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19
Sep

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

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“OUR ETERNITY IS more important than anything that can happen in the few short decades we spend in this life.  No matter how much suffering takes place now, it is far more critical to settle where we will be once that suffering ends”

Jim Davis, “Why Doesn’t God Do Something?” Why Me?  A Godly View of Suffering, Leafwood Publishers, p. 101

17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).  

17
Sep

What About the Blank Space?

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AUTHOR SIDNEY GREENBERG once wrote some very interesting words about loss.

He notes that when the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in Paris in 1911 and was missing for two years, more people went to stare at the blank space in the museum than had gone to look at the masterpiece in the twelve previous years it had hung there unmolested.

Greenberg says this intriguing bit of information tells us something important about ourselves.

“It points to our all-too human tendency to fail to take adequate note of precious things while we have them.  But let one of them be taken from us and we become painfully aware of the ‘blank space’ in our lives, and our attention is sharply focused on the ‘blank space.’

“The walls of our lives are crowded with Mona Lisas,” he writes, “but we are unmindful of them.  Countless blessings attend us daily and we are so insensitive to them.  The more often and more regularly we receive any blessing, the less likely we are to be aware of it.  What is constantly granted is easily taken for granted.”

Guest editorialist:  Ken Wilson, “Creating Biblical Leaders,” p. 57

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; AND BE THANKFUL (Col. 3:15–emphasis mine, mb).

11
Sep

Do You Remember the Tragedy?

Tribute in Light

I HAVE A vivid recollection of that day.

My wife came in the room, turned on the TV set and then spoke in shaken tones.  She said, “They’ve flown a jet-liner into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York…” For the next several hours I sat transfixed before the television and watched in horror as the events of 911 unfolded.

Eighteen years after that dreadful day, some Americans, like myself, look back on September 11 with intense emotion. We recall those gaping wounds in the sides of the towers. We remember those ill-fated flights and how they were intentionally slammed into the very icons of our nation. We remember those thick plumes of noxious smoke as they bellowed out of the top of those lofty skyscrapers and into our collective conscience. We remember our own anxiety and ponder what must have raced through the hearts of fellow-citizens as they contemplated the end of their earthly existence and the brevity of human life. We remember the internal shock of watching the first, and then the second tower plummet to the ground. We remember those feelings of helplessness and despair as lower Manhattan was engulfed in ash and debris. 

But may I suggest, dear reader, that there is a far more terrible tragedy that warrants our joint remembrance.

Every first day of the week (Acts 20:7), we need to call to memory (1 Cor. 11:23-26) those horrific events which transpired nearly 2,000 years ago:

  • We need to remember the murderous plot against the innocent Son (Mt. 26:3-4; Heb. 4:15; 7:26).
  • We need to remember the Lord’s internal struggle as He pondered His impending death (Mt. 26:37-39).
  • We need to remember His betrayal at the hands of one of His own disciples (Mt. 26:47-50).
  • We need to remember the ill-informed attempt to thwart His crucifixion (Mt. 26:51-54).
  • We need to remember the disciples’ cowardice and how they fled for their lives when He needed them the most (Mt. 26:56).
  • We need to remember the howls of the angry mob as they shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Mk. 15:13-14).
  • We need to remember the incredible injustice of both the Jewish and Roman courts (Mt. 26:57ff).
  • We need to remember Pilate’s timidity before that blood-thirsty crowd (Mt. 27:24-26; Lk. 23:13-25).
  • We need to remember the brutal flogging (i.e., “little death”) at the hands of the Roman lictors (Jn. 19:1).
  • We need to remember Peter’s lying about his association with Jesus (Mt. 26:69-75).
  • We need to remember the slanderous mockery of the soldiers, priests, and thieves (Mt. 27:27ff; 39-44).
  • We need to remember the Lord’s humiliation as He was stripped of His clothing and numbered with lawless, ungodly men (Isa. 53:12; Mt. 27:28; Heb. 12:2).
  • We need to remember that ruthless blow to His head (Mt. 27:30). We need to remember the heavy burden of the cross that was thrust upon His weary shoulders (Mt. 27:32).
  • We need to remember those cruel nails that pierced His hands and feet and how that He was suspended between holy God and sinful man (Jn. 3:14; 12:34).
  • We need to remember the bitter taste of sour wine mingled with gall (Mt. 27:34).
  • We need to remember His desperate cry to His own Father (Mt. 27:46).
  • We need to remember the frightful earthquake that shook the earth the moment the Savior died (Mt. 27:54).
  • Perhaps most importantly, we need to remember that our own sins made this barbaric occasion necessary (1 Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53). 

“Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony, lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.”

“Do this in remembrance of Me…” (1 Cor. 11:24, 25).

10
Sep

Why EVERY Sunday?

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QUESTION:  “Why do members of the church of Christ eat the Lord’s Supper every Sunday?”

Answer:

  1. The apostles were guided into ALL truth. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13a).
  2. They ate the Lord’s Supper EVERY Lord’s Day (cf. Rev. 1:10)—EACH first day of the week. Consider:
  • The disciples were commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper (Mat. 26:26-28; Luke 22:17-19).
  • Christians were commanded to assemble every Sunday (1 Cor. 16:2 Heb. 10:25).
  • One of the purposes of these assemblies was so that the church could partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20, 33) and therefore remember His death (1 Cor. 11:24, 26).
  • The first-century church observed the Lord’s Supper according to the apostle’s doctrine/teaching (Acts 2:42). NOTE: The Greek article (the) proceeding “bread” is not present in the English, but it is present in the Greek text.  The article indicates that a special (unleavened) bread is under consideration (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16).
  • The apostolic practice was the first day of the week. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to bread bread…” (Acts 20:7), the same day as Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Luke 24:1-3, 21, 46).
  1. Members of the church of Christ are only trying to follow the New Testament pattern. Since there is not a week that passes that does not have a first day, Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper on this weekly occasion, according to apostolic example, and in so doing, remember the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf.
3
Sep

1 Peter 4:12

Normal

3
Sep

Can You Prove It?

 

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THE LORD’S CHURCH at Thessalonica had suffered her share of negative experiences.

You could say she had been “burned.”  False prophets had come in with alleged messages from God—especially in the context of the second coming (4:13-5:11).  In retrospect, the congregation realized that some of these individuals hadn’t really brought actual, factual revelations (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-3).1

Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case, the brethren not only stopped listening to the false prophets (a good thing), but they moved to the opposite extreme and evidently rejected ALL prophets and prophecies (not a good thing).

Paul tried to keep the pendulum of reaction from swinging too far and keep the church at center.  He said, “Do not despise prophecies…” (1 Thess. 5:20).  The Greek word translated “despise” is exoutheneo (pronounced eks-ü-the-ne’-ō).  It means “to make of no account.”  In Alabama parlance, when a person says something is “of no account,” he’s saying it’s of no or very little importance.  In lieu of the fraudulent messages from false prophets, the Thessalonians treated ALL prophets and prophecies as though they were of no account.

Paul, by contrast, urged them to employ a different methodology.  He said, “Test all things…” (v. 21).  “Test”—some versions say “prove” (KJV, ASV); the word in the original is dokimazo (pronounced do-kē-mä’-zō).  It means “to test, to examine, to prove, or to scrutinize” (to see whether a thing is genuine or not).2  The word was used in reference to the testing of ancient coins.

Somewhere around 650 BC, coinage was invented on the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea (think Asia Minor).  Counterfeiters and counterfeit coins appeared soon thereafter.3

There were two ways of counterfeiting an actual coin.  The first method was to cover a base metal disk with a very thin veneer of precious metal (like silver) and then strike it between engraved dies.  Assuming the plating was smooth and without obvious defects, that the dies were of good quality, and the weight of the finished product was close to the official standard, a spurious coin might pass as genuine.  This bogus coin was referred to as a fourrée (from the French word meaning “stuffed”).

The second method was to make a clay mold from a legitimate coin, and then pour molten metal (i.e., leaded copper alloy) into the mold.  Since ceramic molds could be produced en masse with a minimum of expense, counterfeiters could make a significant profit from the creation and exchange of their low-value copper forgeries.

To deal with the proliferation of these counterfeit coins, some ancient societies passed laws which provided for official coin-testers (called dokimastes)—who would sit at banking tables in the marketplace and inspect metal currency.  These “testers” would inspect a coin, weigh it against an official standard coin, and then cut it with a chisel to reveal what was on the inside.  In so doing, they proved whether or not the money was genuine or whether it was a forgery.

Now watch it.  Paul told the Thessalonians, “Do not despise prophecies.  Test (dokimazo) all things; hold fast what is good.”  Test what things, Paul?  Prophecies (v. 20).  Don’t despise all of them, don’t consider all them of no account—but prove and inspect them.

Beloved, the mandate of the Thessalonian church is ours today.  Just because a preacher says something from the pulpit doesn’t necessarily make it true.  It is possible he is sincere, but mistaken (e.g., Apollos—Acts 18:24-26); then too, it is possible that he is insincere as well as in error (e.g., Hymenaeus and Alexander—1 Tim. 1:20; Hymenaeus and Philetus—2 Tim. 2:17-18).  On the other hand, because he says something that you haven’t heard before doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.   The only way of knowing what he says is factual or not is to compare what he teaches with the revealed will of God.4

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test (dokimazo) the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

1 Earl D. Edwards, 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, Truth For Today Commentary, 188.
2 https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1381&t=NKJV
3 Counterfeiting has sometimes been referred to as “the second oldest profession.”
4 “Christians must learn to discern truth from error, good from bad.  We cannot always trust the source.”  Michael Whitworth, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, Living & Longing for the Lord, 118.
30
Aug

Job 37:11

I can’t START a storm, I can’t

27
Aug

Can You Be Flexible?

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Guest Editorial

IT ALL BEGAN with a simple incident.

“Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money” (Acts 3:2-3).

What was Peter’s response?

He could have said, “Old man, don’t bother me. Can’t you see we are on our way to prayer meeting? After all, this is the HOUR of prayer, this is the PLACE of prayer, and we are MEN of prayer. Some other time, perhaps, but not now. We have a fixed schedule, a regimented pattern of life, and an inflexible determination to hold to it.”

But he didn’t.

He had an entirely different reaction.

Flexibility was one of the hallmarks of these men.

I’m sure that three years with Jesus contributed significantly to that lifestyle.

If it wasn’t a woman with an issue of blood, or a hungry multitude that needed to be fed, it was a blind beggar calling out to the Son of David for mercy.

Interruptions and changed plans were nothing new to Christ’s companions. (Leroy Eims, “Disciples in Action,” p. 38)

20
Aug

Are You Cutting Ears and Calling Angels?

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JESUS HAD POWER (Col. 1:16-17).

“Wonder-working” power (Luke 5:17).

He could walk on water, raise the dead, and instantly heal those afflicted with horrible, life-long disease.

He could cast out demons, feed thousands with but a few loaves and fish, and transform water into wine.

He could rebuke the storm and calm the sea.

He had power (Acts 10:38).

And yet…perhaps His most surprising manifestation of power was the intentional failure to employ it (1 Pet. 2:21-23; cf. Isa. 53:7; Mark 14:61).

Despite the unlimited miraculous resources at His disposal, when faced with Calvary and all that entailed, Jesus restrained His own mighty hand.

Has it ever occurred to you that one of the Lord’s most significant displays of power was expressed in a non-miraculous way?

The chief priests, elders and scribes (ie., religious leaders!) levied a sordid array of attacks against Jesus.

They brought false testimony against Him (Mark 14:55-58).

They accused Him of blasphemy (Mark 14:64).

They spat upon Him, they blindfolded Him, and they struck Him (Mark 14:65).

Pilate had Him scourged (Mark 15:15).

His own friends betrayed Him and denied Him (Mark 14:10-11; 66ff).

Finally, He was thrust upon a cruel cross and forced to endure humiliation and torture (Mark 15:22ff; cf. Heb. 12:2).

Jesus could have prevented it all.

Peter tried to (Mark 14:47); in fact, he had vowed to (Mat. 26:31-35; Mark 14:31).

When the enemies attempted to take the Lord away, Peter struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.

In another one of his brash initiatives, this future leader, apostle, and preacher of the first-century church tried to start a fight.

Peter wanted the mob to know that He was ready to come to blows if necessary, and he drew blood in order to prove his point.

But Jesus didn’t need Peter’s sword.

He was/is the Son of God.

He not only had power, He had all power at His disposal.

He could have called angels.

Mighty, super-human (Psm. 103:20; cf. Mat. 28:2-4; 2 Thess. 1:7) legions.

A legion was anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 men strong.

We sometimes sings, “He could have called TEN-THOUSAND angels…”

More accurately, He could have called between 36,000 and 72,000 angels plus (cf. Rev. 5:11; Dan. 7:10)!

So what would He need with Peter’s puny blade?

The host of heaven could have been beckoned with but a word, and Jesus could have retaliated.

Let’s be honest.

Most of us have more in common with Peter than with the Lord, right?

When our mates hurt us with words, we want to show our superiority and exhibit our prowess.

“Where’s my sword?!  Hey angels, come on down!”

When our enemies try to injure us, our inclination is to emulate Peter rather an Jesus.

We want to unsheathe our weapon and fight back; we want to call in reinforcements and engage in combat.

But the Lord urges us not to use force (Rom. 12:19).

You see, we like jesus (Mat. 26:54), have a mission (Mat. 5:43ff; 1 Pet. 2:20), a mission to reconcile others to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

So how can we bend our will to the Father’s and subdue our desire to use force, intimidation and or power?

Consider:

  1. REMEMBER–those who live by fighting eventually die in battle themselves. 

“All who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mat. 26:52).

I know couples who are capable swordsmen.

They are skilled in verbal engagement.

They know how to cut to the core with their sharp tongues (Prov. 12:18).

They mutilate their mates by hacking them to pieces with their words.

(Peter would be proud!)

By their malicious and caustic jabs they bleed the life out of their relationships.

As a result, their marriages are killed, and divorce ensues.

Husbands, wives…swinging your swords (Mat. 26:51) doesn’t produce peace; it only escalates hostilities (Prov. 15:1).

Be lovers (1 Cor. 13:4-8a; Eph. 5:25; Titus 2:4; Song of Solomon), not fighters (Prov. 17:14; 20:3; 1 Tim. 3:3).

Be peacemakers (Jas. 3:14-18; cf. Mat. 5:9), not war-mongers (Jas. 4:1; Psm. 68:30b).

2.  REMEMBER–employing force nullifies your mission.

“How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Mat. 26:54).

Had Peter been permitted to fight off the Roman mob, had Jesus summoned His legions (Mat. 26:53) and prevented His own capture, Calvary might never have occurred, and you and I would still be in our sins!

Peter could have cut and Jesus could have called, but either alternative would have aborted the Father’s will for mankind (Mat. 26:54).

Brethren, when we employ retaliatory force against others, we effectively severe any opportunity to win and reconcile them to Christ (1 Pet. 3:1; 4:19).

We have a mission to win souls (Prov. 11:30; Mat. 28:19-20; Rom. 12:17-21), not personal battles (1 Pet. 2:20ff), or arguments (2 Tim. 2:24).

3.  REMEMBER–the greatest exercise of power is often the decision NOT to employ it.

Jesus didn’t dial 1-800-4ANGELS; instead, He turned over His Shepherd’s rod and became a sheep Himself (Isa. 53:7).

Real power backs away from a fight.

Real power shows restraint and exercises self-control.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23; cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-9).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

 

13
Aug

Will You Go Anyway?

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JESUS SENT TWO disciples ahead of Him into a nearby village to carry out a special errand.

“Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat.  Loose him and bring him here.  And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing him?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of him'” (Luke 19:30-31).

Once the animal had been secured, Jesus purposely rode the colt in Jerusalem.

I say “purposely” because His presence on the beast served as a sort of formal announcement.

In ancient times a conqueror would ride a stallion into a city indicative of the fact that he reigned over the people.

However, when that individual came mounted on a colt, it said peace prevailed.

So Jesus, the Prince of Peace, rode the colt into Jerusalem (cf. Zech. 9:9) proclaiming His impending coronation.

Not surprising, His entrance into the city was met with divergent response.

Many hailed Him with joy, welcoming Him as an earthly sovereign who had come, so they thought, to re-establish the Davidic kingdom and overthrow the Roman empire (Luke 19:37).

By contrast, others were angry with the Lord because they interpreted this ride into Jerusalem as rank arrogance and blasphemy (v. 39).

The religious establishment insisted that Jesus rebuke the jubilant crowds for their error.

I find it compelling that Jesus, not only rode into Jerusalem on a colt, knowing full-well how folks would respond, but He was also conscious of what would inevitably occur in that city.

While the people on this occasion shouted, “Hail Him!  Hail Him!”, before long they would cry just the opposite, “Nail Him!  Nail Him!”

Jesus knew that Jerusalem meant His torturous death–and He rode into town anyway.

He crucified self before He was crucified on Calvary.

May I ask some hard questions for your personal consideration, dear reader?

  • When a fellow Christian has sinned against you, and you anticipate friction in the meeting, will you, like Jesus, crucify self, go anyway and engage your brother or sister (Mat. 18:15)…OR will you avoid the meeting all together?
  • Husbands, when there is serious conflict in your marriage, indicative of some major heart issues, and past experience has taught you that it is easier to sweep problems under the rug than to address them, will you take the lead in your relationship as God has ordained you, and lead your wife in reconciliation (Col. 3:19)?
  • Elders, when you are aware of the fact that some of your sheep have incrementally drifted from the fold–and you anticipate some difficulty and resentment when you go to see them, do you go anyway (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2)?
  • Christian, when you are personally aware of the fact that a fellow child of God is engaging in egregious sin, do you go to that individual with a burden on your heart and try to lead him or her back to Jesus (Gal. 6:1-2; Jas. 5:19-20)?  Do you go despite knowing that it will be a difficult conversation?

Jesus knew that going to Jerusalem would bring pain–and He went anyway.

What about you?

Will you go anyway?

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike