Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What Have You Learned Today?


We take a break of about 15 minutes between Sunday morning Bible class and worship. During that time the auditorium fills with the noise of adults and children talking, laughing, and discussing the events of the week. I love when the children have something special to show like a bookmark or a colored picture from their Bible lesson that morning. Hearing them describe what they learned in Bible class is precious. Names might get mixed up here or there, but their fascination with the events recorded in the Bible is encouraging to see on their faces and hear in their voices.

I encourage every parent and grandparent to make sure your children and grandchildren regularly attend Bible class on Sunday and Wednesday. Beyond all other benefits of this habit one stands supreme: They will learn God’s Word. Very few things are as important as teaching your children the Word of God as they grow. Teaching them the Bible sets their life on a good and right course, and will help them correctly make difficult decisions in the future. Proverbs 22:6 says:

6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Yes, our children will benefit greatly if we teach and train them in God’s way, which is the way they should go. But children do a curious thing: They imitate especially what they see their parents doing, and they repeat the words they hear their parents saying. It would be tragic to sabotage your attempts to raise them in the Lord by displaying apathy or irritation when it is time to assemble for worship or Bible class. They will see and hear you groaning at how much time it takes or how much better it would be to nap than gather for worship, and they will imitate you when they are grown.

What are you really teaching your children? They are learning all the time, not just when you give them to the Bible teacher. Teaching God’s truth must go beyond the doors of the church building. Show them that even adults continue to learn from God’s Word. Let them see your eagerness to learn and grow. Help them to desire greater knowledge and wisdom from God by desiring it yourself. When they are young they will imitate you, but as they grow they will learn the truth: You taught them to imitate Christ.

1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. -1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB95)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fans and Faith on Display


Just yesterday I was traveling from store to store looking for a tower fan for our living room. I visited four different businesses who carried fans and I was surprised that most were not plugged in at all, if they were even out of the box. The only fan that was plugged in was about $300 higher than the competition. The fan seemed to work great, just not great enough to earn THAT price (It’s a FAN, people, come on). So I was left with several fans to choose from, none of which I could try out or experience for myself. I checked internet reviews to see which was rated the highest and what the pros and cons were for each model. I wanted a fan that was quiet, powerful, and had the option to oscillate. Eventually I found one that seemed to have those qualities, and I made the purchase. After arriving home and turning it on, I was pleased. The fan was everything I hoped for.

It took around two hours to figure out which fan was the one worth purchasing. It could have taken 5 minutes if they were PLUGGED IN AND WORKING. That’s the power of a DISPLAY. It allows you in a few minutes to understand what would otherwise take hours.

Is your faith on display? To a lost soul searching for the truth, 5 minutes of displayed faith is powerfully convincing. We spend an awful lot of time talking about being faithful to Christ, we sing songs about walking with Him and following His example. All that good may be inside of you, and you may think about lots of ways to display your faith, but unless you plug your faith in it’s not going to do you any good, and the searching soul will never see it. Instead of living unplugged, boxed up lives, let’s plug in our faith and put in on display. Here’s some ideas:

  • There will be someone in your way in the grocery store. Introduce yourself and invite them to worship with you.
  • When you’re getting gasoline, introduce yourself and ask the person on the other pump if they’ve obeyed the gospel. They may be searching for answers you have found!
  • When you sign the receipt at a store or restaurant, write your phone number and Acts 2:38 in the white space. Who knows what could happen?

Let’s get creative. Seek out ways to make contact with the lost, put your faith on display for them to see, and share the results with your brethren on Sunday and Wednesday to encourage them to put their faith on display. Together we can win this world to Christ!

8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. –Titus 3:8 (NASB95)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Red Skies

red sky

Finding out weather predictions has become very easy and very high tech. I remember when I had to wait through the morning or evening news to see the seven day forecast, but now I can see it at any time on my weather app. Predicting the weather has been a pursuit of many people for a very long time. Even in the time of Christ people were predicting the weather. Look at Matthew 16:1-4:

1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4 “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.

The Pharisees and Sadducees took the time to seriously consider the sky and the implications of its color, but they refused to seriously consider Jesus and the meaning of the signs and wonders He was performing. During His life Jesus was fulfilling prophecy after prophecy, and was performing miracle after miracle, and yet they continued to beg for signs from heaven as proof that He was the Christ.

Jesus reprimanded the people of His time because they could use logic and common sense concerning the world in which they lived, but they failed to employ the same common sense principles in their walk with God. They failed to see the signs Jesus was performing (John 20:30-31) and they failed to believe in the mountain of evidence of His authority (John 5:30-47).

Before we judge Christ’s generation too harshly, we need to take a look at our own. Our generation is obsessed with symbolism and allegory in the Scriptures to the point that plain and straightforward Scriptures (Mark 16:16) are ignored completely in favor of wild and twisted conclusions of difficult to understand passages (2 Peter 3:16).

Many people for many years have spent much time attempting to name the date and time of Christ’s return, the Day of Judgment. They seek out and twist passages in the prophets and Revelation especially, and destroy the faith of many when their predictions are wrong. Rather than being deceived by their persuasive arguments, use common sense! Even while He walked the earth, Jesus plainly said that the day and the hour is known by no one but the Father (Matt. 24:36-39, 44; Luke 12:39-40). Instead of trying to figure it out, we are commanded simply to “be on the alert” (Matt. 24:42).

Those who teach that they can or do know when Christ will return are teaching a false doctrine which leads to the ruin of those who believe it. Use your common sense, listen to the plain and straightforward teachings Christ gave. Obey only the true teachings which come from God’s Word and you will find salvation in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:37-38).

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Does Anyone See Your Faith?


Hebrews 11:1 is often quoted as the answer to “What is faith?” Over the years many have rightly said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” For me that verse became the go-to answer that needed no explanation, for never had I given one, neither had I been asked for one. I had fallen into a trap with this verse. I knew what it said, but I failed to understand what it meant, and what it still means today. Faith is called two things in this verse: 

  1. Substancesubstantial nature, essence, actual being, reality (underlying structure, often in contrast to what merely seems to be)
  2. Evidenceproof, proving[1]

These two words can only be applied to something tangible, something real. Faith is the reality, the actual being of things hoped for. Faith is the proving and proof of things not seen. Proof wins court cases because the jurors and the judge can see, touch, smell, hear, or taste it. It’s something real.

This understanding of faith explains the rest of the chapter. Hebrews 11 is filled with people from the Bible whose faith was reality, whose faith offered proof that all could see. We’re talking about the works they did in obedience to God.

Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice. Noah built an ark. Abraham left his home and offered Isaac to God. Moses’ parents hid him as a baby. Moses forsook a royal life in Egypt. Are you seeing the pattern? Those who are held up as faithful in Hebrews 11 are held up as such because their faith wasn’t just a thought, it was real. Their faith was proven by their obedience to God, and most obeyed in the face of extremely difficult and painful circumstances. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Does anyone see your faith? While Jesus does caution against performing works of righteousness to be seen by men (Matt. 6:1-18) He also teaches us that we are to let our lights shine before men “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). These two teachings do not disagree, but instead they teach us to do good works because they are pleasing to God (not to be seen by men), and do them publicly so that people will glorify God. In other words, let people see the substance of what you hope for, let them see the evidence of things not seen. Let them see your faith, because invisible faith isn’t faith at all.

26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. - James 2:26 (NASB95)

[1] Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : 315. Print.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trump the Tumultuous

We are ramping up to an election year, and this year is the wildest I have ever witnessed. Every day when I turn on the television, radio, or Facebook, I am bombarded with news from the past day, and especially news concerning Donald Trump’s interactions with various political and economic leaders. Most of those interactions are full of petty insults and hot tempers. If Donald Trump doesn’t like what you’re doing, you can bet your last dollar he’ll tweet about it to the whole world. This rough-sandpaper approach to conflict is doing wonders for Trump in the polls, but is this approach a good example to follow? Should I be more like the Tumultuous Trump?

The Proverbs teach us how to live wisely (or foolishly, if we so choose). Listen to their take on Trump’s approach:

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. (Prov. 12:16)

A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless. (Prov. 14:16)

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Prov. 18:2)

A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating. (Prov. 18:6)

Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger. (Prov. 29:8)

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Prov. 29:11)

Trump's approach is not called wise by God. While it is tempting to imitate such behaviors, and while it may initially feel wonderful to get everything off your chest, in the long run you will find ruin.

Our Lord Jesus instead teaches us to resolve every conflict as privately and quickly as possible. Rather than calling out our grievances from the rooftops, we are to speak privately and make peace without incident (Matthew 18:15). Instead of stomping off to attend another congregation, we ought to be patient when we are wronged and work to make peace with our brethren (Phil. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Our culture is pushing us away from what God calls wise and toward what He calls foolish. Don’t fall into the trap, be patient and kind to each other even in correction, and find the wisdom of God.

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Prov. 12:18)