Earthen Vessels Archive 2012

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  • The Blessings and Dangers of Humor by Stephen Rouse
  • A few more thoughts about inappropriate humor by Pat Gates 
  • To Encourage or Discourage, Which Way Do I Influence Others? (Part 1) by Dana Nolan
  • To Encourage or Discourage, Which Way Do I Influence Others? (Part 2) by Dana Nolan
  • Which Am I? (poem)
  • Am I A Kind Christian by Dana Nolan
  • You Just Never Know by Pat Gates
  • Be Friendly by Pat Gates 
  • The Lord's Three Hours by Dana Nolan
  • Love Compels Us by Dana Nolan
  • Facebook: Faith or Folly by Joe Price by Joe Price
  • The Temptation to Quit by Dana Nolan

The Blessing and Danger of Humor

by Stephen Rouse

So, you know what the first car mentioned in the Bible was, right? When the apostles were all in one Accord… Ha. Well, I will say that no matter whether you laughed at that or not, humor is a gift from God and should be used as such (James 1:17). Our ability to laugh, be sarcastic, and simply be light-hearted should be enjoyed and shared as the blessing God intended it to be. However, as with all of God’s blessings, Satan has taken humor out of its God-given role and perverts it to use against us. And he’s doing a mighty good job.

Humor as a Blessing

Used correctly and thoughtfully, humor can be a powerful tool in many areas. Proverbs 17:22 states that, “A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Humor can certainly be used to make a heart joyful, even for a short amount of time. At the right time, it can be used to brighten someone’s day and encourage them to lift their head when they most need it, which we all need from time to time. While this may not be a purely spiritual form of encouragement, it can certainly help us to face our days with more joy and vigor as we seek to serve the Lord with all the zeal we can muster.

Humor can also be used to soften anger and avoid potential conflict with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Proverbs 15:1 tells us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” How many times have we snapped back at someone instead of taking a moment to consider our response to annoyance or aggravation? A well placed humorous comment can often help us to see the folly of our own frustrations and avoid unnecessary conflict with our brethren and those whom we associate with.

Humor also can function as a powerful evangelistic tool. Paul urges the Christians at Colosse to “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). Humor naturally draws people closer to the one who makes them laugh. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, and they’re able to make you laugh right off the bat, you probably already feel closer and more comfortable with that person. This sharing in laughter can help to build trust and camaraderie in relationships, which is fertile soil for the seed of the gospel.

Humor as a Danger

Though we can see where God has given us our sense of humor to help us through hard times and help our relationships, it must not become a stumbling block to us at the same time. First of all, humor must never take the place of the truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4)! Many of those who claim to proclaim the word of God fill their lessons with little truth but with an abundance of side-splitting anecdotes—which keeps an audience listening, but does nothing for their souls. Once again, there is a balance here, because when it’s used correctly, humor can help open hearts to the truth, but it mustn’t push the truth out.

Satan can also use humor to get us to be dishonest. The fool in Proverbs 26:18-19 is spoken of this way: “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death. So is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘Was I not joking?’” There is a place for being sarcastic and playing tricks on our friends, but let us examine ourselves so that we don’t let our merrymaking turn into sin. It’s easy to let a ‘white lie’ slip for the sake of humor, but when we deceive someone legitimately and mar the truth, God takes it as though we’re throwing “firebrands, arrows, and death.” Don’t let it go too far.

Satan also lets us use humor to avoid confrontation that needs to happen, such as confrontation with our own sin or problems that demand our action. One thing I’ve noted among some peers in high school is some of the funniest people are the people that are hurting the most on the inside. Instead of facing their problems and solving them, they simply laugh it off and hide under their humor to ease the pain—which ultimately will never fix their problem. The preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 tells us “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting. Because that is the end of every man. And the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.” Let us use humor to comfort one another in sorrow, but not so far as to hide from the reality of the problems that God lets us face.

Perhaps the biggest problem I’ve seen among Christians in dealing with humor is the way Satan uses humor to desensitize us to sin. Paul writes to the Christians at Ephesus in Ephesians 5:3-5, “But immorality or any impurity of greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or course jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” These are serious words, and we must take them seriously when we use words. It’s become too easy to joke about things like drugs, alcohol, and homosexuality. Satan, through television and movies, has used this tactic ruthlessly until we no longer gasp or cringe or feel any kind of repulsion at the sin that is rotting millions of souls all around us. Instead, we laugh. Remember the town drunk in the Andy Griffith show? He was almost always found intoxicated, but he did the ‘funniest’ things. In reality, that lifestyle would destroy him and be something to mourn over, not laugh at. We must examine the things we entertain ourselves with and make sure we’re not letting Satan whittle away at our consciences!

May God help each of us to see humor for the blessing and danger it is, and to use it always to build one another up and to glorify our God!

http://www.aubeacon.com

A few more thoughts about inappropriate humor...

Pat Gates 

I love a good sense of humor. I admire how some people can just roll out something funny without much, if any, effort at all; it just seems to come naturally. I have several family members that can do just that and I've found myself laughing until my face hurts.  Laughter is a wonderful blessing. It is a creation by God to uplift man. In fact, you can witness this in His creation of human babies and toddlers, as well as animal babies. They both can bring much laughter.

However, there are times when laughter and joking are inappropriate and to follow up with the article above, I've listed some incidences when we need to hold back on our sense of humor and concentrate more on our sense of discretion.

  • Our tongues become looser as we age so let's be sure we think before we tease someone that may, in reality, be hurtful.
  • It's frustrating to others when just about every response we get from an individual is a joke. It's disheartening to desire a serious response and receive silliness back.
  • Too much teasing and joking may take away discretion and render you untrustworthy.
  • Passing along email jokes that involve God and things that are holy bring God down to our level and may it never be! Just because a Christian sent an improper joke doesn't make it right.
  • Along the same thought, if a Christian forwards a joke that is improper or immoral, that doesn't make it OK to pass along. Christian's action are not our "rule of thumb."
  • Joking about someone's physical appearance is never good, even if the person himself/herself jokes about it. It could be that is their outward response to their inward pain. Some examples may be weight (including underweight), baldness, skin tone, skin color (including paleness), and height.
  • Words such as retarded, "retard," and "cerabal" (which isn't a word... it is cerebral) should not be in our vocabulary when we joke.
  • Saying "we were just joking" when we weren't, is a lie.
  • Married individuals should limit their teasing with the opposite sex as too much goodhearted teasing could be interpreted as flirting.
  • Be aware if your political or religious humor may be offensive to one you hope to teach the gospel to and be a good influence on.
  • Laughter is not a good response to one in pain. If their crying makes you feel uncomfortable, it's better to remain silent than make a joke.
  • Don't force humor and try hard to be funny, not only does it not work but you will be apt to say something insensitive.
  • Sarcasm can be pretty funny at times, but not if you're angry or if your purpose is to belittle someone.

If you have to ask yourself if what you are about to say might hurt someone, then do not say it.

Use humor to lift people up, not to put them down. 

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encourage

"en" (bring into the condition of) courage

discourage

"dis" (removal or expulsion of) courage

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To Encourage or Discourage: Which Way Do I Influence Others?

Part 1

by Dana Nolan

Webster's dictionary defines "encourage" as an action verb meaning "to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope."  Several discussions I have had lately have focused on what facilitates encouragement and, conversely, discouragement of others. Sometimes, we may feel we are encouraging, when actually we are discouraging! I'd like to focus in two articles on a few ways that we can genuinely uplift others, and how we can keep from intentionally or accidentally becoming a stumbling block!

We encourage others when we display an attitude of SELFLESSNESS. Please do not casually misread this word  and confuse it with the diametrically opposed SELFISHNESS!  Paul, the apostle, is a good example of this concept. When he was a Jew, he wore the name "Saul," which was associated with King Saul among the Jewish people. Saul of Tarsus gloried in everything about his heritage.  (Phil. 3:5; Acts 22:3) He displayed the attitude "It's all about me!" On the road to Damascus, Jesus  himself got Saul's attention and redirected his thinking to reflect that it is actually all about Christ!  By the time that Saul began his missionary journeys, we are told in Acts 13:6-10 that Saul was also known as Paul. I believe it is no accident that from that time on, he is referred to as "Paul," which means "small."  Paul reflected in I Cor. 15:9 that he considered himself now "the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because (he) persecuted the church of God." The man who once thought so highly of himself had transformed his thinking to become a man who built others up and strengthened the brethren until he died!

Paul epitomized the selfless Christian. He put the needs of others, namely a lost and dying world, above his own needs of companionship, comfort, peace, and safety.  He walked endless miles, worked innumerable hours daily, and bore insufferable griefs to be one of the first encouragers of his fellow Christians.  Perhaps his good companion Barnabas was a tremendous influence on him to be an encourager! Paul could confidently say to the Philippian brethren in Phil. 1:9, "The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."  Even when Paul had to rebuke some, he found a way to exhort and encourage them not to quit fighting to be all they could be in Christ Jesus! He was truly one who instilled 'courage, spirit, and hope' in others, and we would do well to study and emulate his example.

How about us? We live in a world where instant self-gratification is now the norm. This carries over into the church, where many are not happy unless it is all about them! They do not realize what a discouragement this is to other Christians.  We need to ever strive to produce the fruit of the Spirit and move quickly through the progression--all of self and none of Thee...some of self and some of Thee...to NONE of self and ALL of Thee! When our life becomes focused on Jesus, we will naturally encourage others to want that life as well, and we will all march toward Heaven, humbled and encouraged by the unmerited favor God has poured out on each one who embraces His Way!

One who steps out of self will begin to see others as Christ sees them.  When we walk into our worship places, what do we see? Many of us, still immersed in self, see the same circle of people we've known the longest.  Somehow we miss the worshipper sitting alone on a pew, the visitor who has come to see what this church is about, and the brother or sister who is struggling with his/her faith. We miss the "fish" that the Great Fisher of men has guided right into our "boat!"  We miss a chance to encourage someone who is at a crossroad in his or her life, and often, we participate in deepening someone's discouragement with impunity!  "Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)

When Christ made an entrance, He often walked straight to the most disgusting (by man's standards) character in the place, often leaving his own disciples scratching their heads in disbelief! He reached out to the lepers, the maimed, the demon-possessed,  the ceremonially unclean, and the spiritually destitute. Inevitably, His actions produced wonder and faith, and hearts and lives were transformed! His meek and humble dealings with the least impressive members of society ended up being the most encouraging, memorable ministry in all of the ages! Do we put our self-righteous blinders on, and pass by those who are not just like us --on the other side? (Luke 10:25-37)  We, too, need to don the cloak of humility and mercy and learn to be encouragers without prejudice or shoddy excuses.

Perhaps one of the greatest forms of encouragement is to live a pure life before everyone, both those in the world and those in the church! The Apostle John said, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." (III John 4) Every parent rejoices when a child develops his or her own faith and continues to grow spiritually.  Every member of a community breathes easier when its citizens are honest, law-abiding people. And every church grows and thrives when all members of the body seek to build each other up and walk the straight and narrow road together!

We should all strive for moral excellence, and in doing so, we may find that others are encouraged to be what they should be, as we reflect God's goodness and purity.

---To Be Continued

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To Encourage or Discourage: Which Way Do I Influence Others?
(Part 2)
,Dana Nolan

In August, we began discussing how we influence others around us. Those who are close enough to observe our daily lives cannot help but be impacted by our examples, either for good or for bad. Plainly put, we either encourage people to want to be like the Christ they see living in us, or we discourage them to the point that they do not want to be the type of Christian that we are. Many do not fully understand Christianity, but they know enough to know that our "brand" of Christianity is not something genuine or desirable.

There are many ways to breed discouragement. To be an effective discourager, one actually does not have to expend much effort or energy. All she really has to do is the exact opposite of what the scriptures teach on everything that pertains to life and godliness!

We take great pains to convert souls to Christ, and we reach spiritual highs when those of the world decide to give their lives and hearts to God. But things have not changed a lot since the first century when Jesus said, ""Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." How does this happen? When people are not living genuine lives of purity and dedication to Christ, they become stumbling blocks to others who may just be beginning their lives as Christians. The solution is to walk in the light on straight paths, so that we encourage others to walk as Christ walked! "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him" (I Jn. 2:10).

There are many examples that come to mind of the ways that some Christians discourage others. More specifically, there are ways in which women have unique abilities to present stumbling blocks for others. How does a lady discourage the Christian who is fighting a war with his lusts? She simply picks out the skimpiest dress in the closet and wears it to worship! As that man passes the Lord's Supper to the congregation, he will be discouraged that he cannot focus on the Lord's body and blood, because this lady's flesh is causing him to wage war with his thoughts in a place should be a haven of rest from worldliness! Or perhaps she makes a trip to the beach, wearing little more than a glorified bandaid, and then she runs home and posts those pictures on Facebook, right under the post about next week's gospel meeting. Sisters, our immodesty can discourage the man who is barely holding his marriage together because of his war with his lusts. Do you really want to be the last nail in his spiritual coffin as you bear your body in every possible forum?

Christians often display attitudes which affect others. We can be discouragers by being prideful and haughty! Proverbs 21:4 teaches that "haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin." There are actually Christians who will not speak to one another but who will faithfully show up at every service to offer "worship" to God. Some seem to feel no duty at all to greet the brethren, or more accurately, all the brethren equally! In the first century, the accepted practice was to kiss each other; that practice is still followed in many European countries. While we may not "kiss" each other in the literal sense today, the spirit of the command dictates that we treat our brethren--ALL of our brethren--as special, loved, preferred people in our lives. To not even be able to mutter a kind word of greeting to someone indicates a serious heart problem among brethren. John 13:35 says, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." This implies that when we choose to be haughty and prideful, disrespecting part of the body for which Christ died, men will be confused, not knowing if we are true disciples!

To discourage a person who might be thinking about becoming a Christian is also a serious sin. Many times, we do not know that people of the world have come to our assemblies to observe our worship, as they try to work out their own salvation. Some of us look entirely bored while in services, yawn frequently, and just do not even bother to open our mouths to sing. We look around and 'chomp' chewing gum during the prayers. Some even giggle, pass notes, point, and whisper throughout the entire service.

With worship over, we then run home and put an entirely inappropriate posts up on our favorite social networking site, filled with innuendo, nudity, filthy talk, and crude, worldly humor. The perspective Christian cannot understand our blatant hypocrisy, which he notices is conveniently overlooked by both the leadership and the members in some churches, and he decides that he is better off staying out of "religion," choosing rather to live as a "good person." We are practically creating an obstacle course of stumbling blocks for those who are weak in the faith, and then we scratch our heads when they go back into the world, and we wonder what happened.

Perhaps one of the most tragic vehicles of discouragement is gossip. Sometimes Christians make mistakes, and even after repenting and confessing their sins, they cannot get past the stigma of what they have done, because they constantly hear reports of their sins being whispered over and over, when those things should be forgotten. Some sins that should have remained private are brought out into the public through gossip. Talebearers separate friends, and many a church has been troubled by those who would speak evil of a brother or sister. (Proverbs 16:28; 1 Timothy 5:13)

How can we keep from discouraging others? We need to constantly examine our lives, and when we find something we practice to be out of line with what the Bible teaches, we need to be the one to make the change--not expect the Bible to justify our weaknesses and shortcomings. Discouragement is a tool of the devil designed to get God's soldiers to break rank, go A.W.O.L., and scatter. If we are guilty of discouraging even one of God's children, it is a serious matter, and the remedy is repentance and prayer and sometimes going to our brother or sister and confessing our shortcomings.

There are countless ways to encourage everyone, both Christians and non-Christians. We need only to think how we would like to be treated, and go and do the same to others! Let us all seek new opportunities daily to inspire courage, spirit, and hope in everyone who would sincerely seek the Lord!

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Which Am I?

I watched them tear a building down;

A gang of men in a busy town.

With a mighty heave and lusty yell,

They swung a beam and a side wall fell.

I said to the foreman, “Are these men as skilled

As the men you’d hire if you had to build?”

He gave a laugh and said, “No indeed!

Just a common laborer is all I need.

And I can wreck in a day or two

What it took the builder a year to do.”

And I thought to myself as I went my way,

“Just which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care

Measuring life by the rule and square,

Or am I a wrecker as I walk the town

Content with the labor of tearing down?”

-author unknown

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"For His merciful kindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord!"
Psalm 117:2

Am I A Kind Christian?

Dana Nolan

If I were asked to describe a Christian, one of the words which I would definitely include would be "kind!" Kindness is a characteristic which one must have to be effectively showing her light in the world. (Matthew 5:14-16) Kindness has been described with these close synonyms: benignity, benevolence, humanity, generosity, charity,sympathy, compassion, tenderness. (Dictionary.com)

I don't think that we can picture someone who is generally unkind to others all the time as someone who is bearing fruit for Christ!   Galatians 5:22 tells us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." (emphasis added) Just as a tree bears fruit, a Christian puts out kindness. If a tree is considered worthless if it does not bear fruit, then it would follow that a Christian who does not produce the fruit of the Spirit is not what she should be in the sight of God. (Matthew 21:18-19)

When we put on Christ in baptism, we come out of the water ready to walk in "newness of life." (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:3-44; There are things, compared to garments, that we must take off:  "anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth" and lying. (Col. 3:8-9)   Likewise, there are things we need to put on: "…tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." (Col. 3:12-14) (Emphasis added)

By now, you are probably thinking, "Well, this is a pretty basic lesson. EVERYONE knows Christians ought to be kind."  You are correct!  We should be kind.  God is abundantly kind, and we are to be reflections of His love in this world. 

Yet sometimes, as is the case with so many things we SHOULD do, Christians fall down in doing one of the most basic things!  Some of us are UNKIND!  It is a good exercise to see where we can do a better job being kind to others and just why it is important to be kind.

1.  In the Home

How many times have you heard of someone who just seemed like the nicest person but later was revealed to be someone who was very unkind to her own family?  Many times, we are on our best behavior around others, but we are unkind to our own spouses and children and sometimes our extended family members. This is a huge problem.  Husbands are told to "love your wives and do not be bitter toward them." (Col. 3:19) Bitterness is a form of unkindness.  We women are to love our husbands and children and to be "good" according to Titus 2:4-5. The godly woman of Proverbs 31 opened her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness was on her tongue. (verse 26)  Her husband and children returned her kindness with blessings and praises of her. (verse 28)

Proverbs 19:22a says, "What is desired in a man is kindness…." Just a few verses down, the writer says, "He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother is a son who causes shame and brings reproach." (19:26) There is, unfortunately,  much unkindness in the home these days.  This is a result of the lack of respect for one another.  Being a Christian and setting an example for one's family members is required if we wish to please God.  We cannot be kind to everyone else and drop the cloak of kindness at the back door with our shoes!  If we are guilty of unkindness to any member of our family, we need to repent of that and resolve to do better. If a member of our family seeks forgiveness for unkindness, we need to remember the words of Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

2. In the Community

Some Christians do a fine job of being kind to their family members and to their brethren in the church, but the way that they treat those outside of Christ is deplorable!  We need to take an honest look at ourselves and see how we treat those "of the world."

Sometimes, we treat people in the world as though they have leprosy.  We come upon many poor people who do not have many of the things we have been blessed to have--homes, families, educations, material goods, jobs, etc.  Some of these people end up working in roles that we could never imagine ourselves taking, like field workers, maids, custodians, food service workers, orderlies, trash collectors, etc. These are certainly good, honest professions, and those who do these things are to be commended for working in very tough jobs which often have low wages. They are doing just what the Bible commands men to do--WORK! (II Thess. 3:10; Eph. 4:28)  As we Christians come along and cross paths with those in service-based jobs, we need to consider an important question! How do we treat them? Do we turn up our noses and show an air of superiority? Are we curt and unkind in the way we address them and/or interact with them?

I recently had a conversation with a young lady who worships with me about her job as a waitress at a family restaurant in town. She is working her way through college, and she stays exhausted most of the time.  She was telling me about some of the ways that people are just horribly rude and unkind to her. They hold up their glasses and shake them, indicating they want them filled right then, despite the fact she may be caring for scores of other patrons at the time. They make huge messes on the table.  They are very demanding and impossible to please, and most leave no tip at all. If the food comes out of the kitchen with something wrong, she, the waitress, gets the blame and can pretty much count on losing that tip!  Since she basically only makes what she gathers in tips, she is not paid for much of her work.  I believe she is a good, honest, hard worker.  Are we impatient, rude, insensitive, impossible to please, and stingy when it comes to dealing with those who are serving us? Then we are not being kind.

What about all the other places in which we interact with non-Christians? Do we realize that we are being observed by everyone we meet during the day? When the woman at the fast-food restaurant gives us a cheery "Good morning!" do we reply nicely with a smile, or do we growl something back or say nothing at all? How do we treat the bank teller, the dry cleaner, the supermarket clerk, the parking attendant, and others we interact with on a daily basis? If we have loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals, how do we treat the nurses and other hospital workers? Do we treat them like equals, or do we treat them as some kind of slaves who deserve no kindness or respect? How would we feel if any of those we encounter in daily life showed up in the assembly on Sunday? Would we be embarrassed that they would know us as "that grouchy old woman I serve everyday?"

Christ described us as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. (Matthew 5:13-14)  That means we mingle with those of the world, and we are to have a positive effect on them. Salt makes things taste better, and light allows us to see our paths clearly. Christians should leave a good "taste" in the mouths of non-Christians.  We should illuminate the darkness in which they live, and we should cause them to ask within themselves what is different about us! Kind people are definitely the exception--not the rule--in this world! Rudeness is rampant everywhere! To stand out and be the influence for good that Christ wants us to be, we have to also have the law of kindness on our lips! We need to treat each person we encounter with the same level of respect and dignity that we afford dignitaries, our family members, our brethren, and our close friends.

Christ was the ultimate example of kindness to the poor and lowly of the world.  John 4 tells of His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus could have never said a word to her, since Jews apparently didn't mingle with Samaritans, thinking they were "dogs." Yet, not only did He speak to her, but He also turned the conversation to spiritual things quickly.  He loved her soul! Do we love the souls of the "Samaritans" of our world?

Jesus loved all men and women--the poor, the rich, the diseased and maimed, His friends, and His enemies. There is an amazing statement in Mark 10:21 when the "rich young ruler" came to see Christ.  It says, "Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him…." Do we love all people, regardless of whether they have more or less than we do or whether they look like us?

Though Jesus loved all men and came to save all, I have noticed in my studies that Jesus had little patience with 'the arrogant and the unmerciful.' Those who thought so highly of themselves that they could pass by on the other side of the road when a man lay wounded, naked, and nearly dead (Luke 10:25-37) were the kind of people Christ called "scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, serpents, and brood of vipers!" (Matthew 23:1-33)  He ended that discourse in Matthew 23 with "How can you escape the condemnation of Hell?" Christ knew where the self-righteous, arrogant, rude people of the world were headed!

There are some potent words in Luke 18:9-14:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In contrast, we see who the Father seeks to inhabit Heaven some day:  "Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?" (James 2:5) Those who treat others unkindly on this earth, regardless of those persons' spiritual or socio-economic statuses, cannot expect to be in Heaven!

This is the heart of the matter--the meat of this writing! We need to all stop and do some soul-searching. Arrogance, unkindness, and lack of mercy for those who have an eternal soul (and that's everybody!) have no place in the life of a Christian. Setting an example for everyone we meet, in any area of daily life, is commanded and modeled by our Lord. Unkindness can cost us our soul just like any of the other sins condemned in the New Testament. We don't equate it with the "big sins," and therein lies the danger.  To God, there are no big and little sins--just sin! Sin separates from God. The Hebrew writer admonished his brethren to "… exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."  Satan would like for us to believe we can treat some people badly and get away with it! The scriptures teach otherwise!

3.  In the Church

You would think in a discussion of "kindness" that we would not even have to discuss whether brethren should be kind to one another. Romans 12:10 says, " Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…." The Ephesian brethren were told, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."  The idea is that God forgave us of so much, that we should be able to forgive the little things that come up among us. We should prefer our brethren over those of the world. Kindness goes hand in hand with love.

We can all cite examples of unkindness towards brethren. Sometimes, there are unkind words exchanged over differences of opinion. Sometimes, there are just unkind actions, like refusing to speak to someone we "worship" with. (Violates Matt. 5:23-24) There are times when people get so hurt because cliques form, and social circles are drawn which leave many out of the circle. 'Cliquing up" with the same people at every period of worship to the exclusion of some of the brethren fits the definition of "unkindness." I'm sure that you can think of many more ways Christians have been unkind to one another, and this is to our shame.

There is a very good passage in James 2 which discusses the way we treat some people. If we show favoritism to the rich while disdaining the poor, we place ourselves in eternal peril!  Read verses 1-13, and meditate on the warning of verse 13! It says, "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no     mercy." One is neither kind nor merciful if she treats one person differently than another.

It is also unkind to speak evil of one another. Do you think no one can really figure out what is being done when people stand in a small group and point, whisper, and giggle about others? Young people seem to fall prey to this sin quite a bit, but older people do, too. Titus says in chapter 3, verse 2, "to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men." James says that when we speak evil of a brother, we speak evil of the law and judge the law. (James 4:11) Instead, we are to be doers of the things which God has said are good and edifying among brethren.

The good news is that kindness IS achievable! We have to work on developing some attributes as we grow in Christ. As we grow in faith and virtue, and as we gain a knowledge of how God wants us to behave in this life, we become more Christ-like! To that godliness, we add brotherly kindness and love! When we practice this over and over and persevere in all these things, we see, as it were, the door opening to the everlasting kingdom God has prepared for us. Who ever thought that kindness could have so much to do with our eternal destiny?

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,  to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,  to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;  for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 1:5-11

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You Just Never Know

Not long ago Chuck and I stopped by the grocery store after services on Sunday. When Chuck was pulling into park he accidentally cut someone off who was also ready to park. After both of them had parked and they were walking towards the store, Chuck went back to the man who had been driving and apologized, telling him he hadn't seen him until it was too late. The man appreciated the apology and they spoke for a few minutes. Seeing Chuck in a suit on Sunday he came to the conclusion he had been worshipping God and he asked Chuck what church he attended. After Chuck explained he said, "Well I may go out there and give it a try." To our knowledge, he never showed up but this whole conversation started by Chuck's kind apology.

I've heard of a convert who was a Christian's nurse and due to the kindness of the Christian and her family she looked up what church they attended and eventually became a Christian herself.

Let's develop a genuine kindness towards those without. You just never know!    -Pat

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Be Friendly

If you haven't been so, try being friendly to everyone you meet... try it for a week and see the difference it makes in your life, not to mention someone else's. Fight shyness, I guarantee you 95% of the people you are friendly to will be friendly in return. The other 5%, well, don't take it personal and your friendship is their loss. All the little conversations during the day, with strangers, can help you learn to love others move. There are some good people out there. We need to be friendly to all - old, young, women, men, rich, poor and in between, all races, all walks of life, disabled, ill, healthy, all religious persuasions and political persuasions. We must get rid of our angry looks, our proud looks, and even our aloofness, in order to "love one another and fulfill the law of Christ." -Pat

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"The Lord's Three Hours"

Dana Nolan

This article is the product of years of observation, as I have worshipped in different locations in my state and country. This year, I turn 50. I am able to remember a simpler time, when society was not in such a hurry. I have no particular congregation or congregations in mind when writing this.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid the devil is alive and thriving both here in the U.S. and abroad, and all Christians have a responsibility to remain vigilant until the Lord returns. Jesus wondered if He would find faith on the earth when He returned (Luke 18:8).  Will he?

____________

The beloved Apostle John wrote in Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day....” As first century Christians began to worship on the first day of the week, as is described in Acts 20:7, apparently Sunday became known to them as “the Lord’s Day.” This was new, especially to the Jews, who had always kept the Sabbath Day, as they had been commanded to under the Law of Moses.  Part of that law, which we refer to as “The Ten Commandments,” told the Jews to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)  The law expounded on this command by saying, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.  In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”  (Exodus 20:9-11)

When Jesus died on the cross, and the Old Law --including laws about the Sabbath-- was annulled, a better covenant was ushered in (Hebrews 7:18-22; Col.2:14).  Under this new covenant, we now are commanded to assemble as the body of Christ to worship God on the FIRST day of the week!

We sing together, to praise God and to “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord...” (Ephesians 5:19).

We pray to God (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:42) expressing the needs of our heart and our thanksgiving to Him.

We give of our means, for the furtherance of the gospel and as another expression of our thankfulness to God for all He has given us (I Cor. 16:1-3; II Cor. 9:5-7).

We listen to the teaching of God’s word so that we may be edified--built up to go out into the world again and teach others (Hebrews 10:25, Eph. 4:11-12;Titus 1:3; Acts 20:7).

Another very important aspect of our worship on Sunday is to partake of the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus instituted this memorial Himself the night before His death.  He wants us to remember His sacrifice each and every Sunday, much in the same way as the Jews kept each and every Saturday as the holy Sabbath (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 11:23-24).  They did not keep the Sabbath just once a year or once per quarter, etc.  They were to keep EVERY Sabbath day!

By studying these examples of how the New Testament church worshipped, we learn how important “the Lord’s Day” is! It is a day for centering ourselves, examining ourselves, and making any corrections we need to in order to continually be serving God in our daily lives. We also try to edify our brethren, especially those who may be having struggles as Christians.

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

However, as time goes forward and we get further and further away from the day when the Lord’s church was established, as recorded in Acts 2, some disturbing trends are beginning to take a lot of the holiness out of the Lord’s Day.  Before I go on, I acknowledge that the Sabbath Day and the Lord’s Day are not the same thing.  The former was observed under Old Testament law, and the latter is under the law of the New Testament. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that all we can do on a Sunday is go to worship.

We are also not told when to worship on the Lord’s Day, or how many times to assemble on Sunday.  Many churches find it convenient to gather in the morning, break for a time to allow members to eat and/or rest a little, and return in the evening for another period of worship.  Some churches meet only once on Sunday, because the members come together from great distances or perhaps because the majority of members are elderly and cannot see to drive at night.  The elders of a congregation decide when the church will meet, and in the absence of elders, the men of the congregation make that determination.

God gave the responsibility to elders in the church to shepherd the flock among them (I Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28). A shepherd, by definition, is one who feeds and protects the sheep.   Our responsibility as individual Christians is to “obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account...” (Hebrews 13:17).

So, the elders provide a calm, safe place for us to feed, and it is our responsibility to show up and take the spiritual feeding!  Unfortunately, there are many hinderances that we are allowing to ensnare us, and the worship of God is slowly but surely being moved to the bottom of many priority lists.  Elders cannot get the flock to show up for Bible classes, which are usually right before the worship service in most places.  Many arrive one to two minutes before the worship starts and slide into a back pew, having spoken to no one except maybe an usher at the door.  Some will stay until the point when the Lord’s Supper has been observed, and they will then get up and quietly slip back out the door to go on to the “really important” items on their Sunday to-do list.  After all, there are sporting events to take in, fish to catch,  yards to mow, shopping to tend to, and housework that is waiting.  With all this to do, we surely cannot make it back for the evening service!  If the elders see fit to have a mid-week Bible study on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday night, that does not fit in well with many schedules either. 

So for many, the sum total of their weekly spiritual feeding is the ten minutes of singing and prayer before the Lord’s supper.  It is no wonder that “many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep” (spiritually speaking) (I Cor. 11:30).

In 2012, I am afraid that the worship of God has been shoved to a position that does not reflect the special holiness (set apart; sacredness) of the Lord’s Day.  The disturbing trend that I am referring to is cutting the Lord out of our lives, bit by bit, until there is hardly an hour left for Him each week.  Many older Christians can recall a time when worship and fellowship with other Christians was the focus of a Sunday.  Many went to worship in the morning, spent the afternoon extending hospitality and visiting with family, friends, and other Christians, and then returned for an evening assembly before finishing out the day.  Now, our culture is such that EVERYTHING is open on Sunday, and we have many more opportunities competing for our time.

All the while, our children are beginning to take note of what our priorities are, and they are making mental notes which will shape what they do in adulthood.  Unfortunately, the trend is usually that the children will do less in service than their parents did, which is why we are where we are today with the Lord’s Day. 

How have we gotten to this place, where we find it hard to give 3 to 4 hours of our time (much less, the better part of a whole day) to learn more of the One Who created us and sustains and protects us? I submit that we have allowed the world to dictate and to influence us about what is “important” and what is not. We have redefined Sunday!  Even for Christians, it is more about recreation, rest, and self-serving pursuits than it is about serving the Lord of the Universe!

Are there ways that we could better use our time on the Lord’s Day?  While God never commands Christians “not to do anything else” or “do no work” on the Lord’s Day, there is a principle that I think we can apply.  God has always demanded the first fruits from His people. Under the Old Law, they were to dedicate their firstborn to the Lord.  They were to give of the first of their gathered crops and produce to Him (Ex. 23:16; 23:19;34:22; 34:26; Lev. 2:12-14; Num. 18:12).  Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your possessions,  And with the firstfruits of all your increase....”

Does God not deserve the first and the best of our time?  We are all busy people, if we are living as God commands, working with our hands and fulfilling our responsibilities at home and in the communities in which we live. However, being busy does not relieve us of our responsibility to stop and take one day to worship the Lord and worship Him well. Just because the world does not recognize the significance of the Lord’s Day and schedules all sorts of appealing activities for Sunday does not give us an excuse to rearrange our priorities and put God on the back burner!

Friends, we need to get out of this mentality that we can only afford to give the Lord EXACTLY an hour on Sunday morning,  and maybe one on Sunday night, and maybe, maybe one on Wednesday night!  If the preacher goes five minutes over his allotted time, many of us are squirming in our seats, thinking how the “game” is going to be on in less than an hour or how he is cutting into our nap time! We want shorter song services, shorter prayers, and mini-sermons!  If our elders call a prayer meeting on a weeknight, we think we are being punished for something.  And woe be to the eldership that tries to schedule a Sunday-Friday gospel meeting anymore (as opposed to a weekend meeting), for after all, don’t they know that two extra nights is all we can give the Lord?

Many passages in the New Testament teach that the church is the body of Christ. (I Cor. 12:27; Romans 12:5; et al)  We, as individual Christians, are the “body parts.”  The reason that so many churches are weak is that many of the body parts are missing most of the time! How could my body function on a daily basis if several of my parts just decided not to be attached that day? Yet many Christians expect their local churches to just limp on, missing their spiritual arms, legs, little toes, and even hearts! Without the benefit of each member’s presence, the edification that each member can give to the others, and without the monetary funds that could be contributed so that the local work can continue, a church cannot be strong.


In closing, I will just ask each of us to prayerfully consider the sacrifice that our Example, Jesus Christ left for us.  In taking on our sin, something which He did not have to do, He never asked how many punches, slaps, and spits in the face He would have to take.  He never asked how many stripes they would lay on His back. He never asked not to have to carry His cross on His shredded shoulders. He never asked God for the minimum number of hours He would have to hang on the cross for each of us. It is likely that he bled out nearly every drop of his blood for us; He gave HIS ALL! If our attitude is one where we are continually asking ourselves what is the minimum that we can give to the Lord in His worship and in service to Him, then I would submit that maybe we are even wasting “the Lord’s three hours” that we “give” Him every week.


In Revelation, where we began, John was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day.  In his vision, he saw the redeemed, and he described them this way: “These are the ones that follow the Lamb wherever he goes.  These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”  (Rev. 14:4)

We will not get to heaven by accident.  We will be there because we were holy, as God is holy (I Peter 1:16) and because we kept ourselves “in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:21)

“But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

(I Corinthians 2:9)

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"The Temptation to Quit"

Dana Nolan

One of the saddest things I have had to face in my adult life is seeing Christians depart from the faith! While it is hard to see friends and family members physically die, we can be comforted if they were faithful Christians, because we know that they live on in eternity. When someone leaves the faith, their eternal destiny is in peril, and there is little consolation should they pass from life in this state.

Why is it that some Christians just quit? No one ever stated that the life of a Christian would be an easy one. In fact, numerous passages in the Bible tell us and show us that living as a Christian will be difficult, since we are strangers in a foreign land while we are on this earth.

Many people are raised by their parents in godly homes and become Christians at an early age.  Others are converted later in life and must change a lifetime of behaviors to imitate Christ and live as they should. Some do not hear of God’s plan to save man until they are old!  One thing that is common to all age groups is the temptation to quit! Some are only tempted to quit, and after finding a way through their problems continue their walk with Christ.  Others yield to temptation and do quit. Of that group, some are later restored, but others go on to die in that condition. How can Christians effectively resist the temptation to just quit serving the Lord? In this article, I would like to focus on three periods of life, common pitfalls in each stage of life, and how it is possible for all of us to remain faithful to the Lord.

The Temptation to Quit in Youth

Those who become Christians in their youth have a set of challenges peculiar to their age group. First, no young person ever imagines himself or herself dying young. Mortality is not a very concrete concept to those who have barely begun! So, there is a temptation among youth to believe that they can live as they want to now, and there will be plenty of years later to serve God and live righteous lives.  Those who are older know the fallacy in this thinking. Many young people die prematurely for a number of reasons. Accidents and illness take many lives in this age group, because Death is no respecter of persons. Young people have not had much life experience, so they have not witnessed the loss of life like those in other age groups!  Betting that one can get around to serving God after he or she has sown  “wild oats” is a bad bet!

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (I Tim. 4:12)

Secondly, young people may abandon their faith because they do not yet have the depth of character that they will someday be able to achieve. They can be easily tempted by Satan to give up the faith, because they are not rooted and grounded in the truth.

“Therefore hear the parable of the sower:  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.  But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;  yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”     (Matthew 13:18-21)

Finally, those who are young may not have learned just what is at stake--their souls! The concept of having an eternal soul has not become concrete,  just as the concept of mortality is not fully grasped by one who has just started life's physical journey. Thus, without good perspective on where they have come from and where they are going, young people can be easily pulled from the straight and narrow by the Enemy!

The Temptation to Quit in Middle Age

Perhaps those who are not "young" or "old" would comprise the largest group of those who become tempted to quit walking as a Christian. These are the people who have survived youth but are not quite old enough yet to be classified as "elderly."  Additionally, this span of life is probably the longest, if one lives through it!   Therefore, there are many years in this stage for there to be opportunities to quit.

During the middle years of one's life, many temptations can cause one to depart from the faith.  Choosing the wrong mate early in life could hasten that process. Many mates have lured Christians off the path with their disbelief or their pressure to quit, possibly because they themselves have grown unfaithful.   We all grow busy with the activities of life, and at any point, we can let the affairs of this temporal world overshadow our eternal spiritual existence. We get overwhelmed with life to the point where we decide that something has to give, and often, our faith is the "thing" we cut.  Or perhaps we have always been model disciples of Christ, and some conflict arises in the church which is so personally devastating that we just set down our Bibles and walk away. The possibilities are seemingly endless in all the ways that Satan finds to undermine our faith in the middle years of life!

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.    (I John 2:15-17)

The Temptation to Quit in Old Age

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed."   If one has reached old age on this earth, not much time is left until death is inevitable. When one has served the Lord all of his or her life, you would think that he or she should see the goal of eternal life in sight and endure to the end. However, some in old age quit, just as those in middle age and in youth. Some let the trials of old age wear them down, and they grow discouraged. Health fails, companions die, and perhaps earthly riches are depleted. The elderly can let these sad circumstances cause them to lose their faith in God. Many simply "retire" from spiritual service. Just as they retire from their secular jobs and fall into a life of leisure and inactivity, some elderly Christians just retire from serving God! This is just as damnable as quitting in youth or in middle age!

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. (John 9:4)

The Alternative to Quitting

Jesus warned His followers that there was a cost to following Him, and one should count the cost before deciding to become a Christian. (Luke 14:27-30) The apostles showed by their lives that trials will come, and that God expects us to be faithful until death. They also warned us that there would be plenty of temptations to pull us off the path.  Their very clear message was to never give up and to keep running the race until the race was completely over and the prize--a crown of life--was won. (James 1:12)

In youth, we must "remember our Creator," because the "evil days" will surely come. Evil days are those when the body begins to fail, and life is harder because of it.  When we can nurture a close relationship with God while we are young, we will get deeply rooted in the truth and be better able to defend against the attacks of the devil in every age of our lives.  "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Romans 10:17) If we want to have faith that will sustain us through our entire life, we will steadily take in the Word throughout our life!  If babies stop eating, they never make it to adulthood. If we quit digesting the Word at any stage of our life, our growth as a Christian stops.

"Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;" Ecclesiastes 12:1

In the middle years of our earthly life, we must continue to study and take the Word of God into our hearts so that we will be equipped to both bring others to Christ and keep the devil far away from us. We must concentrate hard to keep focus, and we must constantly do self-examination to see that we are in the faith! If those around us--our mates, our children, or our brethren--depart from the faith, we have to not follow in their footsteps and become unfaithful as well! We have to always keep before us that this world is not our home, these bodies are but tents, and our possessions here are all going to burn up someday! When we internalize those facts, our relationship with God will be the center of our lives here, and temporal activities will have little significance compared to all the things we need to be doing to secure our eternal home!

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” (II Corinthians 13:5)

When we reach those "golden years," we will realize there is not much earth-time left, and we will use what time we have to the glory of God. We will work, as the Apostle Peter instructed, to make our "calling and election sure."  (I Peter 1:10) We will realize that, while we can retire from secular jobs and sit down and enjoy life, we can't retire from being a Christian. God has work specifically for older Christians that young Christians are not able to do. We are required to assemble with the saints, edify one another, and work for the Lord in whatever areas we can until our bodies fail to the point that those things are no longer possible.

“But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:  that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—  that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,  sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” (Titus 2:1-8)

New Testament Christians were no different than we are today! They were tempted to quit just as we can be! The Bible is full of admonitions not to give up, because the "prize" at the end of life's "race" is the ultimate reward for having become a Christian, having endured life's trials with grace and patience, and having finished the race! If one does not finish the race, he/she is not eligible for the prize! It's not enough to just enter the race; one must finish! In a real race, if you leave the race course, you are disqualified. If you sit down and do not finish the race, you are also disqualified! Let us be resolved that we will stay on the straight and narrow road that is our race course, and that we will finish the full course, so that we, too, can get a crown of life--eternal life in heaven, with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all the saints who have also finished the race!

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (I Cor. 9:24-27)

God has never asked us to run this race alone!  He has promised never to forsake or leave us. (Hebrews 13:5) Furthermore, He has described a "cloud of witnesses," a group of victors who have gone on to their reward in heaven, who are cheering us on in our race! They are testifying that, if they made it, we can, too!  If we look to the examples of men like Paul, Elijah, Job, and, ultimately, Jesus Christ himself, who did the work they were given to do here and stayed in the race until the end of their lives, we will realize that we can do it as well! No mortal man has had a more trying life than Jesus, including his brutal death. When we feel like we cannot go on as a Christian, we look to Jesus, the author and FINISHER of our faith, who continued to put one foot in front of the other, all the way to the cross. Like Him, we, too, can be at the throne of God at the end of this long and wearisome race, and the reward will be worth every hardship we have endured on earth!

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”

 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”

So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.  They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 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 7:13-17)

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"...Love Compels us"

Dana Nolan


A mother sits by the bedside of her sick child for the third straight night. Her body is so fatigued that every inch of her body aches. Her emotions are raw. She hasn't had a hot meal in over a week. Today she has existed on cracker snacks and canned soda.  Yet, as she stands watch over her sick child, a hot bath and a warm bed, which would normally look so good to her, are the furthest things from her mind.

Across town, a man sits at the bedside of his aged mother. She is slowly slipping away. He has no one to help him bear the load; he is an only child.  He thinks about the last five years as he tried to keep his mother at home. The Alzheimer's just progressed too far.  He could not do it all. He tried to keep working and providing the best care for his mom.  But it was nearly impossible to do right by everyone--his wife, his kids, his brethren, and his boss.  He spends every available minute at the nursing home by her bed, praying and comforting her.

On the other side of the world, a young Marine, age 19, throws himself on a grenade and gives up his life to save his platoon. He never thought twice as he covered that exploding device with his body.   It was the ultimate selfless act.

Three different people in three very different circumstances have one common thread running through their stories.  Something powerful inside them compels them --forces them--to ignore what their own bodies and minds are screaming at them about self-preservation, and to act in such a way that the lives of others are put first and positively impacted. What causes men and women to rise up in horrible circumstances and be stronger, braver, and more selfless than they ever imagined that they could be? It can only be one thing--LOVE!

In II Corinthians 5:11-15 we read:

"Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.  We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.  If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (NIV)

What does it mean to feel "compelled" to do something? One can be "compelled" by his mother to make his bed each day.  That is a type of motivation which comes from outside of oneself.  One is forced, usually by some threat of unpleasantness, to do something he or she had rather not do or something that does not come naturally.

But there is another type of compulsion which originates within the heart of man.  It germinates because love exists and provides the impetus for action. Love seems to fertilize ability to the point that humans rise to perform actions that they themselves did not believe they were strong enough or brave enough to do.

In these verses in II Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul explains what compels him to preach the gospel.  Most of us know the extreme trials that Paul endured to spread the gospel during the first century of the church!  ( II Corinthians 11:24-29)  I would imagine that if someone had asked Paul on the front end of his conversion if he could endure five beatings with 39 lashes, three beatings with rods, a stoning, a shipwreck, a day and a night floating in the sea, frequent lack of food, drink, clothing, sleep, warmth, and personal safety, and constant mental stress from those who persecuted the church and from internal problems in the churches, and imprisonments--all of these trials constantly for about 30-plus years, that he would have probably expressed doubt that he could hold up for all of that! I also wonder if Paul had known how many miles he would walk, constantly in peril from robbers, through rough, mountainous territory and malaria-infested wetlands to establish and strengthen churches, would he have been able to proceed?

There is some evidence that God did just that! In Acts 9, the Lord tells Ananias to go to Saul (Paul) and assist him in becoming a Christian! He said that He then would show Saul "how much he must suffer for My name's sake!" (Acts 9:16)  We don't know how much the Lord revealed to Paul up front.  However, from the time Paul was converted, he never faltered.  He continued to spread the gospel no matter what the consequences meant to him personally.

As we get ready to begin 2012 as vessels of God, are we filled with this same love that Paul had which compels us (constrains us...forces us from inside) to share the gospel with others? There is one thing that is certain. No one is going to physically make us to do this. We are not going to be threatened with death if we fail to convert a certain number of people to Christ this year! However, there is something that should compel us to work harder in this area. II Cor. 5:11 tells us, "Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others." You might ask, what is there to fear about a loving God? The answer comes from scripture. We respect (fear) God because He is the One Who will judge us at the end of time.  Two passages come to mind which make this concept quite clear.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 states:
" Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.   For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."

And-

Matthew 10:28 where Jesus warns:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

The two wisest men to ever live, Solomon and Christ, both stressed the fear of God in these verses. Paul tells us if we fear God, we will have the love that constrains us to go out and tell others how God allowed Jesus to die for all men, that all men could live!

Most all of us in this life have someone or something we love so much that we would willingly sacrifice our comfort, safety, or even our life for if the situation presented itself.  Some of that comes because of the natural instincts God gave us to love our families and our animals, etc. Unfortunately, the love of souls does not always come as naturally to us.  We have to learn how much more valuable the soul of a person is than his or her body. When we really internalize the worth of souls, we start to cultivate that love for mankind that will move us to do anything--to experience any degree of unpleasantness, including personal rejection and persecution--to reach the lost.

As I contemplate "New Year's Resolutions" for 2012, I cannot think of a more important thing to resolve than to have a greater love of souls in the coming year.  That love of souls will cause me to take action "that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." II Cor. 5:15  If I love the souls of my children, I will see that they are spiritually fed. If I care about my neighbor, I will look for ways to reach him or her with the gospel of Christ. Love that constrains us does not give us choices. There are but two eternal destinations, and there are but two eternal states of the soul. Will those you love be in Heaven or Hell, saved or lost?

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In following up the article on social networking by Dana,  , I would like to post this well written article about posting on Facebook. While I don't believe everything you write on FB needs to be of a spiritual nature (and I don't believe brother Price is saying that either), I do believe we need to be very careful and thoughtful about what we post.  And women, I would like to warn you that we are to remain in subjection and modest in speech even on Facebook and this is coming from a woman (me) who hasn't always watched her speech in the past, and has regretted it. -Pat  

Facebook: Faith or Folly

Joe Price

Facebook (FB) is a social networking website that connects 500 million people worldwide. Many Christians have FB pages (including this writer). As with most other things, FB can be a benefit to or blight upon one’s spiritual life. Please carefully consider your use of FB (or any other social networking site) to see if you have chosen to be God’s friend (John 15:14).

Faith on Facebook. Some brethren are using FB as an effective tool to advance the gospel of Christ. I know brethren who post daily Scripture readings, spiritual songs with comments, and regular Bible study articles. Some post links to Bible study material and their congregation’s website. There are Bible study groups on FB, too. All of these shows FB can be a great tool to help you spread the gospel of Christ and have a godly influence for truth and righteousness. We commend these efforts to you.

Folly on Facebook. Sadly, there is also a great deal of sin and danger on FB. Christians are not immune to its temptations. Pride and arrogance, anger and hate, gossip and backbiting, immodesty and profanity – all these and more are among the sins that can be observed and participated in on FB.

Much of the chatter on FB amounts to “thinking out loud”. That is not always a good thing (especially with 500 million people “listening”). And don’t kid yourself; strangers are only a couple of mouse clicks away from every word and every picture you post. After all, the “www” means something: World Wide Web! What you post on FB goes around the world in a split second. And, it is out there forever. Yes, you can erase postings (and some should!), but someone has already seen it, possibly saved it, or forwarded it on to someone else.

Why is FB so popular? What makes people post things on FB they would not otherwise say or do? What are some of the follies of FB?

1) FB presents a false sense of freedom from accountability. Typing away on a keyboard can lull you into thinking that whatever you write and post is just “keeping it real” and that you are “just being yourself” – and “that’s always a good thing”. Well, not if the “words of (your) mouth and the meditation of (your) heart” are not acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14). Some things should neither be thought nor spoken (Matt. 12:35). We must remember Jesus said, “every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37). That goes for FB postings, too.

2) FB offers an apparent removal of moral restraints. I’m not sure whether FB gives one the feeling that moral restraints do not apply when posting, or if the postings on FB indicate that one’s moral restraints have already been removed. Probably both. Either way, the result is sin and disgrace. Photos of Christians immodestly dressed provocatively display attitudes of worldliness. We are not to love the world (1 John 2:15-17). Christians must deny ungodliness and worldly lusts to live “soberly, righteously and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12). FB reveals that some Christians are failing to use moral restraint in word and deed. FB is seen as a tempting “escape” from the bonds of morality imposed by the gospel. Brother or sister in Christ, if you are on FB, be sure your speech is pure and your photos are decent! And, that those posted on your page are, too. You should have zero tolerance here. Delete the offensive postings and remove “friends” who are not decent. Guard your influence (1 Cor. 15:33).

3) FB holds up privacy to public display and discussion. The decorum of decency and privacy is gone. I don’t consider myself a prude, but some of the things discussed on FB ought to remain private! Manners and common courtesy should be hallmarks of Christians; instead, they seem to be ancient relics. Additionally, some of the things on FB are, frankly, mundane. Who in the world is interested that I “ate my Wheaties” or am “headed to bed”? God’s word says, “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive” (Prov. 17:27-28). It may be time for some Christians to sign off of FB and at least be considered perceptive.

4) FB provides the perfect venue for those without tongue control. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying if you are on FB then you have no tongue control. I am saying that FB makes it easy to exercise “loose lips” (or in this case, loose fingers). All kinds of disruptions, distortions, evil surmising, gossip and rumormongering has found its way onto FB. And that means these sins have already found their way into the hearts, the thinking, the attitudes, the language and the conduct of those who post such destructive words. Instead of carefully choosing words, FB makes it easy to post before you think. And that gets you into trouble. Remember, great forest fires begin with a small spark (James 3:5). So, don’t light the match; Post the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

5) FB lends itself to mindless chatter – and worse. As someone who writes for public consumption and criticism in this bulletin, I am aware of the effect and the reach of written words. Once written and published, words can do much good or great harm. I try to be thoughtful and careful with what and how I write, knowing my words will outlive me. FB (along with all the other social networking sites – plus email, for that matter), makes it very easy to thoughtlessly write without considering the consequences. Mothers used to tell their daughters not to write anything in your diary you don’t want others to read. Now, everyone’s diary is open to everyone else on FB!

If you ridicule someone you have become arrogant and unloving. If you post profanity and join in coarse joking you have lowered yourself to join the world in the sewer of vulgarity (Eph. 4:29; 5:3-4). If you post unfounded rumors, malicious gossip and tale bearing you have left the land of brotherly love and crossed over into the land of bitterness and malice (Eph. 4:31-32).

6) FB can consume your time. We must be good stewards of our time (Eph. 5:16). FB can be addicting; stealing away hours of productivity in school, on the job and in the kingdom of Christ.

The next time you feel the urge to post a message to a friend, why not call them up instead? I’m sure they would love to hear your voice. Now that’s a novel idea! (Prov. 27:17).

A word to parents. Do you know what your child is posting on FB? If not, find out. You wouldn’t let your child bring a stranger into your home with your knowledge and permission. Do not let them indiscriminately bring strangers into their lives on FB. Adolescent brains are not fully developed yet to be able to completely assess actions and consequences. Don’t be naïve, don’t make assumptions, but get the facts. Such knowledge is vital in order to train your children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6).

- The Spirit’s Sword, 8/1/10




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November 2017