By Johnny O. Trail — I sincerely believe that it would be very hard to be a young person in our current climate of toleration and electronic media. Our youth are exposed to so many bad things at such an early age. Previous generations have said this very thing about those who have come before them, but it seems that our culture is more aware of things than they once were. In certain contexts, the words of Jeremiah the prophet ring very true, “For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22). Continue reading
“Let none who rely on you be disgraced because of me,
O sovereign Lord and king!
Let none who seek you be ashamed because of me,
O God of Israel!”
Even in the midst of great suffering and opposition, David prays that his humiliation not cause others of God’s people to be disgraced.
God’s people are always concerned that our own experiences and difficulties not prove a stumbling block to others.
Our adult Bible-study class has been studying Daniel 5 (Belshazzar and the handwriting on the wall incident) the last couple of weeks. It’s a good study that leads to several topics: the authority of God, the relationship between religion and politics, holiness, pride, humility, and judgment to name several.
While studying the first half of the chapter a new thought occurred to me. Perhaps you have had the same thought…perhaps not. The thought concerned the actual handwriting incident.
Through the years I have seen several illustrations… Continue reading
A gospel preacher posted the following to a discussion group. We’ve left off names.
Each November, our congregation puts up a “thankful tree” on a wall. Over the course of several weeks members are invited to write on a paper leaf something or someone they are thankful for. They don’t have to sign their leaves.
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we have a devotional rather than regularly scheduled Bible classes.
We sing various hymns and chorus of praise and thanksgiving. We pray. We have a congregational reading of Psalm 107 interspersed between the songs. And we have our elders read from the leaves at four different points in the devotional.
This year, one leaf I did not have read aloud made the following comment: Continue reading
Saints sometimes find it difficult enough, among themselves, to keep from complaining. They must beware that the world may influence their spirits greatly, causing them to fall by being discontent with God’s provisions. Many in our midst who claim to be saints are actually “foreign rabble” who bring in other ideas and, in order to insert their preferences, show unhappiness with the truth of the gospel. Continue reading
A lot of church members believe that when they’ve gone to church on Sunday, they have done their job as far as being a Christian is concerned. But the truth is that is a very small part of following Jesus. Everywhere we go and all-of-the-time we are either lifting up the name of Jesus to those we meet or we are treading it underfoot. At the work place as well as the church house, we are watched. At a restaurant, at a ball-game, waiting in line at a grocery store, wherever we are, we leave an impression for good or ill. The way we answer the phone, the way we speak to a waitress, the patience we show in heavy traffic, the kindness shown to a child, the sensitivity we give to a patient; all of this speaks louder than an hour we spend at worship. I’m not saying Sunday is unimportant. I am saying that Monday through Saturday count, too. You may be the only Bible many folks will ever read. What will others learn when they read your life? This is Just-A-Minute.
Even though the western culture is desperate to get rid of important Bible words like sin, Jesus and judgment there are Bible words that will remain despite the best efforts of some to rid them from our vocabulary.
For example, a handful of miles away from where I live there is a community called “Goshen.” Now why would a little community in the heart of Tennessee be named after a piece of land in Africa? Read Genesis 45:9-11 to find out.
For another example, toward the top of the nation there is a prominent city named Saint Paul. Now even though the Beatles (or at least one of them) thought that they were bigger than Jesus, the city up in Minnesota has nothing to do with one of its members. So who is Saint Paul? He’s this guy.
Another example, and it’s a big one, is our calendar. Yup, I said our calendar. Whenever anyone in the western culture refers to a history timeline, a present date or a future appointment they are using a time line that revolves around the appearance of the Man who doesn’t change with time. And who’s that? He’s the one we mean whenever someone says B.C. and A.D.. And even if one ignores the initials, they can’t ignore the dividing line.
People can plug their ears, cover their eyes and refuse to speak of the Bible’s purpose or existence, but they won’t be able to ignore the Bible words that remind them that it was and forever will be the God of Heaven who has blessed and shaped our culture. From small communities, to large cities and right down to the dates that they were established, as long as there is a western culture, our culture will depend upon Bible words.
I had a chance to actually sit down yesterday after all the family-to-do things were over, and while doing so I caught about the last half of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on TV. I don’t believe there are very many movies out there that capture the point that the movie makes – that being, you just never know how much of an effect you may be having on others for the better!
Sometimes it’s easy to get down when it comes to our outlook on life and the effectiveness that we may think we’re having on others as we work within and without of the church. A snail’s pace sometimes sounds like an improvement! Things can feel woefully mundane and monotonous. Our world can feel too small and our grasp on things too weak. And it seems like there are two hills to climb for every one to walk down…you know, the old “up hill both ways” story that all of a sudden feels like non-fiction.
But the truth of the matter is that the light is being seen and the salt is being tasted as long as we’re out there mixing it up and leaving off the basket, bushel and shade. Small things do make big differences, and there are people who love us, care for us, appreciate us, and need us. It may not always feel like it but feelings aren’t the deciding factor – actions are! Yes life will always go on, but on to what is the question.
Also keep in mind that the things that we do may not have an effect on the person we’re directly dealing with as much as it may the next person that they’ll be dealing with. Think of it like dominoes with a positive spin. Domino number three needs domino number one as much they needed domino number two! So just because you don’t see how you’re making a difference doesn’t mean that you’re not.
“when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
Most people are interested in leaving a mark on their friends, family, community, nation or even the world. They want their personality to be seen. They want their ideas to be heard. They want to be remembered for what they have done, how it was done and why it was done.
God’s word encourages His people to leave a mark too – but not our own. We’re encouraged to leave the mark of Jesus upon the hearts and minds of those around us. Whether or not we’re remembered by what we do, how we do it and why it was done doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether or not Jesus is remembered through it.
We’re called to leave our mark as Christians. Simple enough. Not as a man, a woman, a Jew or a gentile nationality per say (Galatians 2:36-37, Ephesians 2:14-18), but as a person who lived in the body of Christ, for the body of Christ and with the body of Christ.
When one lives for his or her self the mark that is left behind may last a while but it won’t last eternally, and in the meanwhile the one who lives for Jesus leaves behind a mark that is not always seen by the world but it will remain for the rest of time and then some!
At the end of the day, whether or not we leave a mark upon others depends upon what has left a mark upon us.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (Galatians 6:15-17 – NKJV)
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.”
None of us always make a good first impression. Sometimes we give a bad first impression intentionally, and sometimes we don’t even realize it’s being done.
Have you ever gotten the wrong first impression about someone? Those odds are about as good as someone else getting the wrong first impression about us!
What made you change your mind about them? Wasn’t it time? Was it not keeping that first impression from being the last impression?
This may be a completely subjective thought, but I think lasting impressions can be more important first impressions. Why’s that? It’s because people tend to be influenced over time and not instantaneously. Influence takes time and time leaves lasting impressions.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to first impressions as God’s people. I’ve worked with the public since I was a teenager, and I know it’s much easier to keep a door open than it is to try to get someone to open that door. That’s why when it comes to first impressions God’s people are encouraged to:
“Be wise in your behaviour to those who are outside, making good use of the time. Let your talk be with grace, mixed with salt, so that you may be able to give an answer to everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6 – BBE)
But we all know we make mistakes, and we all know that despite the fact that we’re not very flexible we still somehow manage to insert our foot all the way up into our mouth. That’s why we should remember the value of a lasting impression.
We never know when five minutes, five days, five months or five years may turn into an opportunity that can change a life for an eternity. And that’s an impression that I’d call lasting!
“For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.” (Romans 14:7 – NKJV)
We hear about politicians, and perhaps other public figures, being concerned about the legacy they leave behind them after they leave office or the public eye. Should Christians have such a concern? Or is just being obedient in this life and changing people’s eternal destiny through evangelism sufficient? What do you think about leaving a legacy? Should we be concerned about it, work for that?
FYI, legacy is sometimes defined as “something that someone has achieved that continues to exists after they stop working or die.” We’re not talking money or physical goods, obviously, nor the name of a car or plane (made by our local Embraer).
Here’s a great little article that’s entitled: Is God Showing Through In Your Life? I don’t know the author and I don’t know where it came from, but it’s worth passing along and using if you’re able.
A little girl, on the way home from services, turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.”
The mother said, “Oh, why is that?” the girl replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?” “Yes, that’s true,” the mother replied. “He also said that God lives within us.” “Is that true too?” she asked. Again the mother replied, “Yes.” “Well,” said the little girl, “If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?”
I like that little girl’s way of putting it. If God lives in us, then there’s no way of keeping Him from “showing through.” That’s the essence of Christian living – living in such way that people around us will see God in our lives.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Is God showing through in YOUR life?
If you know who wrote the story feel free to speak up in the comments and I’ll give the credit where credit is due…
…and remember to shine today!
Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3 1/2 years. Yet the influence of Christ’s ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these greatest of philosophers.
Jesus painted no pictures; yet, some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo Da Vinci received their inspiration from Him. Jesus wrote no poetry; but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music; still Hadyn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the music they composed in His praise.
Every sphere of human greatness has been enriched by this humble Carpenter of Nazareth.
—Henry G. Bosch
Acts 4:11-13 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
The True Value of a Friend
The gold of friendship is a magic thing.
The more we spend it on each other,
the richer we become.
“Thoughts For Today to Brighten Your Day” by Glenn, Mercedes and Lauren Hitchcock
“Every act of self-discipline by a Christian is also a service to the community. Conversely, there is no sin in thought, word, or deed, no matter how personal or secret, that does not harm the whole community. When the cause of an illness gets into one’s body, whether or not anyone knows where it comes from, or in what member it has lodged, the body is made ill. This is the appropriate metaphor for the Christian community. Every member serves the whole body, contributing either to its health or to its ruin, for we are members of one body not only when we want to be, but in our whole existence. This is not a theory, but a spiritual reality that is often experienced in the Christian community with shocking clarity, sometimes destructively and sometimes beneficially.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” —Romans 12:4-5