Category Archives: Volume – 55

Is Jesus Really the Winner?

There is a great spiritual battle raging in and all around us. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The meek and lowly Jesus of Nazareth said these words to His followers shortly before He gave His life on Calvary to conquer this world. Did Jesus succeed in defeating Satan and the rest of our foes, or did He fail? Just how do we know that Jesus really is the winner in this war of all wars?

The evidence of Christ’s power over the god of this world is convincing. Keep in mind that the conflict is spiritual at its core, though it does manifest itself physically in battles between nations and individuals. If this were just a physical fight, Satan could be instantly crushed by Jesus. But the spiritual fight about whether or not sinful man has a right to be accepted by the righteous God could only be settled by the Lamb of God being offered for our sins. In this way, Jesus proved that “Right makes Might,” not “Might makes Right,” as earthly wars are intended to prove. Praise God that Christ obtained for us the victory rightfully and that we now have the “right” to be God’s children with an eternal inheritance in Heaven!

The great miracles of Jesus proved that He really is the Winner. Healing the sick, for example, was not something He did to eradicate illness and make the world a better place. “But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, (then he said to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:6,7). Since Jesus is more powerful than physical sickness, we can trust Him to heal us of the sins which cause our spiritual sickness! The King of kings cast out demons: The reason? “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20). When temptation seems so hard to resist, just remember that Jesus is stronger than the god of this world! Think of the display of our Savior’s superiority over nature itself when He calmed fierce winds and turbulent waves instantly: Don’t you believe He can bring peace to your life, no matter how great the storm may be? We should never forget how Jesus gave “life from the dead” to at least three people, and was Himself raised from the dead! Not even death itself, our “last enemy” (I Corinthians 15:26), could overcome the Captain of our Salvation, so rest assured (Revelation 20:14) that it will once and for all be cast into the lake of fire on the Day of Judgment!

In Ephesians 4:8, Paul quotes from Psalms 68:18,19 and gives us a unique description of what Jesus has done to prove that His cause is right and that He is victorious over all enemies: “Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’” “He led captivity captive” is a reference to the practice of conquering kings leading a victory procession before their loyal subjects which would include the enemy king (or kings) who had been defeated – the enemies who had previously held others captive until the conquering king came and made them captives!

It was very prudent for kings to make good use of their successes in battle, capitalizing on them to gain more honor in the eyes of their subjects and insure for themselves a legacy. Kings of Israel did this by erecting memorials, from King Saul (I Samuel 15:12) to King Absalom (2 Samuel 18:18). Jesus, however, has obtained something far greater from His victory in this great spiritual war: an eternal memorial with The Name that is above every name; the Name which every tongue shall confess, and to which every knee shall bow! (Philippians 2:9-11).

Here is an example from history to illustrate what it meant for a king to “lead captivity captive.” At the end of the third century, a magnificent triumphal parade was led by the Roman Emperor Diocletian down the streets of the capitol of Rome. Adorning the procession were the captives Queen Zenobia of the East and King Tetricus of the North. Both of them had been rebellious in their own regions, making themselves enemies of the Empire. Though Emperor Aurelian actually defeated them in 274 A.D., they became Roman captives and were not put on parade until 20 years later under Diocletian in 294. On top of all the pomp and ceremony of the triumphant procession, the “benevolent” Emperor Diocletian also passed out gifts of clothing and food to the citizens of Rome, “giving gifts to men,” thus solidifying a dearer place in their hearts.

This one example illustrates plainly what the inspired writers were referring to when they spoke of “leading captivity captive” and “giving gifts to men.” Even as Roman citizens were physically comforted and reassured by the procession of conquered enemies and the outpouring of gifts from their Emperor, we receive even greater security and comfort by the public spectacle of the enemies Jesus has captured (Colossians 2:15) and the gifts He gives to the church!

The enemies of Jesus and the things that would keep us from our Creator include pain, suffering, disease and death. The gifts that Christ gives to the church are described in Ephesians 4:11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are the precious gifts Jesus left for us to edify, strengthen and comfort the church of Christ until the Bridegroom returns to take us home to the place He is preparing in Heaven. Much could be said about these edifying endowments, but for now, ask yourself if you truly appreciate these gifts and do you take advantage of the teaching they provide for us? Are you preparing yourself to be one of these gifts yourself, if it is God’s will?

An honest evaluation of the evidence shows us that Jesus is the clear winner in the war that matters the most. You didn’t start it, but you had better be on the right side when the final verdict is announced. Choose today the winning side! Stand on the promises of God, knowing how Jesus has proven His superiority over Satan, and rejoice in all the blessings we are given in Christ, especially the dear men who teach us the Word. Sweet victory can be yours, but only in Jesus, the bona fide winner of the epic battle of the ages!

Thomas W. Woody
~ P.O. Box 148, Brighton, IL 62012

DEALING WITH BROKEN HEARTS

There are many serious issues we all must deal with in a lifetime.  This is part of living in a physical world with its accompanying limitations and liabilities.  I would like to address a specific issue while coming from a perspective of having to live with one of the most heartbreaking things with which parents must deal.  This is one many of us must deal with no matter how much it hurts.  This is in regard to Christian parents who have raised children who have chosen not to follow the Lord.  From my perspective this is one of the most heartbreaking things many of us must endure.

Becky and I can speak with personal conviction.  Of our 4 children, we have 2 children who have chosen not to follow the Lord for whatever reason.  We can understand this heartbreak that we know many of you share.  I have spoken to many parents of faith who speak of this hurt while tears are bravely held back.  I know mine are.

For many reasons we are constantly looking back to our child-rearing years and wondering—“What did we do wrong?!”  And surely there are many mistakes we can see we made, for which of us can say we were the “perfect parent”?  I can think of many times in which I had unrealistic expectations and times when I said things I did not mean or raised my voice when I should not have, or gave out a discipline that was inappropriate to the circumstance.  How many times did I make an issue of things when I could or should have just let the matter go?  I could go on and on about my imperfect parenting that reminds me of what?  That I am imperfect?  What parent is not?

However, the problem is not truly about being perfect or imperfect!  Even though our Father in Heaven is perfect, that in no way accounts for His children’s misbehavior.  He has done everything right and look at His children!  No, it is not about being an imperfect parent, though there are things we did or said that may have contributed to our children’s lack of faithfulness.  It is still about personal choice, and no matter how perfect the Lord’s parenting is, He still lets His children choose against his wishes as most of them do.

Yes, there are certainly exceptions, but most children of faithful parents still make this conscious choice whether their parents made a particular mistake or not. Ultimately, there is no profitable purpose for parents to constantly feel guilt and castigate themselves as they search their memories for parenting mistakes and even blame themselves for their children’s ultimate choices.  Sometimes we act as if we are to blame when our children choose against the Lord, and we forget our children must be given the same conscious ability to choose whether to follow the Lord or not just as we all must make.

Now I do not wish to be misunderstood.  I praise the Lord for families in which all the children have chosen to follow their parents’ faith, and I certainly wish we had more examples of such.  However, to them I say, “Didn’t you also make mistakes?”  To which, if honest, they must reply of course they did.  Recently, I was comforted when I heard a brother humbly give credit and praise to God for his children’s faithfulness.  He wondered how his children chose the Lord in light of his own imperfections.

Likewise, it is a serious mistake for us to assume parents of unfaithful children did NOT teach their children the Lord’s will!  I know Becky and I spent our child-rearing years trying to instill in our children the ways of the Lord.  Those of you who passed through our home were part of our evening prayer and Bible teaching sessions that were so much a part of our family life for many years.  Even with all the teaching and trying to live godly lives, 2 of our 4 children chose another way for whatever reason.  I know many families in the body with such activities who still had children choose other paths.  I certainly am not God, and I cannot explain such choices, but I know they exist.

Likewise, there are examples of faithful children who chose the ways of the Lord though their parents themselves may have left the Lord.  Surely those parents taught their children things that may have been wrong or even showed signs of future unfaithfulness, and yet their children chose faithfulness.  How does that happen?  For the same reason that children with faithful parents choose not to follow the Lord:  it still comes back to an individual’s choice.

For those parents who have had children choose not to follow the Lord and who feel they did their best to raise their children in the Lord, there is still hope. Remember the passage in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  I am convinced this teaches us that if we instill what is right in our children that knowledge will always be with them.  They can choose to access it anytime in their lives and perhaps that may indeed lead to their repentance at some point in their lives.

The battle is not lost! You can continue to have an effect on your adult children’s lives by your walking with God.  There have been many instances when adult children came back to the Lord as a result of their parents’ godly lives as examples and servants.

Now consider a sub-theme in this same area.  How many Christian grandparents are endeavoring to teach their grandchildren the ways of the Lord because their children are not instilling these values in their own children? Probably many! Again, we can speak from experience.  We have 3 grandchildren that Becky and I are endeavoring to have a positive influence upon.  We are fortunate that our children do not object to our influencing their children in this manner.  I know there are many who do, and that makes the grandparents’ job even more difficult.

What can you do in this circumstance? As grandparents you can endeavor to do everything in your power to live as honorably as God requires.  With your contact, your grandchildren will see such godliness, and you may indeed have a positive influence upon their lives.  I recall a discussion I had several years ago when I was lamenting my lack of influence on my grandchildren.  A brother reminded me I could still show my grandchildren a picture of the Lord in my life.  What a great reminder that was!  Do not give up. The Lord has not and neither should we!

As long as our children and grandchildren live there is hope.  The Lord is a merciful God, and He will judge all with righteousness and truth.

~ Jay H. Graham
— 7715 Quarterhorse Cir., Flagstaff, AZ  86004

Are You Looking for God?

Do you ever feel unfulfilled or, incomplete? “…but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” sang Bono in the 1980’s. “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you O God. My soul thirsts for you, O God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” sang the Spirit-inspired Psalmist David in Psalm 42:1-2, a good many years before. If you are like Bono, you are still looking. But allow me to suggest something to you: perhaps this desire for “something…more,” is the verification of your innate desire to seek God and His fulfilling presence. However, if you are already a child of God, everyday acknowledgements (like David’s), speak to your sense of your own imperfection, your own incompleteness, your own need for God.

Have you ever watched a sunset or a sunrise and felt a connection to someone beyond yourself? Ever sit on a mountain side in the morning with the sun warming your face, the wind whispering through the trees, wafting the sweet scent all through and over you, feeling at once a  sense of God’s sanctity and sovereignty in that moment? Ever wonder at the peace and power of the surging sea? Ever sit out on a summer’s evening or meditate early in the morning, eyes closed, listening, in order to single out each individual birdsong, insect, child, or barking dog in the distance? Ever walk around a farm pond in the morning with thoughts turning to the words of a Psalm, which prompts YOU to write a song of praise? Ever rejoice while listening to a rooster crowing as the day begins? Experiences like this reveal our natural desire for God, which is one of the ways that God attracts us to Him.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man that you care for him?  (Psalm 8:1-4).

God has made and continues to order this marvelous universe through which he reveals himself to us every day. Yet, with all of this to command, he is mindful of every human being on this planet earth. He knows you personally – everything about you, and He cares; he really, really, cares! “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” That’s what Jesus said as recorded by Matthew (10:30).

Do you notice how very simple things can make you feel immensely thankful? Maybe it’s a conversation with a friend? Or perhaps sharing a significant episode with someone without the clutter of words? Awareness of simple gifts can point to your underlying awareness of God’s goodness. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).

Do you have a desire to be more holy? Reading about the great triumphs of God’s people when their hearts were sanctified and centered on him moves me to imitate their holiness. There are greatly inspiring events to read about. One of my favorites is found in 2 Chronicles 20.  It tells the story of when King Jehoshaphat and the Israelites came against the Moabite-Midianite-Edomite confederacy. The metal of Israelite swords never even had to touch that of their enemies. They trusted God, and God dealt with their foes.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” said David in Psalm 51:10. Do you remember when he said that? Later in verse 17, David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” He said this as his heart was breaking over the trauma his sin had dealt into the lives of others. It is the same for each and every one of us. What is required involves more than intellectual assent. To be a true servant of Christ calls for whole-hearted commitment of one’s life as Jesus’ disciple. God is interested in honest hearts, especially grieving and penitent ones. He is near to such. Very near!

Then there are those great moments of clarity — like that momentary feeling that you are right where you should be. Have you ever been talking to someone about the LORD and His word and, just when it is needed, having that just right scripture come clearly to mind. This is when we experience God’s encouragement and providence, a witness between our Spirit and God’s Spirit (Romans 8:16).

It is good for us at times to be made to feel vulnerable. Often when you are sick or struggling with some great difficulty, you feel a greater need for God. But God is no nearer or farther away at such times; you are just more open to Him when you are vulnerable.

It is in us to want to seek God — to know him and his will for our lives. He “has put eternity into Man’s heart,” said Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:11.  We sense God’s presence all around us and in everything.  Because we are created by God and in his image, we have (as someone called it) an “instinctive” capacity to know him built into our DNA.

Are you looking for God?  Like Paul said, “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). He not only wants you to look for him; he wants you to find Him!


~ Steve Wright
2508 SW Granthurst Ave, Topeka, KS  66111-1272

“By” and “For” Keep it All Together!

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).

 Meditating on what God says is the favorite pastime of the righteous soul (Psalms 1:2). These two verses from Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae provide us with thoughts that fill our minds with understanding, giving us a heartfelt satisfaction that only our Creator can provide. His Word provides us with a picture of who we are and where we came from which give our lives a true direction, not an imaginary view of how to live. How important it is to find the meaning of life in the midst of a dark world where so many are confused about who we are and why we are here!

Paul is describing for us again what God has revealed throughout the Bible, starting from the very first book! This time, however, instead of pointing out the visible things of the Creation, Paul lists invisible things that are behind the things we see with our eyes. There is a power structure in the spiritual (unseen) realm, and it consists of “thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers.” I don’t fully understand how these all work together in God’s eternal plan, but we do know that from the beginning, there has been great conflict among these powers with Satan being the ringleader of a great revolt against God and His Will. While you and I did not start this spiritual battle, the Bible shows us that it is up to us to decide which side we are going to follow.

From this passage it is plain to see that we ought to follow God and those who follow His Will. The two little words “by” and “for” show us how it is only right that we follow God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Since we were made “by” Jesus, shouldn’t we pay attention to Him and seek His Will? Since He made us “for” Himself, isn’t it only right to live up to the purpose “for” which He made us?

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (I John 5:21). The Bible identifies one of our great problems as “idols.” Think about how these false gods take us off-track and lead us into darkness and confusion. For example, “the love of money” is an idol which many people follow, leading to all kinds of heartache and sorrow (I Timothy 6:6-10). What does this have to do with the passage in Colossians chapter 1? The truth of the passage is that Jesus made us, NOT money. We were made for what Jesus has in store for us, not for what money can do for us. If God made us, not money, why then should we serve money?

This same principle applies to any idol that man has devised in his corrupt and vivid imagination. God has revealed Himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matthew 22:32). If you serve a god who has revealed himself, or herself, in any other way, you are serving a dream which will only end up as a nightmare when this life is over. Your idol cannot see your troubles, hear your prayers, or give you comfort in your darkest hours the way Jesus is able to comfort His followers (Psalms 115:1-9). How happy we are when we humbly receive the great Truth that we didn’t make ourselves and that we weren’t made for ourselves! How satisfying it is to know that none of the idols of men made us and that we owe them no allegiance!

Not only is it true that we were made “by” Jesus and “for” Jesus, but Colossians 1:17 also reveals that it is through Jesus that all things “consist.” In other words, Jesus is the only One Who keeps it all together! Sometimes our lives seem to flow along smoothly, but at other times they are about ready to fall apart and leave us in despair! Jesus will keep you sane through difficult times, and even uses those trials to make you stronger!

Friends, we were made by Jesus. We were made for Jesus. Will you live up to your real purpose and enjoy the sweet rewards of obedience to your true calling? Jesus invites us all to call upon Him, find true life, and see how He is the One Who can deliver us when the gods of this world fail! “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalms 50:15).

Thomas W. Woody
~ P.O. Box 148, Brighton, IL  62012-0148

Rebuke

“Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool” (Proverbs 17:10).

 Older siblings know better than their younger siblings, so more is expected of them. Parents know better than their children, so more is expected of them. Elders know better than the flock entrusted to them, so more is expected of them. No one knows better than God.

Like so many other things in life, wisdom is attained as opposed to inherited. It is something one strives for; it is not gifted to them (with one exception we know of). It is passed down, not by blood, but by word of mouth—the word being God’s. The book of Proverbs is one of the great repositories of godly wisdom; indeed its purpose was quite singular and provides the way to achieve one real goal: How does one make a godly man out of a young man?

Youth can be a lot of fun, and our culture has chosen to put it on a pedestal. Yet, it is also full of pits and snares, all the temptations that Paul summed up as “youthful lusts.” One thing I’ve discovered, unless I’m unique, is that the temptations don’t really change, at least not in an absolute sense, just the way I think of and deal with them. Temptation is always lying in wait for the unwary.

Rebuke is simple enough to understand, and we have all received some. It is a criticism intended to correct and amend a fault and/or improper behavior. The word itself is similar in meaning or purpose to the words translated as “correct” and “instruct.” In fact, there is little distinction to be made between the three, which tells us a great deal of what is expected of our teachers.

Proverbs has quite a bit to say about rebuke, most of which is related to our response to it once we have received it. This is one of the keys to growing in godly wisdom, and Proverbs says as much. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7). Perhaps 13:1 illustrates the point best: “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”

I like the things 13:1 points out. First, rebuke is accomplished via relationships—the closer the relationship the more effective rebuke will be. The case here is father-son, but I think it’s easy enough for all of us to see how this extends to the church, as it is the household of God. Another, related to the first, is that rebuke is not spiteful; in fact, it is one of the truest acts of love. “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14). Parents understand the far-reaching effects of sin and folly, whereas a child does not. The same is even truer of God compared to us. The last thing I would point out is that, to some extent, wisdom is relative. The son, foolish enough to still require his father’s instruction, is yet wise enough to heed it—he does not deride and dismiss it.

In the church most of us are “grown-ups” no longer under our parents.  But in a very private society that prides itself on its citizens’ “rugged individualism” things can, when it comes to rebuke, get a little dicey. As with all things concerning the flock, rebuke should be handled with care. But the aforementioned lessons regarding a child’s response to the correction and conditioning of their parents applies to us and our church leaders equally. Rebuke in these instances is still about amending lawless behavior, is still concerned with strengthening familial bonds within the body and is still accomplished with love, not malice.

But what about “small things” between two Christians? Well, I believe everything I have said still applies—and a rebuke need not be sharp. It may shame the rebuked, but need not be hurtful to accomplish that. I also believe that the fewer people involved the better. Christ himself encouraged us to settle matters of offense between ourselves. Two brethren, seeking after their Lord, should be able to accomplish reconciliation without too much fuss. I “hurt” my oldest daughter’s feelings almost daily when I chasten her, but she has no doubts that I love her—which is why our relationships within the body are so crucial. Iron sharpens iron. We need one another, including our corrections of each other. We are part of an institution whose purpose is largely to save souls from hell. None of us will get the criticism we need from any other outfit…and all relationships are about trust. My children trust my wife and me. I trust my elders.

I trust God. That means I know where true wisdoms comes from, and I understand its importance. It also means I am assured of what lies in store if I do, and why we try to be diligent to impress these things on our daughters, as young as they are. Nothing else is more important.

~ Kyle Stephens

Is Your Daughter Really a Princess?

Some of our little girls are quite attracted to the idea of being “princesses” — showing off their shiny tiaras, scepters, and colorful robes while pretending to rule over others. Parents often encourage this type of thinking in their adorable daughters as they see them play the role convincingly, relishing the power and dignity of their royal position. While most parents don’t really expect the little ones to grow up to reign over an earthly kingdom, could it be that God really does want our daughters to be princesses?

We know from the Bible that God always wanted a royal people who would not allow sin to reign over them like the rest of the nations.

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5, 6).

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:4, 5, 9 ,10.).

By using this description of being “royal,” He intended for us to reign over the sin that knocks at the door of the heart every day (Genesis 4:6,7). Instead of taking the easy road of spiritual slavery like “everybody else does,” we take the road less-traveled where we do not allow sin to rule over us because we are able to reign with Jesus in spiritual places over sin. It is a tragedy when a person can no longer control what he sees with his eyes or what he puts up to his mouth with his hands. Our children were meant for the royal life of victory over the Enemy, not the way of slavery because sin got in the front door and took over the entire life!

In order for our daughters (as well as our sons- Proverbs 31:1-9) to learn to be real princesses and princes, we must teach them non-conformity – “My son, if sinners entice you, do NOT consent” (Proverbs 1:10). No one becomes a princess by following the peasants. We must “be not conformed to this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our minds so that we may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). The road to reigning over sin is the way of humility and service to others, just as Jesus has already shown us how He lived here victoriously to return to Heaven triumphant over sin!

Yes, after looking at God’s plan for us and our children, you will see that it is the Will of God that our daughters and sons rule over sin in their lives. May our daughters be able to trade the little plastic tiara for the eternal and incorruptible crown of life and a place at the Right Hand of God in Heaven with Jesus! May our boys trade in their toys for strength over sin and a voice to help others! Friends, let us be sure that we exemplify the royal life of a child of the King so that our children can follow in the footsteps of eternal victory in Christ Jesus!

Thomas W. Woody
~ P.O. Box 148, Brighton, IL  62012-0148

I Have Seen God

It happened on one of our tours of the Bible Lands some years ago.  There is usually very limited rainfall in the Judean desert and down by the Dead Sea, but on this particular day there was an unusually torrential rain.  Our tour bus was traveling southward along the west side of the Dead Sea.  Water from the desert wadies was pouring over the cliffs on our right.  We were near En Gedi when we came to a place where the flow of water had actually cut away the road service and left a channel perhaps a couple of feet deep and a few rods wide.  Before we left that area, a magnificent rainbow appeared over the Dead Sea, and I saw the wondrous beauty of the handiwork of God, the sign of the covenant between the Almighty God and the creatures of earth.  I saw the glory of God!

I have never seen God or the glory of God in the same way that Moses did when he was in the cleft of the rock and the hand of God obscured his view until God had passed by, and then he was permitted to see God’s back.  Moses was not permitted to look upon God’s face, and we cannot now look upon God’s face.  Oh, but I have seen God in so many ways.  Even as the sweet psalmist of Israel proclaimed, The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

When our children were still quite small, we lived a mile or so from town away from the town lights.  At different times on pleasant starlit nights, I would take the children out into the night and talk to them about the stars and the wonders of God’s creation.  I repeatedly drew their attention to the position of the stars and showed them how if they should ever get lost, they could tell their directions by the stars.  We constantly reminded them of who made it all.

I recall a day many years ago when I walked across a pasture of my father’s farm with two little nephews about old enough to start school.  We talked about God and how mighty and powerful He is.  As we walked along, a perfect object lesson appeared before us.  A train passed by just beyond the other end of the pasture.  Both of those nephews are now deceased, but I recall the younger one saying, “God could even pick up that train.”  Truly out of the mouth of babes shall come forth praise if we adults will but teach them to think in terms of reverence toward God.

Whether it be a drop of dew on a petal of a rose or the massive expanse of the Pacific, a tiny ant carrying a crumb or a lumbering elephant, a babbling brook or the mighty Mississippi, a tiny ant hill or a towering mountain peak, should we not see God in all these things?  Let us never be guilty of worshipping the creation, but let us fervently worship the Creator.  His handiwork is all around us.  My heart aches for those who are too blind to see Him in everything around them.  We like Solomon of old can see beauty in everything if our focus is proper.

Perhaps everyone has heard the little story about the little boy who saw a sign that an unbeliever had written on a wall declaring, “God is nowhere.”  The child corrected the message by simply separating the last word so it read “God is now here.”

Can you look on the innocent face of a baby, or at the beauty of a flower, or at the waves of ripened wheat in a giant field in Kansas, or the corn fields of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, or the clear water streams that flow from springs here in southern Missouri, or at a doe and her fawn in the woods, or whatever is around you and not see God behind them all?  Are you among those who see only those things that are visible?  I remember Paul writing about not just looking at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen.  God has blessed us with sight, but there is also a great blessing in insight.

When you hear the patter of baby feet across your floor or see children gleefully romping and playing in the yard, or when you advance in age and your children lovingly do for you those things you can no longer do for yourself, are you not reminded that they are a heritage from the Lord?

Does a cloud in the sky cause you to reflect on our Lord’s ascension or perhaps on that glorious day when He shall come again?  Can a mother give birth or an acorn grow to be a tree without God?  How did the oil, the coal, the gold or even the water get into the ground?

Matthew recorded Jesus saying Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  We think of this verse as primarily referring to our being with God in glory after this life is over.  John tells us in the Book of Revelation we shall see the face of God, but I think in a lesser degree it can well apply to the here and now.  If our hearts are attuned to the things of God, we can see Him everywhere.

It warmed my heart recently when my son, now a grandfather himself, in reminiscing concerning his childhood told me that a memorable impression that I made in his youthful mind was that it seemed to him that I saw God everywhere.  I’m sure I made many mistakes as a father, but perhaps I did one thing right.  Oh, that all our children might be taught to seek the Lord in all things!

I realize I have been blessed with some opportunities that many of you have never shared.  Among the most pleasurable experience of my life were those experiences I had while traveling and teaching in the Bible Lands.  Like my dear Savior, I walked by the Sea of Galilee and talked to fishermen there.  I have knelt and prayed in Gethsemane.  I walked the Via Dolorosa, from where Pilate’s Judgment Hall once stood, to Calvary.  No, Jesus was not there in flesh and blood form the times that I was there, as He had been 2000 years ago.  I did not see three crosses at Calvary with my Lord suffering on the center cross, any plainer then than I see Him each Lord’s Day when we observe the Lord’s Supper, but yes, believers can see Him if their minds are right.

I recall standing at the east window of a hotel room in Jerusalem and watching the dawn lighting the eastern sky one Lord’s Day morning.  In my mind, I went with the women to the empty tomb, and with Peter and John I saw the grave clothes lying there.  With Mary, I saw Jesus standing there by her.  I have been on the road to Emmaus.  The two disciples saw Him and talked with Him but like so many people today, they did not recognize Him.  Thomas was not convinced of the Lord’s resurrection until he saw the Risen Lord with his own eyes. Learn to see Him now through eyes of faith.

The day is coming when every eye shall see Him as He comes in the clouds, but if you cannot see Him well enough to believe in Him now and obey His word, if you wait until that day when He comes with all His mighty angels, it will be too late for your salvation.  See Him through the pages of God’s Word from Genesis to  Revelation. See Him in all the wonders of the creation around you.  In Him we live and move and have our being.  Open your eyes and see the Lord.

Thomas D. Dennis
~ 207 W. Hunter Dr., Nixa, MO  65714-8432

Troubling Times

I t would be interesting to know how many generations have reached a certain point that they say, “We live in troubling times.”  I imagine that it may have been said by every generation since Adam.  It seems that as we mature into adulthood, we are able to have enough history to use our wisdom to try to predict the future.  As a result, many in the younger generation often do not see the danger that appears to be hiding around the corner.

While I do not want to be someone who is pessimistic about the future or one who cries “The sky is falling” when it is not, we should do our best to be aware of what is going on in society and prepare for it.  I have read many stories in the news lately about individuals and businesses that have found themselves forced to choose between the teachings of the Bible and the conclusions of society.  I would like us to take some time, not to discuss the specific issues, but to consider how we should respond to the challenges we may very well face in the near future.

One of the first things we should consider is finances.  Many times we are concerned about these moral challenges, and they can cause us to compromise our beliefs.  We may think that if we don’t give in “a little” we may lose our job or not get that promotion.  Paul warns “those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).  God has plans for us, and they do not include compromise with evil.  The more we put confidence in our wealth, the less trust we are placing in God to provide.  We very well may lose that job or not get that promotion, but God will reward us for our integrity.

The next thing we must consider is just how important are the things of the world to us.  In Luke 21:34, Jesus says, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and cares of this life, and that Day come upon you unexpectedly.”  If we are looking forward to the day when we leave this world to enter the next, then the only time the things of this life become important is when they affect our salvation.  Jesus warned this could happen in the parable of the sower.  He explained the seed planted among the thorns as “he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).  Worrying too much about this world can cost us dearly in the next.

We also must consider who we trust for truth.  Paul told the Corinthians “my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4).  Putting our trust in faulty human logic and its limited understanding will lead us down the wrong path.  However, God has shown us His wisdom and power in so many different ways and has never failed.  We need to put all our confidence and trust in Him.

There are two accounts in the Bible where Jesus calms a raging storm, Matthew 8:23 and Matthew 14:22.  Both times Jesus is with individuals who panic when the sea gets rough.  The winds are blowing wildly, the waves are threatening to capsize their boats, they are afraid for their very lives, and there is nothing they can do about it.  This sounds very similar to how we can feel if we let the events of life become overwhelming to us.  We can feel like situations are compounding against us, like the forces of Satan are winning the battle, and there is nothing that can stop them.  However, just like those men in the boats, we sometimes forget about the power of God.  All Jesus had to do was speak and the storms were passed.  How powerful the words “Peace, be still” can be when spoken by the Son of God.

When we become overwhelmed with the direction society is taking, when we are concerned about the consequences of standing for the truth of God, when we are tempted to wonder if the wisdom of the world might have something to offer us, we must remember “Peace, be still.”  God has the ability to calm all the storms in our life and will reward us for our faithfulness to the truth of His word.  As long as Jesus is in our boat (in our lives) and we are trusting in Him, we have nothing to fear.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).

Doug Twaddell
~ 711 N. Broadway, Beloit, KS  67420

The Five C’s in Salvation

There is no one word adequate to fully explain the plan of salvation.  The Scriptures mention so many different things on both God’s part and man’s part that together are involved in our salvation.  Certainly, we cannot be saved without God’s grace and our faith (Ephesians 2:8).  Nor could there be salvation without the sacrifice of Christ.  He died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3).  Since men have to be knowledgeable of that fact in order to be saved, it is said that we are saved by the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) and that the implanted word is able to save (James 1:21).

It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (that is, foolish in the minds of unbelievers) to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).  We cannot save ourselves.  We must call upon the Lord (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13).  Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead (James 2:17).  We must be obedient and keep the commandments of the Lord (Revelation 22:14).  We are saved by baptism (1 Peter 3:21).  We are saved by hope (Romans 8:24).  We are saved by faithfully enduring to the end (Matthew 24:13, Revelation 2:10).  Permit me to list five Cs in this great plan of salvation.

CONVICTED — Unless men repent, they will perish (Luke 13:3, 5) and before anyone repents of their sins, they have to be brought to a sense of guilt and shame.  It is necessary for them to be made aware that they are sinners.  An interesting event in the life of Christ is recorded in John 8:3-11 when the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery, and testing Him they asked Him what He had to say about punishment for her.  Rather than an abrupt oral response, He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  When they continued asking, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first,” and again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  We are not told what He wrote, but whatever He wrote perhaps made them aware that He knew of their sins, or at least it gave them a sense of their own guilt and “being convicted by their own conscience,” they walked away leaving Him there with the woman.  People need to be convicted.  It will cause some to repent.

CONVINCED — In the Scriptures the same Greek word “elegcho” can be translated as “convicted” or “convinced.”  For example, in the 1769 King James Version  in Titus 1:9, “elegcho” is translated as “convince.”  In the New King James Version in the same passage the word is translated as “convict.”  In our English vocabulary, we may tend to think of somewhat different shades of meaning in the two words.  We may think of “convict” as indicating guilt and “convince” more in the thought of persuading or bringing to full belief.  In reality, not only do men need to be convicted of their sins, they need to be convinced of the truthfulness of the Bible and of their need for salvation.

CONVERTED– “Unless  you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).  “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).  Both the word “repentance” and the word “conversion” indicate turning around, a change in behavior, changing from old habits and conduct to a new and better manner of life.  “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

CONFORMED — Not to this world (Romans 12:2) but conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).  Living a Christian life involves patterning our lives after Christ and striving to grow “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).  Our goal should be that which is stated in an old spiritual song, “More like the Master I would ever be.”  We cannot expect Him to be our Savior unless we let Him be the Lord of our lives.

CONFIRMED — I use this word as it is used in the Scriptures, meaning “made firm” or “strengthened” and “made strong.”  Christ can strengthen or confirm us to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8).  Paul and his companions in their travels strengthened the disciples (Acts 14:22, 15:32, 15:41 — In all three of these passages in Acts the 1769 King James Version uses “confirmed” or “confirming.”).  Likewise, today brethren need to encourage, edify, exhort, and strengthen one another.  That is one of the very purposes of our assembling.  We need nourishment and instruction from the word of God and the fellowship of brethren of like precious faith.

Thomas D. Dennis
~ 207 W. Hunter Dr., Nixa, MO  65714-8432

Under the Sun

Solomon began his reign well.  When God granted him any request, Solomon asked for wisdom and was given riches, peace, and length of days to boot.  He realized his father’s vision by building God’s house in Jerusalem.  He expanded Israel’s territory to its farthest extent and accumulated great wealth for God’s people.  However, the many wives and concubines he collected for both political and pleasurable ends influenced Solomon’s apostasy.  Ecclesiastes briefly chronicles his life apart from God.

Solomon states his purpose in 1:3, “What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?”  Profit or gain is generally a business term that describes what is left over when all the expenses are paid.  In Ecclesiastes, it expresses Solomon’s search for meaning, value, or purpose in human existence.  “Under the sun” tells us that Solomon searched for these things without involving God.  Solomon puts his earlier faith as well as his father’s faith to the test.  Is life worth living without God?  Can man find happiness or contentment in the world apart from a God worldview?

His search starts in the natural realm with earth, water, air, and fire (1:4-7).  All he finds is monotonous uniformity: everything does the same thing year after year.    Sight and sound cannot satisfy the senses (1:8).    The natural realm always works but never progresses.   Solomon next turns to human history only to find it provides nothing new (1:9-11).  Without God, human history is a closed, cyclical system.  What is past is present and what is present is future and nobody sees it because nobody cares.  Dissatisfied, Solomon turns to philosophy:  perhaps human wisdom can discover something better (1:12-18).  The results disappoint him.  Life is like the steam in this morning’s shower.   What is crooked cannot be straightened.   The more you know, the more you ache.

With one eye toward wisdom, Solomon turns the other eye toward hedonism, materialism, and work (1:17, 2:1-9).  Maybe entertainment or wealth or homes or gardens or a harem fulfills man’s deepest felt needs.  Perhaps immersing oneself in work brings about contentment.  Surprisingly, Solomon finds a sense of satisfaction:  “my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor” (2:10).  The fulfillment was fleeting.  Why?  Death loomed like a dark specter.  Wisdom is obviously better than folly, but the wise man dies like the fool (2:14-15).  The riches accumulated through knowledge and wisdom and skill lose their value because they must be left behind to someone who did not work to earn them.  These realizations drive Solomon to despair.  He hated life and his labor (2:17-18).

Thankfully, a greater light shines into this bleak reality.  Solomon concludes the satisfaction he found in labor was a gift from God (compare 2:10 with 2:24).  Though he diligently sought for contentment “under the sun,” he realized his solution was above:  “For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?” (NASB, Ecclesiastes 2:25).  To the one who fears God (the righteous), God bestows wisdom, knowledge, and joy.   Faith in God gives life the meaning, purpose, and value Solomon sought but could not find below the heavens.  The one who does not fear God (the sinner, cf. 8:13) finds futility without happiness (2:26).

As Solomon discovered, man cannot straighten what God makes crooked (1:15 cf. w/7:13).  God set the natural realm in motion and subjected this realm to futility (3:1-8).  God does not intend for humanity to find answers “under the sun.”  He intends the silence to compel humanity to “grope for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:27).  What drives our search for meaning is the eternity God places in our hearts (3:11).    We sense we are eternal beings.   Eternity groans within us, stirring a restlessness settled by God alone.

As he draws chapter three’s “above the sun” commentary to a close, Solomon says:

I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him (3:14).

Humanity stands powerless before the cycles God set in motion.  We can manipulate the matter God creates, but we can neither create nor destroy it.  We can look deeply into the natural realm around us, but we cannot discover what God has done from beginning to end (3:11).   Once again, Solomon says, we see God’s purpose:  “God has so worked that men should fear Him.”  God sets humanity in the midst of an unfathomable universe in order to drive us to our knees.

Even with a God worldview, there are anomalies that concern the thinking, compassionate person.  “Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness.”  A corrupt justice system that fails to punish wickedness is troublesome.  When justice falters, where is the deterrent for evil?  Solomon’s solution lies with God:  “I said to myself, ‘God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,’ for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.”  When humanity fails to carry out what is right within God’s structure, judgment awaits.  Evil will not go unpunished.

Though we live on the “other side of the cross,” we can glean much truth from the observations of Solomon.  We live in an era ruled by “-isms”:  naturalism, humanism, hedonism, materialism, etc.  Ecclesiastes shows us that all of these “-isms” amount to nothing.   They fail to provide genuine peace and contentment.  Faithful obedience, fear, and a final judgment continue to give meaning to our lives.  We not only relate to the satisfaction Solomon found in labor, but also we have a promise of eternal value in Christ:  “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24).  Finally, death remains humanity’s most troublesome event, but in Christ the fear of death is swallowed up in the glorious victory of the resurrection.      Please heed the words of an old man wizened by experience:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (12:13-14).


Wade Stanley
~ 11709 E. 77th Terr., Raytown, MO  64138-2534