March 30, 2014

Taking Time To Grow Spiriturally – Gary Henry

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Like most other important things, spiritual growth takes time. It doesn’t happen while we sleep, nor does it occur in the background while we’re engaged in other pursuits. To grow spiritually, there are some definite activities that must be engaged in (such as Bible study and prayer), and these activities take time. If we’re not willing to set aside the time that these things require, we need not think that spiritual growth is going to happen.

Growth is essential. While we certainly do have the option whether to be a faithful Christian or not, if we’ve chosen to be a faithful Christian, we don’t have the option whether to grow or not. Either we grow — and keep growing throughout our lives — or we die. There is no safe plateau we can reach where further growth is unnecessary.

Peter urged us to “give all diligence” to add the so-called Christian graces to our faith: virtue, knowledge, self-control, etc. But these traits of spiritual maturity are not options; they are necessary if we are to keep from stumbling and enter the heavenly kingdom. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt. 1:10-11).

Growth is intentional. Many of us seem to think that growth in Christ is something that happens willy nilly, whether we’ve decided to do that or not. But unlike physical growth, which can occur with little or no conscious thought on our part, spiritual growth is always the result of deliberate decision. There is no such thing as unintentional progress in the life of a disciple.

In Paul’s advice to Timothy, it would be hard to miss his emphasis on deliberate decision: “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16).

Growth is costly. There are only twenty-four hours in the day. Whatever time it takes to do the things that result in spiritual growth, that will be that much less time available to do other things. As one of our “valuables,” spiritual growth is like any other thing of value: its cost is in proportion to its value. In the long run, we will have about as much spiritual growth as we’re willing to pay for — by the sacrifice of other time-consuming things. As someone has said, we can have anything in life that we want, but we can’t have everything. Some choices have to be made, and the choice to grow spiritually is a choice not to do some other things.

For example, most people who have taken spiritual growth seriously have found that they have to sacrifice a certain amount of sleep in order to engage in prayer. Concerning Jesus, we are told: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mk. 1:35). For us, there may very likely be the same kind of decision that Jesus had to make: do I get up and pray before the day’s activities begin or do I lie in bed a little longer. Spiritual growth is costly, and the alarm clock often presents us with the day’s first price tag.

Sydney J. Harris said, “Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.” Living in a culture where people have been led to believe they can “have it all,” we suppose that there must be a way to grow to spiritual maturity without doing anything other than what we’ve already been doing. But that is folly. If we keep spending our time as we always have, we won’t grow any more than we have in the past. If things remain the same, they won’t get better. So let’s actually change. Let’s sacrifice some of our activities and devote that time to growing in Christ.

 

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March 23, 2014

Ebenezer – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”  (I Samuel 7:12)

O, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, is an old familiar hymn most of us have sung many times. It includes a phrase many have sung without knowing its great meaning. “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’ve come.” It has nothing to do with Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

In the days of Samuel, Israel followed the nations around them into idolatry, again and again. God demonstrated His displeasure against these practices by allowing the Ark of the Covenant to be captured by the Philistines. On that tragic day, the old priest Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, all died, as did Phinehas’ wife in childbirth. God was speaking to Israel in a language they could not ignore. They did listen. Samuel led them in repentance and confession of sin. They destroyed their idols and prayed for forgiveness. It quickly became obvious that they were heard.

God spoke to the Philistines with repeated tragedies which followed the Ark wherever it was located. Understandably, they decided to get it out of town. They returned the Ark in a unique manner that made God’s hand obvious.

However, about twenty years later, the Philistines threatened again with a vastly superior army.

“Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah and I will pray to the LORD for you.” They gathered to Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day and said there, We have sinned against the LORD.” (I Samuel 7:5-6)

The Lord gave them a miraculous victory over the superior armies of the Philistines.

“Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel.” (I Samuel 7:10)

In commemoration of this deliverance, Samuel set up a stone monument, in the same place where the Philistines had captured the Ark 20 years before.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and they did not come anymore within the border of Israel.” (I Samuel 7:12-13)

The stone was set between Mizpah and Shen. We don’t know the location of Shen today, but Mizpah is likely the site identified as Tell en-Nasbeh, an 8 acre tell located on a low plateau 7.5 mi northwest of Jerusalem in the West Bank. I have been to the rather unimpressive site, near a modern shopping center, but next to an ancient roadway connecting Jerusalem with the northern hill country. We don’t know exactly where the stone memorial was built but we can get very close.

Samuel intended for the Israelites to see these physical stones for years to come and be reminded of God’s power. Whenever they might later come to fear circumstances around them, they would be reminded that God had been their help in ages past, and thus could be trusted as their hope for years to come. “Ebenezer” means “Stone of Help.” Only God is truly able to help in times of great need, but He is able!

“From whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

It is well to remember those times in our own lives when God has helped us in some special way. We forget so easily. A physical token can help us remember, but whatever it takes—remember! God will hear and answer our prayers.

The next time you sing about raising your Ebenezer, you will be able to “sing with the understanding” (I Corinthians 14:15) that you are acknowledging God’s help in your life.

 

 

March 16, 2014

Bible Metaphors – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:03 am by sranderson0103

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

A “metaphor” is defined by The Oxford Dictionary as…

“A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable: …A thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else…”

The Christian and his characteristics are described in terms of many colorful metaphors in the Bible. Figures of speech often reach beyond scope of our literal language. They are useful to help picture what Christ is saying in the verse quoted above. Christ calls us “my sheep.” He has also said:

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)

If we are truly His sheep, then we will listen to His voice, follow Him, eager to receive safety, peace, and nourishment.

He has also said:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” (Matthew 5:13-14).

We are therefore expected to bring the salt of preservation and joy to a bland, tasteless, and otherwise decaying world, and the light of salvation to a dark, sinful world.

In another beautiful metaphor, the Lord Jesus has likened us to fruitful branches:

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).

Does He see you as a fruitful branch?

The apostle Paul compares us to soldiers, to athletes, and to farmers:

“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” (II Timothy 2:3,5,6).

These figures should illustrate and help us understand what Jesus expects of us. Our responsibility is seen more clearly and becomes more difficult to ignore.

With regard to our Christian life, Christ said…

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).

The apostle Paul compares us to individual members in a great body.

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27).

Peter says we are like…

“living stones, …being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:5)

He says we are, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation…” (I Peter 2:9)

There are many other beautiful and meaningful figures of speech in the New Testament, all of which help us to appreciate the richness and fruitfulness of the Christian life. If these figures, chosen by the Holy Spirit, seem inappropriate or do not really describe us, perhaps the problem is not with the Bible imagery, but with us. Are we what God expects us to be?

(Adapted from article by Henry Morris)

 

 

 

 

March 9, 2014

Humble Ancestry – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi!’ So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (Ruth 4:17)

A few of us, today, have the privilege of meeting and listening to a great-grand parent. The Bible indicates that before the flood, when life-spans were much longer, this would have been a normal experience. However, by David’s time, average ages had declined to about the same as today.

“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years…” (Psalm 90:10)

We do not know for certain who the human author of the fascinating book of Ruth may have been, but it was likely written by a contemporary of David, able to carry the genealogy of Ruth’s descendants down to her great-grandson, David. It is quite possible that the story was told directly to David by Ruth herself, his great-grandmother.

Was David aware that his lineage would be crucial evidence to determine that Jesus was the Messiah? In any case, when David later became king, he must surely have been intrigued by the providential circumstances that had led to his anointing. He would have read Genesis 49:8-12 in which Israel had said that a member of the tribe of Judah would be the ruler of the children of Israel some day. He must also have marveled at the wonderful grace of God that brought his great-grandmother, a Moabitess, into his ancestry, despite the proscription in Deuteronomy 23:3, stipulating that Moabites should not “enter the assembly of the Lord.” (It appears that full proselytes were excepted, Exodus 12:48; Acts 2:10; 6:5, 13:43). Considering the great concern for genealogy among the Jews, David likely was aware that Nahshon, who was the grandfather of Ruth’s husband, Boaz, had been the chief captain of the tribe of Judah when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt (Numbers 1:4-5, 7), but that he had apparently failed in that role and perished in the wilderness. His fellow tribesman Caleb, was permitted to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:22-24) but, Nahshon, rather than Caleb, became David’s ancestor.

David, like Ruth and like Nahshon, and like every one of us, has been brought into the great family of the King not because of our own merits but by His marvelous grace! We have been born again “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13). “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5).

Adapted from an article by Henry Morris

 

 

March 2, 2014

Nations That Forget God – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17, NKJV)

The subject of hell, or “sheol” (NASV), is typically ignored today, even by “evangelicals”, who claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This is especially obvious at funerals. Heaven is the only destination ever mentioned. Of course, almost everyone attending a funeral wants to think that the deceased has gone there (assuming there turns out to be such a place) and “everybody” must be pleased. How terribly rude, narrow-minded and bigoted, is any suggestion that there is a possibility even the worst criminals or the most anti-God celebrities, might have gone to Hell. “Get that person some sensitivity training quick.” Such attitudes serve Satan well.

Not only is Hell real, there will be many more people in Hell than in Heaven. Who am I to say such a thing? Nobody. My opinion and yours is immaterial. However, the Lord Jesus Christ is somebody. He is the Creator of all that is. (John 1:1-3) He has taken away all reasonable speculation on the matter.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who

enter through it.  “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

But just who are the “wicked” that will be “turned into hell”? According to the Bible, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;” (Romans 3:10) By the principle of Hebrew poetic parallelism, our text indicates that “the wicked” are those who “forget God,” where the word “forget” means “forgetting to mention, ceasing to care for…” (BDAG).

Can nations “cease to care for” the God of creation. Do businesses and legislatures conduct all their affairs as though God has not spoken? If so, those nations, and citizens of those nations who practice such wickedness, are in physical and mortal danger.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.” Proverbs 14:34

“You have removed all the wicked of the earth like dross;…” (Psalm 119:119)

“I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,… (Amos 4:11)

Sin may not seem so bad to us, but God is absolutely righteous and holy, therefore, cannot tolerate sin. We should be able to understand that this intolerable sin separates us from a righteous and holy God.

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)

In God’s righteous view, justice demands punishment for sin. Fortunately for us, God is also merciful. This does not mean He can ignore the problem. He is absolutely righteous. His justice must be satisfied. Our merciful God was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, the pure lamb, His own son. “…Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)  God’s mercy provides forgiveness of our sin when we submit to His will, believe in His Son, repent of our sins and are baptized into Christ.

Nations that turn back to God will also receive His mercy.

“Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.”… (Jeremiah 3:22)

“Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually.” (Hosea 12:6)

“Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7)

Adapted from an article by Henry Morris.