they’ll remember you teaching them to read.

Mommas, your children need to be taught that youth and beauty won’t last, and then prove it by showing them a picture of their father when he was a young man.

Mommas, your children need to learn that, contrary to TV/Hollywood’s images, who they are on the inside will get them further than who they are on the outside.

Happy Mother’s Day to you hard-working, godly women.

“Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:29-20 NKJV)

#dangers-to-children, #mothers-day, #the-influence-of-mothers

Try to find common ground to build on

Did you know minus 40 degrees Celsius is exactly the same as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit?

Rather strange considering the wide degree of separation the two measuring standards often follow.

When it comes to studying the Bible with people of vastly different points of view and doctrines, it is important to find common ground to build on. This is obviously more difficult with some groups than it is with others, but the benefit that comes from the agreements can outweigh the easier task of ignoring them.

More beneficial is discussing the possibility of former beliefs and the path of understanding that led to a genuine changing of the mind and heart. This particular approach may not be able to be used by everyone, but it should definitely be used by those who have the ability to do so.

As we all should know, changing our mind, even when it comes to proven truth, is not always easy. This is why we should think about the way others could feel during study times. This can be done without sacrificing the truth or our conscience.

Building upon common ground was a successful avenue that several biblical teachers used when discussing varying spiritual beliefs and God’s word … even Jesus (remember the woman at the well in John 4). And that is why we should practice it from time-to-time.

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” (Acts 17:22-29 NKJV)

#bible-discussions, #religious-differences, #thinking-of-others

You can do great things through the ordinary

Think you have to cause walls of water to arise from the deep, entreat fire from the heavens, or encounter the angel of the Lord of Hosts to do something great for God?

Read through the gospels again.

Notice how often ordinary things are done to create great moments for God’s glory: touching people, making time for people, talking to people, building people up, and sharing the gospel with people.

Ordinary is a relative term. Doing great things for God is determined by the God we serve when we do them. Do not forget that.

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40 NKJV)

#doing-good, #serving-god

I have seen it

I have seen a spouse leave the church because their significant other was done with God. The significant other eventually left the spouse, leaving them without a marriage or a relationship with God.

I have seen people “raise a stink” about a brother or sister in Christ for the purpose of covering up their own shortcomings.

I have seen children raised in the church walk away into the world or denominationalism.

I have seen children raised in the church grow into strong Christians who actively serve God.

I have seen people make peace with a brother or sister in Christ for the sake of their discipleship and the church’s reputation.

I have seen a spouse remain faithful to God regardless of their significant other’s attitude. The significant other eventually became a Christian and a member of a heavenly relationship with God.

I would not have seen one situation without the other. And neither will you.

Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good. Do not let the negative cause you to forget the positive. Do not quit. Stay the course and remember your labor in the Lord will not be forgotten by God (1 Corinthians 15:58, Hebrews 6:10).

He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”” (Matthew 13:28-30 NKJV)

Resource filled website

I had the chance to visit with the Walnut Street congregation last week. First time. It would be good if I had the chance to go back.

Their bulletin mentioned a website with some impressive stats of over 200,000 visits through the first week of April. The site (which can be found here) seems to be a resource filled tool.

It contains “lessons” about numerous topics, with several in Spanish. Many of these topical lessons contain several lessons within themselves. In other words, they are basically a biblical series. Some of the lessons contain simple stories from the experiences of other people. The site also contains a section of digital books for those who enjoy that form of media.

#bible-links, #congregations, #resource, #website

Powerful verse reminds us to not overstep our spiritual bounds

No small number of people in the modern religious world would do well to listen to the very old admonition given to King Uzziah.

And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.”” (2 Chronicles 26:18 NKJV)

King Uzziah was a prestigious king, but his prestige led to pride and confusion in knowing the difference between talent, human-reasoning and self-desire with respect toward God, authority under God and humility before God.

Uzziah was able to help and serve the people of God in many ways, but many ways was not the same as every way!

Living under the law of the Spirit and liberty (Romans 8:2, James 2:12) does not mean we live without any law and regulation from God (Romans 3:27, Hebrews 5:9).

Women who believe they have talent to preach ought to listen. Men who believe they can be rightly called Father ought to listen. People who seek to build and propagate a church foundation upon another human-being ought to listen. Learn from Uzziah. It is not for you to do the things you have done. It is not for you to go beyond the bounds given by God. You are at serious risk of behaving like Uzziah and having no honor from the Lord God.

Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 14:36-37 NKJV)

#practical-lessons, #religious-authority

If trouble does not stop, why choose wisdom?

On page 96 of the Gospel Advocate’s Adult Foundations Bible Study course (Poetical Book Selections, The Value of Wisdom) a good question is asked.

If possession of wisdom does not keep trouble from arising in life, what benefit is it?

“Why bother?” is an attitude that can afflict the average man and woman. We try to do right when it seemingly has no effect on the wrong we deal with in our family, at work or with strangers. Is there any advantage to understanding, trusting and living out the wisdom that comes from the heavenly source (Proverbs 3:5-6)?

Here are three answers that help to explain what the benefit can be and is for those who seek to get knowledge and understanding with all his or her might:

  • Heavenly wisdom helps navigate us through trouble. It is not the light-house or the buoy-marker’s fault that the seas get rough, but it is to their credit that someone was wise enough to place them where they are! Understanding their value doesn’t stop the storms from happening, but it can keep the storm from sinking us. The same is true, spiritually speaking, of heavenly wisdom.
  • Heavenly wisdom keeps certain troubles away. Take the dangers of alcohol (and ultimately drugs) for example. Proverbs 23:29-35 speaks so plainly about alcohol, a person has to intentionally ignore what they are reading. Add to that the warnings about adultery, lying, improperly raising children, laziness, etc. and we get doses of wisdom beneficial toward avoiding the troubles that many people in the world deal with continually.
  • Heavenly wisdom gives us the ability to help others. Wisdom is meant to be shared. Ever noticed there is an entire book of Proverbs? Sharing wisdom is the whole purpose of Proverbs. From a father to a son, to a son from his mother – when we want the best for people, we share the best we have. Living life takes life skills and heavenly wisdom makes garnering these skills easier.

Hope these answers help to explain the benefit of possessing wisdom despite that it does not prevent all trouble out of our lives.

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: to know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,” (Proverbs 1:1-5 NKJV)

#bible-questions, #gospel-advocate, #wisdom

You never know what you may find in a fortune cookie

Most people enjoy fortune cookies. You don’t have to take all of them seriously to get a kick out of them!

Matter of fact, every once in a while the fortune is actually worth listening to.

Not too long ago, I got a cookie that said, “An ounce of care is worth a pound of cure.” It’s a little different from the version I’m used to hearing, but who could argue with what it is saying?

A few weeks later I got another cookie that said, “Do not be overly judgmental of your loved one’s intentions or actions.” I suppose the saying could even be applied to the actions and intentions of your “not-so-loved” ones too.

A few days ago, I opened a cookie and I found, “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” It really, really rang a bell for some reason.

You never know what you may find in a fortune cookie when you open it and read what it has to say … but then again you never know what you may find in the Bible if you open it and read what it has been saying for thousands of years (Deuteronomy 8:32, Matthew 4:4).

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38 NKJV)

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24 NKJV)

A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 NKJV)

#food, #scripture, #wisdom

Why didn’t they bring him to Jesus?

From time-to-time you find people in the gospels bringing others to Jesus (Matthew 9:1-2; Mark 2:2-5; John 12:20-22), but in Mark 10:46-48 you will find quite the opposite!

The religious crowd following Jesus to Jerusalem actually wanted the blind and beggarly Bartimaeus to stop calling out for Jesus. They actually commanded him to hush!

Why didn’t they bring Bartimaeus to Jesus?

Perhaps, and I’m only saying perhaps because I do not know, it was because they were not following Jesus for the right reasons themselves. It’s not like that was something new during Jesus’ ministry (John 6:26, 66). And it’s not like that multitude was going to follow through on their chants of “Hosanna!” (Matthew 27:21-23).

Do you hear a lesson in that church?

Are we failing to bring people to Jesus because we’re not following him for the right reason to begin with?

Just a thought … or is it?

#bartimaeus, #following-jesus

Live out the simple before you worry about understanding the complex

I have talked to not a few people (often times not Christians) who are more interested in discussing complex spiritual topics than more simplistic topics.

Such mindsets can be more interested in “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” than they are in what Jesus Christ’s gospel reveals about their life.

The issue with placing the complex before the simple is the simple is often times the key to understanding the complex, and more importantly – it doesn’t matter what you understand about the complex if you can’t put the simple into practice!

Perhaps this story will illustrate:

Two cowboys were walking out on the western plains one day when they noticed a set of footprints.

After studying the footprints, one cowboy said to the other, “These footprints were made by three men. One was wearing a black hat, one a straw hat, and the other had no hat. Two had beards, and one had a mustache. Two carried rifles, and one had a six-shooter. One man was married, and the other two were single.”

Amazed, the second cowboy asked, “Which way are they going?” to which the first cowboy replied, “I don’t know; you can’t tell everything from footprints!”

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (1 Peter 2:1-3 NKJV)

#devotional-thought, #milk-of-the-word, #spiritual-illustrations

The one Samuel wanted to choose as king

Samuel was a great prophet who served God for many years.

He served as a judge during pivotal moments, and he also happened to be God’s representative when the people made known their desire for a worldly-structured government in the form of a king.

I don’t believe Samuel enjoyed “politics” but nonetheless he found himself in the midst of overseeing the anointing of two different kings of Israel: Saul and David (1 Samuel 9:27, 10:1, 16:12-13).

In each anointing it was God who did the choosing, but do you remember who Samuel would have chosen had the responsibility belonged to him?

Samuel’s choice would have been Eliab, the brother of the future king, David.

So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” (1 Samuel 16:6-7 NKJV)

Samuel was a good man but he learned that the most difficult thing to judge was not guilt or innocence after something was done, when or when not to attack an external enemy, or even when it was time to encourage or rebuke the most powerful political leader in the land! Samuel learned that the most difficult thing to judge is another person’s heart – which has nothing to do with someone’s outward appearance.

Have we learned the lesson that God personally taught Samuel?

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:23-25 NKJV)

#1-samuel, #judge-righteously, #judging-others