Friday, June 8, 2018

Do It Now

Near the beginning of World War Two, C.S. Lewis gave this advice.

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favourable conditions never come.” (C.S. Lewis, Learning in War-Time)

What Lewis said about learning can also be said of Christian service. Many people claim that they want to serve the Lord; they claim that they will serve the Lord when an opportune time comes. Satan sees to it that the opportune time never comes.

If you want to have fewer interruptions in your life, then I suggest that you serve the Lord even in the midst of interruptions. Those who allow interruptions and distractions to keep them from the work will find that distractions and interruptions are constantly coming up. But if Satan sees that we serve on through the distractions, then he has less of a motive for distracting us. He will not stop his evil work, of course, but he will at least be forced to change tactics.

If we wait for a better time to become a Christian or to become a more active Christian, that better time will never come. As Paul tells the Corinthians, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2, ESV).

Take hold of each day. Redeem the time (Eph 5:15-16). Do not wait for an opportunity to do some great deed, do the small deeds that are possible today.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

I Know He Can

Watty Piper’s children’s classic, The Little Engine That Could, has delighted children of all ages since it was published in 1930. Like most things written for children, this peon in praise of self-confidence is an oversimplification. Thinking we can does not prove we can, or should, attempt a task; but thinking we cannot is certain defeat.

From a Christian point of view, the danger of self-confidence is as great as the danger of self-doubt. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12), is important advice.

The Bible does not give encouragement to self-confidence; but it does call on us to be confident. We cannot save ourselves by our own deeds (Gal 2:16), but we can be saved when we submit to what has been done for us in Christ (Eph 2:1-8). We cannot defeat Satan alone (Jude 9), but he can be defeated and made to flee (James 4:7).

Right now, it appears to me, Satan is having his way with most of the world and even with many Christians.

On the one hand, they trust themselves too much when it comes to resisting temptation. They put themselves in harm’s way rather than avoiding temptation. People also trust to their resources and works for salvation, instead of throwing themselves on the mercy in Christ.

On the other hand, when it comes to worship and evangelism, we are far too quick to say, “I cannot do that.” We hear the excuses all of the time. “I cannot preach.” “I cannot tell others about the Lord.” “I cannot sing.” “I cannot, I cannot, I cannot.” It is clearly self-defeating.

Of course, we cannot. The first time I tried to lead a song, I did a terrible job. The first time I tried to preach, I fainted. The second time I tried to preach, I fainted. Had I quit then I could have gone through life saying (with more justification than most), “I cannot.”

But God can (Lk 1:37). He can work in us and through us to accomplish his will (1 Jn 4:4). Stop saying, “I cannot.” I am not suggesting that we take up the little engine’s refrain, but I am suggesting that we learn to rely on the Lord’s power to do the Lord’s work.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Best Ways to Learn and Remember

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9, ESV)….

It has often been said that the teacher learns more than the student. Put another way, the best way to learn something, or remember something, is to teach it to others. Deuteronomy 4:9 seems to support that theory. The people of Israel are to make known the deeds of the Lord to their children. In the act of teaching these things to their children, they themselves will be constantly reminded. The one who teaches others is far less likely to forget than the one who keeps his knowledge to himself.

The other reliable way for remembering is to put our knowledge to use. The person who uses his mechanical, mathematical, or biblical knowledge on a daily basis is unlikely to forget that knowledge. The person who merely tucks knowledge away in a corner of the brain is, on the other hand, likely to find that knowledge difficult to locate. Again, this is confirmed in scripture.

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9, ESV). There is no promise of God’s presence to those who merely hear and see, but to those who also “practice.”

If you are one of those people who feels that not much of what has been heard has been retained, maybe it is time to try a more active approach. Instead of merely listening, put what you hear into practice. Instead of merely learning, teach someone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cross-Generational Communication

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-12, ESV)

Two-hundred years ago families did everything together. All the generations worked together on the farm, ate their meals together, spent their evenings together, worshipped together. Having no television, radio, Internet, or cell-phones, they talked to each other all day long.

One-hundred years ago, change had begun. Many of the fathers had taken jobs in factories, so there was not as much opportunity to work together. But families still had their meals together and spent the evening talking over the day. They still worshipped together as a family.

Today, it is not uncommon for the generations to go days, even weeks, without doing anything together. Many aspects of life are easier today than in the past; but it may be more difficult to obey the biblical injunctions regarding parenting. Farm life gave us unlimited opportunities to communicate across the generations. Modern life seems designed to destroy all such communication. But please notice this.

God did not say, “Teach my ways to your children if it is convenient for you to do so.” Convenient or not, it is our duty. We are to be “diligent” in teaching the children.

The church tries to help with this. We offer Bible classes for all ages. We have children’s Bible hour activities during the sermon that develop an idea related to the sermon on a level the toddlers can understand. But unless the parents bring the children to class consistently (and prepared), and discuss what was learned, the classes do not accomplish much. Unless the parents discuss the craft from the children’s Bible hour with the children, the point of the craft may often be missed.

Talk with your kids (and grand-kids). Set an example of interest in God’s word. It is your duty. If you do it faithfully you will also find it to be your joy.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Original or Innovation?

“I do not like National League Baseball,” my friend said. “Who do they think they are changing the rules of the game and making the pitchers bat?”

I thought he was joking; but he was serious. Born near an American League city, shortly after the American League had changed the rules of baseball and stopped requiring the pitchers to bat, he grew up thinking that an innovation was the original and that the original must be an innovation.

The same is true in regard to the church. A church that sticks to what the Bible says will be viewed, by most people, as an odd bunch who have really changed things. Having grown up with religious doctrines and practices that cannot be found in scripture, they think of these innovations as the original. When they meet Christians not practicing what they have always known, they think of these people as innovators. They treat the innovation as the original and the original as an innovation.

Baseball is a human invention, and if humans choose to change the rules they may do so. I prefer the original rules, but the new rules are not sinful. Christianity is from God, and, according to Jesus, any human changing its teachings will be rejected.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, ESV). “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9, ESV).

Is what you believe and practice the true, original Christianity, or a human innovation? You need to find out. It will make an eternal difference.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Facebook, Twitter & Other Stuff (that I do not use)

I have never had a Facebook or a Twitter account. I do not have a phone capable of sending a text message. I have observed others doing these things and decided that they are not for me. But the fact that I do not use them does not mean that I condemn you for using them. I hope that you will use good judgment in making use of these technologies. I trust that you will use them “in the name of the Lord” as a Christian should do everything (Col 3:17).

What does it mean to use Facebook, Twitter, and similar apps in the name of the Lord and to his glory?

First, it means not posting anything by means of such media that you would not present in person. Foul language and immodest attire should be no more acceptable for a Christian online than they are in real life. Repeating gossip is no more acceptable online than it is in person. If you do not know it to be fact, do not repeat it. If a fact will hurt rather than help, do not send it on to hurt others.

Second, use your electronic accounts to point people to the Lord. Post things on Facebook, Tweet things, send a text that will encourage spiritual examination and might even prompt someone to join with the Lord’s people in worship.

Some weeks ago a member posted some very uplifting comments about our Sunday morning worship on Facebook. Frankly, I think that should be happening most weeks. If a song touched your heart, if the sermon spoke to your needs (or to your temptations), why not Tweet it or text it to someone who should have been here? Why not mention it on Facebook?

If we are going to use these media, we ought to use them to the Lord’s glory (Col 3:17). Do your posts, tweets, and texts glorify him?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Humble Yourself

“The higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk.”
--Cicero
I found that in an article on management by Oleg Vishnepolsky. The article was titled, “Humble yourself, or life will do it for you.” There were several such gems in the article. He cited a Brown University study as showing that the “Number 1 reason why smart managers fail is arrogance.” He said that a Duke University study found that humble managers get superior results. And he quoted Peter Drucker as saying, "Never promote people into leadership positions who believe they can do no wrong."

I trust that we already knew all of this. After all, the book we read and strive to obey contains many similar statements.

“You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down” (2 Samuel 22:28). “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). “For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down” (Psalm 18:27). “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:9. “The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground (Psalm 147:6). “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor” (Proverbs 3:34). “… this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10, all from the ESV).

I have no idea how to pronounce “Oleg Vishnepolsky,” so I think we should learn humility because the Bible says so. It is easier to pronounce, as well as being a greater authority on the subject.