THAT’S SO FRUSTRATING!!

We all face frustrations in our lives. It’s a part of life for just about everyone. It comes because of unresolved problems or unfulfilled goals, desires, or needs. [These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33] The definition of frustration is;

(n) the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something.

Frustration is often manifested by feelings of discouragement, anger, and annoyance. Since each of these is condemned by scripture, we need to learn how to handle frustrations in our lives.

I’d like to offer a modification to the current definition of frustration:

the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because they DON’T KNOW HOW to change or achieve something.”

ANGER:  Col 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

DISCOURAGEMENT:  Ps 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

The regular definition has a feeling of inability, helplessness and hopelessness. That’s just not true. We DO HAVE ABILITY to do something about those things that frustrate us. There is hope.

OVERCOMING FRUSTRATION: Below are a few ways we can minimize or even eliminate frustration using the example of evangelism.

LEARN / GROW: Ask Yourself, “What Is Working?” Arguing with folks is very counterproductive. Has anyone ever been won over by an argument? Evangelism used to be frustrating when all I ever did was use conjecture without ever opening the Bible. When we study, we can turn to passages and show them to people. Their anger with us then becomes anger at the Bible and they know they can’t do that.

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. [2Peter 3:18]

LOOK AHEAD: Many sorrows come upon us because we just don’t pay attention. When speaking with someone about salvation they often jump around from subject to subject. Knowing ahead of time about this, we can prepare ourselves to remain on the subject at hand.

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, [Ephesians 5:15]

TRY AGAIN: We will face Mockers which can be very aggravating. However, it’s not new, Paul faced mockers when he preached [Acts 17:32]. What did he do? He kept on preaching, he just took those who wanted to hear and spoke with them.

So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed. [Acts 17:33-34a]

AUTOPILOT: Critics of the Lord’s church will use about 10 of the same arguments (i.e. thief on the cross, just love, the Roman road etc.). Rather then let that bother us, prepare an answer. If we’re going to get the same objections from most everyone we preach to, learn the answers. Now, instead of frustration, it makes me smile which always improves the interaction.

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. [Col 4:6]

STOP FIGHTING GOD: We often believe that just because we’re having a conversation with someone that we’re doing God’s will. Not so. When we face the mockers, the disinterested or the haters we end up in an argument and, fighting against God. Jesus explicitly told us not to do this.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. [Matthew 7:6]

REMAIN POSITIVE: We need to acknowledge that we can’t change people, they must want to change. Once we admit that the only way things will change is when we change, then we can have a new perspective about frustrations and recognize them as just challenges to overcome. Challenges are good and very rewarding. [Mat 5:10-12]

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. [John 14:27]

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:6-10]

A life of frustration is no way to live and can never glorify God because it contains no joy, it has no hope and it leads to sinful attitudes.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. [Galatians 5:22-23]

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REBELLION

(Editor’s Note: Ricky was raised in the pews of the church of Christ. His parents were Godly people and worked hard to raise their children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord [Eph 6:4] Ricky himself obeying the gospel as a young man and participated in the Lord’s church. However, Ricky fell into sin and found himself on death row at the Texas State Prison in Huntsville, Texas.

After eleven years on death row, Ricky was executed. He took responsibility for his actions and asked God for forgiveness. He wrote an open letter about his rebellion and subsequent repentance. This is that letter.)

Dear brothers and sisters,

I hope I may have a moment of your time. I am writing to you from prison, yes prison. In a way I hope to reach out in the way that Paul did while he was in prison, by letters. But I have a different reason for my letter, yet it is for the same purpose that Paul had, to help you live according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, stop and think what it is that may or may not cause one of us to end up in prison. It is the same thing that can cause us to end up in HELL. What is that? SIN !!!

And one of the sins I want to speak about here today is: “REBELLION

Rebellion is what most of us don’t think about very much. Like not listening to our parents when they tell us something. Like not listening to God when He tells us something. Like not listening to Governing authorities. And one of the greatest and easiest things that cause this rebellion is your friends. Yes, your friends will try to get you to do something, and if you say “no’, often they will say; “come on, are you scared?”, or they’ll call you “chicken”. Then most people will jump right in and do whatever it is, for most people don’t like to be looked at like that by their friends. Or, you may only be running around with a crowd, and they do things that are not right. But consider this, if people see what they are like, and know that you run around with them, whether you partake of the things they do or not, people will think you are just as bad as they are. some say; “birds of a feather flock together”. If you don’t pick your friends, like some pick tomatoes, you may pick a bad one. And take it from me, someone who has been there, that can cost you more than I think you are willing to pay. I know what I am talking about, for all I have said so far, landed me on death row.

ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME ?????

Wild women, drugs, and fast living, was the road I took and look where it got me. Don’t think it cannot happen to you, for if you find yourself on any of these roads, you will sooner or later run into a situation that may hurt not only you, but your loved ones as well. And when you say, “Oh, I know what I am doing,” believe me, I said the very same thing, and see where I am.

I obeyed the gospel many many years ago and fell away, and now I have come home to the Lord again. I feel the Lord allowed me to end up here to wake me up from the sinful life I was living, for who knows, had I not ended up in here, I might still be living that fast life. When I obeyed the gospel, I was told through God’s word what to do, and I fell away. Jonah was told what to do also, but he didn’t do it, and ended up in the belly of a whale. If you have heard or read the story you know that he repented, and God had the whale spit him out on the beach. Now, I am not saying I will be spit out of this cement whale I call it, or that I will be digested in it, or will I live out my life to old age in here. But, PLEASE HEAR ME, clean up your life if you are in the wrong way of life. In the back of your mind you know who you are and the life you live. And if you say to yourself, like I said many times; “I know what I am doing”, the TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, better known as TDC; has a number for you. Mine is 000893. I am only one of 340 some odd people on death row here in Texas. And if you run with the wrong people YOU could get the death penalty. For example; say you are riding around with a friend, and you pull into a gas station. Your friend goes in to pay for the gas and robs and kills the gas station attendant. You are only sitting in the car, but under Texas Law, a District Attorney can get a jury to give YOU a death sentence as well as the guy that did the killing. And Texas will execute people like that as if they were the one who did the crime. There is a man down here who was hitchhiking and got into the car with a guy that had just killed someone and stole their car. When he was caught, the hitchhiker was not only arrested, but got the death penalty also, because the killer did not tell them he was only a hitchhiker. So, he may die for something he did not do. Do you think you can say; “I know what I am doing” NOW???

It is my prayer that you will stop and think about your life, young and old, for we are all under a law, God’s law. If we obey the Lord, then we can have eternal life, even if life on earth throws us a curve, like it did me. But I was able to repent of my sins, but I also could have been dead before I had a chance to repent, and I know without a doubt, had I done so I would be bound for Hell. But I did repent, and have the chance to meet you in Heaven come Judgment Day. So please, let’s work for the goal together, OK?

Your brother in Christ Jesus,

 

Ricky Don Blackmon

FOLLOWING THE LEADER

Do you remember that childhood game, Follow the Leader, also called the “copycat game”? It’s where a leader is chosen who becomes the “head of the line,” then the rest of the children line up behind the leader. The leader then moves around the playground going over, through or around multiple obstacles (sometimes jumping, skipping & hopping) and all the followers must mimic the leader’s actions. Any player who fails to follow the leader is out of the game.

During play, if you were one of the kids towards the back of the line you couldn’t actually see what the leader was doing, so you had to watch and mimic the child immediately in front of you. All the while singing…

Following the leader,

the leader, the leader

I’m following the leader,

wherever he may go.

I hope kids are still playing some version of the game today. It’s games like these that can teach kids some very valuable lessons for when they get older and us too. Do you see the hidden truth in this game?

Children’s games with big lessons

As silly as it may sound, the FOLLOW THE LEADER game resembles our walk as Christians. We have our leader who is Christ….

Mt 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

And we follow Him in the Gospel, which is His death, burial & resurrection [1Cor 15:1-4]…

Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Then we continue to follow Him all through all the obstacles of life…

1Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

However, since we are towards the back of the line, in a figure, we are to follow others who are following Him…

1Co 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

BE A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST

Following others who follow Christ is following Christ. “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:” [1Thess 1:6]. Paul also said to the Philippians, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” [Phil 3:17]. Paul is still urging us today, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” [1Corinthians 4:16].

But we’re not to just follow someone who SAYS they’re following Christ, they must be actual followers whose actions can be compared to those things we learn from the Scriptures. “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” [Phil 4:9; see also 2Thess 3:7].

In a mature church, there will be Elders who are following Christ, these we are also to follow. “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” [Hebrews 13:7]. Not as leaders who make up new things to follow, rather as examples. “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” [1Peter 5:3].

What are we to do if there are no good examples to follow? We can follow Christ and His righteousness because we have His word [1Thessalonians 1:6]. “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness [1Timothy 6:11]. It was so important that Paul told it to Timothy again in his second letter. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” [2Timothy 2:22].

Some will make the excuse that the only folks they have aren’t very good examples. That’s no excuse. Peter asked Jesus about one of the other disciples. (the context is about sacrifice) Jesus replied, “what is that to you? You follow me” [John 21:21-22]. Whether the others in the church are walking right or not is no liberty for us to walk unworthily [cr. Eph 4:1; Col 1:10; 1Thess 2:12]. WE FOLLOW CHRIST regardless how the others are following.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: [John 10:27]

Being a follower of Christ is no game, but remembering a child’s game can remind us of mighty lessons. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” [Ephesians 5:1].

Besides, our LEADER wants us to be reminded of the purity of little children, “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 18:3].

– Spencer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

The weather is cooler, no longer are we suffering from the oppressive heat of our Texas summer. There’s excitement in the air, anticipation of the holiday.

The stores are filled with new and unique items found at no other time of the year. They’re offering deals and discounts to attract us to buy.

Happier greetings and if you’ll listen closely, you might hear a carol or two. I look forward to the mail this time of the year as cards with news and pictures arrive of family and friends from afar.

It’s the happiest season of the year, because folks are talking about Jesus. All the other times of the year, His Name is not to be uttered, anywhere. Every other time of the year, to speak of Jesus places you into the “bible thumper” category.

Of course, the conversations about Jesus are usually wrong, erroneous and flat out blasphemous. As you listen to people talk about the birthday of Jesus, you can’t help but think, “everything about that was wrong.” God didn’t reveal to us the date of our Savior’s birth.

At least they’re talking about Him. That’s why it’s a wonderful season. For a whole month, people won’t flinch when you mention His name. It’s a fabulous opportunity to have a conversation about Jesus. No, Christians don’t celebrate the day of His birth, we celebrate His death. Perhaps that’s where we can begin…

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. [1Corinthians 11:26]

Who Knew?

Over the last few weeks, sexual misconduct allegations have rocked the news & entertainment world (Sometimes I wonder if there’s a difference between news and entertainment today).Then just this week we saw the firing of Matt Lauer from NBC’s the Today show. The earthquake has shaken everyplace far beyond just Hollywood. Trembles are being felt in the workplace, in sports and at the highest levels of government. The pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace has begun to shift our countries mindset.

Women are now boldly coming forward to shine the light on crude conversation and lewd behavior. Let’s be honest guys, we’ve known about the vulgar way men tend to joke with each other when we’re not in mixed company. Many have heard stories (as it turns out they’re more than just stories) of ‘playboys’ taking advantage of innocent female coworkers. Many men, and even some women, would say, “boys will be boys.”

Who knew that this sort of sordid activity was wrong? WE ALL DID!! We all know that the harassment of women is wrong. We all know that sexual assault is wrong. It’s not wrong just because it is coming to light and our society finds it detestable. It was wrong long before these times. Who knew?

God did, for He deemed it wrong when He revealed His will to mankind for how we ought to behave. From the very beginning God began to show us how He expected us to behave toward the opposite sex. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” [Gen 2:24]. In the desert, He commanded us, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Then He said, “…Thou shalt not covet neighbour’s wife,” [Exodus 20:14, 17]. He then revealed to us in Leviticus 18 what ought not be revealed.

Who Knew? Jesus did. In Matthew 5:28 He said, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Then He said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” [v19].

Who Knew? the Holy Spirit did. The inspired Paul warned us through the 1 Corinthian letter, “…It is better to marry than to burn.” [1Cor 7:9]. Paul warned Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts” and to “be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” [2Timothy 2:22, 1Timothy 4:12]. Paul wrote for us to know that, “fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints;” [Ephesians 5:3]. Who knew that sexual harassment is wrong? God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit knew, and He expects us all to know it as well.

I wonder what the world would be like if there was more concern given for God’s word. Perhaps these allegations and admissions will awaken us to the truth of God’s word, or at least remind Christians that our behavior is to be far above that of the world. That’s what Paul meant, “let it not even be named among you.”

But there’s more

Did you also know that the joking we excuse as locker room talk is wrong? In the same passage above, Paul continued, “nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting: but rather giving of thanks.” [v4 ASV]. We ought to have known that the ‘locker room’ talk is never befitting of a Christian regardless of the company. Who knew?

Pierce my Ear

There’s a peculiar law in the Old Testament regarding slaves…

Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” [Exodus 21:1-6]

It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the idea that God allowed slavery. What’s also strange to us is that a slave could submit himself to slavery (why would anyone do that?), and if he wanted to leave, the master had to let him go free. Even more strange to our sensibilities is that the slave could decide to remain with a master he loved. We’re most familiar with the brutal history of slavery in our own country where a person was stolen into slavery, or born into slavery and could never leave of his own free will. So, how could it ever be that a slave would ever love his master enough to stay?

As much as we detest the slavery we read about in history (and rightfully so), that slavery bears no resemblance to the master / servant relationship we read about in scripture. Some will say that any form of slavery is detestable, biblical or otherwise. Before you jump to that conclusion, let’s examine why God might use the example of slavery.

Slaves of Christ

The New Testament uses the biblical example of slavery to help us to understand our relationship with Him. Just as in the Exodus 21 passage, we come to Him of our own free will, and He BUYS us. The purchase price being His own blood.

For ye are bought with a price” [1Corinthians 6:20]

We can choose to leave this arrangement, also of our own free will. While nothing can separate us from the love of God [Romans 8:38-39], we can separate ourselves from Him. [Hebrews 2:3, 10:28-29, Galatians 5:4; 2Timothy 4:10].

When we obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ, [Believe, Repent, Confess, Baptism & Faithfulness] we are selling ourselves into permanent slavery. We’re essentially saying, “we will never leave Him, we are His slaves forever, and He alone is our Master!”

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” [1Corinthians 7:23]

Although the thought of becoming a slave holds a very negative meaning in our culture, the Holy Spirit had no trouble using this institution as an example. When you consider the love behind the sacrifice of Christ, you realize that God had placed an incredible value for your life.

 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16]

This value wasn’t based upon how good you looked, or how good you were, or how much money you had. No, the cost of buying us was His own life. Additionally, Jesus promises His slaves an incredible and eternal reward. He said to His disciples…

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

[John 14:2-3]

When we consider the price paid, and the promises made, it begins to make sense how a slave might Love a Slave Owner. Understanding these things will give us strength to endure this life.

Looking again at Exodus 21, we note verse 6; “and he shall serve him for ever.” Applying the picture of slavery to us, we need to note that by becoming a slave to Jesus, we are placing His will above our own. We will have no other master, including those things that tend to rule in our lives [e.g. sin Romans 6:6; money Luke 16:13]. Thy will be done, becomes our song.

When we truly understand this picture, our entire attitude should shift toward humble appreciation for our Master. Let us not be like those slaves who search for holes by which we can escape, for we serve a Loving Master. Rather, let us strive to serve Him in everything that He has commanded and when we’ve done all that we are commanded, let us say…

We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

[Luke 17:10]

 

 

“Pierce My Ear”

By Steve Croft

Pierce my ear O Lord my God

Take me to your door this day

I will serve, no other God

Lord I’m here to stay.

For you have paid

The price for me

With your blood, you ransomed me

I will serve, you eternally

A free man I’ll never be.

Chorus:

So, Pierce my ear, O Lord my God.

Take me to your door this day.

For I will serve no other God.

O Lord I’m here to stay.

Fake ‘Good’ News

There is much in the world of politics being called “FAKE NEWS.” Although that’s a kitschy catchphrase, the concept is hardly new. We can trace it all the way back to the very beginning when the serpent tempted Eve with his own FAKE NEWS on God’s command. “Ye shall NOT surely die.” [Gen 3:4 emphasis mine].

In Deuteronomy, Moses warned the children of Israel not to change God’s word. “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” [Deut 4:2]. In the New Testament, John as given the same warning in Revelation 22:18-19.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. [Ecclesiastes 1:9]

As you can see, “FAKE NEWS” has been around a very long time and it’s especially troubling when it enters the realm of teaching God’s word. We are told, in Mark 16:15, to preach the “gospel” (which literally means ‘good news’), but today we have so many folks teaching a “FAKE GOOD NEWS” which Paul called a PERVERTED GOSPEL. [Galatians 1:7-9]. You won’t believe what people are teaching today about the Gospel of Jesus…

JUST ASK JESUS INTO YOUR HEART. This perversion is the most common “FAKE GOOD NEWS” that I hear. This alteration to the Gospel message follows the exact same pattern Satan used in Genesis 3 by just adding a simple 3 letter word…NOT. In Mark 16:16 it says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” However, those being deceived are being told, he that believeth and is NOT baptized shall be saved. It’s as plain as day, Satan’s devices are being utilized by those promoting error, just add the word NOT.

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” [2 Corinthians 2:11]

ONCE YOU’RE SAVED, YOU’RE ALWAYS SAVED. Although this is a wonderful idea, it is nowhere taught in God’s word. It is true that a Christian can have assurance of eternal life, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” [1 John 5:13], but it never teaches that you can never walk away from it. This is the warning given by the Hebrew writer,

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” [Hebrews 3:12]

GOD DOESN’T CARE HOW YOU WORSHIP IF YOUR HEART IS IN IT. Another way this “FAKE GOOD NEWS” is propagated is with this statement, “I DON’T SEE ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT.” Both statements place the speaker in the position of God!! Just because you can’t see anything wrong with it doesn’t make it scriptural. The only way you can know what God care’s about is if you read what He revealed. Do these people even know that it’s possible to worship in vain?

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” [Matthew 15:9]

GOD WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY… Lastly, for the sake of this article, this piece of “FAKE GOOD NEWS” is probably the most deceiving. Everything about this statement sounds great. To argue against it poorly is to sound like you’re advocating that God wants us to be unhappy. What people forget is that sin almost always looks attractive. God’s word says sin can be, “pleasurable” in Hebrews 11:25; “enticing” in Colossians 2:4 & Proverbs 1:10. God has given us wonderful blessing to enjoy [1 Timothy 6:17], but Satan has taken these pleasures and perverted them with his lies to turn us away from serving God. Our Father in Heaven DOES want us to be happy, and has given us instructions through His word on how to have joy in this life.

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” [2 John 1:9-11]

Friends, my hope is that all of you want to go to heaven to be with the Lord. I do too, but no one shall get to heaven by believing the “FAKE GOOD NEWS.” I know that you love God. He sure does love you, [John 3:16]. He sent His Son, Jesus, to reconcile us back to Himself and I know you love Jesus too. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” He is the only way. [John 14:4-15].

Are Prayers for Vegas insufficient?

As were all of you, I was horrified to awaken to the news of the ‘deadliest mass murder in US history.’ We were shocked and we grieved. Then we became angry as those who, ‘never let a serious crisis go to waste’ began the politicization of tragedy. Of course, many of us also prayed. Our thoughts and prayers went out to those affected (one of whom is the granddaughter of one of our own who hid under a table during the rain of gunfire).

With so many thoughts swirling through my mind, and so many arguments being presented, I didn’t know where to begin. But then, a national late-night talk show host said this, “your thoughts and your prayers are insufficient.” There it was, the tired argument that often surfaces after a tragedy, just framed with different words. It’s as if to say, “where is your God?”

This argument is not new, David wrote in the 42nd Psalm, “As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?” This argument is offered as proof from unbelievers that God is feckless at best and nonexistent at worst. That the wisdom of man is superior to that of God.

“Your thoughts and your prayers are insufficient”

The pure arrogance of this statement. How did he come to that conclusion? Does he have the mind of God? Can this comedian declare the end from the beginning [Isa 46:10]? How did his thoughts become worthier than those of the Almighty?

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:9]

Prayer is essential

Our God is very clear on this matter, He wants us to pray, but He commands us to pray within His revealed will. For many, prayer is nothing more that the rubbing of a magic lamp so the powerful Genie will grant their wishes, this is NOT prayer. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” [James 4:3]

We are to pray

  • According to His will [Matt 6:10; 26:42] which would require us to learn of His will.
  • In faith, without wavering, [James 1:6].
  • Not to eliminate problems, but for strength to endure them, [Acts 4:29; Eph 6:19].
  • For our leaders, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” [1Tim 2:1-8]
  • That the word of God may have free course, [2Thess 3:1; Col 4:3]

In a sense, prayer is not enough

…if not followed up by our own obedience. James wrote, “And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” [James 2:16] We are to act, but what kind, for what purpose? The context of the James passage is not benevolence, though individual benevolence is a command. The main context is SALVATION. Note verse 14, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”

In all the above passages, there is a connection between prayer and the spreading of the Gospel. The enemies of God want the opposite, hence their mocking, “where is thy God?” So often during tragedy, folks begin to ponder their own future [Ecc 7:2].  Now IS THE TIME TO ACT, it’s the time to lead people to the Love of God found in Christ Jesus. Acting as lights of the world, we need to shine that light into this dark world with the truth of God’s word, the truth of salvation and the truth about Heaven.

Why is there so much evil?

I would be remiss if I failed to remind you of the answer. FIRST, there is no such thing as evil if there is no God. Do we call animal behavior of death evil when the roaring lion kills the infant water buffalo? We are more than animals, we have free will, which brings us to the SECOND answer. Free will has been given to us from God. He wants us to love, but with the ability to love, we can also hate. Without free will, choice, we cannot love. From where do wars, murders and fighting arise? They come from our worldly desires…

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” [James 4:1-6]

But James reminds us of the solution

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” [7-10]

In other words, the answer to evil is turning to God. Isn’t that accomplished through evangelism? “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom 10:14]

-Spencer

Taking a Knee

There has been a lot of news of late about football players taking a knee during the national anthem. What we’re witnessing are people, players, TV & Politicians vying for our attention in the most irreverent way possible, by making us angry. It seems to me that the real controversy here isn’t about patriotism, social justice, racial inequality, or free speech. It’s not even about the flag or the national anthem. It’s only about one thing – Gratitude.

You see, the reason anyone can “take a knee” is due to the fact that men and women of all colors spilled red blood on the ground to form this great country and to protect it from those who would want to see it fall. To be ignorant of that point is proof that many in our country have grown to be ungrateful. People often take for granted those things, the price of which was paid by another.

But this article is not for politics, it’s to give a biblical perspective on the world. You see, we’re not immune to becoming ungrateful. It’s easy for us to overlook the sacrifice and spilled blood that bought the church, that bought our lives [1Cor 6:20]. We too, take for granted those things that were done for us. And sometimes we forget that God is Sovereign, that Jesus is King and that He Reigns. [1Peter 3:22]

It reminds me of another person where it appeared he was being treated unfairly. A man who found himself in the middle of a discussion between God and Satan. His name is Job, and as he was living his life, minding his own business, everything changed. In a very short time, he lost all his 10 children to tragedy, he lost all his wealth worse than any stock market crash, he lost his health and then he lost the support of his wife. Last of all he lost all hope of receiving sympathy from his friends. You can read about it in the book of Job, chapters 1-2. Have any of us, or those players, suffered this kind of loss, experienced this kind of injustice?

Life is unfair, it’s cruel and often makes no sense. That was Job’s situation, he didn’t know why he had suffered so much pain. So, what did Job do? HE TOOK A KNEE!

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, [Job 1:20]

Taking a Knee

Job didn’t give up, he didn’t curse God as his wife suggested, and he didn’t believe the false narrative of the mainstream. He maintained his integrity and remembered his creator. [Job 4:17, 36:3] This is gratitude. He could have easily believed the lie, but he had so much love for the truth [2Thess 2:10-11].

In good times, it’s easy to forget what God has done for us [Mat 5:45, Acts 14:17]. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. [James 1:17] In bad times, it’s even harder, often resorting to blaming Him or even doubting His existence. We can learn something from Job. We can learn to seek God in the good times and the bad.

But that’s not all. Job TOOK A KNEE on another occasion. At the end of the book, Job TOOK A KNEE for those who had been condemning him incorrectly. [Job 42:8-10]. It was after he prayed for his friends that God restored to him all his wealth.

With Job in mind, let’s see how we ought to ‘take a knee’…

  • Mt 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
  • 2Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
  • 1Timothy 2:1-4 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

One more thing, while a few are “taking a knee”, there will come a day when EVERYONE will ‘TAKE A KNEE’ as they face the judgement.

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

Romans 14:11

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; Philippians 2:10

What do I do Now?

After a person obeys the gospel, the most oft asked question is, “what do I do now?” However, this question is asked by both the new convert AND the members of the local congregation. The new convert, full of joy and gratitude, has a desire to serve and to do what is right. The older members want to help them, but where do you begin?

For the answer, let us turn to Acts 2, the place where the church of Christ began.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. That’s where we are with Margie, and all others who obeyed the gospel recently (a young man named Nick, was also baptized into Christ on the same day.) Nobody joins the church; the Lord adds to the church [47].

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Here’s where we find our answer to the question, “what do I do next?”

Continue in the apostles’ doctrine. The Apostles’ doctrine is Christ’s doctrine. Jesus said to the Apostles, that in addition to making disciples, as one who has all authority, teach them “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” [Mat 28:19-20]. Paul said about his letters, “let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” [1Cor 14:37]

So, the first thing we need to do is to continue to learn through study of the Scriptures what Jesus expects from us. The most effective way to do this is for the new convert and the “old” members to get together and study the scriptures. We need to note that “continue” means to do them. It’s not enough to learn what Jesus wants, we must obey Him [John 14:15]. We can also learn when we gather to worship on the first day of the week.

And Fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. The new Christians worshiped together. They had fellowship, which means that they were in partnership with one another. This partnership begins when we, “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” [1Cor 1:10]. The partnership also includes the collection of money for the work of the church. (As you continue to study, you’ll begin to understand the work God has given the church is to spread the Gospel, Teach the saints and practice limited benevolence). The Philippians gave money to spread the gospel, and were in fellowship in the gospel [Phil 1:3-7].

One of the parts of worship (there are 5 activities in sound worship) the disciples ‘broke bread’ which is to remember the death of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Supper” the first Christians met on the 1st day of the week, Sunday, where they would take unleavened bread and fruit of the vine to commemorate His death. The Apostle Paul wrote the early Christians how to properly observe this important part of our worship [1Cor 11:23-34].

 

They also prayed. Prayer is the privilege of the saints. Christians are called saint in the Scriptures [Rom 1:7; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1]. In obeying the gospel through baptism, we have “put on Christ” [Gal 3:27] and have been given access through Him to the “throne of grace” [Heb 4:16]. Prayer is an incredible part of becoming a child of God. We know that God does not listen to sinners [John 9:31] but He hears us!

God is not our “genie in a bottle,” to gift us with everything we want like a spoiled child. Rather, He wants to help us in our time of need. It says in Hebrews 4:16; “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Temptation doesn’t stop when we become Christians, neither do troubles & pains, “but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” [1Cor 10:13]. So, all Christians need to pray.

Finally, let us note one more thing from Acts 2…

47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. As you begin your journey as a new Christian, and every Christian, let us never forget from whom we received the gift of grace. We received it from God through Christ Jesus [Eph 2:8-10]. May we never forget, may it never grow old and may we never grow tired of praising God for His indescribable gift.

Thanks be unto God for his indescribable gift.

2Corinthians 9:15