Robert F. Turner wrote a story that tells of an old Farmer, who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.
Many of the members thought the old Farmer compensated for his inability to sing by singing loud. His singing disrupted those who sat nearby and disturbed those that sat on the other side.
The looks of disapproval didn’t seem to catch the notice of the man’s joyful noise.
The men of the congregation talked amongst themselves and appointed 3 men to make the long drive to the old man’s farm and have a chat with him about his obnoxious behavior in the assembly. “Didn’t he know that we don’t act like that during worship? Didn’t he know that there are dignitaries and all sorts of important people hearing his off tune, off key, off tempo singing?” they reasoned among themselves.
Dressing in their suits and shiny shoes, which meant to make a statement about their importance, they trekked out to the old man’s farm.
As they pulled up to his run-down house, they saw him out back plowing a dusty field ‘Jeeing & Hawing” a tired old mule. They honked the horn hoping to gain his attention to avoid having to get out and mess up their nice suits. However, the old Farmer was busy wrestling that old mule.
After some time, they reluctantly pulled themselves out of their air-conditioned car and walked out to talk to him.
As they approached, the Farmer excitedly said, “Well looky here, what a pleasant surprise. It’s so wonderful you made the trip out to this old farm. What brings you ‘round?”
One of the men replied, “We’ve come to talk to you about your singing…” Before he could finish his prepared speech, the farmer interrupted. “I know what you mean. When we start singing those songs about heaven, I can’t help but think about my ramshackle house and the MANSION Jesus has gone to prepare for me.”
“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.”
“When we sing those songs about heaven, I can’t help but think about this dusty field, the sweat and toil. Then I’m reminded about how God promised there’d be no more sorrow.”
“When we start to sing those songs about heaven, I can’t help but be reminded of how much sin and sadness there is in this world. I think about my wife and son and how they died together at his birth and I’m reminded how the good book says that God will wipe away all tears. I’m reminded how we’re to meet our loved ones in the air when Jesus comes back to get those that are His.”
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” [Rev 21:4]
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” [1Thess 4:17]
He kept on, “I just get so excited about God’s promises that I can’t help but sing praises to our King. As a matter of fact, I feel like singing right now. HOLD MY MULE.” Then the Farmer handed the reins of his old mule to the men and began to sing (perhaps he sang “No Tears in Heaven”) as the men just stood there in the middle of that dusty field.
After a few moments, the men tied up the mule and somberly walked back to their shiny new car. After several quiet minutes of the long drive back to town one of them said, “You know, I didn’t realize how beautiful that man’s voice really sounds.”
“Yes indeed,” replied another. The third man said, “If I get to heaven, I hope that God will see to it that I get to sing with that good man.”
An enormous golden statue was raised up in the land of Babylon, and King Nebuchadnezzar commanded that all the people should worship the image upon hearing the sounds of the “cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” [Dan 3:5-6]
At least 3 captive Jewish men ignored the command and were set to face the furnace for their faith. They were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (their Israelite names), better known as, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego [Daniel 3:12]. Faithful men who refused to bow down to any image or person except God.
What’s interesting to me about this whole event are the words spoken by these young men as they faced the fiery furnace being given the chance to worship the image & live or stand fast & die.
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” [Daniel 3:16-18]
Here’s a summary of what they were saying…
- We have no need to give you a new answer
- Our God whom we serve
- Is able to deliver us, and He will deliver us
- But if not, (if God doesn’t deliver them)
- Know this, we WILL NOT serve false gods, nor worship the golden image.
This is a remarkable response from these 3 young men to an all-powerful King. They understood that all Nebuchadnezzar could do was kill their body, but not their souls. [cf. Mt 10:28] In other words, never let fear override your faith.
There are 5 lessons we can learn from this simple example:
- There is no amount of pain on earth sufficient enough to match the severity of hell.
- There is no amount of worldly pleasure great enough to surpass the joy of heaven.
- God is able to deliver us & reward us in this life, but if He doesn’t, don’t miss heaven over it.
- Standing firm in your faith is going to make someone very angry, stand firm anyway.
- Standing firm for your faith may change someone’s mind.
After they were thrown into the furnace with haste, God did deliver them, and Nebuchadnezzar became a changed man. Let’s read what happened. [Daniel 3:26-28]
“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.”
Today we face different challenges to our faith. However, the lessons of these faithful 3 can help us. Peter wrote about the suffering that Christians face and how we ought to respond.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” [1Pet 3:15]
You see, people see the confidence in our hope during the persecutions of Godly living and want to know why.
This is advice given by many a parent to their child as they send them out into the world. It’s good advice which every Christian ought to practice for themselves.
Reminding ourselves of our past is a good exercise, and often painful, that can aid us in our current walk in the Lord. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul did it for the saints. He said, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” [1Cor 6:9-11] This reminder was meant to admonish the brethren that their current attitudes could be changed for the better by a reminder of who they used to be and who & whose they are now. He went on to say, “know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” [v19-20] Remembering who & whose we are can continue to help modern day Christians in 3 ways…
REMEMBERING OUR PAST: By reminding ourselves of what manner of person we once were, that we’ve been freed from the bondage of sin through the blood of Christ, can help us to refocus ourselves to the hope of heaven. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” [Eph 2:5; cr. 1Co 7:23; Ga 3:13]
REMEMBERING OUR HELPERS: No one is an island unto ourselves [Rom 14:7]. We’ve all been aided in some way. The Holy Spirit tells us that none of us heard the gospel without a preacher; “…and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom 10:14b]. It is a very good exercise to make a list of those helpers in your life. I keep a running list of folks who have taught me lessons by their example or through their time. Those who have lifted me up when I was down, both emotionally & financially. Those who have motivated & inspired me to be more than I was. Who taught you the gospel? Who helped you to become a better Christian? Whose example do you wish to emulate? [cr. Phil 3:17] By making this list you will become more grateful and much more aware of influencers currently in your life. More importantly, it will make you more aware of those you can help.
REMEMBER HOW FAR YOU’VE COME: The third way remembering our past can help is by showing us how much we’ve grown. Paul reminded Timothy of this, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” [2Tim 1:5-7]. This reminder was to inspire Timothy to use all his gifts for the furtherance of the gospel. We can do this. Service to our King increases by using our growth.
Some might argue that Paul also told us to forget those things that are behind [Phil 3:13]. This is not a contradiction, because in the context of his statement he listed some of the things he had done, including persecuting the church [v6]. What he means by this is that as we remind ourselves of our past that we ought not to let it paralyze us from pushing forward or to think we’ve already achieved something.
We all need to remember that success in this life is not the end of things. For the Christian, success is serving God His way so that all may come to the knowledge of His dear Son and be able to go to heaven when He returns. [Eph 4:13; cr. 2Pet 3:9]
One final reminder. We need the reminder that we can become disqualified. Jude wrote, “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” [Jude 1:5]. Why do WE need this reminder? Because it’s possible to fall away today.
There’s a song in our hymnal called, “You never mentioned Him to me.” It’s a very sobering song that asks you to think about the judgment day when you and everyone you know are present before the Lord [Mat 25:32]. Imagine on that day that you catch a glimpse of a loved one who is hearing, “depart from me…” [Mat 7:21-23] and they look over at you mouthing the words, “why didn’t you warn me?” I don’t know if we’ll be looking at one another or if when we all bow [Rom 14:11] our eyes will be averted. All I know is that there’s great pain to hear of a loved one who passes from this life outside of Christ.
It seems these days that very few folks are thinking about God. This makes it very difficult to mention Him to them. I have noticed, however, that there are a few moments in a person’s life that they are more open to hearing things about Christ. Moments of change in their life. While anytime is a good time to mention Jesus, I’ve discovered 5 times when folks may be more open to hearing of the Love of Christ.
DEATH: Long ago I met an aged lady who began her journey to Christ upon the death of her firstborn child. She sought the counsel of her denomination for answers, but none were found. She pressed on, seeking the truth, until she met a gospel preacher who showed her in scripture the safe condition of her child. In that search she learned about Bible authority verses the false words of men.
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” [Ecc 7:2].
MARRIAGE ISSUES: Whether it’s getting married or trying to stay married, couples will be open to godly strategies for their marriage. Many times, it will be the wife that will seek God’s advice first. Peter offers her this advice: “While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” [1Pet 3:1-6] He continues with advice for the husband, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge…” [v7a]
ILLNESS or INJURY: God expended a lot of ink about the sick. We’re to visit the sick [Mat 25:36; Jas 5:14]. When it’s a particularly nasty illness, some treat it as a near death experience and begin to ponder their eternity. We can be their for them with a meal or a comforting voice.
CHILDREN: Kids can be a challenge in these times. (I suppose every generation of parents said something similar) As Christians, we can be an example to our friends & neighbors as we raise our children and especially when we’re practicing godly discipline. “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence:” [Heb 12:9] You would be amazed by the positive responses from folks as they watch you train your wild child.
MAJOR CHANGES: This last category of life events involve non-health related but dramatic changes in a person’s life. It could be moving, a new job, or some other occasion that draws folks together. This is a great time to be the neighbor that Jesus described when asked the question, “who is my neighbor?” [Luke 10:29-37]. One of the most powerfully connecting things one family can do for another is to help them move or to help in picking up the pieces after a storm.
This only touches the tip of the iceberg of the ways you can be ready to preach Christ. One final way is in how you manage your own rough patch. This is the context of 1Pet 3:15;
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”
The way in which we react to the struggles in our lives has a very powerful impact on others. Our hope on display is what draws our friends & neighbors to ask why. A perfect time to tell them about Christ.
We must prepare ourselves to have mercy, compassion & grace for these moments.
It’s that time of year again when summer vacation comes to a screeching halt and our children head back to school. Back into the pressure cooker of studies, homework and sports. These are good pressures, but there’s another pressure they will face, peer pressure.
Peer pressure is not new, AND it’s not restricted to the school yard. Peer pressure continues throughout life. Don’t fool yourselves you big people, we all need to guard our hearts from the pressures of the world.
Before you can overcome peer pressure, you must become aware of it and from where it will come. Following are the 6 areas of pressure everyone faces.
THE 6 PRESSURES OF LIFE:
TO BE CONFORMED TO THE WORLD: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” [1John 2:15] (1Tim 2:9; 4:12; Rom 12:2; Jas 4:4)
Conformity — people acting like everyone else, without knowing why or what they are doing. Conformity is the opposite of COURAGE. It’s hard to go against the crowd, but that is the best way.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” [Mat 7:13]
TO GIVE UP THE FAITH: “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” [Mat 10:22] (2Tim 4:10; 1Cor 9:27)
In today’s world, true Christianity is frowned upon for its stance against sin and denominationalism. In many classrooms, our children are compelled to believe in humanism & evolution. But stand firm, for a reward awaits the faithful.
“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” [Rev 2:10]
TO BE DISHONEST: “Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:” [Prov 1:14] (Rom 12:17; Phil 4:8; 2Cor 13:7; Rev 21:8)
Honesty seems to be a lost art today. In some cultures, religions and politics lying is an acceptable form of communication. We must guard ourselves from lies or we might end up believing some of them and that’s not good. [2Thess 2:10-11]
“Now I pray to God that you do no evil,” [2Cor 13:7]
TO BE POPULAR: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” [Gal 1:10] (2Tim 4:3; John 12:42-43; 1Th 2:4)
Nobody likes to be isolated from others, but better to have just a few quality friends than to do what is necessary to have many friends. The compromises of your integrity are just not worth it.
“For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” [Acts 4:20]
COMPROMISE THE TRUTH: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:32] (1Pet 1:22)
You may have noticed a subtle change in way people refer to truth. Listen carefully and you’ll hear people say, “your truth” or “my truth.” We live in a time when majority of people no longer believe in THE truth, but you must.
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” [John 17:17]
TO BE LUKEWARM: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” [Mat 12:30] (Rev 3:15-16)
People don’t really care what you do so long as you don’t make them look bad doing it. Being a quality Christian is going to make folks look bad. People may become uncomfortable with you as you walk in the light. But this is God’s desire, that people see your good works and glorify Him by converting [1Pet 3:1-5; Mat 5:16].
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” [1Cor 15:58]
(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
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].
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?
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]