Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why Cry Now?


The British government is outraged that China executed a British subject for drug smuggling. The news reports quoted officials of the British government, and the man’s daughter, saying that he should not have been executed because he was mentally ill, and therefore not responsible for his actions.

Perhaps the government was not aware, but clearly the daughter was aware of her father’s mental condition. Where was she when the government issued his passport? Where was she when he planned this trip? Why, if he was so mentally ill, did she not take action to protect him from himself? If you knew he was mentally ill, what was he doing in China? Why cry now?

Families have responsibilities -- parents to children (Dt. 6; Eph 6), and children to parents (1 Tim 5). Those who have neglected their duty to a family member have no right to blame others for the result of their own neglect.

I hurt for that family, and I hate to write this for fear that they might see it and that it might add to their distress. But, for the sake of those tempted to make the same mistake, I must not be silent.

The family is the first and the best protection against this kind of tragedy. Families must learn to shoulder that responsibility, and governments must acknowledge the family’s primary role in matters like this.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tell of His Salvation

Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day
. Psalm 96:1-2


We have not all been equipped to preach. We are not all suited to serve as missionaries. We have not all been gifted with the ability to lead the congregation in song. But everyone of us can fulfill this scripture in some way. We can all bless his name and tell of his salvation in some form or fashion; and we ought to do so.


We need to learn the attitude expressed so well in the words of Ina Ogdan,
Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.


May this be our attitude in 2010. Let us dedicate ourselves to the task at hand. Let us face each day with the determination to use it to God’s glory. Let us each, in our own humble way, as God gives us opportunity from day to day, tell of his salvation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Search Me, O God

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting
! Psalm 139:23-24

There are people who object to the idea, but the Bible clearly indicates that we must invite the Lord to examine our hearts.

He knows what is in our hearts, of course; whether we invite him to examine our hearts or not. But it is healthy and right that we should invite him to examine our hearts.

Self-examination may be good, but God-examination will always be more complete, more reliable, and -- I would suggest -- more encouraging.
If the Lord examines me, he will, doubtless, bring more evil to light than I would find without his aid. But evil brought to light by his loving examination will have been brought to light in hope. I sometimes get depressed when I examine myself, for I often find errors that I cannot correct, ills that I cannot heal. He finds much more than I find, but he never finds any fault that he is not more than equal to correcting.

Rather than engaging in hopeless self-examination, we are better off to pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart."

Surrender your heart to the Lord. Allow him to examine and to heal it.

Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.
I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.
Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
James E. Orr

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good Tidings of Great Joy

The incarnation of Jesus is one of the most important events in history. He could have redeemed us without walking on water, without feeding 5000, without raising Lazarus, but he could not redeem us without coming in human form. Without the baby in the manger there could be no Calvary, and no salvation. What happened at Bethlehem is not on par with everything else. It is one of a small number of events of which we can say, “without that, there would be no Gospel, and no hope for us.”

Remembering the incarnation could be done without a special day, although many people find the special day helpful. There is nothing wrong with having special days, provided they do not become an excuse for neglecting duties on other days (Rom 14:5). Most of us take some note of our wedding anniversary. This is good, so long as we do not then forget our marriage vows the rest of the year. In November we set aside one day to give thanks. Most find this helpful, but it does not excuse us from giving thanks at other times. The coming of Christ also should be remembered all year. Either observe a special day, or do not do so, based on what helps you remember best.

Criticizing others for giving thanks on the fourth Thursday of November might not be the ideal way to get others to give thanks the other 364 days. Criticizing our neighbors or fellow Christians for remembering Jesus on December 25 may not be the best way to get them to think about him on the other 364 days. If we remember best without a special day, that is fine for us, but we should not put down those who remember by means of a special day. If we think a special day helps us remember, that is fine, provided we do not insist that others honor the day the same way we do.

The bottom line is pretty clear. He came as a baby, but he came for a cross. May we always remember his coming and the purpose for which he came. May we give glory to him December 25 and every other day as well.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Making the Best of Difficulty

In the early days of television advertising, it was popular to demonstrate the durability of a product. One early commercial involved strapping a watch to the propeller of an outboard motor. The motor was lowered into a drum of water and run for a few seconds. At that point the camera was supposed to show the watch “still ticking.” Unfortunately the commercial, which was shown live, did not turn out as intended. The camera zoomed in to show a watch badly in need of repair.

Quick thinking by the announcer prevented disaster for the watchmaker. The announcer took this as a opportunity to picture them as an honest company that did not make unreasonable claims. It worked. Their sales went up.

Some try to pretend that storms never descend on good people, that Christians never have difficulties. This is unbiblical and just plain wrong. God sends his rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt 5:45). The peace that Jesus promises (Jn 14:27) is not an absence of difficulty (Matt 10:34ff) but a sense of purpose and faith which brings peace in the midst of difficulties (Matt 10:19). Suffering will sometimes be the lot of the follower of Christ (1 Pet 2:18-24).

If Christians respond to difficulty with complaint, especially if we become whiners, we bring reproach on the name of Christ. But if we respond to adversity as Christ responded, we “adorn the doctrine of God” (Titus 2:10).

The life of Christ was far from trouble free. It is unreasonable to expect that we, as his followers, will have trouble free lives. Honesty demands that we admit this.

Let’s be honest in how we advertise Christianity. Some of us, like that watch, have taken a beating and are badly in need of repair. We cannot always hide that fact from others; but we can respond in a Christ-like manner.

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Climate Change Solutions


I have a problem with what is going on in Copenhagen (Washington, and East Anglia). It is not that I am opposed to measures to reduce the amount of fossil fuel being consumed. I am very much in favor of reducing the use of fossil fuels; I just wonder why certain obvious measures are never discussed, while other, more questionable ones, are vigorously promoted.

In many parts of the United States it is illegal to hang your clothes out to dry. Vegetable gardens are also forbidden in some communities. If we really want to reduce the emission of 'greenhouse gasses’ does it make sense to allow such ordinances? If the climate change alarmists are right, and we urgently need to take action, why not start with the simple action of federal or state laws that encourage clotheslines and gardens?

Clotheslines would save a lot of fuel (and a lot of emissions). Clothes dried on a clothesline are not dried in a dryer, and that is a significant savings. Our vegetable garden means that we can pick our own lettuce; no need to truck it in from California or Mexico. Again, we are saving fuel and emissions.

But no one in Washington is interested in such simple solutions. The only solutions they are interested in are solutions that increase their power over citizens. They do not want solutions that involve decreasing the regulation of our lives. They want solutions that increase regulation.

Pardon me, but I am getting rather cynical. I get the feeling that climate change is not their real concern. It is little wonder that so many are quick to believe that the whole climate change ‘science’ was just made up.

Disappointed?

I hope that you are disappointed by this posting, so far. I hope that you are understanding my point, but that you are disappointed that I seem to have taken off on a political issue. If you wanted politics, you could get that elsewhere. This blog is supposed to help us spiritually, so I really ought to leave the politics out of it.

Good, glad we agree.

There is a spiritual point to all of this, I am just slow getting to it.

The political leaders are overlooking the simple straightforward solutions (for some reason). Are we not often guilty of the same error in our daily lives?

We sin and, instead of confessing, we try to talk ourselves out of it. We justify ourselves. Why not just go to our Father and say, "I have sinned"?

We say that we want to be near God, but instead of approaching him as he has instructed, we develop our own theories of his nature and our own means of approaching him. He gives us his word, but we want to know him by means of our own feelings and experiences, instead of buckling down to studying (and practicing) the message he gave us.

Maybe Copenhagen is not a conspiracy. Maybe it is just human nature to look for a complicated solution and ignore the obvious one. Looking at our lives, I am inclined to suspect it is just our fallen human nature.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Personal Salvation or God’s Glory

Romans 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

This is a passage that amazes most Christians. As far as most Christians are concerned, THE reason for being a Christian is personal salvation. So how can Paul say that he would be willing to be lost for the sake of saving others?

The goal of personal salvation is nearly always prominent in conversion, and there is nothing wrong with that (Acts 2:37-40). But Paul has reached a point, and every Christian should reach a point, where the glory of God is more important to them than their own salvation. Paul being lost would not cause his nation to be saved, but if it were possible, and if their being saved would honor God more than Paul’s personal salvation, then Paul is willing to be lost for the sake of this greater good. Of course, Paul wants to be saved, and expects to be saved, but his personal salvation is not the most important thing to him.

It does not disturb me that a new born baby is self-focused. For the sake of survival they must be, and there is nothing they can do to serve others anyway. But when a child of eight or ten is still fully self-focused, I get concerned. When a teenager is still fully self-focused, it is alarming. When an adult is self-focused, it is depressing.

It does not disturb me that a new convert is focused on personal salvation. But it alarms me when I meet Christians who ought to have grown beyond that point who are still totally preoccupied with their own salvation. It alarms me because they ought to have enough confidence in Christ that they would not be doubting their salvation; and because they ought to have grown to the point of being more focused on helping others and glorifying God.

Yes, we want to be saved, that is appropriate. But it is not all about us, it is about the glory of God (Isa 43:21; Phil 1:10-11; 1 Peter 2:9; 4:1-11).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Half of Christ

I have long been concerned about those who speak of “accepting Jesus as your personal Savior.” There is great danger in asking Christ to be our Savior, instead of admitting him to be Lord of our lives. If we accept the Lordship of Jesus, he will certainly save us. But if we ask him to be Savior, while refusing his Lordship, we are insulting him. We must not expect salvation while willfully continuing in sin.

The problem is not a new one.

In a letter to James Lindsey (7 Sept 1637), Samuel Rutherford wrote of our tendency to divide Christ and take only half of him. We desire him as savior, “but ‘Lord’ is a cumbersome word; and to obey ... is the cumbersome and stormy northside of Christ....” Later he adds, “...to rely on Christ, and not to be weary of sin, is presumption, not faith. Faith is ever neighbour to a broken and contrite spirit; and it is impossible that faith can be where there is not a cast-down and contrite heart, in some measure, for sin. Now it is certain that God commandeth no man to presume.”

John tells us, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 Jn 1:6). And “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (2:4). John also tells us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2:15). And “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him” (3:6).

Jesus himself has said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).The whole Christ, that is what we need. He is first and foremost Lord, then he is Savior. It is presumption to speak of him as Savior while not obeying him as Lord.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Comprehensive Thankfulness

"Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. "Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before. "The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years that the warming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. "You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame." (Joel 2:21-27 ESV)

This passage is appropriate for the week when we in America have our minds on giving thanks to God.

It is unfortunate that so few give thanks. It is unfortunate that so many of those who give thanks seem to be so narrow in their thankfulness. The passage is concerned with thankfulness for material blessings. After a destructive locust plague, they are now being blessed with an abundant harvest. But the thankfulness does not stop there. It is the presence of God in their midst which is the primary blessing (27). All other blessings flow from this.

May we also seek, first and foremost, the presence of God, and trust that in that presence all that happens will turn out to be for our blessing (Rom 8:28).

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Doctor & The Garbage Man


A couple of years ago, Chery and I had lunch with Jack Thorn, a Vice President of Ohio Valley University. Also included in the group was Don Lallathin, an assistant to the VP that I have known for several years. About half way through the meal a funny thing happened. Don made a reference to my father, and Jack turned pale.

You see, before Don joined us, Jack had told me about how Don used to attend a small church that had a doctor, a policeman, a farmer and a garbage collector as members. Whenever he took his out of town friends with him to worship, Don would always tell them to try to pick out these people. Normally the doctor would be mistaken for the garbage collector, the garbage collector would be mistaken for the policeman, the farmer or the policeman would be mistaken for the doctor.

The reason Jack turned pale was that he suddenly realized that I knew all about this and that my father was the garbage man.

I see three lessons in this.
First, you really cannot judge people by the surface. I suppose that most of us will keep doing so, but it does not work and it is not right (James 2:1-7).
Second, we need to be careful what we say and how we say it. We never know how close to home we may be hitting. The situation would have been very different if Jack had told the story in a tone that indicated disrespect for garbage collectors. He had not spoken in such a tone, and so I was not offended.

Third, honest work is honorable. I was not bothered by the conversation because I have never been ashamed of the work my father did at the close of his working life. In fact, I was proud of the fact that my father would rather work at a menial task than fail to provide for his own.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A GREEN VAN


Most four-year-olds have a favorite toy. For some it is a certain stuffed animal. For one four-year-old that I knew many years ago, it was a green van. He took that van with him in the car, he played with that van constantly.

One Wednesday evening it was announced that a family outside of town had been burned out. They lost everything in the fire. It was mentioned that they had two children, a boy and a girl. No one knew the ages of the children, but it was mentioned that we needed to be prepared to provide toys as well as clothing for the family.

The first donation was from a four-year-old. He gave a green van. He figured that, if there was a little boy out there with no toys at all, that boy needed a good toy, and the best one he knew of was that green van.

That gift made a difference in several lives. It continues to make a difference to me every time I think of it, and it happened more than twenty years ago.

Do you have a green van in your life? Maybe you ought to give it away.

"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WHAT PROVOKES YOU?

I thank John Gipson of the Windsong Church of Christ in Little Rock for this thought provoking thought. John writes,

I admit it. I was provoked this morning coming to the office. It was dark and raining and Maumelle Boulevard was loaded with traffic moving at about fifty miles per hour. As far as one could see the cars were bumper to bumper in both lanes traveling east. I was in the left lane when all of a sudden from a crossover a car pulled out in front of me without warning. I had to hit the brakes knowing that I was probably going to get clobbered from behind. Fortunately, the cars behind me saw what was happening and we all hit the brakes at the same time thus saving a big pile-up. (I don’t know what might have happened two or three blocks behind us in the chain reaction).

I was not like the fellow I once read about who never got irritated or stirred by anything. One who wrote about him said, “Their family line seems to draw heavily on the vegetable kingdom. They emulate amid life’s alarms, the fine placidity of the cabbage.” I was provoked! And two
hours later I still am as I write this.

A question please. What is it that provokes you? (Take a moment and recall a few such things).

Now let’s all sit down together and think for a moment or two about what provoked the apostle Paul. Here’s the record, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16 RSV).

The apostle Paul had enough hard experiences “to exasperate a saint.” But I don’t remember him being provoked over shipwreck, stoning, or imprisonment. What provoked him was the ruin and degradation of idol worship.

Have we retained the kind of moral indignation exhibited by the apostle Paul? Now that I’ve tried to examine myself, I’m not going to let you off the hook. What provokes you?

JOHN GIPSON
WINDSONG CHURCH OF CHRIST

Monday, November 9, 2009

Modern Logic

Jesus began life in a borrowed, makeshift cradle. He ended in a borrowed tomb. Between these he often had nowhere to lay his head.

So naturally, we, his followers, expect that all will be provided. We expect to have food, clothing, shelter, and health -- if not wealth.

In life he had many admirers, but few friends. In facing death, even his few friends abandoned him. One of them betrayed him.

So we, quite logically I am sure, expect that our friends will be constant and loyal and true; that the church will always rally around us when we have difficulties; that we will rarely be lonely.
If it does not turn out as we expect, if we suffer loss or hardship or loneliness, who can blame us if we complain, or even forsake this Lord? Having looked at his life, we have developed certain expectations. Who would deny the logic of our expectations? No one, it seems, except Jesus himself.

A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. John 15:20

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Matthew 8:20

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. Matthew 10:24-25

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Don't Pass By

Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. Luke 10:31

Neil Diamond used to sing a song with these words: "'I am,' I said, to no one there; and no one heard at all, not even the chair."

Someone has said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. I agree. To be hated is less cruel than to be ignored, to be treated as of no importance. At least those who hate us invest us with some importance.

Is there is a danger that we are becoming emotionally cold? It often seems that we neither hate nor love as we once did. People get worked up about certain causes, or certain things that they claim as human rights, but how do they feel about humans themselves? Are there not many of us who have all kinds of grand ideas about humanity in general, but who are pretty cold toward any individual member of humanity who happens to make a demand on our notice?

G. A. Studdert-Kennedy, gave us these memorable lines,

When Jesus came to Golgatha,
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham
They simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him,
They only let Him die;
For men have grown more tender,
And they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street,
And left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, 'Forgive them,
For they know not what they do!
And still it rained the winter rain
That drenched Him through and through;
The crowd went home and left the streets
Without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.


Take the time to notice someone today. It might be Jesus (Mt 25:40; Heb 13:2).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Encouraging Facts

There is always plenty of bad news being shared about our nation and about the church. We are constantly being told how little influence we have and even that the church is old and dying. The most recent copy of Search Light (mailed out from the Edmond Church of Christ in Oklahoma) contained the following good news about the church.

Twenty percent of the American population falls between the ages of 18 and 29. Twenty-two percent of the membership of the churches of Christ falls into this age group. This indicates that, far from being a church of old folks who will soon die off, the church nationwide reflects the age distribution in our country, particularly with reference to young adults.

We are a church of small congregations. In terms of membership, churches of Christ are the twelfth largest religious group in the country, but in terms of number of congregations we are in fourth place.

Perhaps there is a connection between that fact and this next one.

A much higher than average percentage of our members are active in attending worship and contributing to the work. All churches have inactive members, but the percentages are lower in churches of Christ.

Although the church is much stronger in the South, our congregations are better distributed around the country than other groups.

In Search of the Lord’s Way, a television ministry of the Edmond congregation, was in third place among religious programs in the most recent ratings month.

Yes, there are plenty of problems, plenty of things about which we must be concerned. But there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful as well. This is especially true when we remember the promises of our Lord.

"Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." 1 John 4:4

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." Zech. 4:6

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pre-evangelism & Preperation for Worship

Thirty years ago it was popular to say that everything a Christian does is evangelism. More recently, it has become popular to say that everything that a Christian does is worship. These seem like noble ideas. Some passages seem to give biblical support to these claims. But are these thoughts really biblical?

Everything a Christian does is to be done to the glory of God. That is clear from passages like Colossians 3. In that chapter we are told, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (17). And, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ" (23-24).

Everything a Christian does, if done well and with a good attitude, may help in the task of evangelism. That is Paul’s point when he tells Titus, "Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior" (Titus 2:9-10).

Everything we do may support evangelism, and everything we do may bring some indirect form of glory to God, but does that make everything we do evangelism and worship?

A job well done helps prepare people to hear the gospel from us but we have not evangelized until we intentionally and clearly teach the gospel. A job well done is pre-evangelism, but it is not evangelism. Yes, we should live in such a way as to set a good example, but we should also intentionally and clearly teach the gospel; and we should not claim that we have evangelized until we have done so.

A life well lived is a good thing. When a Christian accepts his lot in life and makes the best of it, his life glorifies God. But this is no substitute for intentional worship.

The notion that we could evangelize just by setting a good example has killed evangelism in the church. It has given people an excuse to neglect evangelism. It is also arrogant. Jesus proclaimed the gospel. He did not depend on his good example to convert them; he taught them as well. Are we pretending that our example is better than his?

The notion that everything is worship is killing worship in the church. It is giving people an excuse to neglect those times when we set aside our natural activities and focus specifically on the Lord. It is giving an excuse to those who want to use unauthorized forms of worship.

Should we live every moment of every day with God in mind, with the intent to glorify him, with the hope that our example might help to win someone to him? Yes, of course we should. But, having done so, should we say, "We have worshipped and evangelized"? No, we should not.

A life well lived is good pre-evangelism and good preparation for worship. But until we set aside the natural activities of living for a time focused specifically on rendering to the Lord the worship he has commanded, we have not worshipped. Until we speak in such a way as to persuade others to honor him, we have not evangelized.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Small Things

The quality of our lives is not in doing great things, but in doing small things well. Too often we are waiting around for a chance to do some great deed, while neglecting dozens of small tasks at hand. George MacDonald writes, “The weakness of my life has been that I would ever do some great thing; the saving of my life has been my utter failure. I have never done a great deed. If I had, I know that one of my temperament could not have escaped serious consequences.”

God knows our temperament. If he is not giving us some great deed to do, perhaps it is because he knows that it would have serious consequences for us. But he has given us plenty of little things to do. How faithful are we in the little things?

Jesus said, "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10).

Mother Teresa has been quoted as saying, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

Stop waiting for some great thing to do. Instead, do the small thing well. As the scriptures tell us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (Eccles. 9:10).

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Thought On The Health Care Debate

Health care has been the biggest topic in the news this year. The health care debate in congress goes on, and on, and on. Almost everyone has an opinion on the subject. Many of those opinions are firmly held and loudly promoted. I hear a lot of misinformation being exchanged and a lot of facts being abused. But the biggest problem I have with the health care debate is that we are so concerned with it.

Why is our nation so worked up about providing care for our physical bodies -- which ultimately will die and decay? Why is our nation so unconcerned about spiritual health?

Why is it so important that children be protected from seeing tobacco advertised, and "unconstitutional" to protect them from seeing and hearing things which rot their souls and demean their spirits?

Why are we so concerned that our children learn lots of science, and so unconcerned that they learn ethical standards for the use of that science?

In the case of most politicians, I know the answer. They are atheists. In public they refer to God occasionally, but in truth they have no real belief in God, no respect for his word, and, in most cases, no respect for our constitution.

But why are many (so-called) Christians so hot about health care, but lukewarm about evangelism? Are they also, in practical terms, atheists -- with no real belief in God and no respect for his word? How is it that we can raise millions for the rescue of physical life when there is a disaster, while real evangelism among the teeming billions is neglected? How can we be so concerned about their physical lives, which will last no more than a few decades, and so unconcerned about their eternal fate?

It appears to be unbelief. Is there any other explanation?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reflect the Light

It is a lifeless land, almost 15 million sq. miles of rock and dirt -- without water, without vegetation, without animal life. It is impossible for humans to survive there. Yet, for centuries, we have romanticized and even worshipped the moon.

In terms of direct self-produced effect, the moon’s only effect on earth is the tides. But in terms of useful effect, the moon’s greatest influence on us comes from its ability to reflect the light of the sun when we are not benefiting directly from the sun’s light. Because of the moon, it is still possible for us to benefit from the sun’s light even when we are not facing toward the sun.

Many people are not facing toward the “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal 4:2). They are lost in spiritual darkness. We have no light of our own to share with them, but we can reflect the light of the Sun for their benefit.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV)

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:5-6, ESV)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Disappointed Plans


Elisabeth Elliot is a well known Christian author. Her books have inspired and encouraged tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands. But Elisabeth Elliot did not set out to be what she became. As she tells in her book Keep a Quiet Heart, her goal was to be a Bible translator. She intended to live in the jungle and translate the Bible into the languages of various Bible-less people groups. She did some translation work in three languages (Colorado, Quichua, and Auca), but all of that work came to nothing. In each case she was interrupted in this work. Other translators came in, developed a different orthography for the languages, and proceeded with the translations.

So often, our plans and God’s plans do not seem to be the same. Ezekiel was to be a priest, but ended up a prophet - living in exile, far from the temple at which he had intended to serve. Paul had plans for how he would serve God. God had other plans.

If you are like me (like Mrs. Elliot, like Ezekiel, like Paul), your plans for how you would serve God will be frequently interrupted, disappointed, and frustrated. Let God be God. If we cannot serve where and how we would wish, let us serve where we find ourselves, doing the task that is at hand.

Henri Nowen remembered an old priest telling him, "I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted; then I realised that the interruptions were my work."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do Not Refuse Him

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

There are many things that we do not know. There are many things we will never know. There are many things about God that he has not chosen to reveal. There are moral dilemmas that we cannot untangle.

For some people this is an excuse. Since they cannot know all about God, they refuse to teach what they do know. Since they cannot know all about him, they refuse to learn what they could learn. Since they do not know all of his will, they refuse to do that portion of his will that is clear to them.

Part of the reason we do not understand better is that we have not put to use what we have learned. We fail to understand because we are really not committed to doing (John 7:17).

We cannot really know God as God is within himself; but, as A.W. Tozer has said, “he in condescending love has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself.” These things we can know, for God has revealed them. These we must come to know, for refusing this gracious revelation would surely be sin.

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. (Hebrews 12:25)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Content or Complacent?


At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, 'The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.' (Zeph. 1:12)

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Complacency is "a calm feeling of satisfaction with oneself...."

To be satisfied is not bad, nor is it bad to be calm. But what is the basis of our calm satisfaction? That is the question.

To be content with our situation in life is a sign of spiritual maturity (Phil 4:11-12). But to be content with ourselves is not. We ought always to be pressing on, seeking to grow (Phil 3:12-16).

Those who are content because they believe that God is in control are blessed. Those who are complacent because they do not believe that God is going to do anything -- either good or bad -- are condemned.

The content are satisfied with God. The complacent are satisfied with themselves. There is a huge difference.

Are we content, or are we complacent? Let’s have a prayerful look at our hearts and be sure.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Weight Loss Plan

At the end of “How the Camel Got His Hump” Kipling has this little ditty:

The Camel’s hump is an ugly lump
Which well you may see at the zoo
But uglier yet is the hump we get
From having too little to do ........
The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
Or frowst with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
And dig till you gently perspire

Laziness is a sin we do not often address, but it is condemned repeatedly in the scriptures. The Proverbs mention it numerous times (12:24; 12:27; 13:4; 15:19; 19:15; 19:24; 20:4; 20:13; 21:25; 22:13). In the New Testament we also find straightforward condemnation of this fault. Typical of the biblical attitude is this command, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thes. 3:10).

Instead of being lazy, the Christian should be a diligent worker. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24).

Our society has come to accept laziness. Most people see nothing wrong with trying to get something for nothing, with obtaining and spending other people’s earnings. But the Christian attitude should be the antithesis of the common approach. Rather than seeking to get other people to support us, we ought to be seeking to help others. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28).

Let’s have a careful look at how we spend our time. Let’s be more diligent in our work. It might help us with our unsightly lumps. It will definitely make us more pleasing to the Lord.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Adrift At Sea

Windell Howard was a coworker with us in Nigeria. Windell was an adventurous missionary. Being a single man, he sometimes took risks that the married men would have hesitated to take. Once he traveled to an island off the coast. He went there by airplane, but did not have enough money to return the same way. So he attempted to return by sea.

In Africa people tend to overload things. It is not unusual to see a van carrying thirty people. Cars often carry eight or ten. I have seen small motorcycles used to move refrigerators, and bicycles stacked high with mattresses or firewood. The boat Windell entered was not an exception. It was extremely overloaded.

Halfway back to the mainland the engine gave out. There they were, adrift at sea, with no radio, no life jackets, no safety equipment of any kind. They were drifting somewhere off the coast of Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon. At the time, Nigeria and Cameroon were almost in a state of war because of a border dispute. As it turns out, that border dispute may have saved their lives. A Nigerian patrol boat spotted the drifting vessel, came to investigate, and towed them to safety.

I suppose the moral of the story could be, "When you travel, make sure you have return airfare." Or maybe it is, "Don’t overload your boat, have reasonable expectations." Or maybe it is, "Even silly border disputes can sometimes be good for someone." Or maybe the key to unlocking this event is found in the book of Ruth, or Esther, or Philemon. Think about it, see what lessons you find.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Is Missing?

A flyer was mass mailed to every home in the area last week. A certain church in town claims that it has “high energy music” (but it never says who the music praises) and “a great community” (but it never says who the community is centered on). This church has lots of service times to choose from (but they never tell us who they are serving during these service times). The ad claims, “Your kids will love coming.” It also indicate that the location is an advantage; it is “closer than you think.”

What is missing?

Nowhere in this ad is God mentioned (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit).

Even from a purely practical point of view, this ad is misguided. Research has repeatedly shown that postmodern Americans are interested in spiritual things, but suspicious of churches. Yet this church puts itself forward, and leaves Christ entirely out of the picture.

It ought to be the other way around. As Paul told the Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).

I pray that the Lord may have mercy on the misguided people at that church. I love Christ’s church, but a church that is interested in promoting itself, rather than Christ, is worse than useless.

It is not about us. It is about Christ. Remember that, and make it clear when you speak of His church.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Paradox


Have you ever pondered the meaning of Psalm 76:10? In the ESV it reads, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise you." Several translations indicate that the translators found the statement difficult and tried to find a way around it. But the more literal translations all stick with the difficulty. The KJV, the NRSV, and the NAS support that translation. The NIV has it in a footnote.

The statement is difficult of itself, it might also seem to stand in tension with the statement of James that "the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires" (James 1:20). But perhaps this is just the point.

Even when humans are doing what they ought not to be doing -- being unjustly angry, for example -- even that, God can work to his glory. The hardness of Pharaoh, the injustice of Pilate, the deceit of Judas were all used to accomplish God’s will. What they did was wrong, but even human wrongs can be used for good, by God. As Paul tells us, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). He says "all things." That includes even bad things.

This certainly does not mean that we should intentionally do wrong. It does not mean that we should be unconcerned about our behavior. We should do our best to live in love, joy, peace, ...., to produce the fruit of the Spirit every day.

But when we slip up and do wrong, or when we see that others have done wrong, we should not despair. God can redeem our errors, and even the sin of an entire world. Even the wrath of man shall be turned to the glory of God. I do not know how, but I trust in God’s promise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DOES RUSSIA HAVE A BETTER IDEA?

Reprinted by permission -- this is just too good to miss

O. K., so it is known as an atheistic country. Does that mean we have nothing to learn from them? I keep remembering that Jesus said, “ the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8).

Take the lottery, for example. Despite the editorials against it in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, we Arkansans voted it in. And before it has even started, there is a storm of protest over the salaries being paid to those who will run it. (Stay tuned for further developments.) Then a headline caught my attention: “Russia bans all gambling and shuts casinos.”
Why did they do it? Moscow deputy mayor Sergei Baidakov said the ban was to “protect the health of society.” Even some of the addicted gamblers thought the ban might help them. “This is all a good thing. I’m a family man and I come here every day and lose all my money. I’ll be happy to see them go,” said a 40-year-old Muscovite.

The other headline that arrested my attention was: “Religion will return to public schools in Russia.” It is estimated that only about five percent in that country are “observant believers,” so what has Russia learned that we haven’t? In contrast, a St. Louis federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that prohibits the distribution of Bibles to gradeschool pupils in a rural southern Missouri district. For more than three decades the district, about one hundred twenty miles southwest of St. Louis, allowed representatives from Gideons International to give away Bibles in fifth-grade classrooms. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit and no Bibles have been distributed at the school district since 2005.

I can hardly wait to see what Russia is going to do about religious license plates because I noticed last week that specialty plates in South Carolina featuring the words ‘I Believe’ are being challenged in federal court. In the words of comedian Yakov Smirnoff, “What a country!”

JOHN GIPSON
WINDSONG CHURCH OF CHRIST. Little Rock, Arkansas

Friday, September 11, 2009

Understanding a Tool





When my family gathered to divide up our parents’ belongings, I was given most of my father’s tools. Among the tools I inherited was a small object that looked like a pizza cutter, but which, I had once been told, was used to install new screen wire on windows and screen doors. That tool lay in my tool box for about three years. I looked at it occasionally, but I never figured out how to use it.


Last week, my wife asked for a new drying rack for use when she makes soap. I figured a screen would be just the thing. So, using a tool that I had never used, and never even seen used, I attempted to assemble a screen. My first effort was a complete failure. On my second try I managed to get the screen assembled, but it did not look very good. On my third try I produced a screen as good as most you would buy in the store.


That little tool is really handy, once you learn how to use it. But you never can learn to use it without using it. Practice may not make perfect, but practice is the only way to make even an imperfect screen. The tool resting in the toolbox does nothing and teaches nothing. The tool taken in hand and applied may not work perfectly, but it begins to make a difference -- both in terms of accomplishment and understanding.


There are many great truths resting, unused, in our Bibles. We complain that we do not understand them. Some suggest that they never do anyone any good. The key is to get them out and put them to use. We will never understand until we do so. Understanding a tool requires using the tool. Understanding God’s word comes only when we sincerely attempt to put his teaching to use in our lives. Apart from obedience, we will not understand. As Jesus said, "If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority" (John 7:17, ESV).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Disastrous Success

Archbishop William Laud hated the Puritans. He considered himself a Protestant, yet he wanted to keep the Church of England as close to Roman ritual and doctrine as possible. Together with Charles I, Laud persecuted the Puritans. Laud even stopped shiploads of Puritans trying to sail to the New World, forced them to stay in England, and tried to force them to worship according to his beliefs.

Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell, eventually gained the upper hand over the monarchy in the English Civil War. William Laud was tried for treason and executed in January 1645.

It cannot be confirmed, but there is evidence to suggest that one of the ships Laud kept from leaving England may have contained a young man named Oliver Cromwell. Had Laud not stopped the Puritans who tried to leave, he and Charles might have kept Parliament in check and ruled Britain as they pleased for a long time to come.

Remember William Laud when evil seems to triumph. Or, better yet, remember the instruction of Psalm 37.

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:1-7, ESV)

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Mildewed Room


I am stiff and sore. Earlier in the week I spent a day working on a little project in the basement. Some years ago someone partitioned off a portion of the basement to use as a study. Not a bad idea, but it had its difficulties.

Open basements become junk rooms where little can be accomplished. Walls are needed to make better use of the space. But basements are often damp. Erecting walls cuts off circulation and makes the dampness a more serious problem. Our basement has a dehumidifier to take care of the dampness, but the room that was partitioned off did not benefit from the dehumidifier. The lack of circulation led to mildew.

I spent my day tearing out mildewed drywall and particle board. We still have the room partitioned off from the rest of the basement, but now it has a ventilation fan to draw fresh air through the room.

What might we learn from this?

We need boundaries in life. We need walls, partitions to set ourselves apart from the world and to set aside certain parts of our lives from other parts, but they cannot always be airtight.

Some people need to erect boundaries in their lives. They are so open that they are useless. It is good to be open, but there are limits. Some people have thrown the windows of their souls so wide open that any passing falsehood is given free play with their thinking.

On the other hand, some people have become so careful of the partitions in life that they have cut themselves off from any freshness. Their thinking becomes mildewed, like that room in my basement.

On the one hand, we need to remember what Paul told Timothy, "guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith" (1 Tim. 6:20-21, ESV). Yet, when we do find new truth, we need to receive it with eagerness (Acts 17:11).

Cling to the fundamentals of the faith, guard them diligently. But don’t be afraid to think a new thought. Be prepared for fresh truth to enter your life. In fact, study God’s word with eager expectation of finding truth that is new to you.

Psalm 92 tells us that even to old age the righteous will produce fresh fruit, they will be "green and full of sap." Such freshness does not come by accident. It comes by the constant circulating of fresh truth in our minds.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Once There Was...

Once there was a congregation with an average attendance of about 150. This congregation was unusual in that all the members were equally committed. They varied somewhat in ability, but they were all equally committed and involved.

Every member of this congregation was just as active as you are. They all attended worship just as faithfully as you do. They all attended Bible class just as you do. They all volunteered to help with the teaching just as often as you do. They gave of their means in the very same way that you do. They all tried to share the gospel with their friends and neighbors just as you do.

After about ten years this congregation...

How would the story end? What would happen to the congregation if everyone showed the level of commitment that you currently show? Would we be able to carry on our work if everyone acted as you act? Would we be able to increase the work, or would we be forced to curtail it? Would we even be able to continue at all, if everyone acted as you do?

The sad truth is that many Christians ask not what they can do for Christ’s body, but ask only what the body of Christ is going to do for them. Christ has saved them, now they want his body to entertain them while they just go along for the ride. Too many have the desire to draw strength from the body without contributing in any significant way to the welfare of the body.

What would happen to a congregation of people with a level of commitment exactly like yours? Can you answer that question honestly and still think yourself a faithful Christian?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To Know & Do

George MacDonald wrote, "Where people know their work and do it, life has few blank spaces for ennui, and they are seldom to be pitied. Where people have not yet found their work, they may be more to be pitied than those that beg their bread. When a man knows his work and will not do it, pity him more than one who is to be hanged tomorrow."

Col. 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Col. 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rest Up From The Vacation


How many times have you heard it? "I need to get home and rest up from my vacation." Why is it that we can spend so much time and effort (and money) on a vacation, and find that it provided us with few of the benefits that are supposed to come from a vacation? Why do so many people have restless vacations?

There may be several answers, but the one I am most sure of is this. Too many people leave the giver of rest at home when they go on vacation. The Lord told Moses, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14). The Lord tells us, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

We feel this terrible need for rest because we spend too little time with the source of rest. We travel about, rush about, recreate about, and feel less rested because we use our vacation as an excuse to take even more time away from the Lord. How can we expect rest without the giver of rest? How can we expect healthy recreation when our recreation is used as an excuse to ignore our creator?

The last two times Chery and I took vacations, the highlight of our vacation was our Wednesday night visit with the brothers and sisters in the town we happened to be in. To see the joy on the faces of those we joined for Bible study was more restful than all the sights and tourist traps along the way.

The economy is bad. Perhaps you could not afford a vacation this year. Try spending some extra time with the one who promises to give you rest. That is one vacation you will not have to rest up from.

Friday, August 21, 2009

But By The Cross

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2, ESV)


William Still wrote,
"The believers in Antioch recognized that the Lord is no one’s debtor. When he commands that the church’s best leaders be sent away to new pastures, it is not to impoverish the fellowship that ‘loses’ them, nor to imperil those who go: in all things God works for the good of those who love him." It is our responsibility to remain detached from our local situation in such a way as to be ready, willing, and eager to scatter the saints in an outward drive of evangelistic ministry. This principle, lived out to the full by our blessed Lord, is essential and indispensable in any and every true work of God. ‘There is no gain, but by a loss; we cannot save but by the cross!’"


William Still, Through the Year With William Still, Edinbugh: Banner of Truth, 2006, p. 243.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Coping With Blues (advice from Samuel Rutherford)

There are a number of advantages to reading the old authors. For one thing, they have some really good thoughts. For another, they express themselves in such picturesque terms. Thirdly, their works are not under copyright, so you can quote them at length without fear. I am not going to quote at length here, but just share a few lines from a letter Samuel Rutherford wrote in 1637. In two places the vocabulary is modernized.

"I shall be loath to put you off your fears, and your sense of deadness; I wish it were more. There are some wounds whose bleeding should not be soon stopped. You must take a house beside the Physician. It will be a miracle if you be the first sick man whom he put away uncured, and worse than he found you. Nay, nay, Christ is honest, and in that the sinners have nothing to say against him. ‘And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out’ [John 6:37]"

"Your heart is not the compass Christ saileth by. He will give you leave to sing as you please, but he will not dance to your daft tune." [daft spring]

"If Christ were to refer the matter to me (in his presence I speak it), I might be ashamed to vote my own salvation. .... I think it manhood to play the coward and duck on the lee-side of Christ." [jouk in the lee-side]

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Have a Look

Have a look at the blog titled Resurrected Life, and particularly at the entry titled "God for Heaven or Heaven for God." It is well worth reading.

http://resurrected-life.blogspot.com/2009/07/god-for-heaven-or-heaven-for-god.html

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Real Missionary

I hate to say it, but there are missionaries and then there are real missionaries (which kind I was, the Lord knows, “I do not even judge myself,” 1 Cor 4:3). There are a few (I want to emphasize that it is very few) who enter upon mission work because of romantic notions or because they were somehow unsuited to work back home.

Then there are the real missionaries, the kind of people who are capable of doing fine back home, but who want to serve others, who feel called to serve in a difficult place. Dr. Robert Whittaker is such a brother. He certainly did not become a missionary for the money -- as a doctor, he could easily be making lots of money in either Britain or America. Bob has endured discomforts and dangers that many can barely imagine. What happened to him last week (being violently kidnapped and held for ransom) is the most dramatic of the events he has endured, but it may not have been the most dangerous. For thirty years, his work has been about long hours, incredible stress, and paltry earthly rewards.
That man is a real missionary.

I hate to say it, but there are nominal Christians and then there are real Christians. I wish that I could say that the nominal are few in number. There is not enough room here for a full explaination of the difference, but, if you really want to know, you will figure out the difference between the nominal and the real for yourself.

Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Friday, July 31, 2009


The Polarizing Church
We live in the age of dumbing down. We have so dumbed down education that a high school diploma is available to anyone, and is rather meaningless once obtained. We have so dumbed down the church’s teaching that it is unlikely to offend anyone and very unlikely to inspire anyone.

The church does not polarize people as it once did. The New Testament church was hated much more than the church of today. The New Testament church was loved much more than the church of today. Few today hate the church as the early church was hated. Few today love the church as the church was loved by those early disciples. People today feel that they can take or leave the church -- it does not much matter.
People today see the church as a religious club, where you might find some enjoyable fellowship. They do not see the church as the place to turn for the answers to the deepest questions of life; they do not see the church as the manifestation of the wisdom of God or the fullness of Christ (Eph 1:22-23; 3:10); they do not find the church to be a place where the secrets of their hearts are revealed and their sin is confronted.

It is not generally a good thing to be a polarizing person, yet Jesus polarized his generation as no man before or since. His church, if it will have the courage to teach as he taught, will elicit a similar reaction. We will have to endure hatred if we faithfully teach as Jesus taught; but this is the only way to inspire the devotion he inspired. The true church is a polarizing church, because Jesus is a polarizing Lord.

We cannot inspire the world today with the overwhelming sense of purpose and the heavenly devotion that the early church inspired in its world, unless we are willing to endure the persecution that they endured. We really cannot choose whether or not to be polarizing, we can only choose whether or not we will be Christ’s church.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


A Worn Out Shirt

Acts 20:24 "I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

"Never consider if you are of use; but ever consider that you are not your own but His." --Oswald Chambers

I have a special shirt in my closet. I bought it at Woolworth's years ago. It is worn out. Chery has tried to get rid of it several times. I had to develop a reason for the existence of this shirt, to keep her from sending it to the rag bag.

So now I always wear it when I get my hair cut. It is my haircut shirt. It probably does not deserve the honor, but I want to keep it for sentimental reasons, so I created the role of haircut shirt to have an excuse for keeping this one.

I suppose that this shirt is, in reality, useless, but it is mine. I have chosen to keep it. I have chosen to give it a special role -- a task that a lot of other shirts could perform just as well, or even better. Perhaps, if shirts could think, this one would feel honored that I have chosen to keep it. Perhaps, if shirts could think, this one would realize that it hangs in my closet not because of its own worth, but as a statement about me.

Titus 3:3-7 "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Brace & Bit
I needed to drill a hole today. It was going to be a large hole in some rather thick wood. I had two ways that I could drill this hole. I could use an electric drill or I could use an old-fashioned brace and bit. For some strange reason, I decided to try the brace and bit first. I really did not expect that I would be able to do it, but I thought it would be fun to try working as carpenters always worked in the days before electricity.

Much to my surprise, I drilled a 11/2" hole through 11/2" material fairly quickly. The hole was clean and smooth, not rough, like it would have been with the electric drill. Cleanup was easier as well. The human powered drill did not send dust flying all over the place. I think I might use the brace and bit more often. It really has some important advantages over the modern electric drill.

I am not giving up on electricity. There are many jobs that can be done faster and perhaps even better with an electric tool. For example, I used a vacuum cleaner (rather than a broom and dust pan) for cleaning up. But I have learned that we should not despise the old ways. The old way worked best for drilling the hole, the new way worked best for cleaning up.

The old way and the new way worked together for a very pleasant and successful carpentry job. As Steve Brown would say, "You think about that."