Posted in Christian Living

“You’re First” and “You’re First, Too”

 

By Weylan Deaver

In the aftermath of the recent severe hailstorm in Denton, there has been no shortage of roofing companies pounding the pavement, hoping to get to pound on our housetops. It seems common practice for them to stick a sign in their customers’ yards when an agreement is reached. Thus, my neighborhood is dotted with a multitude of signs from a plethora of roofers, one of which is called the “You’re First” roofing company. Now, I know nothing about them and have nothing against them, and give them the benefit of the doubt they are a good business. But, I just found it funny, as I drove down my street, to pass a house with a sign in the yard saying “You’re First,” then to pass the house right next door with a sign in its yard also saying “You’re First.” How can both homes be first to that company? It brought to mind a more important point. We often want to think of ourselves as serving God, but our actions betray that we also want to pursue our own interests at God’s expense. In other words, we’re telling God, “you’re first,” while at the same time saying to self, “you’re first, too!” In reality, it cannot work that way. “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). We can put ourselves first, or we can put God first, but we cannot do both at the same time. Come investigate the church of Christ. We do not promise visitors that they are first, but that we will strive to offer an atmosphere where God and his truth are.

 

Posted in Christian Living

What Kind of Attitude?

By John Henson

Monica McNutt, a recently-graduated guard playing for the Lady Hoyas of Georgetown University, wrote an article in The Washington Post about attitude.

She wrote, “Your attitude will determine so much, from who is willing to work with and for you, to how far you will allow yourself to go.” She continued by saying, “Are you doing everything in your power to get your team back to winning? Are you all in and dedicated, or just along for the ride?

Certainly, her remarks were from the perspective of a college athlete, but aren’t her remarks equally valid when applied to spirituality?

In Luke 21:1-4, Jesus discusses attitudes. Just before this passage, Jesus had been critical of the scribes and Pharisees and their poor attitudes. “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive the greater condemnation” (Luke 10:46ff. NKJV).

The scribes’ attitude was the wrong one. The right attitude is found in Luke 21:1-4 — the attitude of the widow.

Jesus sat watching people throw their money into the trumpets in the Court of the Women at the Temple in Jerusalem. There were thirteen collecting boxes the trumpets emptied into, each assigned to a specific cause. The rich gave, Jesus said, from their “abundance.” One can almost see the huge bags of money being carried by the rich, out of which a small sum was cast into the trumpet.

Then, Jesus saw a poor widow who gave two coins, the smallest denomination in local currency called a “mite” or a “lepta.” Because God the Son knew all things, he knew this was all the money she had. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had” (Luke 21:3ff.).

Her attitude was the real gift. It was a gift that flowed from a loving heart. She could not live without giving because she loved God!

Her attitude was in the gift because her gift was her sacrifice. This is why her gift mattered more to Jesus. The rich gave from their abundance. They could easily replace any amount they gave. It meant nothing to them. The gift the widow gave was her living!

In McNutt’s last sentence of her Washington Post article, she said, “Are you doing everything in your power to get your team back to winning? Are you all in and dedicated, or are you just along for the ride?” These are the questions the widow’s giving asks us.

One commentator of this passage in Luke 21 wrote, “Only a completely insensitive person could read the story of the widow and her two lepta without searching and humiliating self-examination.”

Brother Gus Nichols, in one of his sermons on attitude, asked the question, “If everyone had the same attitude as mine, what would their contribution be? What would their attendance be? What would their attitude toward Jesus be?”

In the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” Isaac Watts wrote, “See from his head, his hands, his feet; sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did ere such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?”

Jesus loved us so much he gave himself to die on the cross for our sins. But, are we in the game, as Ms. McNutt wrote? Are we dedicated to the Lord? What is our attitude when we compare ourselves to the widow? If everyone in the church had our attitude, what kind of attitude would they have?

Posted in Christian Living, Old Testament

From Believer to Rebel

By Weylan Deaver

Having been mercifully delivered from Egyptian slavery, Israel hurriedly followed up with complaining at Rephidim for lack of water (Exodus 17:1-7). God instructed Moses to take his staff and strike the rock at Horeb, from which water would then flow. Moses obeyed. God sent water. Moses named the place “Massah” and “Meribah” after the people’s quarreling with and testing of the Lord.

Flash forward forty years. Israel has yet to enter Canaan, but the wilderness wandering is nearing its end. They are back at Kadesh (where the ten spies had given their negative report so many years ago). With a chance to make a better showing than their predecessors, the new generation of Israelites, instead, shows themselves cut from the same cantakerous cloth as their forebears (Numbers 20:1-13). They complain for lack of water. God instructs Moses to take the staff, but, this time, speak to the rock, after which water would flow. Instead of talking to the rock, Moses talks to the people and then strikes the rock. Twice. God still sends water, but accuses Moses of both disbelief (v. 12) and rebellion (v. 24).

The two scenarios, separated by four decades, were nearly identical, with Moses at the center of each. The people had not changed, but the directions God gave Moses had. If some of us do not think it matters much, maybe we should ask Moses. Consider three significant truths.

First, the same act can be obedience one time, but rebellion the next. When Moses struck the rock in Exodus 17:6, he was obedient. When Moses struck the rock in Numbers 20:11 he was rebellious. Incredible? Not if we are duly impressed that God means what he says. After all, God is not obligated, once having provided water, to provide it again in exactly the same way.

Second, historic divine precedent does not necessarily establish present divine approval. Think of it. When God accused Moses of rebellion at Kadesh, Moses could have replied, “Lord, I simply followed the instructions you gave me last time around.” Moses could claim divine precedent for his actions at Kadesh. After all, God had told him at Rephidim to strike the rock. But past instruction from God is not normative if it differs with present instruction from God. In his lifetime, regarding what to do about a rock, Moses received differing instructions from God. How much more, then, should we appreciate the difference that obtains between the Old Testament and the New Testament?

Third, God tested Israel and Moses, and God will test us. “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2, ESV). Part of the reason for divine instruction is to weed out those who refuse to keep it.

Consider a growing trend among some churches of Christ to use instrumental music during worship. No precedent can be found in the worship of the church during the first century. But, how many times is an appeal made to the Old Testament in an effort to establish divine precedent for musical instruments in New Testament worship (e.g. Psalm 150)? According to the rationale, we are supposed to think that, if God had it back then, then surely he would not object to having it today.

Yet, that is precisely where we can learn a lesson from Moses. Remember, the same act can be obedience one time, but rebellion the next. God told Israel he tested them to see whether or not they would actually keep his commandments. And remember, historic divine precedent does not necessarily establish present divine approval. The Old Testament has many elements which, were they brought into the church’s worship, would be sinful. If these are not legitimate lessons taught by what Moses did, then, pray tell, what can we possibly learn from the accounts (don’t forget Romans 15:4)?

Moses followed a God-given precedent at Kadesh when he struck the rock. The problem was, the old precedent from Rephidim (strike the rock) had been superceded by new instruction at Kadesh (speak to the rock). Failure to comply with the new made Moses–on that occasion–an unbelieving rebel. Question: What does it make Christians who refuse to abide solely by New Testament instruction? While the gospel of Christ does not tell us to worship by playing on any manmade musical instruments, it does tell us to speak to each other in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). Ponder that point. When he failed to simply speak to the rock, Moses was in rebellion. Perhaps many in Moses’ day would have considered it a non-issue whether Moses struck or spoke to a rock. Doubtless many today consider a piano in worship a non-issue. But the tenor of Scripture indicates otherwise. Nor is the Bible shy of reminding that “our God is a consuming fire,” into whose hands “it is a fearful thing to fall” (Hebrews 12:29; 10:31).

Posted in Christian Living

Arm Yourselves!

By John Henson

Some obey the gospel and may think as they emerge from baptism that their lives will become a story of blessing forever and then heaven. Little do they realize that if they live faithful lives in Jesus Christ, they will suffer (2 Timothy 3:12).

In 1 Peter chapters three and four the Apostle Peter deals with how to deal with this reality. In chapter three, the apostle wrote, “Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18 NET).

Christ’s path back to the glory with the Father (Philippians 2:5ff.) was on the road of suffering. If we follow Jesus, then our way to glory is in his steps and also on that same road. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone that suffers goes to heaven. Peter addressed saints who were headed into a “fiery ordeal” (1 Peter 4:12).

Therefore, it is time to arm ourselves. This word, “arm,” is the word “ὁπλίζω,” which is translated “arm” in the New American Standard Bible and “equip” in the New English Translation. The word picture is of a soldier who prepares himself for battle by making sure he has the proper weapon.

Christians need to prepare our minds in the same way Peter described in this passage. The apostle wrote, “You also arm yourselves with the same attitude,” (1 Peter 4:1 NET). In his landmark work, Word Pictures in the New Testament, A.T. Robertson wrote, that “attitude” also means “mind, thinking, will.”

We arm ourselves with the same attitude, mind, thinking and will by building our faith with the word of God (Romans 10:17). There is no other way. If we arm ourselves with the word of God and have the right attitude, we may be confident we can endure suffering and then arrive at our destination in heaven with the blessed Savior.

Posted in Christian Living

Man’s Noblest Function

By J. Randal Matheny

Man has no nobler function than to defend the truth. —Ruth McKenney

This quote, apparently by the American author and journalist, appeared in an email without context or explanation. From McKenney’s life, she would undoubtedly have meant something different by her worthy sentiment than Christians do as far as the content of truth, although many of us would hasten to agree with her statement.

But she was wrong.

Man has a nobler function. Defending truth is good and necessary, but does not lie at the peak of the scales of those greatest purposes that man could adopt.

At the end of his life, our Lord Jesus’ prayer was that he might glorify the Father (John 17:1ff). At the beginning of his ministry, his concern was that his followers would, like him, glorify the heavenly Father (Matthew 5:13-16).

In the Old Testament, a person was urged to tell the truth under testimony, because a greater issue was at stake: “give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him” (Joshua 7:19 ESV).

The Christian use of the body has a greater purpose than health or reputation: “glorify God with your body” (2 Cor. 6:20 NET).

Even the Christian mission has a higher calling than just saving souls and living exemplary lives, but these are means through which pagans may “glorify God when he appears” (1 Pet. 2:12; cf. 2 Cor. 9:13).

The overarching purpose of man is to glorify God. Under this noblest of functions, to paraphrase McKenney, fit all the activities and all the efforts of Christ’s disciples.

If saints believe that man’s noblest function is to defend the truth, they will ever seek for error against which they may throw themselves in its fulfillment. They will become spiritual ferrets, running through the hidden pipes of churches in search of doctrinal departures and moral turpitude.

And since they must fulfill that function, if they cannot find error, they will fabricate it. But there is more to life in Christ than ferreting out error in order to defend the truth.

In heaven, not only will death and pain and tears be gone, but error as well. But man will still be able to glorify God in the highest.

Is not a function or purpose that may continue into eternity far higher and greater?

Posted in Christian Living

An Act of Love

By John Henson

Passover was the most significant feast of Judaism and every Jew was to be present in Jerusalem, if possible, to celebrate it.

The Passover memorialized Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Specifically, it called attention to the night death passed over. It was an important time in Palestine.

Passover’s additional importance was the coinciding barley harvest. According to Leviticus 23:10-11, the crop could not be sold until a barley sheave was waved before the Lord.

The Jews made every preparation for the feast including helping pilgrims coming to Jerusalem. According to Josephus, 256,500 lambs were slaughtered ― one for every ten people ― for consumption during the feast. If true, almost 3,000,000 people would attend the Passover.

Other preparations included teaching daily lessons in the temple, repairing and marking roads and preparing minds for the coming holy day. Interestingly, tombs were white-washed not for aesthetic purposes, but to help pilgrims identify them so they wouldn’t be touched. Touching a tomb made one ceremonially unclean.

With all the preparations, there was one other performed in the house of Simon the Leper when Jesus reclined to eat. A woman (according to John 12 probably Mary, Lazarus’ sister) broke a vial of Nard and poured the entire contents on Jesus.

Jesus said the act was lovely. Love does lovely things. Nard was a very expensive import from India. Custom required only a few drops be used for guests, but Mary used the entire vial.

Mary’s act was extravagant. Love does not count the cost; it does all it can. When a husband gives a bouquet, he doesn’t give dead or dying flowers. What message would that send? No, he buys a fine bouquet of roses because they’re the best.

Mary wouldn’t let this opportunity to show her love for Jesus slip. Sometimes there may be only one opportunity to tell someone, “I love you.” Love won’t let that opportunity get away.

In our relationship with Jesus exactly what is the status of our love for him? Do we do lovely things? Do we give the best of ourselves and our money? Do we take every opportunity we can to express our love in good works?

Have you prepared yourself for heaven? Of all the things we can do to prepare for a great event, have we kept in mind Jesus coming? Are you ready? Prepare today!

Posted in Christian Living

Be Like Johanan?

By Ron Thomas

Have you ever met anyone who spoke better than they did? In fact, we might ask ourselves, are we guilty of speaking better than we actually do? I know I am. However, I sure don’t want to EVER be guilty of that which Johanan did.

In the chaos of Jerusalem’s sacking, Babylon’s king left a remnant in the city. Those who were poor and feeble were left behind to tend to a destroyed city which, in many respects, was a living coffin. Babylon left a governor in place; his name was Gedaliah. The governor was warned a plot was being raised against him, but Gedaliah was not receiving the viability of this plot. In time, the governor was murdered by a man named Ishmael. Ishmael was a force to be reckoned with, and a man named Johanan was one to do it.

In the meanwhile, Jeremiah was tending to matters of his own. Because of Jeremiah’s faithfulness to the Lord, when Babylon had captured Jerusalem (and thus Jeremiah), the Lord had shown mercy to His prophet when Babylon’s king gave Jeremiah the opportunity to stay in Jerusalem or go to Babylon and be cared for by the king. Jeremiah chose to stay.

In time, Johanan sought out Jeremiah and asked for counsel concerning whether he should stay in Jerusalem or flee to Egypt. They were frightened by the prospects of staying in Jerusalem, and the prospects of going to Egypt seemed rather peaceful to them. To Jeremiah they go seeking counsel. Ten days later word from the Lord comes to Jeremiah, and Jeremiah gives this word to Johanan and all that were with him.

The Lord called Johanan a hypocrite (cf. Jeremiah 42:5-6, 20).

So gripped by embarrassment (presumably) and arrogant pride (Jeremiah 43:2), the recipients of the Lord’s message spoke against Jeremiah by calling him a liar. They refused to hear anything of the Lord because they were determined to go to Egypt. Their earlier approach to Jeremiah was nothing more than a facade.

It is a struggle for us in life to know exactly what to do in all circumstances; in fact, so much of a struggle it is we sometimes just don’t know what to do! We appeal to the Lord for wisdom, counsel, and direction, praying earnestly and frequently. In doing so let us be sure we hear and obey the Lord. His word is our ultimate authority, and to go beyond the Lord’s revealed will is to leave the Lord Himself. It may be that our heart is really pulling us in one direction, but if that one direction is contrary to the Lord’s expressed will we can be sure the Lord is not with us and, in fact, He will be against us.

Do you want to be like Johanan? That’s what you’ll be like if you refuse to hear and heed what the Lord has said. He spoke better than he did.