The Prepared Heart

Posted: July 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

Our “nature” is given to us by God, but our “character” is created by our choices.  What we do with the raw materials of our created nature brings into being a character that is either good or bad.  Of course, the fact that character is a matter of choice does not mean the choices are always carefully made.  Indeed, many people simply live by default, going with the flow and ending up with a character that has been chosen haphazardly.  But haphazard choices are still choices.  Whether we’ve been careful or not, we’ll still have to account to God for our decisions.

Ezra is said to have “prepared his heart”.  Apparently he had given some thought to the sort of man he wanted to be.  Surely he was aware of what the major alternatives are that lie before a human being, and his choice to pursue godliness seems to have been a deliberate decision.  It’s not unlikely that Ezra had given some consideration to the matter of consequences.  There is no more “consequential” choice than the choice of one’s character, and Ezra had no doubt considered that some kinds of character would take him places he didn’t want to go.

It is worth noting the particular character Ezra prepared himself to have.  This wise man determined that he would (1) seek God’s will, (2) do whatever he learned, and (3) teach to others the things that he had both learned and lived.  We could look a long time and not find a better three-point program for character development.  Seeking, doing, and teaching… the will of God.  These things point to the very heart of what human existence is all about.

If we’ve not already done so, it’s urgent that we prepare our hearts.  It’s time to think seriously about what matters most to us.  What kind of people do we intend to be, anyway?  “When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind” (Seneca).  But preparing our hearts requires more than charting our course.  We must also count the cost and resolve that we’ll pay the price to have a character that’s worth having.  The devil is eager to test how well prepared our hearts really are.

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one” (James Anthony Froude).

-Gary Henry

 


Jehovah: Our Rock

Posted: July 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Man, for whom the earth was created, finds images in his surroundings and portraits in his own creations that fittingly describe and illustrate the God he knows and seeks to glorify in worship. Shields, towers, shepherds, and fortresses are just a few of the descriptive terms the psalmists have incorporated into the lyrics of their songs of praise to Jehovah.

Another one the prophets shared with the psalmists is found in the word: “rock.”  In these writings God is described as “my rock and my salvation,” “the rock of my strength,” and “my rock and my fortress.”  Song writers of modern times have made ample use of this image in their hymns in which they write of the “rock of ages,” “the rock that is higher than I,” and “there stands a rock.” The meanings of stability and security are immediately obvious in the word “rock.”

Stability. The “rock” to ancient lyricists was plainly a symbol of stability. Large rocks were not noticeably eroded by the stormy winds and hail and rain of the natural world. Nor were they easily moved by human power and force. Rocks were always there—firm, solid, immovable. When Jesus taught the disciples the Importance of steadfastness and immovability in life as His followers He said: “He that hears these words of Mine and does them is like unto a wise man who built his house on a rock.” He then noted that the storms of life will not erode their faithfulness and stability to God when their lives are built on the will and wisdom of Jesus Himself—God’s Son (see Matt 7:24-25; note also 1 Cor 15:58). The same image was used by our Lord Himself when with reference to the stability and unchangeable nature of His deity He said to the disciples: “upon this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

Security. The rocks and clefts of the rocks in mountainous regions were sought after and fought for as secure fortresses to protect and shield nations from enemy nations. Bible students well remember the pride of the Edomites who dwelt in the cleft of the rocks. They boasted of their invincibility and security against surrounding nations, but in their arrogance they forgot about the God who created them and ruled them and all nations. To them God said: “The pride of thy heart hath deceived thee, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground.” Jehovah’s answer to them was: “I will bring you down from thence.” (Obad 3-4).

Edom failed to recognize or accept what the psalmists and prophets acknowledge: God is “my rock and my salvation,” “the rock of my strength,” “my rock and my fortress.” Disciples of Jesus must grasp that as Christians they must entrust their souls to Jehovah who is their rock of stability and security—that He is their strength and protection when they face trials and tests of faith. They have an adversary, the devil, who seeks to devour and destroy them spiritually and they need protection from his lies, subtleties, wiles, and challenges.

Christians need God, in whom they must trust. He is the “rock of ages” that “stands” “higher” than they; the rock that shall not be moved; the rock that is cleft In whom they can hide from the evil one and find rest. Only in Him can they find stability and security for their souls when, as He has commanded them, they hear His Son and build their lives on His authority and word (see Matt 17:5; Matt 28:18).

-L. A.

 


Correct Me, O Lord

Posted: July 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23).

We are simply not capable of navigating our own way through life.  God is the potter, we are the clay, and we desperately need Him to mold us (Jer 18:1-6).  Trying to take control of our own lives has just ruined the original beauty that God had envisioned for us.  “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Is 53:6).  God had a safe path plotted out for us, but we refused to listen to His guidance.  We  have rejected the narrow way for an easier road of our own devising.  With the world cheering us on all around, we rush headlong toward destruction (Matt 7:13-14).

Yet, trusting our own instincts we are often blissfully unaware of the danger we are in.  “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death!” (Prov 14:12).  We convince ourselves that we have it all under control.  Stop and ask for directions?  Never!  In our certainty we forget the warning of Jeremiah.  “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9).  Is it possible that our heart is deceiving us?  Is it possible that we are mistaken?  Maybe we don’t have it all figured out and under control.  Maybe we need help.

Recognizing we cannot direct our own steps, we must cry out with the prayer of Jeremiah: “Correct me, O LORD, but with justice; not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing” (Jer 10:24).  Yes, we need correction.  We need God to show us where we are deceiving ourselves.  With His help we can stop covering up and minimizing our faults.  We can rather expose and address them.

This process is not quick and painless.  It is very difficult to see ourselves the way God sees us and constantly grapple with our insufficiencies.  Yet, this struggle is exactly what we should expect traveling along the narrow way.  And we can find comfort in God’s grace.  He does not correct us in anger, but in love.  He is always there to pick us up when we fall and strengthen us to press on to higher ground.  Though we continually fall short of His perfect character, He has made a way for us to bridge the gap  through Jesus (Rom 3:23-24).

The important thing is that we never harden our heart to His correction.  It’s when we are most at ease in our faith that we are most at danger (1 Cor 10:13).  We must allow God’s word to  function as a mirror, showing us what corrections need to be made (James 1:23-25).  We must allow it to function as a scalpel, opening up the innermost thoughts of our hearts (Heb 4:12).  Like Jeremiah, we must pray for and welcome God’s correction at all times, because there is no doubt we need it.

-Grady

 


On Denying the God of the Bible

Posted: July 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

When unbelievers deny God, what they are mostly denying is a toned-down version of God. The concept of God gets brought down to a human level who cannot know more, do more, or have any more authority than the skeptic.

Since we cannot conceive of allowing something to happen, then we cannot allow for a God who would permit it. If we do not have the ultimate power of life and death, then we will not allow for a God to have such power. If we do not understand some great difficulties, then we cannot allow for a God who can understand them.

And if there is such a God who does have such power and knowledge, then we cannot believe in Him because He has not explained Himself to us adequately, for if He exists, then surely He must be amenable to us in some way.

These denials then often take the form of some straw-man. God, after He is lowered to the level of an ignorant, foolish, narcissistic brute who is no better than a power-hungry dictator, is thus caricatured and readily dismissed.

What we need to see is that all of these caricatures and denials are not dealing with the God of the Bible. They are dealing with some other version of a god that has been watered down and subsumed under the umbrella of the finite reason of faulty men. Such a god does not exist. That’s right. Such a god does NOT exist. If their version of God is what we are really dealing with, then I will join their ranks. The magical sky fairy is a myth. The flying spaghetti monster does not exist. The bearded sky clown is foolish. Any such version of God does not exist. I won’t defend it.

But that is not the God I believe in or defend. The biblical God has wisdom and knowledge unfathomable to a finite mind. He has the knowledge of perfect justice. Because of who He is, He has the power of life and death, and He can exercise that power in ways that we cannot comprehend.

The problem is that we cannot comprehend the fullness of divine power, knowledge, and authority, but we act like we do get it. Then, thinking we have this God figured out, we make ourselves out to be authoritative enough to put this God under our reason. No wonder such a God gets denied.

Ultimately, no one is in a position to deny the actual God who reveals Himself in Scripture. Think about it. If, in order to deny God, we bring Him under our reason, we fundamentally change who He is, then summarily dismiss this new version of God, then we still haven’t truly denied the God of Scripture. We’ve replaced Him with a false version.

Yet, in order to deny His existence, this is what we must do. I feel no need to defend the God that typical atheists deny, for they are denying a version of God who is far, far less than the true and living, almighty God.

We need reminding of this ourselves, for when we begin to doubt, it is almost certain that what we are doing is downgrading our concept of God in some fashion. What we are doubting is a watered down version of God that does not exist. The answer, then, is to give up the pride we have in our own conceptions of God. We need to quit putting Him in a box. We need let go of thinking that we have understood the One who can do exceedingly far above anything we can ask or think. These lesser concepts don’t even come close to the true God.

The bottom line is this: no one is in a position to deny the true, living God of heaven and earth. No one.

-Doy Moyer

 


Good For Evil

Posted: July 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Most Bible students remember the teaching of Jesus that commands his disciples “to turn the other cheek.” In the Sermon on the Mount, He called to mind the teaching of Moses’ law which demanded that Jews as a matter of justice exact an “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth.”  He then taught His disciples to the contrary: if a man “smites thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt 5:39).

This certainly, at first reading, would be viewed by His disciples as a “hard saying”—one that is difficult to accept and practice. And it is. But as the years pass—maybe as a result of age, physical weakness, or a natural tendency to be cowardly—I have found this command to be less demanding. I seldom build up or feel any urge to retaliate and get even when I feel I have been wronged. Where I do struggle, however, is at the next level to which both Peter and Paul take this instruction of the Lord.

The apostle Paul when he reaches the practical application of the gospel in his epistle to the Romans instructs them to “render to no man evil for evil” and then goes to another level and commands these brethren: “if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink” and “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:17,20,21). Peter also writes of disciples being “loving,” “tenderhearted,” ”humble minded” and rather than “rendering evil for evil” or “reviling for reviling” to turn away from evil and render a “blessing” to those who persecute and reproach them (1 Pet 3:8-11).

What both apostles tell us reveals what the love of Christ, who died for the ungodly, demands of His disciples. As followers of Jesus who must walk in the footsteps of their master, disciples must act with positive good and loving kindness toward their enemies. With many brethren it would be fine if they could pray for their enemies, as Jesus taught His disciples (Matt 5:44), and then leave them to themselves and their own thoughts and feelings. Few of us would feel a need to harm our enemies or to get even by rendering evil to them.

But are we able to move to the next level? Can we reach out to them with positive acts of kindness to show them the love of our Master and Savior?  Gospel preachers, likely more than others, have had to face brethren who are angry, who want them fired, and who say and do unkind things to advance their agenda of getting rid of the preacher.

Multiple other reasons create faction and bitterness in the lives and hearts of brethren toward one another. Incidents likewise occur in the world of sinners where saints must live and conduct themselves in an exemplary manner. I personally have found little problem overcoming bitterness and petitioning God for them and my relationship with them.  But the next level of reaching out with positive and loving acts of kindness to mend and reestablish relationships that might open up opportunities to influence enemies spiritually and bring him to Christ is one that challenges a disciple’s maturity in Christ.

Rendering “good” for “evil,” brethren, is the ultimate challenge and meaning of love and maturity and perfection in Christ (Matt 5:43-46). If your enemy is naked, clothe him; if he is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. Love, William Barclay writes, is “undefeatable good will” and “unconquerable benevolence”—a devotion to mankind, including enemies, that no evil deed or spiteful act must be allowed to remove from a disciple’s heart or life.

-L. A.

 


Do It Because You Don’t Want To

Posted: July 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified”  (1 Cor 9:27).

It’s healthy to do something every day that we really don’t want to do—just for the exercise. There is a great benefit in practicing the art of self-discipline, that is, engaging in it regularly just for the sake of building our mental muscles.

When Paul said that he “disciplined” his body and brought it into “subjection”, he spoke of something that requires a bit of unpleasantness from time to time. By its very nature, training requires us to get out of our comfort zone. If we never call upon our “muscles” to do anything more than what they want to do, then we never gain the ability to do anything more than that. It’s just that simple. And so we ought to look for opportunities to do things that we don’t want to do. It’s one good way that we grow.

Have you ever watched someone “exercising”? Many of the bodily movements by which strength and agility are developed would be ridiculous if we did them for any reason other than training or exercise. Take sit-ups, for example. There is only one reason to do sit-ups: to make your abdominal muscles do things they don’t want to do. No one would ever do it for any other reason except …training …practice …exercise …discipline. When you do sit-ups, you’re demonstrating that you grasp one of life’s great principles: there is value in doing things that don’t want to be done.

Nothing is more valuable than to have our faculties—mental and spiritual, as well as physical—trained and ready to respond to important needs. But having faculties that will respond to important needs is not something that happens overnight or without any effort. When the big tests of life come along, we won’t be ready for them if we haven’t been training for them before then. So today, if there is some unpleasant little duty that could easily be procrastinated, do it just because you don’t want to. Take that little opportunity to put the flesh in its place. Teach your body to take orders from your spirit. Someday, you’ll be mighty glad you did.

“Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day. Be systematically ascetic or heroic in little unnecessary points. Do every day or two something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test” (William James).

-Gary Henry

 


Hope Abides

Posted: July 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” (Eccl 3:1). And now, during earth life, it is man’s season of hope—a time when man looks to but sees not the reward his Maker has promised. “Hope,” Paul writes, “that is seen is not hope: for who hopes for that which he sees” (Rom 8:24). It is “now,” the apostle says, that hope “abides” (1 Cor 13:13).

Hope only abides when there is the reality of a reward and there is a longing expectation of that reward in the heart of a man. Take away the “mansion” in heaven that Jesus promised or the assurance of that abiding place in a man’s faith—and you no longer have hope (see Heb 11:1). Hope is a reality because of man’s expectant trust and God’s faithful promise. Hope abides because:

God Promised. Hope rests and is founded on God’s promise. He it is who announced through Jesus, “great is your reward in heaven” and “in my Father’s house are many mansions” (Matt 5:12; John 14:1-2). The Hebrews writer takes his readers back to the time of Abraham to assure us that hope abides as an anchor of the soul—both “sure” and “steadfast” (Heb 6:13-19). Abraham hoped in God for years that he would receive a seed and become a great nation. The certainty of that hope was secured by the promise of God to which He added an oath. By these two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie—His word and His oath—Abraham waited patiently and the promise was fulfilled.

God Is Faithful. God, it is clear, must be true to both Himself and His word. Man’s lack of faith does not affect the faithfulness of God to His promise. Though every man be found a liar, Paul argues in a text highlighting the sinfulness of man, “let God be found true” (Rom 3:3-4). In the entirety of the oracles of God from the promise of a redeemer to the promises to Abraham and to Israel—God has shown man that He “will in no wise fail” him and “will in no wise forsake” him (see Heb 13:5). Hope prevails because Jehovah, the God who promised, is trustworthy.

Man Believes. Yet despite the promises, faithfulness, and blessings from God, hope abides only in a man who by faith holds in his heart the “assurance of things hoped for” and the “conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Moses when he decided to leave Pharaoh’s house was by faith convicted “of things not seen” and “looked unto the recompense of reward” (Heb 11:26). It was the faith he embraced in his heart that housed the expectation of a reward from God. It was no different with Abraham who “in hope believed against hope,” looked “unto the promise of God,” and “wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong in faith” (Rom 4:18-21).

These men of old are examples for God’s believing servants today. Jesus opened the way into heaven through the veil of His flesh when He entered the “most holy” place in heaven to appear before the face of God on behalf of believers in Christ (see Heb 9:23-26; 10:19-20). We, because of God’s promise and His faithfulness, have confidence in that unseen reward—in that abiding hope that anchors our souls, binds us to purity, moves us to fruitfulness, and upholds us in affliction (see Heb 6:18-19, 1 John 3:3; Col 1:5-7; Heb 11:24-27). There is victory in Jesus for men of faith and unmovable steadfastness (1 Cor 15:50-58).

-L. A.

 


Praise Your Brothers and Sisters

Posted: June 25th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Upon Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, the church in Philippi, concerned about him, determined to send help to him. They sent a man named Epaphroditus, who was faithful to his task, and arrived in Rome with their gifts for the beloved apostle.

His trip to Rome was an eventful one. He had become ill, “almost to death,” causing great concern not only for Paul, but also for the church in Philippi who had heard of his sickness. But, he recovered, and Paul sent him back to his brethren in Philippi, that they might rejoice at seeing him alive and healthy.

Paul had great respect for Epaphroditus, and wrote of him in glowing terms. Of him, Paul wrote, “my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need” (Php 2:25).

Because of his faithfulness, he was to be praised. Paul wrote, “because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me” (2:30).

Paul instructed the Philippians, “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem” (2:29). With this admonition, we note in the phrase “such men” that there are others who are worthy of the same praise.

Paul’s writings are filled with commendations of fellow Christians. He commended Phoebe, “for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also” (Rom 16:2). Priscilla and Acquila, “who risked their own necks for my life” (Rom 16:4). Mary, “who labored much for us” (Rom 16:6). Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis “who labored much in the Lord” (Rom 16:12). Timothy, “for he does the work of the Lord” (1 Cor16:10); “for I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state…But you know his proven character” (Php 2:20-22). The household of Stephanas, “they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (1 Cor 16:15). Fortunatus and Achaicus “for they refreshed my spirit and yours” (1 Cor 16:18). Tychicus, “a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” (Eph 6:21). Onesimus “a faithful and beloved brother” (Col 4:9). Aristarchus, Mark, Justus “they have proved to be a comfort to me” (Col 4:10-11). Epaphras, “always laboring fervently for you in prayers…he has a great zeal for you” (Col 4:12-13), “my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus” (Phlm 23). Onesiphorus, “for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain…you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus” (2 Tim 1:16-18). Titus, “a true son in our common faith” (Tit 1:4). Philemon “our beloved friend and fellow laborer” (Phlm 1). A lengthy, but not exhaustive list.

Each of these individuals have been immortalized by the Spirit’s inspiration. Of most we know very little. But, they were faithful to Christ and Paul His apostle, and therefore were worthy of the praise they received.

Paul’s praise not only validated their efforts in the work of the Lord, his words also elevated them in the eyes of the brethren. They held them in esteem at Paul’s urging. This indicates how very important and helpful it is to praise the faithful. Those who are worthy should be encouraged. They should be acknowledged, that others know of their work and appreciate their efforts for the Lord. This one way to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). Praise your brothers and sisters!

-Stan Cox

 


“Having Confidence in Your Obedience”

Posted: June 25th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The book of Philemon in the New Testament is short in length, but teaches us a great lesson about dealing with others. The apostle Paul wrote it as a letter to a fellow Christian, Philemon. The letter was carried by Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus, who had been converted to Christ by Paul. The letter is basically a request by Paul for Philemon to release Onesimus from physical service so that Onesimus might join Paul in the spiritual service of preaching the gospel. Paul does not require Philemon to do as he wishes, even though Paul had authority to do so. Listen to the way Paul expresses it:

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ – I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me (Phlm 8-11, NKJV).

Instead of compelling Philemon to release Onesimus, Paul shows the confidence in him to act of his free will and grant the request. Near the end of the letter, Paul affirms that trust in Philemon saying, “Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say” (Phlm 21). The apostle Paul did not use feigned compliments or flattery to trick one into some action (2 Cor 4:1-2). Evidently, Paul had seen or heard of some goodness in the character of Philemon which was the basis for this confidence.

However, the fact that Paul saw some good in the character of Philemon spurring this trust does not suggest that Philemon was without faults. No doubt, Philemon had the same weaknesses and faults as all of us. If the apostle had wanted to look for deficiencies in Philemon, he could have found them. If Paul had focused on those shortcomings, he could have declared his doubts about Philemon rather than his confidence in him. The result would have been a far different letter than the one we have preserved by God in our Bibles.

Jesus had the same approach as He showed confidence in people of the world to turn from their sin and error unto His truth. The disciples did not understand in John 4 why Jesus was talking with the sinful Samaritan woman. They saw no potential in her for anything good. As Jesus looked out on a field recently planted, He gave a simple illustration of the difference between His view and that of the disciples. “Do you not say, `There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (Jn 4:35). Simply put, Jesus saw what could be based on the Samaritan woman’s desire to hear His teaching. The disciples merely saw what was presently so. Jesus looked for the good that was in the woman and where it could lead. The disciples looked at her faults and stopped at that point. Both saw the woman as a sinner, but Jesus’ hope for her redemption separated his view of her from that of the disciples.

Which view do we have of others? Do we look for the good in those who are presently engaged in sin and seek to show them the truth of God’s word? Jesus saw an adulterous woman and tried to convert her through the truth of God (Jn 4:16-26). If we came in contact with a woman who had been married and divorced five times, would we see her as a good prospect for the gospel? Surely we should see such a woman as one who needs to be shown the error of her present path, urge her to repent, and show her the truth leading to salvation. Paul saw a runaway slave and taught him the truth of the gospel instructing him to a new life in obedience to God (1 Pet 1:22-25). How many sinners of Bible times would we have overlooked as beyond hope?

Too often, we look at those caught in the practice of sin as unreachable and a waste of time to teach. We tend to seek prospects who are morally decent and already interested in religious matters. Clearly, those people need to hear the gospel message. However, the “down-and-out” sinners of the world also need to hear the gospel message. Paul, a former murderer and blasphemer, made the point this way:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Tim 1:15-16).

If Paul could change, we should have confidence that the gospel has the power to change sinners today. Let us never sell short the power of the gospel or the hunger of the lost for salvation.

When we have problems with our mates, do we have the proper confidence in them that we can resolve the trouble? The divorce rate of our society could be reduced drastically if husbands and wives would look for the good in the other and act with that in mind, rather than looking for the bad and seeking revenge. All too often, couples get into the “never-always syndrome” in dealing with the other. The wife says, “He always ….” To which the husband responds, “She never….” As long as each sees the marriage as “always” a problem and “never” a blessing, no solution to the trouble will be reached. Each partner must look for the good in the other as the starting point towards progress. Separation and divorce are not the solution to problems!

The Bible declares a positive basis for marriage on the part of both spouses (Eph 5:22-33). The husband is to “love” his wife and seek her good above his own. The wife is to respect her husband and submit to his leadership. The things commanded of each partner suggest they must have some confidence in the other. After all, love and respect do not flourish in the midst of suspicion, animosity and resentment.

In dealing with our children, do we see the good in them, letting our actions be tempered by the expectation of better things? Or do we see their faults and constantly rebuke or berate them? The Bible maintains a difference between proper discipline and provoking a child to wrath (Eph 6:4). Provoking brings the child to be discouraged rather than corrected and benefitted (Col 3:21). Proper discipline points out the right way and seeks peace, not constant conflict (Heb 12:9-11).

When a parent constantly dwells on the burden presented by a child, the child hears it. When an exasperated parent expresses a desire to get away from a child, it has an effect upon the child that endures beyond the tension of the moment. Our children need to feel our love for them and our confidence in them even in times of correction. Misbehavior needs to be seen as a departure from the child’s norm, not a norm from which the parent would like to escape. There is a big difference between the two!

The same principle should govern other associations. Whether it be the classroom teacher interacting with the students or a boss dealing with the workers, proper confidence in the good qualities of others is more productive than constant fault-finding. In a local church, this quality is absolutely essential if peace and brotherly love are to prevail. Let us have confidence in others and show our expectation of their goodness. It may have a greater impact for good than we think!

-Harry Osborne

 


Defiling God’s House

Posted: June 24th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

When God consecrates a person, a place, or an object, He in essence puts His “holy” name on it and it becomes sacred. The words “holy,” “saint,” and “sanctified” are terms New Testament writers use to denote what is “set apart” to God and dedicated to Him and to the service that is rendered to honor and exalt Him.

So it was with the priests of Israel, the temple Solomon dedicated to God, and the holy city of Jerusalem where God’s rule from the throne of David was established and His authority was manifest among the nations. To defile what God had sanctified was to provoke His anger and evoke His wrath. Assyrian and Babylonian captivities are historical reminders of God’s wrath against His people for their abominations and defilements of what He had cleansed, purified, and made sacred.

Jeremiah, God’s prophet to Judah, was sent to announce the coming captivity in Babylon as a direct result and consequences of Judah’s defilement of God’s holy sanctuary—the temple. Jehovah, by the mouth of Jeremiah, warned Judah that they had “set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it” (Jer 32:34). This meant to the nation that judgment was coming to Jerusalem, the city that was holy to God and set apart as the place where God’s holy temple was built. Jehovah, again through Jeremiah, declared concerning His holy but defiled city: “It is given into the hand of Babylon by the sword….”  (Jer 32:36).

These abominations had been set up in part but most dramatically during the reign of Manasseh who erected altars to all the hosts of heaven in the very courtyard of the temple itself. He was even emboldened to set up in the temple the graven image of Asherah, the goddess of Baal worshipers (2 Kings 21:1-9). This is the defilement to which Jeremiah alludes and to which Jehovah responds with the announcement of His vengeance in the coming of the Babylonian king and 70 years of captivity.

God’s vengeance, however, is not limited to the nation of Israel and her defilements of His sacred dwelling. The apostle Paul admonishes God’s people concerning defilements under the new covenant. He writes to factious brethren at Corinth and warns them that the carnal spirit of jealousy, of envy, of strife, and of lewd practices of immorality defile God’s spiritual temple today, whether it be His body the church or individual saints. Both the church as a body and individual Christians are portrayed as God’s holy habitation in the Spirit (1 Cor 3:16-17; 1 Cor 6:19-20; see Eph 2:19-22).

God has engraved His name and the name of His Son on His church which is viewed by heaven as the “church of God” or the “church of Christ” (1 Cor 1:2; Rom 16:16). But He has likewise written the name of His Son on His disciples who were first called “Christians” at Antioch (Acts 11:26). His church has been “sanctified” by the washing of water with the word and His disciples have been set apart by the washing of regeneration as “saints” who are to be “holy” as God Himself is holy (see Eph 5:25-27; Titus 3:5; 1 Cor 1:1-2; 1 Pet 1:14-16).

We today are no different from Israel of old and it is an abomination in God’s eyes for His people today to build altars in their hearts and among the people of God, whether they be to the god of pleasure, lust, money, friends, or any other thing they exalt above God who created them in His own image and saved them in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Such defilements of God’s sacred people will evoke the eternal wrath of God as certainly as it did against the nation of ancient Israel.

-L. A.