April 29, 2012

Making Bricks of Mud – Robert Turner

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Paul was set upon by a mob, and then dragged from their hands by the police. Falsely charged, he spent 2 years in Jewish prisons, and was then sent to Rome to appear before Caesar. His traveling days ended, and threatened with death by savage beasts (II Tim. 4:17), we could understand his being depressed and feeling “all is lost.” Instead, he wrote to the Philippians, “the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (1:12-21). He could write, “I rejoice!”

Discounting his personal discomforts, he saw the good side of the bad — saw victory in defeat. I know his selflessness, his trust in the Lord, is the key. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul had to learn this attitude; but I am impressed that he learned it so well it seems to have become a part of him. He “learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (4:11); and this kind of thinking spawned hope instead of despair. Throw mud at Paul and he made bricks of it, and built a house. Send him a lemon, and he would enjoy the lemonade, and thank you for them. It is hard to defeat a person with such an attitude as that.

We do not refer to an artificial Pollyannish attitude, out of touch with reality Paul sought relief from his “thorn in the flesh” (II Cor. 12:8), but, when this was denied him, he could “glory in my infirmities,” making the most of them in defending his apostleship (vs. 7-11). He did not enjoy being forsaken by his brethren any more than do we, but he could “pray God that it may not be laid to their charge” (II Tim. 4:16-17). He was confident that the Lord would save him.

Nor is this simply the SELF-reliance, “indomitable ego” that is so highly recommended by psychotherapists. Human philosophies “plug in” to no higher source than man himself, and, when society fails (as it does repeatedly), the individual despairs — sometimes ends it all in suicide. But the “look up” attitude of a true believer in God removes fear of the future, his soul is anchored (Heb. 6:18-20), and he “shall not be moved.” As one rancher friend of mine put it: “Things are going to pick up!”

April 22, 2012

He Became Like You – Phil Roberts

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

One of the most fundamental facts of the gospel is that Jesus suffered and died for our sins, not as a god, but as a man. He was indeed the Son of God, but he surrendered the glories and privileges that belonged to that position that he might become like us. He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7-8).

His becoming like us was not just a matter of taking on the physical appearance of a man. As the writer of Hebrews says, “In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Consider the following ways in which Jesus became like you:

1. Jesus became like you in his liability to human infirmities. He became hungry (Matt. 21:18); thirsty (Jn. 4:7); and weary after a hard day’s work (Lk. 8:23). The importance of these things is underscored by the fact that Jesus refused to use his power as the Son of God to escape any of them. He would not even turn the stones to bread after forty days and nights without food (Matt. 4:2-4). To do so would have amounted to a forsaking of his mission—to suffer and die on the same terms we do.

2. Jesus became like you in the limitation of his knowledge while here on earth. Though Jesus is frequently said to have perceived the thoughts of those with whom he was speaking, this was often more a result of his perfect understanding of human nature than of miraculous power (Jn. 2:25). At other times he clearly asked questions because he did not know the answer (Mk. 8:28; 9:21). Moreover, we are specifically told that in his childhood he grew in knowledge (Lk. 2:40, 52). He had to learn the word of God just as you did. And that makes his perfect obedience to that word all the more significant.

3. Jesus became like you in his dependence on others. From his childhood he learned to depend on his parents for food, shelter, and clothing. And there was undoubtedly a mutual dependence between him and his disciples, at least in material things. But ultimately he experienced what all of us learn sooner or later—that others will fail you. All those on whom he might have depended failed Jesus at the end.

4. Jesus became like you in loneliness. Certainly there were times when Jesus felt the pangs of loneliness even in the midst of his disciples (Lk. 9:58). But those times were nothing to compare with the loneliness he must have felt as he hung there on the cross crying “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

5. Jesus became like you in his liability to temptation. He was “in all points tempted like as we are” (Heb. 4:15). It was not just a matter of the three temptations in the wilderness. Jesus was subjected to the same daily frustrations and temptations we are all subject to, including those that related to his human body of flesh. But there can be little doubt that the greatest temptation with which he was confronted was that of forsaking his mission. Indeed, the strongest rebuke he ever gave to one of his disciples was when Peter said he should not go to Jerusalem and die. “Get thee behind me, Satan,” was Jesus’ reply (Matt. 16:23).

6. Jesus became like you in that he was required to be obedient to others while here on this earth. He was even required to be obedient to people who were greatly inferior to him. As a child he was required to be obedient to his parents (Lk. 2:51). As a man he was required to be subject to civil governments. And above all his whole life was one of obedience to his heavenly Father (Heb. 5:8).

7. Jesus became like you in that he could communicate with his Father in heaven only through the medium of prayer. And he found need to pray often and long (Lk. 6:12).

8. Finally, Jesus became like you in that he had to walk by faith and not by sight while here on earth. The writer of Hebrews cites this fact to prove that Jesus became one with us (Heb. 2:13). Jesus, he said, had to put his trust in God just as we do. Indeed, what a sacrifice it was for Jesus to leave the security of heaven for the uncertainty of a life separated from his Father. He had left the certainty of sight in heaven. Only his faith could sustain him while he was here.

Yes, he became like us in all things—in all things but sin, that is (Heb. 4:15). He suffered and died for us on our terms—not his. And why did he do it? The answer is simple. He became like you so that you might become like him “in all things”—even that you might be without sin through the blood of his sacrifice. But let us always remember that being conformed to the image of Christ does not mean that we will escape the hardships of human existence. He suffered for us. And if we would be perfectly conformed to his image, we might be prepared to suffer with him.

(1 Pet. 2:21)



April 15, 2012

Our Inheritance – Don Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

The Apostle Paul prayed a beautiful, insightful prayer on behalf of the brethren at Ephesus.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Eph.1:18

We should understand why Paul prayed for the eyes of the hearts of these brethren. Christian hearts can see things that our physical eyes know nothing about. When our hearts are enlightened enough to really see the riches of the glorious inheritance God has promised to us, we can’t help but become more intensely focused on heaven and less distracted by the world.

What are the riches of the glorious inheritance God has promised to us?

We are heirs of salvation, saved from the deserved consequences of sin, excluded from God’s wrath.

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” Heb.1:14

We are heirs of the promise, the blessings promised to Abraham planned by God before He created the world.

“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath.” Heb.6:17

We are heirs of grace, undeserved favor realized now in forgiveness and peace, realized eternally in heaven.

“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” I Pet.3:7

We are heirs of righteousness, the perfect rightness of God. We fail in our efforts to attain it, but it can still be ours by inheritance.

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of  the righteousness which is according to faith.” Heb. 11:7  

“in the future there  is laid up 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.”  II Tim.4:8

We are heirs of kingdom, far greater than any of the mighty kingdoms of this world, a more glorious kingdom that will never pass away.

“Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor  of this world to be  rich in faith and  heirs of the kingdom which He  promised to those who love Him?”  Js.2:5

 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdomprepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matt.25:34.

Incredibly, we are heirs of all things. Everything that is anything is all to be ours.

“So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you,” I Cor.3:21.

“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”  Rev.21:7

What more could anyone want? — a few passing sensual tingles? — a measure of temporary self-exaltation and fleeting fame? Are such things worth giving up the riches of the glorious eternal inheritance that belongs to Christians?

“and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Rom.8:17 

April 8, 2012

Lifelong Learning About God – Gary Henry

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9,10).

IF CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT IS IMPORTANT IN OUR LIVES, IT IS MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL IN OUR THINKING ABOUT GOD. Nothing is more vital than making our concept of God correspond as nearly as possible to God as He truly is. Thus the single best thing we can do to improve ourselves every day is to improve, even just a little bit, the accuracy of our knowledge of God.

We can’t know God completely, of course. God is infinite, and even if sin were not a factor, the finite knowledge of creatures could never encompass the Creator fully. Nevertheless, God has chosen to reveal something of Himself to us. And we are able, with the minds that He has given us, to apprehend things about Him that are objectively true. There are many things we can’t know, but those that we can know, we can know truly (Deuteronomy 29:29). Our limited knowledge of God can be valid.

But, of course, it is also possible to “know” things about God that AREN’T true! The same minds that can apprehend truth can also embrace untruth, and the danger of believing a lie about God is a most serious danger indeed. If we ever need to be careful, it is surely with this, the most important subject that our minds are capable of considering. Wherever God is concerned, we need to think CAREFULLY so that we will think ever more CLEARLY.

Our need for improvement never ceases. As long as life lasts, growth in our knowledge of the Creator needs to be a priority. We can’t afford to be complacent. Paul warned that “if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2). There is not one of us whose understanding of God doesn’t need to be refined and purified. And it may be that the reason we don’t make any more progress than we do is that we are content with so little. We pick up a scrap or two of knowledge and we cease our search, when in reality we can know a God whose riches of truth are vast and deep and strong.

“God’s treasure is like an infinite ocean, and yet a little wave of emotion, passing with the moment, is enough for many” (Brother Lawrence).



April 1, 2012

It’s Not How You Feel – Aubrey Belue

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Does it “feel good?” Does it feel “right?” If so, today’s culture says, “go for it!” Thus, we make “right” what our feelings say it is, rather than what it really is. Somehow, we have reached the point in contemporary reasoning that most say that one can pursue his individual dream without having to confront the consequences of bad or wrong choices. Believe in God, or not; accept Christ, or not; live morally, or not–to those people, it is all the same. Do what you want to do, what you feel like doing, what you think is right in doing, and God will just set aside HIS rules to approve of you regardless. We confuse civic freedom with divine approval, and so long as it is “legal” (and some are not too “picky” about that), it is seen as acceptable.

The question is, “Is our standing with God determined by our feelings, or by the rule of divine law?” Is it a matter of God’s will, or ours? Serious consequences follow the reasoning described above:

1) It nullifies the Bible as a defining book. In fact, the Bible becomes largely useless, since it can at any point be superseded by one’s personal feeling. No doubt we “feel” like it has some value, but it can always be overridden by our feelings. There is no sense of responsibility to conform to its message.

2) It glorifies human wisdom and authority. The highest court of appeal becomes the human mind and thought, rather than the mind of God. If what I feel is right, even if it contradicts what God teaches in His word, then MY idea is seen as better than His; my authority as greater than His. In so doing we minimize the greater wisdom and power of an Almighty God.

3) It results in anarchy and chaos. Rejecting a common source of authority — the written word of God — each becomes his own source. There are as many “rights” as there are people to think them up. No wonder we live in troubled times. No wonder our children are so confused as to morals and religion. Countless competing human ideas bombard them (and us) with equally justifiable claims to what is “right”.

4) It ignores God’s place in our universe. He has defined right from wrong, sin from righteousness, truth from error. Any course conflicting with His “law” exacts terrible penalties.

The Truth? The solution to mankind’s problems lie not in human minds, but in the unsearchable mind of an all-wise God. As we have observed before in this column, it is His world, we eat His bread, drink His water, and breathe His air. In addition to being ill-equipped by nature and inclination to determine “right”, we belong to Him, and are obligated to be obedient. Man’s way never “fixes” anything important, nor moves us one step toward fellowship with God. This may not be the popular line, but we are interested in TRUTH, not compromise, and all human objections aside, God’s word is still TRUE, and His way is still the only way (John 14:6).