Good Leadership

Posted: November 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

What are the characteristics of good leadership? Good leadership has vision to see what needs to be done. Good leadership moves forward, is positive in its approach, stirs confidence in others, and convinces them that the impossible task can be accomplished.

Good leadership has faith in people. Good leadership believes that others want to work and that they will respond when properly challenged; it places the best possible construction on the actions of others. Good leadership “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” because good leadership loves.

Good leadership does not run ahead of others. It does not do everything itself. In fact, it frequently steps aside and waits—sometimes anxiously—while others are given a chance to perform the tasks which they are capable of performing. Good leadership is not nearly so concerned with getting things done as it is with developing people into useful, mature servants of the Lord. Good leadership is constantly producing leadership in others.

Good leadership has a real concern for others and has ability to communicate that concern. Good leadership is patient, understanding; it is neither too quick to rebuke  nor is it indulgent toward sin. Good leadership places itself in the other man’s position to see things from his viewpoint.

Good leadership is humble, is willing to acknowledge mistakes; it can accept criticism and separate the constructive from the destructive. Good leadership seeks the praise of God rather than the praise of men; it sacrifices popularity to do God’s will.

Good leadership has conviction, but it is not stubborn or headstrong. It listens to others and views their ideas objectively. Good leadership treats all alike; it is impartial. Good leadership is frank and candid, but is kind.

Good leadership is self-confident, but not proud; it does not have to be self-promoting.

The church needs men and women who are leaders, but what a difference between those who seek to lead and those who truly lead.

-Bill Hall

 


Forgiving Others

Posted: November 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Few people, if any, relish an unforgiving spirit from a friend or an enemy. Neither do folks resent or react angrily toward someone who graciously forgives them of an offense. Forgiveness is a special quality of a gracious heart and is an attractive display of character that is appreciated by all but the most perverted and hardened of heart.

The understanding and development of forgiveness begins with the knowledge and appreciation of the gracious and forgiving God who redeemed man from sin. God created man in holiness and purity after the very image of His own being, and then to provide forgiveness for him made His begotten Son a curse to bear in His body the judgment and vengeance of God against those sins. This is the price of man’s forgiveness paid in full by the merciful, kind, loving, and gracious heart of the Creator.

One of the words in the New Testament translated “forgive” grows out of the word for “grace”—a word we have often defined as “unmerited” or “unearned” favor (see Eph 4:32). This we see in the free gift of Jesus as the foundation for our forgiveness from God. Another word rendered “forgive” means “to remit,” “to dismiss” or “to send away” (see Acts 8:22).

Jesus illustrates the necessity to forgive one another with the story of a king who out of compassion forgave the debt of a servant who, as man in sin, owed a debt he could not possibly pay. Yet, that forgiven servant refused to forgive a fellow servant of a small debt—even viciously threatening him if he did not come up with the money. The king learned of this servant’s unmerciful, unrelenting, and unforgiving spirit toward a fellow servant and cast the wicked servant into the hands of tormentors and refused to forgive his unpayable debt (Matt 18:21-35).

“So,” Jesus said, “shall also My heavenly Father do unto you, if you forgive not everyone his brother from your hearts” (Matt 18:35). Paul reaffirms this truth: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:31-32).

God promises: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Conversely, James warns: “For judgment is without mercy to him that has showed no mercy” (James 2:13). How many of us want to face God in judgment in the absence of mercy and grace? Our failure to forgive one another not only creates misery in this life, but reaps eternal misery in the life to come.

But where does this spirit to forgive come from? It comes from a heart that has been transformed by the renewing of one’s mind through the conversion and new birth that the Spirit by the power of the gospel begets in honest and good hearts (see Luke 8:11-15). We see this renewal taking place the day the church was founded. The Spirit gave utterance through the apostles to the good news of salvation through Christ, and 3000 souls were convicted, brought to repentance, to baptism, and to the purpose of heart to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (see Acts 2).

All who have become Christians and have not forgiven others must listen carefully to the command of Jesus to the Ephesians: return to your “first love,” “repent,” and do the “first works” (Rev 2:4-5). Jesus also threatens to remove the lampstand—cease to recognize those who will not bow the knee to His will. But, on the other hand, those who do repent and change, He promises access to the “tree of life” which is in the “Paradise of God” (Rev 2:5, 7). And lest we forget, brethren, those of us who stubbornly refuse to forgive can no longer pray: “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (see Matt 6:12).

-L. A.

 


Learning Contentment

Posted: October 30th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want” (Php 4:11-12).

The word “content” combines the words “self” and “sufficient” and suggests that the apostle found sufficiency in himself. But that does not denote that sufficiency or contentment can come to a person of himself alone. It means rather that what one possesses can within himself and his soul be accepted as enough. That acceptance demands learning—instruction and discipline of the Lord.

Man is born of the flesh and is of the flesh—fleshly. He cannot escape the “lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life” (1 John 2:16). The body by nature has these desires—whether it is illicit passion for sex, lust for power, or greed for money. The control that any one of these urges has over any man depends on understanding, training, and choice. Man can educate himself to accept and yield to these desires or reject and subdue them.

What is starkly apparent in the above words, penned by the apostle Paul, is that “learned” is a word that implies instruction and acceptance. The apostle had been taught by the Lord and had received his teaching about contentment. The truth that a man must accept his circumstances in life—whether in poverty or wealth—came not to the apostle naturally but as a learned discipline. What he learned then—both understood and accepted—we can still learn today.

Temporary. Paul learned, number one, that the flesh and all its desires are temporal (2 Cor 4:16-18). What one’s material circumstances are—rich or poor—are unimportant in the long run. It is appointed unto man once to die. Man must within a span of 70 or so years put off the body of the flesh to await the resurrection of an immortal, incorruptible, eternal body. To grasp this and accept it is to learn contentment with whatever goods the Lord provides, knowing that in time all these things come to nothing.

Valueless. Paul also learned from the Lord that the totality of these worldly things have no exchange rate relative to the value of the soul. When Jesus asked what man would give in exchange for his soul, His answer is that man ought to give the whole world (Matt 16:26). He taught likewise that the treasures of earth have no security and man ought to lay up for himself treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19). Paul understood and accepted that neither “much” nor “little” of this world’s goods has purchase power; they are valueless toward the recompense of reward in heaven.

Meaningless. Finally, Paul learned from these two premises that mammon and all its paraphernalia are meaningless. Though these things are essential to sustain man in the flesh, they cannot effect redemption, they give no meaning to life, and they provide no preparation for eternal life. Paul left Judaism behind and learned that “confidence in the flesh” must be counted as garbage in order to gain Christ (see Php 3:1-14). Leaving the flesh behind to reach toward the prize of the high calling of Christ Jesus included the totality of fleshly pursuits. The apostle understood and accepted that to “abound” or to be “abased” is a temporal, valueless state that has no bearing on the eternal state.

If disciples today will be imitators of Paul as he imitated Jesus (1 Cor 11:1), they will also plumb the depth of their souls and see the need for and learn the secret of contentment.

-L. A.

 


The Power of Influence

Posted: October 30th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Influence” is an old French word, a derivative of the Latin word, “influens”. Its meaning in the context of this article is “the act or the power of producing an effect without apparent force or direct authority; power arising from station, character, wealth; etc. “ (Webster) To my knowledge, the word is only once translated into our biblical text (Job 38:31), yet, few subjects are deserving of more consideration.

An old expression reveals the power of influence: “No one goes to heaven or hell by himself.” Some take overt steps to influence others to follow their footprints in either righteousness or wickedness. Yet, others produce the same effect without even trying. It is possible that we may never know what we have influenced others to do or be. Yet our worldly position, our character, our wealth, will often reach forth into another life, causing a light of good or evil to issue forth. The seed of our influence has thus produced its fruit, whether we ever know it or not.

To expel an erroneous concept, let it be known that the power of influence is not the exclusive right of “older people.” Young people are influences in their own right. A white stone marks the grave of a little girl upon which is written this beautiful epitaph: “A child of whom her playmates said, ‘It was easier to be good when she was with us.’”

Much time and energy have been spent in warning of the evil influences in our modern society. The dangers merit every word exhorting the sincere and godly to caution.

However, in this brief article I wish to refer your serious attention to righteous influences. I recently read the following poem: “You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day, by deeds that  you do, by words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithless or true. Say! What is the gospel according to you?”

A mother influences her daughter; a father exerts an untold power over his son; a wife affects her husband; all beyond our power to measure. Yet, will any deny the presence of these influences?

Read the Scriptures and discern these holy influences. Paul tells of the influence of Timothy’s mother and grandmother (2 Tim 1:5). Wherever he went Paul had a saving influence, whether in a Philippian jail (Acts 16:25-34) or among the servants in Caesar’s household (Acts 28:30-31). These knew that having a godly influence was a command—not an optional matter. Christians are to be salt and light unto the world (Matt 5:13-16) and if they are such, they can rest their heads in peace. For when this pilgrimage is over, theirs will be an abode with Him on that beautiful, eternal shore.

Therefore, let us constantly guard against those evil influences which will condemn us and those who follow in our footprints. Then, let us fill our lives to capacity with the glorious influence of faith, obedience, and love. The reward of such will merit these noble steps of consecration.

-Lewis Willis

 


Responding Rightly to the Past

Posted: October 30th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death”
(2 Cor 7:9-10)

If you’ve read 1 Corinthians, you can imagine Paul’s agony as he waited to hear how it was received. He had called upon the Corinthians to repent of their sins, but how would they think about these things? Would they be defensive? Resentful? Angry? In 2 Corinthians we find him overjoyed: they had responded with a “godly sorrow” that had resulted in repentance.

We are no different than the Corinthians in that we have things in our past that should never have taken place. Looking back, we see many things we’d like to change. Even after we’ve repented and received the Lord’s forgiveness, we still feel a regret that is extremely unpleasant and embarrassing. Oh, how we wish we could once again be people who had never done such things! But we can’t change the past. The bell can never be unrung.

Sorrow is a natural response to our misdeeds, but we need to make sure that it is godly sorrow. That is always the right response to sinful aspects of our past; it moves us back in God’s direction. And what makes godly sorrow different from worldly sorrow is that it is focused on God rather than ourselves. It grieves what our sins have cost Him and His people, and not what they’ve cost us.

Although we can’t change the past, there is a sense in which our memories are always changing us. But are they changing us for the better? Are they making us more humble and penitent? Are we becoming more reverent and grateful? As we reflect on what has happened in our lives, are those reflections turning us into more obedient people? The answer to all of these questions can be yes, but only if we choose to think about the past with a godly attitude.

Our thinking is one thing we are always capable of changing. No matter what has happened, the alternative of better thinking is never closed, and it’s a pity that we don’t avail ourselves of this opportunity more often. When we’ve erred, why would we miss the benefit of thinking about that fact more constructively? “The past cannot be changed, but our response to it can be.” (Erwin W. Lutzer).

-Gary Henry

 


Be Thankful For God’s Authority

Posted: October 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

God is Creator. Because of Who He is, He has the inherent right to command and expect obedience. He has the right to tell us what to do, how to think, how to live, how to talk, and how to dress. Name it. God has the power to back it up. We, as His creatures have no right to kick back or demand answers from Him. Like it or not, we are under His authority. But now, why wouldn’t we like it?

Rather than looking at this as some sort of drudgery, why not be thankful for God’s authority? After all, if we wish to glorify God, we can only do so by recognizing the power that only belongs to Him.

“Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He also is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and joy are in His place.” (1 Chron 16:23-27)

If we “seek the Lord and His strength” (vs. 11), then we are necessarily seeking Him in all His authority and power. Shall we love the Lord and despise His authority as if it is a burden to us? May it never be!

Here, then, are some reasons we can be thankful for God’s authority:

  1. Because God’s authority means He is the Judge, not me, or you, or anyone else.

I don’t have to worry about untangling all the sticky questions about eternity. I don’t need to worry about pleasing other people, especially those in the world. I just need to concern myself with pleasing and glorifying Him based on what He has revealed (2 Cor 5:8-9; John 12:48).

Consequently, we may say with Paul, “to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Cor 4:3-4).

In the final analysis, each of us as individuals will stand before God. What others think at that point will be irrelevant.

  1. Because God’s authority is what gives power to grace.

Grace means nothing unless it comes from one who has the power to give it. Sometimes grace is pitted against a stress on authority, but the two go together. It is true that authority can exist without grace, but it is not possible for real grace to exist without authority.

Recall Jesus’ healing of the paralytic in Mark 2. When He saw the man’s faith, Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven. The people reacted by saying that only God could forgive sins, to which Jesus responded, “‘Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’” (Mark 2:8-11) Without the authority inherent in Jesus, the man’s sins would have remained.

God’s authority means that He can provide the grace needed to forgive sins. Without His authority, our sins would remain.

  1. Because God’s authority means He has the power to fulfill His promises.

People sometimes promise what they cannot give. Think of the empty promises given by fallible people who strive for political power, or the disappointment we feel when someone promised something without the ability to deliver. This will never happen with God. Because He has all authority, He has complete control over the promises that He has given, and He will not disappoint.

Therefore, we may have the same faith as Paul when promised that the ship he was on would not lose anyone: “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told” (Acts 27:25). Paul began his epistle to Titus with these reassuring words: “Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago” (Tit 1:1-2).

Our trust in God’s promises is the reason we have hope as an anchor of our soul (Heb 6:13-20). All of this is possible because of the authority of God.

God’s authority should never be seen as a burden. Rather, we have every reason to be thankful for who God is and the authority He possesses and shows. “O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You” (Psa 89:8).

-Doy Moyer

 


Money: Its Usefulness

Posted: October 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Money is the root of all evil” is a saying many folks attribute to God. But what God actually said in the words of Paul is that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). Note the “love of money,” not “money” is a root of all kinds of evil. “Money” is a commodity—a thing of value suitable for exchange. “Love of money” is an attitude—a disposition of heart that corrupts and perverts behavior. It is an attitude towards money that provokes evil. The problem is not the money itself.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth” is not an indictment of savings accounts. It is a condemnation of those who hoard treasures or store up wealth “for yourselves.” It is a rebuke of a selfish disposition of ignoring the needs of others in search for security through carnal, temporal goods. Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the farmer who stored up his crops in neglect of the needy and declared with joy: “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). He then tore down his barns, built bigger ones, and there stored all his goods for himself.

It was not this man’s money that condemned him, but his attitude toward it. It is that distinction Christians must maintain. Many of us lack the drive, ingenuity, talent, and personal qualities to become rich. Others among us have all this and much more. As a result, they have accumulated wealth. If they have done this honestly without neglecting the Lord, who can scripturally resist or rebuke them? There is such a thing as “reverse snobbery” in which the poor enviously bad-mouth and shun the rich. If the rich are to be condemned and rebuked, it is not because they have money.

All disciples, rich or poor, are warned that those who are “minded to be rich,” have a “love of money,” and are “reaching after” wealth will fall into a snare, all kinds of evil, and much sorrow (1 Tim 6:9-10). But that is not the fault of the money itself. One can have money and be a Christian; the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Paul has a message for the rich and it is not against money:

“Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not high-minded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed” (1 Tim 6:17-19).

Wealth need not be a hindrance to eternal life; and it will not be if the rich follow these admonitions and make their money useful. I have known wealthy brethren who bought automobiles for indigent preachers in other countries to enable them to travel great distances to preach; who have purchased new clothing for poor members who could barely put food on their table; who paid college tuition for young people that they might be educated at the feet of godly Christians; who supported preachers who were unable to raise full support from churches; etc.

Money does not have to be laid up solely for oneself. It is a medium of exchange that can be used profitably to meet the needs of those who have no means to provide for themselves. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” is a commandment from God for all Christians. When wealthy individuals learn this truth and obey it, their money and lives will become useful and they will lay up for themselves a foundation for the time to come and lay hold on eternal life.

-L. A.

 


Dangers of a “Church Clothes” Mindset

Posted: October 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Any brethren who know me very well are aware that I have been an advocate for dressing up for the assembly. Over the past few years I have tried to encourage others to reflect reverence in what they choose to wear to worship. If formal dress is expected in our society for important occasions like weddings, funerals, banquets, and graduations, should we not testify to the importance we place on the assembly by dressing our best when the saints come together?

I still believe there is value and truth in this mindset, but there is always a need for balance in our perspective of such things. Recently I have been trying to objectively evaluate my thinking in this area and consider the other side of the issue.

It must be acknowledged that the standards of fashion and apparel are largely dependent upon culture. I think I can say with certainty that Paul the apostle never wore a tie. And if he had been as fashion forward to clothe himself in 21st century attire, it would not have communicated the same message to the Jewish and Greco-Roman culture in which he lived as it would to society today.

Even today, many cultures do not acknowledge the same western standards of formal apparel. If I were to go preach in the rural villages of Africa, it would be silly for me to try to reflect reverence by wearing a suit. The villagers would not perceive this as a sign of respect for the occasion. They would probably just find me foolish as I dripped with sweat in the burning heat. If I wanted to communicate reverence, I would need to learn to do it within the framework of their own societal standards.

So, the basic question we must ask ourselves is how to communicate reverence in our culture. This certainly applies to more than just our clothing. Do we come to the assembly on time, prepared, eager, and attentive? Do we bow our heads in prayer, open our Bibles in study, raise our voices in heartfelt worship? Do  we take care to eliminate all possible distractions from the spiritual focus of our assemblies?

Yet, more to the point of our article, what exactly does our choice of clothing communicate to those around us? I would like to think that formal attire communicates reverence and the importance of the occasion. However, I think we need to be aware that at times there may be some unintended messages we are sending.

If our clothing communicates reverence, but our actions are devoid of zeal, the cumulative effect is not good. Our formal attire cannot make up for an evident lack of enthusiasm and devotion. In fact, we will appear much more like the whitewashed tombs and polished dishes of the Pharisees (Matt 23:25-28). Those who come into our assembly will not leave saying, “God is certainly among you”  (1 Cor 14:25).  They will come away feeling like everyone was just putting on a good show.

We need to make sure that our “church clothes” don’t become a costume. We need to make sure that dressing up does not become part of a mask that hides away the rest of our lives from our brethren. When we come to the assembly, we need to be “real” with one another. We need to encourage openness and honesty so that we can help each other grow (James 5:16). We need to encourage a feeling of family. And if the clothes we wear discourage that type of environment, maybe we need to give a second thought to this issue. Maybe a more balanced view towards dressing up is in order.

Please don’t get me wrong. You will never see me standing at the pulpit in jeans and a T-shirt. I don’t intend to stop wearing ties when I preach any time soon. I certainly do not want us to become “casual” or “flippant” in our worship.

Yet, I believe there are more important ways of showing reverence than simply how we dress. And if we do not first emphasize genuine devotion in our actions, then “church clothes” just become a meaningless façade… a cold exterior for a church that has lost their first love. My hope is that in all we do in the assembly we can reflect both reverence and openness, a zeal for God and a zeal for one another. When we come together, let’s make sure we are clothed with brotherly love and commitment to the Lord’s work before anything else

-Grady

 


Bible Reading

Posted: October 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Here is a suggestion for reading that I have found effective:

If you read 8-10 chapters a day in the New Testament, you will read through the New Testament in a month. I would suggest doing that every month for the year. To maximize this practice, let me suggest that you just read it. When doing this, don’t get hung up on terms or phrases. Don’t stop to try to figure out meaning. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by reading two verses then feeling like you have to settle a question. Just read. You can mark and study terms later. Keep reading, even if you don’t fully understand it. This activity is different from deeper study times.

If you’ve never done this on a regular basis over several months, you will notice some great benefits — again just for reading it over and over and regularly.

You will get a better sense of context. You will see terms and phrases in their sentences, paragraphs, books, and overall arguments and stories. Since this practice facilitates memory, you might be amazed at how much you are recalling. You might even find yourself quoting passages without having even tried to memorize them.

The text will begin to make more sense as you read it more. Terms and phrases that might have stumped you before will begin making more sense. It will take time, but you will probably begin having those “aha!” moments. The key is reading it over and over — through your questions — again and again. You can enjoy the process of simple reading unencumbered by other issues. You can go back later and study the particulars, but reading needs to come first.

You will develop a much better sense of where passages are — not just where it is on the page of your Bible, but where it is in the book. You will begin to think of the phrases and passages in their context of other surrounding phrases, not just as isolated phrases somewhere in a vague context.

Use a Bible without notes and markings to do this. Keep a Bible just for reading. Don’t mark it up. Don’t underline. Keep a separate Bible for doing all of that. The reason, for reading purposes, is that anytime you mark it up, the next time you read it, you will automatically go to the markings and it might keep you from reading it afresh. All you want to do is just keep reading.

This simple practice can transform your understanding and memory of Scripture. It just takes a few minutes a day set aside to read.

-Doy Moyer

 


Would We Refuse The Great Invitation

Posted: October 3rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses” (Luke 14:16-18).

We are never more foolish than when we say no to God. We act as if God were trying to force us into an unnatural, undesirable way of life, when in reality He is inviting us to experience something very, very good. He is not trying to hurt us but rather to help us. When we say no to Him, we are refusing to accept the love He longs to give us. That is, in fact, what sin always is: a foolish unwillingness to let ourselves be loved by our God.

We would not ever turn down what God has for us, of course, if we were not deceived. When we choose to do something other than God’s will, we’ve been led to believe that we’re acting in our best interests. But we should not be under any delusion as to where that lie comes from. To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). Our adversary, the devil, has had long experience in making absurd foolishness seem like great wisdom.

But we should not let ourselves be fooled so easily. The biblical injunction “Do not be deceived” (Gal 6:7) is a command. It implies that we can make the choice to keep our eyes open, and that is what we should always insist on doing. We know far too much about God to believe that He would invite us to anything other than the greatest of banquets, and when Satan suggests otherwise, we should have enough sense to simply say, “Shut up!”

God is inviting us to enjoy everything that is truly good about life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). What we should understand is not only that God offers us life but that He puts His offer in the form of an invitation. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ …Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). Who in his right mind would turn this down? When we “make excuses,” aren’t we making a tragic mistake?

“Who would prefer to be poor? Who would choose to be sick? What hungry person could possibly walk away from a banquet table? O Lord, help me to respond warmly to your gracious invitation” (Bernard Bangley).

-Gary Henry