Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Reflections of the Psalms – Psalm 82

Posted on: May 22nd, 2022

In Psalm 82, the psalmist was directly speaking to the judges of Israel, but the principles laid out there apply to all men and women who occupy places of importance as the dispensers of justice. The psalm relates to those judges who were corrupt and abused their offices. Today, many wonder about what will happen to those rulers and judges who cause pain and suffering – who deal out injustice and evil rather than fairness and protection of rights. Psalm 82 can give the answer to such questions.

In verse 1, the psalm vividly pictures a courtroom scene where the judges themselves stand before the Lord God. In verse 2 the charges are stated, “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” Due to sin, there have always been corrupt judges in the history of the world and will continue to be until the Lord returns. Some are drawn to such positions because of the power that comes with the position. However, that does not mean that such men and women will escape accountability for their actions. Great privilege brings with it greater responsibility.

The real work of a judge is described in verse 3 and 4 – “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked”. These verses carry the same thought as James’ description of religion that is pure and faultless – “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Why the emphasis on the poor, weak, and needy? Men with money or prestige can hire lawyers, hire workers to fix what is wrong, or simply have a fine and go on with their lives. But the weak and poor do not have those resources. There is no “safety net” in their lives. The fatherless are even denied the help and protection of their father. But a judge has the position and power to establish justice and mercy for those that have no other recourse. The work and will of God has always included compassion and care for the weak and helpless in the world.

In verse 5, the psalmist gives a description of the character of the corrupt judges. “They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken,” Intelligence, experience, or prominence do not guarantee wisdom. Today, many rulers and judges are intelligence and educated men and women, but they are not wise in the Lord’s will, and they make judgments with no consideration of the moral or spiritual effects of their decisions. Such people do indeed walk in darkness!

Often, people in positions of authority are viewed by the people as being important and powerful individuals. The words of a Chief Justice, a President, a Premier, or a Dictator can cause shock waves to occur in a country or in the world. The consequences of their actions can reverberate for generations.

Yes, they are seen as men and women of power. Some gain a following of people that view them as almost gods. Yet each one is mortal and will die as all die. Seven decades ago, it seemed that the power of Adolph Hitler would sweep the world; but today, that power is gone. Only ashes and shadows remain of the Third Reich. Power does not add to the years of a leader or judge. Power is fleeting. The only true power rests with the Lord God.

In the final verse, the psalmist cries out to the Lord to rise up and judge the earth, “for all the nations are your inheritance”. Law and government are instituted by God. A person who holds the office of judge will face the Great Judge one day and account for his, or her, actions. If a person is a Christian AND holds a position as a judge, or any other position of authority, the admonition is very clear that rulings and decisions MUST be in compliance with God’s Will.

As Christians see the great injustices that occur, as misery and death grow from the actions of evil men, the hope is still there that all accounts will be settled. For those in Christ, there can be no fear, because the power of the judges of this world cannot touch the soul of the person that is joined to Christ. As Paul wrote in Romans 8, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

<James Shelburn>

Spring Cleaning

Posted on: May 15th, 2022

Welcome to Spring! Each season brings a different feeling for me. As a student, summer always felt relieving with no more school and a different daily routine. Fall (my favorite) has never failed to bring excitement. You can feel it in the crisp air. Winter always brings to mind a period of dormancy where time is spent more indoors by a warm fire reflecting on the past months. But spring has an energy unlike the other seasons. Perhaps it’s the need to get outside and stretch out the legs or hear the birds singing in the trees. There is a special kind of beauty in nature this time of year. “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11a). The bland colors of winter melt away giving place to green grass, Texas bluebonnets and Arkansas dogwoods. This energy drives some to enjoy the great outdoors through gardening, sports, or even spring cleaning.

We have been observing this custom of a more intense cleaning this time of year for generations. My great-uncle Bill would always open the front and back doors of his home in Florence, Alabama to “air out the house.” I’m not sure if that has some validity to it or if that was his way of helping Aunt Helen do their spring cleaning. There are several benefits to having a clean and tidy homestead which we have been taught for generations. First, it removes all the trash and things that are just in the way that have no usefulness. It also encourages us get to those projects that keep getting put off, like the garage or storage building. With the warmer weather, we find the need to store the sweaters, gloves and winter coats and see if the other clothes still fit that have been in the back of the closet and drawers.

These and other tasks not only are beneficial for our homes this time of year, but spiritually we need to apply these principles to our hearts. James writes, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (4:8). Purifying or cleansing our hearts and minds sounds like a good spring cleaning is needed in order for us to draw near to God.

Take out the trash. It has always amazed me, from the time I was growing up as one of four children even to today as I have four children, the amount of trash that can accumulate over a short period of time. (Perhaps I noticed it because it was my job to take out the trash!) If left too long, the trash would get worse and cause even more problems. In speaking to new Christians, Peter writes for them to remove some filthy characteristics from their lives. “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking…” (1 Peter 2:1). Paul warns that if those deeds and the like remain a part of our lives, that they will prohibit us from inheriting the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:16-21).

Clean out the garage. A garage can be a catch-all for things we don’t use the time, so they just accumulate. It was always a messy job that was best done all at once. We do that with relationships sometimes. A grudge can be put away in the corner of our hearts and never dealt with so that the relationship with our brother or sister in Christ is never what it should be. Jesus said to those who had a problem with a brother, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Putting off this dirty project can keep us from drawing near to God and consequently, Him drawing near to us.

Remove outgrown clothes. Growth is a natural and even expected part of life. While some clothes may hold a sentimental value, others really should be tossed or given to someone who could use them. Spiritually, we are expected to grow as well. There should be a time when we know the first principles and can teach someone else those things (Heb. 5:12). Unlike outgrown clothes, we can still use and remind ourselves of what we have learned in the Lord (1 Peter 1:12). Advancing our knowledge of the word of God necessitates time spent with the word.

Time for a deep clean. My mom, and now my wife, can always tell if something has been cleaned well or just quickly wiped down. Sometimes, we would have to go back and redo (or do it right) the cleaning so it was actually clean. We have this tendency sometimes as Christians. It could be a sermon, bible class or personal Bible reading that warrants a thorough self-examination. However, we may think or even say, “I need to work on that.”, but never actually work on that. Unlike our parents or spouse, one day it will be the Lord who is examining our condition. As the psalmist writes, “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart” (26:2).

Spring is a time to clean out our homes, cars and garages. Though the task is dirty and sometimes frustrating, the end product will allow us to feel better and see clearly those things that are useful and beneficial for our lives. This is also a good time to removing sinful activities and thoughts from our minds so that we can replace them with spiritual things that will truly bless us. The ultimate benefit for those who have a pure heart is seeing God! (Matthew 5:8). <Michael Cawthon>

Looking Forward To His Appearing

Posted on: May 8th, 2022

2 Tim. 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

My daughter recently went to a party where the children played pin the tail on the donkey. Simple game to understand but difficult in practice, especially when spun around after being blindfolded. My daughter enjoyed the game, so she requested that our family play that evening. When it was my turn to display my skill at poking holes in the wall that would eventually require putty and paint, I stood roughly five feet from the wall, put the blindfold on, spun around, and then started for the target.

To possess a goal is to have a target to point ambition and effort towards. With goals we have direction. With expectation we have purpose. When there is an emptiness of meaning and purpose in life, deterioration follows, and it is unavoidable and expected. Though progress was formally present, regression reigns because there is no vision. Where there is no vision, we quickly lose our way. Paul’s own goal and expectation was to wear the crown of righteousness. The hope in this future award from the righteous Judge burned in Paul’s mind on a regular basis, and so it drove him to display magnificent acts of faith and countless honorable actions of unselfishness. Paul ever yearned to be with Christ in Heaven, but for the sake of God’s kingdom, he was willing to stay for a while longer. When the end was nearing, Paul made it his goal to prepare others, such as Timothy, to aim for the crown of righteousness.

Paul understood that simply setting the goal did not and does not suffice, when it comes to staying on the straight and narrow. A continuous refocusing on the goal must take place to stay on course towards the destination. Call it whatever you like: grit, diligence, persistence, or determination; this is essential for a follower of Christ but would be especially vital for a man like Timothy who came to the faith at a young age.

Jesus told his disciples that it will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. And that they must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Paul wrote a very similar message to Timothy when encouraging him in the second letter.

“Now you (Timothy) follow my purpose and perseverance. Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them. But evil people and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” That is a paraphrase from the letter of course, but the language holds true. Notice the imagery Paul uses. He was encouraging Timothy to continue forward while warning him of those that would regress and fall further and further off the straight and narrow path. Throughout the book, the language is active. Notice the following phrases throughout the letter:

• Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you

• Hold onto the example of sound words

• Protect the treasure which has been entrusted to you

• Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus

• Suffer hardship with me

• Remember Jesus Christ

• Be diligent to be approved by God

• Avoid worldly and empty chatter

• Flee youthful lusts; pursue righteousness

Paul’s message to Timothy still rings true today. We too can have hope and confidence in a crown of righteousness, if we will actively keep our target in focus. What are you doing to stay focused? How are you preparing, so that you finish the race strong?

When I took the blindfold off, it was immediately evident that I was nowhere near the target. The loss of both sight and focus altered my path, and by the time I could see clearly again, it was too late. My pin had been placed, and in this game of pin the tail on the donkey, there were no second chances.

Luke 16: 24-27 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus, so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set, so that those who want to go over from here to you will not be able, nor will any people cross over from there to us.’” – Travis Starling

Let’s Get Together

Posted on: May 1st, 2022

Maybe its the fast pace of twentieth century living; maybe its too much TV, or it may be just plain indifference, but whatever the reason, it occurs to me that most Christians are not having enough personal contact with each other. Many rarely see their brethren except at Bible classes or worship. Surely we owe one another something more in this area–something more than our customary vestibule visiting and exchanging of parking-lot pleasantries; something more than a sort of in-passing relationship that is mainly church-building oriented. Must we become old, infirmed or unfaithful to warrant a visit from our brethren? Man is a social creature, ever subject to the influence of those about him. As evil companionships corrupt (1 Cor. 15:33), keeping good company can be profitable for all (1 Pet. 2:l2; 3:1; Matt. 5:6) — especially for Christians who will be what they ought to be to each other. And that simply means, In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another… (Rom. 12:10)

Such love involves more than passive and partisan feelings toward other Christians. Christ alludes to deeper dimensions when he says, even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (Jn. 13:34) His love for the disciples was made apparent it could be seen in what He did! So must ours. Such love is the mark of discipleship; its presence is observable and influential (Jn. 13:35). Therefore, the fullest expression of sincere and fervent love (1 Pet. 1:22) is impossible apart from some form of personal contact and association.

Consider, for instance, the admonition to bear ye one another s burdens (Gal. 6:2). How does one bear who is not there? We may pray and sympathize from afar, but fulfilling the law of Christ in this area usually requires both heart and hand. Keeping in touch helps brethren to know when a helping hand is needed. But more than that, being together more means better communication between us; the kind in which we can confess our sins to one another (Jas. 5:16); the kind in which we can admonish, edify and exhort each other (Rom. 15:14; 14:19; Heb. 3:13). When the weak need to be encouraged (1 Thss. 5:14); when the sorrowed need to be comforted (1 Thss. 4:18), we need to be there. And even when there is no particular need evident, our being there may mean more than we know. We see the need for the elders to keep in close touch with the flock of their oversight. Without it they could not watch in behalf of the souls for which they shall give account (Heb. 13:17). But we also must see our personal opportunities to serve the King by serving even the least among our brethren (Matt. 25:40) for we too must give account. Others cannot represent us in such service, we must be there.

Even if we cannot have the day by day association enjoyed by many of the early disciples, we can and ought to have more time for each other. So, lets get together!— for a home Bible study, for a meal, for a pot-luck, for coffee or for just an old-fashion visit. For the sake of every benefit and blessing that can be given or received by kin in Christ being together, lets get together! <Dan Shipley>

The article by Brother Shipley was written in 1974 and appeared in the April issue of Plain Talk, a religious publication edited by Robert F. Turner. The needs we have and the problems we face are as old as the Lord’s Church itself. Some 48 years ago a gospel preacher saw the need to write about Christians getting together inside and outside public worship.

I was a senior in high school when this article was written and in just two months I will go on Medicare. Things have not changed. We need to grow together as a spiritual family. The local church was designed by God to provide Christians in a particular town or area a means for personal encouragement and support.

The same needs existed in the earliest church of our Lord and Savior. Acts 2:46-47 ESV “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (47) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Things had been turned up-side-down in Jerusalem by the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of the church. Many of the converts were from other places, having traveled to Jerusalem for Pentecost. With a wholesale change in their faith and in a place not their home, they needed each other. Not much has changed. Today’s Christians must possess the same heart and faith, and come to realize that this world is not our home. Hebrews 13:14 ESV “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” We need each other now so that we may enjoy the home that is to come.

As Brother Shipley said, “Lets get together!” <Terry Starling>

 

“You Have Been Warned”

Posted on: April 24th, 2022

“You have been warned.” It you hear or see this statement, it means there is some danger ahead and you need to act appropriately in order to avoid it. If you ignore the warning and fail to prepare for the situation you are being warned about you proceed at your own peril and you have to accept the consequences of your actions. But, if you heed the warning then the tragedy can be avoided. Let me give you a personal illustration.

The last of August I had just finished writing an article under the above title, intending to publish it in the bulletin Sept. 3. Right after I finished the article, before I could save it, my computer crashed, and the article was lost, along with everything else on the computer. This caused me to buy another computer. Fortunately, I had purchased the Carbonite backup, and have regained most of the items of the other computer, but not this article.

A lesson I learned from this experience, and it suits the article title, is that computers can crash unexpectedly. Through the years I had heard warnings that computers are subject to crash at any time, so people need to back up everything on the computer for when it happens. Even though I never thought it would happen to me, I heeded the warning, and was prepared for the crash. I had a system in place and therefore I have been able to restore most of the material from the old computer onto the new computer.

But, the crash of a material computer is a minor thing, compared to the fact that our souls are in danger of being lost eternally. Some may not believe this but every human being has an eternal soul, a part of our makeup that will live on when the physical body dies. Eccl.12:7 teaches, “Then the dust (physical body which God formed from the dust of the ground Gen.2:7) will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”  Jas.2:26 teaches, “the body without the spirit is dead.” Some try to argue that the spirit or soul is just the breath of life, given when God breathed into the body He had formed of dust, “and man became a living soul.” But, read the passages carefully. Common sense tell us that the soul/spirit is more than just breath or wind. Why would the wind return to God? Jesus Himself taught, by asking a question, using necessary inference, that the soul/spirit of man is the most important part of man’s existence, for it is eternal. “For what profit is it to a man, if he gain the whole world, and loses his soul, and what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matt.16:26.

Yes, every person has an eternal soul, but because all mankind are sinners, after they die, their souls/spirits are condemned to live eternally in the hell God has prepared for the devil and his angels (those who serve him) Matt.25:41. God does not want people to lose their souls so He sent His Son into the world to become a sacrifice, and through the shedding of His blood, man could find redemption and have their souls cleansed of sins 1.Pet.1:18-19. When one turns to Jesus, truly believing Who He is, and what He has done to save man, he will repent of his sins, and confess that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior.  He  then obeys Jesus’ command to be baptized and have his sins washed away Mk.16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16. In doing this he makes his preparation for the life to come.

Why is this preparation necessary? Because God has prepared a Day of Judgment when all must give account of their lives Acts 17:30-31; 2.Cor.5:10. God has sent out the warnings that this day is coming and they had better prepare for it. God is delaying the time, giving man sufficient time to prepare. No one can say they haven’t been warned.
In the ancient past God was preparing to destroy mankind because of their wickedness Gen.6. The whole world was following the evil intents of their hearts, all except Noah Gen.6:8-12. Because of his life Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God issued a warning to Noah of what He was about to do. What did Noah do about the warning? What Noah did about the warning made all the difference in the world. He heeded the divine warning and began building the ark just like God instructed him to do. While he built it he preached to the people warning them about what God was planning to do. But the rest of the people ignored the warmings and when the flood came they all drowned. They lost their lives, even though they had been warned and given time to repent. Noah built the ark as instructed and he and his house were saved from the flood that covered the world Heb.11:7. What if he had not listened? The rest of the world was warned for over 100 years but they ignored the warnings, and they drowned in the flood.

Beloved, please listen. God is sending us warnings that one day the Judgment is coming. The hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and fires are signals of God great power, and man’s inability to resist Him. He does not deliberately do these things, but He allows them to occur since they follow the natural laws He set in motion at creation. He has the ability to prevent them if He chooses, and sometimes, because of the sincere, persistent prayer of faithful brethren He intervenes in ways we cannot understand. People need to take heed to what is happening and change their lives while there is time.

All of us have been warned that this life is temporary and a day of judgment is coming. After the judgment, we will have to spend eternity in heaven or hell, depending on whether we have heeded the warning and made the proper preparation while we are alive. “You have been warned.” What are you doing about it? It’s your move. Amos.4:12. <Tommy Thornhill>

Can I Still Be Saved If I’ve Sinned Deliberately?

Posted on: April 17th, 2022

The following passage has struck terror into the heart of many a poor soul:

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (Heb. 10:26-27 ESV).

What does it mean? Is anyone who sins “deliberately” beyond hope of salvation?

That hardly can be the case, since the Bible teaches that God is willing to forgive us of all sin (cf. Tit. 2:14; 1 Jn. 1:9), provided we submit to Heaven’s plan for pardon.

The key to this passage is in understanding that the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were on the brink of renouncing Jesus as their Messiah and Savior. They were being tempted to revert to the Mosaic regime in anticipation of some other Redeemer yet to come.

Since the supposed other savior-to-be would provide the real cleansing, some labored under the illusion that they could thus plunge themselves back into a life of sin until the remedy arrived.

A consideration of certain grammatical forms within this text is essential to grasping the significance of the inspired admonition.

The verb “sin” (hamartanonton) is a present tense participle, which conveys the concept of a continuing and habitual life of sin. It suggests a resolute action of abandonment of moral and religious restraint.

This reckless course, it should be noted, is pursued by one who has “received the knowledge of the truth.” The Greek term for “knowledge” is a strong one. The thought might be paraphrased as “[we] very well knew the truth.”

Thrusting gospel truth from his mind, the apostate wantonly turns his back on the Savior.

When one embarks upon such a course, while anticipating another future deliverer (who does not exist), what hope has he? None!

That this represents a clear example of one who falls from the grace of God is evident from the subsequent context. The transgressor is described as one who has “trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy [or common] thing” (Heb. 10:29).

This describes those who had been sanctified by Christ’s blood, hence were Christian people (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26). But now they are close to renouncing their allegiance to the Lord (cf. 2 Pet. 2:2b).

Their looming fate is a “fierceness of fire” that will consume God’s adversaries (Heb. 10:27), a “sorer punishment” than that of mere death (Heb. 10:28-29).

Could they receive pardon if they turn back to the Lord? Of course they could, if they but would. <Wayne Jackson>
https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1591-can-i-still-be-saved-if-ive-sinned-deliberately

When Will It Be Time?

We go see our parents, children, and grandchildren. We go to school. We go to work. We go out to eat. We go see our friends. We go to a ballgame. We go to a movie. We go to a party. BUT ARE WE STILL NOT GOING TO AN ASSEMBLY TO WORSHIP GOD? By what rational would we use to excuse ourselves?

Our God has given us the very life we have and has made provision for our sins. Our Father sent His Son and our LORD came willingly to offer Himself in our stead. (John 3:16 & John 10:17-18) Will we continue to abandon the physical assembling togethering of local Christians in one place?

What is keeping us from being active and enthusiastic about coming together? Are we afraid that we might catch COVID? Are we afraid that we might give COVID to someone else? Don’t attend if you are sick or showing signs of being sick, but do not use what might happen to keep you from glorifying God in congregational worship. Every minute we live, every time we walk outside, every moment we are in a crowd, there is a possibility of something bad happening. Live for eternity and rise above the cares of this world (Col. 3:2).

Our current technology is wonderful for shut-ins and those who are ill, but it cannot replace the superior benefits of physically coming together. One of my great fears when COVID hit, and members and churches were trying to figure out how to respond, was that some would never come back. I don’t know if that will prove to be the truth, but I do know that there are some who are still staying away and they still use COVID as the reason.

I know that each church and each member has to make decisions that are not always cut and dry. My purpose and hope from this writing is to encourage each person to look into themselves. If you are not coming faithfully, please reevaluate you life and choices. <Terry Starling>

Devotional Meditation

Posted on: April 10th, 2022

These days, “meditation” is a well-known concept, and religious individuals are familiar with the word “devotional.” But what would we mean if we combined these into “devotional meditation”?

Meditation

Meditation has a special meaning in Buddhism and mindfulness practice, but in more general usage, to “meditate” is simply to consider something thoughtfully. If a person meditates on something, he or she reflects on it or contemplates it. Synonyms would be words like ponder, muse, and cogitate. The word “ruminate” is an interesting word. Literally, it means “to chew.” But figuratively, when we say someone is “chewing on it,” we mean they are meditating about it, considering whether it’s true, etc. We also say we are “turning it over in our mind,” meaning we are “looking at it from different angles.”
In all of these expressions, we are pointing to a practice that only personal beings can engage in: we are evaluating ideas rationally, pondering their meaning and value. Often, we are not just thinking; we are thinking about our thinking. And that is a wonderful thing to do — it’s a pity we don’t do it more often.

Devotional Meditation

For one of the meanings of “meditation,” the American Heritage Dictionary says it is the “devotional exercise of meditation.” This is meditation practiced as a means of showing devotion to God or increasing one’s devotion to Him. For those who engage in regular devotional activities, perhaps on a daily basis, meditation is one of the things that may be done. When we meditate as a part of our devotional practice, we think in a quiet, focused way about spiritual matters. This may be done in connection with reading from a devotional book, studying the Scriptures, and prayer — but devotional meditation is not exactly the same as any of these three things. It may overlap and intertwine with these, but meditation itself is simply thinking about what is true. It means taking something we know to be true about God and “turning it over in our minds.” Meditating on it, we see just how true it really is, and we begin to see other truths it is connected to. With quiet concentration, we look at the implications of that truth: “If this is true, what does that mean for my life? What should I do about this truth?”

Now, although devotional meditation is not the same as prayer or Bible study, it cannot be disconnected from either of those. It is dangerous to allow our thinking to become untethered from the Scriptures, so that meditation becomes an exercise in personal opinion-building. As important as it is to meditate on truth, especially about God, meditation can work to our detriment if it becomes a free-floating experience not governed by God’s revelation of Himself in the Scriptures.

In Psalm 1, this statement is made about the godly person: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (v.2). Ideally, meditating on God and His law should be a joy (although we should not limit our meditation to the times when we are on a spiritual “high”). It is a privilege to use the minds given to us by our Heavenly Father to ponder His nature, His eternal purposes, and His revealed will for mankind — and there ought to be no thoughts that we take greater “delight” in than thoughts about Him. David said, speaking of God, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3,4). Truly, the heavens which God has created need to be “considered” — and that is what devotional meditation is. Rather than thinking casually, it is a deliberate, deep pondering. When we meditate devotionally, we do not just give a passing “glance” at things that are true; we think about them intently and let their significance sink in.

There is a sense, then, in which mediation needs to follow our times of Bible study and prayer. Before we let the truths we’ve learned get away from us, we need to meditate on them deeply, digesting and internalizing them. As most of us have experienced, there is a big difference between “knowing” something and really KNOWING it. As adults, many of us know a great many things at a deeper level than we knew them as children. This deeper knowledge is partly the result of meditation. Over the years, we’ve thought about these things, and now we see just how true they really are.

Spiritual growth takes time. It doesn’t happen instantaneously. But even after many years, we may not be any more mature spiritually if we haven’t taken the time to meditate on God. So I encourage you: if you haven’t made devotional meditation on God a part of your daily life, begin doing it today. It will take discipline to acquire the habit, but when its blessings become apparent in your life, you’ll be glad you did. <Gary Henry>

And God’s Voice Blessed

Posted on: April 3rd, 2022

The New Testament records three instances when God spoke directly, each of which mark a major event in our Lord’s life. 1) Jesus’ Baptism—Matthew 3:13-17 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and come thou to me? ….And Jesus when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Our Lord came to demonstrate His two fold being, both Son of man, and Son of God, Perfect man, Perfect God. John’s baptism was to return the Jews to the Law of Moses. Jesus said, “to fulfill all righteousness” -Vs. 15. In “due time,” He would command baptism for His new church. Mt. 28:18-20. God’s Voice blessed our Lord’s EXAMPLE OF OBEDIENCE. 2) His Transfiguration—Matthew 17:1-8 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother…and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun….and behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; Hear ye him…..” Peter , James and John saw three great men of written law. Moses—the lawy of Israel; Elijah—the Prophets of old; Jesus, the author of the New Covenant. The cloud covered Moses and Elijah leaving only Jesus, and God the Father spoke, “HEAR YE HIM.” Jesus is now the only source of religious authority. God’s Voice blessed JKESUS’ AUTHORITATIVE WORD. 3) His resolve to be The Sacrifice for sin—John 12:28, “…Father, glorify thy name. Then came a voice from heaven saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Soon it would happen. God the Father blessed His beloved Son’s COMMITMENT TO DIE—FOR US! God’s Voice blessed His Son’s Baptism, Covenant, and Sacrifice. YET, even with God the Father’s blessing, some did not and still do not accept and obey. O beloved, let us do better; let unity from God be every your mission and mine! <Harland R. Huntoon>

What Does It Mean?

It is one thing to read a text. It is another to ask, “What does that text mean?” Just reading a text word for word does not in itself tell us what it means. Asking what it means will necessitate entering the realm of interpretation. It is inevitable (e.g., try teaching parables without interpreting them). Saying “we don’t interpret; we just read what it says” is naive at best and dishonest at worst. If one truly believes that interpretation is itself a problem, then we should expect only the reading of the text from that person with zero commentary. No one really operates that way. At least I’ve not seen it in my own life.

Interpretation is necessary, but not all interpretation is equal. There is always a need for keeping a passage in context and using terms correctly. Figurative language is everywhere (hyperbole), and even straightforward language has challenges (Why was it said? To whom was it said? How universal is it? Etc.). Making proper connections takes careful study, and knowing something about the way translations work is helpful.

Much of this is done through normal common sense (insert obligatory “common sense isn’t all that common” here). We are continually inferring from what we read and hear (please don’t deny the importance of inference; it’s a bad look). Even the way we read a text can change its meaning. People can understand Scripture, but we need to recognize what we are doing, see the challenges, and work hard at it.

One of the most egregious mistakes we can make is using or changing a text to fit our already-established agenda. This is easy to do because we are already coming to the text with various preconceived ideas and opinions. If we decide ahead of time that our chosen agenda must be true, then we will find a way to support that through how we interpret Scripture. This manipulates the text to serve our own ends rather than letting the text guide our minds to the truth to which we should submit. We are all susceptible to this problem.

Why am I writing this? 1) Because I was just thinking about it; 2) Because it helps me be more careful; 3) Because I see Scripture manipulated to serve worldly agendas; 4) Because this is my page and I want to promote sound Bible reading and exegesis. 🙂

Be careful how you read, what you take from it, and how you use the text. It is not our clay to shape however we want. <Don Moyer>

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Posted on: March 27th, 2022

It is the most destructive thought we could possibly conjure up: “I am not worthy.” Unfortunately, this is a sentiment we have all expressed in some fashion or another throughout life. In this world, we all experience trials due to our failures. At times like these, our shortcomings seem to say, “I’m not good enough!”  Intellectually we know this is not true, but sometimes we do fail to meet the standard. In spite of the godly attributes that also define us, we tend to listen to our doubts more than our faith and the Devil more than our Father.
Paul reminds us of the truth about our self-worth, “but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8). It is God’s will that He love those who are not deserving. The value of God’s gift to us (His Son) is immeasurable and by extension so is His love for us. What better example of this love is there than Jesus bringing salvation to the house of Zacchaeus?
In the Bible account of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:1-10), it is impressive what we learn about Zacchaeus first. It is not that Zacchaeus was short in stature but rather we see that he is a tax collector and a rich man. His prominence in the region is evident because he was a chief tax collector, which meant that he ruled over other tax collectors or that he possibly oversaw an entire Roman province. Being a Jew himself, Zacchaeus would have been regarded by his peers as a traitor since he was employed by the Roman government.
Isn’t it interesting that before we learn anything about his physical appearance, we are given a glimpse into what’s in his heart? The Scripture states in verse 3 that “he sought to see who Jesus was.” This is the key to understanding how Jesus comes into our lives today. In Matt. 7:7 Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Zacchaeus was a common sinner and easily overlooked by those around him, but because he sought Jesus by whatever means necessary, he found Him. Zacchaeus was rewarded with an invitation to have Jesus stay at his house. It was ultimately Zacchaeus’ desire to know Jesus and to seek Him above the crowd that brought salvation to his house.
Initially Zacchaeus was hindered from seeing Jesus on account of the crowd and his short stature. Yes, Zacchaeus was a man of short stature but the application for us today is incredibly straightforward. Isn’t this still the reason we have trouble seeing Jesus today? Not because we are short in stature but more because we are short minded. We are distracted by the crowd. We are often distracted by our desire to be seen by everyone else except for Jesus. Jesus is the only way to salvation. In my mind the mention of Zacchaeus’ short stature represents things we have no control over. We do not have control over our appearance, this is the reason we are told not to worry about these earthly things (Mt. 6:25-32). Zacchaeus could not do anything to cause himself to grow even one inch taller but he could grow his faith and he did that by “seeking first the kingdom of God His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33). It is not lost on me that for Zacchaeus, seeking Jesus meant running ahead and climbing a sycamore tree so that he could learn about who Jesus was. What are you willing to do to seek Him?
Zacchaeus defends himself to the crowd by stating, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” Despite these seemingly righteous business dealings Zacchaeus was not remembered for his impeccable record of fairness or generosity; he was not even respected for his occupational success as a chief among tax collectors. Instead, he was regarded by others as nothing more than a sinner. It was his failures that people chose to focus on. In the eyes of others, Zacchaeus was not worthy of Jesus’ time or attention. However, Jesus was not interested in what Zacchaeus had done to deserve salvation, because Jesus would love him and his household in spite of his sin.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

The matter of Zacchaeus’ small stature becomes secondary in this story because it is clear that none of us measure up. The take away in this historical event is clear; our value is determined by God, and He has already expressed his love for mankind by offering us all an opportunity for the atonement of our sin.
Even today, Jesus is seeking to save that which is lost. He looks around and takes notice of the seemingly insignificant among us and desires to bring us salvation. Salvation is for all… even me. <Josh VandenEinde

Keeping An Eye On The Finish

Posted on: March 20th, 2022

For hundreds of years the children of Israel lived in bondage to the Egyptians and prayed to God that they might be delivered from captivity. In the third chapter of the book of Exodus we see that God heard their cries and chose Moses to guide his people out of the land. The Lord said, “I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…” The Israelites witnessed the great power of God as He brought the plagues upon the land of Egypt concluding in the death of all the first born of the Egyptians which led to their release.
As the journey to the promised land began trials soon followed with the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and his command to pursue the children of Israel. Upon seeing the approaching army, they began to cry out to the Lord and complaining to Moses that they would have been better off remaining in Egypt than to be led into the wilderness to die. Multiple times throughout their journey they faced hardships and in each situation they quickly forgot about God’s promise. Even as the time came to enter the land of Canaan, they doubted God’s ability to deliver on his promise causing the Lord to return them to wandering in the wilderness. The children of Israel lost sight of the reward that awaited them at the end of their journey.
This World Is Not Our Home
God has prepared for us an eternal home.  “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” ( John 14: 2-3).  We are constantly reminded of the evils that exist on this earth. The sinful actions that result from mankind turning away from God are evident. Everything in this life is subject to death and decay yet we seem to focus our efforts on obtaining more wealth and riches,  more leisure and entertainment time, bigger and greater possessions. We are bombarded with images and messaging that contradict God’s word. One of life’s big challenges for the Christian is to stay focused. Every moment of every day something is competing for our attention and if we’re not careful we can easily drift away, losing sight of our desired destination.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).  Later in the book of Matthew the question is asked, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Set Your Mind

Understanding that this is temporary, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get caught up in the cares and worries of this life. Our efforts should be spent securing that home that God has promised for the faithful.  “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).  Just like the children of Israel, God has prepared and is guiding us to our eternal home. Let us be reminded of what awaits us!  “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev.21:4).  Later in the same chapter heaven is described as city made with gold and walls of jasper with foundations of precious stones. A place that is illuminated with the glory of God and where there will be no darkness.

We have numerous songs that we use in our worship service that describe the glories of heaven.

No Tears In Heaven
“Glory is waiting, waiting up yonder, where we shall spend an endless day;
There with our Savior we’ll be forever, where no more sorrow can dismay”

O That Will Be Glory
“Friends will be there I have loved long ago, joy like a river around me will flow”

How Beautiful Heaven Must Be
“In heaven, no drooping nor pining, no wishing for else-where to be: God’s light is forever there shining”

Where The Roses Never Fade
“I am going to a city where the streets with gold are laid,
where the tree of life is blooming, and the roses never fade”

Amazing Grace
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun; we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun”

May we all keep our eyes on the finish! <Rob Henson>