Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Secondary Purpose

Many of us who love this country are disturbed to see our society spiral deeper into the wickedness that seems to prevail in these modern times.  It hurts us to see so many changes in regard to common decency and morality.  Certainly, the primary reason such wickedness prevails is because many are refusing the Lord’s truths.  They are following after wicked thoughts and intents and, accordingly, our society is suffering as a result.  With these thoughts in mind, I wish you to consider a secondary purpose of the Word of God that I am convinced the Creator intended for mankind’s good.

It is obvious, by a study of God’s divine word, that the primary purpose for the Bible is to instruct men and women in the way that they might seek the Lord and that they might be part of His people.  This has been the case since the beginning of man.  The Lord instructed Adam and Eve with His word so they might know what He expected from them.  The Lord instructed Israel through the Ten Commandments, through the remainder of His law, and through the rest of what we call the Old Testament as to how they were to be a people of the Lord.  We have the New Testament to instruct us in these “latter days” as to how we can become His Christians and to be a part of His church.  This is the primary purpose for His Word.

With this said, I am convinced the Lord has a secondary purpose for His Bible.  He has given it to the world so that mankind might know how best to live and thrive in this life.  It is from God’s Word that the world can know of such things as marriage, the family, basic morality for living, the importance of stable societies and governments, how to interact with our fellow man, etc.

Many of the principles that the Lord instructed Old Testament Israel in with regards to cleanliness and hygiene were unheard of at the time they were written.  Surely the Lord wanted to give them (and the rest of mankind) His instructions in regard to caring for their bodies.  In regard to germs and infections, words were written thousands of years before man finally come to this knowledge on His own!  The Lord said blood was essential to life long before man’s science understood this (Leviticus 17:11-14)!  He spoke of quarantining certain diseases (Leviticus 13-15)!  He spoke of the importance of burying human waste long before man appreciated this (Deuteronomy 23:12-14)!  These are just a few examples of the Creator wanting His creation to understand how they should live for their own betterment.

As we look throughout the earth and consider how men and women have lived, we can easily see that in areas where God’s Word was heeded mankind has thrived.  Lives have been ordered and blessed when man acknowledged the truths in God’s Word.  When he has not respected and lived by the Lord’s truths, lives have suffered.  Consider what led to what is called the “Dark Ages.”  This was a time when man refused many of the Lord’s truths even in the name of religion.  Rejecting these truths led to diseases and instability and imploding societies.

Consider the basic principle of marriage.  Marriage between a man and a woman was established by the Lord in the beginning, and it has been a great blessing to this day (Matthew 19:4-6).  Even those who do not believe in the Lord have been blessed with and have enjoyed the benefits of this holy matrimony.  This great institution has brought stability wherever it has been respected.  Marriage between a man and a woman has led to families that have been the foundation of societies and cultures throughout history.  Those who have not respected it have suffered instability and chaos.

How many of us know marriages that have lasted for many decades with couples who are not necessarily Christians?  They have enjoyed the great benefits of a loving and honorable marriage and family because they know it comes from the Creator.  Consider the first commandment with promise as noted by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:1-3. Surely this promise extends to those who may not be Christians by the scripture’s standards.  By honoring their parents, children are blessed accordingly.

With all of this said, it is no surprise to see many of the problems our own culture has brought upon itself.  These problems have come about because man in general is casting aside the Lord’s truths.  He thinks his ways are superior, so he has disregarded basic divine truths and principles that the Lord intended for man to live by.  Our society is beginning to suffer severely as a result.

It is not just marriage man has refused.  There is the God-ordained principle of working for your needs that is not respected as much as it should be.  There is refusing the reality of a Creator, and as a result, much of man’s sciences are based on the false religious philosophy of materialism and evolution that has taken over the majority of our institutions of higher learning.

The Scriptures testify to fair commerce.  Employers are encouraged to pay proper wages rather than only concerning themselves with their own bottom-line.  Employees are encouraged to work for their masters as they are working for the Lord rather than “looking out for number one.”  The Scriptures testify to justice for the rich and poor alike (Leviticus 19:13-15).  They even testify to fair taxation for rich and poor alike (Exodus 30:15).  The Scriptures urge all to treat others with respect (Matthew 22:39).  It is no wonder our society is suffering in so many areas, for our culture has refused the Lord’s truths.

Yes, it is my firm conviction that God gave the world His word so that man could live in peace and be stable and fruitful.  Certainly the Creator wants all men and women to be saved.  But even when most will refuse His salvation, He desires mankind to appreciate and enjoy his or her life.  He has given us instructions to that end.

Now to be clear, I am not convinced the Lord desires a theocracy ruled in the name of religion.  There is only one Christian nation that is the one body of Christ, the church of Christ.  However, I do believe the Lord provided His word for mankind to give him an understanding of what is right and wrong and a way for men and women to dwell together in peace.

Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.  ~ Ecclesiastes 2:24

~ Jay Graham

Distracting Digital Devices

How often do you check your phone throughout the day? Research suggests that the average American adult checks his or her phone every 6.5 minutes. Digital devices have become an obsession for many of us. Has anyone e-mailed us in the last six minutes? Is anyone liking my post on Facebook? Was that a text I heard come in? We’re constantly drawn to them for the latest information and entertainment. Unfortunately, this constant dependence and distraction may be having unintended consequences. It seems for some of us, our devices may be drawing us away from reality, pushing us away from our relationships, and hindering our ability to show empathy toward others. Sherry Turkle, in Reclaiming Conversation, states, “Research supports what literature and philosophy have told us for a long time. The development of empathy needs face-to-face conversation. And it needs eye contact” (p. 170).

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, because we are able to understand them from their perspective. Consider the parable Christ shares with us in Matthew 18:23-35. In verse 27 we read, “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” The master could see the man’s state: he could not pay back his debt. The servant needed his mercy, and he compassionately gave it. The servant, though, could not see from this same point of view, throwing his fellow servant into prison for a debt owed. The master has harsh words for his servant in verses 32-33, “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” God asks that we do as He has done and recognize with compassion the frailty of the human condition.

Christ displayed this very compassion during his earthly ministry. Upon hearing that his friend Lazarus had died, Jesus went to visit with Mary and Martha. In John 11:35 we read, “Jesus wept.” Why did Jesus weep? It is apparent from Christ’s conversation with Martha, and his statements prior to their arrival (John 11:15), that Christ fully intended to raise Lazarus from the dead. We can be sure, then, that he wasn’t sad for Lazarus’s sake, or for his own loss of a friend. Verses 32-33 explain Christ’s reason for weeping:

“Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.”

Jesus saw others weeping and was moved with compassion toward them. He wept with others because he acutely understood their human struggle with the plight of death.  He understood man was not created to comprehend the finite (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and his humanity showed him the difficulty in facing finality. The Hebrew writer helps us see the great blessing in Christ’s experience as a man:

“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).

The same tender heart He displayed toward the mourners sympathizes with us, understanding our frailty and acknowledging the difficulty of our temptations (Hebrews 4:15). With Christ as our example (Philippians 2:1-5), we must ask ourselves how well we are showing compassion toward each other.

May I suggest that our current manner of using digital devices may not allow us to show the tenderness and compassion of Christ toward each other? Perhaps you have experienced that moment when the individual you are conversing with ignores you to reach for his or her phone. Was that person fully engaged, listening with compassion? No, he or she was distracted, and it hindered the conversation. Turkle again remarks, “To converse, you don’t just have to perform turn taking, you have to listen to someone else, to read their body, their voice, their tone, and their silences. You bring your concern and experience to bear, and you expect the same…” (p. 45).  How easy will it be for us to “bear one another’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2) when our eyes are distracted by a backlit screen?

Certainly I do not mean to say that digital devices are inherently wrong. Brethren have comforted and encouraged many through these mediums. Often there are individuals that we are able to maintain contact with, when geography or other barriers might have kept us away. These are all good. It is not the devices themselves that are inherently problematic.

Rather, the problem is how the world encourages us to use them. They are to be our constant on-call, our continuous news feed, and the place we turn during a brief spare moment or the conversation dulls. It can certainly be a distraction and keep us from considering one another as we ought. Isn’t it interesting that Christ wanted us to join together in a meal each week? He knew the value each member would receive by joining in fellowship together, remembering our common bond.

Romans 12:15 states, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” May we all be encouraged not to allow our devices to shallow our relationships with one another. It is good for us to rejoice and weep together. It is good for us to pat a brother on the back, not just hit the “thumbs up” button. It is a blessing that we can join together, sharing one another’s presence, and encouraging each other in our daily walk. Don’t lessen that blessing by placing unnecessary hindrances between you and your brethren. Discipline yourself to be independent of your devices and use it for the good of others.

~ Joshua Riggins