Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Display Cases for God's Glory

Matthew 5-7, affectionately known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, is one of the most well-known pieces of Scripture in existence. These chapters teach us about behavior and attitude, and how to please God as we live on earth.We often give these teachings to children as they grow, hoping to instill in them godly values and goals. In the introduction to His sermon, Jesus compares us to salt and light, saying:
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. -Matthew 5:13–16 (NASB95)
The point of these comparisons is clear: we should behave differently than the world. We should always be seen in contrast to worldly values and desires.

We tend to do very well with this teaching when our life is peaceful and easy. All of us have mountaintop experiences in life, when our minds are clear and centered on God and furthering His kingdom. During those times of spiritual security we stand firm in the Scriptures and we may even consider ourselves to be invincible. It feels good when everything is going right.

What about when life gets complicated? What do you do when your mind becomes muddied by pride and emotional distress? Maybe your marriage is on the rocks, maybe your children are making poor life choices. Our natural reaction is to start pointing fingers to blame someone for the difficulty we’re facing. The disciples did that very thing as they came upon a blind man in John 9:2ff:
And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. -John 9:2-3 (NASB95)
Instead of looking for someone to blame, let’s remember to be light in the world. Brothers and sisters, let’s use our difficulties and our struggles as a display case for godly behavior. As you endure pain and hardship, those around you will be watching to see your reaction. Show them the light of Christ. Let the works of God be displayed in you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Do Not Be Unbelieving

A rock found in Israel and currently on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art offers new evidence supporting the Bible’s description of the rule of King David, archaeology experts believe. The stone’s inscription, which appears to refer to King David’s dynasty, is believed to have been written in 830 B.C., only 150 years after he reigned (The Blaze). 

Many people still question the inspiration of the Scriptures. Many still wonder if the Bible really is historically accurate, or if it is only fables and fairytales bound together, like Aesop’s Fables.

Evidence like this stone tablet (sorry kiddos, no Angry Birds here!) is important because it is not part of the Scriptures. Because it is completely separated from the Bible it is an excellent witness that the people described in the Bible actually existed, in this case King David who reigned over Israel around 1000 B.C. This particular stone is a record from one of the enemies of Israel and Judah, Hazael.

Many have argued vehemently that David is one in a long line of biblical characters who never existed, and that his non-existence proved the Scriptures are not inspired by God. Many were skeptical because while the Scriptures paint David as a great king over a great nation, there was (until recently) no archaeological evidence proving his existence.

When extra-biblical evidence like this is discovered it serves to bolster the faith of the faithful, and it ought to cause any agnostic to take note and consider what questions are really left unanswered. The more humanity discovers, the more the evidence points in favor of the claims of the Scriptures concerning their own inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16).

When Jesus was raised from the dead, Thomas refused to believe Jesus was alive saying, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). There are many people who identify strongly with Thomas. He demanded evidence, and until it was provided he refused to believe. Eight days later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and the other apostles and said to him,
“Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” -John 20:27-29
Through the Scriptures God has provided us with all the necessary evidence and more, encouraging us “do not be unbelieving, but believing”. So what is stopping you from believing? What evidence do you desire to find? What questions still linger in your mind?

If spiritual questions nag your mind, ASK THEM! Head over to the Mariposa Avenue Church of Christ website and send us an email! We'll answer spiritual questions with Bible verses, rather than opinions. Above all else, we desire to share God's Word with you, and let you see the reasonable evidence which God has provided through it. Come on, what's the worst that could happen?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Four Months From Ferguson

On August 9, Michael Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, who was at that time a police officer in the city of Ferguson, MO. Here we are in December of the same year, and the United States is a different place. In four months people across the nation have united under the banner of civil rights and racial profiling. Even a few of our professional athletes have become openly opinionated on the issue. It’s difficult now to turn on the news or visit a news or social website without being bombarded by one opinion or another concerning the ruling on the case, and the not so peaceful protests that are continuing even now. While the Scriptures speak plainly about our submission to the government (Romans 13:1ff), this article isn't here to discuss that side of the issue. Let’s focus on the timeline.

Four months. Four months and it’s everywhere in the news. Four months and everyone has assessed the evidence. Four months and every person in the United States has an opinion. Four months and people are ready to adamantly defend their conclusions. Four months.

Careful now, Christians: In four months have we begun to carry the banner of Michael Brown or Darren Wilson more diligently than the cross of Christ? Have we allowed Satan to unite us under a cause other than saving the lost? Have we become distracted?

Remember the lesson we learn from Jesus in Luke 10:38–42:
"Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.""
Are you “worried and bothered” like Martha? Are you forgetting the “one thing” that was necessary, the “good part” which Mary had chosen? It seems Christians are often caught up in the latest scandal and we often do more work to profess our opinion on world events than we do to advance the gospel of Christ. Remember, Jesus had one goal on earth, and He has given us the same goal:
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  -Luke 19:10
Have you become distracted?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Lesson From A Veteran

Master Sergeant Justus Belfield, Veteran's Day 2014
Tuesday, November 11, was Veteran’s Day 2014. For some that day came and went without as much as a thought for those brave men and women who have served our country selflessly. But for so many others that day was special, a time to honor and appreciate our Veterans who have given so much for their country, their people. One 98 year old veteran of WWII, Justus Belfield, was in a nursing home on Veteran’s Day, and asked that he be dressed in his uniform. He had often dressed in his uniform (which still fit, even after so many years) for holidays like Independence Day, Memorial Day, and, of course, Veteran’s Day.

One of the workers wished him a happy Veteran’s Day and thanked him for his service, to which he gave a determined salute. Master Sergeant Justus Belfield passed away only one day later (www.dailygazette.com).

In an interview one year prior to his passing, Justus told a story about his days spent recruiting for the Army. He was quick, recruiting 100 soldiers so fast that one might wonder what his “trick” was. The trick was simple: be honest with potential recruits. Tell them the good, tell them the bad. Help them understand what they are getting into.

Perhaps we Christians could learn a thing or two from this Veteran. Often the question is asked in a Bible class or in an office visit, “What is the best way to evangelize?” The answer is simple: be honest. Do not sugarcoat the gospel; do not pull a bait-n-switch with the Scriptures. Everyone likes to hear the good that God has in store for them and how He desires to bless them, but all too often we neglect to inform the lost about the expectations of Christian life. Remember the words of Paul in Acts 20:26-27:
"Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God."
When we reach out to the lost, it is tempting to leave out parts of the gospel, especially if we see difficult changes that need to be made in another person. If we truly care about them, and if we desire to accomplish the work God has given us, we must be honest, sharing even the difficult parts of the gospel.

We need to talk with the lost about sexual promiscuity, lust, drug and alcohol abuse, marriage, divorce, remarriage, worship attendance (especially the first day of the week), wholesome speech, etc., as well as baptism into Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the blessings which follow. Everyone deserves to know what they are signing up for when they decide to obey the gospel, and we are responsible for making that truth known to them.

There is no trick to evangelism, no trick to winning the lost. As Jesus taught in the parable of the sower, a few will listen, obey, and bear fruit, while many others will refuse the message in one way or another (Matt. 13:18ff). Jesus explained to all very clearly that the gate to life is narrow and difficult to enter, and many will refuse it for an easier path (Matt. 7:13-14). We do not set the size of the gate nor the type of seed, but we can show others the way, honestly and clearly. Make sure you give the lost the chance to make the choice, and that you are pointing them to the right gate.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

He Only Had To Ask

In 2003, Kyle Beebe was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. He was fined and sentenced to three years of supervised probation. Although he had served his sentence, the conviction remained on his record permanently, and would cause potential employers to take a second look at him before they hired him for any job. After all, who wants a “former” drug dealer as their employee? How long before he goes back to his drug-dealing ways and damages the reputation of your establishment? 

Recently, Kyle wrote a letter to the Arkansas governor, Mike Beebe, requesting pardon for his offense. Yes, you read the last name right. The governor is Kyle’s father. In the next few weeks the pardon will be issued, but as I read this news story, one question nagged my mind: why now? Why did the governor and father wait so long (11 years since the conviction!) to issue a pardon to his own son? According to CNN, the recommendation for pardon came only after Kyle, the son, wrote a lengthy letter to the governor along with his pardon application. An excerpt from the letter reads:

“Mr. Governor, I am asking for a second chance at life. I am asking for a second chance to be the man that I know that I can be.” 
“At the time of my arrest I was living in a fantasy world, not reality. I was young and dumb. At that time in my life I felt like I was missing something and I tried to fill that emptiness by selling drugs.”

In response, the governor had this to say:

“I would have [pardoned him] a long time ago if he’d have asked, but he took his sweet time about asking.”

The forgiveness, the erasing of the guilt by way of pardon, was readily available, but the child had to return in humility to his father, showing a penitent heart, before forgiveness could be given. 

How often do we retain our own guilt because we are too proud to confess our mistakes before God? Remember the teachings of John in 1 John 1:8-9:

"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Those who have become children of God through obedience to the gospel need only to humbly and penitently confess our sins before our Father, and He is more than willing to forgive us, to offer us the pardon we continually need. 

When is the last time you bowed before God in prayer, specifically noting those sins which you had committed, for which you need His forgiveness? When is the last time you spoke to your brother or sister in Christ, requesting their forgiveness for a wrong you committed against them? 

Pride is a powerful emotion to overcome. So often it is the reason we refuse to confess our sins and seek forgiveness from God and our spiritual family. Make no mistake, we are all ashamed of choices we have made. The beauty of Christianity, however, is that Jesus loves us enough to bear that shame for us, if we will let Him. God is ready to forgive, are you ready to humble yourself and seek Him out?