Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Sentence of Death

Dying to Self

Written by Dr. Justin Imel

Death. That’s the sentence Youcef Nadarkhani has received from an Iranian court for refusing to recant his faith in Christ.

According to news reports, the court asked Nadarkhani to repent. He replied, “Repent means to turn. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” declared the judge.

Nadarkhani simply said, “I cannot.”

Nadarkhani clearly stands as an example for all who profess faith in Christ. In former days, many gave their lives for Christ – Stephen, James, Peter, Paul, Justin Martyr, and the list could be made much longer.

Yet, Jesus intends every disciple to lay down his life. Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, ESV). We view the cross as a symbol of our redemption, but Jesus’ original hearers would have understood the cross as an instrument of death. Jesus says that his disciples must daily die for him – die to their own will and live for him. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24, ESV).

Have you died to self today? Have you taken off the old self to be clothed with Christ? Why not die to self today that you might live for Jesus? After all, he has already died for you. “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:15, ESV).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lives of Holiness

Holy Living

1 Peter 1:1-25

When one thinks of Peter, generally the first thoughts are of a disciple who was impulsive, impetuous, and maybe at times impossible. He is the one who was willing to fight and die with his Lord one minute and yet willing to deny him the next. You might wonder how could this impossible, impulsive, impetuous disciple ever write to encourage anyone? It is the result of a changed heart and spiritual growth. He is the disciple to whom Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom (Mat. 16:28). Peter understood what it meant to stand up with great courage for the cause of Christ, Acts 2:14-47; Acts 5:40-42.

Peter therefore could write to those who were either suffering persecution or about to suffer persecution with all the confidence one needs to reassure. He could write brethren who were about to experience persecution, trials and tribulations and exhort them toward “holy living” because he had already experienced what they were going to experience.

“First Clement 5:4-7 names Peter and Paul as victims of persecution” (Gaebelein p. 212). The persecution is most likely that given out by Nero. On July 19, 64 AD the city of Rome suffered a disastrous fire that destroyed nearly a fourth of the city. It was rumored that the fires were started by Nero (it is said that he was charmed by the flames). He supposedly needed space for buildings he wanted built. He sought a scapegoat for the fires and chose the Christians. They were already under suspicion according to Tactius in ancient history. (Tac. Ann. XV44).

They were considered by the Romans to be a sect of the Jews and there was no love lost by the Romans for the Jews. Nero increased the persecution in order to throw suspicion off him. Christians were persecuted in horrible ways. Therefore, imagine the words that Peter is writing are to encourage Christians to remain holy in an unholy world and he attempts to encourage them in this process.

  1. Blessings Afforded Those Living a Holy Life: (1:3-12)
    1. New Birth: Jn. 3:5 (born again) Our new birth, gives hope and joy not only in this life, but in the life hear after, or eternal life. No matter what may happen to the body, they cannot kill the soul.
    2. Living hope through the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
      1. Life without hope: Eph. 2:11-12 “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”
      2. Christ is the source of all hope and blessings (Eph. 1:3)
    3. A precious inheritance:
      1. Incorruptible
      2. Undefiled-implies purity not corrupted
      3. Will not fade away
      4. Reserved in Heaven
    4. Faith Value (1:5-8)
      1. Kept by power of God 1:5
      2. More precious than gold 1:7
      3. Will be found unto the praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ 1:7
      4. Joy unspeakable 1:8
    5. Salvation of soul: (1:9-12)
  2. Living the Holy Life (1:13-15)
    1. Be Sober
    2. Hope
    3. Living Obedient lives
    4. Holy in Conduct and Character
  3. The Purpose of Living the Holy Life: (1:16-25)
    1. Living Holy (1:13-16)
    2. Living Reverently (1:17-21)
    3. Living a life of Love (1:22-25)

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Letter to the Romans

Introduction to the Book of Romans

Written by George Goldman

The Roman letter is more formal and less personal than any other letter of Paul; nevertheless it is still a letter. It is not a thesis or a treatise (Rom. 16:22).

Paul wrote the letter because he was “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13; 15:16). Rome was the capital of the Gentile world. Paul, the Roman citizen, was free to travel throughout the Empire. He established Gentile churches in strategic centers. He worked in major cities. He worked in major cities. However, the church in Rome already existed, but it is not known who founded the church in Rome.

The heart of the Roman letter is justification by faith (Rom. 3:21 – 8:39). In the Greek New Testament the word justification means “to set right.” It is a reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. The sinner is declared righteous. This declaration and change of attitude are made possible because of what Jesus Christ has done and not because of what the sinner has done. The sinner has to obey the Lord, (Rom. 1:5, 16:26), but this obedience gives no room for boasting. The foundation of justification is built on Christ’s merit and not man’s merit.

The problem addressed in the roman letter is why the prepared people, the Jews, rejected the Savior (Rom. 9 – 11). Paul offers himself as “exhibit A.” God did not reject the Jews but vice versa. Yet any Jew now desiring salvation in Christ would be accepted. The term “fitted for destruction” (Rom. 9:22) can be taken as middle voice in Greek. The middle voice represents the subject as acting in some way that concerns itself. Thus the translation would be, “God . . . has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath which have fitted themselves for destruction” (Rom. 9:22). The expression “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26) is best interpreted in light of other scripture referring to spiritual Israel (Rom. 2:28f; Gal. 6:16).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Parenting Resources

Resources for Parents

Without any doubt, parenting is no easy task in this sinful world. Today, we offer resources to assist Christian parents as they train their children to walk in paths of righteousness.

Dobson, James. Bringing Up Boys: Practicel Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men. Tyndale, 2001.

___________. Dare to Discipline. Tyndale, 1996.

Gottman, John. The Heart of Parenting: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Murokoff, Heidi, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway. What To Expect When You’re Expecting. New York: Workman, 2002.

Sears, Bill. The Baby Book. Little Brown, 2003.

Wilson, Douglas and Nancy Wilson. Standing on the Promises: A Handbook on Biblical Childrearing. Moscow, ID: CanonPress, 1997.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Resources for Married Couples

Resources for the Married Couple

Yesterday, we offered selected resources to help the engaged couple aptly prepare for marriage. Yet, no matter how well couples lay the groundwork for their union, they will find new challenges confronting them after the honeymoon. Satan, after all, loves to destroy families, for God hates divorce (Mal 2:16). Today, therefore, we offer these resources to strengthen Chrisitan marriages.

Gottman, John. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999. ISBN: 0609805797

________ Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage. Crown 2006.

________ Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last. NY: Fireside, 1994.

Pearl, Michael and Debbie. Created to be His Helpmeet. Available from

Smalley, Gary. Making Love Last Forever. W Publishing Group, 1996. ISBN: 0849940869.

Stanley, Scott M. The Power of Commitment: A Guide to Active, Lifelong Love. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005. ISBN: 0-7879-7928-7.

Wilson, Douglas. Reforming Marriage. Moscow, ID: Canon, 1995. ISBN: 1885767455.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Helping Engaged Couples

Resources for Engaged Couples

Below is a list of resources available in the Heritage Marriage and Family Resource Center to strengthen engaged couples. The Heritage Marriage and Family Resource Center is an area in the Overton Memorial Library that houses materials to promote healthy marriage and family relationships.

Parrott, Les and Leslie Parrott. Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Rainey, Dennis. Preparing for Marriage. Ventura, CA: Gospel Light, 1997.

Rainey, Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Starting Your Marriage Right: What You Need to Know in the Early Years to Make It Last a Lifetime. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.

Stahmann, Robert F. and William J. Hiebert. Premarital & Remarital Counseling: The Professional’s Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.

Taylor, Charles W. Premarital Guide (Creative Pastoral Care & Counseling Series). Fortress, 1999.

Wicker, Les. Preparing Couples for Marriage: A Guide for Pastors to Premarital Counseling. Lima, OH: CSS Publishing, 2003.

Wright, Norman. Before You Say I Do. Rev. ed. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1997.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Book of Acts

An Introduction to Acts of Apostles

Written by George Goldman

The book of Acts of the Apostles is the main source of the history of the first generation of Christians. It is the only account we have of the rise of Christianity from a Christian standpoint. The title of the book suggests that it is a record of deeds or events of the apostles. However, besides the list of the twelve in Acts 1:13-26 the only Apostles mentioned are Peter, James, John, and Paul. The focus seems to be on Peter and Paul. The book covers little more than three decades from the ascension of the Lord to the end of Paul’s two-year imprisonment at Rome (33 A.D. – 63 A.D.) It would be good for you to know the reasons behind its production. First, there are over seventy references to the Holy Spirit in Acts. Most of these occur in the first eleven chapters. It is important for you to recognize that this emphasis on the Holy Spirit indicates divine activity behind the scenes.

Also the author of the book of Acts wishes to show that Christianity was politically harmless in order that the Roman authorities might extend to it the same toleration as they gave to Judaism. In every case the author brings out the impartiality of the Roman officials. The attitude of Gallio was typical (Acts 18:12-17). Another proconsul, Sergius Paulus, is seen to be the most favorable towards the gospel (Acts 13:7-12). The city secretary at Ephesus was conciliatory and the Asiarchs are as helpful to Paul (Acts 19:30-41). On the other hand it was always the Jews who were the instigators but the Roman authorities never take the charges seriously.

Thirdly the writer of Acts seems to emphasize that Paul is as much of an apostle as Peter. Two-fifths of the book deals with the acts of Peter, while three-fifths records the acts of Paul. In chapters 1 – 12 the narrative moves from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome (Gentile Christianity) and in this section it is Paul who has the limelight. Several features re-occur in the story of Peter and Paul: both heal cripples (3:28 cf. 14:8-12); both have encounters with sorcerers and work miracles of injury (8:18 cf. 13:6); both raise the dead (9:36ff. cf. 20:9ff); both are miraculously released from prison (12:7 cf. 16:26); both become the objects of worship (10:25 cf. 14:11ff); both are beaten for the name of Jesus (5:40f cf. 16:22f).

You have read of three reasons why the book of Acts was written. Please remember that it is our only source of the history of the first century Christians that is written from a Christian standpoint. As you read it ask yourself, “Am I like the first century Christians?” “Do I believe as they did?” “Do I live and worship as they did?” It is my prayer that you become a first century Christian – nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Four F Parenting

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

Many believe that it’s harder than ever to be a good parent. I’m one of those. I knew everything about children until May 15, 1984. Then, John William Bagents was born and I forgot everything I ever thought I knew. I spent almost a decade as a youth minister. I knew everything – at least everything that mattered – about teens until May 15, 1997 when that kid turned 13. If you think that’s bad, I had to unlearn about half of what I thought I learned with John in order to deal with his brother, Allen. They’re not true polar opposites, but it’s still hard to believe those two boys came from the same gene pool. In so many ways, they’re as different as night and day.

Parenting is not a lost cause. It’s not a hopeless venture. We get a lot of help. It’s good to have Dr. Glen Wittig, head librarian at Criswell College, with us today. It wouldn’t do to have a man of his standing here without mentioning a few books that help parents. I like Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. I like that excellent Boundaries Series by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I like John MacArthur’s Successful Christian Parenting and that older volume, Parenting With Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. Jay Kesler’s Emotionally Healthy Teenagers is such a solid work. But, if I had to choose only one book on parenting, you know which one I’d choose.

I will rely on that good book, the good book, this morning as we talk about 4 F Parenting.

  1. Fast. Start Fast. Start early. Start before you marry. Men, godly women like the one described in Proverbs 31 aren’t real common. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Ladies, men who truly honor the teaching of Ephesians 6:4 are rare as well. “And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” You start parenting before you marry because your choice of a mate has so much impact on the rest of your life.

  2. First. Keep first things first. Matthew 22:34-40 is one of the strongest parenting passages in all of Scripture. A lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We don’t have a closer neighbor than our spouse. And, the children come next. Before work. Before school. Before others. If you doubt that there’s a vital link between loving God and training our children to love Him, just remember Deuteronomy 6. Remember Genesis 18:19, “For I have known him, in order that he cam command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” Abraham had a role in helping the Lord God fulfill his promises to him. Part of that role was parenting well.

  3. Fun. If you’re going to last as a parent, you better find and keep a sense of humor. Being the first book in Scripture Genesis is foundational is so many ways. Genesis 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.” This one verse reminds us how babies are supposed to be born; they’re supposed to be born to parents who are married to one another. It also tells us the attitude in which they are to be received: as blessings from the Lord. Perhaps Psalm 127:3-5 is the more familiar statement. I know that “happy” there carries the fundamental meaning of blessed, favored by God. But, who’s happier than the person who’s blessed by God?

  4. Faithful. There are no perfect parents. Even if you were perfect today and had it all together, it wouldn’t last. Kids change every day. They’re a constantly moving target. Some days they seem perfect. Some days they almost make you believe in modern day demon possession. The story of Legion from Luke 8. If it were demon possession, it would surely take more than one to account for all that they do. I know that even Proverbs 22:6 is not an absolute, iron-clad guarantee of how children will turn out. But, I do know how they tend to turn out if we don’t apply that verse. You know how it begins, “Train up a child in the way that he should go...” I can’t train my children if God in God’s way if I’m not letting God train me. Like most of us, children see better than they hear. They don’t just notice what we want them to notice. They don’t just learn when we want them to learn. They know faithful when they see it. And you can count on this, they also know fake.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

True Riches

Are We Rich?

A little boy asked his father, “Dad, are we rich people?” As you might guess, the father proceeded with the standard answer. How rich is a relative term. How we have more than some people, but less than others. How that as much as we seem to have, we don’t think of ourselves as rich. Like 99% of the people I know, we think of ourselves as “somewhere in the middle.”

I want us to think about the question, “Are we rich?” I want us to look beyond the standard answer. By way of getting started, I need to tell you the truth. All of us who are Christians are rich people.

We are rich people because we have been reborn/redeemed. Romans 5:6-9. 1 Corinthians 6:20 reminds us that we have been “bought at a price.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 reminds us that we were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from our aimless conduct. We have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

We are rich people because we have an inheritance. I’m 45 years old, still young enough that I’ve never received an earthly inheritance. My parents are worth a nice chunk of change. They insist that part of that will be mine one day. To tell you the truth, I don’t want it. I’d rather keep them around. I have a brother who’s running the family farm, and I’d like to see him keep doing that. But, as a Christian, I have another inheritance, a greater inheritance. That one, I want with all my heart. Colossians 1:9-12. 1 Peter 1:3-5.

We are rich people because we know Christ/contentment. 1Timothy 6 says a lot about money and even more about true riches. It reminds us that we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out (v. 7). It warns us that those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition (v. 9). It urges us not to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy (v. 17). And, it tells us that godliness with contentment is great gain (v. 6). It challenges us to be content with food and clothing (v. 8), because true riches aren’t material. The greatest of all riches is eternal life with God.

We are rich people because we have hope. 1 Peter 1:3. 1Timothy 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Hebrews 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Too Much Faith

Some Things Require Too Much Faith to Believe

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

We all know that nothing comes from nothing. It takes way too much faith to believe that the universe is self-creating. It takes almost as much faith to believe that matter and energy are eternal. Everything we know tells us that energy dissipates, that or-dered systems tend to move toward disorder. Only an eternal, uncaused creator actu-ally explains the origin of the universe.

We all know that life doesn’t come from non-life. Modern biologists don’t believe in abiogenesis, that living organisms arise from non-living matter—except for what must have happened in the beginning. According to evolutionary theory, life began from non-life. There’s no other choice within the realm of science. [I know this isn’t really within the realm of science, but science still claims it. Science claims it because the only alternative is divine creation – God.] Thus, the argument regarding abiogenesis is, “It happened then, but it doesn’t happen now. It can’t happen now, because it’s impos-sible. But it must have happened then, because there’s no other scientific explanation for the origin of life.”

It takes way too much faith to believe that advanced forms of life are a series of acci-dents. Advanced forms of life are too intricate, too complex. From the endocrine sys-tem to the nervous system, so much is intertwined and interdependent. How could natural selection “select for” hormones that support structures which cannot function without them? Can random mutations, pure chance, explain this? Within the sphere of Darwinian evolution, it must be the explanation. That takes too much “faith” for me.

So many brethren seem to be retreating from the biblical account of creation. Genesis is being labeled as myth, metaphor, or “accommodation to the pre-scientific thinking of primitive man.” Jesus didn’t retreat from the biblical account of creation (Matthew 19:1-6). Paul didn’t retreat from that account. (Acts 17:24, Colossians 1:15-18). Neither should we. Some things are beyond scientific explanation. Some things belong to the realm of the spiritual. Some things make sense only through faith in the eternal, living God.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the uni-verse was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible … And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:1-3, 6)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Gospel of John

Introduction to the Gospel of John

Written by George Goldman

What was Jesus really like?

This was the question many people were asking in 90 A.D. The writer of the fourth gospel writes the answer. Never has a book paid a greater tribute to its “hero.” The very opening verse claims the “hero” is God, Himself.

Cerinthus, a man who lived in John’s lifetime, was teaching that Jesus was not really God and that Christ had not actually come into the flesh. According to Cerinthus, at Jesus’ baptism the “Christ” in the form of a dove descended on Jesus. This same “Christ” left him again just before Jesus’ suffering. Therefore, it was not really Christ who suffered, died, and rose again but Jesus.

John denies this teaching by saying, “The Word (God) became flesh (Jn. 1:1, 14). Jesus Christ was one person. “Now, Jesus, to be sure, in the presence of the disciples, also performed many other signs that are not written in this book. But these are written in order that you may continue to believe the Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and in order that believing you may continue to have life in His name” (Jn. 20:30f written showing the action of the Greek verb tenses).

This gospel of John was written after the other gospel of accounts. Much of what is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke is omitted by John: no virgin birth, no baptism of Jesus, no temptation, no transfiguration, no cure of any demoniacs or lepers, no parables, no Lord’s supper, no agony in the garden, and no ascension into heaven.

A Jew wrote this gospel. He quotes from the Hebrew rather than the Greek Bible. He is acquainted with the Jewish Feasts (Jn. 7:2; 10:22). He also knows Jewish customs (Jn. 18:28; 2:6; 11:44; 19:38-42). He knew that Jews did not leave bodies on crosses over the Sabbath (Jn. 19:31).

The author of this gospel had a geographical knowledge of Palestine. He was familiar with the five porches around the pool of Bethzatha (Jn. 5:2). He knew of the pool of Siloam and the Kidron Valley (Jn. 9:7; 18:1). He was aware of the paved area outside Pilate’s judgment hall (Jn. 19:13). He knew of the two Bethanys (Jn. 1:28; 12:1). He knew of an alternate name for the Sea of Galilee (Jn. 6:1). He knew that Sychar was near Jacob’s well (Jn. 4:5).

The author was also an eyewitness (Jn. 1:14; cf. 1 Jn. 1:1-4). He tells of how he first met Jesus and became his disciple. He still remembered that it was about four o’clock in the afternoon (Jn. 1:35-39). He is the only writer to mention the spear wound (Jn. 19:34F). He knew there were six water pots at Cana (Jn. 6:19). He knew the number of fish they caught after the resurrection (Jn. 21:11).

In the last chapter of this gospel there is evidence that the author was an apostle. The “disciple whom Jesus loved” and who wrote these things must be identified in the context of this chapter. Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee, and two others are mentioned (Jn. 21:2). The author must be in the unnamed group. The most likely candidate is John, the son of Zebedee. James, the other son of Zebedee, suffered an early death (Acts 12:1f), while this gospel’s author survived even Peter (who survived James). The author of the fourth gospel was alive and bearing witness though Peter had already attained the martyr’s crown (Jn. 21:19-24).

The oldest existing portion of the New Testament is a fragment of the gospel of John (Jn. 18:31-33, 37-38). It is written in a style suggesting a date of about 150 A.D. It was discovered in 1934 and is about three by four inches in size. It can be seen in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, England.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Picking Your Battles

How Do I Know Which Fights to Fight and Which to "Pass On"?

  1. Framing the question
    1. Extreme 1: Never fight.
      1. Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
      2. 1 Timothy 2:24, “And the servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gently to all, apt to teach, patient.
    2. “Leave ‘em alone won’t work. Won’t accord with Scripture. God never meant for children to run the home.
      1. Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”
      2. Proverbs 29:17, “Correct your son and he will give you rest, yes, he will give delight to your soul.”
    3. Extreme 2: Fight every battle to the death.
      1. Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it from him.”
      2. Proverbs 23:13, “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.”
    4. Fight every battle to the death won’t work. Won’t accord with Scripture. God never meant for home to be a war zone.
      1. a. Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way that he should go (literally “according to his way”) and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
      2. Ephesians 6:4, “And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
    5. Definition of “fight.”
      1. “You should never fight. Families should never fight. Families love and respect one another. They don’t fight, they discuss.”
      2. Shorthand communication. Truth.
  2. Guiding Principles
    1. There are times to fight. Times to take a stand and hold it.
      1. Fight for truth and right. Fight when not fighting would dishonor or disobey God.
        1. Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
        2. Remember Eli and his sons?
          1. 1 Samuel 2:29-30 and 3:11-13.
          2. It wasn’t that Eli didn’t try. Read 2:22-25. It was that he didn’t try enough.
      2. Fight when not fighting shows apathy. Fight when not fighting shows lack of love.
        1. Remember the terrible incident with Amnon and Tamar, recorded in 2 Samuel 13?
        2. David knew what Amnon did. He knew how wrong it was.
        3. 2 Samuel 13:21, “But when King David heard of all these things, he was very angry.” That’s it. Angry, but inactive. Angry, but detached. And we know what it cost him.
        4. Fight when not fighting shows lack of love. But, don’t fight when you can’t fight in love. Without love, we make a mess of everything.
      3. Fight when not fighting shows lack of backbone.
        1. 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave be strong.”
        2. Wisdom of 2 parents, united in parenting. They support one another. When one wavers, the other bolsters them both.
        3. Fight when not fighting means abdicating your role as parents, when not fighting would diminish your character or destroy your credibility.
        4. Some say, “Fight only when you can win.” Because of the point that we’re discussing now, I disagree. Sometimes we fight even though we know we can’t win. We fight because of what we’d be if we didn’t.
    2. There are times not to fight.
      1. Don’t fight just because others have or do.
        1. Tremendously strong tendency to reproduce or perpetuate our families of origin. To continue the same flaws and fights we grew up with. To bring battles and baggage from our youth into adulthood.
        2. It takes honest, insightful, wise people to avoid this trap.
        3. It may be that none of us avoid it perfectly.
      2. Don’t fight just because you always have.
        1. Key management principle, “If we keeping doing what we’ve always done, then we’ll keeping getting what we’ve always got.”
        2. Counseling version, “If what you’ve been trying isn’t working, try something else.”
        3. Some fights have gone on for so long or they’ve been so badly handled that they must be given up. There’s not resolution. There will be no winners. The only way to mitigate the damage is to just stop fighting.
      3. Don’t fight when the issue is just a matter of preference or opinion. IE, when its preference or opinion rather than right and truth.
        1. Pierced ears. Age of dating.
        2. Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others.”
      4. Don’t fight over things.
        1. Matthew 5:40, “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” V. 41 = go the second mile.
        2. 1 Corinthians 6:7, regarding those who “go to law before the unrighteous,” “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept the wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?”
      5. Don’t fight when natural consequences can do the teaching for you.
        1. True of homework. True of dirty laundry.
        2. Don’t rescue when that takes away their responsibility. Don’t do their worrying for them. Don’t fight when their real battle is with themselves.
      6. Don’t fight when you can’t keep your cool. IE, keep your temper and your perspective.
        1. Galatians 6:1-2. Excellent.
        2. Romans 12:17-21.
        3. Example of Christ. 1 Peter 2:22-23, “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth. Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously…”
    3. Times to stop fighting.
      1. Stop fighting once you’ve made your position clear.
        1. 1 Peter 3:1-2. Why? What?
        2. Don’t nag. Once you’ve gone on record and stated the needed truth, let you life do your talking.
        3. Why? Further words do more harm than good. They become nagging. They are reduced to the level of irritating background noise. They’re not heard any more. They’re not heard, they’re just resented. They grind away at your relationship.
      2. Stop fighting if you realize that fighting is all you are doing.
      3. Stop fighting if you realize that your main objective is to win. Christian objective = to love, to help, to protect, to serve

Friday, September 9, 2011

Reviving Your Marriage

Soul Mates … OR Cell Mates?

Written by Cory Collins

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Gen 29:20

Though there are many degrees in between, and though marriages may be measured in any number of ways, we may consider it as fact that some husbands and wives are soul mates; others are cell mates. The former seem to have hearts that beat together; the latter may want to beat each other, physically and/or emotionally. Very happy couples sprint hand in hand. Sad couples drag on, feeling locked in handcuffs by the marriage “bond.”

Virtually every person that marries thinks he or she has found a soul mate. All is blissful, peaceful, and rewarding. Yet, ironically, months or years later, the joys have turned to chains. The husband (and/or the wife) feels imprisoned and yearns to breathe free! What happened? What can be done about it? If in your marriage you feel like a cell mate …

  • Remember and renew the earlier, happier days. When you were free, you chose not to stay that way. Why? Tell your spouse, “I chose you because …” “Some of my favorite memories with you are …” “God blessed us when …”
  • Admit the unkind ways you have helped to create the prison. “I have been impatient … unfair … selfish … arrogant.” “I have expected too much, and given too little.” Then, and only then, ask your spouse to take responsibility for his or her part as well.
  • Realize that your spouse may feel trapped as well. Give your cell mate some slack, some gratitude, some support. Decrease his or her misery, and you will ease your own. The more you pull on his or her handcuff, the more your own wrist will ache.
  • Let some fresh air into the cell. Stop arguing for a week, and talk about areas of agreement, especially basic values. Read the Bible together and pray. Talk about faith, hope, and love. Go for a walk. Share a new hobby and a new church ministry.
  • Invite a trusted friend into the cell. An elder or preacher, with his wife, can listen, pray, and offer confidential, godly counsel. So can a trained Christian therapist. Do not be ashamed. Do not deny your struggles. Do not let the devil win.
  • Act like a soul mate first. Be the person that you would want to share a cell with, before you ask your mate to be that person. Allow your spouse time to deal with the shock.
  • Become a closer soul mate of Jesus Christ. Let His beauty be seen and reflected in you. He forgives. He encourages. He affirms. His yoke is easy, because He shares and carries the load with you. The more you think, speak, and act like Jesus, the more your spouse will want to be bound to you for life.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Helping Other People

People Helping Skills

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

Christian counseling is too important to be left to professionals. More people talk to family, friends, and brethren than will ever visit a professional counselor. That’s a good thing. Example of professional counselor and client with: my husband is mean, hateful, neglectful, and unappreciative. I’m thinking about leaving him.

  • Ann Landers, cost/benefit: “Are you better off with him or without him?”
  • Strong feminist: “Marriage is an evil institution invented by males in an attempt to subjugate females.”
  • Nutty: “What you need to do is to have a blazing hot affair and make him jealous.”
  • Nutty religious: “The devil is in your husband. Bring him for an exorcism.”
  • In any helping relationship, the personality, values, attitudes, and beliefs of the helper are vitally important. Galatians 5:22-26. Galatians 6:1-10. Proverbs 3:5-8.

Christian counseling is not getting degrees, learning theories, mastering techniques.

Christian counseling is rather:

  • John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this will …”
  • Matthew 22:34ff, One of the Pharisees who was a lawyer, posed a question to Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment of the law?” V. 39, the Second = Leviticus 19:18.
  • Matthew 7:12, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
  • Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” See example in Galatians 6:1ff.
  • Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.”

In any helping relationship, the personality, values, attitudes, beliefs, and MOTIVES of the helper are vitally important. It is also true that…

The helpee’s attitudes, motivation, and desire for help are vitally important.

The helping relationship between helper and helpee is vitally important. Trust. Relational. In counseling, we don’t fix people. We neither know enough nor have the power. We try to help people learn to help themselves. We care, listen, teach, encourage, challenge, and confront in an effort to help people move closer to God.

Helping must include attention to the helpee’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior – all three. There are many counseling theories/approaches which give attention to only one of these aspects.

Helping involves a variety of skills. Among these are:

  1. Listening. Jeffrey Kottler has written, “Listening is the most crucial helping skill.” There are three types of listening:
    1. Passive: formulating your response while the speaker is talking.
    2. Active: mirroring what the speaker says
    3. Attentive: validating the speaker’s feelings, entering the speaker’s world.
  2. Encouraging. Encouraging honesty, openness, exploration, taking responsibility, and/or proper action.
  3. Supporting. Particularly creating a supportive interpersonal environment.
  4. Confronting. In the best case, we help the helpee confront his own bad thinking, inappropriate and/or disproportionate emotions, and/or destructive behavior.
  5. Teaching. Through the counseling process, the helpee learns how to act, feel, and/or think differently.

The ultimate goal of Christian helping is to help others draw nearer to God. Ed Welch states it, “The biblical counselor’s purpose is to help persons discern if their lives fit with biblical patterns.” See Proverbs 3:5-8.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Working for the Devil

If I Worked for the Devil

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

There’s a place for everyone in the devil’s work. He needs dedicated volunteers and bunches of them. Satan has a terrible job. He has to persuade people that they don’t want to live in heaven with God forever.

Heaven is a place of boundless joy. There’s the tree of life, a street of pure gold, and all the redeemed of the ages. There are no tears. There is no pain and no dying.

Hell is a place of total darkness. It’s a place of fire, brimstone, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. The pain is perpetual. Worst of all, hell is a place of no hope.

The devil has a terrible job. Despite the Bible, the influence and example of Christians, and the sense of right and wrong that’s built in to every person, he has to sell the idea that hell is a myth.

Naturally, he uses lies and deceit. That’s all he has to work with. John 8:44 records the words Jesus spoke to some religious leaders who opposed Him, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

What lies does Satan use to keep people out of heaven? In this article, we’ll consider five.

Lie Number One

If I worked for the devil, I’d tell you that the Bible is way too complicated for you to understand. It has all those unusual (and seemingly unpronounceable) names, like Ahasuerus (Esther 1:2) and Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:1). There are people who keep changing names, like Abram (Abraham) and Jacob (Israel).

Besides, the Bible is confusing on other levels. We meet Moses and Elijah in the Old Testament. They die. Then, we find the alive in the New Testament (Luke 9). Good guys, people who are God’s servants, do terrible things. David committed adultery and murder. Solomon had all that wisdom, but left God for idolatry. Peter confessed Christ, but then denied Him three times. On top of this, there’s the book of Revelation where locusts shaped like horses come out of the smoke (Revelation 9).

Honestly, there are some things in the Bible that are difficult to understand. But, as a rule, the gospels aren’t. Acts isn’t. Much in Paul’s epistles is quite clear. The heart of the gospel can be understood in one sitting. Check out Romans 13, 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 4 and 5, or Psalm 100. You’ll find so much that is so clear.

Besides, wouldn’t you be a bit disappointed if everything in Scripture was elementary? Peter acknowledged that Paul’s letters contained “some things hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:14-18). But, isn’t God’s truth something worth digging for? Doesn’t it deserve our time and effort?

Lie Number Two

If I worked for the devil, I’d tell you that if you live as well as most people, you’re OK. After all, this works in many areas of life. The nursery school will keep your child if he’s no meaner than average. Most employers don’t fire their average workers. Policemen don’t usually stop cars that are traveling with the flow of traffic, even if they are speeding.

This lie of Satan works on the assumption that the majority of people are OK with God. Hell is only for “the truly bad.” After all, won’t most people be saved?

You know the words of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and the are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Exodus 23:2 warns against following a multitude to do evil.

Biblical examples help us here. In the days of Noah, was “average” good enough? Was the majority right in 1 Samuel 8 when they demanded a king? In the days of Jeremiah, who was correct, the one prophet predicting seventy years of captivity or the many prophets predicting peace and prosperity? Who were more numerous in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, disciples or crucifiers?

The Bible teaches individual judgment (Hebrews 9:27, 2 Corinthians 5:10), not salvation by group.

Lie Number Three

If I worked for the devil, I would tell you that people just aren’t interested in the gospel anymore. This one is really easy to believe. If you’ve ever tried to be evangelistic, you’ve met with some polite dismissals. Perhaps, you’ve even met with impolite dismissals.

Of course, this lie misses the point. We plant and water, but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). In the famous parable of the sower (aka, the parable of the soils), only one of the four proved ultimately fruitful (Matthew 13). Of all the people in Jerusalem on the Pentecost of Acts 2, only about 3,000 gladly received the word and were baptized on that day. And, remember Paul’s missionary journeys. He and his companions often met fierce resistance, but they stayed true to God’s commission.

Certainly, some people are not interested in the gospel. Many will not agree to a “cold contact” Bible study. Often, however, people will agree to study the Bible with those whom they have seen living it. In evangelism, it is faithful effort, not results, which God commands.

Lie Number Four

If I worked for the devil, I would tell you that you deserve complete happiness now. I’d tell you that you have the right to wealth, health, a wonderful family, great friends, and a long life.

I’d tell you this lie for three key reasons. First, I’d hope that you would blame God when disappointments come. I’d hope that you would believe the lie and think that God had promised you a bed of roses just for being a Christian. I’d hope that you’d forget Isaiah’s description of the Messiah as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53). I’d hope that you’d forget the cross, the persecution of Acts 8, and all that 1 Peter says about suffering for Christ.

Second, I’d tell you this lie because it is one that people love to believe. People love to believe that they are immune from suffering and struggle. Job was right, “Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Jesus told the truth when He warned His disciples, “In this world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33).

Third, I’d tell you this lie because, if you believe it, you’ll work to make it true. If you believe that you deserve complete happiness now, you’ll live selfishly. You’ll use people and waste things. You’ll reject every difficult truth of God and every demand of discipleship. And you’ll be consumed by your own selfishness.

Lie Number Five

If I worked for the devil, I’d tell you that sin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I wouldn’t deny that sin is bad, that’s too unbelievable. I wouldn’t deny that sin can destroy through separation from God. Romans 6:23 and 3:23 are too clear to deny. I’d just try to persuade you that sin has been handled.

After all, didn’t Jesus come because “God so loved the world”? Didn’t Jesus die to so that we wouldn’t have to be condemned? Isn’t God’s grace greater than sin? Read John 3, Romans 6, and Ephesians 2. God has handled sin.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to read those chapters carefully. I’d hope that you never notice Jesus’ words, “…Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). I’d hope that you never notice Jesus’ words, “…He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:8). I’d hope that you never notice how Romans 6 demands that we stop letting sin reign in our lives and choose to “walk in newness of life.” I’d hope that focus so much on grace that you never notice the importance of faith in Ephesians 2.

Of course, I’d never remind you of the hardening that can come through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). Above all, I’d never want you to notice the terrifying truth of 2 Thessalonians 2:11. After all, who wants to believe that God could actually let a person reject Him and believe lies?


If I worked for the devil, I’d tell you these lies and more. I’d tell you whatever I could to hide God’s love. I’d tell you whatever you needed to hear to reject God’s offer of life in Christ. If I worked for the devil, I’d know how much misery loves company.

And, I’d hope that you never had the wisdom to search the Scripture and learn God’s truth for yourself.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Introduction to the Gospel of Luke

An Introduction to the Book of Luke

Written by George Goldman

The Beloved Physician

Outside of the “we sections” in Acts, Luke is mentioned three times in the New Testament (Col. 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Tim. 4:11). In each of these cases Luke is with Paul in prison. The context of the Colossian reference shows that Luke was a Gentile medical doctor (Col. 4:10ff).

The New Testament is not a book written mostly by or about Jews. Luke, a Gentile, wrote more of the New Testament than any other man. The book of Luke is the longest book in the New Testament. Luke and Acts combined are longer than the thirteen letter of Paul. Luke is the most polished writer of the New Testament with the possible exception of the writer of Hebrews. The writings of Luke have a wide vocabulary, 750 – 800 words peculiar to the New Testament appear. His writings are the least Jewish in the New Testament. Except for the first two chapters of his gospel he quotes exclusively from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX). He presents to the Greeks the ideal man. Jesus, as the Son of Man, is presented as the apex in social, physical, mental, and spiritual attainments (Lk. 2:52). His genealogy is traced all the way back to Adam (Lk. 3:23 ff).

In the early church of gospel of Luke was between Matthew’s and Mark’s in popularity. From his writings it is apparent that Luke was a man of education and culture. He begins his gospel and Acts with an elaborate paragraph which shows the style of the Hellenistic historians of his day. From these paragraphs we learn that the same man wrote both books, which are addressed to Theophilus, and Acts refers to the first book (Lk. 1:1-4; Acts 1:1). Also, from the first words of his gospel it is apparent that he collected his material from eyewitnesses and other written documents. Luke is a careful historian dating the birth of Jesus from six contemporary rulers of his time (Lk. 3:1-2).

The writings of Luke have been called the most beautiful ever written (Renan). The Nativity scene and childhood of Jesus are fresh and different, and suggest the writer’s personal acquaintance with Mary. Beautiful poetry adorns the book: the Magnificat of Mary (Lk. 1:46-55), the Benedictus of Zechariah (Lk. 1:67-79), the Gloria in Excelsis of the angels (Lk. 2:14), and the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon (Lk. 2:29-32).

Luke exalts womanhood. He mentions thirteen women otherwise omitted by the other gospel writers; Elizabeth, the widow of Nain, Anna, Lot’s wife, the widow’s mite; the ladies who ministered to Jesus, etc. More details are given on the lives of Mary and Martha (Lk. 10:38-42), Mary Magdalene (Lk. 8:1-3), etc. (cf. Lk. 8:48; 13:16; 23:28).

Luke stresses the Lord’s attitude toward the poor. Quite a few of the money parables are unique to Luke: the two debtors (Lk. 7:41-43), the rich fool (Lk. 12:16-21), the unrighteous steward, and the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16), and the pounds (Lk. 19:13-37).

There is an interest in the outcast and underdog: the good Samaritan (Lk. 10), the word of praise for the grateful Samaritan leper (Lk. 9:46-56), the sinful woman, Zacchaeus, the thief on the cross, and the praying publican.

Luke also gives prominence to prayer. Luke records eleven of Jesus’ fifteen prayers. Jesus prayed at His baptism (Lk. 3:2), before His first conflict with the Pharisees (Lk. 5:16), before He chose the Twelve (Lk. 6:12), before He asked the disciples who they thought He was (Lk. 9:18), at His transfiguration (Lk. 9:29), on the cross (Lk.23:40), and only Luke tells of Jesus’ prayer for Peter at Peter’s hour of testing (Lk. 22:32).

Luke gently handles the faults of the apostles and early leaders of the church. He omits James and John’s ambitious request to sit beside Christ. He writes a milder version of Peter’s denial. Similarly, the disciples in the garden slept “for sorrow” (Lk. 22:45), and their desertion of the Lord in the hour of trial is not recorded.

The medical knowledge and interest in seafaring are apparent in Luke’s gospel. In the fourth century Jerome commented, “Luke is a physician as his writings indicate.” In 1882 W.K. Hobart in his book The Medical Language of Luke found over 400 medical terms in Luke-Acts. Adolf Harnack in Luke the Physician (1907) reduced the number but said that Hobart’s thesis was still true. H.J. Cadbury in the Style and Literary Method of Luke (1920) found many parallels between Luke’s vocabulary and other medical writers such as Hippocrates, Galen, and Dioscorides but also pointed out that other educated Greek writers who were not doctors used the same language such as Josephus, Lucian, Plutarch, and LXX.

In the first century there was no special medical language as there is today. A vocabulary of medical terms cannot be used as a main point in establishing who wrote Luke-Acts. Yet there are these interesting observations when comparing Luke to other writers. Peter’s mother-in-law had a “high” fever (Lk. 4:38 cf. Mt. 8:14). The man was “full of leprosy” (Lk. 5:12 cf. Mt. 8:2). Luke omits the statement “she had spent all she had on physicians and was no better” (Ml. 5:26 cf. Lk. 8:43 RSV). Luke refers to surgical needles (belowes) while Matthew and Mark use a sewing needle (rhaphis) (Lk. 18:25; Mt. 19:24; Mk. 10:25).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sharing our Faith

Leave it in the Sock Drawer

Written by Travis Harmon

From 1999 to 2004, I worked for a police department in northeast Arkansas as a patrol officer. The story I am about to tell is possibly the single most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me. If you are not a police officer, you may not think it so embarrassing. But I have rarely felt more like a complete and total failure than I did on this day. In fact, I have told only two or three people in my life about this incident.

I worked the second shift, so I got off work at about 10 p.m. On this particular day, I was asked to come back to work at 6 a.m. to help the short-handed first shift. My routine was completely thrown off. When I got home I made my gun “safe,” and I left all of my gear out because I had to put it back on and go to work so early.

I got to work the next morning and the first call I took was a vicious dog call. It is so rare to actually find a vicious dog that I rolled up to the house knowing that I would find a loveable little pup that was just annoying a neighbor. When I got to the back of the house, I was confronted with the most ferocious bulldog I have ever seen. We had about 90 feet of open grass between us. When he saw me, he immediately started to growl. As I was drawing my pistol and taking aim, he started to charge. I rapidly aimed and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. For some reason the dog stopped about 30 feet from me and I realized my gun was on safety. I felt so inadequate. I quickly moved the safety to fire, and the bulldog, fiercer than before, started toward me. I pulled the trigger and was again rewarded with nothing. I stood perfectly still, out of fear or bravery, I do not know. As the animal charged and ran by me, he tried to bite my arm. By only the grace of God, he missed, and his teeth only made a glancing blow at my hand, leaving an imprint. He ran by me and circled for a third charge. I knew instantly what had happened. The night before, in an attempt to make my gun “safe,” I had also taken the bullet out of the chamber. I quickly backed away to my car. In my retreat, I loaded my gun, having missed two opportunities to save myself. I then called the dog catcher and waited in my car until he arrived.

I cannot tell you what a miserable failure I felt like. Even now, years later feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy flood my heart over the incident. I almost lost an arm. If it had been a person with a gun or a knife instead of a dog, I would be a dead man. My two girls would have been fatherless. What if I had been sent to a bank robbery instead of a dog call? I was defenseless. I had the skill to save my life but it was a false sense of security because I had made the tool that could do it inoperable. If I had needed to use my weapon to protect a brother officer, he or she would have been dead because of me. It was all because I wanted this dangerous object to be “safe.” I never felt so unworthy to be an officer.

One day when discussing firearm safety with fellow officers, I heard one remark, “If you want the gun to be safe, leave it in your sock drawer at home.” I wonder if many Christians are not putting their Christianity in the sock drawer at home and leaving it there, or if they put in on safety and try to take the bullets out?

For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Heb 4:12

Christianity is not safe. We do not want to talk to our friends about it because we know it can pierce the joints and marrow. We live in fear that our friendships will be damaged if we discussed our beliefs. In reality, Christianity is a defensive weapon that is to save life. In the Great Commission Jesus says, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mar 16:15 We are not to leave it at home. We are to take it with us. In fact, our friends should be furious with us if we do not try to talk to them about our Lord. They will be one day. Our Lord will also be furious with us if we try to make it safe. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire Mat 7:19-23

I have a hard time not taking Mark 4:8-9 personally; “And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. (9) And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” I have ears. I hear. How am I doing on my hundred yield increase? My sixty? Or even my 30? You know what? I have a neighbor that I have lived by for four years that I have never talked to about the Gospel because I wanted our relationship to be safe. How safe is that? I cannot tell you what a miserable failure that makes me feel like. I think I better go see him on the way home if I want to make it home. Rom 1:16

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Power of Song

“Give ‘em Watts, Boys!”

Written by Cory Collins

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them … Ac 16:25

Believe it or not, a 17th-century British hymn writer indirectly helped American troops to withstand British forces almost one hundred years later, during the Revolutionary War.

Isaac Watts was born on July 7, 1674, in Southampton, England. His father was a religious dissenter who spent much time in jail as a result. Young Isaac learned Latin at the age of five, Greek at nine, French at eleven and Hebrew at thirteen. For twelve years, his mother taught him to write rhyme and verse. He devoted much of that learning to hymns.

Altogether he penned more than 600 hymns. Among the best known, still beloved today, are: “Joy to the World;” “O God Our Help in Ages Past;” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross;” “I Sing the Mighty Power of God;” “When I Can Read My Title Clear;” “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” (also known as, "At the Cross"); “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” and, “Come We That Love the Lord” (also known as, “We’re Marching to Zion”).

English immigrants to the American colonies brought hymnals, filled with Watts’ songs, with them to the New World. They intended to use them just for singing, of course, but war changed their plans. On June 23, 1780, at the Battle of Springfield (New Jersey), British forces attacked with about 5000 men and almost 20 cannon. They seemed invincible. Gen. George Washington had left the area, leaving others to face the invading army.

During the battle the American colonists ran out of ‘wad’ for their muskets. A chaplain on the scene ran into the nearby church building and gathered up the hymn books, containing Watts’ songs. He then proceeded to tear out the pages and give them to the soldiers to be used to wad their muskets, as he yelled out, "Give 'em Watts, boys!" They did. The British forces retreated, never to attack New Jersey again. From the Battle of Springfield came the modern phrase used to express anger, "to give them 'watt' for."

Paul and Silas “wadded their muskets” with songs of praise in a Philippian jail. Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn after the Last Supper, before going to Gethsemane. David found God’s strength through song when persecuted by Saul, attacked by the Philistines, and defied by his son Absalom. Paul spoke of this “wadding:” “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Col 3:16

Christian, use that songbook! Fill your heart and your lips with victorious songs of God’s glory. Come into His presence with praise and thanks. Share those songs with your family. Live out the words you sing. Then watch the enemy run.