Your Best Moment

What has been the best moment of your life? Understand me. I’m not asking “what is the greatest thing you have ever done?” or “what is the best thing that ever happened to you?” The question is this: When were YOU at YOUR BEST?

The Bible teaches that we are at our best when we realize our littleness before God. It is often only at that point that we self-absorbed humans are willing to give our lives over in submission to God’s grand design.

Meditate on these words of David found in Psalm 39:4-5: “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You. Certainly every man at his best state is vapor.”

At our best, we are as the morning mist that melts away with the rising sun. Knowing our frailty and insignificance makes us realize our complete dependence on the God of heaven.

Walk outside some clear evening. Look up at the stars. Maybe you can spot the constellation Orion–the Hunter. Three stars lined up in a row form his belt. The distance from us to those stars is almost unimaginable. We can scarcely fathom the power of the One who placed those stars in the heavens and has held them there through the ages. We are SO SMALL. God, His power, His plans and His designs are SO BIG! It causes us to wonder how God could even care about something so small as a single mortal man. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4a).

Long ago the Lord asked Job if Job was able to “loose the belt of Orion” (Job 38:31). After being asked many such unanswerable questions from the mouth of the Lord, Job had perhaps his very best moment when he said to God, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from you. I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2,6).

When we fully realize the greatness of God and the smallness of man, there is nothing left to do but turn and render ourselves to Him in complete obedience. When we see ourselves as we are, there will be nothing left in us that could be called pride. There will be no aspirations for fame and acclaim. There will be no desire to claim superiority over other humans. We will surely see such activities for what they are — comparable to one speck of house dust making itself out to be more important than all the other specks of house dust. May God help us be at our smallest, for then we are at our best.

Lingering in the Dark

Can I lure you out of the darkness to read this?  I know that people in the dark typically don’t do a lot of reading — especially when the subject matter is spiritual.  I am aware that those who could use this article the most are the least likely to read it. Christians who are not really dedicated to serving Christ but would rather play at their pleasures and dally with distractions, don’t read articles like this. Those who like to live life on their own terms and occasionally enjoy the passing pleasures of sin don’t read articles like this. Those who know that they are not really right with God, but ease their consciences by telling themselves that they’ll straighten up one of these days, don’t read articles like this.  But they are the ones I’m writing to.  Can you step out of the darkness for a minute?

I want to ask you four questions.

1. How much time do you think you have to straighten up? God has not promised you tomorrow. “You do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). “It is high time to awake out of sleep” (Romans13:11). “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin” (1 Corinthians 15:34). Don’t kid yourself by thinking that you have all the time in the world. The truth is that the things we think we can do at any time often wind up being done at no time because time runs out.

2. Do you realize that the longer you wait, the harder it will be to straighten up? If tomorrow comes, you may be so hardened by your sin that you will no longer desire to do right. The Bible warns believers about “departing from the living God” and being “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13). It has been said that, “Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.”

3. Do you realize that you’re wasting your life in sin when you could be making good use of your life in service to God? Please DO NOT waste the rest of your life following worldly lusts and living selfishly when you could be doing God’s will (cf. 1 Peter 4:2). “We have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3).

4. Do you realize that you are testing God’s patience? God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). But there is an end to God’s patience and it is very unwise to test it. The longer we keep God waiting, the more His wrath builds. Paul puts it like this in Romans 2:4-5: “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Why keep Him waiting?

Today, you have an opportunity to get right with God. Tomorrow may not come. Stop wasting your life! Stop trying God’s patience! Resolve “no longer to linger!”

I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him!

Love without Hypocrisy

Comedian Mel Brooks once said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” Humans tend to care much more about what happens to them than about what happens to others. In fact, as Brooks’ joke illustrates, we tend to be much more concerned about small events in our own lives (or the lives of those close to us) than we are about truly tragic events in the lives of others.

Jesus changes our perspective in this matter. From Him we learn to care more about others than we do about ourselves. He showed us that love sacrifices itself for the well-being of others. God’s word challenges those of us who are Christians to be Christ-like in this very way. “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’” (Romans 15:2-3).

To love one another like Jesus loved us requires that our love be without hypocrisy. Romans 12:9 simply commands, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is play acting.  Love that is put on like an actor’s mask is pretended and fake; it is not really concerned for others. “Sincere love of the brethren” means that we “love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

How can a person tell if the love they have is genuine? Hypocritical love manifests itself in a number of ways. If you want to know whether you love like Jesus or like a hypocrite, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I love in deed, not just in word? Just saying that we love others may make both them and us feel better, but it is not all there is to real love. Expressions of concern for the poor, the sick, and the shut-in are nice, but our love is fake if we do nothing to help. “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). If, when we’re sick or experience tragedy we expect fellow Christians to be there for us, we should be there for them when they are in need.
  • Do I show partiality? 1 Corinthians 12:25 explains that in the body of Christ “the members should have the same care for one another.” Notice, we are to have the “same care” for one another. This means that I’m not to care more about one than the other. 1 Timothy 5:21 commands us to do “nothing with partiality.” But too often church members care much more about what happens to themselves or their families than about what others are going through. We value our own opinions and preferences, and those of those close to us, above those of everyone else. Such shows partiality. It is not the kind of love Jesus had. Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” The “wisdom that is from above” is “without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
  • Is my love sacrificial? If we’re not giving something up for our brethren, our love is not like Christ’s, and it is hypocritical. “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

“How often love fades like the morning mist…. 

  • when self is threatened in any way
  • when another doesn’t measure up to expectations
  • when a brother or sister has a need that will require expense or inconvenience from others
  • when a heart is lifted up by self importance and others do not respond as self requires.” (Paul Frey)

Love that is without hypocrisy won’t fade. Jesus loved us when He was threatened, when we didn’t measure up to expectations, and when we inconvenienced Him. And although He is the most important Being in the world, and we are sinners made of dust, He “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

That’s love. That’s how I want to love. Don’t you?

When You Know That You’re Sick

pexels-photo-262218.jpeg  A man who was a smoker was visiting his mother one day. A couple of hours into the visit, she noticed he hadn’t once lit up a cigarette. “Are you trying to kick the habit?” she asked.  “No,” he replied. “I have a cold, and I don’t smoke when I’m not feeling well.” “You know,” she observed, “you’d probably live longer if you were sick more often.”

As ironic as it sounds, there are some health benefits that come from knowing that you’re sick.  You may temporarily quit an unhealthy habit.  You may make a long overdue visit to the doctor. You may get more rest, drink more healthy liquids, and eat better foods.  You may get someone to help you with daily tasks that you’ve become too weak to do for yourself.

The same is true in the spiritual realm.  A lot of people are sin sick but don’t realize it.  Sin has separated them from God, alienated them from loved ones, caused misery in their lives and doomed their souls.  But, they haven’t made the connection in their minds between their symptoms and their disease; they may even think that they are not really sick and that life is supposed to be this way.  Only those who recognize their condition will do something about.

If you know that you are spiritually sick, here are some “good things” to try:

  See the doctor.  Jesus has the cure for your sin sick life.  In Mark 2:17 Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  Notice two things here.  First, only people who know they are sin sick will go to the physician.  Second, the doctor’s prescription is repentance!   Change your heart and your mind!

  Stop the unhealthy habits that are making you sick.  In the church at Corinth, many were spiritually sick because they were sinning by not taking the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.  Paul explains that “he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:29-30).  The Corinthians needed to evaluate their unhealthy practice and correct it! “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28).  The same is true with every pathogenic sin we commit.  If we want to get better, we must stop committing the sin and do what is right.

  Eat and drink a healthier diet — more of God’s word and work.  Jesus said that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mark 4:4). God’s word is able to build us up (Acts 20:32).  It is the healthiest thing our souls can ingest.  Like honey, it is both sweet and good for us!  The psalmist declares, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).   Jesus also said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34).  God’s word and His work will revitalize us and keep us going!

  Rely more on Christ.  A person who is sick may be too weak to do much for himself.  He must rely on others to lend a hand.  Our infirmities and weakness should cause us to rely more on Christ.  We may be too weak to accomplish much, but He can do all things.  In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul records for us how his own infirmity helped him to trust more fully in the power of Christ.  The Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” This caused Paul to say, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (12:9-10).

No one enjoys being sick, but being sick and knowing it may actually help you become healthy.  So, how about it?  Do you think you may be coming down with something?

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Love Lessons from the Lord

gods-love  I wonder how many self-help books have been written to try to help people learn how to love each other?  Isn’t that what all those books are really about that are written on topics like marriage, dating, conflict resolution, parenting, and interpersonal relationships?

In the New Testament, we find a group of people who didn’t need to read any how-to books on love.  The Thessalonians had already learned their lesson. The apostle Paul wrote to them, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9).

God is certainly qualified to teach lessons on love.  Who would know more about what love is?  He is the definition of it!  “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  Among the many wonderful lessons we can learn from our heavenly Father, consider these on the nature of love:

  • Love is sacrificial. God gave His only begotten Son out of love for us (John 3:16).  This supreme sacrifice surely teaches us that love is sacrificial by nature.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11).  If we say that we love, but are unwilling to sacrifice, we haven’t learned what love is. In 1 John 3:17-18, the apostle John said, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
  • Love is merciful. Ephesians 2:4 states that “God…is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.”  God’s love for us is the reason He is merciful to us – blessing and forgiving us.  Jesus commanded, “Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
  • Love is unconditional. It is natural to love those that love us, but it is Supernatural to love those that hate us.  This is the love that God teaches.  Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45).
  • Unconditional love can be critical. Unconditional love does not equal uncritical love. Sometimes love demands that we point out the faults of those whom we love. We learn this from Jesus Himself, who told the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.”  If we truly care for another person, we will say and do all that we can to keep them on the right path.

Learning to love means learning to sacrifice for others, to show mercy, to love the unlovable, and to correct those who need correcting.  Have you learned your lesson?

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Learning the Truth

bible study

I have had the opportunity on several occasions to attend or read religious debates.  In every such debate, at least one of the disputants has been in error.  Sometimes, they both have been.  Yet, I know for a fact that the debaters often spend hundreds of hours studying what the Bible has to say concerning the subject at hand.  Whether the topic was instrumental music in worship, the necessity of baptism, the mode of baptism, church support of institutions, miraculous spiritual gifts or Sabbath keeping, I have always been impressed with the tremendous amount of Bible study, thought and preparation done by each participant.  Their laborious effort shows.  Personally, I have never heard a debate in which I didn’t learn many new facts, some of them from the person who was defending error.  One can have a lot of facts and still not have the truth!

The same holds true for preachers and Bible class teachers.  Many spend a great deal of time studying and preparing, and can present a lot of true and valuable information.  Yet, many are in error on certain points. Is it because they don’t study enough?  Maybe, in some cases.  But maybe there is more to understanding God’s truth than just studying. Maybe there is more to learning the truth than just learning the facts.

How do we come to know the truth of God’s word?  Is it through study?  Yes.  But something more than study is necessary.

  • Study must be coupled with the will to know the truth, and not with a desire to reinforce our opinions or defend our positions. In John 5:39-40, Jesus told the Jews, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” The Jews did not discover the truth about the Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures because they were “not willing.”  Even though they searched the Scriptures, they remained in error because they didn’t want the truth more than they wanted their own opinions and traditions.  We will do no better than they as long as we cherish anything more than the truth.  Proverbs 23:23 commands us to “Buy the truth, and do not sell “
  • Study must be thorough, and truly include all of the related information in the Bible on a given subject. Psalm 119:160 states that “The entirety of Your word is truth.”  If I want to know the truth, I must take “the entirety” of God’s word.  If I dismiss or ignore certain passages of Scripture because they don’t fit with my view of truth, I will not learn the truth.
  • Study must be done with the humility of one who is ignorant, not with the pride of one who already knows. In 1 Corinthians 8:1-2, the apostle Paul writes, “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.”  The person who doesn’t know, but doesn’t know that he doesn’t know, has a lot to learn, but he is not likely to learn it.  One who is proud in his knowledge does not receive instruction and correction; so, he remains in error.  “He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray” (Proverbs 10:17).

I am troubled that there are well-studied brethren who are wrong.  Aren’t you?  I am keenly aware that I might be in the same shape myself, and just as blissfully ignorant of it as many others seem to be.  I must study.  I must study more earnestly, more honestly, more thoroughly, and more humbly. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

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America: God Shed His Grace on Thee!

Katherine Lee Bates was a young college professor in 1893 when she traveled to the top of Pikes Peak. On the pinnacle of that majestic purple mountain above the fruited plain, the words of a poem began to form in her mind, and later that evening on her return to Colorado Springs, she wrote them down: “America the Beautiful.” An open-eyed view of the natural and human beauty of our great land evoked the line, “America! America! God shed His grace on thee.”

No nation in the history of mankind, save perhaps ancient Israel itself, has ever been so undeservedly blessed as ours. Our Maker has lavished His grace upon us in the form of wealth, unparalleled liberties, and unfettered access to His divine word — the Bible which freely offers us eternal life. And how, my fellow Americans, have we repaid such grace? With brotherhood from sea to shining sea? With mutual regard for one another’s souls? With respect for the moral standards of the One who has so richly blessed us? With a deep appreciation for the love and truth that He has communicated to us through His Son? 

On this our national birthday, can we all just stop and think? Do we want to be remembered in history and in eternity for what we are today? Has God shed His grace in vain?

We can do better. Much better.pikes peak