They First Gave Themselves

Posted: August 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

When Jerusalem saints were in dire circumstances and could not provide the necessities of life for themselves, the apostle Paul ordered other churches to assist them. The Corinthian church was one of the churches who agreed to help these needy brethren. They were slow, however, about getting their contribution together, so Paul wrote them a year after their decision to help and urged them to complete this work (see 1 Cor 16:1-2; 2 Cor 8:1-15).

To provoke them to immediate action, the apostle told them about the brethren in Macedonia. These brethren were in “deep poverty” and were not even commanded or asked to give. And yet, they determined to help. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the devoted Macedonians—how “their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality”’; he also said of the Macedonians that “beyond their power, they gave of their own accord” (2 Cor 8:2-3).

And why, one might ask himself, would these brethren give when they really did not have it to give and when they were not really expected to give? The answer is clear and basic: “but first they gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Cor 8:5). People who love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds; people who commit themselves to serving God; people who give their lives and selves to God go beyond the call of duty and often do the unexpected.

This example is a real insight to both preachers and brethren. Preachers must understand this truth in attempting to motivate brethren to greater service. And brethren, if they can learn this truth, will find the key to presenting their bodies as living sacrifices to God (Rom 12:1).

It is important that evangelists and elders inform brethren of specific responsibilities that God has commanded them to fulfill. But it is first necessary that Christians understand that God is their Master, they are His bondservants, and their allegiance is to Him. This means that God’s kingdom and His righteousness come first and that brethren must set their minds on thing from above. To do this they must deny themselves and renounce everything that hinders them (see Matt 6:34,33; Col 3:12; Luke 9:23; Luke 14:33).

This calls for disciples to crucify themselves: put to death their lusts, their purposes, their wills, their plans, their hopes. Beyond this it demands that they let Jesus live in them—so that His desires, His purposes, His will, His plans, His hopes become their passion. The result is: “it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Think of the differences this commitment will make in the lives of everyone of us. When Jesus and His attitude toward God’s will lives in us, we will no longer argue about whether we must attend every service, study our Bibles and fill out question sheets, pray daily for the Lord’s help and for those who have need, reach out to those who have never obeyed the gospel, seek to strengthen weak brethren, welcome newcomers and fringe members into our homes, contribute liberally on the first day of the week, use our bounty to help those who are struggling financially, etc., etc., etc.

Brethren who first give themselves to the Lord will serve beyond their power and, because it is in their heart to do so, will serve of their own accord. If we wonder why the church is not prospering spiritually in the 21st century, the answer is not hard to find. One look at brethren like the Macedonians who first gave themselves to the Lord and, as a result, out of deep poverty gave liberally to the needs of their brethren brings to view all we need see to stir our hearts to unselfish and unlimited devotion to the God who gave us life and hope in Christ.

-L. A.


Trusting Our Father’s Love

Posted: August 22nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt 7:9-11).

How much confidence do you have in God’s love for you? Do you believe Him when He says He will never leave you nor forsake you? (Heb 13:5-6) Do you really believe that  He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him? (Rom 8:28) Do you trust Him enough to lay down all your anxieties and fears at His feet? (1 Pet 5:6-7) Do you find the comfort He has promised you in prayer? (Php 4:6-7)

Many times we know intellectually that we are children of God and that He is a perfectly loving and compassionate Father, but this information gets lost somewhere between our head and our heart. We fear that despite our fervent petitions God will see fit to give us a stone or snake. Knowing that God is not a vending machine to indulge our every whim, we go to the other extreme of seeing Him as an aloof emperor who pushes forward His personal agenda without any consideration for our cares and concerns.

If we properly view the Lord as a tenderhearted and sympathetic Father, we can submit to His will with full confidence that whatever He decides will ultimately be in our best interest. As His children, He will not allow us to face any hardship without good reason. He will only say “no” to the trusting, fervent prayers of His children if some higher purpose demands it. If we think we have received a stone or a serpent in response to our prayers, we need to renew our trust in His love and pray that He might open our eyes to the greater good in our situation.

God’s providence is many times far beyond our comprehension. There may be times that we feel like Job, endlessly frustrated and disappointed by God without reason.  But God wants us to learn to trust in Him at times without answer or explanation. He wants us to develop a genuine confidence in His love and sovereignty. Even at the darkest times, God wants us to remember that He is a compassionate Father, and we can cast all our cares on Him.



The Amen

Posted: August 22nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?” (1 Cor 14:16)

The word “amen” is a fascinating word. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who is unfamiliar with it. But what does “amen” mean? Is it a ritualistic way to end or validate our prayers? Or is it merely a way of signing off and telling God, “That’s it. My prayer is over now”? I suggest to you the meaning behind this word is far richer than we might realize.

The word “amen” was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek New Testament. In other words, the original was copied phonetically, as opposed to translation where a new word is provided that best fits the original’s meaning. “Amen” continued to be transliterated into Latin and straight into English and many other languages. This means that the word “amen,” virtually unmolested through the ages, is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech.

The word is directly related, in fact, almost identical, to the Hebrew word for “believe” (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean “sure” or “truly,” an expression of absolute trust and confidence. Therefore, when “amen” is used before a discourse it is testifying to the truthfulness of what is about to be said. For example, when Jesus said, “For truly (amen) I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished,” (Matt 5:18) He was testifying to the absolute truth and trustworthiness of His declaration.

When the word is used at the end of a discourse, after a statement has been made, the “amen” is voiced as an affirmation of what has been said. In this case “amen” means “so it is,” “so be it,” or “may it be fulfilled.” It was a custom in the synagogues to voice the word “amen” after a prayer or reading of Scripture that passed on to Christian assemblies (1 Cor 14:16). When the “amen” is voiced after a solemn prayer, reading, lesson, or prophecy, the offerors made the substance of what was uttered their own. By way of affirmation, they were joining themselves to what was just said.

But “amen” is not a magic mantra that ensures God’s acceptance of a message. Instead, it is a reminder to us who utter the “amen” that the message must be brought into conformity with God’s will, not our own. “Amen” is a direct reference to Jesus who taught us to pray, “Your will be done” (Matt 6:10). Jesus modeled His life after this concept of submitting to the will of the Father. His prayer in Gethsemane ended with, “yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt 26:39). Thus Jesus Himself is the ultimate “Amen” whose life was perfectly in accord with God’s will. Indeed this is how He refers to Himself to the church at Laodicea, “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness” (Rev 3:14; cf. 2 Cor 1:20).

We are expected to follow the example of “The Amen” in our prayers and in our lives. Those who “boast in their arrogance” were warned to pray instead, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (James 4:15). We should have confidence that God will hear and answer our prayers when “we ask anything according to His will” (1 John 5:14).

So the next time you voice the word “amen” understand that it is not a mere formality to be observed but an affirmation of your agreement and the truthfulness of a statement. The “amen” is a reminder of our Savior, “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness,” and how every aspect of our lives must come under His Lordship.

-Jerome Sasanecki


The Canon – Which Books?

Posted: August 22nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

One of many false claims the Catholic Church makes is that they gave to the world the Bible. They believe that God’s authority after the death of the apostles was invested in the pope and the bishops of the Catholic Church. They allege that they are successors of Peter and the apostles and that when they meet in council they determine God’s truth for His church. They, accordingly, determined which books belong in the Bible at the Council of Carthage in A. D. 397. So they claim.

First, Jesus and the apostles refer to the Old Testament scriptures as a complete book in the first century. As the “oracles of God” of God entrusted to the Jews, the only books Israel ever received as inspired of God are the 39 books of the Old Testament (see Rom 3:2; 2 Tim 3:15-16). Second, we are assured that what the apostles wrote was inspired by the Holy Spirit and is also included as scripture (2 Pet 3:15-16; 1 Thess 5:17-18; Luke 10:7). By the beginning of the second century (A.D 100) preachers and teachers of the word appealed to the books in our New Testament as authoritative. And to this day both Catholics and Protestants agree that in addition to the Old Testament books the 27 books of the New Testament are inspired of God.

But the question of many brethren is how do we know that these books are the right ones and the only ones that God recognizes? Maybe some of these are not inspired and maybe others we don’t have came from God. How can we know? Who determines the “canon”—the books that belong in the Bible?

“Canon” comes from a Greek word that means “rule” or “measure” and by its meaning asks what books “measure up” to the standard of scripture—inspired of God. The answer is simpler than men often make it. It is at base a question of whether Christianity is true and is a “religion” that has come from God. It is a matter of “evidence” and “faith.” God established by the resurrection of Jesus and other confirming signs that Jesus is the Son of God, that the apostles are the messengers of God, and that the gospel is a revelation of the mind of God. The question, then, is as simple as believing that God is and that He said: I will reveal “all truth”; I will reveal it “once for all”; and “my word shall not pass away”—it “abides forever” (see John 16:13; Jude 3; Matt 24:35; 1 Pet 1:25).

This is the way God answered Israel when they called on Him for help—whether for the blessing of food or deliverance from their enemies. God again and again appealed to the signs of Egypt and His deliverance of the nation from bondage and His acceptance of them as His chosen people. If you believe what happened in Egypt, then I am your God and will fulfill my promise to bless you. It is that simple. I said I will provide for you. Trust me (see Deut 4:32-40; Judg 6:8; 10:1).

God never bothered to give His saints an official list of inspired gospels, epistles, or any other books. He confirmed the truthfulness of Jesus’ claims by the resurrection, the truthfulness of the gospel revealed and preached by the apostles with signs that followed—and then promised His church the fullness of truth and the preservation of that truth forever.

If we do not have the exact truth in the scriptures today, then God failed and is not worthy of our faith. Who can believe God failed and still believe in the resurrection of Jesus? Count me out! Up from the grave He arose. That I believe, brethren. And that’s the evidence that He has given to His people all truth and has preserved it through the centuries.

-L. A.


Is It Praise That We Seek After All?

Posted: August 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matt 6:1)

If we are committed to doing what is right for its own sake, it will be enough for us to have the approval of God. There are strong warnings in Jesus’ teaching against doing our good deeds in order to be “seen” by others. But while most of us would say that we reject such pretense and hypocrisy, what would happen to our relationship with God if we were to receive nothing but criticism for our obedience to Him? Would we continue to serve God if no one appreciated us for it, if no one recognized us for our goodness, or if no one did good to us in return? And if we do good mainly to avoid criticism for not doing it, is that any better than doing it to be “seen”? And what are the implications of doing good primarily to enjoy the self-satisfaction of our own approval?

Benefits like approval, praise, significance, acceptance, and gratitude are powerful motivators. Few of us can honestly say that these things do not matter to us. There may be many people “out there” whose approval, etc. is of little importance to us, but for virtually every human being there is at least someone whose acceptance it is important for that person to have. And the difficult question is this: what if doing God’s will does not result in that someone’s acceptance and approval? Will we obey anyway?

In all honesty, however, there is another problem that must be avoided, and that is the problem of smugness. Perhaps we do have the spiritual strength to do what’s right whether anyone else on the planet appreciates it or not. Perhaps it does not matter to us what anyone else thinks. What then? It would be a rare individual who could feel that way and not be a little bit proud of himself or herself for being so “above it all.” But the moment we begin to feel (however secretly) a little superior to those who are motivated by “petty” concerns, we need to take stock. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12)

In any and every circumstance, we must simply be careful about our focus. If it is truly God whom we seek—and if it is God whom we love—then our focus will be on Him, not on ourselves. “Your purpose is not to be seen or known or loved or admired or praised. Your purpose is to see, know, love, admire, and praise God” (Guigo I).

-Gary Henry


Patient Endurance

Posted: August 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Endurance” to the end and “patience” in trials are two ideas that express a common Bible theme. And in some Biblical texts the two thoughts come from the same Greek word. What is common about the two notions is that they are often found in the context of suffering.

Jesus, for example, as a warning to His disciples, said that they would be hated for His name’s sake and then promised: “He that endures to the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:13). The apostle Paul wrote to the brethren at Rome, who were living in the shadows of a power that persecuted Christians unto death, and exhorted them to be “patient in tribulations” (Rom 12:12). The apostle Peter directed his words to brethren scattered among the provinces of Rome and faced opposition and suffering. He urged them “to take it patiently” (1 Pet 2:20).

Jesus and the two apostles used the same Greek word in all three of these references. The word combines a prefix (hupo) which means “under” and a verb (meno) which means “to stay,” “to remain,” “to abide.” The thought behind the word is the “stability” to be firm and fixed in one’s conviction and life during times of trial. The idea is that disciples are not to be moved away from their faith and life of dedication when evil times or ungodly people seek to harm them and say all manner of evil things against them. To abide under suffering and persecution is to be unmoved spiritually by trials that test one’s steadfastness in the Lord and seek to uproot him from a life of righteousness.

Two points are clear in the Spirit’s use of this word to motivate disciples to be true to their convictions. First, as Jesus Himself experienced and warned, those who follow Him will be hated by the world and, as a result, will have to face insults and mistreatment. In His prayer to the Father, Jesus noted: “I have given them Thy word, and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). The hatred the world had for Jesus and His disciples resulted both in insults and mistreatment.

The apostle Paul echoed the words of Jesus when he warned the evangelist Timothy that “all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). God’s people will come under pressure, distress, and affliction at the hands of evil men. Paul had earlier given a long list of the suffering he had endured as an apostle of Jesus Christ and is now warning God’s faithful servant, Timothy, that he and all godly men must endure this kind of treatment (see 2 Cor 11:23-28).

Second, the sense of abiding or dwelling under tribulation is the ability to remain as one is while suffering physical abuse. The weight and burden of trials must not be allowed to change one’s character in Christ Jesus. When Jesus said to “endure to the end,” He meant that faithful saints must remain as they are throughout persecution without compromise. They must stand in righteousness and for truth patiently under the load of suffering that bears down heavily upon their souls.

Patient endurance is the unmovable steadfastness that Christians maintain in Christ and His teaching under the burden of physical, emotional, and spiritual affliction and stress. Those who do so to the end, Jesus says, shall be saved. Paul in a chapter on the resurrection and victory in Jesus urges brethren to be unmoved and steadfast—knowing that their labor is not in vain in the Lord (see 1 Cor 15:58).

-L. A.


Two Churches Have Elders

Posted: August 8th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Two churches have elders, but they differ tremendously in their attitudes toward the elders. The first church sees the elders as great targets for criticism. Every move is questioned, and much discontent and unrest exist. In fact, the elders have to spend so much time dealing with the unrest that they have little time to plan and implement work that will bring the church to fulfillment of its God-given purpose.

The second church recognizes the heavy load borne by the elders, and they are thankful that there are men who are willing to do the work. They make allowances for their imperfections and seek to be supportive in every way possible. If a decision is made that some member believes to be unwise, he goes to the elders with his problem and does not stir unrest within the congregation. The members are “ready to do every good work,” willing to cooperate in any activity that is in keeping with God’s authority.

The first church thinks of the elders as mere decision makers. They resent the elders’ effort to admonish. They view any attempt to talk with someone about sin in his life as an intrusion into his privacy. They really wish the elders would just make whatever decisions they have to make and leave everybody alone.

The second church recognizes that in their role as shepherds, the elders must make certain decisions pertaining to the welfare of the church, but they see them primarily as “watchers for souls” and spiritual nourishment. They respect the elders and respond to their admonitions. They know that the prodding is for their good and that the elders have their spiritual and eternal welfare in mind.

The members of the first church rarely express appreciation for their elders and rarely pray for them. They see their elders’ faults, but are blinded to their good traits. There is not that good elder-congregation relationship that God desires in His church. Some of the faults may lie with the elders themselves, but the congregation has really not given them the chance to rule and exercise oversight that should be theirs.

The second church is an example of peace and harmony. They appreciate their elders, pray for them, and “esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thess 5:12-13). They frequently express to them their love and support, so that the elders work among them with confidence, fulfilling their heavy responsibilities “with joy and not with grief” (Heb 13:17).

The first church wonders why they can’t have a strong eldership like that of the second church, never realizing that the response of the congregation itself determines to a great extent the effectiveness with which the elders oversee, lead, and rule the church. The key to change in the first church lies within just a few, who, with a change in their own attitudes, could lead the whole group into better attitudes. Could it be possible that you are among that few?

-Bill Hall


Time: On Loan From God

Posted: August 8th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Time can be described as an interlude in eternity—a season designed by God for His creation. Traditionally, we think of time and reassess its use at the beginning of each New Year, but in reality every new day presents the challenge of the proper use of one’s time. Beyond our work schedules, every day has other demands and opportunities that challenge us and remind us of time’s value and God’s demand of its proper use by His faithful servants.

First, the saints must view it as a commodity on loan from the One who created it and man. It is unmistakably entrusted to the human creature, made in God’s image, for use according to the will of the Creator. This makes man a steward of time with the responsibility to faithfully pursue its use both thoughtfully and wisely. This calls on every one of us to think seriously about the purposes of our lives, the priorities they demand, and the need to schedule activities of life in awareness of our Master’s will. Our Lord tells us that to act wisely demands that we “redeem” the time—an expression that means to buy it up or to seize it for the opportunities it provides for usefulness as God’s servants (see Eph 4:15-16).

Second, as stewards of time committed to us by God, we must willingly sacrifice our desires and yield our wills to God’s purposes. That means, number one, we must forsake sin. This is the essence of repentance, one of God’s most basic demands. But beyond that we must as good managers of time surrender the innocent pleasures and hobbies that crowd out spiritually important and essential responsibilities that God has assigned us. This is the point of the “thorny” ground in the parable of the sower (see Luke 8:14 and Matt 13:22).

Watching TV and movies, engaging in sports and other recreational activities, or shopping and tracking investment opportunities may well need to be curtailed if not in some cases eliminated. When, like the Laodiceans, we become lukewarm toward the Lord and His goals, our Lord, as He did to this church, tells us to get on fire for His cause and repent (see Rev 3:14-20).

Third, time cannot be put into a savings or investment account where it can accrue dividends and interest for future use. Time must be spent at the present in worthy activities or be wasted second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour for trivial pursuits or unproductive purposes. Once it is wasted and gone, it cannot be recaptured for future use or better purposes. This is where and when “wisdom” must prevail. It is the “wise,” Paul says, who understand God’s way and “redeem” the time (Eph 4:15-16).

The “wise” are they, Paul says, who “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17). These are they who “walk by faith”—a faith that comes by hearing the word of God (see 2 Cor 5:7; Rom 10:17). Knowing that time is on loan from God, the wise walk in truth and commitment to His will, in love and good will toward their brethren, in devotion and fulfillment of their roles and obligations to their families, and in evangelistic zeal toward faithless sinners doomed for eternal damnation. To fail in these God ordained responsibilities is to squander the time God has entrusted to us for sacred purposes.

So, brethren, as we face each day that God sets before us we have a treasury of time that we will spend for purposes of our own choices. And God has been clear what choices He expects us to make: “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated on the right hand of God” and “Seek ye first His kingdom, and His righteousness” (Col 3:1; Matt 6:33).

-L. A.


Standing Firm

Posted: August 1st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Balance has always been a difficult line to draw between extremes. Men find this to be true in both the business and political worlds. Christians in their effort to serve God also struggle with this problem in their spiritual relationships. One particular area that frustrates God’s people is the line between “patience” and “firmness.”

God, we know, is “longsuffering” toward sinners and puts off the day of judgment to provide ample opportunity for repentance (2 Pet 3:9). And yet, we know that He is irresistibly firm in His demand that all men repent. He has commanded every man everywhere to repent. Jesus has also firmly declared, “I tell you, nay, except you repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3,5; see Acts 17:30). What both God and Jesus are telling sinners—and that includes all of us—is that one day God’s patience will run out, Jesus will return for judgment, and all men will have to give account of their lives (Acts 17:31; 2 Pet 2:10-11).

We as citizens in God’s kingdom and workers in His vineyard want so much to be like God. We want to be patient and forbearing with brethren who are babes in Christ, and also to be certain that we have taught them well and that they have had ample opportunity to grow unto the maturity of faithful servants of God. And yet, we want to be firm with brethren as babes in Christ and emphasize to them that they make a sincere and serious effort to learn of Christ and grow in God’s grace.

In walking this fine line and in our loving efforts to be patient and tolerant with babes in Christ, let us be prayerful and certain that we do not compromise the way of truth. We are taught, for example, to consider one another in Christ and not forsake the assembling of ourselves together where we in worship seek to stir up one another unto good works. Unfaithful brethren among us must never be led to believe by our actions toward them that it is acceptable to forsake these assemblies while they are seeking to “find themselves” (see Heb 10:24-25).

We must be firm in teaching weak brethren that what we share in the assembly—whether singing hymns, offering prayers, remembering our Lord’s death, or studying together from scriptures—provides spiritual nourishment in a spiritual atmosphere and can only be a help and a strength to them in the struggles they face in a world of sin and ungodliness.

While we are being firm in our efforts to stabilize weak brethren, let’s also seek to exhaust every avenue—prayer, personal teaching, cards of encouragement, letters of instruction, etc.—to bring them to maturity and faithfulness in the Lord. We must not “patiently” go about our business endlessly without efforts to teach them, exhort them, rebuke them, reprove them—and merely hope that someday they will come to their senses and seek to serve the Lord in faithfulness.

At some point after efforts to restore brethren who have forsaken the Lord completely, the church must view these brethren as “disorderly” and unworthy of company with fellow saints (2 Thess 3:6-15). Harsh? Yes, but unfaithful brethren must understand the seriousness of sin before the time of the final judgment of the Lord. There is a “sorer” judgment than physical death that awaits fallen saints when they appear before the judgment seat of Christ (see Heb 10:27). What we do to snatch these brethren from the fires of eternal judgment is a firm and unwavering act of love and commitment to their eternal souls (see Jude 20-23). We must stand firm in this love and devotion.

-L. A.


The Blessings and Dangers of Electronic Bibles

Posted: August 1st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Turning pages in the assembly has always been a pleasant sound to me. Traditionally it has been an indication that brethren are diligent students of the Bible and engaged in the message being presented. However, with more and more phones and tablets replacing the printed page, one is more likely to think brethren are distracted than engaged. Yet, I recognize that appearances is not the primary issue to be considered here.

I have to admit there is a grumpy old man part of this 25-year-old writer who would like to go on a tirade against the vices of all this new-fangled technology, but that would be both hypocritical and unfair. I hope instead to present a balanced perspective of both the blessings and dangers of electronic Bibles.

There are certainly benefits of using a Bible on your tablet or phone. First of all, it is much easier to carry it with you everywhere you go. A large chain-reference or study Bible is not easy to haul back and forth to work or school every day. Carrying a leather bound Bible in your backpack, purse, or briefcase can be difficult. Some of the roughest wear and tear that my Bible has experienced has not been in use, but in transportation. Yet, with an electronic Bible you can fit it easily in your pocket and will be less likely to forget and leave it at home.

Secondly, electronic Bibles come with many extra tools. Not only can these Bible programs offer references and notes, but they can store a host of other study aids including concordances, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, interlinears, and commentaries. So, unless you want to carry a big box of books with you everywhere you go, it could be a great benefit to have an electronic Bible program on hand.

Thirdly, it allows quick and easy access to passages. Instead of having to flip frantically through your Bible while the preacher talks about an obscure passage in Nahum, you just have to click on it in your table of contents. Following along can be made a whole lot easier by an electronic Bible.

Yet, these blessing also come with many dangers we need to be wary about, especially for our young people. (Unleash the grumpy old man!) Firstly, electronic Bibles can become a crutch that prevents us from becoming familiar with the layout of scripture. Just as elementary students are not allowed to use calculators until they have gained a firm understanding of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, our young people should not be regularly relying upon electronic tables of contents if they have not yet firmly learned the books of the Bible.

Secondly, electronic Bibles can get in the way of children developing a reverence for God’s word. A leather bound volume of God’s word on the kitchen table tends to provoke a little more respect than an app on their phone next to “Flappy Bird” and “Candy Crush.” We often teach toddlers to honor God’s word by gently patting the Bible and treating it with care. I cringe to imagine a class of toddlers patting the teachers phone or tablet with care to learn this lesson.

Thirdly, although electronic Bibles are easy to take with you to work or school, they are very unlikely to provide any opportunity to talk to someone else about the gospel. There have been a number of times when I have been reading my Bible in public that someone would come up to me and strike up a spiritual conversation. I have acquired more than one personal Bible study in this way. However, if you are reading an electronic Bible, for all anyone else knows you might be checking stock prices or surfing Pinterest.

Fourthly, and possibly of greatest importance, electronic Bibles can invite more distraction into the assembly. Many who regularly use electronic Bibles may be able to relate with the moment when a text, email, or Facebook notification pops up in the middle of services. Curiosity to check and see what this new update might be can be strong. There is a temptation to tune out for just a couple moments and use your electronic device for something other than Bible study. If this can be a temptation for adults, is it not a temptation we should think twice about exposing our children to?

All in all, I do not begrudge the use of electronic Bibles at all, but I do think they present some unique challenges that we need to be very careful about. Let us not let the blessings of this format blind us to the dangers (or vice versa).