Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Bored of Being “Born Again?”

Posted on: April 11th, 2021

Are you bored of being “Born Again”? In your quest to be self-righteous you might quickly say “No!”, but really, nobody is watching. It’s just you and your thoughts. You know yourself. You know what you think about on a regular basis. You know if you are really living the truth, or if you are just trying to live so that others don’t find out you are living a lie. Examine yourself! Are you bored of being “born again”?

There is a certain way of living, a “lifestyle”, when it comes to being born again (Eph. 4:1). That lifestyle is one of purity, holiness, righteousness, and goodness. Sometimes, from a worldly view, those things can seem boring (I Peter 4:3-4). However, the person who is born again, the Christian, is committed to living this honorable lifestyle (II Peter 1:5:1-11). It’s how we learned to live in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:20-21). It’s what we have committed to being in Christ Jesus, and it’s a daily effort to live in such a way that glorifies God (Romans 12:1-2). But then sometimes, there’s that longing to go back isn’t there? Sometimes we may think, “I miss the good old days?” The “good old days” that we are supposed to be ashamed of (Romans 6:21), but through time, in our hearts have become days that we long for.

When we first become a Christian, it’s typically easy for us to be faithful. We have just learned of our sinful ways and the pain, suffering, and death that our sin caused Christ to endure. We have the guilt associated with that sin embedded on our hearts, and it strengthens our resolve to not sin again. However, Jesus warns us all in the Parable of the Sower that there are those who receive His word, but then turn back again to unrighteousness and ungodliness (Matthew 13:3-9). This repenting, this “turning back”, is not without its warning signs; and it would do us well to learn them so that we might be able to identify them if they are ever in our own lives.

Apathy in Worship – The new Christian loves to go to church. The mature Christian loves to go to church. The Christian who is “on fire” for the Lord, is not looking for excuses to miss church are they? They are looking for excuses to BE at church. They wouldn’t be found anywhere else would they? The new Christian has a joy of salvation and serving God in a way that they want to express their joy and love through worship. And so they sing from the heart, they give with joy, they pray with fervor, they observe the Lord’s Supper with solemnity, they read and study the word of God with zeal! To them, none of these things are boring. In fact some of them are exciting, enjoyable, and dare I say it; even sometimes they can be “fun”.

Apathy in Work – I have rarely come across a Christian who has fallen away that is truly active in their service to God. In fact, one of the warning signs a Christian is beginning to backslide, is when they backslide in their work. A new Christian with a true understanding of the gospel message knows that they’re created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10). They know that Jesus has called for Himself a people that are zealous for such (Titus 2:14). They know they are to persevere in the work of the Lord, and know that God will reward them (I Cor. 15:58). But when Christians aren’t serving their fellow brethren, when they aren’t visiting them in the hospital, sending cards or calls to those who are sick or weak, it’s usually because they are ones who are weak (spiritually). Unfortunately, sometimes Christians get bored with the idea of serving others, and go backwards into believing that “fun”… is when others are serving them. Does that describe you? Do you get joy from serving, or from being served?

Apathy in Walk – Though it may be hard sometimes for new Christians to give up certain aspects of their “old life”, they usually understand it is necessary. However, this area, one’s walk, is perhaps where apathy is most dangerous. Because when we get “bored” with “walking aright”, then that usually means we are walking wrong… we are walking in sin. How many times have you heard of the Christian that went back to drinking, or dancing, or dressing inappropriately; all in the name of “fun”? How many times have you heard of the husband or wife, that was longing for “excitement” in their life; and so they began flirting with a coworker, or neighbor, which led to etc.? I could go on and on with examples, and I’m sure you could to. In your life, do you find yourself “flirting with temptation”? Do you find yourself edging towards sin, and longing for the “thrill” of eating forbidden fruit? Sin may look like fun, but that’s just part of its deceitfulness, because the end of sin is not fun; but rather, death! (Romans 6:23)

If being bored is the problem, then maturity is the solution. It takes maturity to look past an “act” and see its consequences, and determine if it really is something that’s fun, or if sin has just deceived us into believing it is fun (Heb. 3:13-14). Take for example drinking. If you just watched the commercials – you would think drinking is all fun. However, if you just visited hospitals, where people were dying of kidney disease, or being treated from alcohol poisoning, or dying from drunk driving accidents… well then you’d realize drinking isn’t nearly as fun as advertised. That the “risk” isn’t even remotely worth the “reward”. If your daily goal as a Christian, is to mature in the Lord, and you actively work daily toward that goal, then THAT is how you can safeguard yourself against the dangers of apathy.

Are you bored of “Being Born-Again”? Then it’s time to stop being bored, and start being restored. If in reading this article you realize that any of the warning signs of apathy in worship, work, or walk apply to you, then it’s time to do something about it. Don’t keep walking down the path of apathy. Know that it is time to get things right. Know that NOW is the time to get busy and get excited about your service to the Lord again. Don’t wait till you’re lost in sin. Don’t wait till you damage your life, or the lives of others. Wake up NOW, and get busy in the Lord. (Rom. 13:11-14) <David Osteen>

Every Person’s Personal Participation

Posted on: March 28th, 2021

The Bible is perennial.  It never has to be renewed and revised since it is pertinent to any age and applicable to any culture.  It says the same thing to a nation with a Socialist government as to a free Democratic society.  In fact, the Bible is so fixed by God that it will tolerate no change and condemns any effort to alter it in any way (II John 9-11).

The Bible is primarily for persons. Everything in it is intended to speak to an individual’s relationship to God– how he can respect Him as God, how he can please Him–and man’s relationship to man–how he can respect Him, how he can be of service to him.  It has a very personal message (Matthew 22:37).  The faith it causes is personal–between a man and God. Its various requirements call for personal decisions–those that come because a man has been stricken by some moral obligation. The promises it affords are intimate, based on a person’s confidence that God will do what He has said. Nobody can obey the law of God for someone else.  There is no such thing as some kind of substitutionary obedience.  True obedience comes only when the person under obligation decides in his own mind to react to what is required of him. In short, the Bible is a private communication between a man and his God.

However, the Bible also contains instructions for how those persons are to act in groups.  It tells them, for instance, how each person is to function in society, what his obligations are to government, and especially how he is to act in association with others in what is described as “the church,” other saved people (Acts 2:38). It should be carefully observed, however, that even when it addresses things having to do with behavior in a congregation, it begins with instructions to the individual regarding his own attitudes and conduct.  Even then, his attitudes and actions are directed toward God and the persons that comprise the group, and not to some nebulous “corporation” of some sort.

For instance: when a person observes the Lord’s Supper he is to do so only after having examined himself (I Corinthians11:28).  When a person gives of his means, he is to do so having purposed in his own heart.  And when a man sings, he should make melody in his own heart (I Corinthians 14″15).  Collective worship is acceptable to God only as the individuals who offer it are acceptable to God. Solomon says, “keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God.” He says “thy foot,” not their’s (Ecclesiastes 5:1) It’s every person’s job to be ready to worship.

Neither is service measured in corporate terms.  Each person’s service is his own.  True, it may have an effect on others, it may even be a part of what they do, but it is, in the final reality, his own service (Gal. 6:4).

Far too many folks think that because a certain congregation has a “good name,” or is known to be active and functional, they are part of it.  But to really be a part, you have to do your part. And that means more than just giving into a common treasury.  If you are able, you need to participate.  That means doing something, getting involved, partaking.

It seems to me that three things are necessary for personal participation:

Decide how you can help.  Every person has his own talent (Matthew 25).  Before you can manage yours, you must be aware of what it is.  You know what you can do.  Think about how you can use that to help with the plan being considered. Or if the occasion calls for it, do it by yourself.  Many an opportunity has been lost because someone had to call someone to help get it done. Consider the good Samaritan (Luke 10).  He just did what he could–and with no help.  And remember, every talent is important or God would not have given it.

Make up your mind to do it.  Nobody can make up your mind. Actually, as Jesus said, (Matthew 16:24), you must “take up your own cross.” Other people may have an influence but, in the final reality, your choice is yours and nobody else’s. Your cross is yours and nobody else’s. Consider others, certainly, but be independent.  Choose for yourself.

Run the risk.  Sure, you may get embarrassed. You may even have to hurt a little–maybe even a lot. But do it anyhow. Yes, there may be some who can do it better than you, but does that absolve you of your responsibility or remove your obligation?  More than that, don’t let diffidence rob you of the personal satisfaction of having done what you could.

Remember, for the Christian, forgiveness, service, pain, and satisfaction are all personal.  Be prepared to share them–personall­y. After all is said and done, it’s all up to you.

The Bible is perennial. It never has to be renewed and revised since it is pertinent to any age and applicable to any culture.

<Dee Bowman>

Reflections of the Psalms – Psalm 75

Posted on: March 21st, 2021

It is interesting how a Christian’s study of the Psalms probably differs from a man that read them during the Old Testament period. For example, in Psalm 75:1 the writer wrote, “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks, for Your name is near; men declare Your wondrous works.” For a Jew of the Old Testament, the “name” referred to the covenant name that God had given the Jewish people. That name is often translated in newer translations as “the Lord God”. In older translations it was translated Jehovah.

However, when a Christian thinks about the Name of God, two names come to mind. First is “Father” and the second is “Jesus Christ”. Both names show that a much closer relationship is now available to all people. The name “Father” indicates the close family relationship that CAN exist between a person and God. Jesus Christ is the very picture of pure love and sacrifice for all people. Jesus Christ was not only the sacrifice, but He also is an advocate before the Father on behalf of all Christians.

Too often, the great blessing that those two names reflect are taken for granted today. But in the ancient world, it was something that was greeted with great joy and rejoicing by many people. The terrible irony is that so many people in this country today are actively searching for “something” that will bring them peace and hope. But they won’t accept the invitation of God, because it has to be something more complicated or mysterious.

Christians look back to the days described in Acts and often wish that people could be as responsive today as they were then. Well, in many so-­called “primitive” parts of the world, people still do rejoice when they first hear about the loving relationship that all can have in Jesus Christ. It makes one wonder what makes a culture “advanced” and “primitive”!
Verse two of the psalm also holds great signif­icance for the Christian, “When I select an appointed time, it is I who judge with equity.” For the Jews, God’s help was remembered in the great act that occurred at the Red Sea when the people were taken out of bondage. Throughout their history God’s help was seen in the various ways that the people were saved from their many enemies. When the Nation of Israel fell away, they also felt the wrath and judgment of God.

However, for the Christian, the real appointed time was when Jesus Christ was born, lived, died, and was resurrected. In the fullness of time, Jesus came and the world was changed forever. With Jesus Christ, the basic problem, of sin was finally, and forever, resolved. Because of that historical event, salvation is open for all people who will accept the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ.

In verses 4 through 8, the psalmist addressed those that refused to follow the will and instruction of the Lord God. “I said to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn; do not lift up your horn on high, do not speak with insolent pride.’ For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another. For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams; it is well mixed, and He pours out of this; surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.”

In verse 7, his message was simple, “But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.” No matter how strong, ruthless, rich, or powerful a man may be in this world, the real destiny of each and every person will be decided by God. Therefore, there can. be no boasting, or arrogance, or exalting, because everyone will eventually bow down before the authority and glory of the Lord.

In verse 9, the psalmist began his statement by saying, “But as for me…”. That kind of attitude was critical then, and it is critical today. Faithfulness before the Lord will not often be a majority opinion among people. Frequently, popular attitudes and opinions will be against what the Lord requires. However, right and wrong has never been determined by majority vote. Look at Noah. Except for Noah and his family, the world was destroyed because they would not follow the Lord. Today, the pressure is great to follow this way or that way. But the true Way is found in the Will and Word of God. The Psalmist knew that, and all Christians would do well to remember that every day of their lives. <James Shelburn>

Social Media

Posted on: March 14th, 2021

We live in a time period where our advancement of technology has introduced a new way of communicating. It is called social media. Social media offers many positive and constructive things. It has opened doors for the spread of the gospel that might otherwise not be available.  I have heard of gospel preachers having Bible studies with people in other countries. It allows parents and children, when separated by distance, to see each other face to face.  Social media has simply exploded the opportunities for communicating.

I would like to challenge all who use this medium to think about a couple of things. Too often it is used negatively rather than positively.  When used negatively I wonder, would we say face to face what we post?  Why does social media keep gossip from being gossip? Why does social media permit me to vent my anger using words of malice? Does social media make those things right? Are they now acceptable? How does ripping in to someone and destroying their reputation become right simply because it is posted on social media? How is a temper fit and rant justified because it was posted on social media?  Do the simple principles and Biblical truths vanish because we have social media?
We need to think before we post, “Am I applying the Golden Rule? Am I doing unto others what I would they do unto me?” Doesn’t the Golden Rule still have merit?

We need to think before we post, “Am I being kindly affectionate toward one another in brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Rom. 12:10)? Is that applicable because I slay with a key board?”

We need think before we post, “Is this walking worthy of my calling with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3)?”

We need to think before we post, “Am I being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, one mind (Phil. 2:2)?  Am I esteeming others better than myself (Phil. 2:3)? Is this representative of the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:4)? Does using social media and using a keyboard change that?”

Okay you’ve got me. I am not on social media. But I also have never slept on a bed of poison ivy. Further, I have never run in front of a Mack truck. I have never slept in a den of rattlesnakes either. Does that disqualify me from warning anyone about engaging in any of those behaviors?

I may not know much about social media, because I am not on it, but I do know something about the Bible. I do know something about the carnage I see that is a by-product of people who misbehave or do not properly handle social media.

Social media does not change our responsibility to God to be responsible for what we post. What we post still says something about our heart. It says something about our intentions. It also does not change the spiritual truth that I will be accountable for what I say and what I post.

Maybe I am too simple. I just don’t get it. Why would people who are supposed to have a common faith in Christ, and share a common love, be so malignant toward each other on social media? We can be better!

Oh, one more thing. Lest I be guilty of what I warn, I am not saying something with the keyboard that I have not said publicly many times. Hopefully reading will be more effective than speaking has been.

– Rickie Jenkins

Don’t Quit In the Middle of a Marathon!

Posted on: March 7th, 2021

I’ve made the statement before that the Christian’s race is a marathon, not a sprint. The Hebrew writer says as much in chapter 12, verse 1: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Now, it’s relatively easy to run the race when the sun is shining, the breeze is gentle and cool, and everything is going our way, but how often does that happen? The devil knows that he can attempt to trip us up anywhere along the race course, so he sets various pitfalls in our path. We all stumble and sin from time to time (1 John 1:8-9 reminds us of this) but Christians strive to serve God. With the Lord’s help we run the race to the best of our ability. The devil continues to set various traps to get us to stop in the middle of the marathon. It might be well for us to consider some of his snares (2 Cor. 2:11).

The devil will use a pet sin to entice us to quit the race. Each of us has sins which are especially attractive to us. That’s why James 1:14 says, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” The devil wants us to indulge in that pet sin until it becomes an entrenched habit. Eventually, that fault will become a weight no runner can carry. At first the runner may deceive himself into thinking he can handle that sin—give it up any time he wants—but soon the sin has him. Since the Christian’s race is a marathon, all Satan needs to do is get us to repeat our pet sin over time. If true repentance never takes place, one day we will quit the race altogether.

We may stop running because of a conflict with a brother or sister in Christ. Christians should be an encouragement to one another. In fact, Heb. 10:24 says we are to motivate one another to love and good works. Sadly, sometimes saints develop interpersonal problems that threaten their spirituality. Maybe it’s a dispute over some doctrinal point. Maybe it’s more of a personality problem. Perhaps there’s some kind of long-standing feud that has never been satisfactorily resolved. Unfortunately, one may become so discouraged in the midst of the conflict that he quits the Lord. I’ve seen it happen more than once. The brother or sister’s faith is not strong enough to overcome the confrontation. We may do well to remember that, even though Paul and Barnabas “had no small dispute” (Acts 15:2), neither one quit the race.

We may stop in the middle of the marathon because of adversity or persecution. Of course, Christians should remember that serving Christ involves taking up our cross (Matt. 16:24). The Lord never promised us a painless, problem-free life. Far from it! “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Along the way people will poke fun at us for being Christians. We may have to wrestle with a serious disease. Money problems and job troubles may assail us. Some we love may reject us because of our faith. If we’re not careful, we may be tempted to throw up our hands and stop running. Instead, let’s dwell on Paul’s words in Rom. 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Finally, some stop in the middle of the marathon because they simply grow tired. Gal. 6:9 admonishes us not to “grow weary while doing good,” but sometimes that’s difficult to remember. We need the help and encouragement of fellow saints. We need the strength of prayer and the foundation of solid preaching. We may need a helping hand to lift us from a ditch of despair. A marathon is a tough race, and sometimes the miles seem too long to finish. If one stops in the middle of a marathon, it’s hard to start running again. The devil wants us to quit before the race is completed. We dare not let him win. –John N. Evans

Sometimes It’s Just Hard

Posted on: February 28th, 2021

There’s a misconception that can sometimes be present among Christians, or at least one I had while younger. That misconception is that once you become a Christian, everything’s going to become automatically easier. Dealing with the challenges of life, difficult people or just the daily temptations we face will suddenly become simple. My faith in God and His promises will allow me to handle anything without wavering. Then, as Paul Harvey used to say, we are faced with the rest of the story. We face challenges unlike previous ones. We see sin take hold of people we looked up to and they give up their faith. Our lives may not turn out the way we had always envisioned. We can even begin to question how God could allow these things to happen. We may even begin to wonder, am I the only one to have these questions? Everyone else’s faith in God seems to be perfectly strong, why isn’t mine? When dealing with this doubt and fear we can tend to tell ourselves the biggest lie of all: It’s just me. I am all alone. No one else could possibly understand.

We see several examples in scripture of those that had similar thoughts. In 73, Asaph openly discusses how he had moments where things occurring in his life didn’t make sense to him. The wicked prospered and the righteous suffered, (Psalms 73:3-5). He doubted God’s justice until he came into the sanctuary (the place of worship). “Then I perceived their end” Psalms 73:17. His faith in God then grew stronger. He then understood that the end of the wicked was different than the end of the righteous and boldly proclaims, “whom have I in heaven but you?” Psalms 73:25.
But Asaph wasn’t alone in having times of weak faith. Look at the following passages, where Jesus describes His own apostles as having “little faith”:

• Matt 8:22-27 – “…why are you timid you men of little faith…” when Jesus calmed the sea

• Matt 14:22-33 – “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” when Peter attempted to walk on water

• Matt 16:5-12 – “…you men of little faith…” when the disciples were concerned because they had forgotten bread

• Matt 17:14-20 – “…unbelieving and perverse generation…” when the disciples were unable to heal the epileptic

Contrast the above with the following verses where Jesus commends someone for their great faith:

• Matt 8:5-13 – centurion described as having greater faith than in all of Israel

• Matt 9:1-8 – those that brought the paralytic to Jesus

• Matt 9:18-22 – the woman that touched Jesus’ garment

• Matt 9:27-31 – the two blind men made well

What differences do you see between these examples? I think we can summarize a few. Little faith focuses on fears, the things of this world and what the created can do while great faith focuses on our dependence on God, the eternal, and what our creator is able to accomplish. We can tend to have many of these same issues, so how do we deal with them? Do we give up and walk away or do we, like the apostles and Asaph, try to draw closer to Jesus and gain a better understanding of His will?

When we’re in the midst of a challenging time and the obstacles we face seem overwhelming, let’s learn from what we read and work to grow our faith. Let us not get so down on ourselves and think we’re the only ones. Hey, even the apostles struggled with “little faith” at times. Rather, let’s go into God’s sanctuary to worship. Let’s spend time where the answers are – in God’s revealed word. Let’s put our focus on our Creator and understand the care and concern He has displayed for each of us. Let’s focus on what our God can and will do for us. Let’s focus on the eternal instead of the temporal. It’s not always easy, in fact it sometimes just hard. But when we do that, the cares and concerns of this life tend to go away, and we too will have “Great Faith”.
“Lord I believe, help my unbelief”
– Travis Everett

Responsibilities of Church Membership

Posted on: February 21st, 2021

The church is the body of saved people (Eph. 5:23). The moment a person is saved they are added by the Lord to His church (Acts 2:47). The act that saves one automatically makes them a part of the body of saved people. However, as individual Christians, we must join ourselves to a faithful local church (Acts 9:26).

A local church is a functioning unit of Christians who have joined themselves together and have made a commitment to carry out the work God has given to the local church (evangelism, edification, limited benevolence). This work will get done, to the greatest extent possible, if every member does their share. If you are a member of a local church (and you should be if you are a Christian), you have responsibilities to that church.

1. Faithful Attendance. Some people look upon church attendance as a trivial thing. This was not the attitude or practice taught in the New Testament. When the saints assembled to worship, every member was expected to be present. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).

The word “forsaking” means to abandon, desert, or leave behind. Those who are missing because they are sick, shut-in, called into work, or out of town are not forsaking the assembling of the saints. Those who are tending to an emergency are not forsaking. However, those who are missing for various other reasons likely are forsaking the assembling of the saints.

2. Receive God’s Word. The word of God is to be taught in the assemblies of the church. The early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). When the word is being taught, we are to “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Like the noble-minded Bereans, we are to receive the word with all readiness of heart and search the Scriptures to make sure we are hearing the truth (Acts 17:11). As we grow in our knowledge of God’s word, we will become stronger Christians, which will make us better members of the local church.

3. Contribute to the Work of the Church. Members are expected to support the work of the local church with various personal sacrifices.

We are to contribute our money. The work of evangelism, edification and benevolence often requires money. The church is only authorized to raise these funds through the weekly free-will contributions of the members. We are to lay by in store every first day of the week, giving as we have prospered (1 Cor. 16:2). “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).

We are also to contribute our time and talents. The local church is made up of different people who have been blessed with different talents and opportunities (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-18; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Pet. 4:11). We all have something to supply to the work. The member who hides his talent is hindering the work of the church will not be blessed by the Lord (Matt. 25:24-30).

4. Submit to Others. To submit means “to yield to the action, control or power of another or others.” Submission has nothing to do with one’s importance or self-worth. It has to do with voluntarily surrendering or yielding to the will of another. We practice submission in different areas of our lives. In the church we are expected to submit to the will of Christ (Luke 6:46), other members (Eph. 5:21) and the elders (1 Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:17). We need to remember that the local church is not my church, and it is not your church, it is the Lord’s church.

5. Keep the Unity. Unity in the local church is the will of God. Jesus prayed for our unity (John 17:20-21). The apostle Paul pleaded for the members of the church in Corinth not to be divided, but to be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). The Holy Spirit has set forth the grounds upon which this unity is to be established and maintained. However, it is the responsibility of every member to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3-6).

Membership in the Lord’s church is a great blessing. With great blessings also come great responsibilities. Let’s devote ourselves to fulfilling these responsibilities in a way that brings about the growth of the church to the glory of God. <Heath Rogers>

Silence Is Golden

Posted on: February 14th, 2021

The phrase, “silence is golden” may sound like a saying from Scripture, but like “cleanliness is next to godliness”, the literal phrase is not found in the Bible. However, the Bible recognizes that silence has a place in our lives as much as speaking: “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Silence in those appropriate times certainly is valuable like gold.

TIMES OF COMFORT
When our loved ones are suffering in times of receiving shocking news or experiencing the death of someone close to them, we wonder what words we can say to help. Sometimes being physically present, but verbally silent is the best medicine we can offer.
Job’s friends gathered with him in his physical suffering, and mental shock and “sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13). While “afar off” they saw his physical condition to the point of “knowing him not”. They then “lifted up their voice and wept” (Job 2:12). But in his presence, they did not utter a word. Silence in the presence of very great grief are a at times more eloquent and soothing than any words that could be uttered. Their silence was no doubt comforting. It is when they began to express in words their estimation as to why their friend was suffering that they gave Job much pain and grief.

TIMES OF INTERSPECTION
Our silence can cause others to think of their own actions. Peter was moved to bitter tears when Jesus gave him a silent look (Luke 22:61-62). The silent moment produced a din of guilt thundering in Peter’s conscience. He remembered Jesus’ earlier predictions of Peter’s denial in the face of his own words to the contrary. Jesus’ silence gave room for his earlier words to resonate in Peter’s mind.
Pilate could only marvel when Jesus, in the face of accusations and Pilate’s own demands, refused to answer any more of his questions. (Mark 15:5). Words defending himself before His enemies would not change their murderous scheme. Silence left Pilate thinking of Jesus’ last spoken words claiming He was “King of the Jews” (Mark 15:2), as he faced his own cowardly plans. Our silence certainly forces others to hear and live with their own thoughts.
TIMES OF NEEDED ORDER
How much communication and learning is accomplished when two people are talking over each other? Not much. It is when the restless mob settled down to “great silence” and were “the more silent ” that they gave themselves the opportunity to hear and evaluate Paul’s defense (Acts 19:40, 22:2). When a prophet received a revelation in the assemblies of the church the other prophet speaking was to “keep silence” (I Corinthians 14:30). Prophets were to prophesy “one by one that all may learn and all may be exhorted” (I Corinthians 14:31). Speaking prophets revealed God’s mind. Appropriate silence allowed the words to create learning and exhortation. In the assemblies all things are to be done decently and in order (I Corinthians 14:40). Appropriate silence allows for such edifying occasions. Silence indeed has its golden moments. <Jerry Fite>

DO YOU WANT TO BE CLOSE TO GOD?

Today, think about how close to God you feel. Do you really feel God is with you and that He knows and cares about you? Do you feel God is really involved in your life, or do you feel He is far away from you?
Well, there are four simple steps you can take to get closer to God. First, decide you really want to be close to God. James 1: 7-8 speaks of a “double-minded” man who really hasn’t made up his mind about what he wants. The Bible says that man should not expect to receive anything from God! Yes, to get close to God, you must decide you really want to. Second, do the will of God. Jesus said: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.” (Jn. 14: 23). Third, listen to God every day. As you read and meditate on the Scriptures daily, you will find that the Word of God, the Scriptures, is very persuasive and compelling. The Scriptures have drawing power, and they will draw you closer to God. In Isa. 55: 3, God Himself said: “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live.” Fourth, speak to God every day. Jesus often spoke to His Father in prayer, sometimes rising before dawn to find a quiet place and time. On at least one occasion He spent an entire night in prayer. We desperately need to recognize our need for prayer. As we share our burdens and needs with God, we will find ourselves being drawn closer and closer to Him.
The words of the old hymn: “Be With me Lord,” says it well.

“Be with me, Lord, no other gift or blessing,
Thou couldst bestow could with this one compare;
A constant sense of Thy abiding presence,
Where e’re I am to feel that Thou art near.”

That hymn was sung at my mother’s funeral some 59 years ago. Yes friends, that’s what we all need, and by drawing near to God, that’s what we all can have. Think on these things. <Dennis Abernathy-White Oak Church of Christ-P. O. Box 454-White Oak, TX 75693-903-845-6139-dennis.abernathy845@gmail.com>

When Strength is a Disadvantage

Posted on: February 7th, 2021

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Normally, we think of our own ability as an advantage. Whatever we think we need to do, we’d rather be able to do it than not be able. We cringe at the thought of personal insufficiency, of coming up short. But in our relationship to God and in our work in His kingdom, there is a sense in which our own personal strength can be a disadvantage. “Natural strength is often as great a handicap as natural weakness” (Hannah Hurnard).

Whenever there is something that we can do and we know that we can do it, we are tempted to believe that our strength is our own: this is our ability, we have learned how to do this thing, and so forth. We begin to feel independent and self-sufficient, and our need for God recedes into the background. It is strange but true, the more we think of the things God has made us able to do, the less we pay attention to the God who made us able to do them.

To Paul, God said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul, like all of us, probably enjoyed days when he felt adequate and sufficient to do what had to be done. But in truth, God could do a good deal more with Paul on the other days — when Paul felt weak rather than strong. So God gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” to multiply the number of days when he would feel weak. Those would be the days when he was most conscious of his dependence on God’s help and therefore the days of his greatest usefulness.

When a “thorn in the flesh” makes its painful appearance in our own lives, our natural response is to want it to go away as quickly as possible. Yet if it is God’s will for us to continue to deal with it, our attitude needs to be the same as Paul’s: “I take pleasure in infirmities … For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens our dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your “thorn” uncomplainingly — that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak — is true sanctification” (J. I. Packer).   <Gary Henry>

How Do We Evaluate Our Entertainment Choices?

We start by eliminating anything that is immoral. We cannot tolerate the filth that has come to fill most shows on TV, songs on the radio, Internet sites,
books and magazines, etc.

But the one who fears God is not only concerned about the blatant evils in the media, he is sensitive to other less obvious problems as well. A song on the radio may not have a single curse word in it, but the message is worldly. A movie may be rated “PG” but the underlying premise of the movie is ungodly. Anything that promotes selfishness, materialism, pride, or other forms of worldliness should be rejected.

Why should we be so careful? Because the devil does his best work in subtle ways. It’s easy to see the dangers of violence, blasphemy, sexual themes, etc. But our values are changed more easily when our guard is down; when we digest things we feel are safe.

Most of what is fed to us is not safe. A recent study by researchers at UCLA examined the messages the media promotes to 9-11 year olds. In 1997 the top five values were community feeling, being kind and helpful (benevolence), image, tradition and self-acceptance. The top five values today are fame, achievement, popularity, image, and financial success. The bottom two values on this list are spiritualism and tradition.

The battle we’re fighting is for the mind. We should be so cautious about the messages we allow into our minds and especially into the minds of our children.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Jehovah, and teach me your rules.   <David Maxson>

Reflection of the Psalms – Psalm 74

Posted on: January 31st, 2021

Very few people today were alive and remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 that signaled the beginning of World War II for the United States. More remember the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s and the realization that the world was at the very doorstep of a nuclear war. Then, a few years later, the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 stunned everyone. Many more remember the attack and destruction of the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers in New York City September 11, 2001. In all of these instances, people described the sense of shock when the news was first announced. There was a numb feeling of being in a nightmare and wanting to wake up. “This can’t be happening!!” was the common attitude, but it was happening, and life would not be the same again.

That same sense of shock and despair is reflected in the first 11 verses of Psalm 74. The psalmist described the sack and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. “Turn Your footsteps toward the perpetual ruins; the enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary. Your adversaries have roared in the midst of Your meeting place; they have set up their own standards for signs. It seems as if one had lifted up His axe in a forest of trees. And now all its carved work they smash with hatchet and hammers. They have burned Your sanctuary to the ground; they have defiled the dwelling place of Your name.” (3-7)

Psalm 74 may be the account of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (II Kings 25, II Chronicles 36). The people of Judah had drifted far from God, yet they believed that God would protect them in spite of their sin. Prophet after prophet had risen and proclaimed God’s warnings, but those words were ignored. Now, the reality was before them. All of the great buildings that had been there for centuries were gone. The Temple was destroyed. People of wealth and influence were taken into captivity just like everyone else, and all sense of security and normalcy had vanished.

The psalmist’s first words were probably the same that most of the nation of Judah were saying. “O God, why have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, Which You have redeemed to be the tribe of Your inheritance; and this Mount Zion, where You have dwelt.” (1-2)

“Why are you doing this Lord?” How many times have people cried out those words, and how many times can the answers be found in their actions and life? Yes, there are many times when bad things happen to good, godly people. Christians live in a fallen world. But sinful actions will always have consequences. It may take many years before the scales are balanced, but the justice of God will prevail. In the case of the nations of Judah and Israel, it was centuries before judgment was applied.

God has richly blessed the United States. Even a cursory look at American history demonstrates how this country has been blessed. The United States was founded on principles based on Biblical principles. There is a basic core of goodness that the United States has demonstrated over the decades. Yes, this nation has had its dark periods, but Christian influence has been the purifying salt of this country.

This nation and its citizens have stood up to the face of evil many times. The dark days of World War II and the struggle with the spread of atheistic communism are two examples. Today, people of the United States still open their hearts in the face of tragedy that happen in different parts of the world. Yes, there is a generosity in our people. But, all the good does not give this nation a free pass for sin any more than it did for Judah, Israel, or any other nation in history. God raises up individuals, peoples, nations as instruments in carrying out His will. God will also bring down any individual, people, or nations that turn away from Him.

The people of Jerusalem looked around in shock and despair at the destruction of their city. Even Jesus cried, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” Someday, will the dome of the Capitol building be collapsed, the Lincoln Monument a smoldering ruin, foreign soldiers standing in victory before the steps of the White House? Righteous living does not guarantee a life free from problems, but a path of sin WILL guarantee judgment sooner or later. All Americans would do well to heed the lessons of the Bible and history.

In spite of all that had happened, all that the Psalmist had seen, in verse 12 he reaffirms his faith in God, “Yet God is my king from of old, Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.” “This world is not our home” is a hymn we all sing, and it is true. But Christians do live in this world, and as God’s Holy Nation, we have a responsibility to stand up to those powers that are opposed to His will and word. We are the salt of the earth. Let’s stay focused on our task.   <Jim Shelburn>