Category Archives: 2016 – July/August

God’s Promises to Abraham — Jon Mitchell

There is a reason God promised that Abraham would be the “father of many nations” (Ge. 17:5).   The Hebrews came from him through his son Isaac, while Arabic Muslims regard him as their ancestor through Ishmael.  And of course, all Christians are spiritual descendants of Abraham through Christ (Gal. 3:29).  No wonder his name was changed from “Abram,” meaning “exalted father,” to “Abraham,” meaning “father of a multitude” (Ge. 17:5)!  A study of the various promises God made to this great man reveals his importance to the overall plan of salvation revealed throughout the entirety of Scripture.

For example, the Lord promised Abram that his descendants would be “a great nation” (Ge. 12:2; cf. 13:16; 17:6; 18:18).  This promise was fulfilled when Abraham’s descendants through his son Isaac and grandson Israel became a nation of great numbers during their time in Egypt (Ge.. 46:3; Ex. 1:7; Dt. 26:5), a nation which would become great and powerful under the direction of godly leaders such as Moses, Joshua, and David who directed Abraham’s descendants to faithfully serve the Lord.

Along these same lines, the Lord also commanded Abram to leave his country and family and travel to “the land that I will show you” (Ge. 12:1), the land of Canaan (12:5-6).  At that point God promised Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land” (12:7), a promise he kept centuries later starting during the days of Joshua (Josh. 21:43-45) and ending in the days of Solomon (2 Ch. 9:26; cf. 1 Ki. 8:56).  This promise was based on the condition that Abraham’s descendants remain faithfully obedient to Jehovah (Josh. 23:14-16; cf. Le. 26:14-45; Dt. 28:15-68).  Old Testament history reveals how Abraham’s descendants repeatedly fell away from the Lord and as a result repeatedly lost control of their land and were taken into foreign captivity (Judges; 1-2 Kings; 1-2 Chronicles; Jeremiah; Lamentations; etc.), with the ultimate destruction of their claim to Canaan delivered to them by God through Rome after they rejected Christ as the Messiah (Mt. 21:33-46; 23:29-39; 24:1-34; Mk 13:1-30; Lk 19:41-44; 21:5-32; 23:27-31).  After the abominations visited upon them by Rome in the latter part of the first century AD, Abraham’s descendants through Israel could never again lay complete claim to the land possessed by their ancestors.  Even today, after the United Nations worked to reunite Jews with the land known in biblical times as “the Promised Land” in an effort to help them recover from the horrors visited upon them during the Holocaust of World War II, Abraham’s descendants through Israel daily fight numerous enemies from the nations surrounding them in order to hold on to just a small fraction of the land originally promised by God.  Since the days of the Truman administration, many in this country and elsewhere believe that the United States and other allies of Israel should help her retake Canaan’s land primarily because it is the will of God.  However, political pundits and commentators who claim that Israel currently has a divine right to the land directly east of the Mediterranean overlook the fact that God’s promise to Abraham was conditioned upon his descendants continued loyal obedience to him, a condition which they failed to keep (Je. 31:32).

Abram and his wife Sarai, or Sarah as she would later be named (Ge. 17:15), were childless when Scripture first introduces us to them (Ge. 11:26-30).  By promising to make of him “a great nation” (Ge. 12:2), God in effect was promising Abram “offspring” (Ge. 13:15-16).  After Jehovah declared himself to be Abram’s “shield” and promising him that his “reward shall be very great” (Ge. 15:1), Abram pointed out that he was still childless and that his current heir was his servant Eliezer of Damascus (15:2).  The Lord then promised Abram that “your very own son shall be your heir” rather than Eliezer (15:4), and then declared that his offspring would be compared to the innumerable stars of heaven (15:5).  Abram “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (15:6), a passage quoted by centuries later by Paul to prove to Judaizers that one under Christ’s covenant were not required to do the works of Moses’ law in order to be justified (Ro. 4:1-25), and quoted by James to show that a person is justified by works of obedience to the commandments of God in addition to faith (Ja. 2:20-24).

Abram’s faith in God’s promises to give him offspring was not always constant, however.  This is shown in the numerous times he dishonestly presented Sarai as his sister rather than as his wife in efforts to preserve his life from those whom he feared would take it (Ge. 12:10-20; 20:1-18).  It is sadly ironic that due to Abraham resorting to lying because of a lack of faith that God would keep him safe in order to keep his promise of granting offspring to him, the son God promised to him would eventually follow his father’s sinful example and lie about his own marital standing in order to save his life even after God made him a similar promise (Ge. 26:1-11).  May Christian parents today heed this lesson and be warned about the power of their own example and the influence it has on our children!

Abram and Sarai’s faith in God’s promise to give him offspring was shown to be weak on another occasion when Sarai convinced him to obtain a child through marriage to her servant, Hagar (Ge. 16:1-4a).  This polygamous union resulted in the conception and birth of Ishmael (16:15-16), which in turn caused considerable strife in Abraham’s family both then and in the years to come (16:4b-6; 21:8-11).  However, God was able to use their weak faith and the sin that resulted from it.  Centuries later, he would inspire Paul to use the polygamous marriages of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar and the two sons that resulted from them to allegorically illustrate the differences between the Mosaic covenant and Christ’s covenant in order to show the superiority of the latter (Ga. 4:21-31).  He also used this sinful episode to fulfill his promise to make Abraham “the father of many nations” (17:5) by causing Ishmael also to be the ancestor of a great nation (16:7-12; 21:12-21).    Yet, the strife resulting in Abram and Sarai’s lack of faith in God’s promise is felt even today as we see Isaac and Ishmael’s descendants still at war with each other.  One cannot imagine how different the world would be if Abram and Sarai’s faith had been stronger and they had decided to wait for God to fulfill his promise to them on his own time (Ps. 25:3; 27:14).

On yet another occasion, Sarah’s faith in God’s promise was shown to be lacking (Ge. 18:1-8; cf. 18:22; 19:1ff).  Even though God had already specifically promised Abraham that Sarah would bear him Isaac in their old age (17:15-19), Sarah laughed to herself when she heard the Lord repeat the promise to Abraham and wondered how she and Abraham could conceive after menopause (18:9-12).  God called her on the lack of faith shown by her laughter, even though she initially denied that she had laughed (18:13-15).  A year later, God fulfilled his promise to them in spite of her laughter and she bore Abraham a son in their old age, naming him Isaac, which means “he laughs” (21:1-7).  Interestingly, by telling Abraham to give the promised son that particular name even before the episode in which Sarah laughed (17:19), God proved that he knew of Sarah’s reaction in advance…and yet gave the promised and the blessing of children anyway.  What a testimony to his love, grace, and patience (Mt. 5:44-45)!

In spite of these lapses, Abraham and Sarah’s overall faith in the promises of God stand as an example for us today.  Their faith in God’s promises was what prompted him to obey his extremely difficult command to leave their home and family to travel to an unknown and distant land (He. 11:8-9; cf. Ge. 12:1-5).  Sarah’s faith in God’s promises, even though proven to be weak on at least two occasions as we’ve seen, was still the reason the Lord kept his promise to her (He. 11:11-12).  As a result, she is the spiritual “mother” of Christian women who follow her example of respectful, pure, modest, quiet conduct today (1 Pe. 3:1-6).  Likewise, Abraham’s faith in God’s promise of numerous offspring gave him the strength to obey the extremely burdensome command God gave to test his faith when he told him to sacrifice Isaac (He. 11:17; cf. Ge. 22:1-12).  His faith in God’s promises was so strong that he considered that God would resurrect Isaac  in order to keep his promise to him (He. 11:18).  Thus, his faith exemplifies what true obedience to God is all about (Ja. 2:14-26).  The times when their faith was weak also serve as a warning for us to be watchful when we think we are strong (1 Co. 10:11-12).

Undoubtedly the most significant and important promise God made to Abraham is found in the statement, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Ge. 22:18; cf. 26:4; 28:14; 12:3).  Peter pronounced this prophecy fulfilled in Jesus (Ac. 3:17-26; cf. Dt. 18:15-19).  Later, Judaizing Christians who believed salvation to be dependent upon adherence to the laws of Moses sought to limit this promise to those who were either physical descendants of Abraham or to Gentile Christians who were circumcised and kept the Mosaic commandments (cf. Ac. 15:1ff).  This prompted Paul to address the issue in his letter to the Galatians by first stating those who have faith are “sons of Abraham” (Ga. 3:7), i.e., his true descendants.  God’s promise to Abraham that in him “all the nations” would be blessed was fulfilled when God justified the Gentiles by faith, proving that in a sense Abraham had had the gospel preached to him centuries earlier (Ga. 3:8; cf. Ge. 12:3) and that under the Christian covenant Jew or Gentile who believe in God as Abraham did are blessed just as he was (Ga. 3:9; cf. Jn. 8:39; Ro. 4:11-12; He. 11:8-10).  Those Jews who tried to be justified by Mosaic Law (Ro. 9:31-10:13) would be “under a curse” (Ga. 3:10; cf. Dt. 27:26; Je. 11:3; Ez. 18:4; Ro. 3:10-19).  They would not find justification through works of the Mosaic economy which required perfect obedience, but rather through faith as the Old Covenant itself foretold (Ga. 3:11-12; cf. Hb. 2:4; Le. 18:5).  Paul went on to clarify that true sons of Abraham would have faith specifically in Christ by pointing out how Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” via his crucifixion (Ga. 3:13; cf. Dt. 21:23; 1 Pe. 2:24; Ti. 2:14; Ep. 1:7).  Therefore, it would be only “in Christ Jesus” that “the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles” in order for them to “receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Ga. 3:14; cf. Ge. 12:3; Jn. 7:37-39; Ga. 3:2; Ac. 2:38-39).  This is why Paul would specify how the promises God had made to Abraham did not say “‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (Ga. 3:16; cf. Ge. 12:7).

Paul later taught that the true heirs of Abraham are those who have become sons of God through faith in Christ (Ga. 3:26; cf. Jn. 1:12; Ro. 10:9).  This happened when they put on Christ via baptism into him (Ga. 3:27; cf. Ro. 6:3-8).  This is why Christians “are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Ga. 3:29).  May we preach God’s promise to Abraham to others so they may become heirs as well (Mk. 16:15-16) and receive forgiveness and eternal life!

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

 

“We Have Re-Studied The Issue” — Hugh Fulford

From the very beginning of the effort to restore original New Testament Christianity, churches of Christ have stood opposed to the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship.  This is the case because the churches of Christ in New Testament times did not use instrumental music in their worship.  There is no passage in the New Testament that authorizes the use of instruments in worship, and there is no example of instrumental music being used by the early congregations. The music of the church for the first several centuries after its establishment was strictly a cappella (vocal only).  (See Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 13:15; et al).

It is generally recognized that Pope Vitalian (657-672) was the first to introduce the use of instrumental music in worship in about 670. However, many church historians now think that it was not until the tenth century that instrumental music began to be used.  Either date puts it well this side of the New Testament.

When the Protestant Reformation was launched, several of the reformers opposed the use of instruments in worship.  When the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist denominations began, they all opposed the use of instrumental music in worship, and did so for several years after their beginning. (For example, Charles H. Spurgeon, arguably the greatest Baptist preacher to ever live, and who preached to thousands every Sunday at the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London for thirty-eight years, never permitted a mechanical instrument to be used in his services.)  We see therefore that churches of Christ have not always been alone in their opposition to instrumental music in worship!

Thus, it comes as a shock to read of some churches of Christ beginning to adopt the use of instrumental music in some of their worship assemblies.  The elders of these churches, in collaboration with their minister (and often at his instigation), have allegedly “re-studied” the issue and have decided that instrumental music is permissible.  It is interesting to note that so far, to the best of my knowledge, no congregation that has “re-studied” the matter has reached the conclusion that the congregation had been right all along in not using the instrument!  Rather, because of a clamor from the younger members to adopt the instrument and because of the delusion that its adoption would enable them to hold on to their young people and reach others, the conclusion of the “re-study” seems to have been reached before the re-study was ever done!  The decision had already been made before the “re-study” was ever done: “We plan to begin using the instrument in some of our worship assemblies.” How is that for intellectual honesty?

The study and re-study of Bible subjects is always in order.  We are to “study to show [ourselves] approved unto God” (2 Ti. 2:15, KJV).  The word “study” in this context does not refer so much to reading, analyzing, and determining the meaning of a text, as it means to give thought to, to be diligent, and to make an earnest effort to be approved of God (see NKJV, ASV, NASB, et al).  However, no one can be approved of God who does not study God’s word and does not come to an understanding of His will.  Like the Bereans, we are to search/examine the Scriptures daily to determine the things that are so (Ac. 17:11), because not everything taught, believed, and practiced in the realm of religion is “so” (cf. 1 Th. 5:21; 1 Jn. 4:1).  We are to “not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ep. 5:17).  We are to be ready always to give an answer/defense to everyone who asks us for a reason for the hope within us (I Pe. 3:15). In other words, we are to know (based on the Scriptures) WHAT we believe and WHY we believe it!

But God’s word does not change and truth does not change.  The New Testament still says what it has always said about worship that is acceptable to God (Jn. 4:24; 17:17; Ac. 2:42; 20:7; Ep. 5:19; 1 Co. 16:1-2).  It needs to be duly noted that not all worship is pleasing and acceptable to God.  There is such a thing as “vain worship” (Mt. 15:8-9), “ignorant worship” (Ac. 17:23), and “will worship” (Co. 2:23[KJV, ASV]).  Those who have “re-studied” the question of instrumental music in worship have not produced a passage from the New Testament that authorizes the instrument in the worship of the church.  They have not produced an example from the New Testament of any congregation in apostolic times that used instrumental music in its worship.

Along with a re-study of the matter of the kind of music that is acceptable to God in the Christian age, I would urge elders, preachers, and all members of the body of Christ to re-study what the Bible says about the necessity of having Bible authority for all that we do in religion.  I would urge them to re-study how the Scriptures authorize a thing as being pleasing and acceptable to God.  The authority in religion is not what I like or do not like, what I agree with or do not agree with, what I see or do not see anything wrong with, what my parents or grandparents believed about a matter, what “my church” has always taught about a matter, or what some creed, catechism, or church manual says about a matter.

Re-studied the matter?  Indeed, I hope so . . . not just the matter of what is pleasing to God in worship, but what the Scriptures teach on a whole host of subjects.  One just might discover that the Bible does not teach what one has always been told or what one has always believed or what one has always thought or how one has always “felt” about any number of matters.

huford@comcast.net

 

 

Achieving Excellence In Our Christian Walk — Robert Alexander

The Christian life can be summed up with just one word: walk. The term “walk” as found throughout the New Testament referring to the Christian denotes specific conduct. When an individual obeys the gospel he or she is raised from the watery grave of baptism to “walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6:4). The life of a Christian is to be as becoming of one who is in Christ Jesus (Co. 1:10; 2:6). Because we are in Christ Jesus, we are to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus (2 Pe. 3:18).

The Christian “walk” is all about progression. It is all about not being satisfied with the “status quo” but going on toward perfection or spiritual maturity (He. 6:1). It is a life that is about becoming more like Christ every single day (Ro. 8:29; 12:2). The Christian’s life should be all about excellence, that is, it should be the best it can be. The mindset of the Christian should be: “How can I be better spiritually tomorrow, than I am today?” It should be a life that is never satisfied spiritually.

Unfortunately, there are Christians who are willing to accept the “status quo”, who believe that all they have to do is not engage in sinful behavior. These individuals don’t want to pray or study. They don’t want to work for the Lord. They don’t want to grow; they have settled for mediocrity and as such they possess a mediocre faith as a result of apathy and lethargy.

Why should we strive for excellence in our walk as Christians? Joe Theisman played quarterback for the Washington Redskins for twelve years and led the team to two Super Bowls, winning one and losing the other. After retiring from football, Theismann reflected on his final years in the NFL when he learned a hard lesson. Theismann,, in an interview with Readers Digest, (January 1992) said:

“I got stagnant, I thought the team revolved around me. I should have known it was time to go when I didn’t care whether a pass hit Art Monk in the 8 or the 1 on his uniform. When we went back to the Super Bowl, my approach had changed. I was griping about the weather, my shoes, practice times, everything. Today I wear my two rings—the winner’s ring from Super Bowl 17 and the loser’s ring from Super Bowl 18. The difference in those two rings lies in applying oneself and not accepting anything but the best.”

Excellence is the difference between winning and losing. Theismann believed his team lost because he did not fully apply himself to his craft because he was willing to accept good instead of greatness, mediocrity instead of excellence.

Excellence is the difference between an eternity in heaven or an eternity in hell. As Christians, if we don’t pursue excellence, we will not be able to finish our course (2 Ti. 4:7) because we will not be progressing in our course, our walk as Christians. We will not be able to finish the race set before us (He. 12:2) if we are not progressing. If we do not finish, we will not win the crown of life. If we do not win, then we will lose in eternity (Re. 21:8).

How then can we achieve excellence in our Christian walk? Let us consider briefly five things that will enable us to achieve excellence.

First, we must pursue righteousness. Sin is unrighteousness (1 Jn. 5:17) and it is diametrically opposed to God because He is righteous. When we obeyed the gospel, which reveals the righteousness of God (Ro. 1:17), we were accepted by God, who accepts all who work righteousness (i.e., do His will) (Ac. 10:34,35; Ja. 1:22,23; Lk. 6:46; Mt. 7:21-27). However, it is not enough to be made righteous in the sight of God; we must remain righteous. Righteousness, in its simplest definition, is “right doing” and it is the state or quality of being right. In a world of wrong doing, as Christians, we must be actively involved in right doing. If we are going to achieve excellence in our walk as a Christian we must make righteousness a continual practice in our lives and we do such by making it our life’s pursuit.

Second, we must prioritize righteousness. If we truly are making righteousness a priority in our lives we must seek it (which ties in with our previous point). Christ said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness….” (Mt. 6:33). To seek after is to search for something in order to find it. What is it that we are seeking after? Righteousness. When should it be sought? First. Righteousness should be at the forefront of our minds as Christians at all times. If it is at the forefront of our minds, it will be manifested in our lives; and if it is manifested in our lives, then our lives will be lived in such a way that we will not grow complacent or stagnant in our walk as Christians. We will be growing and improving spiritually day by day while we live here on earth. We will not fall into the pit of mediocrity.

Third, if righteousness is truly our priority, we will crave it. Christ said that those who are truly blessed are “they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). We all know what it is like to be hungry, we need food and thus when we hunger we seek food to satisfy our hunger. We also know what it is like to thirst, spiritually our souls hunger and thirst and our soul needs those things by which the soul is refreshed and strengthened. What is it that will satisfy our soul’s longing? Righteousness (in the context of this article, dealing with that which involves purity of life, correctness of thinking, feeling and acting).

How is the soul’s hunger and thirst for righteousness satisfied? By feeding on (studying) the word of God, which instructs us in righteousness (2 Ti. 3:16) It serves as our spiritual food as well. It is our milk (1 Pe. 2:2). It is our meat (He. 5:12-14). It is our bread (Jn. 6:35-ff). It is our water to assuage our spiritual thirst (Jn. 4:13-14). Because we will be feeding on the spiritual food that God has provided, it logically follows we will be applying the teachings of God’s word to our lives. This nourishment, in turn, will lead us to…

…practice righteousness. Practicing righteousness begins with right thinking. Our thoughts reveal who we are (Pr. 23:7). If we think unrighteousness, our actions will produce unrighteousness. If we think righteously, then our actions will manifest righteousness. The key for developing such thinking is to make sure our affections are set on those things which are above rather than on those things here on the earth (Co. 3:2).

However, it is not enough to think it, we must do it. It is both simplistic and true, but there really is nothing more to add but just do righteousness. John wrote “Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 Jn. 3:7).

If we think righteously, we will act righteously, which in turn will result in a continual pursuit, prioritization and practicing of righteousness and as a result of such actions we will then produce righteousness in our lives by the fruit that we bear because that fruit will be that of righteousness (Ja. 3:18; Ep. 5:9). The fruit we bear glorifies God (Jn. 15:8). But, it is not enough to bear fruit, we must keep on bearing fruit lest we become a fruitless branch within the true vine which is Christ and thus become cut off from the vine fit to be cast into the fire (Jn. 15:4). The necessity of continual bearing of the fruit of righteousness in our lives will stimulate us to a life of spiritual excellence.

Finally, we must purge unrighteousness from our lives. This purge implies the need for constant improvement as a Christian. The temptation to commit sin is an ever present danger for us (1 Pe. 5:8; 1 Co. 10:13) and as such reveals the importance of striving to grow and improve spiritually day after day so that we can overcome temptation and consequently, sin.

A righteous state of life involves a forward and upward direction (which is what walking in the light entails per 1 John 1:7) and not a backward and downward direction (which is to walk as the world does). In order to maintain righteousness in our lives we must examine our lives (2 Co. 13:5) to make sure sin has not reentered. If it has we must have the willingness to repent and confess those sins unto God (1 Jn. 1:8-9).

Maintaining righteousness and keeping unrighteousness out starts by laying God’s word up in our hearts (Ps. 119:11; 1 Jn. 3:9). We do this by consistently turning to its pages and meditating and properly applying its teachings to our lives. This process must be an ongoing thing in our lives. We will never master the Word of God, but we can allow it to master our lives by keeping it at the forefront of our lives by spending time in personal study.

Why strive for excellence in our lives as Christians? Because excellence, in its simplest definition, is being better tomorrow than we are today. Is this not what Christianity and personal growth is all about? If we are not seeking to be better tomorrow than we are today, we are not seeking to become more Christ like, and we must if we desire heaven as our home (Ro. 8:29). If we are not seeking to be better, we are in essence saying that who we are now is as good as we can get. We are accepting mediocrity, but God will not accept mediocrity, He expects and demands our best in all we do, including how we live (Re. 2:10).

We can achieve excellence in our walk as Christians because we can be a better Christian tomorrow than we are at this present time. However, in order to achieve excellence, we must possess the discipline and tenacity necessary to accomplish the task. When we pursue, prioritize, practice, produce righteousness in our lives, and keep unrighteousness purged, we will be improving day by day which produces true excellence, genuine, consistent, and constant growth as a Christian.

roblee79@netzero.net

Editor’s Note:  Robert preached a lesson on this topic earlier this year.  You can listen to his lesson here.

The Wise Woman — Ursula Torbett

Christian sisters, is there ever a time that we shouldn’t be wise?  According to Proverbs 4:5-7, we need to get wisdom and understanding because wisdom is primary.  So how do we get wisdom?

Wisdom is sought diligently by those who understand its principles and neglected by those who don’t.  A wise woman builds her home with wisdom, weaving it in and out of the fabric of her life and the lives of her family (Pr. 14:1).  Contrast the foolish woman who destroys her home, tearing away the good, leaving the rubble of confusion and shattered lives.  As God said through Solomon, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established” (Pr. 24:3).

True wisdom is solidly built on a foundation comprised of learned experiences and godly knowledge.  The wise woman gains her wisdom by being a student of God’s Word and by learning from her mistakes.  She is quite different from the foolish, who are doomed to repeat their mistakes over and over again because they have neglected to learn the valuable lessons that accompany each folly and have failed to pay heed to God’s Word.

Wisdom Isn’t Greatness

Elihu stated that great and aged men are not always wise (Jb. 32:9).  Whenever this is the case, it is because they have not learned godly wisdom; rather, they rely on worldly wisdom.

The truly great things of life often come in the smallest or most humble of packages.  Take our Lord, for example.  Why did so many reject Him?  It was because they were looking for greatness, a king, someone of renowned stature and beauty.  The greatest man to ever walk the earth had no beauty or majesty (Is. 53:2).

Proverbs 30:24-28 gives some wonderful examples of very small and humble creatures that are exceedingly wise.  They don’t have the majesty of the bald eagle or the fierceness of the lion; yet God highlights their great abilities within their humble characteristics.

The ants, though not strong, are busy preparing food in the summer (Pr. 6:6-8).  They are hard workers wisely preparing for the next season.  The Lord honors the hard worker (Pr. 12:11, 24; 13:4; 14:23).

The badgers are feeble, but find shelter and protection in the rocks.  Those who seek wisdom seek the shelter of the Lord (Pr. 27:12; 29:25).

With no king, the locusts advance in ranks.  How many armies can accomplish this feat?  They are unified and of one mind, disciplined and ordered.  Do you wish to be counted among the wise?  Then accept discipline (Pr. 19:20).

Finally, the spider or the lizard (there is some discrepancy here among the commentators; however, we can draw from both.)  The spider spins its webs, using its legs to make a most beautiful and strong work of art.  Its beauty comes from within.  The lizard grasps with its legs to move quickly and with great ease.  They are everywhere, unnoticed, working in silence.

Wisdom comes from God, not man.  We should not be wise in our own eyes; rather, we should fear the Lord and depart from evil (Pr. 3:7).  Those engorged with worldly wisdom live without God.  They choose to live life full of perverted truths and false hopes.

With no king, sin was rampant in Israel.  Every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judg. 17:6; 21:25).  The wisdom of God addresses those who live their lives this way.  They are pure in their own eyes, yet not washed from their filthiness (Pr. 30:12).  They have deceived themselves.  Their greatness is from within, not from God.

Wise Women Teach Us

The first example that comes to mind is the very familiar parable of the ten virgins (Mt. 25:1-13).  A couple of great lessons really stand out in this account.

The most obvious quality of the five wise women was their preparedness.  Are there ever any guarantees that things will always run smoothly?  Those who prepare wisely face fewer crises than those who don’t.

Secondly, these wise women said, “No,” to the efforts of foolishness.  “No” is such an important and often neglected word.  Some of the problems with neglecting this very small word is that we become overcommitted, which leads to becoming stressed, which in turn results in our behaving in unbecoming ways.  Consequently, those who are closest to us suffer the most.  Even if we’re doing the Lord’s work, we must be careful to not over-extend ourselves.  This does nothing good for those around us and it can even hurt the work of the church.

If our “good” works turn into a laborious task of stresses, we do more harm than good.  We hurt relationships and can ruin our influence with family, friends and the lost.  When our family feels neglected because we have committed so much to everyone else, we lost much more than we were hoping to gain.  Sometimes it is best to let go, or just say, “No.”

The Queen of Sheba is the next example which comes to mind.  She sought out wisdom and even came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear Solomon’s wisdom (1 Ki. 10; 2 Ch. 9:3, 5; Lk. 11:31).

Today, the wise woman seeks the wisdom of One far greater than Solomon.  Her search for wisdom begins in prayer (Ja. 1:5).  We should pray daily for wisdom to help us guard our tongues, our thoughts, and our hearts.

Women of wisdom are blessed because they listen to and act on wise instruction (Pr. 8:33; 19:20).  They are drawn to wise teaching just as the Queen of Sheba was drawn to Solomon (Pr. 18:15).

The third example comes from the wise Israelite women who skillfully spun multi-colored yarns and fine twined linen during Moses’ day (Ex. 35:25-26).  Matthew Henry comments that these women were wise-hearted because they spun heartily to the Lord.  So much bountiful work for the Lord can be accomplished if hearts are right.  They had a spirit of cooperation.

Wise workers are sober-minded, redeeming the time (Ps. 90:12; Ep. 5:16; Co. 4:5).  A wise woman measures out the time in which she has to accomplish a task and sticks to it until it is done.

Wisdom encompasses the idea of humility and meekness.  Our works are to be done in the meekness of wisdom (Ja. 3:13).  The knowledge of the wise is coated in humility (Pr. 11:2), and those who open themselves up to God’s Word gain understanding (Pr. 14:6).

The last example of a wise woman which comes to mind from Scripture is found in the woman from the city of Abel (2 Sa. 20:11-22).  The wisdom and prudence of this respected woman saved her people.  The biggest breakdown in solving problems usually comes down to a lack of proper communication.  This woman understood the importance of listening to understand the desires and demands of others.  She communicated with both sides and after wise deliberation was able to bring peace to her people and justice to others.

The wise woman has a mouth of righteousness that speaks wisdom, and her tongue talks of justice (Ps. 37:30).  The lips of the wise woman disperse knowledge (Pr. 15:7).  She speaks what others need to hear to help benefit their lives.  They seek her advice and trust her.

Obtaining Wisdom

How do we obtain wisdom?  Unfortunately, we aren’t born with wisdom.  It’s a developed trait.  Some are more sober-minded or serious than others, but they still need to develop wisdom.

We should start at the beginning.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Pr. 9:10).  Should we not have a reverenced awe for the One who is the very definition of wisdom and Who is the possessor and giver of all wisdom?

God gives wisdom, knowledge and joy to those who are good in His sight (Ec. 2:26).  Goodness comes from keeping the Lord’s commands with the right attitude.  The wise woman heeds instruction, loves her own soul and finds good because she keeps understanding (Pr. 16:20; 19:8).  Striving to be good, she trusts in the Lord and thereby is greatly blessed.  God blesses those who are good in His sight with the precious gifts of wisdom, knowledge and joy.  Only a wise person can truly understand and appreciate the value of such wonderful blessings.

Scripture says that God “stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” (Pr. 2:7).  The Lord has provided wisdom in His Word for those who are wise enough to “get” it.  This verse should make every Christian so happy.  Great joy should accompany the knowledge that the Lord is our protector and our shield.  He is a shield against Satan and His Word is a shield against the foolishness of this world…but only for the upright, only for the wise.

Wisdom Is Precious…And Wise Women Know It

Wisdom is better than rubies and all things we desire (Pr. 8:11).  Gold pales in the presence of it (Pr. 16:16).  Coral, pearls and rubies are of no value compared to wisdom (Jb. 28:18).

The greatest riches are found in the wisdom and knowledge of God (Ro. 11:33).  They are more precious than all the riches of the earth (Ja. 3:17).  May we all continue to strive to humbly obtain it through study of and obedience to the precious Word of God!

“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice…Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Proverbs 1:20, 33

ursyt@yahoo.com

 

A Shipwrecked Faith — Curtis Kimbrell

Our faith is one of the most cherished assets which we possess.  Yet there are many times in our lives when our faith is stronger than at other times.  When I am truly honest with myself and do some real “soul searching,” I may ask myself, “How can I really make myself more faithful?”  Or I may ask myself, “What can I do as a Christian to improve my faith and make it stronger?”

To answer these questions, I could easily revert to the well-known verse:  “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God” (2 Ti. 2:15).  I may think of improving my prayer life as is stated by Paul to the Thessalonians:  “Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Th. 5:17-18).  When we take our Christianity seriously and it becomes more than just showing up at the church building on Sundays and Wednesday nights, it will greatly impact our lives and the lives of others.

But what do we do when something happens that threatens every thread of our faith?  When an event takes place in our lives that challenges us to even dare to ask God, “Why me?”  What if another person or Christian hurts us so badly that we feel like we are falling into a bottomless pit of hopelessness and despair?

Let’s briefly consider God’s servant Paul as we examine just one of his many hardships and how he dealt with it and overcame all odds with God’s help.  In the latter part of the book of Acts, we find that Paul was literally shipwrecked while sailing to Rome (27:13-44).  He was a prisoner sailing alongside many other prisoners and the ship’s crew when a wind known as the Northeaster hit them so badly that they eventually had to give into it (vs. 13-15).  They couldn’t fight what was coming at them.

In our lives, things are find at certain times…but sooner or later something beyond our control comes our way and there is absolutely nothing we can do.  Part of us says, “Give up!”  Another part tells us that God has a plan and we just need to hang in there a little longer.

Paul and his shipmates tried with difficulty to secure the boat.  They even threw over cargo in an effort to desperately save themselves (vs. 16-19).  In like manner, we try various ways to stay afloat through the storms that occur in our own lives.  It’s often difficult, even when others are there trying to help us.  Again, this goes back to the question:  How strong is my faith in the fact that God really will take care of me?

The others on Paul’s ship abandoned all hope (v. 20).  Each of us knows that we have felt like this in some way or another in our own lives.  No matter your age or experiences, it’s easy to think that giving up is the easiest and perhaps even the only way to handle things.  We forget that God’s timing and our timing do not always coincide.

While everyone was feeling hopeless on the ship and things were at their most critical, Paul began to encourage them.  He even told them that no life would be lost (vs. 21-24).  Do we encourage others when we feel hopeless?  Paul’s faith was at a stronger level than the others’ and he was reassured by the Angel of the Lord.  God’s Word reassures us that things will be okay in the darkest of times (Ro. 8:28).  Yet, so often we neglect to read it.

Paul had been told that he must stand before Caesar (v. 24).  God was not done with him, and he knew it.  He still had much work to do and a purpose to fulfill.  So as he continued to encourage these men, he told them to “take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (v. 25).  Yet, notice that he also gave them a warning that the journey wasn’t going to be easy because they would have to run the ship aground (v. 26).  The crew knew this would not be pleasant at all.  That’s why they were so fearful (vs. 29-30).  Yet, Paul cared enough to exhort them to not give up.  He told them to eat for strength, that “not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you,” and still managed to give thanks throughout all that was going on!  (vs. 33-35)

When we go through the worst times of our lives, do we have Christian friends who support us regardless of the cost or hardship?  Do we have that kind of support from our brothers and sisters even if we are fearful?  Are we ourselves willing to offer this needed support to others during their dark times?  It makes a world of difference in the outcome of our faith!

Paul gave the crew enough confidence to trust in God enough to throw the remaining food overboard (v. 38).  After that, they had to run the ship aground just as Paul had told them.  All 276 lives were spared thanks to Paul (vs. 39-44).  The apostle was leading and directing…but God was in control.  So many times control of the situation was out of the crews’ hands, but they continued to believe in God’s Word, spoken through Paul.

I truly believe there are times when we all feel that our faith is shipwrecked.  It could be a situation out of our control, a problem with another Christian, sickness, depression, or a host of other things which come up in this life.  If it becomes such an issue that we “quit church,” our faith was misplaced.  It was placed more in people than in God.

All of us need to read Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 11:25-28.  Being shipwrecked was only one of the vast amounts of hardships which this man endured for Christ, His church, and ultimately for God.  Since we do not endure anything close to these types of events, it should make our faith easier to sustain.  Our faith is something which no one can take away from us.  We are the ones who decide to grow spiritually, stay spiritually idle where we are, or fade away.  Our faith should describe who we are, how we live, and every aspect of our lives.  Don’t get me wrong.  We all fail.  Sometimes we fall flat on our faces in our spiritual walk.  This is where our faith is tested.  It helps us overcome, repent, and then lean on God’s grace and mercy to continue walking down the narrow path.

Friends, I do not even feel worthy to write these words to you.  Because of two loving brothers that encouraged me to do so, it has helped to edify me and build my own faith.  I hope and pray this has been helpful and encouraging to you, and that it will get you even more motivated about wanting to grow in your own personal faith.  God bless you all!

curtisk29374@yahoo.com

 

 

Evangelism: Reaching Out To God’s Glory — Allen Webster & Matt Wallin

A six-year-old boy restlessly struggled to listen to what seemed like a very lengthy sermon.  After the service, the little boy asked, “Dad, what does the preacher do the rest of the week?”

Dad replied, “Well, he’s a very busy man. He takes care of church business, visits the sick, studies the Bible, teaches Bible studies, and counsels with people. And he has to take some time off to rest up. You see, preaching in public is not an easy job.”

The little boy thought about that for a minute and said, “Well, listening ain’t so easy either!”

Evangelism “ain’t so easy either,” but it is a work God blesses.

The words to the song “Lead Me to Some Soul Today” remind us of the great task we have before us:

Lead me to some soul

today;

O teach me, Lord, just

what to say;

Friends of mine are lost

in sin,

And cannot find their way.

Few there are who seem

to care,

And few there are who

pray;

Melt my heart and fill my

life;

Give me one soul today.

 

Lead Me To Some SOUL Today

Asking the Lord to lead us to some soul indicates that we recognize the value of every single person (Mt. 16:26). Your most valuable asset is not your house, your car, or even your family. Your most priceless possession is your soul. Every person you know, every person you love, every person in your life has a soul. That soul will live beyond this life and will enter into the next one.

Since as Christians we have greater knowledge of the future than those around us, we have greater responsibility to tell them how to prepare. George Sweeting tells of John Currier who in 1949 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Eventually, he was paroled to work on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee. In 1968, Currier’s sentence was terminated, and a letter bearing the good news was sent to him. But John never saw the letter, nor was he told of it. Although life on that farm was hard and hopeless, John kept doing what he was told, even after the farmer for whom he worked had died. Ten more years passed. Finally a state parole officer learned about Currier’s plight, found him, and told him that his sentence had been terminated. He was a free man.

Would it matter to you if someone sent you an important message — the most important in your life — and year after year the urgent message was never delivered?  As Christians, we know that Jesus died to set all men free (Jn. 8:31-32).  He has put the letter in our hand to deliver it.

LEAD Me To Some Soul Today

The average Christian comes into contact with 1,783 people in a week.  Of those, perhaps, a thousand or more are lost (cf. Mt. 7:13).  How many of those thousand could be saved with the right conversation?  One hundred?  Nine hundred?  One?  The answer is unknown, but even if it is a single soul — and surely the answer could not be zero — the possibility is exciting.

Think of the opportunities that you may have today to find a soul for the Savior.  When Jesus sent the Twelve out on the Limited Commission, He included this admonition, “As ye go, preach” (Mt. 10:5-7).  Instead of setting up scheduled speeches at synagogues or lecture halls, they were to preach as they went along each day.  Their audiences would be anyone they happened to encounter as they moved from street to street, village to village, house to house.

Our daily business takes us to many places and places us in contact with many people.  That is how the “go” command is fulfilled.  There is nothing magical about a movie or a plane ride; but when our eyes are opened to souls, every journey, errand, and encounter is an adventure.

Lead Me To SOME Soul Today

The U.S. Center of World Missions reports that in AD 30, when the church was just getting started, there were 200 million people in the world and only about 5,000 Christians.  That is a ratio of 40,000 to one.

John 4 is a good case study in evangelism:

  • Jesus did not let culture close doors to souls (Jn. 4:4).
  • Jesus overcame fatigue (Jn. 4:6). Most of the great things done in the world are done by tired people.
  • Jesus began by engaging in friendly conversation (4:7).
  • Jesus chose a time when others were not around (4:8).
  • Jesus was not put off by potentially offensive statements (4:9).
  • Jesus offered the woman something more than she had (4:10).
  • Jesus had to gain her trust (4:11-12).
  • Jesus did not ignore sins that potentially could close the door (4:16-18).
  • Jesus emphasized sincerity and truth (4:23-24).
  • Jesus identified the Savior (4:26).
  • Jesus used one contact to lead to many others (4:28-29).
  • Jesus took advantage of a spiritual opportunity at the cost of physical loss (4:31-34).
  • Jesus believed that there are always souls ready for harvest (4:35).
  • Jesus saw joy in the future of both the soul winner and the soul won (4:36).
  • Jesus recognized that some conversations require time and more than one teacher (4:37-38).
  • Jesus rearranged His schedule when souls were at stake (4:39-41).
  • Jesus knew that one person cannot reach all types of people and that a team is more effective (4:42).

Lead ME To Some Soul Today

Why many people don’t evangelize:

  • Ninety percent have failed in attempts in the past.
  • They are biblically illiterate.
  • They leave it to the professionals.
  • They don’t want to impose their faith on others.

There is no soul-winning without people.  Every person saved heard the gospel from someone else.  Somebody was involved.

There is something here for ME to do.  We cannot afford the attitude of “Let someone else do it.”  There is no one else.  We cannot afford to procrastinate.  Sometime is not on the calendar.  Someone is not in the phonebook.  Ultimately, we must decide whether we are going to be involved or not; whether we will touch a soul or not; whether evangelism is important to us or not.

Lead Me To Some Soul TODAY

This song was often used as a campaign song to urge us in our evangelism.  Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (Jn. 9:4).

It is easy to make excuses:

  • In summer we say, “Wait till school starts.”
  • In school we say, “Wait till summer when we have more time.”
  • In summer it’s too hot; in winter it’s too cold.

Raymond Kelcy said, “It is better to wake up five hundred Christians than to convert five hundred sinners, for if five hundred Christians really wake up, they will win more than five hundred sinners.”  It is time for us to “lift up (our) eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”

Lord, lead me to some soul today.

allen@housetohouse.com

Editor’s Note:  While talking to Matt about writing this article, we discussed how much political talk is taking place during this election year.  Matt and Allen work to put together an excellent evangelistic publication, House to House/Heart to Heart.  An upcoming issue will discuss, “If Jesus Were Running For President, Would He Win?”  They want to reach 3.2 million homes with this issue and thereby encourage our communities to look for spiritual strengths in those we elect, and to ultimately allow Jesus to be their Lord.  Only Jesus can provide the answers people look for!  Email them to learn more about this work.          — Jon