Let the gospel out

Lysol is a popular disinfectant cleaner. It has the potential to prevent some serious, if not fatal, infections in humans.

While it comes in an attractive can, Lysol was not made to be admired on a shelf. It was made to be used. Lysol that is never sprayed or applied to any surface will never prevent anything. To gain the effectiveness of the product, it must come out of the can.

The gospel comes in a container, too. It is packaged inside a human being. Paul said the gospel, which is God’s power unto salvation, resides in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7). It is not meant to stay there. As long as the gospel sits in the jar, it cannot save anyone. It cannot fight sin and its consequences. If the gospel is released, it has the power to save and the power to prevent sin.

The gospel must be applied to the heart of someone. It must come out of the clay jar! The gospel hidden in the heart of a child of God and has never seen the light of day is like someone buying a can of Lysol and placing on a shelf to be admired. It won’t make a difference unless it comes out.

Minimizing Jesus

Whenever I initiate a computer program, like word processing, email, Internet access, there is a small hyphen in the upper right corner of the screen. Clicking the mouse on this small hyphen minimizes the page taking it off the screen. It allows me to change tasks quickly and see different programs.

Once minimized, the program will not reappear until I decide to “click” on the icon. When I do the program will resume where I left it and I can then focus on that task.

People can decide to minimize Jesus and the true religion of Christ. All they need to do is focus on something other than Jesus or the Bible. Many folks have minimized Jesus right out of their lives.

If we minimize Jesus, we run the risk of never thinking of him again. When we minimize Jesus to focus on the world or on our own lives we risk losing him and a blessed eternity in heaven.

Many people have done just this. A life focused on self and the world is a life that has minimized Jesus. Time, as the saying goes, flies by and we can find ourselves standing on the door of death having denied ourselves of a life focused on Christ and eternity. We may find ourselves lost in a sea of self-service.

It’s easy to put off the inevitable. All one need do is minimize Jesus and eternity and focus on something completely unworthwhile like the world. This old world will be happy to occupy anyone’s attention with mundane and foolish things.

It takes more attention to stay focused on Jesus. The Lord of Glory doesn’t accept half-hearted discipleship. He demands we seek him first (Matthew 6:33).

What will you do with Jesus? Eternity will beckon soon. How you answer in this life will determine your destiny. What destiny will you choose?

Will Judah’s headlong pursuit become ours?

We look at our land and our accomplishments and believe we are an amazing people. That’s a mistake.

Judah thought the same. By 722 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Judah was entering its most prosperous time. Instead of following God, however, Judah deliberately chased after every form of immorality and idolatry available to them.

God sent Jeremiah to tell Judah it was on a path to destruction. It had chased after vanity and had become empty itself (Jeremiah 2:5). The nation, which had served God in its past, thought it knew a better way. That way was not better at all.

The nation had its political and religious rulers to blame for its lack of direction. The nation’s rulers did not appeal to heaven for guidance (Jeremiah 2:8). The very people who should have used their example to steer the people toward righteousness were themselves polluted by sin and their example destroyed.

Ignorant of the scriptures, careless about God’s law and lulled into spiritual unconsciousness, Judah began a headlong pursuit toward national suicide . But, Judah had enslaved itself to sin long before Babylon ever took the nation into captivity.

God told Judah through his prophet, “Although you wash yourselves with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before me,” (Jeremiah 2:22). Sin can be disguised, but cannot be hidden.

History only repeats itself because people never learn its lessons. Judah’s story is relevant to us. Our leaders are more influenced by gain than by God. They give lip service to the Creator and then turn to chase what really matters to them. Judah tried the same and failed spectacularly. How can we imitate them and succeed?

We may try to wash our iniquity away with soap, but it is still in front of the God who knows and sees it. Much of our land is already in bondage. We just don’t see the chains. We must turn and obey God’s word before we suffer the same fate as Judah.

Like riddles?

Like riddles? Here’s a popular one:
I never was, am always to be,
No one ever saw me, nor ever will
And yet I am the confidence of all.
What am I?

You may already know the answer. It is tomorrow. It is the future. If there’s one thing I’ve heard all my life, it’s that when brethren choose preachers they are always worried about the “future,” even though it never comes and is “always to be.”

What they ought to be concerned with is today. What are we doing today to preach the gospel and save the lost? When asked that question, many of our brethren have no answer. They’re watching their congregation’s average age climb into the 60’s and their membership descend into the 30’s, and they wonder what they can do to change the trend. But, with many of them it’s always about the day that never comes, but is always to be. No one has ever seen the future, nor ever will. And yet, it is the confidence of all.

Jesus said, “So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own,” (Matthew 6:34 NET).

Choose Joy

It is possible to choose to be joyful in trial and tribulation.

The usual response to trial is disappointment and/or worry. Our response to the bad things life can dish out doesn’t have to be like that. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2 ESV).

We can allow trials and tribulation to defeat us, or we can recognize them as opportunities to grow spiritually. Our response to difficult times is entirely our own choice.

In addition, trials can have an unintended effect in those who choose joy and allow the trial to help them grow spiritually. James tells us trials build endurance. Like a cross-country runner training for a contest builds an ability to run faster and farther, we can learn to use trials to make us stronger so that we may win the crown — eternal life!

Greatest compliment

People love compliments. All my wife has to say is, “what a big, strong man you are,” and I’m ready to move the world for her.

It’s only natural to like hearing positive things about yourself. Especially if they’re true.

What is the greatest compliment God ever paid a human being? “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil,” (Job 1:8 NASB).

What higher compliment is there than for the Lord God to call someone a servant (Matthew 20:28; Hebrews 9:14)?

 

#compliments, #servant

The righteousness that exceeds

Jesus told his disciples their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. What did he mean?

Righteousness is right doing according to the standard of God’s word (Psalm 119:160; 145:17). The Pharisees thought they were righteous —they were not— they thought they were righteous because of their ritual observance of the ceremonial law of Moses. They were, however, certainly unrighteous. The righteousness that exceeds that Jesus describes is one based on obedience to God’s word.

Today, many people don’t understand that obedience is what God wants. It is what he has always wanted. Righteousness is not “infused” in people. It is what they are because of obedience.

#obedience-to-god, #pharisees, #righteousness

Walk, keep, walk, keep

The Old Testament’s book of Psalms is famous for its patterns, parallels and precepts.

Psalm 119 is a lesson of how important it is to read, study and obey God’s commands. Turning from God’s law is the first step into sin. If we read, study and obey God’s word, we can keep ourselves from becoming enslaved to sin.

Verses one through four have an interesting pattern of “walk, keep, walk, keep” in the King James Version. The American Standard Version departs from the KJV in verse 4 when it uses “observe” instead of “keep,” but it is the same idea.

To “walk” means to follow something or someone. In the New Testament, the word is often used to describe conduct or manner of life. The word in Hebrew most often means “to follow.”

The word “keep” means to observe, guard, or kept close. All of the meanings are about the same kind of thing. When we keep God’s word we obey it. We use it to act as a guard for our lives and therefore it should be kept close to us at all times.

Verses six through eight tell us what benefits await those who walk and keep. It’s a statement of plain logic. IF we walk within and keep God’s word, THEN the benefits will be the following.

First, the inspired Psalmist tells us we will never be ashamed of ourselves. When we have the utmost respect for God’s word and obey it, there will be no behavior contrary to it. Shame comes when we abandon God’s word and then commit sin. Leaving God’s word is always rebellion.

Next, “I will praise you with uprightness of heart.” This follows because right doing depends upon right thinking and right thinking only comes from God’s word. It’s amazing how the world uses the word, “ought,” when it really disconnects right thinking and living with obeying God’s word.

Verse eight makes a promise. The Psalmist says, “I will keep your statutes.” So should we all make the same promise.

 

The Gospel’s work

Some of the most talented people are those who can tear a car motor apart, fix it, and put it back together. I certainly don’t have the talent to do anything like that. Usually, when I tear something up, it stays broken.

The gospel has the power to take broken lives, bind them up and put us on the road to spiritual health. It is:

  1. The power of God unto salvation, Romans 1:16.
  2. The agent that purifies us and makes us fit and ready for God’s use, Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 5:26-27.
  3. The gospel provides us with a new birth, 1 Peter 1:22-23.
  4. The gospel makes us different and better, 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:12.

Nothing can take the place of the gospel in our lives. It’s power is greater than anything in the world.

I can’t understand how to tear a car engine apart, but thanks to the gospel’s power in my life, I can understand what a person needs to put their lives back together and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. It’s in the gospel!

How do you motivate Bible students?

Physicians are more or less in agreement that healthy food and exercise are necessary to improve life and decrease health risks.

open-bibleGood spiritual health also depends on getting the right spiritual food and learning how to tell the difference between good and evil (Hebrews 5:11-14).

The question my Christian preacher friends and I have been dealing with is how to motivate people to take care of themselves spiritually. Here’s the consensus so far:

  • Teach people why they should love God more than anything else. One brother told me that the love of God must be the single most important thing in a Christian’s life. Without that love, one will not study God’s word, one will not attend to their spiritual health, one will not become a stronger Christian.
  • Teach people to resist the tendency of compartmentalizing everything in their lives. Many love to do this, and when they do they almost always place God and his word at (or near) the bottom of the list.
  • Plutarch once said that minds are a fire to be ignited, and not a vessel to be filled. It is nice to have instant command of Bible facts, but if we don’t kindle a fire in the minds of our students and if we don’t challenge and motivate them to become stronger through study they will never reach maturity.
  • Fill in the blank: I motivate my Bible students by ______________.

Have you ever seen Jesus?

Have you ever seen Jesus? No one has. Can we see him spiritually? Isn’t that more important? Take a look here:

http://www.forthright.net/2016/11/12/see-the-prince-of-peace/

Thanksgiving Every Day in November

Thanks to the Creator. www.foolforhim.wordpress.com

The paramount importance of obedience

The central theme of the book of Hebrews is the superiority of the system of obedient faith in Christ over the Law of Moses.

The basic problem with the Law of Moses is that it was perverted by Israel and the Jews into becoming strictly a system of sacrifice for sin. Such was not what God wanted. In Exodus 24:7 after Israel had received the law of God it pledged its obedience. It did not keep that promise. Sacrifice became the order of the day and obedience was set aside.

This is why the writer of Hebrews penned by inspiration of God, “Sacrifice and offering you have not desired,” (Hebrews 10:5 NASB). Why? Because God wanted Israel’s obedience, but did not get it.

What was needed was the sacrifice of a man whose life showed the paramount importance of obedience. That man was Jesus Christ, God the son, who never committed a sin in his life. In fact, the Hebrew writer showed the central importance of obedience to Christ when he wrote, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered. And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation,” (Hebrews 5:8-9 NASB).

Religious bodies that relegate obedience to God to the same trash heap as Judaism are not true to the book of God’s word nor are they true religion. Faith in the Bible is not just believing, it is belief conjoined to obedience.

As the Hebrew writer described in that great 11th chapter of Hebrews, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6 NASB). Then, the writer began describing what faith truly is. It is believing in God to the extent that obedience to God is paramount.

God is not a shifting shadow

When the sun is directly behind me, my shadow is very tall.

Since I’m only five feet, six-inches tall, it would be very easy to believe my 20-foot shadow is my true height. But, when I turn, the shadow shifts. The tall shadow disappears. My shadow is not a true representation, is it?

The apostle James wrote, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow,” (James
1:16-17 NASB). Chris Vlachos wrote, “God’s attribute of giving only what is good is not at the mercy of change.”[1] God does not change his merciful nature because his character is always the same. He is infallible.

This is a difficult concept for human beings because we are just the opposite. Let the morning dawn on our discontent and we are surly to rise. Some of us stay the same way all day. In such a mood, it would be difficult to be nice and kind to anyone. A couple of cups of coffee and some breakfast later, and the story may be different. All people are alike this way. We are all shifting shadows.

God never changes. People do. People sin. God never does.

Some of my friends are pretty good people, but they all share the same fault. They think they are infallible. Someone else makes all the mistakes. It’s not their fault the doctor wrote down the wrong appointment day. The dentist must be wrong about his appointment book, too. My friends and I are shifting shadows.

God isn’t. He is the same all the time. He is patiently waiting for you to read your Bible and obey the gospel. He is patiently waiting for you to do what’s right instead of what you think is right. He loves you and wants only the best for you, but his patience is not without limits. One day he will send his son and the door to his kindness will be closed forever.

Don’t let that happen.

Spreading the dirt

Several years ago, we decided to have a load of dirt dumped in the side yard of the church’s house so we could cover tree roots and make the ground more level to mow. We didn’t get the work done for a month or two and, sure enough, someone in the church began to complain about the mound of dirt.

So, we put other things aside to spread the dirt.

Some folks major in minors like dirt and grass. They’re minds are always on dirt. If it isn’t being spread, they’ll find a way to spread it themselves. A clear example of this is the presence of gossip and character assassination.

Whisperers, as the term implies, are always talking about others hoping no one ever learns they were the whisperers. They are not using their voices to teach the truth. Instead, they use the telephone to talk about the shortcomings they think they see in others.

Solomon wrote, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife,” (Proverbs 26:20-21 NASB). For some people the only joy in life is making sure they spread the dirt.

What a wasted opportunity this is! It would be just as easy to teach someone the gospel, why, it is even easier. But when a person majors in minors, gossip gains them the attention and glory they seek. Some of them actually think they are doing God a service, just as some of those who killed Christians thought (John 16:2).

Let’s start using our lives for the glory of God instead of spreading the dirt. God will be pleased with our work for his kingdom. He surely isn’t interested in dirt.