Jonathan Swift once remarked, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” In the great “love” chapter of the Bible, the apostle Paul urges Christians to develop the quality of love (1 Cor. 13). Love is the “circulatory system” of the body of Christ. Paul wrote these words in the context of having to deal with many of the problems faced by the Corinthian congregation. Many of their problems were due to a lack of love. Notice some of them: abuse of miraculous gifts, division, envy, lawsuits, to name only a few.
One of the characteristics of love is its enriching quality. Paul reminded them that the exercise of spiritual gifts is nothing without love (13:1-3). Love is like mortar that fuses bricks together. It is one of the supreme evidences of genuine discipleship (Jn. 13:35). It is the essence of being God-like (1 Jn. 4:8).
Another characteristic of love is its edifying quality (13:4-7). Love doesn’t tear down; rather, it builds up. Love puts up with much that is not pleasant. It manifests kindness for which every heart hungers. Love is the opposite of envy which ultimately destroys the one whom it possesses. It keeps its chin up and not its nose. Love does not have an inflated opinion of itself. It is polite and courteous to all. It practices good and gentle manners. Love is not prone to violent anger or exasperation. Though injured, love governs passions, restrains tempers, and subdues feelings. It does not love the wrong, nor does it love the fact that wrong has been done. Love is optimistic.
Another characteristic of love is its enduring nature (13:8-13). Miraculous gifts such as prophecy, tongues, and knowledge were only temporary. These gifts assured the truthfulness and certainty of the gospel message (Heb. 2:3). Now that the message has been confirmed there is no longer any need for them, but there will always be a need for faith, hope, and love in every generation.
During his illustrious career a lawyer was credited with saving 78 people from being executed in the electric chair. Yet, not a single one of them ever thanked him for his effective work. A philanthropist who had given away millions of dollars was heard to say, “Don’t look for gratitude except in the dictionary.” Ingratitude is a problem that stalks across our land today.
Jesus experienced the same lack of gratitude when he healed 10 men afflicted with the incurable disease of leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). Only one of them returned from presenting themselves to the priest to express thanks to the Lord for his cure. The apostle Paul said that ingratitude would be characteristic of people “in the last days” (2 Tim. 3:1-2).
A wealthy woman once expressed to her doctor that she was constantly frustrated by a restless desire for more. The doctor wisely replied, “These are usual symptoms of too much ease in the home and too little gratitude in the heart.” Material prosperity is not the only cause for ingratitude among some. Forgetfulness is as well. God lamented the fact that the nation of Israel had forgotten him (Jeremiah 2:32) which led to her downfall. Francis Schaeffer once observed, “The beginning of men’s rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart.” Tennyson Guyer has written a poem entitled, The World Is Mine, that will perhaps help us reflect on how blessed we are during this Thanksgiving season.
Today upon a bus I saw
A girl with golden hair;
She seemed so gay, I envied her,
And wish that I were half so fair;
I watched her as she rose to leave,
And saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch,
But as she passed--a smile.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I have two legs--the world is mine.
Later on I bought some sweets.
The boy who sold them had such charm,
I thought I'd stop and talk awhile.
If I were late, t'would do no harm.
And as we talked he said,
"Thank you, sir, you've really been so kind.
It's nice to talk to folks like you
Because, you see, I'm blind"
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I have two eyes--the world is mine
Later, walking down the street,
I met a boy with eyes so blue.
But he stood and watched the others play;
It seemed he knew not what to do.
I paused, and then I said,
"Why don't you join the others, dear?"
But he looked straight ahead without a word,
And then I knew, he couldn't hear.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I have two ears--the world is mine.
Two legs to take me where I go,
Two eyes to see the sunset's glow,
Two ears to hear all I should know,
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I'm blest, indeed, the world is mine.
Scientists have long recognized that bees are intelligent creatures. Many believe that this intelligence is the product of millions of years of natural selection. But the extremely fast learning ability of the bee puts in doubt the millions of years and instead shows the hand of the Creator.
Researchers at Princeton University decided to find out whether bees were smart enough to find their food source if it was moved. The researchers moved the prime food source fifty meters farther from the hive. It took the bees less than one minute to locate the moved food source. The men then moved the food source another fifty meters away. The bees still took less than a minute to find the food source. Two more moves, each a precise fifty meters, produced the same results.
However, the bees had also been studying the researchers. Before the researchers could move the food another fifty meters, they found the bees had discovered the pattern and were already waiting at the new location!
God is our Creator and has clearly left evidence of His handiwork – His fingerprints – in the creation itself. For those who have eyes to see, this fills us with wonder, and yes, with love for the Creator God who first loved us.
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the…
creeping thing, and beast of the earth
after his kind ; and it was so.”
(The above article was taken from House to House, Vol. 14, No. 1)
You can access this wonderful publication by going online to www.edgewoodcofc.org. There are other links to some very good study material by clicking on “Bible Study Material” at the nav bar. Bible courses, crossword puzzles, and youth material are available
During a question and answer session at a recent speaking engagement, a university student asked me, "Why do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?"
Now this is a very Interesting question; and probably one of the most important questions any Christian could ask himself. What is so special, so unique about the Bible that Christians believe it is literally the inspired word of God?
In answering this student's question, I encouraged him to consider the following facts about the Bible:
First, the Bible is not just one single book. This is a more common misconception than many people realize; especially with people who do not come from a Judeo-Christian background. Rather than being a single book, the Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, which is called the canon of scriptures. These 66 books contain a variety of genres: history, poetry, prophecy, wisdom, literature, letters, and apocalyptic just to name a few.
Second, these 66 books were written by 40 different authors. These authors came from a variety of backgrounds: shepherds, kings, fishermen, doctors, prophets, and others. And most of these authors never knew one another personally.
Third, these 66 books were written over a period of 1500 years. Yet again, this is another reminder that many of these authors never knew or collaborated with one another in writing these books.
Fourth, the 66 books of the Bible were written in 3 different languages. In the Bible we have books that were written in the ancient languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic; a reflection of the historical and cultural circumstances in which each of these books were written.
And finally, these 66 books were written on 3 different continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe. Once again, this is a testament to the varied historical and cultural circumstances of God's people.
Think about the above realities: 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents. What's more, this collection of books shares a common storyline - the creation, fall, and redemption of God's people; a common theme - God's universal love for all of humanity; and a common message - salvation is available to all who repent of their sins and commit to following God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.
In addition to sharing these commonalities, these 66 books contain no historical errors or contradictions. God's word truly is an amazing collection of writings!
After I had shared the above facts with this student, I offered him the following challenge. I said to him, "If you do not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if you do not believe that the Bible is of a supernatural origin, then I challenge you to a test."
I said to the student, "I challenge you to go to any library in the world. You can choose any library you like, and find 66 books which match the characteristics of the 66 books in the Bible. You must choose 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, written on 3 different continents. However, they must share a common storyline, a common theme, and a common message, with no historical errors or contradictions." I went on to say, "If you can produce such a collection of books, I will admit that the Bible is not the inspired word of God."
The student's reply was almost Instantaneous. He emphatically stated, "But that's Impossible!"
It truly is impossible, for any collection of human writings. However, the Bible passes this test. The Bible contains 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents, with no historical errors or contradictions. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears the mark of divine inspiration.
Does man cease to exist? Is his body buried never to be seen again? Does he come back in another form – either human or animal – and continue to live on earth? Is man of a dual nature – physical and spiritual? Does his spirit continue to live in another state to wait for the time when it will rejoin his body at the great resurrection day? If that is the case, where does his spirit go following his physical death? Are the dead in a state of consciousness? Are they aware of activity on earth? These and many other questions flood the mind when reflecting upon this subject. Especially do these questions fill our minds when we attend a funeral.
The concept of life after death is not based on scientific discovery or philosophical conclusions. The study belongs to a realm of experience of which science knows nothing. No one has ever crossed the dreaded gulf that separates time from eternity and returned to bring tidings of their experience on the opposite shores of mortality. A few have made this phenomenal trip from an earthly life, to death, and back to earthly life again, but no one in the Bible has their experience recorded. While the Old Testament furnishes sufficient information to conclude that man continues to live on the other side of the grave, it is the New Testament that sheds further light on the subject.
There are eleven occurrences of the word Hades in the New Testament. One of the most familiar references is made by Jesus in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). Both were in Hades, but one suffered while the other was comforted. Death, then, is not the cessation of life; it only marks the change from one state to another. When physical death occurs, the spirit separates from the body and continues to live in Hades even though the body is buried in the earth (Jas. 2:26).
There beats within the heart of most everyone a desire to know what heaven is like as well as a yearning to go there. Even pagan religions have some convictions about a realm of existence beyond this world. A variety of concepts about heaven exists among the major cults. Every religious group associated with what is referred to as “Christendom” believes in heaven. The Bible is the only book that can give us reliable information about it.
In heaven there is an abundance of room. Jesus said there are many dwelling places there (Jn. 14:2). The city is laid out foursquare; its length and width and height are equal (Rev. 21:16). There will be plenty of comfortable space for all the redeemed. Stocks and bonds and other investments rise and fall in value with the economic climate of the time, but that which is invested in heaven never deteriorates; neither will it ever be destroyed. Thieves will not be able to rob us of its possession (Mt. 6:20). In the presence of God is fullness of joy (Psa. 16:11). The most beautiful singing known to man will be heard by the redeemed as they sing the new song of victory, triumph, and deliverance (Rev. 5:9; 14:3; 15:3). All the trials and tribulations of this earth will be over and, at long last, sweet deliverance from the presence of sin is experienced. The redeemed will have eternal rest from their constant struggle against temptation in this life (Heb. 4:9; Rev. 14:13). They will have an abiding possession (Heb. 10:34) “which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Pt. 1:4). No disease will enter to ravage and destroy it. Time will no more deeply furrow the brow. Sickness and old age will no longer bend the back or diminish the mind. Heaven’s “walls and gates” will never crumble. Its infrastructure will never deteriorate. All things are new there (Rev. 21:5). The redeemed will be free from any sad experiences in heaven. There will be no tears, mourning, crying, pain, or even death (Rev. 21:4; Lk. 20:36). Death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15:54). There will be no need for physicians and surgeons to practice their occupations there. Hospitals will not even exist. Funeral processions and cemeteries will not be seen along its streets. Heaven is the “beautiful home of the soul” prepared by the Lord (Jn. 14:1-3).
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife, enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.
The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go, and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finished his work, the employer came to inspect the house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," he said, "my gift to you."
The carpenter was shocked. What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.
So it is with us. We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the building. Then, with a shock we realize we have to live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we'd do it much differently. But we cannot go back.
You are the carpenter. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. "Life is a do-it-yourself project," someone has said. Your attitudes and the choices you make today, build the "house" you live in tomorrow. Build wisely!
There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her preacher and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.
She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.
Everything was in order and the preacher was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" came the preacher’s reply.
"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."
The preacher stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.
“That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.
"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the preacher.
The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming...like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!'
So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ‘What's with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.’"
The preacher's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.
At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the preacher heard the question, "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.
During his message, the preacher told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.
He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us.
Show your friends how much you care. Remember to always be there for them, even when you need them more. For you never know when it may be their time to "Keep your fork."
Cherish the time you have, and the memories you share ... being friends with someone is not an opportunity but a sweet responsibility.
What is meant by the word “character”? Sometimes we use the word to describe someone with particular qualities in their life. For example, we say, “He is quite a character.” At other times the word “character” is used to denote a symbol representing speech. For example, we affirm that the Greek alphabet has 24 characters. In this brief article the word is used to represent the inherent complex of attributes that determines a person’s moral and ethical actions and reactions.
Our nation was founded, for the most part, by people of character. Solomon said, “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34 NKJV). More than 100 years before our declaration of independence, John Winthrop, the Puritan leader who led a group to our shores, affirmed, “The eyes of all people are upon us.”
On January 29, 2009 the governor of the state of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich was removed from his office on charges of trying to sell Barak Obama’s vacant Senate seat. The lawmakers also banned him for holding public office in the state ever again. Recently, Ted Stevens, Alaska’s dominant political figure for more than four decades was found guilty of violating federal ethics laws for failing to report tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and services he had received from friends. Around a year ago former Newark mayor Sharpe James was convicted of corruption charges, ending a four-year federal probe and tainting the legacy of one of the state’s most influential and unforgettable politicians.
All around our nation we see evidence of a breakdown of moral fiber. For our nation to remain great and receive the blessing from God there must be character in government. Not only in government, there must be character in business. The vulnerability to greed is built into all of us. There is strong evidence that we have abandoned our primary ethical focus on what is right and what is wrong.
There must be character in leadership. No matter the organization, character is the most important attribute of its leader. It is even more important than talent or competence. Our Lord set lofty standards. The great Sermon on the Mount shows the Lord’s high elevation of ethics. The Lord also modeled leadership. He lived among the people. He adopted, not the kingly position of royalty, but was a servant. Sam Walton grew from an Arkansas nobody, to an international businessman. Among his rules for running a successful company such as Wal-Mart, he stated, “Celebrate your successes, and find some humor in your failures.” He then noted, “Listen to everyone in your company. Figure out ways to get them talking.”
This quality of righteous character must come from the inside-out. Our Lord stated it is what comes from within that defiles. And He said “What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean” (Mark 7:20). There must be character in the church, in our schools, in our communities and in our families. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of the drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-9).
There are a number of confusing messages being widely propagated in the world today. Many of these are promoted by well-meaning people who apparently have not considered the logical consequences of their messages. Let’s consider some of these messages.
Drink responsibly. Is this possible? One loses his sense of responsibility when he drinks. Yet, this is the message regularly given in advertisements. By suggesting that a person drink moderately, you are still recommending him to drink. A far wiser counsel is found in the book of Proverbs when it speaks of the affects of alcoholic beverage: At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper” (Prov. 23:32). A person should make every effort to avoid any amount alcoholic beverages. How can a person be demonstrating responsibility when he is purposely consuming a beverage specifically designed to rob him of his good sense?
Here is another confusing message: Don’t drink and drive. This slogan is widely heard during the holiday season, the high school prom, and other similar events. It serves as a reminder that due to a person’s drinking he loses his alertness and places himself and others in danger if he gets behind the wheel of an automobile. A “designated driver” is recommended; that is, someone who has refrained from becoming inebriated in order to drive the others home. Does this mean that it is okay to drink as long as someone has been designated as the driver for you? That is confusing, because the consumption of alcoholic beverage is just as injurious to one’s health as it is to one’s alertness. In fact, there are spiritual concerns as well. The apostle Paul said that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Another confusing message is this one: Don’t drink or smoke if you are underage. Are we suggesting that while this is forbidden behavior for minors, it is okay for adults? The truth of the matter is that drinking and smoking are not safe for children or adults. They cause serious health issues. What kind of message is an adult sending to a child when the adult who drinks or smokes tries to correct the child engaging in these same harmful activities? Jesus describes such behavior as hypocrisy and urges us “…to take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Mt. 7:5). In other words, he is saying that we should straighten out our lives in order to be the proper example to others.
Another slogan that is very confusing is this: Practice safe sex. This slogan became prominent when AIDS became a widespread problem in the 1980’s. Parents and schools alike began teaching children to practice “safe sex.” However, if one practices “safe sex,” he must practice sex. Sexual promiscuity not only has physical dangers associated with it; but has emotional and psychological difficulties, also. The only true way to remain safe from sexually transmitted diseases and psychological disorders associated with immorality is to abstain from it. God knew exactly what he was doing when, through the apostle Paul, he instructed, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). Safe sex involves the unmarried abstaining from immoral behavior and those who are married remaining faithful to one another.
Truly, some familiar slogans are confusing when honestly analyzed. The good news is that the gospel of Christ is not confusing.