September 29, 2013

Are You 4F, AWOL, MIA or A POW – Philip Strong

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

The word “soldier” does not occur in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (in the NASV), but a good portion of chapter six is filled with the imagery of armor and warfare.  He writes of: “the full armor of God, vv.11,13; “our struggle” (or “wrestle” in some versions- to fight), v.12; “loins girded with truth,” v.14a; “the breastplate of righteousness,” v.14b;  feet “shod with the preparation of the gospel,” v.15; and “the shield of faith,” v.16.  And then, of course, there is “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” in v.17.  So even though the word “soldier” is not present, there is no doubt that being a Christian is supposed to involve us in warfare- a fight against the “schemes of the devil,” v.11, and “world forces of darkness” and “spiritual forces of wickedness,” v.12!   But does it always?  The answer depends on the individual soldier!   For instance …

Are you “4F”? This is the military designation given to those “not qualified for service in the Armed forces” because of “physical, mental, or moral” unfitness.  Though physical fitness is not nearly as important in the Lord’s army as in Uncle Sam’s, mental and moral fitness are vital to the soldier of Christ!   Intimate knowledge of the weapon itself, and its capabilities and limitations, is crucial to the proper use of the “sword of the Spirit, which the word of God”!   Hebrews 5:12 highlights the importance of good training with the sword in preparation of its proper use, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for some one to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God….”.  Thus, mental fitness is important for the soldier of Christ- but, so too, moral fitness is required.  Note 2Timothy 2:21 in this regard, “Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”  The “things” from which Paul urges us to cleanse ourselves are further clarified in the context as “wrangling about words,” “worldly and empty chatter,” “ungodliness,” “wickedness,” and “youthful lusts,” vv.14,16,19,22.  Given these things, are you “4F,” or physically, mentally, and morally fit for service in the Lord’s army?

Are you “AWOL”?  This is the military designation for those who are “absent without leave.” It means they left their post and/or duties without permission to do so. This is a problem in the Lord’s army too!  On a local level, the church is plagued by AWOL members who think nothing of absenting themselves for weeks at a time from the assembly, and its fellowship and duties, without a word to anyone.  If questioned about it, they sometimes bristle and become indignant at the question, or pass it off with something along the lines of, “Oh, we’ve been really busy lately.”  Can you image an infantryman explaining his being AWOL that way?  No one is suggesting that local church members need some sort of advanced “permission” to be out of town for business or pleasure.  But at the same time, shouldn’t members feel some sense of obligation to their local church families?  What happens to our responsibilities to assemble with one another for worship, and to teach, admonish, and encourage one another when we choose to be AWOL for weeks at a time? Do we expect God and our brethren to just “suspend” our responsibilities because we prefer to be somewhere else doing something else? Please consider 1Corinthians 11:18-34; Ephesians 5:18-21; and Hebrews 10:19-25 in these regards.

Are you “MIA”? This is the military designation for those who are “missing in action.”  I suppose the correlation this case would be comparable to a church member being away from his own “regiment” (local fellowship), but still working for the Cause.  That is, he may not be with his own congregation, but he is assembling with and encouraging others wherever he is to be “strong in the faith.”  Is this the attitude you have when away from home- to find brethren that you can help to strengthen and encourage with your presence and participation?  Or, is it more along the lines of, “I’ll go somewhere for worship if it’s not too far and I’m not too busy or tired.”?   The first one is MIA- the second is probably just AWOL!

Are you a “POW”?  This is the military designation for those who are “prisoners of war.”  Unfortunately, in physical and spiritual wars, there are captives.  There are some who, despite their efforts to “fight the enemy,” fall prey to them and become POWs.  They become entangled in the defilements of the world and the affairs of this life and are overcome, cf. 2Timothy 2:4; 2Peter 2:20.  In short, they are overrun by sin, Hebrews 12:2, or caught/captured by trespasses, Galatians 6:1.  Is this you?  Are you a POW?   If so, you’re supposed to have fellow soldiers out diligently searching for and rescuing you, Galatians 6:1ff; Hebrews 12:12,13,15!

What about it?  Are you 4F, AWOL, MIA, or a POW?  Or, are you still a “hard-fighting soldier” in the Lord’s army?


September 22, 2013

The Bottom Line – Terry Bennett

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

I recently read about a high school student who thought he had his math course figured out. He noticed that every time the teacher presented a new concept, she would spend the first day making them go through all the hard work to solve the equation from beginning to end. It was tedious, detailed effort that was not at all easy. But then the next day, the teacher would show the class the short cut to solving the equation. After seeing this sequence of events occur several times, the high school student decided that he really didn’t have to pay attention to the first day of the new concept. He would just wait until the second day and learn the short cut. After all, he reasoned, I will only need to give the answer on the test. I just need to know the bottom line. You can imagine what happened on the day of the examination when question after question said, “Solve the equation and show your work.”

The bottom line is obviously important to a company as it shows the difference between income and expenses for an accounting period. They continually try to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in search of a higher profit margin. However, some have taken this so far as to eschew the law and use fraud and corruption to improve their bottom line. During their prison terms, they have the opportunity to realize that there is indeed a right way and a wrong way to address the bottom line.

I wonder how often we take a similar “bottom line” approach, though, to spiritual matters.Have you ever seen anyone ask the preacher to “tell me what I believe?” And even if you haven’t heard those words voiced, have you ever noticed a similar attitude? How about the brother who believes that the reason we don’t use instrumental music is simply because “that’s our tradition?” Or the young sister who is sure that dancing is wrong because “that’s what mama told me?” How often do our Bibles simply gather dust? “Well, after all, our preacher is a smart fella, and we pay him to study and learn what is right, don’t we? And if he does teach something wrong, we’ve got the elders to straighten him out.”

Does that sound like the Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11)? Do we truly become closer to God simply by accepting what someone else tells us, or is there true value in spending time to study and meditate on God’s word?

Some have taken this idea of the “bottom line” even further. For example, I read a recent article where the author declared the bottom line to be that grace saves us and as a result, works have absolutely no bearing on salvation at all. Still others seem to think that use of a choir in worship services is acceptable because sing is still taking place.

Brethren, we must realize that the Lord’s work is not just a job that needs to be done but is instead an outworking of our faith. It’s not just about the bottom line. And we can’t simply ignore His law in doing His work. It’s not about solving world hunger, it’s about each of us serving others as we have opportunity (Galatians 6:10) or when we have this world’s goods and see a brother in need (1 John 3:17). It’s not just about putting money in the collection plate to pay the local preacher and to help support evangelism overseas. It’s about each of us studying God’s word for ourselves to become “equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17) And it’s about each of us telling our family, friends, and neighbors the good news of Jesus Christ.

September 15, 2013

How Can I Know God’s Will? – Ken Weliever

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

I was talking to a lady last week who was being evicted from her apartment.  She  expected the Judge to evict her in three days.  However, to her surprise,  she was given two weeks.

She suggested to me that it was God’s will.  God gave her an extra two weeks.  I’m not so sure that apartment manager thought it was the will of God for this woman to get two months of free rent!
This situation got me to thinking of the many times people interpret something unexpected or inexplicable  as the will of God.  A child suddenly dies of an unknown disease.  A husband and father is killed in an auto accident.  A godly wife and mother is stricken with cancer and dies within six months.  A mad gunman opens fire on school children and 20 are murdered.
When these situations occur, someone is bound to say, “It was God’s will.”  But was it?
As I contemplated this question, I recalled a fine lecture by Colly Caldwell at the 2012 Florida Lectures on ‘The Will of God.”  To understand the will of God Colly said that we need to remember that God created us for His purpose. To praise Him. To glorify Him. To live for Him. And to love Him. To enjoy a relationship with Him. Just as a parent seeks to bring children into the world that will honor, respect and love them, God wants that from his children. However, He made us with the free will to choose. While it is the will of God that we fulfill the purpose for which He created us, sometimes we make choices that are contrary to that purpose and to His will.

Colly suggested that God’s will falls into three categories. He used the life of Joseph as an example (Genesis 37-50).

(1) There are some things that are the unconditional will of God. They are unchanging. His plan for man’s salvation was and is God’s will. That is changeless. Constant. Eternal. God’s will was to use Joseph to bring about a great deliverance for Jacob’s family and save them from an impending famine.
(2) There are some things that are the conditional will of God. There are some things that God desires, but may or may not occur depending on the choices we make. Joseph chose to be faithful to God. And He was able to use that to carry out His will. Israel on the other hand chose to be unfaithful. God desired for them to love and serve Him, but they did not.
(3) Then there are some things that are the permissive will of God. There are things that God may or may not desire to happen, but he permits them. We don’t always know. Sometimes we make choices that we are not sure if it is the best choice or not. But God permits it. God does not always agree with everything he allows. Joseph’s brothers were envious and had murderous intent in their hearts. I think it is safe to say that was not God’s will. But he allowed it.

Dr. Caldwell  then made this important observation, “Things are not always what they seem to be.” Rachel was barren and thought she couldn’t have children, but she did. Joseph’s brothers thought he was being presumptuous with his dreams, but they were given to him by God foretelling the future. Jacob lived a good part of his life thinking Joseph was dead, yet he was alive. Joseph languished in prison and thought he was forgotten, but he wasn’t. Joseph’s brothers were sure he would retaliate and seek revenge for their sins against him, but that was not his intention.

In the final analysis, Colly suggested, there are two things we can know for sure are the will of God. (1) that He wants us to be saved. (2) That He wants us to be good.  I can know this is God’s will because it’s revealed in the Bible!

Indeed this is a challenging subject.  But we know that God is in control. That He allows us free moral agency. Thus, I am responsible for my actions. And He can even take the bad things that people mean for evil toward us and He can use them for good.

My role and responsibility is to love God. Trust God. And serve God. And say, “Your will be done.”

September 8, 2013

Talk, Talk, Talk – Philip Strong

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Dr. Stephen R. Covey, famed author of and lecturer on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” said, “You cannot talk yourself out of problems you behave yourself into.”  (Emphasis added, PCS).  While I believe Dr. Covey was entirely correct in the “bigger picture view” of personal accountability and growth, the truth of his statement sure doesn’t seem to alter the modus operandi for a lot of us!  Attempting to “talk our way out of problems” is the standard operating procedure for a world of people who believe saying “I’m sorry” will fix anything and everything.  This view is somewhat infantile and very naïve.  Proffering an apology and/or a list of excuses meant to either justify our actions, or negate culpability for them, simply does not correct behavioral issues.  What we say may mitigate some consequences of our actions in a few cases, but does nothing to correct the underlying problem.  While the acknowledgment of responsibility coupled with a sincere apology is absolutely the right starting point, the real solution is changed behavior – not an endless stream of apologies and excuses. 
There are a few examples that will well illustrate the principle that we cannot talk ourselves out of problems that have a behavioral cause.Broken Promises in Relationships- We can apologize and attempt to justify or excuse ourselves all we want, but our relationships with friends, children, or even co-workers, bosses, or employees are often irreparably damaged when we fail, or repeatedly fail, to keep our word. 
Broken Trust in Marriage- One of the most heart-rending questions I have been asked had to do with how to rebuild trust in a marriage once it had been broken by infidelity.  Even the truly penitent, who want nothing more than to “go back” to where they were in their marriage before the offence, have to understand that trust cannot be rebuilt with mere words of promise or apology- it takes patient and consistent trustworthy actions.
Broken Fellowship with Brethren- While godly brethren are usually eager to forgive and reinstate into fellowship an erring brother or sister who sincerely confesses fault and seeks forgiveness- and rightfully so, the worthiness of that clemency is necessarily proven over time by his continued fruits (actions) of repentance.
But aside from these relational issues, the most important application of the principle that we cannot talk our way out of problems our behavior has caused concerns our salvation – our relationship with God that has been severed by sin (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).  John the Baptist didn’t tell wayward Jews what to say to return to favor with God, he told them what they needed to do- “Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with your repentance; and do not say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’” Matthew 3:8-9.  On the day of Pentecost, those convicted of having killed the Messiah didn’t ask what to say, but what to do to be forgiven of their guilt of sin.  They asked, “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins…” in v.38.  Saul of Tarsus, that feared persecutor of the early church, when he became aware that he was fighting against rather than for God, was not told what to say, but what to do.  He had spent three days saying prayers through which he undoubtedly sought guidance and forgiveness, but when the Lord’s prophet Ananias came, he simply told him what he needed to do- “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord,” Acts 22:16. 
None of these examples are given to minimize the importance of confessing sin, or saying, “I’m sorry for my sin”- either to others, or to God. These are certainly good and proper initial steps. But they are provided to further emphasize the point that problems or situations caused by behavior (in this case, “sin”) have solutions that involve more than just talk- they require action.  Biblical, saving faith is not accomplished with words, but actions, James 2:14-17.  True understanding and wisdom is not demonstrated by what we say, but what we do, James 3:13.  And “pure and undefiled religion” is not the result of our words, but the practice of God’s Word, James 1:26-27!  Now, are you trying to talk your way out of the rightful consequences of your behavior, or are you willing to rebuild proper relationships with God and others by consistently and faithfully doing the right things? 

September 7, 2013

Let Him Become A Fool – Philip North

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:37 pm by sranderson0103

In 1 Corinthians 3:18, the beloved Apostle Paul writes, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man amoung you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool,  that he may be wise.” Corinth, like any other part of Greece, especially Athens, was deeply involved into philosophy. Hence, such a powerful thing as this would surely make its way into the church there, unless Paul, as the saying goes, “nipped it in the bud.”

Self-deceit is prevalent among many people, and is the worst of all deceptions. To the world, one who follows the Bible is a fool, and one who follows his own heart, thoughts, philosophy, is a wise person. Quite an irony on both sides, to be sure. Also, much an accent of “self.”

Those who would ponder following Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, as well as those who actually do so, are warned of such backward thinking numerous times in God’s Word. We may label this as “self versus God.” Being a “fool” appeals to one’s pride, as does being “wise.”

To quote Brother Mike Willis in “Truth Commentaries,” he says in his own commentary on 1 Corinthians that the sentence under consideration should be paraphrased as, “Let him become a fool according to this world’s standards, that he may be wise in the sight of God” (page 98).

So I will place this question to the reader: Would you not rather look the “fool” in the eyes of the world, or would you rather look the “fool” before God on Judgment Day? Please think about this.

Paul deals with this ironic verse not only when writing to Corinth, but in some of his other epistles, as well. 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 reads, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness. But unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Man is quite the delicate creature: Pat him on the back, and he gets a swelled head. Like all other things in life, thinking for one’s own self, (while good and necessary in much of daily living), has gone to many extremes. We are known as the “ME” generation. Man is a natural born hunter. He is always after something new to learn, but so often, he desires constitute that of a worldly nature. That was the problem with the philosophers in Athens Greece, when Paul spoke his famous sermon to them on Mars Hill: “(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear something new)” (Acts 17:21). The term “get a life” would certainly apply here.

In Colossians 2:8, Paul warns the bretheren there, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” “Rudiment” is from the Greek word STOICHEION, and is defines as, “One of a row or series” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Vine then says to see the word “elements.” Indeed, the whole of philosophy has its own “one, two threes.” Another way put, philosophy also contains its own foundation, skeletal structure, and body parts.

Philosophy feeds the ego and vanity, both of which fall under “pride.” This is the main reason this is a menace to Christianity, thus, pulling many people away from God.

You and I need to be a “fool” in order to become “wise.” We need to drop our pride and ego, drop our self-will, drop being parrots to other people’s beliefs, drop being in bondage to man-made traditions and customs, drop having anyone’s personal opinions and consciences forced upon us, and drop any desire to only read and abide by certain “pet passages.” Isolating Bible verses to one’s own benefit and personal satisfaction does nothing for one’s soul in eternity. After all, 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing thw word of truth.” (Emphasis mine, PN). Furthermore, be like the Bereans back in the book of Acts, and not like those in Thessalonica: “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea, who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).

Then, James instructs us, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:13-18).

So, gentle reader, which really makes for being “noble” and “wise”? Is true, godly nobility obtained by allowing one’s pride and vanity to rule in all areas of life, or by reading and following the precious pages of God’s Holy Writ? Answer that with all of Heaven watching you right this very second, and you have settled the issue.