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Showing posts from September, 2016

Beating Worry

Time has a way of improving the conditions of daily lives. What posed as hardship for my grandparents are today’s luxuries. Surrounded with gadgets and gizmos to make life easy, why can’t they invent something, anything that will remove worry from our lives?
    Volumes have been written to abate the damage worry causes. Man may find more things to worry about, but Jesus alone holds the secret to beat worry. Jesus said that to neutralize stress one must keep clear, spiritual priorities (Mat. 6:33). The Christian is entitled to place his trust in God. Unlike the rest of creation, God gives the faithful disciple the benefits of His protection (v. 26). Let God have priority over any and every problem and one can live without being crushed by worry.
    Worry, and the stress it spawns, can be reduced by living one day at a time (Mat. 6:34). Jesus teaches that God is well aware of our needs. Dream…

The Altar Builder

You can trace the life of Abraham through the book of Genesis. From the early days in Ur of the Chaldeans to his final resting place at the Cave in Machpelah, near Hebron, a remnant of his visit would be left behind: an altar.
    Worship was central in the life of Abraham. He openly praised God without reservation or shame. Throughout his 175 years he came to trust the God who had called him to inherit the “promised land.” He went where God led him. He was willing to offer what God demanded, even if it was his only son. God was his strength. Abraham was God’s servant.
    To those who would follow, Abraham’s relationship with God would be greatly admired. “The God of Abraham” would become a familiar address to the one true God of heaven and earth. Today Muslim, Jew and Christian all hold Abraham in high regard. Like Abraham, we must value worship. We must leave behind us a trail that indicates our strength was found in God.
    Abraham is remembered for his righteousness. He is cons…

The Greatest Confession

Jesus made the good confession before Pilate when He agreed to be Israel’s promised king (1 Tim. 6:13). The Ethiopian, groping for spiritual light, made this confession before Philip, “I believe Jesus is the son of God” (Acts 8:37). For us such a confession can clear the air as we approach God to accept His offer to forgive (Rom. 10:10). Those of us who have made this good confession can now anticipate the greatest confession of all.
    How can any other event compare to the life-changing impact of voicing the conviction of Jesus’ divine nature? Those precious words of submission stand fittingly between the decision to repent and the saving waters of baptism. What can be greater than proclaiming our faith in Christ? Only Jesus’ promise, which He gave in Matthew 10:32.
    The good confession will be followed by the greatest confession. It stands in stark contras…

The Courage of Convictions

Courage was a rare commodity as Israel camped on the edge of the Promised Land. Messengers had confirmed that the land indeed flowed with “milk and honey,” but also warned that giants roamed the land (Numbers 13). Fear, discouragement and anxiety spread like a swarm of grasshoppers over the defeated children of God.
    The flames of fear were fanned by ten of the spies sent in to survey the countryside. They told of walled cities and strong residents and convinced a nation not to trust the promise of God but rather the reality of what lay before them.
    Joshua and Caleb had a different spirit. Resting on their conviction of the faithfulness and power of God they reminded the nation of what God had already accomplished. They labored to stir within the people’s heart the flickering wick of faith. Standing by their convictions they called for God’s people to arise and claim the victory waiting just across the border.
    In the wilderness Israel choose to stay. In the wilderness God …

Just a Member?

The last chapter of Romans is special. Although Paul had never visited that city, and his long anticipated arrival would not occur for many years, his affection for the brethren there was strong. He had many friends in the capital city with long-standing ties in Christian service.
    Priscilla and Aquilla lived and worshiped in Rome (Romans 16:3). Together they shared memories of Corinth and Ephesus (Acts 18). Andronicus and Junia apparently had connections with the apostles preceding Paul’s career (v. 7). Then there was Rufus (v. 13). He was dear to Paul, not just for what he had accomplished as a member but for the mutual affection they shared for his mother.
    Others are listed in this beautiful chapter: Epaenetus, Tryphena, Asyncritus, Philolgus. Today we stumble over their names. Back then Paul memorialized their lives of dedication to Christ. None of them were “just members.”
    Every member of the body of Christ is special in the eyes of God. They have been set in the body…

Philip

Four men in the New Testament bore the name Philip. One was an apostle (John 1:43-51). One was a king’s son (Mat. 14:3). One was a governor (Luke 3:1). One served tables (Acts 6:5).
    This latter Philip was no ordinary waiter. His selection to fulfill the work of serving tables reveals deep spiritual traits (Acts 6:3). Seeing the need and heeding the call, Philip set out to be the best servant he could be.
    When persecution settled upon the young church, its members began to scatter. The need was no longer to wait tables but to spread the Gospel of Jesus in the new areas into which they fled. Philip, true to his nature, accepted that challenge also. His travels brought him to Samaria where his powerful preaching met with immediate success (Acts 8:12). Philip’s preaching even touched the hardened heart of Simon, a sorcerer, and the searching heart of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:13-39).
    His was an exciting life. Do you find yourself saying, “If only God used us as He did Phil…

A Barrier to Growth

Peter wrote to Christians living in difficult times, when suffering was their routine lot. They frequently found themselves at odds with government officials and mistreated in the marketplace. The apostle’s first epistle outlines useful advice on how to handle the adverse situations. At the heart of Peter’s counsel is the valid assumption that the process of living the Christian life will present opportunities for sharing one’s faith in Christ. To take advantage of these openings Christians must possess the ability to clearly explain their belief. He wrote:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Pet. 3:15-1…

Changing Habits

A habit is the resulting action of a disengaged mind. One may not realize he is biting his nails while another suddenly finds himself absentmindedly munching on junk. Some habits are spiritually devastating (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) while others promote spiritual maturity (Daniel 6:10). Between the two extremes lay habits ranging in varying shades of gray.

One factor renders a fatal blow to any habit: thought. Especially for the bad habit, thought interrupts the thoughtless actions throwing a mental “monkey wrench” in the mind idling in neutral. It is far from a risky venture to assume that everyone who reads this has, will and needs to devote thought and attention to changing some action that has grown habitual.

Everyone has habits. Many need to be changed. The evil one needs to be replaced by the good one and it in turn needs to be replaced by the better one. While it is true that change hurts, it …

He Is The Answer

The world is filled with questions. This is nothing new. Solomon spent his life finding and solving the mysteries of our earthly existence. Still, the questions kept coming (Eccl. 12:12). Others have joined in the search for meaning in life only to reflect Solomon’s immediate conclusion that all is vanity (Eccl. 1:2). Is life really meaningless? Must life be empty? Are we to believe, as some profess, that nothing in life is dependable? Is there more?
    Solomon, the wisest mortal who ever lived, searched the dark recesses of his empty life to arrive at a brighter ultimate conclusion. Life is only empty when it is lived without God. In life only God is dependable (Eccl. 12:13-14).
    Today’s questions are unavoidable. If you will turn to the Bible in the search for meaningful answers you will find the answers for life’s most important questions. Most importantly, you will be ready for…

Have You Been With Jesus?

The apostles had been through a lot of pain as their Lord was arrested, unfairly tried, sentenced and put to death. Perhaps they felt helpless and ashamed because they had forsaken Him in His hour of need. However, many things were to happen to change their lives: the resurrection, the ascension, the promised Spirit and the beginning of the church. Now these men, who had forsaken their Lord, are boldly preaching that Jesus is the Christ. Because of their preaching, Peter and John are arrested but courageously defend their faith in Him (Acts 4:12).
    Then the Jewish leaders saw Jesus. It was no vision. They saw Christ in the lives of two unlearned and ignorant men (Acts 4:13). This is what a Christian really should be, one who has been with Jesus.
    There is not much left in the name “Christian” when Christ is removed. Likewise, there is not much …

Do You Pray For Us?

Every time the church meets for Bible study and worship, prayers are offered before God's throne for those who are missed. This happens every time that the Northwest congregation meets. In these prayers it is usually stressed that some are absent due to health issues and others because of travel. Sadly, too often some are absent because of misplaced priorities or spiritual apathy. Regardless of the reason for your absence, rest assured that when you miss attending you are missed, and that the church prays for you.
    Keeping your faith in Christ strong in an unbelieving world is never an easy challenge. But that challenge is only made more difficult when we separate ourselves from the regular assemblies of the church. This should come as no surprise when you consider the anonymous, but inspired writer's warning ... "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 exh…

A Special Gift

The esteemed apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, wrote to the Corinthians Christians, “Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love” (2 Cor. 8:24). What is the context of his plea? Giving. The topic of giving runs through both testaments of Scripture like a refreshing stream, but it is nowhere more beautiful than in the wonderful gift given by God (John 3:13).
    Jesus clearly understood the value of giving (Acts 20:35).  As His ministry unfolded Jesus was constantly aware that His ultimate role was to give Himself as a sacrifice for our sin (John 12:27). Giving was also highlighted by Jesus’ appreciation of a poor widow others overlooked (Luke 21:1-3).
    Paul recognized Christian giving as a consistent expression of their love to Christ (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:24), and a deep appreciation for what He so willingly gave on our behalf. This was true because behind the gift was a life…

Am I a Peacemaker?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). The following observations are gleaned from the writing of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in a work entitled Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. The author outlines the identifying qualities of a peacemaker.
1.  A peacemaker learns when not to speak. “If only we could all control our tongues there would be much less discord in this world. When, for example, something is said to you, and the temptation is to reply, do not do it. Not only that; to not repeat things when you know they are going to do harm.”2.  Think in terms of how the Lord and His work will be impaired. A peacemaker can set aside personal feelings and selfish motives and “go out of your way to look for means and methods of making peace.”3.  The sow peace in all relationships. A peacemaker not …

Patience

Patience, as defined by Webster, is the quality of enduring without murmuring; not being easily provoked but persevering. W.E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, reveals that one of the Greek words behind the English word patience in the New Testament means to abide under.  This is the ability to wait in difficult situations. Another Greek word used for patience means to be long tempered or to put anger far off. Patience does not remove responsibility for one’s actions. It simply delays judgment and anger to allow room for repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
    A sign of God’s deep love for man is His patience. That same trait is expected of Christians (Matt. 18:21-ff.). Patience is itself a gift (Gal. 5:22). It is the first descriptive comment in Paul’s explanation of love (1 Cor. 13:4). Patience is a sign of spiritual maturity, becoming like God by adopting His attributes (2 Peter 1:6). It does not respond to evil by being evil (1 Thes. 5:15).
    A key to growing i…

Just a Minute

Moses witnessed many sights in his time. We see him standing beside the burning bush talking to God. We see him speak the Red Sea open. He held the single honor of personal consultation with the Almighty. But to see this sunset may have been the most spectacular moment of all.
    Over the one hundred and twenty years of Moses' life he had often heard talk of the Promised Land. His people longed for the fulfillment of that promise even while they languished in the oppression of Egypt. Moses had seen many sunsets. This one was special not because it would be his last but because of the land he saw dusk settle over. A special land he could not enter.
    The wilderness journey took its toll on the wavering faith of Israel. A new generation had emerged to occupy the land. Moses patiently endured the criticism of his peers during this transition. Yet in a moment's anger he sinned and the Promised Land became the Forbidden Land (Numbers 20:1-13). His actions, in just a minute, ma…

Imagine, If You Can

Let’s suppose that you have been selected to make a speech on “American Life in 2014.” Let’s suppose further that Jules Vern’s novel idea of time travel were possible, and that your audience is a group of settlers from North Carolina gathering near a trading post on the banks of the Mississippi in the early 1800′s. As your listeners arrive, either by foot or via the original “horsepower,” you are looking into the eyes of people accustomed to hard living with few “conveniences.” How will you make them understand our modern life? What words will help them accurately visualize cars, airplanes, or even the four-lane bridge that is to be built right behind you in just over 200 years? How would you explain remote controls, the Internet, cellphones, DVD’s, microwave popcorn, etc.?

Perhaps this is not altogether unlike the experience of the Apostle John who, at the very end of the final vision of the New Testament was permitted to describe his vision of Heaven for his readers. The result is ou…

It Does Matter

To the general populace of Rome it didn’t matter how one chose to live. It didn’t matter which god one revered, if any (Romans 1:23). They freely worshiped stars, birds, and all of nature equally.

    Low moral standards were perpetuated because it didn’t matter where one slept or with whom (verse 27). Fornication, adultery, promiscuity and homosexuality were not even “acceptable alternative lifestyles,” they were the norm.

    Roman society was beginning to come apart at the seams. Yet they were frantically telling each other it didn’t matter what you do or to whom you do it (verses 19-ff). They talked behind each other’s back and schemed to cheat, deceive and kill their fellow man. The foundations of parental respect had been replaced with arrogance, strife and hatred because virtue didn’t matter.

    Sin was ripping through the lives of a society convinced it didn’t matter how one lives. From the darkness of their despair, the shambles of broken lives, we learn that it did.

    Thr…

Betrayed by Joy

They had been prospecting for gold. A motley group of miners set out into the Montana wilderness braving Indians, the elements, and the frustration of unrealized dreams of wealth. However, their patience paid off. By this time their supplies had grown so meager that it was necessary to return home before their mission could be concluded.

The miners made a pact with each other not to reveal their discovery to anyone. They agreed to act as though nothing had happened. After gathering the needed supplies, the men set out just as they had done many times before. But as the miners left town they realized that they were being followed. Each insisted they had not broken their pact of silence. Unconvinced, they tried to discover from the crowd behind them who tipped them off. “Nobody,” they replied, “we could tell by your beaming faces.”

Christian joy should be impossible to hide. It is the master of every circumstance. It emboldens the weak. Joy is as natural to faith as oxygen is to life. It …

The Greatness of Giving

An unusual darkness fell over the earth. Eyes trained in anticipation to see if Jesus could miraculously deliver Himself. The skepticism of some took the form of mockery. “Come down from the cross and we will believe!” “He saved others, Himself He cannot save.” The hope of others may have been attached to the words of Jesus in Gethsemane, “Don’t you know that even now I could pray to My Father and He would send more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).
    “I could pray …” The words seem on the surface to indicate failure. No angels came to His rescue. Jesus died on the cross amid the mockery of His foes. In reality they stand as a great testimony of love. Jesus could have turned His back on this sinful world. He could, but then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled? How would the sins of humanity be forgiven?
    That day of darkness took place only because of God’s love. In Heaven a plan was devised to save the world. In love a child was born of a virgin. In love a cross…

God’s Army

History can be traced by the victories and defeats of great armies.  Each had its moment in the spotlight of history.  Each cowered in defeat under the conquest of troops more powerful and resilient than themselves.  Where is the army of Pharaoh?  Where are the troops of the Great Alexander?  Where are the legions of Rome?

Only one army has stood the test of time.  That army is the church: God’s army.  Its members are equipped with the weapons of spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:14-18) to engage in battle an enemy far greater than themselves (vv. 10-12).  And like Goliath of old, this foe will fall.  Not by the power of the soldier but by the power of God within the soldier.

If you’re a Christian then you are foot soldier in God’s army.  So Paul urges you to “endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3) and to “fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:12).

As the book of history is forever closed one army …

Growing Pains

More than anything else, Mark wanted to be a missionary.  He enjoyed a close association with Christianity from the beginning, plus the confidence of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:25).  But when it came to doing mission work Mark’s efforts fell short (Acts 13:13).
    In reality growth results from experience, which is often unpleasant.  It involves consistently refusing to be defeated by our failures, choosing rather to build on them.  In spite of the pain of his own failure, Mark was determined to grow.
    For Mark Christian growth did not come easily.  Growing creates a greater burden of responsibility.  Hearing carries the added responsibility of living.  On the mission field Mark would feel the scrutiny of his message and life.  He would face the fear of commitment within himself.  He would feel the pain of responsibility.
    In Mark we see that growing requires sacrifice.  His struggle is publicly displayed in the pages of Acts.  Behind the scenes, under the watchful guid…

The Unfulfilled Commission

Jesus stood with His remaining disciples on the Galilean mountainside to which they had often resorted. The breathtaking view escapes notice, all eyes fix upon the risen splendor of their glorified Master.

The lesson that day was simple, yet the effects profound. These eleven men, and all yet to believe, would realize the power of this commission. Here Jesus gave the marching orders of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 28:18-20).

Today we call these words “The Great Commission.” It is great because of the authority empowering it (verse 18), the scope it embraces (“all nations” of verse 19) and the promise of the One who gave it (verse 20).

This passage also could be called “The Wonderful Commission” because of the salvation and the eternal hope attained in obeying it (Mark 16:16). Or it could be referred to as “The Timeless Commission” since each generation finds a fresh harvest for the Gospe…

Someone Loved Philemon

Philemon’s position of wealth and stature in the Colossian community is matched by his influence in the Christian community. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, that influence has been preserved between Paul’s instructive letter to Titus and the anonymous sermon to the Hebrews.

As a student of the New Testament one is naturally caught up in sympathy for Onesimus, a reluctant prisoner in the harsh world of Roman slavery. One forgets Philemon and the high regard Paul felt for his spiritual brother.

Being a Christian, Philemon is freed from his first century world to embrace an eternal hope bound by no single generation. Before that the cords of responsibility anchored him firmly to this world. He built his financial empire the old fashioned way … he earned it. Then someone changed all that by introducing Philemon to the risen Lord. Paul loved Philemon.

Now he held in his hands a letter from his dear…

Living Proof

As darkness became firmly entrenched in the mountainside garden, a lone figure could be faintly seen. His silhouette revealed a man deep in earnest prayer. The beautiful landscape belied the torment in His soul. This was a man preparing to die.

His was no ordinary death. Long before His birth He had been destined to the most unbearable of fates, the cross. After an exemplary life He was about to be betrayed, denied, forsaken, abused, mocked and tortured. Emerging from the ashes of His apparent defeat would be victory: freedom from sin; life eternal.

Listen to His prayer. He is praying for you.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21). Jesus knew the world would demand proof of Christi…

Here Am I, Send Them!

“Here am I,” said the frightened, barefoot would-be deliverer turned shepherd as he bowed before the presence of God in the burning bush (Exodus 3:4). With undivided attention he listened as God’s amazing plan was presented to him. The Lord would deliver Israel from Egypt, lead them to a Promised Land, embarrass the false gods of Pharaoh and bestow the wealth of their captor’s spoils to the newly freed nation of slaves. God would do all this, and more, through Moses.

Remembering his younger days Moses swallowed hard as the strategy of God permeated his consciousness. The thoughts of past failure paralyzed him. He was not eloquent, others would be skeptical of his message and pure fear welled up in this eighty-year-old heart. Moses pleaded with God on the mountainside to please send someone else (4:13).

Through the patience of God Moses would come to realize that he could be the answer to the urgent prayers o…

You Can Serve God Here

Thomas Read and Martha White were newlyweds. Their young marriage was quickly put to the test when, on July 11, 1861, Thomas enlisted in the Confederate Army. Their letters are filled with talk of war and family and faith. Martha, or Mattie as friends and family knew her, was obviously concerned about the dangers her husband faced each day. She was just as anxious that he not lose sight of their shared faith in God.
    One letter in particular stands out. Mattie, writing on a peaceful Sunday evening (August 31, 1862), describes the serenity of the farm and of her longing to be reunited. She is confident that, unless he is surrounded by the confusion of battle, his thoughts would be of her. She encouraged him to do whatever he can to find time amid the turmoil of camp life to focus his attention on God. "I do not think.” She writes Thomas, “that God ever placed a man in circumstances in which he could say with truth "I cannot serve God here." I believe that the Chris…

Walk Before the Lord (Psalm 116:9)

If you've ever had a narrow escape from death, you can probably easily relate to the sentiments of Psalm 116. So often such an encounter results in a short-lived appreciation of one's deliverance.
    Following the great earthquakes that rocked southeast Missouri in 1811-12, church attendance rocketed. Then things slowly returned to the pre-earthquake norms. Historians refer to those shortly committed attendees as "earthquake Christians."
    Consider the depth of commitment stirring the psalmist as he pens this psalm. Verse nine is a vow, and it rests on a deep and strong foundation of faith, love, and appreciation. So strong and deep, in fact, that it will never fade or dim as long as the writer lives.
    As Christians we ought to have a far greater appreciation of being rescued than the writer of Psalm 116 could ever imagine. Jesus has rescued us from an eternal death. As a result, we should each become living, walking, breathing billboards who demonstrate i…

Happy Grandparent's Day!

Since 1979 the United States has recognized the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparent's Day. Cynics may see it as just another "holiday" designed to sell greeting cards, but not Marian McQuade, the West Virginian housewife and mother of fifteen who lead a nearly decade-long crusade for a day to honor grandparents. When Jimmy Carter issued the proclamation making Mrs. McQuade's dreams a reality, the month of September was chosen to represent the "autumn years" of grandparent's lives. The goals of the day were twofold: to honor grandparents and to encourage the young to have meaningful interaction with their elders.     For many generations the family was charged with the duty of caring for their elderly. Today, however, we are much more mobile as a society. Few people are born, grow up, and die in any given community. As …

Lean on Him!

By Kari Adams

    I've heard it said that "God never gives you more than you can handle," but is it a biblical truth or a feel-good platitude? Yes, 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that we won't be tempted beyond what we can stand, but that doesn't mean that life's circumstances won't be overwhelming.
    Paul had an affliction that was more than he could handle, and he asked God to take it away three times. Elijah was threatened with death by the most wicked of royal couples, believed himself to be the last faithful man on earth, and prayed that God would take his life. Job had much more than he could handle when he lost everything and his wife told him to curse God and die. I don't know about you, but I'd classify being stuck in the belly of a giant fish, thrown into a fiery furnace, sold into slavery by my siblings, and asked to sacrifice my child as situations that are more than any human cou…

The Incredible Ant

Forgive me for getting too personal, but I have a math problem for you. Take your weight and multiply it times fifty. Now imagine being able to lift that amount of weight ... with your mouth! According to some scholarly sources that is precisely what ants do every day (about.com). Especially industrious are the female worker ants. These workers labor diligently to provide food for their colony which can consist of millions of ants. Just let a single ant happen upon your carefully prepared picnic basket and that lucky ant will leave a scent trail for other ants in their colony to follow. Before you know it a whole army of ants will do their best to carry off the bounty prepared for your family's enjoyment.
    Worker ants can often be observed busily going about the thankless but necessary job of constant housekeeping, cleaning and expanding their colony, a business that usually involves t…