Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Greatest Failure is Quitting

It does not matter what your profession may be, at some point you have found yourself frustrated and hurt because you have put everything you have into something and it did not turn out the way you planned; you worked hard on a project and it fell through, or you presented the truth to someone who would not listen. Many people give up and quit because things do not go their way in a given setting; but we must understand that quitting when we have done what is right is the greatest failure of all.

The prophet Elijah felt these exact emotions in 1 Kings 19. On the heels of the great showdown on Mount Carmel where 450 prophets of Baal were defeated in their upholding of idolatry, Elijah realizes nothing has changed. Jezebel is actively seeking to have him killed, and there are still many more Baal worshipers in Israel. He feels defeated and flees into the wilderness asking God to kill him (Vs. 4). When God asks why, Elijah responds that he is the only one left trying to do what is right and when he stands for what is right they try to kill him (Vs. 9-10). Elijah has reached the end of his rope. He feels like a failure. He believes that he is the only one left who is struggling to do what is right and he is tired of, as he perceives it, fighting alone.

Oftentimes we fall into the same boat. Preachers often get tired and frustrated when they have worked all week on a sermon they believe will be of great benefit for the congregation, or that is of dire need within the congregation as a matter of teaching, only to have it fall on deaf ears. Many preachers have quit because of fatigue and frustration, feeling that nothing they do has an impact and nobody appreciates their efforts.

This feeling is not unique to preachers either. There are many members who face the same frustrations and dilemmas. When an individual is striving to do what is right and seems to always fall just short of their desired goals, there is often the feeling of failure. Sometimes someone is striving to do their best, improve their service to God, and be what God would have him be, and it is then when one who is supposed to be their brother or sister in Christ comes and puts a stumbling-block in the individual’s way by telling them they shouldn’t be so ambitious, or they have no business trying to live their life in that manner; after all, nobody else in the congregation does it that way. Often that member just gives up and quits because it is felt that, no matter what is accomplished or how much is done, it will never be good enough.

In 1 Kings 19, God responds to Elijah in two ways. First, he sends Elijah to find Elisha, who will become his protégé (Vs. 16). Elijah will no longer be working by himself, but will have someone else with him along the way. Second, God makes sure Elijah understands that he is not the only one who loves and respects God in Israel. In fact, God tells Elijah that he still has 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed their knees to Baal (Vs. 18).

There are times in each of our lives where we feel we have failed. The failure may be because we have sinned and fallen short of what is expected of us by God. The failure may be one of perception, having done what was right to the best of our ability but not receiving the response or reception expected. In either case, the greatest failure is not sin, or perceived failure, but the unwillingness to, on the one hand correct the sin and continue the course; or, on the other hand, to give up because it is believed nobody cares and we have no impact.

Preachers: don’t ever give up. Proclaim the truth with all boldness and simplicity, working with all your might to lead others to Christ and to strengthen and encourage those who are already there to greater and more effective service. Always remember that, if we remain with truth, God is always with us, and there are still many preachers who have not bowed the knee to materialism, denominationalism, and false doctrine.

Servants of God: don’t ever give up. Live your lives in ever growing dedication to the standard of Scripture. The greatest stumbling-block lain before the Christian is often his own brethren. Remember that there are many others who are striving to do all that God has said, and only what God has said. They desire to be separate and distinct from the world, not assimilated into it. Keep your integrity and loyalty. Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you.

Don’t ever give up.

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Hardships and Trials in the Life of David

The Book of Psalms has within it many songs penned by King David. There are psalms of praise and adoration toward God; psalms of thanksgiving for things God has done; but there are also psalms of that deal with pain, suffering, repentance, and pleas for forgiveness. When one understands the life of David and the hardships and trials he endured, both physical and mental, one can better understand the songs David writes and the emotions so evidently displayed.

One of the first periods of hardship in the life of David comes at a relatively young age. Saul, the first king of Israel, has taken David into his court because of his ability to play the harp (1 Sam. 16:14-23). Yet after David’s defeat of the giant Goliath, Saul becomes envious because of the popularity of David (1 Sam. 18:7-9). Saul’s jealousy continues to grow toward David to the point that Saul begins to plot David’s demise (1 Sam. 19:10-11). From this time until near the time of his death, Saul will make it his mission in life to destroy David and all those who stand with him.  David, however, will not allow the feelings of Saul toward him to influence his attitude toward the “Lord’s anointed.” Instead it serves to strengthen David’s faith in God.

Throughout this time of hardship, David does not just curl up and cry because of the situation in which he finds himself.  He will, instead, seek to protect and look out for his fellow Israelites, even while being pursued into the mountains by Saul (1 Sam. 21-27). David does not allow Saul to dictate his life, but he seeks to do that which is right and acceptable in the eyes of God.

Though David has no control over the series of events that transpire with Saul, there are other hardships he brings squarely upon himself. One case in point is the sin of adultery which he commits with Bathsheba. The repercussions of this act and the events that follow will haunt David and his family for the rest of his life. In the immediate context of the sin there are two deaths that occur. The first is the intentional murder of Uriah the Hittite in an attempt to remove the problem of Bathsheba’s husband. The second is the death of the child which was conceived in this adulterous relationship. But the consequences for these actions will not end with the immediate results.

When the prophet Nathan tells David of the continuing consequences of his sins; he states, “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife” (2 Sam. 12:10). God makes a promise to Davis that will be fulfilled throughout the rest of David’s life. From this time forward, the house of David will suffer from almost every type of sin imaginable. David’s son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar (2 Sam. 13). At the conclusion of that same chapter, Tamar’s full-brother Absalom kills Amnon for his deeds. Absalom then tries to usurp the throne of Israel, causing David to flee from Jerusalem (2 Sam. 15).  The usurpation will end with the death of Absalom in chapter 18.  After Absalom’s demise Adonijah, another of David’s sons seeks to take the throne for himself after David becomes old (2 Kin. 1). Therefore, one can easily see the lasting effects of this one sin in the life of David. His sin with Bathsheba would be the cause of great trial and hardship throughout the remainder of his days upon the earth.

In spite of the troubles David had in his life, whether they were of his own doing or not, David never turned his back on God. He wrote many great and wonderful psalms of praise and honor toward God from which we learn valuable lessons as we seek to serve our Creator today. David’s psalms touch us in so many ways because they can reach into every part of our lives. Whether it is found in the greatest highs of life, or in the lowest depths of pain and despair, the songs penned by David give us hope, help us find words for our feelings, and stretch our hearts out to God. It is because of the trials and hardships of David that he could, by inspiration, give us songs that are able to strengthen and focus our service to God, even in the times of greatest hardship and sadness.

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The Zealous Christian

The term “zeal” is not often used in our language today. It is, however, a very important part of the attitude and outlook of the Christian. Zeal is described by Webster’s Dictionary as, “enthusiastic, diligent devotion in pursuit of a cause, ideal, or goal.” Thus it has to do with the way in which we perform the works of Christianity and the attitude that motivates our actions.

Though zeal is very important, it can also be the wrong type of zeal. Paul described the Jews of his day by stating, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). Paul asserts that these individuals are very zealous in their belief in God, but that zeal is not supported by knowledge. Though these people believe earnestly in God, they have not accepted His new covenant, or the sending of Christ on their behalf.

There are many in the religious world today which fit the very same billing. They are very zealous in their belief that there is a God, and even in the fact that Jesus Christ died for their sins, but their zeal is misplaced because of a lack of knowledge. Sincerity and zeal are not enough to compensate for a lack of truth and understanding; all elements must be present in order for an individual to be acceptable to God.

There are also those who, though their zeal may have originally been misplaced, take hold of the opportunities afforded them to learn the truth and use that zeal in the proper manner. The preacher Apollos is an ideal example of such. He is zealously proclaiming the baptism of John when one first reads of him in Acts 18:24-26. When Aquila and Priscilla hear his preaching they take him aside, study with him, and he begins to preach Christ. He then uses that same zeal to proclaim Christ throughout the regions around him. Zeal may originally be misplaced it can be refocused in the right direction.

What about the Christian’s zeal? It is unfortunate to see many in the Lord’s Church today who do not have a zeal for God and His Word. It seems as though the things they do of a spiritual nature are done simply out of routine and responsibility rather than fervent desire. This was the problem for the church in Ephesus, for they were doing the right things, but had left their first love (Rev. 2:1-7). But such does not have to be the case. Paul found great zeal in the church at Corinth. He wrote: “For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many” (2 Cor. 9:2). Not only did Corinth have zeal, but that zeal was contagious among those which heard of it and saw it in use.

Brethren, we must be zealous for the Lord’s Church. We must have a zeal driven by knowledge and understanding, not just of our own situation, but of the eternal destiny of many in this world if we fail to reach them. Zeal is something that can grow and prosper in every single Christian if it is not beaten back by the fears, cares, and desires of this world.

Are we a zealous people? Are we ones who are willing to be bold in presenting Christ and are thankful for who we serve? Our eternal relationship with God is predicated upon our willingness to complete his will with zeal and love: let us always fulfill that responsibility.

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The “Plague” of Singing

The beauty of singing as a means of praise to God is something that truly cannot be paralleled by any of man’s inventions. Beyond the fact of its commandment by God and his statements that this is what he wants to hear, there are few things that can bring the wonderful sentiments of God’s graciousness and glory to bear like singing.

Unfortunately, we seem to have a plague among the congregations of the Lord’s body in American society today. It seems that many congregations are filled with individuals who are afraid to sing out or unwilling to sing at all. These individuals, many times, do not understand the situation in which they place themselves with their actions.

Singing is a command of God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). As such, when we fail to fulfill that command we are sinning because sin, by definition, is violating God’s laws and commands (I John 3:4). We must take very seriously the things stated in Scripture concerning this topic. They are not suggestions, but are commands that must be upheld.

When one does not sing as God has commanded, there are a couple of things that individual cannot complete as commanded. That individual cannot fulfill the command to make melody in/with their heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19). There is a direct correlation made between “singing” and “making melody in/with the heart.” The degree to which we sing is the degree to which the melody of the heart is made to the Lord. It is the instrument by which the joy of the heart is placed before God. When one refuses to sing, or to sing so as to be heard, they are refusing to use the melody of the heart and thus show an unwillingness to present a heart of gladness to God. It is therefore difficult to understand how some of these individuals can bellow songs from the radio throughout the week or sing in many other places and on many other occasions, but become eerily void of determinable sound in the assembly. Friends, such things should not be so.

A second abstention when one does not sing, or does not sing audibly enough to be heard, is that they willfully refuse to teach through song as they are commanded. Colossians 3:16 commands us to teach and admonish one another through the songs that we sing. These songs are to be mutually beneficial to all who are present. The unwillingness to fulfill this command is just as detrimental to one’s soul as the unwillingness to tell others about Christ. It demonstrates what borders on a fear of teaching others about the one who died that we might live. Yet, there have been individuals who will talk to friends right and left about Biblical matters and teach the truth in Bible classes, but will not sing and fulfill their responsibilities to teach in that manner. Such conduct is inconsistent at best.

There are various explanations given as to why people don’t sing, or aren’t audible in the assembly; whether it be the argument that they “cannot carry a tune in a bucket,” or they can’t read music, or one of the other myriad excuses conjured by the withholder. God will not excuse those who are physically capable, but spiritually unwilling to fulfill his commands.

The Psalmist proclaims, “Sing aloud unto God our strength, make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob” (Psa. 81:1). Though the commandments of the Old Law (such as the use of instrumental music) cannot serve as authority for us today; the attitudes referenced for their worship should be present in ours as well. They are told to make a “joyful noise,” not a melodically perfect noise. It seems that many times we are more concerned with how our singing sounds to our own ears than how it sounds to God. Yet it is the melody of the heart demonstrated through our singing that is important to him. Maybe we do place too much emphasis on the sound of “four part harmony” in our services. The emphasis must be on the attitude, the words, and the action, not on the perceived effect of the output.

Let us therefore look at our singing, not as a plague, but as a privilege. Not as a chore that we must do, but as a cherished part of our worship that we can do. Above all, let us worship God as he commanded, with praise, honor, and glory to his name.

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Think on These Things

As Paul concludes the letter to the Philippians he exhorts them to “Rejoice in the Lord alway,” (Phi. 4:4). In order to do that, an individual must first set his mind so as to have the proper outlook, allowing one to rejoice in any situation. Because of that, Paul will give these brethren a list of things they need to think on (Phi. 4:8).

The word translated “think” comes from a word which means “to reckon, weigh the reasons, deliberate,” (Thayer). Therefore, Paul calls upon the Philippians to reckon on and weigh the following things.

Whatsoever things are true. These are things which are proven to be true. They are not assumptions, suppositions, or wishes; instead, they are facts based upon evidence. More problems and sins have entered the body of Christ because people have stopped contemplating truth and instead followed their own suppositions than from any other cause. If we are to continue to be able to rejoice in the Lord we must continue to think on things of truth.

Whatsoever things are honest. More literally Paul is emphasizing the need to think on the things that are honorable. There are people who seem to spend all of their time focusing on people and actions that are disreputable instead of those things which are honorable. We should not be concerned with all the celebrity gossip and worrying about all the bad things that others are doing, but instead should be focused on those things which are right and honorable in the sight of God.

Whatsoever things are just. Christians have an obligation to be constantly concerned with what is right and just. It requires time and effort to find the answers to problems and situations which arise, but the Christian must be willing to search God’s Word to find the just response.

Whatsoever things are pure. This point goes hand in hand with that of being honorable. Those things that are pure are the things without flaw or blemish. We are not to be those who have the attitude of seeking to see how close to the line we can get without crossing over. Instead, the Christian must continue to look at things from the perspective of purity.

Whatsoever things are lovely. This term literally means those things which are “acceptable, pleasing,” (Thayer). Therefore, we are to think on those things which are acceptable and pleasing. Some might try to contort this to say if it feels good, do it. However, if one’s mindset is already placed upon the previous four statements, it will be readily understood that those things which are acceptable and pleasing will come from God’s Word.

Whatsoever things are of good report. These are things which sound good, are well reported, and attractive. It is often the case that people will do things with one group of people, or by themselves, that they would not do with another group because it would be perceived as wrong or unwise. Our endeavors should be to think, talk, and act upon things that are above reproach. If we are doing things before others we would not do before Christians, we need to begin thinking on things of good report.

If we are to be people who are found virtuous before God and ones who praise Him both in word and deed, these things must be the focus of our lives. If we “think on these things” we will be able to lead lives that are above reproach. Such a life will be rich in spiritual blessings and fulfilling in our work both toward God and man. It is taking thought of these things that will finally and truly allow us to “rejoice in the Lord always.”

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The Role of Submission in Righteousness

We live in a culture that devalues, on a daily basis, the idea of submission. The word “submit” is defined as, “to give over or yield to the power or authority of another” (Webster). The humanistic mentality of “do whatever feels good to you,” has so integrated itself into our society that submission is now considered a bad word in many ideological circles. This has been especially true within the realm of American “religion.” The approach of most of the religious community is to find something you like, regardless of what is taught or practiced, and stay there until you are in the mood for something else. There is no hint of a necessity to submit to anyone or anything; it is completely self serving.

However, the Bible paints a very different picture of the attributes one must incorporate to be pleasing to God. There is great emphasis placed upon the need for one to submit before they can be acceptable to the Creator. Consider the words of Paul when he wrote to the Romans: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God forIsraelis, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:1-3). Paul indicates that the people ofIsraelas a whole had not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. It is equally evident that submission has a role in man’s response to God if he is to be deemed acceptable. Consider two factors evidenced from this passage concerning submission.

Submission requires knowledge. Submission is an intentional act and cannot be given accidently or passively. Therefore, in order for one to be able to submit, that individual must first have knowledge of that to which they are submitting. Paul reveals that the Israelites of his day were “ignorant of God’s righteousness,” (Rom. 10:3). Their lack of knowledge and understanding concerning the New Covenant had hindered their ability to submit themselves to God. Instead, they established their own values of righteousness which did not match those he had given.

Unfortunately, many in the religious world today are guilty of the same error. They have not taken the time to truly study and meditate upon the Word of God. As a result, instead of submitting themselves to the will of God, they have created their own will and made themselves subservient to their own creations and philosophies. This being the case, the only way man can get to where he should be is to come to a knowledge and understanding of the truth and submit himself to it.

Man cannot be pleasing to God without submission. In our society, we loathe any individual who feels he has authority over us. That individual is usually beaten aback with such phrases as, “you can’t tell me what to do!” This attitude pervades the religious world today to such a degree that it is easy to see why there are so many “religious” bodies.

However, if we desire to be found righteous, there is only one way it can be accomplished: through submission. If we are not willing to submit ourselves to God we will not be of the mind-set that will allow us to follow through with all He has commanded. James wrote, “Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God… Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you… Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (Jam.4:6-8, 10). Our relationship with God is dependant upon our willingness to humble ourselves through submission to His will.

The role of submission in righteousness is of the utmost importance. It must be based upon knowledge of what God requires and a conscious focus upon acquiescence to His commandments, whatever they may be.

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Gossip

The topic of gossip is one that is often minimized in Biblical discussion even though we see it all around us. It is often portrayed as something funny or harmless, and the understanding of why the Bible speaks against it is lacking. So what is gossip?

Webster defines “gossip” as, “One who runs from house to house tattling and telling news; a talebearer; an idle talker.” The word “gossip” is not used in the King James Version of the Scriptures, because the word was not in circulation with this meaning until the 20th century. The word that is equivalent to it in the Scriptures is that of “talebearer” or “tattler.” Notice how these words are used in Scripture.

One who is a gossip loves to tell stories about other people, but beyond that, they love to tell stories that are harmful to another person. A gossip is one who is more than happy to reveal secrets from someone who has confided in them (Pro. 20:19). A gossip is one who is trying to stir up trouble against another person by revealing something damaging or embarrassing (Pro. 26:20). A gossip is one who tries to wound another by talking about them behind their back, hurting their reputation with others (Pro. 26:22). Paul argues that such actions often come from those who are idle and have nothing else to do but talk about someone else (1 Tim. 5:13).

Gossip, though commonly practiced and regularly found both inside and outside the church, is never regarded as a positive trait by God. In fact, it can stand between an individual and the salvation that person desires to receive. Therefore, one must very seriously consider the question, “Am I a gossiper?”  Look at some things that gossip is and is not.

Gossip is not… information intended to assist an individual in decision-making. If a congregation were looking at hiring a preacher, and one of the elders called the congregation where he had been preaching to ask about the man’s character, work ethic, and so on; it is not gossip for the congregation to impart their experience and what they have seen of that man’s work. They are giving information intended to help another congregation and are giving (if they are righteous) an honest report on the individual in question.

Gossip is not… letting someone know another needs help. Again the intent is not to injure the person’s reputation or influence, but rather to help, encourage, and strengthen that individual in time of trial. A gossip would simply tell all they knew without the desire to help. One seeking to assist another would give the amount of information necessary for help without trying to diminish the individual in question. However, if the assistance would pertain to something the informer has been asked to keep secret, there should first be permission given for that information to be revealed.

Gossip is… a statement made with the intent to injure or damage the reputation of another. It is not intended to be helpful or to give assistance but, instead, its purpose is to lessen that individual in the sight of others. Oftentimes such a statement will begin with a phrase akin to, “I don’t want to speak badly about someone, but…” Such statements are almost always an introduction to gossip. Another phrase often used to introduce gossip is the old line, “You didn’t hear it from me, but I heard…”

Gossip is… giving information intended to be private for others to hear and know. When you promise to keep something in confidence, you have made a promise that should not be easily broken. Certainly there are times when the necessity of revealing something given in confidence is present because of the actions of the one who was the source of the information. But the majority of the time, things expressed in confidence is not a matter of life and death, nor is it something that affects others to the degree that revelation is necessary. We must be very careful with the promises we make. Do not promise something that you do not intend to keep, and if you do, recognize the wrongful dissemination of such knowledge is nothing short of gossip and sin.

Gossip can be… performed by men or women. It is not relegated to one sex or one portion of society, one side is just as guilty as the other. Gossip can also involve truth or lies. An individual can tell the truth and it is gossip, depending on the means and motive by which it is given. Often it is thought that gossip only involves lies; though those are often present, gossip can just as easily be delivered with truth.

We need to be ever concerned with the prevalence of gossip. If someone begins gossiping about another, walk away or ask to change the subject. On many occasions one may be gossiping without knowing that is their action. In such instances we must show our love for that person by kindly pointing out their error.

This is an action that can cost someone their soul. Consider the words of James, “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (Jam. 3:9-12). We must work diligently to ensure we do not become guilty of gossip.

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