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Author Archives: TJ's Man

About TJ's Man

Began working with the Sunset Avenue church of Christ in Madera, California on September 8, 2013.

What is God like?


cropped-god-is-love.jpgWhat is God like? Answers don’t come easy, because of the immensity of the subject. God is huge, filling the universe. Also people might know the right words, but they seem to become hollow shells because they can’t comprehend them.

We say that God is holy, righteous, loving, gracious, Father-Son-Spirit, but we don’t know what all this means. How do we know the words are empty? We can tell by the way many Christians behave!

Our behavior exposes our failure to understand the words coming out of our mouths. We can talk about God, but we do not know Him! God is not like us — He’s one of a kind! God is different from men. Anyone trying to know God and learn to relate to Him must begin with this fundamental truth.

God is not optional! Unlike everything else, God is absolutely necessary, like water for fish. We can’t just “take God or leave Him” — He is inescapable, even more so than death and taxes. We must not be too “familiar” with God, or regard Him as optional…we must learn to let God be God.

W. Tozer wrote concerning the desperate need for the church to revise its concept of God due to a very distorted conception of Him: It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.[1]

Tozer goes on to say, The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.[2]

W. Pink is of the same opinion: The god of this century no more resembles the Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The god who is talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday school, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences, is a figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form gods of wood and stone, while millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a god out of their carnal minds.[3]

One day it occurred to me that God is the most fascinating person alive and that getting to know Him could well be the most helpful thing that ever happened to me. The more I probed His nature the more convinced I became that knowing Him is the solution to most of my problems. I became convinced that knowing God better was the answer to many of their problems as well. I decided that I want to get to know God intimately, and that I want to help others get to know Him as well, if I possibly can.

God is knowable, and He does want to be known. As a matter of fact, He tells us that our eternal state depends upon knowing Him. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Knowing God and His Son Jesus is the heart of the whole matter of eternal life. The word know in this verse does not refer to a casual acquaintance either. It is the kind of knowledge that comes through living contact and personal relationship. If knowing God is that important, maybe we ought to talk about how we can get to know Him.

A mother was approached by her young son, who asked, “Mommy, did God make Himself?”  Realizing that such questions by children are very important and must be answered, she dropped what she was doing and sat down with her youngster for a little talk.  Pointing to her wedding band, she said, “This is a ‘love ring,’ which your daddy gave me when we were married.  Look at it closely and tell me where it begins and where it ends.”

The youngster examined it carefully and then said, “There’s no starting place and stopping place to a ring.”  The mother replied, “That’s the way it is with God.  He had no beginning and has no end, yet He encircles our lives with His presence. He is too wonderful, too great, for our minds to understand. Nobody ever made God — He always was!”  Somehow the boy realized that for God to be God, He could not have been created. He had to be without beginning and without end.

Martin Luther once was so depressed over a prolonged period that one day his wife came downstairs wearing all black.  Martin Luther said, “Who died?”  She said, “God has.”  He said, “God hasn’t died.” And she said, “Well, live like it and act like it.”

____________________________

[1] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper and Row, Publish­ers, 1961), p. 10.

[2] Ibid., p. 12.

[3] Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in the Godhead, pp. 28-29.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in God

 

Lordship


jesus-is-lord-of-my-lifeWhy do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46

“Last year I falsified my income tax return, and I haven’t been able to sleep since. Enclosed is $125. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest.”

Jesus has called us to be different. He has described Christians as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” He has pointed out that the Christian and non-Christian communities are fundamentally different.

John Stott put it this way, “The world is like rotting food, full of bacteria, which cause its disintegration. The followers of Jesus are to be the salt of the world, arresting its decay. The world is a dark and dismal place, lacking sunshine and living in shadows. The followers of Jesus are to be its light, dispelling its darkness and its gloom.”

Jesus then went on to show how different Christians are: Our righteousness is to be deeper, reaching even our hearts.

John Stott summarizes it this way, “Our love is to be broader, embracing even our enemies. Our giving and praying and fasting are to be genuine, not for show. For our treasure, we choose that which lasts for eternity, not that which disintegrates on earth.”

” I think the church needs to lift its head up to heaven, repent of its small mindedness and ask God for a fresh vision of who the Lord Jesus Christ is. Without a God-given vision, we will not have the hope, the strength, the rationale, the wherewithal to move forward in personal holiness and witness for the Lord; effort without vision is like making bricks without straw—it’s just drudgery, like living in an old town where all it does is rain day in and day out.”

Can we dream for a moment about what God could do in our homes, communities, countries, world with one man fully committed to him?” What could the Lord do with our lives? With the lives of our friends? He is “the Lord” you know!

But any vision from God begins with a vision of God. So we begin by repenting from all known to sin and turning wholeheartedly to God; we turn from our worthless idols to the true and living God. And Lord we say to you, our King: “Please show us yourself in ways we could never have imagined (Jeremiah 33:3).

Fray Luis (Luis de Léon) was an Augustinian monk who lived from 1527-1591. He was imprisoned for many years during the Spanish inquisition, but his work lives on. He is well known for his commentaries on Song of Songs and Job, for his mystical poems, and for his great work, The Names of Christ.

In this latter work, he discusses why Christ is given so many names in Scripture: “Christ is given so many names because of his limitless greatness and the treasury of his very rich perfections and with them the host of functions and other benefits which are born in him and spread over us. Just as they cannot be embraced by the soul’s vision, so much less can a single word name them. Just as he who pours water in a bottle with a narrow and long neck does so drop by drop so the Holy Spirit who knows the narrowness and poverty of our understanding does not give us that greatness all at once but offers it to us in drops, telling us, at times something under one name, and some other thing at other times, under another name. Jesus Christ is the Lion of Judah, the Bright and Morning Star. He is the Branch, the Messiah, the Son of God, Son of David, and the Lamb. He is also the “King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.” [1]

He Is Sovereign Creator — John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 1:2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 1:3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.

I am reminded of a cute story that brings home the fact that the Lord Jesus created the entire cosmos from nothing: there was once a brilliant scientist who prided himself on his brilliant discoveries. He had won several awards for his creative abilities and was world renown for all his skill. But it was not long before it went to his head, as it would with any of us. On one occasion he was taken with the idea that he was just as powerful as God. He turned his eyes to heaven and proclaimed in the hearing of the Lord that he too could create a man just like the Lord had done. In his infinite playfulness, the Lord descended to take the scientist up on his claim. The Lord said to him, “So, you think you can make a man just like I did.” “Yes,” was the confident assertion. “OK,” said the lord, “Go ahead and give it a try.” The brilliant scientist, delighted with the challenge and confident in himself, reached down and picked up some dirt…. Immediately, however, a voice came from heaven: “No, no. Get your own dirt!”

He Is the Sovereign Sustainer

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

At this moment, there is a reason why all things hold together and the entire universe doesn’t collapse in a heap. It’s because of Christ and the power of his word.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Eph 1:10).

He Is the Sovereign Redeemer

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

God is the divine lover. He just can’t stop thinking about us. Was the Lord married during his earthly ministry? No. But did you know that he has always wanted to get married? He left home, went to the worst part of town, won a bride for himself and now is in the process of wooing her into his arms. In Revelation 19 the apostle John proclaims that Christ will come and take her (the church) to be with him forever…ah yes, the love story is complete…bride and groom together forever!

He Is the Sovereign Judge

What did Abraham say about God in light of the incident with Sodom and Gomorrah? “Will not the judge of the entire earth do what is right” (Gen 18:25)?

A remarkable television programs vintage aired on PBS entitled “Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace” is an introduction to the life of a remarkable martyrs of recent times. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German minister who joined the German resistence when the evils of Naziism became apparent. He was arrested in 1943 for plotting against Adolf Hitler and hanged at Flossenberg prison on April 9, 1945. [2]

The film is framed by Hitler’s demand that German citizens swear a type of allegiance that Christians could only render to Christ himself. Bonhoeffer is pictured in Berlin in 1939 as the film opens:

”. . . let’s not delude ourselves that if we take the loyalty oath to Hitler it means they’ll let us worship in peace. The Nuremberg laws are an attack on Christianity itself. Adolf Hitler demands nothing less than total commitment. He’s the elected chancellor, yes. But more than that, he considers himself der Fuhrer and as “the leader” he craves to be the conscience of every living German. But his claim upon us is a claim that a Christian can only accept from Christ himself.”

Thus Bonhoeffer and a small group of friends, ministers, and students refused to take a loyalty oath. He helped write a document called the Barmen Declaration that called on Christians to remember that their first allegiance is to Christ alone. He and other German churchmen who refused to accommodate their faith to the evils of Naziism left the state-supported churches and created what came to be called the Confessing Church.

One who watches the film comes to understand what Bonhoeffer meant by writing that “only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient, believes.”

The Earliest Confession

The martyrdom of such persons as Stephen, the apostles and Polycarp is predictable in one sense. If one truly believes that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be, that one’s own identity is defined by him, and that one’s welfare is better served by dying for Christ than by betraying him to save one’s own neck, it is to be expected that there will be occasional martyrs for Jesus’ sake.

When a man or woman gives heart, soul, mind, and body to him, Jesus Christ becomes not only that person’s Savior but also his or her Sovereign. That is, a saved person acknowledges the right of Jesus Christ to own, command, and reign over him. Thus such texts as these in the New Testament:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Rom. 14:7-8).

The term “lord” (Gk, kyrios) basically affirms a position of authority for someone. To the Greeks, a kyrios is one who has the right to rule over another. But there is a related-but-quite-different Greek term that is also translated into English by the same term “lord,” despotes.

The difference in the terms is critical. Despotes sometimes carried with it the notions of harshness and unpredictability. A pretender and usurper might be despotes to those he ruled.

Kyrios, on the other hand, points to one who has legitimate authority and who uses it appropriately. Only the person with the lawful right to rule could be kyrios.

How did Jesus get his “right” to rule over us? How do we know he is not a usurper? “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living” (Rom. 14:9).

Tom Boyd tells the story of a woman who was a member of his church. She was a bit flamboyant and eccentric in some ways, but Boyd was impressed with the depth of her commitment to Christ. He was having dinner at her home one evening, and his hostess had him engaged in animated conversation about some biblical theme. In the midst of the conversation, the woman’s teenaged daughter — perhaps a bit frustrated with the tone of the conversation — asked, “Mother, why do you talk about religion all the time?”

The girl’s question brought an ominous silence to everyone’s conversation at the dining table. Her mother paused dramatically, pushed her chair back, stood up, and said, “Every morning before you are awake, I rise and walk into the living room. I lift my arms and ask, ‘Who’s in charge here?’ The answer always comes back: ‘Not you!’ That’s why I’m religious. Because I am not in charge!”

That lady understood something critical to faith. A truly spiritual life begins with the understanding of Sovereignty, Lordship, and the Right to Rule. We are not in charge, and from that understanding we can proceed to align ourselves to the One who is.

Case Studies

The defiant unbeliever Robert Ingersoll was belligerently assailing Christianity in a conversation with Lew Wallace. Wallace, himself an unbeliever, said, “I am going to read the New Testament and find out for myself.” For six years, he pored over the pages of Scripture. When he had finished, he said, “I have come to the conviction that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of the Jews, the Savior of the world, and my own personal Redeemer.” Wallace proceeded to write the book Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

C.S. Lewis underwent a similar conversion through diligent study. An agnostic who became a prolific apologist for Christian faith, he once wrote: “Jesus was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects — hatred, terror, adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.”

He is right. And the posture of adoration is the one adopted by those who, like the apostle Thomas, fall at Jesus’ feet to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28; cf. Rev. 1:5; 19:15-16). This exclamation is more than a posture or verbal formula. It is a life commitment that shows itself in changed values, new priorities, transformed behavior.

Take the case of Jack Eckerd, founder of the Eckerd drugstore chain, as a case in point. He was walking through one of his stores and notices the magazine racks with their glossy copies of Playboy and Penthouse. Though he was retired from active management at that point in his career, he called the president of the company and urged them to get rid of those publications that degraded women by exploiting them as sexual objects.

The president protested that substantial amounts of money were at stake. Eckerd, himself the largest single stockholder in the company, stood to lose money by such a decision. But he remained firm in his newfound conviction. He prevailed, and the magazines were removed from all the stores that were then operated under the Eckerd name — 1700 stores at the time! When he was asked what motivated him to press for such an action, Eckerd replied, “God wouldn’t let me off the hook!”

Conclusion

Bonhoeffer published a book titled The Cost of Discipleship in 1937. In it he attacked what he called the “cheap grace” of the German churches. It was a view of grace, he said, designed merely to make people comfortable with their weakness and sinfulness.

By contrast, “costly grace” carried with it the presumed obligation of discipleship, obedience. He insisted that “it is only through actual obedience that a person can become liberated to believe.” Faith and obedience, he argued, are ultimately all but indistinguishable, “for faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.” [3]

That is ultimately the point of claiming Jesus as one’s Lord. It is a pledge of obedience. It is the surrender of one’s total life to God. It is not the mistaken belief that following the rules exactly will bring one to heaven but the abandon of a lover’s commitment that says I will do anything that would honor or please him.

Bonhoeffer’s commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ sent him to the gallows. Yours will more likely send you home, to the workplace, or back to school with a renewed sense that your obligation is not to yourself, the bottom line, or being cool.

It is to prove that you have understood the words of your Savior that it would be foolish to try to call him “Lord, Lord!” and not do what he has commanded.

[1] As quoted in Peter Toon, Spiritual Companions: An Introduction to the Spiritual Classics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 124.

[2] An excellent summary of the life and writings of Bonhoeffer may be found in Susan Bergman, ed., Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), pp. 155-168. One who has never read the works of Bonhoeffer owes it to himself to read such classics as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1990), p. 93.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2017 in Doctrine

 

Steps You Can Take to ‘Affair Proof’ Your Marriage


There’s no way to absolutely guarantee that your marriage won’t be blindsided by an affair on your part or your spouse’s, but there are definite steps you can take to greatly reduce the probability of that happening.

It’s important to know what you can do to strengthen your marital connection and keep your marriage vibrant and healthy. A rewarding, satisfying marriage that meets the needs of both partners is your best protection against the destructive intrusion of an affair.

So what can you do to “affair proof” your marriage as much as possible?

Tips for Avoiding the Affair

The following twelve steps will guide you in building a stronger marriage partnership and help you and your spouse to withstand the lusty lure of temptation:

  1. Make your relationship with your spouse your top priority in the hierarchy involving family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and others.
    Make a real commitment of time, energy, and effort to your marriage. You can end up pulled in so many different directions and over-extended that your most valuable and precious relationship can end up at the bottom of the list unless you make it a top priority.
  2. Nurture the emotional intimacy in your marriage.
    Make time to talk each day, not just about the events that have happened, but also about your feelings. Share on an emotional level—your fears, your frustrations, your joys, your disappointments, and your challenges. Let your partner know how much you value being able to talk to him or her about anything and to connect on a deep level.
  3. Show appreciation on a regular basis.
    Be generous with compliments and thank you’s. Tell your spouse at least once a week how much you appreciate him or her and list the qualities that you love, admire, and respect. Don’t worry that you’ve said these things before—no one gets tired of hearing their good traits praised!
  4. Spend time together doing fun things and just “hanging out.”
    Bonding can deepen when you and your spouse have unstructured time to just relax and hang out together. If every minute of your time together is tightly scheduled and rushed, you’ll miss out on opportunities to be spontaneous. Look for fun things to do—a picnic in the park, a hike, trying a new restaurant, going out dancing, or going swimming.
  5. Keep your sex life active.
    Sometimes being sick or fatigued gets in the way of sexual desire, as does family stress like caring for an ill or aging parent. Certainly the energy and time required to raise children can leave parents drained and “on empty.” In spite of these challenges, it’s essential to make time for sex. The sobering reality is that most spouses are more vulnerable to flirtations and sexual advances from others when their sex life is unhappy at home.
  6. Discuss and resolve issues as they come up.
    Don’t just bury them or neglect trying to resolve them. Learn how to disagree without being disagreeable and causing long-term damage to your relationship. Above all—communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep the communication door wide open at all times.
  7. Talk about the problem of infidelity and know that it can strike any marriage.
    Bring the subject out into the open and express your feelings and deepest fears. Brainstorm with your spouse about how you can keep your marriage strong and what the two of you think would be helpful in preventing an affair from happening. Commit to telling your spouse if you feel vulnerable or if things start getting out of control in any situation.
  8. Share goals for the present and future that inspire you.
    When you and your spouse share common goals that you’re passionate about, you will feel closer to each other and more connected. It helps you to feel like a real team. The feeling of partnership is important in deepening commitment to each other. Whatever your mutual dream is, the passion you bring to pursuing it can draw you closer together.
  9. Make wise decisions about contact with the opposite sex at work and other settings.
    You may encounter special situations and temptations on business trips or at business parties or in your work setting. Talk frankly with your spouse and agree on what you both feel comfortable with. If your spouse is on a business trip and the group goes out dancing, will you be upset if your spouse participates? Plan ahead and head off potential problems.
  10. Know the danger signals.
    Many affairs have started with individuals sharing intimate personal information with each other on a regular basis while not confiding in their respective spouses. Intimacy can mushroom quickly when secrecy is involved and a feeling of connection develops. Other danger signals are having increased sexual excitement about seeing someone in particular, being in settings with lots of alcohol and drinking when your spouse isn’t present, and being more vulnerable than usual due to feelings of loneliness, rejection, or anger at your spouse.
  11. Celebrate your love, anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions. Value your marriage and take advantage of every opportunity to celebrate, such as your wedding anniversary, the date that you met, your spouse’s birthday, and any other special days that the two of you share. This helps to keep the romance alive and also to keep your connection strong. Celebrate your love, your time together, your plans for the future, and the priceless present moment.
  12. Support each other’s goals.
    Make a commitment to help your spouse be all that he or she is capable of being. Your marriage is only strengthened when each of you is happy and fulfilled with your life. It’s to your advantage to help your spouse reach goals that are important to him or her, even if they aren’t your particular goals. Be positive and encouraging of your spouse’s desires to live up to his or her potential. —By Nancy Wasson, Ph.D.
 
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Posted by on December 3, 2017 in Marriage

 

From Doubt to Faith John 20:24-29


Why is it that some people believe the gospel and others do not? Perhaps the experience of Thomas can supply at least some of the answers to this question. From this text we can observe three barriers to faith that Thomas had to overcome in order to believe in the resurrected Lord.

Ignorance

One of the reasons Thomas was slow to believe in the resurrection of Christ is that he did not have all the evidence. The resurrected Christ had appeared to the disciples and gladdened their hearts with his presence (John 20:19-23). But, as our text reminds us (v. 24), Thomas had not been among them. He had spent a whole week in doubt and despair because he was absent from the place where he was most likely to meet Christ. He did not expose himself to all of the evidence.

Thomas is an example of a whole generation of doubters who have systematically detached themselves from the believing community. There are many people who seek to be good without God, a Christian without the church. Such people are ripe for doubt.

The honest searcher will seek faith where other people have found it. He will expose himself to the evidence of God’s reality—to the contagion of other people’s faith, to the preaching and teaching of the word of God. Why is it that people who doubt God the most are often the very ones who know the least about Him?

Cynicism

Thomas was from Missouri. “Show me,” was the motto of his life. Doubt was woven deep into the fabric of his life. He seems to have been cynical by nature. In the two other glimpses John gives us of Thomas he is consistently in the role of the skeptic, fearing the worst and slow to believe (John 11:16; 14:5). The cynicism and skepticism he displays in this third and final episode thus seem typical of his very disposition.

Like Thomas, it is harder for some people to believe today because they are cynical and skeptical in their basic approach to all of life. Sometimes the cruel and “unfair” blows of life make it difficult for people to profess any kind of faith in God. This is true of some of the more notable skeptics of recent history. There are many people reeling from life’s blows who have hardened their hearts to God and everybody else.

Empiricism

“Unless I see… touch… I will not believe.” (v. 25) Thomas was an empiricist. He was one of those people for whom “seeing is believing.” As such he is a fitting model for our times. Since God cannot be “seen” or “heard” or “touched,” some people are slow to acknowledge his existence. They have a tendency to trust only what their senses can confirm.

But so much of life is beyond that which can be perceived by our senses. We have never “smelled” an idea, “felt” a truth, put our “finger” on a thought. These realities are perceived in other ways. Such is the nature of “spiritual” realities. Our senses can take us to the edges of life, but they cannot take us beyond this life. Faith and faith alone can take us beyond this life.

It’s my greatest blessing in life to have known men and women who “lived their whole life for their death.” People who loved the Lord daily and longed for eternity moment by moment.

They understood that the most important things in life are things we cannot see.  They knew a faith that hasn’t been tested can’t be trusted. Their motto: without Christ, not one step; with him, anywhere!

As Abraham Lincoln said, “Faith is not believing that God can, but that God will!” Faith has never yet out-stripped the bounty of the Lord. Faith is a gift that we can ask for.

Conclusion

For us, like Thomas, the key to overcoming doubt is a personal encounter with the risen Lord. For Thomas this happened when he “saw” the Savior. For us it happens as we chose to accept the testimony of the Scriptures concerning him and trust in him to save us. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2017 in Encouragement

 

How you answer this question can change your marriage  


Imagine the following scenario. Your spouse has given you an important letter to mail and is counting on you to mail it on your way to work. But you slip up… You forget all about it until you’re on the way home. “Oh #$@!!” is your first reaction. You know the spouse will be upset.

You frantically search the car and your briefcase for the letter, but it’s gone. You can’t find it anywhere. Now what do you do? What will you tell your spouse when you get home and he (or she) asks you if you mailed the letter?

Will you say, “It got lost” or will you say, “I lost it”? Your answer to this question gives insight into your willingness to accept responsibility for your actions. According to Sidney J. Harris, “We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until…we have stopped saying ‘It got lost,’ and say ‘I lost it.'”

As long as you avoid taking responsibility for your actions or you look for reasons to avoid admitting you goofed, you’re not being honest with yourself. When you accept responsibility and stop rationalizing and blaming, then you can start to focus on what you can do differently that will produce different results next time.

This is not easy to do. Especially if we’re in the habit of placing blame elsewhere. Accepting responsibility in a marriage takes courage, above all when a spouse is at fault.

Mark, a long­time procrastinator, always had a list of reasons why he hadn’t been able to get around to doing the house maintenance chores. It was too cold or too hot, he was too tired, or he didn’t have the right tools or enough time. He would always promise to do the chores another day. Mark’s behavior greatly irritated his wife Anne, and she began to resent his constant excuses.

It wasn’t until Anne expressed her dissatisfaction with their marriage, giving Mark’s habitual procrastination as one of the reasons, that Mark really looked closely at how his behavior was hurting his marriage relationship. In marriage counseling sessions, he learned to take responsibility for his part in what happened each day. He also learned to pay attention to the words he selected to describe what happened.

Mark learned that when he said, “There wasn’t enough time to fix the faucet,” he often really meant, “I didn’t schedule enough time to complete the job today.” And if he went a step further and was even more honest, he also meant, “I don’t really want to do this, so I’m putting it off.”

Once Mark was more aware of his behavior patterns, he was able to have an honest talk with Anne. He told her that while he didn’t mind doing some of the repair jobs, he really didn’t want to have to spend the time the others would require. They talked it over and decided to hire someone to do the repairs Mark knew he would in all probability never get around to doing. He made a resolution not to make promises unless he really planned to keep them. He also resolved to be honest with Anne upfront instead of dragging things out for months.

These changes made a major difference in Mark and Anne’s relationship. Anne didn’t feel like “the nagging wife” any longer, and Mark didn’t mislead her by making false promises. Less friction in the marriage allowed them to focus on each other’s good points and to enjoy more harmony in their relationship.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2017 in Marriage

 

Rest for the Weary — Matthew 11:28-30


 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus spoke to men desperately trying to find God and desperately trying to be good, who were finding the tasks impossible and who were driven to weariness and to despair.

Our age has produced a new malady. It is called “chronic fatigue syndrome.” There is a sense in which all of us suffer from it. If we are nothing else, we are tired. When we come to Christ, we come to One who can give us rest.

A Common Problem — We are all tired from something. Fatigue occasionally overtakes even the strongest among us.  We are tired physically and mentally from the everyday struggle to make ends meet. We are tired emotionally from wrestling with dysfunctional relationships, unrealized dreams, and heartbreaking loss.  Ironically, we are tired spiritually from trying to live up to our faith.

Fatigue can do strange things to us. Vince Lombardi, the great football coach, once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”  It can even affect an entire generation, like Israel in the wilderness, who began grumbling. It can break our resolve to go on.

A Comforting Promise—“I will give you rest.”  If just anyone made this promise, we might find it empty. If a politician or even a physician made this promise, we would take it with a grain of salt. There are some things other people just can’t do for us.  But when Jesus makes a promise, we stop and listen. His promises are anything but empty. He has both the integrity and power to deliver on His word. We stake our eternal destinies on the reliability of his promises. We must take this one seriously as well.

A Challenging Prescription—“take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” He says, “My yoke is easy.”  The word easy is in Greek chrestos, which can mean well-fitting.  In Palestine ox-yokes were made of wood; the ox was brought, and the measurements were taken.  The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on.  The yoke was carefully adjusted, so that it would fit well, and not gall the neck of the patient beast.  The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox.

Jesus’ next words are surprising. We often seek rest by escaping, getting away, relieving ourselves of responsibility. Instead Jesus calls us to a new task. While we are looking for a hammock, Jesus calls us to a yoke! He calls us to find rest by voluntarily placing ourselves under a new burden. Jesus’ words teach us the real cause of fatigue and the nature of true rest.

Jesus says, “My burden is light.”  As a Rabbi had it:  “My burden has become my song.”  It is not that the burden is easy to carry; but it is laid on us in love; it is meant to be carried in love; and love makes even the heaviest burden light.  When we remember the love of God, when we know that our burden is to love God and to love men, then the burden becomes a song. 

The problem with our lives is not that we must work, that we must serve some master, perform some task. The problem is really what “work” we choose to do and whom we choose to serve. The kind of rest Jesus offers is not relief from the tasks necessary to sustain us or even freedom from all of life’s trials. Those early disciples who took Him up on this promise still had to labor for bread and face life’s difficulties. The kind of rest Jesus offers is a peace of mind, a calmness of spirit that comes from knowing our lives are being lived within His will. It is the kind of rest that accompanies a life that is rescued from self-made anxieties and stresses. Even the unavoidable work of meeting basic needs is made less tiring by the reassurance that the Savior is looking after us.

Conclusion

People wear all kinds of “yokes.” Some are slaves to ambition, to greed, to materialism, to lust, to alcohol, to pride and all of its evils. These are the things that truly exhaust us. By placing ourselves under the yoke of the gentle, humble Savior our lives are liberated from the exhaustion of all these things and set free to work purposefully unto true satisfaction and fulfillment.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Encouragement

 

The Restoration Plea


The Restoration Plea has been taught in our land for two centuries now, yet many in this generation have not heard it. It says:

Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. Let us call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways. Let’s restore the church as it was in the days of the apostles.

When one speaks of a restoration plea, four things are implied.

1. The restoration plea implies that God had a plan for the church.

In the basement of America’s largest home, the Biltmore mansion in Asheville, North Carolina, there is a model of the structure. The model was completed first as a guide to build the home. In Barcelona, Spain, you can visit the still unfinished Sagrada Familia Church. Construction began in 1882, so they have been working on it for over 100 years. They have a model of what the building will look like when it is finished.

The restoration plea implies that God had a plan for the church, which He revealed to man (Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 2:44; Ephesians 3:10-11).

Isaiah prophesied of the coming kingdom, showing that God was already making plans for the church seven centuries before it came to be (Isaiah 2:2-4). Isaiah said God would “teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” Jesus sent out the apostles to teach those paths Mark 16:15-16). Since the early church “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42; Acts 4:32), we know God’s messengers got His plan for the church delivered to the early Christians. Just as the fullness of God is in Christ (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9) and God has no plans for salvation for the world outside of Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), so the church is the fullness of Christ, and Christ has no plans for the world outside of His church (Ephesians 3:21).

2. The restoration plea implies that God expects us to continue to follow his plan.

The restoration plea implies that God expects us to continue to follow His plan in each succeeding generation. Paul wrote, “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). God wanted His pattern followed century after century.

The Bible emphasizes patterns. 

In constructing the tabernacle, Moses was warned by God that he must “make all things according to the pattern” (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5). Paul spoke of the “pattern of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13 asv) which early Christians were taught and in which they were to abide (2 Timothy 3:14). These Christians obeyed a “form” of doctrine (Romans 6:17-18) and “marked” (were on the lookout for) those who departed from that pattern (Romans 16:17). When it came to the doctrine of the New Testament, they earnestly contended for the faith (Jude 3), were warned about falling away from the faith (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:1-4), and not to go “beyond the things which are written” (1 Corinthians 4:6 asv). Each generation was charged not to teach a “different doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3 ASV).

Warnings not to go beyond the teaching of Christ abound in the New Testament (Galatians 1:6-9; Matthew 15:13; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 22:18-19). John said explicitly:

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 1:9-11).

3. The restoration plea implies that man left God’s pattern.

By becoming too well known, a product can lose its distinctiveness. The Trademark Association calls this problem “genericide.” Marlin Connelly gives some examples:

  • All facial tissue is called Kleenex,
  • Any gelatin dessert is Jello,
  • Any clear, sticky tape is Scotch Tape,
  • Any carbonated drink is a Coke (at least in the South),
  • Any adhesive bandage is a Band-Aid.

This has happened to the words Christian and Christianity. Once brand names for a definite product, they are now used for any kind of vague religiosity connected loosely with the historical Christ. In the minds of some, the rigid New Testament ethical code is now fluid and accommodating. Doctrines that in Bible times were black and white are now gray and faded. Practices that were then commanded are now optional. For instance, the creed book of the largest Protestant denomination states:

It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,” and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, “baptism was the door into the church.” Now, it is different.²

God has not changed His mind.

Why is it different today? God has not changed His mind. Men have usurped authority not belonging to them and changed God’s church into something different from what He intended. Surely God wants us to return to His original vision for the church.

4. The restoration plea implies that God wants his people to restore his original pattern today.

In the long ago, God’s prophet urged, as we do today, “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). Let’s go out among our neighbors with an open Bible and call them back to these old paths.

Endnotes:

¹These points are not original, but I do not know from whom I first heard or read them.

²Hiscox, Edward T. 1890. The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches. Philadelphia, PA: The American Baptist Publication Society, page 22.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Church

 
 
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