As I was internally grumbling this week about the cold air and things like frozen water pipes, the Lord reminded me to the thankful always – which led to this rather pointed clipping abot ingraditute. Take a minute and let it encourage or admonish you.
Andrew Carnegie, the multimillionaire, left $1 million for one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie thoroughly because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut him off with just one measly million.
Samuel Leibowitz, criminal lawyer and judge, saved 78 men from the electric chair. Not one ever did bother to thank him.
Many years ago, as the story is told, a devout king was disturbed by the ingratitude of his royal court. He prepared a large banquet for them. When the king and his royal guests were seated, by prearrangement, a beggar shuffled into the hall, sat down at the king’s table, and gorged himself with food. Without saying a word, he then left the room. The guests were furious and asked permission to seize the tramp and tear him limb from limb for his ingratitude. The king replied, “That beggar has done only once to an earthly king what each of you does three times each day to God. You sit there at the table and eat until you area satisfied. Then you walk away without recognizing God, or expressing one word of thanks to Him.”
Ingratitude denotes spiritual immaturity. Infants do not always appreciate what parents do for them. They have short memories. Their concern is not what you did for me yesterday, but what are you doing for me today. The past is meaningless and so is the future. They live for the present. Those who are mature are deeply appreciative of those who labored in the past. They recognize those who labor during the present and provide for those who will be laboring in the future.
You can see them alongside the shuffleboard courts in Florida or on the porches of the old folks’ homes up north: an old man with snow-white hair, a little hard of hearing, reading the newspaper through a magnifying glass; an old woman in a shapeless dress, her knuckles gnarled by arthritis, wearing sandals to ease her aching arches. They are holding hands, and in a little while they will totter off to take a nap, and then she will cook supper, not a very good supper and they will watch television, each knowing exactly what the other is thinking, until it is time for bed. They may even have a good, soul-stirring argument, just to prove that they still really care. And through the night they will snore unabashedly, each resting content because the other is there. They are in love, they have always been in love, although sometimes they would have denied it. And because they have been in love they have survived everything that life could throw at them, even their own failures.
Ernest Havemann, Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, pp. 7-9.
I thought that hit harder, than most anything I could write! Keep loving each other 24/7/365.
John’s emphasis in 1 John 4:1-6 (last Sunday’s preaching text) is on spiritual discernment of false teaching. However, because we live in the age of the published New Testament and benefit from other New Testament writings (eg. 2 Timothy 3:14-17), I also mentioned making sure our children are prepared to face false teachers (antichrists) in the world. A “late” text question came in asking, “If we wanted to do apologetics with our teens at home, where would we start?”
First, let me say, THANK YOU for asking!
Second, apologetics is no substitute for devotion. John’s argument is abide (be so in love with Jesus) that you’ll instinctively know falsehood and be repulsed by it (I can testify that this really happens, and I’m not the least bit pentecostal!)
Finally, I’ll give you some resources. Generally the older the publication date, the harder your teen will have to work for understanding (something I think is a benefit but something that has to be balanced against potential loss of interest).
C.S. Lewis wrote eight books that all help with both common and esoteric arguments against God: Mere Christianity; The Screwtape Letters; The Great Divorce; The Problem of Pain; Miracles; A Grief Observed; Abolition of Man; and, The Four Loves (adapted from talks he gave in the 1940s).
Paul Little’s Know Why You Believe was my go-to as a young Bible teacher. I think he wrote in the 1960s. Intervarsity is now selling his work in a four-book set.
Norm Geisler wrote a number of books on apologetics; my favorite is I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.
Lee Strobel wrote The Case for Christ and followed it up with a whole series of books, all really good and well researched. Lee was a journalist turned pastor and wrote very clearly. I highly recommend this series for your plainly spoken students.
For those who prefer video, you might look to Creation.com. I have a video, for instance, by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati entitled, “Leaving your brains at the church door? The power of logic in defending your faith.”
This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it gets you started. If nothing jumps out at you, look up Lee’s books. They’re mass marketed, so they’ve been repackaged for all ages; they have study guides and I’ve even heard of some video projects. Keep at it and keep talking about Jesus when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges 21:25 (NIV)I’ll never forget the morning I was walking with a friend, and we passed two huge trees that had fallen during a storm. I was sad to see these trees that once stood so tall being cut apart and hauled away. Stopping, I asked the men clearing the trees why those two in particular hadn’t been able to withstand the storm.
An older man who’d been working with trees his whole life explained that the first tree had incredibly shallow roots for such a big tree. Its roots had grown used to getting surface water from the sprinkler system. As a result, the roots didn’t dig down deep to get water from below. Shallow roots can keep a big tree alive but not stable during storms.
The second tree looked big and strong on the outside, but inside was hollow. At some point, an ant had found a weak spot in the tree and started chewing a tiny little tunnel into the tree’s center. Soon other ants found their way in as well. Then water got in the opening and softened the wood. Over time, the tree rotted away internally.
These scenarios with the trees make me think of the condition of God’s people at the end of the book of Judges. The final words of this book provide such a heartbreaking reality check even for us today: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25). Sadly, the patterns of sin and destruction that felt “right” to them were completely outside what God called right and good.
This is where we discover three things that happen when we follow our opinions and feelings (what’s right in our own eyes) rather than the absolute Truth of God:
1.We mistake opinions as truth. Just like the tree with shallow roots, if we aren’t digging in deep to seek the source of living water for ourselves, we won’t have the grounding necessary to stand strong when the world’s ways try to pull us down. We must seek and apply God’s Truth every day, so we aren’t easily swayed by opinions that aren’t in line with God’s Truth. Shallow seeking will lead to shallow believing — that dangerous place where we will fall for whatever opinions make us comfortable and make our lives more convenient.
2. We make feelings our false Holy Spirit. This is like the big tree that was taken down by some small ants. The little ants are like desires that lead to eventual death: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15, NIV). When we care more about what feels right than what is right, we open ourselves up to the destruction of sin. Feelings are wonderful indicators that remind us to turn to God and let Him direct our desires with His best provisions. But feelings should never be dictators to get our unmet longings and desires fulfilled however we see fit.
3. We will fall when we try to carry the crushing weight of being our own god. What happens when the king is absent? There is chaos. The book of Judges shows us this reality one story after another, one judge after another. The people are without leadership and direction, and the result is absolute chaos. It makes me think how different the fate of the trees could have been if the tree man had been on the scene years before to help them grow big and strong instead of shallow and susceptible.
We need rescue. We need a king. But not just any king; we need the righteous ruler who will right all wrongs, direct and protect us and redeem and restore all things. We need King Jesus — the perfect Savior who humbled Himself to take on human form and subjected Himself to the cross for the atonement of sin.
We aren’t kingless, like the people in the time of the judges. We have the assurance of knowing our eternal King. We have absolute Truth. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we have perspective from reading in His Word how dangerous it is when people just do what is right in their own eyes. Let’s not be people ruled by our feelings. Shallow and susceptible people who merely look confident and capable on the outside. Let’s trust our King. Let’s follow our King. Let’s live by the Truth of His Word and become a people with true strength residing within.
On December 5, 1996 Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve gave a speech that sent the markets around the world tumbling. In ten sentences he destroyed investor confidence and time zone by time zone, the markets dropped significantly because of a single word: “bubble”. In his speech, he said the market had been overheated by speculation and that current values were too high.
I know that, not because I’m an expert in the history of the financial markets, but because an investment house is recycling the “bubble” concept to try to get those of us over 45 to start thinking about buying gold. Without coming right out and saying it, the implication is that the era of John Smith, laissez-faire, and free market economies is over and once the big investors finally realize that – the bubble is going to POP!
The reason this struck me as so funny is that I got another ad, from another investment house on the same day, proclaiming the glories of the market under the new administration, who intend to model the economy more in line with John Maynard Keynes thinking, which would of course, cause the markets to expand!
A prudent investor doesn’t have all of his eggs in one basket. If I’m wise I should be able to withstand either an expansion or a contraction. However, if I’m “abiding” in addition to being the best steward I know how to be, I’m also looking beyond the bubble! Like Paul, I hope to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
It’s not wrong to be aware of politics and markets, it’s wrong to allow our hope to rest in them.
“Do not despise us, for Your own name’s sake;
Do not disgrace the throne of Your glory;
Remember and do not annul Your covenant with us.
Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain?
Or can the heavens grant showers?
Is it not You, O Lord our God?
Therefore we hope in You,
For You are the one who has done all these things.”
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.”
When I was young(er) we used to wait for the Maranatha Singers to put out their new album every year. It essentially gave us our praise and worship music for that year. One song that has especially stuck in my head all these years is taken from just two verses in David’s psalm of repentance – Psalm 51. The focus is on his need for God to restore – to change – his heart.
Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord
Take not Thy holy spirit from me*
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me
I was attending Arizona State at the time and often felt the need for God to cleanse me just on principle – I, after all, was walking around in a sewer. I’ve seen, as time goes by however, that God made us to also stay cleansed by how we walk. And sometimes to even change our hearts by first changing our actions. For example, in those same college years (81-85) only race car drivers wore seat belts. Laws changed our behaviors, which changed our minds (emotions). Some of my professors still smoked while standing in front of a lecture hall and we know what‘s become of public smoking. But here’s a better one:
Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I don’t only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.” Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.” With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” And she did it with enthusiasm; acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn’t return, Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?” “Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise –but more in often repeated deeds.
My point is, if there is something in your life (eg: Bible reading and prayer; attending a mid-week study; exercise; calling on a neighbor) that you don’t “feel” like doing but you know you ought to, don’t wait for your heart to change – just do it.
P.S. There was a question that came into the text line right after dismissal (sorry texter) it had to do with the verse in 1 John 5 that I used to clarify a point in 1 John 3. Because it was so specific to 1 John 5, I’m going to ask the texter to indulge me and see if I answer the question when we get there in the preaching.
·This line is not applicable post Pentecost, but is in David’s psalm –I always “watermelon-ed” it.
Because of a Christian Journal for which I pay; I receive dozens for free. I can’t read them all but I do read some; typically because a title or tagline catches my eye; this one did. I am not really sure why. Maybe God wanted you to read it too. Blessings,
Dead Stumps Grow Back and Thrive, and so Can You TRACIE MILES
“There is hope for a tree that has been cut down; it can come back to life and sprout.” Job 14:7 (GNT)
They all started out in little 10-inch pots, but after 23 years, each had grown 15 feet tall with a 6-foot circumference. These four massive holly trees were now overtaking the front of my house, even blocking my kitchen window.
I finally took the plunge and hired someone to cut them all down, but didn’t realize they would leave the tree stumps in the ground. My uninformed-self just assumed I could cover them with pine needles and forget about them. Which I did. Until a few months later when little twigs and sprouts started poking up between the mounds of needles on all four stumps.
After a little research, I discovered that unless you kill the root of the tree by treating the stump, rain and sunshine will bring life back to it, and the tree can begin growing again. It suddenly struck me how my life was similar to those stumps.
After my husband of 25 years abruptly left our marriage and our family, I felt just like one of those stumps — chopped down as low as I could go and feeling like life was over. Discarded and damaged. Covered up by darkness and despair, wondering why God had allowed these painful circumstances in my life. Heartbroken, scared and uncertain of the future, all because — in one unforgettable day — my entire life was turned upside down and forever changed.
In Scripture, we read Job’s story and can wonder if he felt the exact same way. He was a wealthy man who had everything, and life was good. Until it wasn’t.
Job lost his 10 children, livestock, servants and health. Although he was once like a massive tree full of life, in the course of one unforgettable day, he had been rendered nothing short of an old, dead stump.
Yet, despite Satan’s temptations to bring him down, these losses brought Job down to his knees before God instead. Rather than turning against God as his friends and wife told him to do, he turned toward God, clinging to a hope that seemed impossible in his circumstances.
Job was only human, and we read in Scripture how devastated and upset he was, even cursing the day he was born. His pain, thoughts and emotions ran deep. But he still kept his faith, and eventually, in today’s key verse, we see where he began to speak words of hope, believing that with God by his side, he could endure these tragic circumstances and grow and thrive again: “There is hope for a tree that has been cut down; it can come back to life and sprout” (Job 14:7). Job believed that despite the fact he had lost everything, God was still God, and he would survive.
Life circumstances can feel so hard, unrelenting and devastating. Whether it’s divorce, health issues, financial struggles, loss of a loved one, unemployment or some other personal difficulty, we often can’t help but question why God allows us to suffer. We can’t understand why He takes away the very things we treasured most.
Maybe you’re feeling like an old, dead stump, wondering if you can ever sprout twigs of life and happiness again, feeling hopeless and fearful about the future.
Yet, just like Job, we can decide to believe that despite our pain, God is still a good God and let our faith serve as hydration for our spirits and sunshine for our souls so growth and new life can begin again.
Over time, God restored Job’s health, gave him new children, provided him with twice the property he had lost and offered him a long, happy life. God has also brought about great restoration in my own life, and hanging on to hope is what has carried me through the last few years.
That same hope is yours for the taking.
Dear Jesus, my soul is tired. So many difficult circumstances have brought me down. Please fill me with the peace of knowing You see me and are still in control, and equip me to hang on to hope in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 15:13, “May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (GNT)
Psalm 39:7, “And so, LORD, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” (NLT)
Last Sunday, I preached a New Year’s message (or a goodbye-to-the-old-year message) from Ephesians 5:15-17. (Watch your step; Redeem the time; Seek to do God’s will everyday); simple enough; but I was also delving into some of the darker issues of the day that have many of us feeling as if the time is getting short. I read 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 wherein Paul clears up similar apprehensions, and after the service I entertained an interesting question.
“If John’s Revelation was written (happened) long after Paul had died, how did Paul know about ‘the man of lawlessness’ etc?” I thought maybe this questioner wasn’t the only one who was curious:
I call it the “Gap Theory” of Paul’s Post-Cross Education. Remember Saul (Paul ) was a young Pharisee well on the road to becoming a leader, he was a student of Gamilel, who we meet in Acts 4. He held the coats of the men who stoned Stephen in Acts 7 and Acts 9 records his trip to persecute the believers in Damascus. It was on that road that the Risen Christ knocked him off his horse. The rest of his history we pieced together from the rest of Acts and the 13 epistles that God preserved. We, obviously, don’t know about every trip he made nor every conversation he had, and what I’m about to present is a deduction as much as it is a revelation. 🙂
Three key texts are involved. Paul’s earliest letter (in the canon) is his letter to the Galatians. Paul talks about the Gospel being preached to him without human intervention, but rather received directly from Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12). He also discussed spending three years in Arabia before spending 15 days with Cephas (1:18-19). I refer to this as the “gap” between Acts 9:22 & 23.
The question remains, what happened during those three years when Paul: a) met with no apostles; and, b) apparently received all sorts of revelations (Eph 3:3; 1 Cor 11:23; 1 Thess 4-5; etc).
Some scholars teach that Galatians 1:11-12 is referring exclusively to the Damascus Road encounter and that Paul spent those three years in Arabia learning from other non-apostolic disciples (followers) of Christ. That’s a nice answer but it totally discounts one other passage, 2 Corinthians 12.
I believe that as Paul was explaining to the believers in Corinth why he was so beset by physical struggles, and he also gives us the final clue as to how he knew things; like the things that were revealed to John in the Revelation. Paul uses third person because he believes it would be prideful to speak otherwise….
Boasting is necessary, though it is not beneficial; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ, who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. In behalf of such a man I will boast; but in my own behalf I will not boast, except regarding my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. Because of the extraordinary greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 2 Corinthians 12:1-7
I believe that Christ is the cornerstone of the church and apostles were the foundation, Paul being the last and being especially targeted to minister to the Gentiles needed to spend three years with Jesus, just like the other apostles did pre-cross.
These two passages are testimonies not didactic, so let’s not try to make doctrine out of them; I just think they offer a reasonable explanation. I cc’d the Galatians passage below.
Happy New Year! May we ALWAYS want to know Him and His Word more deeply!
11 For I would have you know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel which was preached by me is not of human invention. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when He who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him for fifteen days. 19 But I did not see another one of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which are in Christ; 23 but they only kept hearing, “The man who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me. ~Galatians 1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind; as He already existed in the form of God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross. For this reason, also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Perhaps you or your family read or recite Luke 2 on Christmas Eve – Might I suggest this John/Paul Hash your Pastor cooked up as a great Christmas Morning Reading!
Hope you have a very Merry, Festive & family filled – Christ centered Christmas!