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? 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In Life’s Tug of War, You’re The Rope

tug-of-war

The world is constantly pulling us in a hundred different directions and we struggle to know which way we should go. I see what I want to do, but is that the thing I should do? I see what I should do, but that’s often so difficult, perhaps I could take a shortcut and nobody would know? Whether it’s our jobs, our hobbies, our TV’s, or some other unique circumstance in our lives, it seems like there’s always a decision to be made, and rarely is it easy. It would be dreamy to have a week where I can turn off my computer, turn off my cell phone, forget all the drama, and simply worship God and study His Word with a cup of coffee sitting on the table next to me and the wind rustling through the trees.

I think all of us look for a time to get away from it all and be at peace. Bible camp is a place of peace and fellowship with the Lord and His people. Every morning we sing praises to our Lord for all His wonderful blessings He has showered on us. Our days are characterized by Bible study, prayer, and worship, and we even throw some wholesome games along the way. Go swimming and get refreshed from the heat. End your day devoted to the Lord, singing His praises and remembering how great He is as you look up at the stars that peek out at you from behind the trees. Then look to your right and your left, see the smiles around you, and feel the love and happiness that comes only from service to the Lord and service to each other.

“This is My Father’s World” is the theme for this year’s camp session. God truly is our Father, and we are His children if we do as He commands (1 John 5:2). If you are looking for a way to get out of life’s tug of war, Bible Camp is the way to do it. This year, from June 21-28, we invite all our young people and adults to come to Sierra Bible Camp, take time to meditate on God’s Word, and encourage each other by singing praises to God, our Father, who created everything and blesses us with every good thing in this world (James 1:17). Come and serve, come and worship, come and enjoy the fellowship of your brethren through the blood of Christ.

The new directors, Wayne Keith and Eli Schnell, would like to thank everyone in advance for all the time, effort, and love they will put into this year’s Bible camp. This isn’t a work that one or two people could accomplish alone. This is a work that our congregation, along with others, will accomplish together with God’s blessing. Please pray that God will bless us as we prepare to lead this camp session, and also that all the young people and adults will be blessed by taking this week to devote themselves to God, His Word, and His people.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Are Your Hands Clean?

Handwash

My wife Katherine and I watch Judge Judy on TV and we are always impressed when a biblical concept comes out in the judgment rendered. Recently the “dirty hands” principle came up. If the plaintiff has “dirty hands” then the judge will not rule in their favor, because they themselves are engaged in some illegal or unethical activity. For example, if I took Johnny’s lunch money and then Billy took that money from me, I can’t complain to the teacher and get that money back because I have “dirty hands”; I stole the money in the first place.

A similar principle is found in Matthew 18:21-35. In this passage Peter asks the Lord how many times he must forgive his brother when he sins against him. Thinking the number generous, Peter offers seven times as the limit.

Jesus answers Peter with a parable about a master who settled accounts with his slaves, and one had a massive debt. The slave pled for mercy, and the master forgave all that was owed. After being forgiven all his debt, that slave found a fellow slave who owed a small amount and demanded full repayment. When his fellow slave could not repay all he refused to forgive him but instead threw him in prison until he could pay in full.

When the master heard how wickedly this slave had behaved he recalled him and handed him over to the torturers until he could pay all that was owed. Matthew 18:35 is the application of this parable:

35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

We cannot come to God seeking forgiveness with “dirty hands”. If we seek forgiveness from God, we must forgive one another as well. The forgiveness God gives us is true, honest, and sincere, and so must our forgiveness be towards one another. If we only make an outward show of forgiveness but inwardly harbor a grudge, we cannot expect forgiveness from God. God looks at our hearts and examines our motives, and He sees the truth of all things.

Let each of us come to God with clean hands, hands that are full of forgiveness towards others and obedience to His Word. If you have harbored a grudge against anyone, forgive them from your heart, otherwise God promises suffering instead of forgiveness on the last day. No grudge is worth your soul. Let go of the hate and anger, those dark things within, and truly walk with God in the light.

 

If you live in or will be visiting the Sacramento area you are invited to worship with the Mariposa Avenue Church of Christ in Citrus Heights! Please visit our website and send any questions through our contact form! See you soon!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What’s Mine is Yours

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. 36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32–37 NASB95)

The true church follows the pattern set forth in the Scriptures for our worship and behavior when gathered and separated. If we claim to be the New Testament Church, this is one passage that cannot be overlooked. The true church has an unmistakable attitude towards physical possessions: what’s mine is yours if you have need of it. Notice in verse 32, “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” Everyone was willing to share and sacrifice for the good of all. None were forced, but all were willing to give to those who had a need.

In all of our earthly dealings, we should recognize where the greatest good can be done. When one has a need in the church, we ought to serve that need with the resources God has given us (1 Timothy 6:17-19). That doesn’t mean we have to sell everything we have so that someone can have a bowl of soup, but it does mean we should use what we do have for their needs. If a brother or sister loses their house, give them a home within your doors. If the need is smaller, like food or water or clothing, give to them as generously as you can, and expect nothing in return (Luke 14:12-14). The reward we receive from God is greater than any reward a man could repay us.

Our nation is going through a difficult time right now, when the government is unstable and workers are constantly losing employment from various jobs. In these times of great need, we, God’s people, have a great opportunity to serve the needs of others, and especially those of the household of God (Galatians 6:9-10). If you haven’t recently, take a moment to look around you and see who is in need, and take a break from your busy schedule to serve that need. If they are a fellow Christian, encourage them to keep walking in the light. If they are a lost soul, let them know the gospel offers hope to all who will obey it, and that the family of God will welcome them if they will follow the Scriptures. In times of great distress, opportunities to serve abound. Don’t miss yours!