Today is my spiritual birthday. It was 1971, best I recall. (I have the certificate stashed away somewhere.) I’m grateful the Lord called me to his freedom. He has proved faithful. I pray I may as well.
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Timothy 3:12.
Well, that’s not what we wanted to hear!
Here’s a description of the narrow road that few find, that Paul urges the young evangelist, Timothy, to travel. He begins Chapter 3 by describing the wide road that the many are on. It’s marked by “lovers of themselves, lovers of money … [those] without love … without self-control … lovers of pleasure … men of depraved minds” among many others. Continue reading
“So it was, when the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voices and wept. Then they called the name of that place Bochim; and they sacrificed there to the Lord.” (Judges 2:4-5)
The name Bochim (bo-keem’) means weeping, and in case you’ve never noticed, the children of Israel were well accustomed to shedding tears.
In the particular case mentioned above the children of Israel as a whole were on the verge of resting from war and enjoying the land that had been delivered into their hands. But this moment of great joy was preceded by a day of great pain. And for what reason? What were the words of the Lord’s Angel that had cut them so deeply? What was it that changed their shouts of triumph to shouts of grief? What led them to name a location as a reminder of their pain?
It was because they were told that their children would walk away from their God – from the God!
But despite the fact that their children would turn their sin hardened hearts away from the law and grace of God, give special note to what this generation of Israel did in the face of the dreadful news. They stayed near to the Lord with hearts wide open, refusing to sacrifice their faith for their family. In fact, they sacrificed to the God of Heaven and Earth – the God of their Hormah (devotion) and their Bochim (weeping). They remained faithful through this great time of weeping, this great “Bochim” moment of their life.
As I consider the lesson that this section of scripture contains I can’t help but think of the pain that still comes from watching a loved one walk away from God. It can be stifling. It can lead to a branding of certain days in our life as a “Bochim” that’s difficult to accept much less forget. But I believe whole-heartedly that the Lord understands. He knows the pain of loss! He acknowledges the difficulty that lies ahead. While living upon the Earth, the faithful will always face such hurtful faithlessness and we must be prepared for it.
As those who are closest to us make their own decisions concerning their relationship with God let us not forget that if we stay near to his side, if we remember the sacrifice that he offered for us, if we allow the Spirit of God to produce a faithfulness in our heart, soul, mind and strength that refuses to turn back, then God will take care of the tears that came from every “Bochim” moment in our life as we enjoy the privileges of the promised land.
Stay faithful to the Lord my brothers and sisters in Christ.
“for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17)
I hate to rain on your parade. But all this talk about taking advantage of Easter, when some people may show up at church for this one time during the year (throw in Christmas if you like), sounds like a bunch of bunkum.
Did anyone ever convert to Christ from showing up in their Easter finest? Did any church suddenly grow from a fine Easter production? Did the Sunday after Easter suddenly swell with new members because an eldership and a preacher put on their Sunday best to impress the suddenly pious visitor? Continue reading
“And after going without food for forty days and forty nights, he was in need of it. And the Evil One came and said to him, If you are the Son of God, give the word for these stones to become bread. But he made answer and said, It is in the Writings, Bread is not man’s only need, but every word which comes out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:2-4 BBE)
Look to yourself! This was the Devil’s cry, challenge and critique. He wasn’t looking for a fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 – he was looking for an abandonment of Matthew 6:33. And what failed against Jesus often overcomes us.
Self-denial is huge! How huge? This huge – Luke 9:23-25.
Self-denial looks to God. A task that’s not always so enjoyable for those of us who aren’t prepared. It can be downright scary because we’re not as ready to change as we thought we were. That is, until we look at Jesus, and keep looking at him. With Jesus the veil is removed and the load is lightened. With Jesus negative emotions are replaced with faith-filled emotions. With Jesus we see our self better – and we see how better off we are when we deny our self and confess him.
So the next time we’re challenged to “prove” something about our faith, we may want to stop and ask if our “proof” causes us to look to a reliance upon our self or to someone else beyond our self.
“So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:22-27)
By Charles Box — As Christians we should be thankful that we have government. Government is “the group of people who officially control a country.” As Christians a part of our prayers should be for government. Paul wrote by inspiration of God, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Government exists for three basic purposes. First, government exists to protect the sacredness of human life. We were made in the image of God and therefore human life is precious. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26-27) Early on in man’s history God showed the responsibility of government in protecting human life “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6) Continue reading
Lou Davis Higgins, 94 years old, lives in the Woodbury, TN area, and is my husband’s aunt. Aunt Lou Davis, as we call her, became a Christian at the age of 13 years. She was baptized by brother Lidge Martin in Lucky, TN. She said, “I remember how wonderful I felt when I came up out of the water, and I feel more wonderful now.”
Lou Davis Warren married Brady Higgins, September 9, 1939, and to this union came four boys: Jimmy, Glenn, David and Steve. They were married almost 56 years when Uncle Brady died.
When visiting in Tennessee recently, we were blessed to visit and talk with Aunt Lou Davis. It was on a piercing cold, Wednesday afternoon. Aunt Lou Davis was making plans to go to Bible study at the Woodbury Church of Christ that night. She said, “I want to go as long as I can.” One might ask, “Well, why shouldn’t she?” Aunt Lou Davis is blind. She could easily have made any number of excuses for not going on that bitter cold night. She could have said:
1. “It’s Wednesday night. It is not absolutely necessary that we attend Bible study on Wednesday night.”
2. “It’s freezing weather outside. It’s just too cold to go. I might get sick, and it would be the death of me.”
3. “I’m 94 years old. The Lord doesn’t expect people my age to attend every service. He understands.”
4. “I’m blind.”
5. “I can’t drive anymore, and I don’t want to put people out to come help me back and forth to church.”
She could easily have offered these excuses. When I shared my thoughts with her about this article, she said, “That’s what they would be…excuses, not reasons.”
Thank God for those devoted saints who trudge on toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus, setting a perfect example for us to follow.
“Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle forever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings.” Selah. (Psalm 61:1‑4). When my heart is overwhelmed. . .to be over-whelmed means, “to the mind covered or muffled up with sorrow.” [Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies]. What do we do when our hearts are simply overwhelmed? This psalm should give comfort to many a person who has struggled in finding words to express to God. The psalmist tells us how to deal with situations such as this.
First of all, we are instructed to pray. The very thing that we may struggle with is what we are instructed to do. I am reminded of the statement made by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The psalmist asked God to “attend unto my prayer.” Listen or give attention to my prayer. We have that assurance from God’s word in many places. John states, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” (I John 5:14). Don’t forget to pray!
Second, remember what God has done for you. The psalmist proclaimed, “thou hast been a shelter for me.” Remember all the blessings you have enjoyed, both physical and spiritual. When we look at what God has done for us, it should help us to face whatever is confronting us at the present time.
Third, we need to abide in the tabernacle. To do so is to be in the presence of God. We need to stay close to God. We need to walk closer to God each day of our lives. Notice another statement found in Psalm 27:5 “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.”
Finally, we need to trust God. We may not understand why certain things happen, but we need faith that is strong enough to trust God. (Psalm 62:8; Isaiah 26:3,4).
Pray. . . Remember. . . Abide. . . Trust.
Larry Cole – Montrose Church of Christ, Carthage, TN
Yesterday morning, I conversed briefly with an older member of the church I attend after our worship service concluded. Near the end of the service, the song director asked military veterans to stand and the congregation then concluded the service with a prayer song: “God Bless America.” The older brother in Christ told me that he had been in the U.S. Army during World War II and had been a Prisoner of War for about two months in 1945 after his capture by German forces. The horrible experience still scars him. He is not unique. While many military personnel return from combat zones reasonably healthy in mind and body, others bear scars they will never lose. We notice some quickly. They lost an arm or a leg; their faces still are scarred by burns from an explosion. Others have emotional scars. They witnessed charred remains of other Soldiers or were tortured as prisoners of war. Some may have performed acts for which they’re still ashamed, even though Christ forgave them long ago. Still others returned and have had trouble finding employment. They range from young enlisted Soldiers with high school diplomas to medical officers and chaplains with doctorates and master’s degrees. These too suffer; many occupied positions of great responsibility and supervised numbers of others in a combat zone, but now that they’re back home, they discover that potential employers don’t understand the skills and the leadership experience they gained. All these veterans hurt and may wonder if anyone really cares.
On this Veterans Day, I ask, “How may we honor these men and women who volunteered to go where they might die in the service of our country, of us who live in the same nation?” This question applies also to Christians and military veterans in other nations. I mentioned already how our congregation concluded the service. Members also put together an eleven minute video with then-and-now pictures of veterans in the congregation which aired after the service. Another congregation hosted a breakfast for veterans and their wives as well as widow(er)s of military personnel. Some congregations invite veterans to lead the services on such days. These gestures help those who have deployed far away to reintegrate and to regain a sense of belonging once again. More help may be needed.
A disturbing number of people who laid their lives on the line for us live homeless on our streets. They need different kinds of help; they’re homeless for diverse reasons. Some need mental health or substance abuse counseling. Others need vocational training, clothing, food, and a place to stay. They all need for someone to demonstrate compassion and to take initiative to help them. Again, some of these may even show up at your church’s worship services. You may wonder what happened to the young woman who used to sit in that pew after she returned from Iraq.
Some veterans just need an opportunity to contribute. The reserve component chaplain who lost his preaching or teaching position when he deployed needs opportunities to serve. If the chaplain, medical doctor, or commander was/is a senior officer, they supervised what equates to a very large congregation’s worship and education activities, a missions organization, a small hospital, or a medium size business. They have real skills that the church and the community need. They may have lost the connections or (after their return) the confidence to gain appropriate employment to use those skills. They also may have had some of the traumatic experiences described above.
I asked, “How may we honor these veterans?” Others question whether we should even though months ago they asserted, “We support the troops.” If you support the troops, now you have the opportunity to prove it. Thousands are returning to our communities and our churches. How will you prepare yourself and your congregation to help these veterans and their families? Jesus demonstrated compassion and healing throughout his ministry. Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Peter all interacted directly with soldiers; they addressed their medical, financial/ethical, and spiritual concerns. How will you honor our military veterans?
“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations” Psalm 89:1.
That God is faithful is well established. This entire psalm declares this truth. And, oh, how good that is! We could not long endure without the Almighty following through and staying true to the provisions He gives to us and the promises He’s made to us.
What is at stake is our faithfulness to Him. Faithfulness is one of the fruits of the Spirit that those who’ve obeyed the gospel are to grow in our lives, yet it seems we too easily sell the Lord out at the first twinge of temptation.
We have so far to go to imitating our God in whose image we’ve been restored in Christ. The trustworthy saying in 2 Timothy 2:13 tells us, “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
So, let us celebrate His great faithfulness while recommitting ourselves to growing this fruit. As another psalm says, “It is good … to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night.”
Are you growing in the fruit of faithfulness?
Plattsburgh church of Christ
author of Kin of Cain
a Christian historical fantasy
I had a person the other day try to tell me that he, me, you, the apostle Paul or any other “saint” couldn’t be sure about the eternal destination of the soul and that God’s people of the past never presumed to know where they were heading to after death.
My answer to anyone who makes a claim like that is what part of 1 John 5:13 don’t you understand?
The apostle of Jesus Christ whom we know personally claimed to be teaching the truth concerning our sins, Jesus’ death and the complete forgiveness that we can enjoy because of it plainly said:
- “I have put these things in writing for you who have faith in the name of the Son of God, so that you may be certain that you have eternal life.” (BBE)
- “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (NET)
- “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (NASB)
- “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (KJV)
On and on the translations go. The Greek is so plain and so closed to any type of “personal interpretation” that virtually any translation worth the smallest amount of salt at all will practically say the same thing!
So now, can a person be sure they are saved? Absolutely they can. According to John himself that was the whole point of writing what he wrote. And to say otherwise due to some supposed oral tradition, written tradition or personal tradition is to break away from the clearly revealed “tradition” passed down from God’s apostle!
Have faith! Read the rest of John’s letter for in it we can find the assurance that we need when it comes to our sins, Jesus’ death and the complete forgiveness that we can enjoy because of it. Be faithful! John’s letter reveals that the standard of faithfulness is not left up to the whims of culture or manmade leaderships, and his letter reveals that faithfulness comes with the promise of reward – a reward that we can be sure of just as the apostle Paul also taught (2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
There is a difference between the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” and the doctrine of the blessed assurance that Jesus came to deliver through a covenant sealed with blood strong enough to completely blot out my sin no matter how I or anyone else feels about it!
When we walk upon the sure foundations revealed by the word of God we won’t have to walk on eggshells, glass or pins and needles when it comes to salvation, for when we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus is always ready and capable of cleansing us from every sin; and therein is the difference between religion and relationship!
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:6-9 – NKJV)
The army of Alexander the Great was advancing on Persia. At one critical point, it appeared that his troops might be defeated. The soldiers had taken so much plunder from their previous campaigns that they had become weighted down and were losing their effective-ness in combat. Alexander immediately commanded that all the spoils be thrown into a heap and burned.
The Hebrews writer admonished, “Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience [endurance; steadfastness; perseverance] the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The race before us is the Christian life. How often do we, like the “foolish Galatians,” allow things of this world to hinder us from our enduring faithfulness to God? If we are not careful we will allow such things as work, recreation, education, retirement plans, hobbies, and even our families weight us down and impede our growth and pursuit of the prize of the high calling of God (Philippians 3:4).
As Alexander commanded his armies, we must not simply store in another place those things that hinder us from our fighting the good fight, but we must cast them aside and completely remove them from our lives— regardless how precious they may seem! Consider the results for the armies of Greece: “Alexander’s men complained bitterly but soon came to see the wisdom of the order. Someone wrote, ‘It was as if wings had been given to them—they walked lightly again.’ Victory was assured.” Remember, “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).
Ronnie Scherffuis, Glad Tidings of Good Things, Vol. 32
One of the more famous passages of Ezekiel is chapter 22, verse 30. In this section of scripture, Ezekiel is giving us some of God’s reasons for sending Judah into captivity under the Babylonians. The reason given in verse 30 is that God could not find a man to stand in the gap. We need to reason about this verse correctly to find the proper application for our own lives.
Ezekiel is not saying that there were not men who were faithful to God and standing up for God. After all, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah were faithful and brave men of God who were carried away to Babylon. They were certainly willing to stand for God. Faithful Jeremiah and faithful Ezekiel were carried into captivity. They, too, stood for God.
For what man, then, was God looking? He was looking for the right man, the man who was not only faithful, but in a position to do something about directing the affairs of the nation back to Him. He was looking for another Josiah, a Hezekiah. He was looking for men with the heart, the bravery and “the clout” to stand in the gap.
There are some circumstances wherein you and I have insufficient influence. We can take a stand, but not bring about the needed change. Take a stand anyway. We can hold the line while others step over and start down the slippery slope to hell. Hold the line anyway. When no one else is following God, we can.
But, especially think of the places where we can stand in the gap. There are places where you have clout. Joshua said, “… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Noah could not turn the wicked world in which he lived back to God, even as a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5). But Noah could be “a just man and perfect in his generations… (Gen. 6:9)” Paul could not convince the nation of Jews at Jerusalem to leave Judaism (Acts 22:22). But he could turn Peter back to right thinking (Gal. 2:11-14).
Likewise, you can “stand in the gap” in some places.
- Mothers, you can exemplify and train you daughters to be graceful, feminine, modest and spiritually minded ladies ready to encourage and take their place beside a Christian husband. If no other woman in the church does that, you can.
- Preachers, maybe you won’t turn a brotherhood back from worldliness, apathy or ungodliness, but you have a chance to stand in the gap for a congregation or maybe simply for the souls who will listen.
- Fathers, most of the family leaders in this world have either abdicated their position or signed up for Satan’s army. But you can lead you family in the army of the Lord with zeal, prayerfulness, knowledge and wisdom.
- Elders, you might be the one that can turn you congregation around in their evangelistic zeal and their spiritual mindedness.
Brothers and sisters, stand in the gap where you are. Stand everywhere for God, but, especially, stand where you can plug the gap. “Everyone must do his own work.”
Faith is believing in and following through on God’s word (Hebrews 11:1, James 2:14-20), and “faith comes from hearing the word of God” (Romans 10:17). No place, no other book, no latter-day prophet, no spiritual experience and no path devised by man brings a person to the saving faith in God that’s necessary like the Holy Spirit does through the written word revealed through the gospel to the world (Romans 10:5-15). The Bible tells us what to preach, what to grow in, what to abstain from, what we’re to be busy doing, where we’re going, why we’re going there and how we’re going to get there! Faith needs starting and faith needs building and God’s word through the Bible is the one-stop place for them both. A person doesn’t know what to believe until we’re given something to believe – spiritual speaking, this is where the Bible comes in.
The Bible reveals the standard of God’s righteousness through the gospel of Jesus and then provides the faith necessary to receive the grace of God that comes through that faith (Romans 5:1-2, Ephesians 2:8). Living by faith is more than a saying – it’s an actual way of life that’s learned through the study of God’s word: “For in [the gospel – 1:16] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17) Hearing the word of God begins a person’s journey of faith, it will tell us where to turn and it will bring us to end of the road where our faith in Jesus will become a sight that sees Him (2 Corinthians 5:7, 1 John 3:2). Faith looks forward and faith must be fed (Galatians 2:20, Matthew 4:4) so when it comes to a faith-filled soul the “manna” from above will not send us away hungry when we come ready to eat (Matthew 5:6, 1 Timothy 4:6).
Studying the word of God will bring us to the foot of the cross and on into the throne room of Heaven. It contains the power filled wisdom of God that opens the eyes of sinful hearts to see the sinless Son of God who died so we may have mercy this day and on the last day (1 Corinthians 2:4-14). Nothing else in the world outside of the scriptures of God teaches us about the gospel that makes men and women free and keeps us free through faith in Jesus. Paul told Timothy this much when he said, “…from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15). Wisdom in the writings of men will only get a person so much – wisdom in the word of God can give us the gift of salvation through the gospel!
Why should the Bible be studied? Because the Bible tells us what’s worth believing and what’s not worth our time, it tells us what we’re worth and what price was paid for us, it tells of God’s saving grace and of the One who died to make that grace available through faith, it tells us the standard of God and how we can reach it through Jesus, it will hold on to us through hope and keep the eyes of faith enlightened till we see our home in Heaven. These are just a few reasons why we need to study the faith giving and faith feeding word of God contained in the Bible.
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
Would you trust God when nothing in your life seems to be going right? Would you diligently hold to your faith when you cannot explain why terrible things are happening to you? Do you sometimes question the faithfulness of God? Do doubts arise in your heart and your mind, when it feels like He has abandoned His care for you?
Satan has already shown his true colors. He would like nothing more than to create the seed of doubt and disbelief in your heart. And there is seldom an easier time to do that than when you are under inexplicable duress.
Your heart cries out, “Why is this happening?” Brothers and sisters, THINK OF JOB, and keep on keeping on. Keep on believing. Keep on trusting. Keep on praying. Keep on working.
Job inexplicably lost everything he counted of value. The whole book of Job is his asking, “Why?” This man, whom the God of Heaven praised so highly, was not protected from complete financial ruin, devastating emotional destruction through family death, debilitating physical illness, complete loss of reputation and even the loss of his wife’s support. How could it get much worse? He wished that he had never been born.
But God had not forsaken him and He will not forsake you (Heb.13:5-6). When we do not understand why such devastation is happening to us, we can, at least, know that God knows and He cares (1 Pet. 5:7).
If we die in the worst of conditions, but die with diligently obedient and trusting faith, it will no matter what our condition was before we died. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…” (Rev. 14:13).
God has already said of such people that the world is not worthy to have them in it (Heb. 11:32-38).
My friend, be diligent. God will not abandon you, even if it seems like it from our poor human thinking (Is. 55:8-11). Keep on keeping on.