Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

About Being Happy

Posted on: September 25th, 2022

When I was young, happiness was different than it is now. It was the same quest, I suppose, but it had more to do with things than it does now. Happiness came from having. It came from presents, from approval among your peers, from scoring the winning run or the most points, from thinking you were so important to a project that it just wouldn’t be as good without you. Then, happiness was more in having than in being.

Men have forever sought to explain happiness. I have, in my own little philosophical world, joined the hunt. It’s hard to look in the dictionary and find a definition that fits what I think in my own little philosophical world. The lexicographers don’t define happiness very well–no better, in fact, than I do. I’m not sure why it’s so hard. Maybe because it runs in too many different directions. Maybe because it never settles in one place for very long. Happiness seldom comes when you think it should. It very often comes from some serendipitous occasion, some time when you least expected it. And when it leaves, the taste left is often more bittersweet than confectionery like you thought it would be.

By the process of living life you can eliminate some things which don’t bring happiness. While it’s a lesson never quite learned, time teaches all of us that having is not happiness. You don’t have to be rich to learn that riches don’t often bring happiness. Far too many examples exist of people who have had bundles of what this life offers and been miserable, totally forlorn. Experience also teaches that being comfortable is not what happiness is all about. Lots of folks don’t hurt and they still aren’t happy, while some live every day with almost intolerable pain and they are extremely so. Why is that? Neither is happiness guaranteed by having notoriety. I have known people in my time who have become what the world denominates as “superstars” and they have only endless complaints and chronic bouts of disconsolance, while some of my former classmates who, as the world views things, never even “made it”, are ecstatically happy. Why?

I have made some small decisions about happiness. They aren’t very impressive, perhaps, but they come from someone who cares.

First, we need to learn that happiness doesn’t come from externalities, but from being right with God. Making God first in your life is what happiness is all about–because it takes your joy out of the realm of what happens and puts it up into eternity where it belongs. If you want to be happy–truly blessed–get right with God (Matthew 5:1-12). It’s where you’ll find the “peace that passeth understanding.”

Second, put your confidence in small bunches of good little things, not in one big, bulky aspiration. For instance, learn to enjoy some obscure thing: some good piece of art from someone who paints for fun; some good performance from some unknown artist; some delightful scene somewhere off the beaten path. Savor some good food; experience some new, exciting thought; give yourself to God in meditation and prayer– out loud–where no one can hear but you and Him. Read Philippians 4:6-8. That’s what it says.

Third, be who you are. You can’t be truly happy when you’re trying to be someone other than yourself. There’s great peace in being satisfied with who and what you are. And we’d all be a lot more pleased with our lives if we’d just stop trying to be the star of the show, too. After all, everybody can’t be a star. Besides, it seems to me that I’m happier when I’m just one of the crowd. I rather enjoy just being part of the nameless number gathered around to watch the big guys do their thing. Read Galatians 6:3-4. It says that.

Happiness comes when you can learn to cry unashamedly or laugh confidently; when you can learn to tell the truth quietly; when you can be important to somebody else’s happiness without being boastful; when you are willing to run the risk of being vulnerable by caring; when you can go ahead and get involved knowing you’re going to get egg on your face. I guess what it all comes down to is humility, knowing that without God you’re just not much. Read Romans 12:3-10. It says all that.

Well, I reckon I didn’t help you much. Actually, I have done little to define happiness, less to describe it, really not much to even identify it. But I feel pretty happy about getting to try. And I’m sure happy you took time to read what I said. Thanks.

By the way–you can’t possibly be truly happy if you don’t come to Jesus.

Dee Bowman

 

What Is A Good Time Worth?

Posted on: September 18th, 2022

They were just out for a good time. Cruising around, as teenagers have done since the invention of the car, with “no particular place to go.” Two boys and a girl with only fun on their minds.

One of them got the idea that it would be fun to take down a stop sign. Stop signs, along with rural mailboxes, seem to be a popular means of entertainment for a few young people. Some shoot holes in them, some bend them over, others turn them around to face the other direction. These three decided to remove them completely.

It worked! They were enjoying themselves immensely. As a matter of fact, they derived so much pleasure from it that they removed 18 more that night. What fun! A good time was had by all!

All did not have a good time. You see, later that night three more teenagers, three boys who had gone bowling, came to one of the intersections where the stop sign had been removed. Seeing no reason to stop, the young driver proceeded across the crossroad. Their car was broadsided by a large truck. The three boys were killed instantly. A good time, a lark, a silly prank had cost three innocent lives. What is a “good time” worth? Is it worth three lives? But the story is not over.

The three teens who removed those signs were arrested, tried and convicted on manslaughter charges. The judge determined there was no intent on their parts to kill anyone so he was lenient on them. They each were sentenced to 15 years in prison. In Florida, a convicted felon has to serve at least 85% of his sentence. In the case of these young people that amounts to 13 years. What is a “good time” worth? Well, in this instance the cost is now up to three lives and at least 39 years in prison.

We haven’t even mentioned the parents. In essence, six sets of parents have lost children—three to prison and three to death. The tearful remorse of the three guilty teens was little comfort to them. “I’m sorry” and “I didn’t mean any harm” is little solace when such harmful consequences are the harsh reality of thoughtless actions. All for a “good time?” What is a “good time” worth?

Young people, youth is a time to be enjoyed. But please think before you act. Realize the tragic consequences that can follow thoughtless and, pardon the plainness of speech, stupid actions.

Before you do anything, even if it is for a “good time,” think of what it might cost you and others.

The God of heaven also realizes that youth is to be enjoyed. As a matter of fact, He encourages you to enjoy it. In Ecclesiastes 11:9 He says, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.”

Yes, youth is to be a happy, carefree time that you can enjoy before the difficulties, problems and obligations of adult life begin to mount up. But there is a difference between “carefree” and “careless.” Youth is not a time for foolish and reckless behavior.

God continues in Ecclesiastes 11 by saying to the young, “Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment” (Eccl. 11:9). Please understand, that a “good time” that causes you to do things contrary to the will of God can cost you your eternal soul.

Young people, all people, ask yourself before you thoughtlessly do something just for a “good time,” “What will this cost me?” “What will it cost others?” “Will it make me live the rest of my life with regret and shame?” “Could it cost me my soul?”

What is a “good time” worth? Please think about it.

Gene Taylor

 

Jesus and Sinners

Posted on: September 11th, 2022

As soon as I saw my article topic, a passage came to mind: Luke 7: 36-49. I suppose that might have something to do with the fact that it is a personal favorite of mine. But more pertinently, it is a story that perfectly illustrates the love that Jesus has for sinners.

A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to eat with him. During the meal, a woman, who is identified in the Pharisee’s mind as “a sinner,” entered his home with a flask of expensive ointment. She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the oil. Simon’s inner thoughts about this turn of events and Jesus’ response to those thoughts teach us some important lessons about how we should regard sinners.
First, sinners need compassion, not contempt. Verse 39 says: “Now when the Pharisee who invited him saw this, he said to himself ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.’” The implication is clear – if Jesus really knew what kind of woman this was, then he would have rejected her efforts.

Even in my lifetime, our society’s moral compass has changed drastically for the worse. Sins like fornication, homosexuality, dishonesty, violence, abortion, hatred, idolatry, and all kinds of disrespect for God are not only accepted but often honored. Our response, however, should not be to shun those who practice such sins. Instead of avoiding sinners, or even hating them, Jesus would have us show them kindness, hospitality, and grace.

This does not mean that we are to condone or overlook sin. After all, conviction of one’s sins and repentance from them are key components of the gospel, and Jesus loved sinners enough to make this clear (John 5: 14John 8: 11). Neither does this mean that we should choose worldly people to be our closest companions and confidants (1 Corinthians 15: 33). Again, Jesus provided us an example in this regard – it seems the three men he chose for his innermost circle were Peter, James, and John.

But how can we hope to win lost souls for Jesus without being willing to have them into our homes, to help them in times of need, to let them know that we are praying for them, to encourage them to read the Bible with us, or to invite them to join us for worship? Jesus was called a “friend of sinners” for a reason (Luke 7: 34).

Second, loving sinners requires a proper recognition of one’s own sin. Verses 40-43: “And Jesus answering said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he answered, ‘Say it, Teacher.’ ‘A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.’ And he said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ And then verse 47: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Of course, Jesus’ point was not literally that the fewer sins one has committed, the less they will love him. His point was that those who consider their sin to be little will love little. Simon obviously saw himself as worthy to have Jesus into his home but judged this woman unfit to touch him.

On the other hand, all of the woman’s actions indicate profound humility and faith. I doubt she contained a single ounce of Simon’s self-righteousness. Do you look at sinners today the way Simon looked at this woman or the way Jesus did? If you’re like me, that’s a sobering question.

I have a deep appreciation for just how much sin Jesus has forgiven in my life. I am filled with awe and thankfulness for the inconceivable mercy he has shown me, and I am utterly dependent on His grace every single day.

We live in a world filled with lost souls who engage in all kinds of sin. They are not beneath us. They need the same forgiveness and hope that Jesus gives each of us. And Jesus is counting on us to show this to them.  <Brandon Starling>

 

Who Makes The Rules?

Posted on: September 4th, 2022

Jeremy Rifkin, American economic and social theorist and activist, and proponent of evolution and “New Age Religion” said: “We no longer feel ourselves to be guests in someone else’s home, and therefore obliged to make our behavior conform with a set of pre-existing cosmic rules. It is our creation now. We make the rules. We establish the parameters of reality. We create the world, and because we do, we no longer feel beholden to outside forces. We no longer have to justify our behavior, for we are now architects of the universe. We are responsible to nothing outside ourselves, for we are the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever.”

I’m sure that when some read Rifkin’s ramblings, they think they are seeing great wisdom, when in actuality they are reading foolishness! It is certainly true that many have never wanted their behavior to conform to pre-existing rules. They want to make the rules and establish the parameters of behavior and reality, and want little or no responsibility to nothing, and no one, outside of themselves.

Romans 1: 21-22 says: “Because although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools.” Those under consideration did not honor God or give Him thanks. Neither does Jeremy Rifkin. Without God, this world does not make sense. “Where did we come from”; “Why are we here”; and “Where are we going” are questions that go unanswered.

When God is abandoned, we have no standard of reference from which to make sense of things. Consequently, people become misguided and ignorant in their thoughts or reasoning i. e. their reasoning is without reason. Some translations say their thoughts become “complete nonsense.” Their heart becomes “foolish” i. e. without discernment, void of understanding and senseless. Although such a people consider themselves wise, in actuality they are “fools.” This is the sad results when one attempts to explain this world and the things in the world apart from God’s revelation of Himself and His will.

God’s standard, or rules, if you please, are for our good always, (Deut. 6: 24) even though we may not always think so. They are found in His written Word, and we will do well to conform our lives to it (Col. 3: 17), because by it we will be judged (Jn. 12: 48).That is why we should “Fear (respect, honor) God and keep His commandments” with the understanding that “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl.12: 14). Think on these things. <Dennis Abernathy>

Another Article About ‘Virtual’ Meetings

Posted on: August 28th, 2022

“So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.” 1 Corinthians 11:33

Our verse today, found in instructions about the Lord’s Supper, reminds us of the value of worshipping together. That is not a new thought. In the Psalms we find that concept repeated often. For instance: Psa. 34:3 “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” Psa. 122:1 “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”

Together — you and me. That spells fellowship. That is the foundation of unity. That is team work. That is a church. Sounds simple. Basic concepts. Nothing too new here. However, there is coming a new wrinkle. The pandemic has changed so much. Books are being published about the post-covid church, and the arising virtual church.

Some national health experts are declaring that society ought never to shake hands again. Many prominent religious leaders are declaring that as much as 30% of the church will never again gather in a church building. So, the virtual church becomes a reality. Worshipping from home becomes the new way of doing things. And, there is a great appeal to that. One doesn’t have to get up early, get cleaned up and drive down to the building. You can roll out of bed in your jammies, with bed hair, have a cup of coffee and just worship away. How easy. How convenient. How wonderful this is.

Out of this pandemic, look for many church buildings to be sold. Why have all that real estate when the virtual church is the new wave. Just a camera, a few lights and a means to broadcast and worship comes to you. There will be a rise of production teams rather than preachers. More will know about livestreaming than the living word of God. Virtual will be the way the future goes.

Now, What’s My Take On All Of This?

First, we must not get too comfortable with virtual. For now, it may be what we have to do, but not forever. We need to be reminding folks that we need them back in the church building. Staying at home may be easy, comfortable and what they like, but it’s not the N.T. pattern. Our verse today states, “when you come together.” We need to be together. We need to see each other’s faces. We need to hear each other’s voices. And, Zoom isn’t the answer. The answer is to get up and get down to the church house when you can.

Second, convenient has never been in God’s vocabulary. Do you think it was convenient for Noah to build the ark? How about Moses going to Pharaoh? How about wandering through the wilderness? And, the cross? Convenient? Paul’s travels? Sometimes convenient can be just one step away from being lazy. We already worship conveniently. We gather in church buildings that are cooled in the summer and heated in the winter. The pews are padded. There are bathrooms everywhere. There are lights, speakers, powerpoint, song books. I’d say that we already have this convenient thing down pretty good.

Third, there is a mighty temptation to skip around when worshipping virtually. Church is singing a song you don’t like. Go somewhere else for a few moments. Don’t like the prayer, then fast forward. Hit the high points of the sermon—not the whole thing. And, what we have done is really gutted worship. It’s so easy. Can’t fast forward through a song when we are in the church building. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I just need that song. Can’t skip a prayer while in the church building. Good. I need to hear others pray. And, in the church building, I have to listen to the whole sermon. The whole thing—from beginning to end. And, maybe, just maybe, I need to hear the whole thing.

Fourth, the virtual church leaves the impression that once I have “done church,” I’m done. I watched. I sang. I prayed. I’m done. Now on to other things. But worship isn’t the end of my responsibilities as a Christian. There is much more that God expects than a Sunday worship. Sitting in the church building reminds me of that. I see others and I’m reminded that I need to pray for that family. I need to send a card to that person. I need to connect with that one. Family means obligations and responsibilities. In the virtual church, it’s just me and my tablet. Isolated. Unplugged. And, soon to be indifferent.

Across the country, school teachers are seeing that virtual education is ok, but it’s not as good as in the classroom. The need to see, hear and interact with others is important. The same is true of our Bible classes and our worship. Bible class is more than just imparting the information, there is the interaction, the connections, the help we receive from others.

We know that in other relationships in life, virtual doesn’t work. Can you image a virtual marriage. Here is a couple and they do not even live in the same state, yet, virtually they are married. No. How about a virtual family? No. A virtual job? No. A virtual vacation? Forget it. I have watched virtual concerts. Not the same. Not even close. A virtual church? A virtual preacher? A virtual membership? Forget it. Don’t go there.

Some will. Some will see nothing wrong with being a member of VC (virtual church). Instead of a street address, there will be a website address given. I wonder how a virtual church practices discipline? Most modern churches never do. But if they did, what would they do? Defriend someone? Take away a password? How will Paul’s words in 1 Cor 5, “Not even to eat with such a one,” work virtually?

The modern churches always chases after the newest fads. Virtual church is the newest. And, in the end, I suppose they hope to go to Heaven. I wonder if folks in a virtual church would be satisfied with a virtual Heaven? Not me. Give me the real thing!

Come together—that’s what disciples did. That’s what we must do. <Roger Shouse>

Faith and Evidence

Posted on: August 21st, 2022

Several years ago I decided I needed a hobby. I had many interests – basketball, fantasy baseball, music – but I engaged in all of these past times with members of the church where I preached, or with fellow Christians in the area. I needed a hobby that would put me in contact with people from all walks of life. So I looked up the closest chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, and over the last 17 years I have made a large and diverse bunch of friends.
As it happens, several of my barbershop singing friends are from Sweden, and – typical of the very secular climate in Sweden – they are not believers. A few of them are quite belligerent about their atheism. Last fall, I fell into a discussion on Facebook with one of them, a discussion I was frankly hesitant to engage in, given the nasty reputation that debates on social media have earned. But in this case, I am glad to say that my fears were misplaced. Over the course of nearly three weeks, several atheists and agnostics in Sweden as well as in the States joined in and presented arguments against Christianity, and gave me a very courteous hearing as I responded.
What actually precipitated the discussion was a post one of my atheist friends made in which he said no one believed in Christianity because of evidence, but simply because it provided a hope for an afterlife. When I responded that through the centuries believers had offered many powerful rational arguments for belief in God based on evidence, he replied with this statement:
Sorry but you just cannot argue that there is any kind of evidence whatsoever that supports Christianity. If there were, it wouldn’t be called “belief”.
In his mind, Christianity is a belief based on no evidence whatsoever.
This viewpoint is based on a gross misunderstanding of what “faith” is. Christianity has never claimed that faith is “belief without evidence.” To the contrary, from the earliest days of the preaching of the apostles, great emphasis was placed on logical argumentation. Notice these examples from Acts:
– And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ” (17:2-3)
– Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there (17:16-17).
– And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks (18:4)
Mark Twain may have thought that faith is “believing what you know ain’t so,” but that is not what the apostles believed! They used reasoning and logic to argue from the evidence found in the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. If someone wants to challenge whether the apostolic belief in Jesus was justified, that is fair, and Christians are eager to take up that challenge and look at the evidence. But what cannot be disputed is that the apostles claimed it was a justified belief. They didn’t simply argue on the basis of wishful thinking.
It is true that at a very basic level, faith involves an intellectual commitment to believe in unseen realities. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We can’t see God, and we didn’t see the risen Lord. But this exhausts only the most juvenile definition of faith. The fuller concept of biblical faith has to do with confidence and trust. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Even though we cannot see God, we believe that the evidence for His existence is overwhelming in the order of nature (as Paul argued in Acts 14:16-17). And even though we did not witness the resurrection of Jesus, we believe the testimony of the apostles has decisively demonstrated its truthfulness (as Paul claimed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). And because this evidence is so powerful, we are willing to place our total trust, our complete confidence, in Christ. That is what faith means to a Christian. Complete trust in Christ on the basis of evidence. <Shane Scott>

Conversion of Cornelius

Posted on: August 14th, 2022

In Acts 10 we are introduced to Cornelius.  Prior to this chapter he is unknown.  We quickly learn that he and his family are Gentiles in Caesarea.  He is a centurion in a group called the Italian Cohort of the Roman Army.  We learn he is a devout man, he and his household feared God, he gave many alms and prayed to God continually.  He did all this as a Gentile.

Cornelius was God-fearing but needed to be taught.  He needed to know more.  He was sent a vision by an angel of the Lord.  The vision told him his “prayers and alms ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4). He was commanded to send some men to the home of Simon the Tanner in Joppa and seek an audience with Simon also, called Peter.  They were to request his presence in Caesarea.  Being the man that Cornelius was, he did as commanded.

The men who were sent to Joppa found Peter where they were told he would be.  Peter returned with the men to the home of Cornelius.  Upon his arrival, he found a gathering of family and close friends in the home of Cornelius.

Upon Peter’s arrival, Cornelius dropped to his knees to worship Peter.  This shows that even though Cornelius was a God-fearing man, he was not educated in the Lord.  He seemed to rely on the knowledge he had of the worship of idols and other things that were commonplace among Romans.  Peter told Cornelius to rise and then corrected Cornelius, advising that he is only a man.  Peter entered the home of Cornelius and briefly reminded them of the Jewish law.  At this time, it was a violation of Jewish Law for a Jew to even associate with a Gentile.   It was also believed that Gentiles could be saved. He then told them that he had been shown by God “that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Peter realized that God now welcomed all who fear and do right by Him.  Peter began preaching about peace through Jesus Christ and told them of the good Jesus did with the power of God.  He then told how Jesus was crucified, raised from the dead, and how Peter himself and others were commanded to go and preach to all the world.

While Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening, and they received it.  Peter stopped and “told them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48).  Peter then ordered his fellow Jews, those who had traveled with him, to baptize Cornelius and his family.

We are not told how Cornelius came to be such a devoted believer in God.  We are not told that he ever met Jesus or witnessed the miracles He performed. There is no record that Jesus ever went to Caesarea.  Cornelius’ lack of education is further evidenced by the mistake of kneeling to Peter upon his arrival.

Cornelius’ faith and belief was strong but like us today, he did not get to see the miracles that Jesus performed.  He did not have any personal experience of the love or power of Jesus, yet he believed.  We can read the word of God and the deeds of Jesus and the Apostles and be strong in our faith.  “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

As we go through life, it is easy to stray from God by something that sounds good or by something we hear and want to be true.  Christians do this every day. Since we are prone to sin and distraction, we need to be prepared for correction at any time.  We need to be willing to accept correction as Cornelius did.  However, one must not rely only on another telling them the right way or what to believe.  Cornelius had a vision from an angel.  Do your own research, ask questions and when confronted with the truth, be ready to accept it.

Cornelius was a leader in many ways.  In his professional life he was the leader of men.  He led men to battle, those men believed in him and followed him.  In his personal life he was a leader.  He led his family and friends to God and the promise of eternal life in Heaven.  He feared the Lord, not opinions or feelings.  He was not ashamed, nor did he hide who he was or what he believed.

We should strive to believe as Cornelius believed.  He was a strong leader and strong in his belief.  He believed in God with all his heart during a time when many believed that the Gentiles would not or could not be saved.   Cornelius is an example that the Gospel truly is for all. <Neal Ashworth>

Reflection Of The Psalms 84

Posted on: August 7th, 2022

For others the word “Home” is not so happy. For them, home was more of a place of bitter words, arguments, tears, pain and sadness. These places were more a battleground than a place of security. How many people, when they were young, visited friends and observed a home of love and happiness? How many felt the pang of loss over what could have been but wasn’t in their own lives? Yes, everyone wants – needs – a place that can be identified as “home”.

Of course, the Jews of the Old Testament had the places where they lived and raised their children. They had their physical homes, but they also looked to a place that was their spiritual home – the Temple in Jerusalem. The Psalmist, in Psalm 84, wrote in the first two verses, “How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”

It may be that the psalmist had been gone from Jerusalem for some time or lived in a distant city. Whatever the reason, the writer missed being in the Temple and courts of God. He missed the opportunity to worship God – to show Him his love. He missed being there so much that he envied the people that lived in, or near the Temple. In verse 4, the Psalmist wrote, “How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You.”

One might wonder if the people that dwelled within the Temple and served in the Temple shared the Psalmist’s faith and love? Did they still retain that same sense of wonder and love? Had day to day routine slowly leached out the joy and wonder to the point that everything was taken for granted? Did the priests, attendants and people still look beyond the fine trappings of the Temple and see the true and living God? How easy for daily activities to become common place, or blessings to become rights.

Today, Christians have a much clearer picture of God’s Plan. The “mystery of the ages” was revealed in the Good News of Jesus Christ. The physical Temple was replaced with a Spiritual Temple. In Christ the key issue of sin was resolved through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every Christian could now approach God in prayer and worship crying out Abba! Father! No Christian should have to feel the physical separation that the Psalmist felt in Psalm 84.

Yet… how many Christians have allowed this to become routine? How many are forgetting the blessed specialness, the unique relationship with God that comes from being a Christian? How many are allowing life to slowly erode away faith due to inattention? What a tragedy!

In Christ, every man and woman has a Home that will not wear out, burn down, be flooded, or sold. Every Christian man and woman knows that there is a place prepared that is the very essence of love, warmth, joy, and welcome. The Psalmist wrote, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!” (11-12)

God has laid out His Plan in His Word. He has given clear instructions on how a person can find a home with Him for eternity. All a person has to do is follow those instructions and then GROW in knowledge, faith, and love. GROW with the certain knowledge that the greatest Homecoming is still ahead. And when that time finally occurs, all the struggle, pain, prayers, burdens, and everything else in this life will have been worth it.

Paul wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 16-18)

Keep the joy, build the faith, look forward with hope, learn and apply the Lord’s Word; because there WILL be a Homecoming for all of His children. Amen, even so come Lord Jesus! <Jim Shelburn>

The Search For Assurance

Posted on: July 31st, 2022

It was a discussion between preacher friends.  We were wrestling with the question of how  confident Christians ought to be, moment by moment, about their salvation. Some were arguing for an absolute assurance, others for a more cautious one. There is perhaps no concern which weaves its way so pervasively through the history of God’s people as does the desire for assurance in one’s relation ship with God. Christians seem to vacillate between two contrasting themes of Scripture—assurance (I John 5:3) and warning (I Corinthians 10:12).

The subject of assurance has been hotly debated down through the centuries, especially in the Calvinist – Armenian controversies. Are all who have been converted to Christ unconditionally assured of their eternal salvation, or is the life of a Christian one of probation in which his relationship to God is conditioned on faithfulness? Nothing is more clearly established in Scripture than the possibility of apostasy. As certainly as the wicked can turn and be saved, so can the righteous fall and be lost (Ezekiel 18:21-26). A Christian’s fellowship with his Father is dependent upon an ongoing spirit of obedient faith (Romans 11:19-22; I Corinthians 15:1-2; Colossians 1:22-23; Hebrews 3:6,14).

Does this mean that we must live our lives in daily uncertainty about our relationship with God? Are we never, on this account, to experience any moment-by-moment assurance of our hope? This is a question which troubles many Christians and deserves study.

The evidence of Scripture on this matter is unequivocal. The heavenly Father clearly intends for His children to know assurance. The cry of “Abba, Father” is a cry of joy and confidence which comes from being sons, not slaves, of the living God (Romans 8:15). Paul affirms that the very essence of the kingdom is “righteousness, peace and joy” (Romans 14:17) and names “love, joy and peace” as among the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). It goes without saying that there cannot be peace without assurance, and no joy without peace.

The apostle Paul himself is a great illustration of the confidence a Christian may have of his relationship with God. In the final hours of his life, he confidently affirms that “there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day” (II Timothy 4:8). In his heart there was a certainty about his destiny, an assurance of his salvation.

It may be objected that the case of Paul, as an apostle, is different than our own. It should not be. As a sinner, he was saved by the grace of God just as you and I must be. Having no righteousness of his own (Philippians 3:9), he was “justified by faith in Christ” (Galatians 2:16).

There are only two ways to be justified before God—by my own perfect righteousness or by God’s grace. Since all men have sinned (Romans 3:10, 23; Ecclesiastes 7:21), seeking to find peace with God through our own righteousness is a dead end street. Confidence in our salvation and the peace it produces can come only from God’s grace and assured promises. It is what God has done, not what we have done, which gives assurance of salvation. We are justified by faith—looking up to God, not to ourselves (Romans 3:21-26).

Does this mean that we no longer have to be concerned about sin in our lives? To the contrary, the person who truly trusts in God as Father has never before fought sin so ferociously nor hated it so intensely (Romans 6:1-14). True faith works the will of God (Romans 1:5; Galatians 5:6; James 2:14-26). True love keeps the commandments of Christ (John 14:15). Any failure to please our Savior will bring grief (II Corinthians 7:10) and result in penitent confession (I John 1:9).

But what if I am deceived and sin ignorantly? A single-minded will to do God’s will (John 7:17) and a genuine love of His truth (II Thessalonians 2:10) are an absolute defense against deception. If we trust in God with a whole heart, all that we yet need to know of His way will be revealed to us (Philippians 3:13-15). It is our task to bring to our Father a true heart. It is His task to redeem His trusting child, and He is liable “to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

But what if I study God’s word and do all I know to do to serve Him and still can’t find peace in my heart about my salvation? Remember that “if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things” (I John 3:19-20). Put confidence in His promises, not your feelings.

God intends that the heart of every humble child of His be guarded by a peace which passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). The assurance of our hope comes to us moment by moment as we live our lives in faith. But it is not an assurance which is arrogant, cocky or heedless. No true servant of God, trusting Him, loving Him, ever dealt fast and loose with temptation or sin. The same one who said that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God” also said, “I buffet my body and bring it into bondage lest after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected” (I Corinthians 9:27). The assurance of God is a holy confidence joined to a sober vigilance, in order that what we now assuredly hold, by His grace, may never be lost. <Paul Earnhart>

Focusing On The Eternal

Posted on: July 24th, 2022

The Bible and the history it records starts with these words: “In the beginning, God…” From the very first statement in the Bible, God is revealed as the eternal Creator. When Moses blessed the children of Israel in Deut. 33:27, he said, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…” Paul wrote in Romans 1:20-21, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” God is eternal. He has always been and He will always be. And God wants us, as His creation, to view our lives in relation to eternity. God created us with a much larger purpose than to simply be His people here on this earth. He created us with the capacity to sense that there is something beyond this temporary life. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon tells us that the Lord “has put eternity in their hearts.” We were made with a capacity to grasp eternity and with a purpose to know the eternal God!

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and theologian –noted especially for his contributions to the study of fluids. I had to memorize what is known as Pascal’s Law (the basis for hydraulics) in several physics courses I took in college. However, I am more impressed with his observations concerning the spiritual realm. Pascal wrote in “Pensees” (“Thoughts”):

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God Himself.”

Pascal was basically saying that there is a longing for the eternal in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any physical thing. Pascal was simply stating what the scriptures had already declared (see Eccl. 12:13; John 4:13-14; Acts 17:27-28). Only God can fill that eternal place in our hearts. Life will never be as full or good without a relationship with the Lord. We may try to fill that longing for the eternal with money or fame or popularity or our jobs — but those kinds of things will not satisfy. A focus on merely physical things and relationships will not make life what it ought to be. It will not satisfy what we were made for. Only the eternal God can fill that void and longing – that sense of being created for more than just what we can see around us.

That’s why Paul told the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 4:18, “…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Paul said our focus should be on the things which are not seen. What we see around us is only temporary. It is not going to last. And if we focus on just the temporary, we will never see the eternal. It is essential that we learn to look beyond this life. Because the things that we cannot see are the very basis of our faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:3). As His people, God has provided us with ample evidence of His existence and His ove for us – but we have to lift our eyes above this life to begin to see and understand eternity. <Kevan O’Banion>