Posted in Christian Living

A Difference of Perspective

Most of the readers will likely remember being involved in situations where some sort of serious accident has occurred which involved a dear loved one. Or perhaps it was a sickness or a heart attack or a stroke. Maybe you followed the ambulance to the hospital, and in the waiting room, you anxiously awaited a report of the condition of the loved one. You may have spent anxious moments at the hospital waiting for word from the doctors. Or you may have stayed in the ICU room day after day hoping your loved one would completely recover.

Scene One: Let us imagine an automobile accident in which a husband and wife are involved. Let us say that the accident was terrible, but that somehow though the husband was severely injured, the wife experienced only minor injuries. For days the husband lingers near death, but the wife is prayerful and hopeful and remains at his side or at least close at hand. But finally, the doctor brings to her the sad message: “He didn’t make it.” Oh the crying, the loss, the horrible, horrible sorrow that fills the heart of the mate now left behind! Most of us can identify with such an event which produces so much heartache in the souls of those who must now carry on. We soothe ourselves in the sacred promises of a most loving God who knows all and who has told us that in every situation, we simply must trust him (Prov. 3:5, 6). The word has to be circulated, and other kinfolk and acquaintances are informed of that sobering truth: “He didn’t make it.”

Scene Two: But now in our imagined scenario, we see the recently departed husband in Hades, the realm of the dead. By the grace of God, he has arrived in Paradise where the righteous dead go to await the end of the world and the resurrection (Luke 16:19-31; 23:43; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). The angels have carried him to a section of that domain where those he knows are waiting. He immediately recognizes some of his kinfolk who preceded him in death, some having died just a few weeks ago. Also, he sees members of his own congregation, some who died years ago. My, what greetings! The conversation is lively and wonderful as memories are evoked in the hearts of all as they ponder days gone by back on the earth. He sees some who now look so good, and he remembers how they looked in the midst of malady during their last days on the earth. What an improvement! Everyone is healthy in mind and body. There is no disease, no surgery scars, and no painful facial expressions. There is nothing that would indicate problem or distress in any form.

After the initial welcome and the first words of joy expressed by those who are so very glad to see him finally once again, he begins to express himself as to his impression of his new habitation. “I knew from what the Bible said that Paradise would be a wonderful place. But I could not in my wildest imaginations ever have pictured exactly the feeling of satisfaction, peace, and joy that I now do,” he explains.

One of his relatives asks him how it is that he, not yet an old man, got to come to Paradise when he did. So, he begins to explain about the car wreck. He can’t relate very many of the details of the accident because he simply doesn’t remember much about what really happened. He must have lost consciousness at the moment of impact. He does, however, barely remember hearing voices at some point. Maybe it was while he was still in the car or maybe in the ambulance or maybe even in the hospital. People seemed to be discussing his condition. Some were hopeful; others not. Frank statements were made. By whom he’s not sure. But he does remember that someone, a woman, seemed to be softly praying. The words were said very close to his ear. She must have been bent over him, and he remembers that the prayer was so sincere, so desperate, and he now recalls that though he can’t remember most of the prayer, he does remember the final words. The voice trembled, as the woman cried: “Let thy will be done.”

Just then at that point of his account, a kinsman who knew him and his wife very well back on the earth, upon hearing about a woman praying near him, suggests to his recently arrived kinsman that the voice must have been that of his wonderful wife. He asks whether or not she was in the car when the accident occurred. “Yes, she was,” he remembers. “Was she hurt?” “Yes, she was,” he recalls. He begins to reflect upon those moments just prior to his bodily release, and he remembers briefly seeing his wife in an ever so temporary moment of consciousness. She was battered and bruised, but she did not look seriously hurt at all. He ponders the thought: she lived; I died. “Is she here somewhere?” his kinsman inquires. And as he looks out on the faces of those waiting for his response, he replies, “No, she didn’t make it.”

Posted in Christian Living, Doctrine, Salvation

We Can Keep the Commandments

The only faith that saves is the faith that obeys (James 2:26; Heb. 5:8-9). Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26). Jesus said that love would demonstrate itself by keeping his commandments (John 14:15) and that his friends were those who did that very thing (John15:14). Solomon in the long ago concluded that the whole of life was in fearing God and keeping his commandments (Eccl. 12:13-14). Anyone today who undermines the concept of keeping divine commandments does so to his own peril. But notice that we can only keep divine commandments if—

  1. There is a commander. The eternal God and creator of everything other than himself is in position to exact from humans what he wishes. In the three divine religions of which we read in Scripture (Gentile-ism, Judaism, Christianity), God obligates according to his holy and perfect will. Today, since the last will and testament of Jesus Christ is in effect, we are to listen to him (Matt. 17:5; Heb. 9:15-17; 12:25; 2 John 9-11). Anyone who would approach God today must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him (Heb. 11:6; 4:16; 7:25).
  2. There are commands. Unfortunately, many have misconstrued the notion of salvation by grace to mean that there is complete exclusion of the requirement for obedience. There can only be obedience to commands, and if there are no commands, there can be no obedience. And if salvation by grace excludes commands, then obedience is not required. Some brethren take passages on grace to mean this very thing. For example, in Rom. 6:14 Paul wrote, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace.” Notice that Paul said that sin would not have “dominion” over a Christian, for a Christian stood under grace while Jews in the previous divine regime stood under law. John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; ‘the’ grace and ‘the’ truth came though Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Paul in Rom. 6 did not say that Christians had no law but that law itself could not hold sway over them because of the grace they had received. They surely had obligation and where there is obligation there is law, but Christians were not under the law of Moses (the contrast between law [which killed] and grace [which made alive] is elaborated in Rom. 7 and 8). Sin cannot dominate the life of a Christian because of the grace made available by the law (gospel) itself. Paul had in Rom. 6:1 earlier raised the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Of course, the answer was “no.” But the question is absurd if there is no law, for if there is no law, one could not commit sin, much less continue in it.
  3. We do know where to find them. We cannot obey the commands if we do not know where the commands are located. Where should a man go in order to find his obligations to God? First, he looks at his own conscience which declares to him the significant moral difference between right and wrong. Furthermore, his conscience convicts him of guilt when he violates it. He sees, or should see, that his own conscience is guiding him to find the source of it who is also the Creator of all. Paul told the Athenians that man was made to look for God who is not far from any man (Acts 17:27-28). Paul also told the Athenians that they (and we) would be judged by Jesus (Acts 17:30-31). Jesus had once said that anyone who rejected his sayings would by the Lord’s word be judged in the last day (John 12:48). If the word of Christ is the judge, and that word is the equivalent of his last will and testament (our New Testament), then men today will be judged by the New Testament. That is where we find our current obligations imposed on us by God. That new testament (or covenant) is now in force (Heb. 9:15-28).
  4. We do know what they are. One could conceivably recognize that the New Testament is the will of God operative today without really ever learning much about the contents of that will. He might never be serious in study so as to survey the scene to find his duty. The New Testament contains facts, promises, obligations. If a man would know what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37; 16:30), he must study and find divine answer to that question and accept no mere man’s conflicting answer to counter what God has said. Since the answer to the question is given in various pieces and places in Scripture, he must be diligent in his search to know all that he must do to become a Christian and to remain a faithful one. Can a man know “all” he must do to become a Christian? Indeed, he must know all. Can a man know all the principles to which he must submit in order to remain a faithful one? Of course. How can a man remain faithful if he does not know how to do so? Jesus promised that the knowledge of truth which would provide spiritual freedom would be accessible to those who would abide in his word (John 8:31-32). Christians today who deny the knowability of truth (that is, they deny that we can be certain about it) do not believe what the Lord taught about it.
  5. We have the right attitude toward them. Can a man obey a command of God without proper regard for or respect for the command? Can a man say, in effect, “Well, I’ll do it, but I don’t like it”? We might recall that Naaman had to put aside his anger before he would do what God’s prophet instructed him to do (2 Kings 5:8-14). Would not an honest sinner welcome the information regarding his duty to God? Is it possible for a practicing sinner to become a Christian while not loving God and not welcoming the saving information he has learned? Paul informs us that godly sorrow that produces repentance brings no regret (2 Cor. 7:10). Furthermore, if faithful Christians find grief, they do not locate it in the commandments of God (1 John 5:1-3).
  6. They mean what they did when first given. The duties imposed on all men today through the law of Christ are the same permanent obligations which rested on the first century church. We are far removed in time from that period in which the first obligations were preached to the whole world. The divinely given duty to take the gospel to the world was given to the apostles (Matt. 28:18-20). In thirty years they accomplished that noble and necessary assignment that once and for all changed human amenability from Gentile-ism and Judaism to the gospel (Col. 1:23; Mark 16:19-20). And the same obligations that were preached to sinners and saints still reside in God’s book, binding on men today our duty to God. The warning was early on given not to go against the gospel that was revealed (Gal. 1:6-10). The apostles’ doctrine or teaching (Acts 2:42) was the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 1:7). The pattern was and remains set regarding obligations (2 Tim. 1:13; 1 Tim. 1:16; Heb. 8:5). No one has the authority to change them. They are not fluid in nature. And translation does not alter human obligation.
  7. We have inherent capacity to obey. There are those who still maintain that a sinner cannot on his own make any move toward God, but that he must wait on divine help in order to get to repentance. The Bible simply does not teach this unholy doctrine. We simply cannot move from sinner status to saint status without utilizing our will to make the move. Do we want to do the right thing? Do we want to obey God? If we do, can we obey the gospel? If damnation is pronounced on all who sin and who do not obey the gospel, then either we can obey that gospel or God does not want us all to be saved. Damnation is pronounced against all sinners who obey not the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-10), and yet God wants all men to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:4). Then, it follows that there is an inherent capacity within the sinner to learn and obey the gospel. He can come to faith, repent of his sins, confess his faith, and be baptized into Christ (John 8:24; Luke 13:3; Matt. 10:31-32; Mark 16:15-16). And every Christian (one in whom the Holy Spirit now dwells per Rom. 8:9-11) has divine help within that helps him to hold sin down (Rom. 8:14) in the production of Spirit fruit (Gal. 5:22-24).
Posted in Christian Living

When All Is Said And Done

The title of this piece is familiar to the reader. He and I have heard it, used it, and perhaps reflected on it from time to time. Let us surgically see what we can find within that expression. Perhaps there is something to learn from an expression so briefly declared and so popularly received.

When all is said and done, there is usually more said than done. We have all heard this as well, and within the scope of our own personal experiences, it seems to have wide application. Much of the time as plans are made, plans are formed and stated, but the execution of plans is not always accomplished. Talk is cheap. Ahab was a rotten individual, and yet on one occasion he said something brilliant. When threatened by Benhadad, he responded, “Let not him that girdeth on armor, boast himself as he that putteth it off” (2 Sam. 20:11). At least once he stated something that was pure gold!

When all is said and done, all is rarely said. We do not know all, and so we cannot say all. And we do not have time to say all even if the interest of others allowed us to do so. It is interesting to observe that in court, when one promises to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, by selective questions, he is disallowed to say anything other than what is asked. The attorney at the moment does not necessarily want all known to be presently said! We recall that in Scripture the queen of Sheba had received a glowing report of Solomon’s court. She did not believe it. But after seeing Solomon’s situation for herself, she said “the half was not told me” (1 Kings 10:7; cf. Matt. 12:42).

When all is said and done, all is rarely done. There is not enough time and energy to get everything done that we might like to see finished. Furthermore, we would not be happy if we did not have something to do. We humans need something significant to occupy our time on this earth. Solomon long ago pointed out the human need for expended effort in work and also in doing good (Eccl. 2:24; 3:12, 13; 5:12).

When all is said and done, some things are done without much being said. At times there is not much talk that precedes the doing of deeds. There is a time for action. It should not be without thought, but it can be without talk. When the sinking Peter cried for help, Jesus immediately grabbed him, and words followed (Matt. 14:31). There are many times in life when immediate action is required. There is a time to think, there is a time to speak, and there is a time to act.

When all is said and done, some things that are said shouldn’t be. We can all identify, and we likely all regret several things said in the past. It is a sad fact that at times we have simply spoken without much preceding thought, and the words selected were not well chosen. It is also the case, that we at times have spoken, and we did think beforehand, but our thinking was in error. Job was like that. He once said, “…I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.”

When all is said and done, some things that are done shouldn’t be. Of course, this includes all sin. John said that he was writing so that his readers would not sin (1 John 2:1). It also includes many mistakes in judgment carried out in practice. We all regret bad decisions carried into effect.

When all is said and done, regarding Christianity, saying is not enough. John also wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). Jesus said that the Pharisees, as a group, were those who said and did not (Matt. 23:3). He had earlier affirmed that unless a person’s righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, he could not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).

When all is said and done, in some situations saying is an urgent matter. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus warned his fellow Jews to settle difficulties among themselves immediately. The failure to do this could lead to the escalation of tension and to increased complications. “Agree with thine adversary quickly,” he said (Matt. 5:25).

When all is said and done, in God’s case, there are two levels of things said. Sacred history records the fact that on some occasions God says things that are intended to evoke human response. He has used questions (Gen. 3:9, 11, 13). He has used declarations (Num. 14:11-20). The declaration made to Moses was a threat intended to be carried out only if there was a failure on Moses’ part to plead for the people. So, we can say that on this level, God declared something he would do, if the desired response was not effected, while knowing that the desired response would, in fact, come. So, on the first level, we could describe some of God’s sayings not as settled sayings or unconditioned statements, but as temporary causes to produce permanent effects. On the other hand, the second level of God’s speech involves his definite, settled declarations without the divine intention of simply effecting a response (Psalm 19:7; Heb. 6:17; Titus 1:2; Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25). These are unconditioned statements, and they are set.

When all is said and done, God does what he wants to do. Whatever he does is perfect (Eccl. 3:14). And what he wants to do is carried out in heaven and on earth (Psalm 135:6). What others do may not always please him, but what he does pleases himself fully. God is never dissatisfied with himself or his actions.

When all is said and done, Jesus both said and did. In beginning his second book, Luke reminds Theophilus that in his first book he had written “concerning all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). John the baptizer spoke, but performed no miracles (Mark 1:4; John 10:41), but Jesus spoke and performed miracles as well. After witnessing a miracle that the Lord performed, some said, “He hath done all things well; he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak” (Mark 7:37). Peter would later in Caesarea say that Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38).

When all is said and done, we will be judged on what we say and what we do. Jesus said, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by they words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:37). He had already stated that a person’s words indicate the condition of his heart (v. 34). And regarding resurrection and judgment, he declared that all the resurrected would be judged based on whether they had done good or had done evil (John 5:28-29).

Posted in Christian Living, Old Testament

The spies never said it

By Weylan Deaver

Perhaps a year or less after bringing Israel out of Egypt in miracle-saturated fashion, God has Moses send twelve tribal leaders to spy out the land of promise (Num. 13:1-2). The mission was not to see whether they could conquer the land (that should have been a foregone conclusion), but to see what the geography and its people were like (vv. 17-20). Nevertheless, ten of the twelve return and give a negative appraisal of the prospect of even taking the land (vv. 25-33). We know what they reported, but it is instructive to consider some things they never said.

The spies never said, “There is no God to help us.” Per divine definition, every atheist is a fool (Psa. 14:1), but you can be a fool without being an atheist. These were men who had witnessed the plagues in Egypt and who had walked across the Red Sea on dry land, all within their recent past. The Lord even asks, “how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Num. 14:11). The spies act like practical atheists, in that their minds are not influenced by God. They do not even mention God in their report. Do we ever, without verbally denying the Lord, end up practically denying him by living without his impact in our thoughts and deeds?

The spies never said, “God has not promised us this land.” We could be more sympathetic to their report, had God never explained his intention to give them the land. But Israel knew. They do not doubt God’s bringing them to the land; what they doubt is their ability to survive it. The people ask, “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?” and then suggest returning to Egypt as a better option (Num. 14:3). They do not see themselves belonging in Canaan. What of us? Jesus said, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, ESV). Are you comfortable in the kingdom? Do you see yourself belonging only there? Would you fight to stay?

The spies never said, “God has abandoned us, so we cannot conquer the land.” They had no evidence of divine abandonment. In fact, “the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud” in the previous chapter (Num. 12:5). The problem was not God’s distance; the problem was their doubt. Despite what the Bible says, do we sometimes act like we are alone? Do we live as though the future depends on our efforts, completely factoring out divine providence and promises? Without accusing God of not being here, do we still live like he is not going to help us?

The spies never said, “We do not believe what God told us.” But, that is exactly the spiritual crime for which God indicts them. “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19). Unbelief makes people unable. We can fall into the same pit, our lack of faith robbing us of blessings God would like to bestow.

In truth, the spies did not have to make any of those statements to prove themselves unbelieving and, thus, unable to take the land. God sent a plague to kill the ten faithless spies (Num. 14:37), and banished the nation to forty years of wandering. Ironically, when God was there to make it happen, Israel did not believe she could enter Canaan. But, when God removed his help, Israel then decided it was the right time to go into Canaan, after all (Num. 14:39-45). A fool’s errand, and it did not work—Israel was defeated, humiliated, and still had to wander forty years. May God give us faith that conquers, instead of fear that quakes.

Posted in Christian Living

I have been young

By Mac Deaver

Our society places a lot of emphasis on the concept of “youth.” If one did not know better, he might by such a cultural stress get the idea that youth is what life is all about. He would, however, be wrong. While there is certainly a benefit to that time period in one’s life, it is not the focal point of living, according to the Scriptures. We must not lose our perspective as we go through or get beyond youth. Let us consider—

The foolishness of youth. Solomon wrote, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). Those of us who are no longer youthful can likely remember that our “bad ideas” didn’t go away once we got past elementary school. It took some time and experience, listening and learning for us to get a better comprehension of that around which our lives were to be revolving. As young people it was hard for us at the time to see how ignorant we really, really were.

The days of youth. Solomon long ago gave us warning, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Eccl. 12:1). The path of life is to be planned early on. The direction in which one is to travel is to be located soon and followed thereafter. In our youth we are to determine to live for God and in light of the eternity that is fast approaching. Youth is not meant by God to be wasted and then regretted. Parents are to help their children to seek God early (Eph. 6:1-4; cf. Luke 2:40-52).

The vanity of youth. Solomon said, “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (Eccl. 11:9-10). It is exciting to be a young person. There is so much to learn, so much to experience, so much to feel. Life is before us! And with so much energy we are willing to live it. But this period in one’s life is but for a brief moment. It indeed has its own value as a time in one’s life, but its worth should not be overestimated, given the way life becomes once one is past his young years.

The value of youth. Paul once said to a young preacher, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an ensample to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). With proper training, a Christian can become quite useful in the work of the Lord at an early age. While many youths may be correctly apprised as yet foolish, those properly directed can be seen by older people as using good judgment and showing sense in the way they are living.

The sins of youth. Following the flood God reflected on the nature of man. Moses recorded for us these words: “…I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21). Indeed, all of us adults must admit that our first sin occurred in youth. David prayed, “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord” (Psa. 25:7).

The memory of youth. Late in life David said, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psa. 37:25). Old age contains the memory of days long gone. The totality of life’s experiences can be contemplated almost fully as one approaches his last day on earth. The old person knows what youth is like. He knows how such a state compares with middle age. And he knows how middle age appears in the
light of the last days of his earthly pilgrimage. And the faithful old person sees the evidence of God’s love and God’s care and the necessity of human righteousness on the earth as he surveys the scene of his youth and all the days that followed that long ago time in his life.

I am glad that God somehow in his gracious providence kept me from making a fool of myself in youth. It was such a great time! It was such an exceedingly important formative period. It was wonderful to be a young person raised in a Christian home where the gospel and the church meant everything. The complete atmosphere of human living was spiritual. May God help our parents to help their young to grow up right, straight, and strong.

Posted in Christian Living

For what are we seeking?

By Marlin Kilpatrick

Every person is seeking for something. Many a person has spent his entire life seeking for a fortune, while others have sought fame. If one acquires a fortune, it is relatively easy to become famous. The wise man Solomon said, “Wealth maketh many friends, but the poor is separated from his neighbour” (Prov. 19:4). One’s wealth is a blessing if it’s used for the good of others, but it can be a curse, especially if used solely for the pleasures of this life. Jesus said, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).

The pursuits of this life tell much about the spiritual condition of one’s heart. The apostle Paul warned, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:10-12). Paul not only penned these words by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but he also lived in accord with them. We should not wonder why he would say, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

As we travel through this life, there are many things with which Satan attracts our attention and causes us to sin. He has many schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). Satan can cause us to misuse our time and talents. He can cause us to become Satan-seekers, rather than seeking “the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (cf. Matt. 6:33). Satan can take an innocent hobby of ours, and turn it into a sinful situation. The sin is not in the hobby, per se, but in the amount of time we spend in it, which keeps us from serving the Lord in his kingdom. Our employment is another area of life in which we must be most careful, making sure it does not keep us from faithfully worshiping God upon the first day of every week (cf. Acts 20:7).

In addition to Christ, the Old Testament patriarch Abraham is a worthy example for us to follow. It is said of him, “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). One cannot have a more worthwhile goal in this life, than to seek the eternal home of the soul, heaven. To seek heaven for our eternal abode, one must get his priorities in the right order. The Lord must come first in all we do, we must seek to teach others—as opportunities arise—the saving truth of the gospel (cf. Gal.6:10), and we must keep in our minds our own spiritual condition.

Solomon said it best, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14). Solomon’s words tell us why it is so crucial that we now be about seeking the right thing. Think about it.

Posted in Christian Living, Expository, Old Testament


Anyone who would go into a pit and kill a lion has my high regard, which is why—hunter that I am—Benaiah has long held a special place for me. There are several Old Testament men named Benaiah, and all are more or less obscure. Our focus is on the one who served as captain over King David’s bodyguard. Consider some lessons from the account of him in 2 Samuel 23:20-23.

“And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two ariels of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen” (v. 20, ESV). Since his father, Jehoiada, was a priest, that makes Benaiah a Levite warrior, and he had 24,000 men under his command (cf. 1 Chron. 27:5). It is unclear what “ariels” are, but, if the Septuagint is correct, it appears Ariel was Moab’s king and that Benaiah killed his two sons. How there came to be a lion in a pit goes unstated. Suggestions include that the pit was dug as a trap (cf. Lockyer, All the Men of the Bible, p. 73), or that it was a cistern for drinking water into which the lion had fallen (cf. Bergen, New American Commentary, p. 471), or that the lion had been driven by the cold weather to make the dry tank his lair (cf. Smith, Pulpit Commentary, p. 571). Whatever the case, Benaiah—on a cold day, when fingers might be numb—descended into a confined area with a fearsome, deadly animal and slew it (without any high-powered rifle). He was “a doer of great deeds.” Are we? Great deeds in God’s sight do not have to be dangerous, or even big; they just have to be good (see Mark 9:41).

“And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear” (v. 21). Another account puts this Egyptian’s height at five cubits (1 Chron. 11:23), which, given an 18-inch cubit, would make him 7.5 feet tall! But a giant with a giant spear was not enough to intimidate Benaiah, who wrested it from the Egyptian and struck him therewith. What audacity! He did not even call for backup. What of us? Are we intimidated by the devil? Faithful Christians recognize that the One who is in us is stronger than the devil who wants us (cf. 1 John 4:4).

“These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men” (v. 22). David had a highly select group of about thirty men known for boundless courage and awesome accomplishment. The three highest are named earlier in the chapter (vv. 8, 9, 11). Benaiah, though not one of the three mightiest, did things that could not escape their notice. Think of that. Today, the greatest, mightiest folk in the world are the Lord’s saints. The world may pay us little attention, but, we ought to be living lives so spiritually courageous that other Christians cannot but take notice. Notoriety is never the goal; it is simply the inevitable outcome if we go where the world will not go, and do what the world will not do, all to God’s glory.

“He was renowned among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David set him over his bodyguard” (v. 23). Great as he was, that still could have been a problem had Benaiah been prideful, selfishly ambitious, power-hungry, narcissistic. But, instead of bemoaning that “he did not attain to the three,” Benaiah seems to have been content with what he was, and where that put him. What about us? Are we happy to do for God the work that we can in the place where we are? Or, is there dissatisfaction that we lack another’s talent, or that someone else seems to have the spotlight? There will always be others who are ahead of us in ability, and none of us should be seeking for renown. Thankfully, the kingdom of Christ is not a competition, and we need not suffer by comparing ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12; Phil. 4:11). What a man Benaiah was: neither lion, nor giant, nor enemy soldier could stop him, and his betters could not fail to be impressed. No wonder he was among David’s mighty men. Though few today have ever heard his name, the Lord’s church needs people like Benaiah.

Posted in Books, Christian Living

Nothing But Good

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris describes Roosevelt’s 1898 campaign for Governor of New York. Earlier that year, he had left his job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to organize a volunteer regiment for the Army—what became known as the Rough Riders—in view of coming hostilities with Spain over the island of Cuba. Roosevelt was 39 years old and longed to experience battle. He got his wish and led the Rough Riders in taking Kettle Hill, followed by San Juan Hill, overlooking the city of Santiago. All told, the Rough Riders were organized, trained, sent off to war, won, came home, and were disbanded in less than five months’ time. Colonel Roosevelt was now a national hero, and next sought the governorship of his home state.

Barnstorming the Empire State by train, he gave speeches at dozens of whistle stops. For added effect, he took along a small cadre of former Rough Riders who would talk about the Colonel, providing more color for his campaign. At one depot, a Rough Rider named Buck Taylor attempted a speech about his fearless leader’s courage in Cuba, praising him in these words:

“I want to talk to you about mah Colonel. He kept ev’y promise he made to us and he will to you….He told us we might meet wounds and death and we done it, but he was thar in the midst of us, and when it came to the great day he led us up San Juan Hill like sheep to the slaughter and so will he lead you” (Morris, p. 720).

Roosevelt was not much bothered by the misguided comparison. Afterward, he remarked on Taylor’s well-intentioned effort, “This hardly seemed a tribute to my military skill, but it delighted the crowd, and as far as I could tell did me nothing but good” (ibid.).

We try, as Christians, to do good for the Lord. Unlike Jesus, we don’t always have the perfect word at precisely the right moment. We don’t always know exactly what to do, or the wisest way to go about it. With our own glaring imperfections, we seek to praise the One who is perfection personified. But, that is the way Jesus wants it. He is content to take us along the journey. He doesn’t mind our company. He wants us with him. And, though Jesus could always say it best, he asks us just to do what we can—even if we stumble over our words or mix up a metaphor. He who became for us “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7, ESV), now leads us on to highest reward as we try to spread the news about the victory he won us. Or, as Paul put it, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). May the Lord help us to do him “nothing but good.”

Posted in Christian Living

Good Is Not Good Enough

By Weylan Deaver

Many think they are going to heaven, who are not headed that direction at all. Such is not God’s wish, but does state the sad reality (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4; Matthew 7:13-14). Many think they can live a “good” life and that they will be saved on that basis, without having to be involved with the Lord’s church, and without having to be too wrapped up in things religious. They attempt to live life largely on their own terms, just trying to be decent and moral, and without feeling like God is intruding on their schedules on a daily basis. But, man’s “goodness” (however it be defined) cannot get any man to heaven because it is not really good. Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18, ESV). We are marred by the sins we do, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Being sinners, we deserve death (Romans 6:23). No one is going to heaven without a whole lot of help from God, and the help will be on God’s terms—not mine—as revealed by Jesus Christ (John 14:6). It will require lifelong commitment and willingness to put God before everything else in your life (Matthew 6:33). Becoming a Christian and living faithfully will be the hardest and also the most rewarding thing you ever do. The only alternative is eternally catastrophic. Hell is as real as heaven, and to be avoided at all cost (Matthew 25:46). Trying to be “good” is not good enough. I have to be born again by God’s power, by water and Spirit (John 3:3-5), as I am immersed into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-4), baptized into his spiritual body (Galatians 3:27), which is the church that Jesus will save (Ephesians 5:23). Visit us at the church of Christ, where we worship an infinitely good God, who still saves those who obey his gospel (Hebrews 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Posted in Christian Living

Summer Is Near

By Weylan Deaver

Jesus observed that, when the fig tree puts out leaves, “you know that summer is near” (Matt. 24:32). In Texas, the mercury in the thermometer is rising, kids are almost out of school, trees are in bloom, thoughts of travel steal into our minds. Let’s remember some things this vacation season.

First, God does not go on vacation. The God who created summers (cf. Psalm 74:17) expects to be our God during the summer. He does not take leave from maintaining the universe, from blessing us, or from listening to our prayers. Nor should we try to take a vacation from God. On Mount Carmel, Elijah poked fun at the false god of the Baal worshipers, suggesting that Baal wasn’t answering his followers because he had gone away on a trip (1 Kings 18:27). Thankfully, the true God is constant and dependable. Are we?

Second, watch what you wear (others surely will). Since the world is not trying to please God, shouldn’t it raise a red flag if we find ourselves dressing (or, undressing) like the world? One of the “works of the flesh” listed in Galatians 5:19 is the Greek word aselgeia, which is translated as “sensuality” (ESV, NASB), or “lasciviousness” (ASV, KJV), or “lewdness” (NKJV). Aselgeia has to do with an attitude that ignores spiritual purity and, instead, emphasizes the flesh, without respecting holiness or the impression made on other people. We kid ourselves if we say, “no one cares or pays attention to what I wear.” We ought to be covered—at a minimum—to the knees. If we can show half our skin (or more) to strangers and not be embarrassed, something is wrong (cf. Jer. 6:15). Being at a pool or the beach does not excuse “sensuality” in attire. Neither does a hot day.

Third, if you travel this summer, find the faithful. Hebrews 10:25 is part of God’s word, even during June, July and August. The obligation to assemble with the saints to worship the Lord does not go away just because we do. Besides, it is easier to plan ahead and find the Lord’s people today than it ever has been. You can look up churches on the internet, check their websites, map it online. If all else fails and you find yourself separated from brethren on the Lord’s day, have a worship service with your own family. The point is not to neglect God, even if the brethren back home will never know.

Fourth, upgrade your understanding this summer. Unlike software, apps, or cell phones, our minds are the only thing we can upgrade and still take with us into eternity. The Bible calls on us to be making continual spiritual progress (cf. 1 Tim. 4:15). Summer is no time to slack off from growing in the faith. Why not find a good commentary to read on a particular book in the Bible? Take your studying to a new level. How about a biography of a gospel preacher of days gone by, such as Alexander Campbell, Barton Warren Stone, Raccoon John Smith, or a dozen others? Read or watch a helpful religious debate. Study some ancient church history written in the early centuries after the New Testament. Of course, there’s no substitute for reading the Bible itself. At the rate of three chapters a day, you could read the entire New Testament this summer. With summer approaching, let’s purpose to be better servants of God before summer is over.