Browsing: Inspiration

WORDS

September 10th, 2014 | By admin

by Aunt Mary My husband is working on a devotional for church tonight, and the title is “Words.” My mind immediately pictured a commercial that is pretty popular on TV right now. A cowboy is getting on his horse and he tells a woman, “Words can’t hurt you.” He then rides towards the sunset and hits a sign that says “The End.” He immediately falls off his horse presumably unconscious. Of course it’s a commercial for an insurance company, but the point is still made. Words are very important to us. When we were children, someone would always say, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” Words do hurt. Not only what we say, but how we say it. We can say the same thing in different ways and either make someone feel good or ruin their day. If you work with words daily, as I do, you have a deeper respect for them. Writing is so different from speaking. My tone tells you what I mean by how I articulate the words. In writing, I have to tell you what the tone is. I could write, “The sun sat in the eastern sky.” You’d know the sun was setting, but if I said, “The sun sat in the eastern skywitha beautiful streaks of orange and red.” you’d know I was enjoying the sunset. If I wrote, “The sun sat in the eastern sky and my mouth was so dry I could eat the sun, the horrible despicable hot sun,” then you’d know I was mad and tired and hot. In the Bible we have to know something about the character of the person. I love Psalm and especially chapter 119. Yes, it’s the longest chapter in the Bible, but it is also one with the most wisdom. David tells us in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We see how David feels about God’s word. It guides him every day. He shows how much he cares for God’s loving kindness. God gave us words to live by. He showed us how much he loved us and wanted us to do what was right. There are so many times in the Old Testament where God warned the children of Israel, the Jews, what would happen if they disobeyed His Laws. They would go off in sin and He would bring tragedy upon them. They’d come back to Him and He’d deliver them. Just like today when our children do something bad, we don’t say, “Forget it, I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” Instead we say, “Forget it, I want to forgive you.” That’s what God wants with us also. As our Father, He’s willing to forgive us and welcome us back. Use the good words in the way God want us to. Use kind words, like King David. Make the Bible a Lamp unto your feet.

PERSERVERE

September 8th, 2014 | By admin

by Paul Holland

Perseverance. “Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” It seems that the normal course of things in life is for enjoyable events to go fast and bad events to go slowly. How can we get through the bad events in life? You have to persevere. You have to stick with it.

The book of Hebrews focuses on the idea of perseverance. Hebrews 10:16-25 encourages us to persevere in our faith.

THE MOTIVATION OF OUR PERSEVERANCE – FORGIVENESS (10:16-18):
The Hebrew writer quotes from the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34) to the effect that God planned to establish a covenant with His people that would provide forgiveness of sins. Since we are living under that covenant today, the covenant of Jesus Christ, we do not need other, perpetual, sacrifices for sin.
When our sins are forgiven in Christ, we know that we can stand before God and that we are avoiding the horrors of hell.

THE SPHERE OF OUR PERSEVERANCE – CHRIST JESUS (10:19-22):
The “and so” at the beginning of verse 19 points back to what he has said before. We have forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ. Then, he sets out two items that are important to remember in order for us to persevere.

Item #1 – (vs 19) “Since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…”

Item #2 – (vs 21) “and since we have a great priest over the house of God.” Turn to 7:26-28 to see what type of high priest we have.

So, our “sphere” of perseverance is Jesus Christ. We can enter the presence of God through the blood of Jesus Christ who is our great high priest. To do that, we need:

1. A sincere heart
2. Full assurance of faith
3. Our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
4. Our hearts are sprinkled with the blood of Christ when our bodies are washed with pure water, which is a reference to baptism (Romans 6:1-7; Eph. 5:26).

THE CALL TO PERSEVERANCE – HOLD FAST (10:23):
The call here is to hold tightly to the confession of your hope in Christ, without wavering, just as Abraham kept his confidence in God, without wavering. How can we do that? Because, He who called us is faithful (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

THE ATMOSPHERE OF PERSEVERANCE – THE CHURCH (10:24-25):
God does not call us to be “Lone Rangers.” Not even “Batman and Robin.” There is not just one of us. There’s not just two of us. It’s really a family, a spiritual family. That’s what the church is and Christ calls on us to be in the middle of the family, involved with each other, in each other’s lives.

So, the key verb here in this sentence is “Let us consider” one another. Then, there are reasons for this “considering:” for the stimulating of love and stimulating of good works. While we are considering one another we should not be neglecting the gathering-together of ourselves.

Rather than neglecting the gathering-together of ourselves, we should be comforting, exhorting, and encouraging one another. That’s the atmosphere of perseverance. It is much easier to keep the faith, to remain faithful, when we are in the middle of other people who have the same goal and the same desires.

Persevere faithfully in Christ, remaining active in the church. Ultimate salvation will be yours.

THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT

September 3rd, 2014 | By admin

by Paul Holland

The more I learn, the more I am amazed how God has adapted Christianity to the needs of mankind. Let’s begin by citing Paul’s words from Philippians 3:10-14, wherein he writes that he wants to know Christ “the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

God has designed man in such a way that we cannot attain perfection here on earth but He challenges us to grow and strive for perfection with it being ultimately available on the other side of death. Learn. Grow. Mature. Strive. Reach forward. Don’t be content with who you are right now. Jesus is the standard of perfection.

Author and psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky writes in The Myths of Happiness, that we are happier in our pursuit. She writes, “if we enjoy the struggle along the way, we will derive pleasure and satisfaction by simply pursuing or working on our goal. We will ideally stretch our skills, discover novel opportunities, grow, strive, learn, and become more capable and expert. …Furthermore, goal pursuit in and of itself imparts structure and meaning to our daily lives, creating obligations, deadlines, and timetables, as well as opportunities for mastering new skills and for interacting with others” (137).

Now, think about how God has designed this world. Think about the challenges you have in your own life – the challenges to grow and mature.

Before he wrote those words in Philippians 3, Paul wrote these words in chapter 2: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (vss 3-4). Had Paul reached perfection in just these few virtues? No. He tells us himself that he had not reached spiritual perfection.

But the joy is in the striving, the pursuit. In Lyubomirsky’s words, it is the “deadlines and timetables, as well as opportunities for mastering new skills and for interacting with others.” If we obtained moral perfection the moment we were baptized into Christ, what else would there be to do, spiritually speaking?

God designed the human mind and the human heart to desire growth and maturity. Contests, sports, games, other challenges show that the human spirit was designed to seek after victory, to challenge ourselves even as we challenge others. We want to win. We want to stretch ourselves, to see how far we can go.

Ultimately, God set that urge in our hearts in spiritual matters. To conquer our own egos, our desire for revenge, our desire for self. He challenges us to control our tongues, our attitudes, our behavior. That all implies growth. And it all involves pursuit – the happy pursuit of holiness (cf. Heb. 12:14).

Christianity, as it is, is adapted to man, as he is.

ESTHER TEACHES US TO RELY ON GOD

August 27th, 2014 | By admin

by Paul Holland 

    How do you live upright in an upside down world? You trust in the providence of God. I want you to have an unshakeable conviction in the God of heaven that He will, lovingly, always do the right thing by you if you are one of His children.

     As you move through the text of Esther, keep this thought in the back of your mind – Mordecai is going to refuse to bow down to Haman, staying truthful to God’s word. Haman, motivated out of anti-semitic racism, is going to influence King Ahasuerus to kill Mordecai and all his people – the Jews. The question is: How is God going to work behind the scenes, without violating man’s free will, to not only save His people, the Jews, but also to influence Persians to accept the Jews’ God as the one true God, even becoming Jews themselves? That’s the story of Esther. That’s God’s silent sovereignty at work, to use brother Cecil May’s subtitle to his book,Providence.

     Chapter 2:21-23 are important to the overall context of the book as it explains to us how King Ahasuerus is saved by Mordecai which leads to the king wanting to honor Mordecai. Why was Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate that day? How did the plot become known to Mordecai? These are questions – even as we have questions in our own lives about how God works – that we cannot answer, except to say it is the “silent sovereignty of God.”

     Esther was the only person who could save the Jewish people. She had to do something! Look at 4:13-14 and see an expression of Mordecai’s faith in the silent sovereignty of God. We also see Esther’s conviction expressed in verses 15-17.

     The first sentence in chapter 6 saves the life of the Jews. The king could not sleep. Why could King Ahasuerus not sleep? Only God knows but He is working behind the scenes. That insomnia led King Ahasuerus to call for the history books to be read to him and then, he learned that Mordecai saved his life but had never been honored for that act of loyalty.

     Isn’t it ironic that in the middle of this government-sponsored pogrom against God’s people, that Persiansactually want to be members of this minority religious sect (8:17)? These Persians had been inspired and encouraged by the religious and spiritual lives of the Jews. It is always true that if/when Christians act like Christians, that is, when they serve Christ and follow His word, non-Christians will be inspired to become Christians (cf. Acts 5:11, 14). When you do things God’s way, God will bless you for it.

     At the end of his discussion of Esther in his book on providence, brother May comments: “God is still keeping watch above His own. Any one of us at any time could be in a situation that would call for faithful, effective action on our parts to bring about God’s will for His church. Who knows whether we may have come to the kingdom for just such a time as that? Let us be perceptive and ready” (pg. 87).

     How do you live upright in an upside down world? You trust the “silent sovereignty of God.”

TRAVEL ON MY KNEES

August 25th, 2014 | By admin

by Paul Holland 

    Sitting in my mom’s dining room, going through old papers, I found a poem I sent to them while we were in Romania. It was written by Raymond Jackson: “Last night I took a journey, To a land across the seas. I didn’t go by boat or plane, I traveled on my knees. I saw so many people there, In the darkest depths of sin. The Lord Jesus told me I should go, Those many souls to win.

     “But I said, ‘Lord Jesus, I can’t go And work with such as these.’ He answered quickly, ‘Yes, you can, By traveling on your knees.’ Said He, ‘You pray, I’ll meet the need; You call, and I will hear. Be anxious over all lost souls, Of those both far and near.’ And I tried it; knelt in prayer, And gave some some hours of ease.

     “I felt the Lord right by my side While traveling on my knees. As I prayed on and saw men saved, And blighted spirits healed, I saw God’s workers’ strength renewed While laboring in the field. Said I, ‘Yes, Lord I have a job, ’Tis Thee I’ll ever please. I’ll gladly go and heed Thy call By traveling on my knees.”

     I sent that to my parents and the rest of our supporters in February, 2001. We had been on the mission field eight months. Jackson reminds us through that poem the power of prayer. We are familiar with the words of James: “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (5:16). Translating the statement literally, he says, “Much is competent prayer of the righteous, working.” The one who is righteous, through the blood of Christ, can competently accomplish much good, appealing to the heart of the Father.

     Jackson’s poem reminds me of the song titled Ready to Suffer. One verse reads, “Ready to go or ready to stay; Ready my place to fill. Ready for service, lowly or great. Ready to do His will.” We participate in evangelism when we pray as well as when we go.

     Pray for those lost in sin and pray for those trying to reach them. Your prayers can accomplish much.

HOW TO HANDLE RELATIONSHIPS WITH NON-CHRISTIANS

August 22nd, 2014 | By admin

by Paul Holland 

    In Acts 17:6-7, Paul and Silas are in Thessalonica and have stirred up opposition. The Jews have dragged some Christians before the secular authorities, complaining that “These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

    The context of Matthew 10 follows on the heels of Matthew 9:36-38. Not only did Jesus pray to send out workers into the harvest but He also fulfilled that need – Matthew 10 is Jesus sending out His apostles on what we call the “limited commission.”

     How do we handle our relationships with non-Christians…?

 DO GOOD (10:1-4):

    To these twelve, Jesus gave power to perform miracles, establishing the veracity of their message (Mark 16:17-20). Today, we, too, help our cause bydoing good (Gal. 6:10). These apostles were – from the occupations we recognize – middle-income Palestinians. They were not part of the religious elite. It is noteworthy one worked for the government (Matthew) and one worked against the government (Simon the Zealot, Canaanite).

TEACH JESUS’ MESSAGE (10:5-15):

    The “sent out” in verse 5 carries the idea of delegated authority. The authority was not in themselves. It was in Jesus; in their message. It is with us today as we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-20). The authority is in the message (Titus 2:15).

     The message (for them – vs 7) was that the kingdom was near at hand. Our message is that Jesus is coming again to separate the sheep from the goats (Matt. 25:31-46), to put an end to sin and to death (Rev. 20:12-15).

 YET, SOME WILL (VIOLENTLY) REJECT THE MESSAGE(10:16-23):

    We are to be wise in our presentation of the Gospel (10:16). Compare Colossians 4:5. We do not have tounnecessarily provoke non-Christians! See 2 Timothy 2:24-26 and how we should teach non-Christians. “Innocent” means “unmixed” with the world’s values (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-18).

     But, the message they should preach would come from God (10:18-20). To us, the Holy Spirit has revealed His message, through those same messengers (Eph. 3:3-5).

    Jesus does not call us to pointless martyrdom (10:23).

 JESUS ENCOURAGES THE PERSECUTED (10:24-33):

    Just because we are living as “good” Christians, we should not expect people to love us all the time (10:24-25). It may be because we are “good” Christians that people hate us!

     Yet, we are still to preach boldly (10:26-27). The early Christians did not pray that God would take away the persecution; they prayed for courage (Acts 4:23-30). So should we (Eph. 6:18-20).

IN THE MIDDLE OF PERSECUTION – JESUS MATTERS THE MOST (10:34-39):

    It may be our own family who persecutes us (10:34-37). The peace Jesus came to bring (cf. Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 2:14) is fundamentally peace between God and man. Jesus separates us from the values / worldview of society.

 BLESSINGS AWAIT THOSE WHO RECEIVE CHRIST’S MESSENGERS (10:40-42):

    “Little children” does not refer to physical children. It refers to Christ’s disciples metaphorically, picturing them as dependent and helpless.

     In living upright in an upside down world, we must choose Christ first, even in the face of persecution from our family and friends. “I am resolved to enter the kingdom, leaving the paths of sin. Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me. Still will I enter in.”

Paul Holland is the minister of the Swartz Creek church of Christ, Swartz Creek, MI

DATING LEADS TO MARRIAGE

August 20th, 2014 | By admin

by Katt Anderson

Girls and boys everywhere are looking at each other and wondering if they would like to date each other. This is the way God intended us to be. He wanted us to admire the other sex, not the same sex. He wanted us to procreate and fill the world with people like us. That’s why it’s important when we begin to date to have a focus on marriage. You may not think you are interested in marriage right now, but dating prepares you for marriage.

First of all, you want to pick the right boys to date. That is girls date boys and boys date girls, not girls date girls and boys date boys. God intended male and female to marry and have a life together. No place in the Bible do we read about divorce until Moses was in the wilderness. I wonder sometimes if the Israelites learned about divorce from the Egyptians. Divorce was not something God planned in the beginning. We were to have one mate. If you’re a woman, it will be a man. He wanted us to live with that person until the death of one. That’s something to think about if your looking at a boy to date. Can you live with him for a long time?

I like Matthew 19:4-6 when Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about marriage. Read what he says. “And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’” That puts it pretty simple, doesn’t it.

As the Pharisees continue to try to trick Jesus, they asked about divorce. In verses 8-9 of that same chapter, we read Jesus’ answer. “8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.’”

Second, why am I talking about divorce? You can’t get a divorce if you’re not married! Think about that person you want to date. Would he make a life-long companion. Oh, I know you’re not thinking about it right now, but have it in the back of your mind. Would you live happily with someone who degrades you with each word coming out of his mouth? What about someone who hits you? These things happen when we’re dating someone and it’s something to be aware of. Many women enter marriage because the guy is the cutest thing on earth, but he may be mistreating her and she’s afraid to tell.

If you are ever in a situation when a boy mistreats you for any reason, run away as fast as you can. You don’t have to live like that. Don’t listen to him when he tells you he’ll quit, he loves you or some other ridiculous thing, because he doesn’t. Get away, you’re worth more than that. Respect yourself when you’re dating someone.

Footnotes:

THE CLEANSING POWER OF GOD

August 18th, 2014 | By admin

by Andrew Hallenbeck

As I sit and listen to the thunder and rain, I’m keenly aware of God. I gaze out the window and although the trees, bushes and grass are saturated with the grey of rain, I feel sunshine within my soul. I know God exists. He speaks.

Bang! 

Lightening illuminates the sky and thunder follows. Nature, thirsty from the summer heat, drinks the life sustaining water. They gulp and are satisfied. I, too, am filled. I watch and as God works. He, indeed, gives life. He saturates. He is the essence of happiness, but I must drink of His living water. Freely given, freely and humbly I must take.

I think of my life and the provisions given by Him. I am unworthy, but our Lord gives anyway. I am selfish, the opposite of God’s character, but He forgives. He teaches love in unbounding avenues and I follow. Follow, yet stumble. He picks me up and I continue. God forever cleanses.

The water of immersion cleanses and makes new. It adds me to his body. The doorway is open and I walk in obedience. As the rain rejuvenates the thirsty grass, I too, feel emboldened. Humbled and unworthy, I watch the river of rain on the street carry away the rubbish of prior days. My soul, too, is washed as I ponder God’s mercy. Undeserved, I receive. Given without due honor, I take. Feely He continually gives.

I bow, both physically and emotionally, before our Creator. He gives and I take. Selfish I am, but He continues to forgive. I ask humbly and my sins are purged. Mercy without end. Although at times I reject, He in unwavering, waiting for me to return.

Bang! 

Again the echo of the thunder demands attention. The rumble shouting as flashes reach though the window and dance on the wall. My bible sits on the table, its pages speaking God’s truth. I smile and know God lives, loves and forgives. I know His precepts, they speak though his God News. I’m grateful.

Andrew Hallenbeck is a minister of a church of Christ in Ft. Worth, TX.

LEADING THE PEOPLE TO PRAISE THE LORD

August 15th, 2014 | By admin

By Paul Holland

The book of Psalms is certainly one of our favorite books in the entire Bible. Perhaps because it is, in the words of OT scholar, Gerhard von Rad, “Israel in the presence of Yahweh.” We are in the presence of Jehovah when we assemble together to worship in Jesus Christ. We all want to be in the presence of Jehovah when our lives on earth are fulfilled. We try to avoid those things that hinder and affect and impede our position in the presence of Jehovah. The book of Psalms runs the gamut of human emotion and human activity – all done in the presence of Jehovah.

Psalm 148 is a psalm or hymn of praise. C. S. Lewis wrote a devotional book, Reflections on the Psalms in which he writes: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. …In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him” (95, 97).

Here is the psalm from the NASV: “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, For He commanded and they were created. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars; Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. And He has lifted up a horn for His people, Praise for all His godly ones; Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the Lord!”

Derek Kidner in the Tyndale OT Commentary Series calls this psalm a “Choir of Creation” – (487). You are familiar with this psalm because you have sung it frequently in worship. In 1893, these words were set to music by William Kirkpatrick.

The first two words of this psalm in the Hebrew Bible are “Hallelu” and “jah.” Hallelu comes from the verb hālal meaning to “praise, boast” and “connotes being sincerely and deeply thankful for and/or satisfied in lauding a superior quality(ies) or great, great act(s) of the object” (TWOT, I:217). One-third of the passages which use “hālal” are in the Psalms and most of those are commands to praise. “Yah” is a shortened form of the divine name “Yahweh” or transliterated usually as Jehovah.

Our goal is to get all the earth to praise Jehovah God.

IN-LAWS AND OUT-LAWS

August 13th, 2014 | By admin

By Katt Anderson

As a young person, I’m sure you have an idea of the person you want as your spouse. We all want the most handsome man, the most caring man and the man most devoted to us. It’s not horrible to have these expectations. They help us to strive for something better. But, when you’re thinking about marrying someone, think about their family. You’re also marrying them.

Probably the best in-law in the Bible was Naomi. Ruth loved her because she loved Ruth. She was devoted to Naomi. Read Ruth 1:16-17. This is repeated at weddings, but it shows Ruth’s devotion to her mother-in-law. Later on in the book, we see how Naomi encouraged Ruth to find a husband, not any husband, but a good husband. As you know, the story goes on and Ruth marries Boaz. The book of Ruth is so short, you can read it in one sitting. Try it, it will enlighten you.

A good father-in-law was Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. His daughter Zipporah was Moses wife. Jethro was also called Reuel. Numbers 10:9 says  Jethro was the priest of Midian, so he was a religious man. He also seemed to care for his son-in-law. In Exodus 18:1-27 we read about Jethro making a visit to see Moses and Zipporah. During that visit he saw how over-worked Moses was with all the decisions he had to make concerning the goings on with the children of Israel. He was concerned by the work load of Moses and made some suggestions which turned out to be good. He was a good father-in-law.

Now, let’s look at Jacob and his father-in-law, Laban. The custom at that time was for the first daughter to marry first, but Jacob didn’t love the oldest daughter, Leah, he loved Rachel. The bride was covered, much like we see Muslims today, and Jacob did not know he had the wrong woman until the next morning. What a shock! What a mean thing for a father-in-law to do to his future son-in-law. How upset Jacob must have been to find out he married the wrong woman. Leah was not a kind person either, she made fun of Rachel because Rachel could not have children. That had to be a very unhappy household, but Laban was the cause of it all. Really, God had a plan and through that plan, we have Christ. Judah had to be the great-great-and many greats-grandfather of Jesus. Judah’s mother was Leah, not Rachel. How interesting! Jacob made the best of his situation and helped Laban increase his cattle.

Be aware of what your in-laws will be like before you marry that perfect man. Know that you will have to make allowances and learn to overlook things. It’s just like everything in life. We find good people, helpful people and loving people. We have to accept them for what they are and learn to love them. Everyone has little quirks, but it doesn’t mean we can’t identify them and live with them.

 


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