God’s Best Friend

The creation that we have been provided is both a testimony to man’s search for his Creator (Acts 17:24-27) and a visual lesson for man’s search for himself in that creation. The wisdom of scripture urges us to consider ants (Prov 6:6), dogs (Prov 26:11), rock badgers, locusts, lizards (Prov 30:24-28), the lilies of the field (Matt 6:26), or even the fowls of the air (Matt 6:28) in order that we may obtain wisdom ourselves. Not only the creation but also the creatures which inhabit it can teach us how to better seek and serve out Lord.

Let us then consider then the dog, not his questionable digestion habits (Prov 26:11), but its role as a beneficial companion. In the Old Testament eating a dog or touching its carcass would make one ritually unclean for a time (Lev 11:27-28), yet they seem to be present within the cities of the Israelites as work animals (Exo 22:31; Ps 68:23; Matt 15:26-27). Even in our culture today dogs are considered inedible by the majority of society, but the work animal is now considered “man’s best friend.”

I began to give consideration to my own “best friend” Jack, when I was attempting to get him accustomed to me as his new owner. Jack came to us at the age of two and Jack is not a small dog. He was however very friendly and in his own way doing his best to show us how much he appreciated all the care and attention we showered on him. At feeding time, however, he would begin to growl at me after I would finish pouring. In effect he was telling me to back off, and I would oblige him, because I empathized with Jack. I knew how hard it was to get used to a new owner. I too thought I knew better than the Lord and I would grumble and complain when the blessings and prosperity I thought were mine to keep, and how mad I would be when the Lord came to take them away (Prov 16:18; Luke 12:13-24).

This became a problem as sometimes things would get in his bowl that he shouldn’t eat, and sometimes when his bowl had a few bits left he wouldn’t let me refill it. But I knew he was trying to understand because his tail wagged even as he growled. And as he watched I would carefully return the bowl, with more food or with a treat, until the growling stopped and he only sat and wagged his tail as he waited for me to do whatever it was I was doing, trusting that whatever it was it would all be all right in the end.
As Christians, each of us desires to be God’s best friend. Which includes love (John 14:15), obedience (John 15:14), and trust (Isa 40:31). When something is taken from us, let us wait on the Lord, trusting him in obedience, realizing we are being prepared for something much more than the food of today, or the promotion of tomorrow (Rom 8:28-34). Let us set with untroubled tails wagging, knowing our best friend will never let us down (John 14:1-6).

– James M. Barnette

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The Statue of Responsibility

We are all familiar with the Statue of Liberty that is located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.  The copper statue measures 305 feet and 1 inch from ground level to the torch.  To those seeking Liberty and the American way, she (Lady Liberty) is a welcome sight.  The Statue of Liberty is on the East Coast of the United States.  Some people want to build a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.  Long Beach, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are being considered for locations for this structure.  The 305 foot Statue of Responsibility would be much more than just a book-end to the Statue of Liberty.  The prototype of this proposed structure consists of a pair of clasped hands oriented vertically symbolizing the responsibility that comes with liberty.

The original idea of the Statue of Responsibility was the vision of world renowned Viennese psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who survived the holocaust and went on to publish the best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning.  In this work, published in 1946, he expressed his vision like this:  “Freedom, however, is not the last word.  Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth.  Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.  In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.  That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

Dr. Frankl enjoyed his time spent in America and admired much about it.  But he took exception to what appeared to be a commonly accepted view of equating freedom with a license to do virtually anything one wants.

The concept of liberty and responsibility are not foreign to the Bible.  One can find the inscription on the Liberty Bell in Leviticus 25:10, “proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”  In regards to spiritual liberty, Isaiah 61:1 is read by Jesus in the Synagogue in Nazareth Luke 4:17-19, “. . .The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.  He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”  This was fulfilled in Jesus.  In the above discussion of Liberty and responsibility- Viktor Frankl made a powerful observation that liberty is not a license to do anything one wants.  The concept that liberty is not a license is not new.  The apostle Paul penned these inspired words long before thoughts of a building the Statue of responsibility were conceived.  Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the Liberty by which Christ has made us free” and Galatians 5:13 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh. . .”  Physically we may look at the Statue of Liberty and be reminded of the responsibility of freedom.  Spiritually may we also look into the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25) and known we are set free from our bondage of sin through obedience to the gospel plan of salvation, not to do anything we please, but being mindful that with freedom comes responsibility.

– Michael Foresha

Are Mighty Towers Hindering Me?

The sharp sound of hammers hitting chisels hitting stone permeated the air in ancient Shinar, as a crowd of builders have come together to build a tower. Now, this was no ordinary building, this tower was going to be tall enough to reach Heaven itself. The workers caught the attention of God, when He went down to inspect the work of the men, the Lord was not pleased with what He saw. So God decided to hinder the building project forever.
Instantaneously, confusion turned the construction site of the tower of Babel into turmoil. The Divine caused the men to speak different languages. The men, unable to communicate with one another, went their separate ways, and the once potentially magnificent tower of Babel was left to corrode into the beginning pages of the Pentateuch.
Found in Genesis 11.1-9, the Tower of Babel explains how all of the languages in the world came to be, it has become a staple in Sunday School Classes around the world. Like any great story, the Tower of Babel has a moral. If you are like me, you have been told the moral of the Tower of Babel is: prideful man shouldn’t think that they can build a tower to see God (or something along those lines). While it is true that pride is a horrible and sinful character trait; that is not what the Tower of Babel is teaching. To see what the moral is, and why God caused men to speak different languages, we have to look at Genesis 9.1: “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.’” 
After the genealogy of Noah given in Genesis 10, we see the Biblical narrative of early man continue in Genesis 11.1-2, “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.”  The descendants of Noah were keeping the first part of God’s command by being fruitful and multiplying, but were neglecting the second half of God’s command to “fill the earth. When we read of the Tower of Babel, the entire human race was in one location working together to build a tower to the “heavens” (Gn. 11.4).
The Jewish people had three heavens: the sky, outer-space, and Heaven (where God dwells). The Hebrew word for heavens found in Genesis 11.4 is the same word used to describe the atmosphere around earth (the firmament) in Genesis 1.9. That means that the builders of the Tower of Babel were not trying to build a tower to God or the Heaven; they were simply trying to build a tall and impressive building, one that reached the sky (think ancient skyscraper). They wanted to build the tower to make a great city and a name for themselves “…lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the earth (Gn. 11.4).”
It was not pride that caused God to confuse the people building the Babel’s Tower, but a refusal to obey. They were comfortable staying together neglecting the command to spread out and fill the earth. God forced them to obey making it impossible for them to work with one another. That is the true story of the Tower of Babel, and the true moral of the story is: don’t allow your personal preferences or comfort stop you from following the commands of God. Take a lesson from the Tower of Babel. Get out of your comfort zone and go out and do His Will, “…’And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mk. 16.15).”
– Zachary Guiler

The Shepherd’s Way

It is sometimes hard to comprehend the imagery of the Bible when ancient customs and common knowledge has been lost in the experiences of modern man. Such is the ways of the shepherd. So common was the shepherd in ancient times that everyone knew the tasks and careful oversight the shepherd gave to his flock. It would be similar to our knowledge of a policeman or fire fighter today.  The shepherd was keenly aware of the status of his flock because it was his means of sustaining his life and the livelihood of his family. If he was not careful he could not cloth or feed his family from the fruits of his efforts with his flock. Yes, he was a very important individual to the family and the local economy.  Not until the advent of a more agricultural society did the status of the shepherd diminish from being highly esteemed to being a lowly position.

What I wanted to understand was the reason Christ used the model of the shepherd to help his people understand his relationship to us. What qualities existed with these shepherds that they were chosen to be Christ’s example?  I began to research the sources of this ancient profession and found a wealth of information.  As I read about shepherding I began to understand many of the phrases used to explain our relationship with the “Good Shepherd”, Christ .

Tasks of the Shepherd

The shepherd was always on the lookout for members of his flock that needed personal attention. Many time lambs would be scratched and I need of soothing olive oil that the shepherd kept in a ram’s horn. Insects will bother a sheep to the extent that it will slam its head in the dirt or upon a tree to its death, but the shepherd only has to apply oil on his head to rid the irritation and calm the animal. “Thou anointest my head with oil”(Psalm 23:5)

When crossing water, the shepherd leads the way, favored sheep will follow him always and leap into the water, soon the rest of the flock crosses the water with hesitation and alarm. If one is swept away the shepherd quickly leaps into the water and rescues it, carrying it back in his bosom to safety. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee..” (Isaiah 43:2)

A sheep that strays from the flock, becomes utterly helpless, they become bewildered and have no sense of locality, they are lost. They must be brought back and restored to the fold. “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant” (Psalm 119:176)

Gathering scattered sheep is conducted by the shepherd standing in the center and giving a unique call, the sheep know their shepherds voice and responds. The shepherd does not commence to lead them until he knows all of his flock are there. “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep”…(Ezekiel 34:12)

The shepherd has intimate knowledge of his sheep, a deep personal relationship exist. Each evening they are counted, but often the shepherd dispenses of this for he is able to feel the absence of anyone of his sheep. “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep” (John 10:14)

Seeking still waters, sheep are afraid of moving water and the shepherd will seek pools of still water that provides a quiet place where they may quench their thirst. “He leadth me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2)

There are many more shepherd’s ways that correlate with the relationship we have with our Lord. Guarding the flock from wolves, protecting the flock from robbers, watering and feeding the flock so that they may grow, are some of the many more examples of God’s love and mercy for His flock.

Truly, my understanding of God’s relationship to me in His flock has become much more richer and deeper. If you can place yourself in the ancient hills of Jerusalem watching over your flock you to will appreciate the model Christ has chosen to explain his relationship to each one of us, in the ways of the Shepherd.

 

 

Winning The Battle Against Sin

Not once does the Bible condone sin, nor whitewash its earthly or eternal consequences. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”, Paul asked in Romans six. And the solemn answer rings forth, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans. 6:1-2). No, the Bible always pictures sin for what it is, and for what it does to those who participate in it.

Sin is transgression of God’s law (I John. 3:4). It is missing the mark, or going beyond what God authorized (I Corinthians. 4:6, II John. 9). Sin robs man of his innocence and leads to great misery (Proverbs. 13:15). Sin destroys our fellowship with God (I John. 1), erecting a wall of enmity between us and God.

Isaiah wrote, “Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah. 59:1-2). Willful sin, if continued in after learning the truth, voids the sacrifice of Jesus, and condemns your soul at Judgement (Hebrews. 10:26-31). Ultimately, sin’s price is death, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans. 6:23a).

However, thanks be to God, He has not left us hopelessly lost in our sins! Though the wages of sin is death, the “good news” is that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans. 6:23b)! Yes, we’ve all failed the Lord miserably, but He wants us to get up, and learn from our mistakes, and go on paying the price of trying to serve Him.

Occasionally, we make terrible choices in life, because of ignorance, or immaturity, and sometimes because we’re just plain rebellious. When we do, we buy for ourselves lots of trouble. Wishing we had not sinned will not make the guilt, nor the consequences of our sin go away. Ignoring your sin, or trying to hide it will only add to your pain and increase your guilt.

Don’t compound the problem by denying your sin, or by letting it defeat or destroy you. Rather, deal with the reality of your sin, as you seek God’s help for overcoming it, and His strength for living with its earthly consequences. Repenting of our sins, confessing them to God, and others, if necessary, and asking for forgiveness, is the only way to be freed from sin’s eternal stain, by the amazing grace of Christ.

Sin’s unpleasant consequences must always be dealt with in this earthly vale, but the eternal consequences can be avoided. John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John. 1:9). Paul penned, “…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians. 3:13-14). Peter admonished, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (I Peter. 5:6-7). “The Son of Thunder,” “the Persecutor,” and “the Denier” knew whereof they wrote. They had all failed the Lord miserably at times, but they all kept pressing on. They knew the race will be won not by the perfect, but by the patient, persevering souls who will not let sin destroy them.

Yes, when sin knocks you down, don’t let it keep you down. Don’t wallow in the mire! Get up, change up, fess up, pray up, and PRESS ON!

 

Are You Drowning?

Drowning? Yeah that sounds very inspirational doesn’t it.  So many time we can be drowning from all sorts of things in life.  We drown in debt.  We drown in relationship issues.  We drown ourselves with work, hobbies, activities…anything.  Most of the time we never anticipated it happening.  We never go and get a credit card and say to ourselves …I just can’t wait to max this thing out! But gradually over time it happens.

I have been thinking about the man in scriptures referred to as the Rich Young Ruler in Luke chapter 18 and Matthew chapter 19.  We know how the man came to Jesus and wanted to know what he could do to have eternal life.  I had often wondered why Jesus just did not say to this young man what he told Nicodemus in John chapter 3.  And I think it may because this young man was drowning.

All of this young man’s life was filled with keeping the Old Testament laws – specifically the Ten Commandments.  He knew what he needed to do to be a good person but yet he was seeking greater things than he had known.  He was wealthy, what was there that he could not have bought?

He was seeking something greater – something he could not purchase and yet something that he could not obtain because he was drowning.  Jesus told this young man if he wanted to be perfect to sell the things that he had and become a follower of Him.  However, instead of doing what Jesus suggested this young man went away.

You see, he was drowning in his possessions and riches.  Those things had him tied to the world.  It must have been what he worried about and thought about continually.  If he didn’t care about it so much he would have gladly gave what he had away and followed Jesus.

What kind of things do we all drown ourselves with?  Each day we awake and worry about things like work, bills, the economy, politics, …..and some odd fascinations with the zombie apocalypse…..(whatever that is all about).  How many of these things and other like it literally consume our lives – and when things like this consume our lives we begin to drown in them and we fail to survive and to thrive in this life.

Worry less and live more.  Seek God above all things (cf. Matthew 6:31-34)

~David S. Deagel

Where Does God Fit?

Football, baseball, soccer, Facebook, Candy Crush, shopping, work, family time, sleep, friends, cars, motorcycles, gardening, eating, cooking, home repairs, cutting grass, shoveling snow…..

With all these things in life where is there room for God?  With more advancements in technology, entertainment and the comforts of home, we have secluded ourselves from the outside world. We stay home and are entertained with the television, playing games, and watching YouTube videos in the heated and cooled environment of our homes and rarely take the time to socialize and befriend our neighbors, besides the casual “hello.  How are you?” greeting.

I greatly fear that this society norm is making its way through the Lord’s church.  There seems to be a decreased desire to spend additional time fellowshipping with other Christians and studying God’s word together.  I recently conducted a survey concerning Sunday Evening services.  The majority of those who replied, expressed that they did not regularly attend evening services because they were too busy or too tired.

We all spend too much time worrying and working towards things we cannot change and not enough time seeking after the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:25-34).  Paul’s states that Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things (1 Tim 4:8).  It serves as a reminder for us to be more focused on the spiritual than the physical.

What (or who) has made us so busy that we have little time left of our day and week to spend in worship and study to God? – Satan! When we are too busy and exhausted to serve and worship God, Satan has won.  Let us never be too busy to serve God.

If it is the case that we are involved in multitudes of activities and find ourselves with little time, serve God in what you are doing.  Matthew records Jesus’ statement, “Go therefore” (Mt. 28:19) and the idea of the wording is “Having gone” – While you are doing whatever it is that you need to do throughout your day, serve God in addition.  Utilize Facebook as an evangelistic tool. When you have a family gathering talk about scripture.  When you are at the soccer fields watching your child compete tell your story of salvation. Talk to the waitress about your faith, leave them contact information about the church along with your tip.  There are ample opportunities for us to serve His Kingdom through are busy schedules and bring glory to God. (1 Pt. 4:11)

~ David S. Deagel