To ASPIRE to a quiet life

The last few years have been a rollercoaster of uncertainty. The reality is, since the fall from the Garden, every year is a year of uncertainty.

time and chance happens to them all.” [Ecc 9:11b]

Even with all this uncertainty, the Scriptures show us that it’s possible to smooth out the hills and valleys.

As we approach the New Year, many of us will be setting resolutions for 2022. Before we decide on what weight we want, or financial goals, let us consider what Paul told the saints at Thessalonica.

Read 1Thess 4:9-12.

v9-10: “But concerning love of the brethren ye have no need that one write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another; for indeed ye do it toward all the brethren that are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brethren, that ye ABOUND more and more;” (emph mine seb)

The first thing we notice is the goal to ABOUND in LOVE. That’s a worthy goal. Faith, Hope & Love are 3 great things, but the greatest of these is Love… [1Cor 13:13]

  • We start by Loving the Lord thy God (Mat 22:37),
  • We are to Love Others (Mat 22:39),
  • We must also Love being Virtuous in keeping God’s commands (1John 5:3; John 14:15),
  • We ought also Love our Enemies (Luke 6:27).
  • We ought also to Love His Appearing in the Sky (2Tim 4:8).

v11a: “and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business,”

The second thing Paul writes what we might say, STAY IN YOUR LANE. The word “study” is philotimeomai, and means, eager or earnest to do something: labor, strive, study. [Strong’s Greek Dictionary]

In other words, we are to STRIVE for peace, not to STRIVE with others. This is not to say we should roll over whenever someone teaches error. Rather, it’s about not STRIVING over pointless matters. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” [Rm 12:18]. We’re to strive for a quiet life, which means that we won’t be busybodies nor disorderly [Rom 13:13; 1Peter 4:15; 1Tim 5:13; 2Thess 3:11-12]

v11b: “and to work with your hands…

Part of living a quite life is through working to PROVIDE for the care of our own households. This wasn’t the first time Paul wrote about working to provide for our own; [Eph 4:28] nor was it the last time [1Tim 5:8].

v11c “…, even as we charged you;”

This is not Paul’s own guess work; to live a quiet life is an INSTRUCTION from the Lord. [1Cor 14:37].

v12a “that ye may walk becomingly toward them that are without,”

To live a quiet life ultimately is about our influence toward all. Paul wants us to have a good REPORT from outsiders so that we will not hinder the gospel. This is also a qualification of Elder. [1Tim 3:7; 2Co 8:21; Col 4:5; 1Pet 2:12]

v12b “and may have need of nothing.”

Finally, Paul concludes that we are to EXCEL in these things so that we “lack nothing.” Once you carry your own water, you will appreciate every drop. [Gal 6:5]. This doesn’t mean we won’t need someone’s help sometimes, just that we should be striving so that we won’t need it.

Paul often worked so as not be a burden on others so that the gospel would not be hindered. “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” [2Thess 3:7-9].

As we think about 2022, let us ASPIRE to Abound in Love, to Study to be quiet, as Instructed by the Lord, to have a good Report of outsiders, and to Excel more & more. May God bless us all.

— spencer

Spencer is an evangelist for the Franklin & Juniper st church of Christ in Borger Texas.

5 Strategies to Endure GRIEF

Nobody is immune to sorrow, loss, and pain. Sometimes we add in guilt for feeling joy during times of celebration.

It is possible to be happy and to experience Joy without guilt. While I’m no expert, I have experienced GRIEF and have gone through its seven stages.

I’m no expert; I’m just a student of the Bible and have found some strategies that have helped me. Perhaps they can help someone else who may be struggling with the weight of GRIEF.

It may help to know that after every winter there is a spring.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”

[Ecc 3:4]

5 Strategies for Living through GRIEF, (from my own experience).

1) You never get over death, nor should you, but you may GROW through it. That hole in our hearts never gets smaller, but our hearts can GROW larger with time. If we will Look up, we can GET UP. [1King 19; Col 3:1-4]

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” [Jas 1:2-3]

2) It’s OK to REMEMBER our loved one that sleeps. If you mention my mother’s name you might make us cry. If you don’t, you’ll break our hearts. Talk about your loved one who sleeps. A word of warning; it’s possible to steal another’s joy. You can end every conversation by REQUIRING others to REMEMBER your pain. This may be difficult to understand right now while you’re engulfed in sorrow, but be aware of other’s joy or pain and that it’s unfair to steal another’s joy. There’s a time for every season. [Ecc 3:1-13].

RECOGNIZING other’s Pain or Joy gives one perspective. Perspective is powerful, but it’s up to you to RECEIVE it. Perspective is a self-soothing tool. It’s no real comfort to say that somebody else has it worse than you. How would you comfort that person with the most pain? (REMEMBER Job? Jas 5:11). But there is Someone who feels what you feel.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” [Heb 4:15]

3) Don’t IGNORE your feelings, nor your physical health. It’s easy to let GRIEF permeate every part of our life and destroy it. Don’t IGNORE your emotions, but also don’t IGNORE the rest of your life. Get up & move, take a shower, and do what needs to be done. Keep doing those IMPORTANT things. Also, don’t ISOLATE yourself from others. You’ll be surprised by how many people are grieving something. You can grieve & still do what is IMPORTANT. Go to worship [2Sam 12:20-23], celebrate birthdays, and do your work. You’ll discover an INCREASE in strength you never thought possible.

And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?” [1Kings 19]

4) Ecclesiastes 7 talks about the “house of mourning.” It’s better because it’s there that we will consider our own END and take it to heart. The end of the book concludes with this lesson; “fear God & keep keep His commandments.” Life is frail & short [Jas 4:14]. Think on ETERNAL life. The hope of being resurrected unto ETERNAL life is our only true comfort. [1Thess 4:13-18]

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” [1Thess 4:13]

5) Prevent the repetitious spiraling FALL into darkness. GRIEF doesn’t have to define you & become your identity. Instead, FOCUS on the FUTURE and the FRUITFUL things you can do. There are people you can help, like those that have helped you. It’s possible to FEEL joy again. Ask yourself this, “What would your loved one want for you?” Do they want you to give up or to FEEL joy again? We know, through scripture, what they truly want for you. [Php 3:13; Luke 16:27-28]

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” [Phil 3:13-14]

It may not feel like comfort at this moment, but you’re not alone. One thing I noticed during my two plus years of trial & loss was how many others needed help. There were others who were just beginning their grief as I was working through mine. Your pain now can become another’s lifeline later. We’re all in this together.

— spencer

Spencer is an evangelist for the church of Christ that meets at Franklin & Juniper Street in Borger, Texas.

Why We Left the World

It was a dark and stormy night that frigid evening in November of 1997. It was dark, and the storm was within our hearts, because we had just learned some things about our condition toward God.

By that time my wife and I had been engaged for a few weeks in some simple bible studies with Uncle Charlie.  

The study had just ended having studied what God required of us to receive His grace. We didn’t answer at that moment. Uncle Charlie said, “Ok then, I guess I’ll be going.” I knew he wanted an answer, but none came.

After he left, we talked. We talked for an hour.

WHY WE LEFT THE WORLD.

We weren’t terrible people; we were just a young couple with 3 children trying our best to take care of ourselves. We both believed in God but never really knew about our responsibility toward Him. Until that night.

That night we realized the LOVE that God had toward us and the whole world. “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) We realized that this LOVE was demonstrated through the death of Christ on a cross. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) We realized that to LOVE God we must keep His commandments. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15; 1John 5:3; Luke 6:46)

That night we heard a very clear EXPLANATION from the scriptures about our sin condition and the sin solution. There were no words without a passage to support them. The passages themselves are very EASY to understand.

  • I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24)
  • I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)
  • Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 10:32-33)
  • Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)
  • But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matt 24:13)

We knew that it was an all or nothing decision. Before we would do anything, we agreed that this was an all or nothing endeavor.

God would not take a half-hearted lip service. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov 1:7) We had a godly FEAR of the Lord. A mix of Reverence, Awe and Terror. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb 10:31)

We agreed together, but when? “Now,” we said. “TONIGHT.” To delay may mean death. It was well after 10:00pm when I called Uncle Charlie to tell him we desired to obey the gospel in water baptism. He asked, “when?” I answered, “TONIGHT.” He joyfully replied, “LET’S GO!” Had he tried to put us off, or schedule a TIME to be baptized we would likely never have done it. We knew that the TIME was right now, as soon as possible. “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2Cor 6:2)

What is the biblical TIMING for baptism? Immediately upon understanding your condition toward God and understanding what HE requires of thee. “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” (Acts 16:33)

That night we put on Christ through baptism. That night we obeyed the Gospel. That night we began our newness of life.

We slept peacefully that night knowing that we had done what the Lord had commanded to be done. We rejoiced and continue to rejoice giving thanks to God for His indescribable gift.

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2Cor 9:15)

— spencer

In everything give thanks

It’s quite easy to give thanks for those good things we enjoy. When we like the giver, like the gift and when we feel like we deserve it.

It’s not so easy to give thanks for those good things disguised as work. It’s often years later before we can find the reasons to be thankful.

The Hebrew writer alludes to this truth; “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” [Heb 12:11]

Is it possible to follow the command of God to give thanks for everything, even the not so fun stuff?

To illustrate this point, indulge me in a little walk down my own memory pain, ur I mean lane.

Growing up the son of a 3rd generation sign maker and sole proprietor, my bother and I found ourselves many SATURDAYS and most of the SUMMERS at our father’s SHOP. From very early days, “tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother,” I can remember spending hours holding a paint can, paint thinner, and paint pallet as my father hand painted all types & sizes of advertisements. Over time and learning to read, I became spell check before such a thing ever existed. I could tell which letter dad was about to form just from the position of the brush. I would audibly grunt as the squirrel haired stick approached the surface; it was my respectful warning for him to check his spelling.

He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.” [Prov 10:5]

I HATED IT… sometimes. No kid wants to work it seems, and I was no different. But it wasn’t a choice. It was a matter of fact. It was as certain as a meal, or going to school. It was going to happen. Very early on I accepted my fate. I could go to the SHOP bitter or I could go to the SHOP & get better. Either way, I WAS GOING TO THE SHOP.

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” [Prov 19:18]

I don’t know if it was the 3rd year or the 13th year, somewhere along the way it became an OPPORTUNITY to learn. The typical sign SHOP requires woodworking, painting, electrical and welding skills. It requires drawing, planning, organizing and socializing (sales). Over the years my older brother learned many of the fabrication skills while I, the younger, navigated toward the office, sales, and organizational skills. One day as dad left for a sales meeting, he shouted to a SHOP full of grown men, “Nobody answers the phone except Spencer!” I may have been 13 or 14 by then.  

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.”

[Prov 23:24]

As I reflect back on those dreaded days in the SHOP, I now have a better understanding and appreciation for them. Today I realize some of the lessons I’ve learned and the PERSON I’ve become because of those years. While at the moment there seemed to be no joy, but rather grief, many years later I am truly thankful for the time well spent.

While we can’t say what would have happened had my summers been spent under my own direction, we can make a fairly good guess they wouldn’t have been nearly as useful.

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.”

[Prov 23:24]

Today, I am thankful to my dad as well as to my heavenly FATHER for those dreadful years well spent at the SHOP. Many of you have had similar experiences, or maybe even more painful ones. May we reflect on the good and be thankful.

It may be difficult to find the good in every memory, but we can at least be grateful for our survival, growth, and the lessons learned. May we find the ability to fulfil the command of God and “In every thing give thanks.”

— spencer

What’s LOVE got to do with it?

Love does not…

EVERYTHING!!

Love is the first & great commandment.

Paul calls love, “a more excellent way” [1Cor 12:31; 13:13].

“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:29-31]

The best commentary on Love is found in the Scriptures. Let’s see love from four perspectives.

  1. God’s Love for us
    1. God is Love – 1Jo 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Titus 3:4-6
    1. God Gave His son – 1Jo 4:9, 10 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, John 3:16, 17; Rom 5:8; Eph 2:4,5
    1. God blesses His children – 1Jo 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: Eph 1:3 every spiritual blessings
    1. Every good thing – James 1:17 – comes from above; Acts 17:28
    1. God sends sun & rain – Mt 5:45 for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
  • Christ’s Love for us
    • Passes knowledge– Eph 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
    • As Father loved Him – Joh 15:9, 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
    • He gave Himself – Joh 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.; Eph 5:2; 1Joh 3:16; Rev 1:5
    • His own– Joh 13:1, 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
    • Those who obey – Joh 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
  • Man’s love for God & Christ
    • Great command– 1Jo 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us. Mark 12:28-30; Mt 22:36-40
    • Good thing for those that do – Ro 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, 1Corinthians 2:9 ings which God hath prepared for them that love him.
    • Crown of life / Kingdom – Jas 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? [1:12]
    • Love displayed through obedience – 1Jo 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments:
      • 2Joh 6; John 14:15, 21, 23
    • Love for truth – 2Th 2:10-12 because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
  • Man’s love for others
    • Brethren – 1Th 4:9; 1Th 3:12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
      • John 13:34; 15:12; 1Pe 1:22; 2:17;
      • 1Jo 2:10, 3:11, 14, 23; 4:11, 12
      • 2Pe 1:7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
    • Husbands & Wives – Eph 5:25, 28, 33; Col 3:19; Tit 2:3,4
    • Neighbor – Ro 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
      • [Mr 12:31; James 2:8]
    • Enemies – Lu 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest:
      • Mt 5:43, 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;

What is that to thee? follow thou me.

After the resurrection of Jesus, He spoke with Peter while having breakfast by the sea (John 21:15-22). There are a few lessons from this text, but I’d like to focus on Peter’s response to the knowledge that he will die for Christ & His Cause.

After Jesus describes the type of love sacrifice that Peter will face, Peter turns toward John and asks, “what shall this man do?”

Jesus, ever succinct and direct, answers, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”

It is this powerful lesson that will be the focus of this article. Before we can learn the lesson, we must understand the root of Peter’s question.

Peter had heard that he will live the remainder of his life in sacrificial service to Christ, the end of which will be a martyr’s death. “This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.”

This would be very serious news to receive. The closest example I could give you is one from my own experience. After two years of cancer treatment for my mom, we were in her doctor’s office when we heard something to the effect, “There’s nothing more we can do. Go home, we’ll try to make you comfortable, and enjoy your family in whatever time you have left.” How devastating that must have sounded to her.

Perhaps this gives us just a glimpse at how this might have sounded to Peter at this point in his life. Peter would learn more from Jesus after this, but this stands as a reminder to every Christian, we who love Christ will face persecution, and trouble in this life. [2Tim 3:12].

So, what are we to do with this information, knowing that life as a Christian won’t always be easy? Can we still be happy? Can we find any joy? The answer is yes, we can be HAPPY & JOYFUL, the question then becomes HOW? For that answer we turn to the words of our Lord, FOLLOW ME.

FOLLOW ME.

The beginning of following anyone is to have FAITH. Nobody will follow anyone if they can’t trust that they are worthy to be followed, and able to fulfill what they have promised. Christ is both worthy and able. Just one text of many will prove this point; Christ is spoken of as the Creator [John 1:1-4; Col 1:17-18]. Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” [John 14:1-3]. Another powerful verse to help with our FAITH in Christ is, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” [Heb 2:18]

Second, we can only follow Him if we OBEY Him. Jesus is the Captain of our Salvation, but too many treat Him like they’re the captain and He a buck Private. [cf. Heb 2:10] Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” [John 14:15; 1John 5:3]

Next, we notice that in that breakfast by the sea, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” We should ask ourselves this same question. The word for love is ‘agape’ which is the all-in sacrificial love. To follow Jesus is to LOVE whom He loves. We must LOVE God [Mat 22:37], Christ [John 14:15], The Holy Spirit [Rom 15:30], the brethren [1Peter 1:22], yourself & your family [Eph 5:28-29], and also your Enemies [Luke 6:27].

Fourth, Christ told us to come to Him and, “Take my yoke upon you, and LEARN of me;” [Matt 11:29]. It is amazing to me how much people say that want to follow Jesus, but spend so little time trying to LEARN of Him. He expects us to be the LIGHT of the world, but how can we without LEARNING of Him, without reading His word? [Mat 5:14; cf. Psalm 119:105; Pro 6:23]

Fifth, whether young or Old, as we have OPPORTUNITY let us do good to all men, especially the household of faith [Gal 6:10]. Sometimes folks don’t want us to do good toward them. That’s ok. Paul wrote, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” [Rom 12:18; cf. Mat 15:14; 1Cor 14:38; 1Tim 6:18]

Lastly, and just as importantly, Following Christ involves WALKING. John was present at the breakfast by the sea and he wrote, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to WALK, even as he walked.” [1John 2:6]. Peter wrote, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:” [1Peter 2:21; cf. 1Pet 3:13; 2Peter 1:16].

Putting all this together, we know that life is full of disappointments, trouble, and trials. Much of this will come through the hands of people. However, the scriptures teach us that we can have JOY & HAPPINESS despite this world’s troubles. [James 1:2; Mt 5:12; Ac 5:41]. Peter wrote, “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” [1Pet 4:13; 1:6; 4:16]

Peter was told at the beginning that he would give his life to Christ. Peter wanted to know, if I’m going to suffer, what going to happen to the others? Christ told him that whatever happens to others has no bearing on what Peter does, “YOU FOLLOW ME.” He understood the lesson.

Whatever it is that others are doing, or not doing, what they’re getting, or not getting, how much fun they’re having, or how much they suffer, these have nothing to do with what YOU & I are to do.

As I read again John 21:22, when Jesus commands Peter, I also hear…

Spencer, YOU FOLLOW ME.”

Facing WOES

1Corinthians 10:13:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: 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.”

Nobody likes trouble. However, God tells us in His Word to find joy in our trials…

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” [James 1:2]

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” [Mat 5:12]

And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” [Acts 5:41]

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” [2Cor 12:10]

How are we to handle these verses? A solid biblical principle is this; When God gives a command, it’s within our ability to do it. If we SHOULD, the it is something we COULD.

Let’s examine 1Corinthinas 10:13 and see some very comforting truths…

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:”

First, we must recognize is that trouble comes to everyone, it’s WIDESPREAD. Any trouble, temptation or trial you will face will have been faced by others before. “…and there is no new thing under the sun.” [Ecc 1:9b]. There is comfort in the realization that no trouble is truly exotic. You’re not the first person to face trouble, nor the last. The main take away is this, we’re all in this together. The person that struggles with struggles often believes that they’re struggles are special. This mindset will only make things more miserable. We’ll never be able to “rejoice” if we believe we’re the only ones with trouble.

but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able;

Next, Paul writes that no trouble is able to OVERWHELM us beyond our ability to endure. God won’t allow it. That’s what the verse says. There’s comfort in these words. God doesn’t remove the trouble, but He does limit it to your capacity. Some might say, “I wish God wouldn’t trust me so much.” I get it, nobody likes trouble. However, we need to remember that nothing worthwhile ever comes without effort. James writes, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” [Jas 1:3-4]. This, along with the teaching from Hebrews 12 shows us that enduring trials makes one stronger, more experienced and more capable. This growth then puts us into the position to help others in their time of crisis. It’s through this understanding where we can begin to find Joy in suffering.

but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Third, God will also provide the way of ESCAPE. Comforting words to be sure. There will always be a means of ESCAPE to all of life’s temptations. Here’s the key that is often overlooked; YOU MUST SEEK IT AND TAKE IT!!! We have to participate in our own rescue. God provides the way of ESCAPE, but it’s up to each of us to take it. This key principle helps us to understand the true nature of Grace. God provides the means, that’s Grace, we must take it and utilize it. God provides the ultimate way of ESCAPE from the penalty of death for our sins; Salvation through obedience to the Gospel. That is Grace. We must act upon this Grace by doing what is commanded in the way of ESCAPE.

Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness brotherly kindness; and in your brotherly kindness love.” [2Peter 1:5-7]

Implied in 1Cor 10:13, and directly stated elsewhere, is the command for us to apply SELF-CONTROL. The reality is that SELF is the only control we have. We cannot often control what happens to us, but we can ALWAYS control how we respond to what happens. Our response to the troubles, trials & tribulations of life are within our ability. Is it any wonder that the word ‘RESPONSIBILITY’ has within it the word ‘RESPONSE?’ Taking Responsibility for what happens to us is vital to our finding joy. This is not to say that all trouble is our fault. Often times it is not. However, acting & responding to whatever happens to us is ALWAYS our responsibility. If God says we SHOULD, we must know that we COULD.

Being challenged in life is inevitable. Being defeated is a choice. As shown through our verse, we can see that we have the means and the choice to endure temptations, trials, tribulations, and troubles. When we take responsibility, when we take action, we will instantly begin to discover JOY.

Rejoice in the Lord always:

again I will say, Rejoice.”

[Phil 4:4]

Distracted by the CARES of the world

14 The sower soweth the word.

WAYSIDE.

15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

STONY GROUND.

16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

THORNY GROUND.

18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

GOOD GROUND.

20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. [Mark 4:14-20]

All of us are barraged daily with things that distract. The CHALLENGES of life feel like trying to take a SIP of water from a FIREHOSE. Does your life feel like that? Mine too. Everyone seems to want / need your attention. Some of them are not sinful in themselves, but when we allow them to take away from more important things, then they become sin.

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” [James 4:17]

Paul tells us, “And be not conformed to this world” [Rom 12:2]; John says we must “not love the world or the things in the world” [1John 2:15-17]; James wrote “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God” [James 4:4] and to remain “unspotted from the world” [James 1:27]. While much can be said about all 4 soils, this article will focus on the Thorny Ground, “the CARES of this world.”

First, we all face the physical (the bible calls them CARNAL) needs of life. Food, Clothing & Shelter are necessities and not sinful. For most of us it feels like we work just to pay our bills, or that we’re in a rat race. This is telling us that the Carnal needs of life are surpassing the “weightier matters.” Another way of saying this is with one word, WORRY. Jesus gives us the remedy; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” [Mat 6:19-34]

A second thing that is not necessarily sinful are the AMUSEMENTS we have. The scriptures teach us that God, “giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” It’s ok to relax, rest and enjoy the fruits of our labor. However, when they push out the “weightier matters” they have become sin.“There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.” [Prov 21:20] When we take time to enjoy the fruits of our labor, do we forsake the assembling of ourselves together when we go on vacation? We’re not speaking of sinful things like adultery, fornication, stealing, drunkenness, lying, etc. Often, it’s the lawful things that we’ve placed ahead of our service to the Lord.

The third thing that can become a distraction, and I say this with all humility knowing that this one hits our heart, is our RELATIONSHIPS. Family & Friends are important, commanded, and necessary to our existence. [cf. Gen 2:18; 1Cor 7:2; 1Tim 5:16 et al] However, even these can lead to distraction if we allow relationships to take us away from that which is right. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” [Mat 10:37; cf. 1Cor 7:32-33] We must care for our families, AND we must serve the Lord. God is not telling us to stop loving our family, friends, or neighbors. We ought to do these things without leaving the others undone. Here’s something to remember; our family, who have gone on before us, would give this exact advice! [Luke 16:19-31:]

Fourthly, mixed in with all of the above is our need for money. Our household ECONOMICS can elevate to a point where we begin to trust it above our trust in God. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God,” [1Tim 6:10,17; cf. James 5:3; Mat 6:19] One must love and trust the Lord PREEMINENTLY [Col 1:18].

A fifth distraction can be the SOCIAL Ills of the world. Some of us have placed our concern for Societal ills ABOVE the spreading of the Gospel. This concern creeps into our practices in the church. We must be constantly reminded that the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” [Rom 1:16]. We must help our neighbors, and the best way to do that is by teaching them the way of the Lord and by doing things His way [Mat 22:21; 2Thess 3:12; 1Tim 5:16; Eph 4:28].

Be on your guard, be watching and let’s not grow weary doing good while waiting for the Lord’s return. May we be found well doing when He returns. “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” [Luke 12:37]

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and CARES of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” [Luke 21:34; emp mine seb]

The COMFORT of the scriptures

Romans 15:4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach  us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently  for God's promises to be fulfilled. |
…through COMFORT of the scriptures we might have hope.

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.[Romans 15:4]

Read that again; “…through the comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.” Did you catch it? Paul was referring to the Old Testament scriptures, and that those scriptures can give us comfort and hope.

I know many that find the Old Testament unpalatable, being too disgusting and violent. While it’s true that the OT is full of those things, the Holy Spirit has revealed that through them we may have COMFORT and HOPE.

The new year is upon us. Let’s renew our efforts to read for COMFORT and HOPE.  

7 ways we may find…

COMFORT and hope in the OT Scriptures.

The first thing we can notice is that CHRIST is in the Old Testament. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” Jesus taught of Himself to those on the road to Emmaus, and they said, “Was not our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?” [John 5:39; Luke 24:13-27,32]

Paul wrote in two of his letters saying the scriptures were written for OUR Learning and OUR admonition upon whom the end of the age are come. We have a huge advantage in that we have the full revelation of Jesus Christ. [Rom 15:4; 1Cor 10:11]

In the letter to the Corinthians he wrote about those God brought out of Egypt, “Howbeit with MOST of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. We always learn by others example or experiences. The Old Testament scriptures reveal both good and negative examples. It is foolish to try to learn from just your own mistakes. You may never recover! [1Cor 10:1-13]

A major lesson the entire world needed from the very first day of man in the Garden until now is to learn the FEAR of the Lord. Every generation, every person must learn this. The Old Testament teaches this lesson over and over through the example of those that disobeyed God. “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.” Some dislike this idea of the FEAR of the Lord, but they misunderstand. If you’re in Christ through faithful baptism, you will have a reverential fear. But if not, you ought to have a terror type fear. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” [Job 28:28; 2Cor 5:11; cr Prov 1:7; Ecc 12:13; Mat 10:28]

Another lesson is that the OLD Covenant was hard, really hard. By reading Leviticus & Deuteronomy (reading through Romans & Hebrews also) we can see that the Law of Moses went well beyond the 10 Commandments. The Jewish traditions teach that there are about 613 commandments. But now we are under the Liberty of Christ. “A better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises.” We are no longer under the bondage of the OLD testament system that couldn’t remove sins, but left a reminder of sin year by year. “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.” [Heb 8:6; Gal 2:4; 4:3, 9, 24, 25; 5:1]

The Law of Moses has been REMOVED & REPLACED by the Love and Blood of Christ on that cross. Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments. We now live under grace through the doctrine of Christ. [Col 2:12-14; Eph 2:15; 2John 1:9]

Finally, we can use both the Old and the New Testament scriptures to TEST the spirits. The Bereans were “more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” Who’s teaching where they testing? It was the Apostle Paul’s delivered to him through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, AND THEY ARE CALLED MORE NOBLE! [Acts 17:11; Eph 3:3-4; cr. 1Thess 5:21; 1John 4:1-4; Deut 13:1-11; 18:20-22]

We need not abhor the OT scriptures for in them is COMFORT and HOPE.

7 Ideas for the aged facing BOREDOM

Gratitude by Jack Garren

 

Far too often the retired Christian faces Boredom & Loneliness in their final years. This need not be. While your body & mind may not be what it once was, you can still be very fruitful for the causes of the Lord.

 

“They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;”

[Psalm 92:14]

7 Ideas for the aged (or young) Christian facing BOREDOM:

B– BIBLE STUDY & Teaching. Titus 2:2-3
O– OTHERS who are bored & need company. Jas 1:27
R– RECORD lessons for your posterity. Prov 31:1
E– EVANGELISM. 1Cor 9:19-23
D– DEVOTIONALS w/ Family. Eph 6:1-4; 1Tim 5:10,14
O– OLD Age Wise. Psalm 92:14
M– MAKE something to share, give, encourage. Heb 10:24