Monthly Archives: January 2011

The place to confront and criticize someone about unfaithful, fault-ridden behavior

 Criticism is sometimes needed and justified. Jesus taught, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). Jesus did not tell us to imagine or find fault with anyone – He only tells us to point out what is really there. And He is clear the first step to clearing up a fault between my brother and myself is to go tell it to the brother alone – not behind his back and not to everybody else in town or in the church.

The place to confront and criticize someone about unfaithful, fault-ridden behavior is to his or her face – not on Facebook or other social networks where others look on and weigh in. And not with a crude anonymous note, no matter how right you may think that is. The point is not to deny that all of us are sometimes guilty of faults and deserve constructive criticism. The point is that criticism, to be effective, must be done by the right person at the right time in the right place with the right attitude for the for right reasons. We should not criticize such criticism.

All that having been said, Jesus found fault with a very widespread human fault in Matthew 7:1-5 – the fault of being a faultfinder! This passage bluntly states, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (vs 1), and goes on to warn that in the end we will be judged and measured by the same judgement and measure we have used to judge and measure others (vs 2). The Lord points out that some folks focus on a “mote” or “speck” in their brother’s eye, even to the point of trying to remove it – and all the while the faultfinder has a “beam” or “plank” protruding from his own eye! So ridiculous is the picture Jesus paints it is hard to believe His original hearers did not roar with laughter as He pointed out how extreme some faultfinders can be. Careful now.

Contrary to the way some interpret this passage, Jesus is not okay with leaving a “speck” in the eye (or life), let alone a “plank” – whether in mine or my brother’s. If you’ve ever had a speck in your eye you know even the tiniest speck makes for a great deal of discomfort and dysfunction. The problem, and the proper solution, is stated by the Lord in verse 5 -“Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

The folks Jesus finds fault with in this passage are faultfinders – people who search for and find even the tiniest of faults in others while blind to mountain-sized faults in their own lives. Such people find fault with everybody and everything. Their criticism knows no boundaries or limits. Jesus was the only faultless and flawless human being who ever lived, but that didn’t keep some from criticizing and finding fault with Him, to the point they eventually crucified Him.

All this reminds me of the old story about two taxidermists walking the sidewalk. They stopped before a window where an owl was on display. They began to criticize the way the owl was mounted. Its eyes did not look natural; its wings were not rightly proportioned; its feathers were not neatly arranged; its feet did not look real; its head was cocked at an odd angle. So they said. When they finished with their criticism, the owl turned his head, and winked at them! You need to know that if you are a faultfinder, Jesus Christ will find fault with you. Think about it.

–Dan Gulley

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Great victories are won when ordinary people execute their assigned tasks

I ONCE HEARD interviews with survivors from World War II…
 
The soldiers recalled how they spent a particular day. One sat in a foxhole; once or twice, a German tank drove by and he shot at it. Others played cards and frittered away the time. A few got involved in furious firefights. Mostly, the day passed like any other. Later, they learned they had just participated in one of the largest, most decisive engagements of the war, the Battle of the Bulge. It didn’t feel decisive at the time because none had the big picture.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
 
–Mike Benson

Great victories are won when ordinary people execute their assigned tasks.

Perhaps you sense you’re in a spiritual rut. Stay at your assigned task!  Obedience to God offers the way out of our futility.  (Philip Yancey)

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Is Bible reading as important as chemotherapy for a cancer patient?

 “Two friends walk toward a destination. The path has at times been steep and is not always smooth. Their pace is labored as they come to a fork in the road. The road that branches off goes downhill and is attractively landscaped. There are no signs, however, to tell them where this new path will lead. They can’t resist the temptation, and head downhill on the easier path. The farther they go, however, the farther they are from their destination.

That people often choose the easier course is no surprise to any of us; we’re often guilty of the same. But do we calculate the price of taking that easier course? Will it lead to a place we really want to be?

Susan Jacoby is on a campaign to awaken Americans. The title of her newly published book, “The Age Of Unreason”, may not prompt multitudes to rush out to bookstores, but she has a message that needs to be heard. Americans, she contends, are being “dumbed down” because they more often choose entertainment than information.

In a recent interview with “U.S. News & World Report”, Jacoby talks about “infotainment”. As one can quickly see, it’s a combination of the words “information” and “entertainment”. In our culture, the emphasis is usually on the latter. More Americans choose to be entertained by the electronic media (television and the Internet, e.g.) than to be informed by the more “rational” means (books or other print media). She states, “Video culture, as it appears in the digital media, gives you a quick hit but doesn’t encourage you to go further. It substitutes for reading more” (“The Ignorant American”, March 10, 2008, p. 22).

Jacoby’s title for her article in the “Washington Post”, February 24, 2008, commands more attention: “We Actually Love Being Idiots”. In that article she pointed to a 2007 study by the National Endowment For The Arts. “In 1982, 82% of college graduates read novels or poems for pleasure; two decades later, only 67 percent did. And more than 40 percent of Americans under 44 did not read a single book – fiction or nonfiction – over the course of a year.” She concluded her point by noting that the latter results arose as personal computing, Web surfing and video games became commonplace.

Is there a price to be paid for this surge in infotainment? Those who have laughed at Jay Leno’s “Jay Walking” segments on “The Tonight Show” know that many Americans lack even basic facts that once were common. A similar interview was conducted on an esteemed college’s campus. Students were asked whether a certain event had happened in the nineteenth century or in the 1800s. None of the respondents shown on the video caught the fact that the two answers were the same.

Jacoby points to many such indicators that Americans are turning away from intellectual pursuits (as simple as reading a novel) in favor of YouTube and other electronic cotton candy. She uses the word “antirational” to describe the trend. Others use stronger terms such as “anti-intellectual”. Michael Albert, on zmag.org flatly states, “An ‘anti-rationality’ trend is sweeping our society.”

The choices before us couldn’t be clearer: One involves mental concentration and focus; the other requires only that we get comfortable, tune in and watch. Under the guise of “relaxation”, many of us choose a path that takes us farther from where we want to be.

How do you suppose this trend affects our nation’s Bible literacy? In a “Jay Walking” skit from March 2007, Leno asked one young lady to complete the following: “In the beginning, God created …” She responded with the answer, “Peace” (the correct answer is “the heavens and the earth”). When asked how many commandments there were, she answered “twelve”. (I wish I could tell you that Leno has difficulty finding such people to interview!)

Is it really so important that we know the teachings of the Bible? While our society might answer “Of course not!”, let’s consider some statements from this Book. Proverbs 3 is a good place to begin: “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. … Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold” (Proverbs 3:1-2,13-14). According to this, time spent reading God’s word will lead to a much richer life.

The book of Psalms opens with a warning against associating with people who care nothing for God’s teachings (such as the characters we regularly see depicted on television and on the Internet). The better choice of how to spend our time is this: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). If we had the ability to drop in on homes throughout America this evening, how many would be found with open Bibles?

The problem was present long ago in the days of the prophet Micah. He observed this about God’s people: “If a man should walk in a false spirit, and speak a lie, saying, ‘I will prophesy to you of wine and drink,’ even he would be the prattler of this people” (Micah 2:11). Then, as now, a person doesn’t generally draw a large audience by talking about God’s word. If you want to deliver lectures on wines and fine dining, though, an entire television network may spring up around you!

Let’s see if we can make this clear: Suppose a person was diagnosed with cancer. He is told, however, that with chemotherapy the problem can be cured. When told when those treatments will take place, he refuses: “I can’t do chemotherapy then! That’s when my favorite show on TV comes on.” Would we consider such a person foolish?

Are we suggesting that Bible reading is as important as chemotherapy for a cancer patient? No – we’re saying it’s more important. We base that claim on James 1:21: “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Chemotherapy, if successful, can add years to a person’s life. God’s word can lead to salvation of one’s soul, and that’s an issue of eternity!

Perhaps you remember Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders. Only one built his house in a way that it could withstand a vicious storm. What was Jesus’ application for us? “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). Are we interested in building a life that will withstand the storms of life? Are we hearing “these sayings of” Jesus, much less, doing them?

We face today a literal avalanche of entertainment options. When you finally get a moment to relax, you have dozens of choices of what to do. But only one of those choices will open the door to a better life on earth as well as a blissful eternity. It’s not the easiest path, and it requires more effort than the others. Make sure you know the consequences before you make your choice. And then make time for God’s word!

Would you like to know more about beginning your own study of God’s word? Get in touch with me, and let me tell you about simple ways to get started in reading this Book of books. God gave this Book for all people, and I know you can understand it by following simple principles. Let’s talk about that today!

–author unknown

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Unauthorized scribbling

Richard Fairchild tells about a story that appeared years ago in the Christian Reader. It was called “Priceless Scribbles.” It concerns a father who touched his child’s life in an unexpected way. A young boy watched as his father walked into the living room. The boy noticed that his younger brother, John, began to cower slightly as his father entered. The older boy sensed that John had done something wrong. Then he saw from a distance what his brother had done. The younger boy had opened his father’s brand new hymnal and scribbled all over the first page with a pen.

Staring at their father fearfully, both brothers waited for John’s punishment. Their father picked up his prized hymnal, looked at it carefully and then sat down, without saying a word. Books were precious to him; he was a minister with several academic degrees. For him, books were knowledge. What he did next was remarkable, says the author of this story. Instead of punishing his brother, instead of scolding, or yelling, his father took the pen from the little boy’s hand, and then wrote in the book himself, alongside the scribbles that John had made. Here is what that father wrote: “John’s work, 1959, age 2. How many times have I looked into your beautiful face and into your warm, alert eyes looking up at me and thanked God for the one who has now scribbled in my new hymnal. You have made the book sacred, as have your brother and sister to so much of my life.”

“Wow,” thought the older brother, “This is punishment?” The author of the story, now an adult, goes on to say how that hymnal became a treasured family possession, how it was tangible proof that their parents loved them, how it taught the lesson that what really matters is people, not objects; patience, not judgment; love, not anger.

–author unknown

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Four preachers had a series of theological arguments

     There once were four preachers who had a series of theological arguments, and three were always in agreement against the fourth.  One day, the odd preacher out, after the usual “3 to 1, majority rules” statement that signified that he had lost again, decided to appeal to a higher authority.
 
     “Oh, God!” he cried. “I know in my heart that I am right and they are wrong!  Please give me a sign to prove it to them!”
 
     It was a beautiful, sunny day.  As soon as the preacher finished his prayer, a storm cloud moved across the sky above the four.  It rumbled once and dissolved.  “A sign from God!  See, I’m right, I knew it!”  But the other three disagreed, pointing out that storm clouds form on hot days.
 
     So the preacher prayed again: “Oh, God, I need a bigger sign to show that I am right and they are wrong.  So please, God, a bigger sign!”  This time four storm clouds appeared, rushed toward each other to form one big cloud, and a bolt of lightning slammed into a tree on a nearby hill.
 
     “I told you I was right!” cried the preacher, but his friends insisted that nothing had happened that could not be explained by natural causes.
 
     The preacher was getting ready to ask for a *very big* sign, but just as he said, “Oh God…,” the sky turned pitch black, the earth shook, and a deep, booming voice said, “HEEEEEEEE’S RIIIIIIIGHT!”
 
     The preacher put his hands on his hips, turned to the other three, and said, “Well?”
 
     “So,” shrugged one of the other preachers, “now it’s 3 to 2.”
 
     It’s a serious problem.  The problem of putting God’s words on an equal level with man’s words.  But spiritual truth is not determined by taking a vote.  In fact, even if 1,000 people agree with us, it makes no difference unless we agree with God.
 
     As Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
 
     That’s why Paul was so determined that the Thessalonians know the source of his teaching.
 
     “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (I Thess. 2:13)
 
     Father, in the confusion of so many voices telling us what is right and what is wrong, may we look to your word for truth.  Thank you for being a God of truth, one in whom we can place our utmost confidence.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

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The Doctor Is In

In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy is playing her role as psychiatrist. She sits in her booth with the sign that reads: “Psychiatric Help – 5 cents.” The sign below says, “The Doctor Is In.” Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “Your life is like a house.”

In the next frame, she says reflectively, “You want your house to have a solid foundation, don’t you?” Charlie Brown has a kind of blank look on his face. Lucy says, “Of course you do.”

Charlie Brown is still silent – saying nothing. Then in the fourth frame, psychiatrist Lucy says, “So don’t build your house on the sand, Charlie Brown.” About that time, a huge wind comes up and blows the booth down. Lucy, sitting in the rubble says, “Or use cheap nails.”

On what are you building your life?

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Thinking about Vacation Bible School?

It will be here sooner than you think and here are some great tips from a great preacher (Neal Pollard)!
 
    I know we call our V.B.S. “Bible Discovery Days,” but it comes during summer vacation and it emphasizes the Bible.  Growing up in the Lord’s church, I remember fondly the days of V.B.S.  As a preacher, I have worked with congregations in them for nearly twenty years (I believe this year’s was perhaps the best I have seen).  Here is what V.B.S. means to me.
    Very Beneficial Service.  Whatever you do as a part of Vacation Bible School, it is important.  Some soul may be in heaven someday because of some part, large or small, you play during VBS.  Teachers and other volunteers benefit from your service (Matt. 20:26-28).  The students benefit from the service rendered (2 Tim. 2:2).  The Kingdom of God benefits from those who serve through great programs like VBS.
    Victory By Study.   A relevant, practical, and uplifting theme is always a winner.  Who would expect otherwise?  As an elder once said, “If the kids from the community want to learn the Bible, they’ll want to be at our VBS.”  The same is true of the children of Christians.  Every night attended should help every student grow in faith, the key to victory (1 Jn. 5:4).
    Vacating Bad Situations.  Simply by being present, each student will avoid being at a place doing things they should not do.  But, through good Bible teaching, they will learn to better appreciate the difference between right and wrong and good and evil.  VBS is a sin-preventative.  It is a righteousness-preservative.  Sin is trashed.  Evil is bashed.  Naughtiness is thrashed.  VBS is devoted to promoting 1 Corinthians 15:33 and 1 Thessalonians 5:22.
    Voicing Biblical Sentiments.  Through VBS, the church gets another chance to promote God’s truth.  Each lesson will give heavenly guidance on how to grow up living in a way that will lead one to heaven.  It will be a lot of fun, and in the process, it will build faith.
    Voices Blending Sweetly.  The little ones are not little adults.  VBS provides children with a focus on their level, in ways and means they understand.  “Fun songs” will be “bellowed” out all week long.  For some, every song will be new.  For others, most songs will be familiar.  However, for all, there will be enthusiastic participation.  There is something about singing that reaches the hearts of nearly everyone.  VBS songs are special and provide a lifetime of memories for the kids.
    Vividly Bright Specimens.  Each adult who attends, is involved, and is supportive is pledging allegiance to the Lord’s side.  Forestalling vacation plans, household chores, and other obligations will be blessed.  Those little kids will remember seeing your faces.  The Lord also keeps a record, which is perfect.  Too, it will make your bright light shine brighter (Matt. 5:14-16).
    Please do all you can to make VBS the very best it can be.  Involve yourself in eternity.  Support VBS!

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