ealousy is a work of the flesh which is ruinous to the character of man. It is a sin of disposition which is both mean and wicked. It is a malicious spirit that seeks to deny or destroy the good it sees in others. Solomon declared that “…jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance” (Proverbs 6:34).
Man’s history is clouded with fits of jealousy that have wreaked havoc. Cain was jealous of his brother Abel and murdered him (Genesis 4:1-8). Sarah’s jealousy of her handmaid, Hagar, motivated her to treat Hagar harshly (Genesis 16:1-6). King Saul’s jealousy of David blinded him to the admirable qualities David possessed which could have been utilized for the benefit of the nation of Israel (1 Samuel 18:8-30). The brother of the prodigal son in the famous parable of Luke chapter 15 was unable to rejoice in the recovery of his fallen brother because of jealousy. The Lord’s church in the ancient city of Corinth was successful in many ways: they possessed affluence, education, and sophistication – things for which they had worked hard. They were also richly blessed. One of the miraculous gifts that God gave to some was the ability to speak in languages they had never studied. However, not everyone in the congregation had the highly visible and impressive gift of speaking in other languages. Those who did possess the gift seemed to have a self-righteous spirit and advocated that their possession of it made them spiritually superior to others. Those who had the gift and those who did not were jealous of each other and this jealousy produced divisions and rivalries where there should have been love and mutual support. The church was on the verge of splintering into competing factions.
Jealousy still threatens today. One sibling makes it big and the other wants to break off family ties. A friend gains popularity and the other wants to find a new friend. One person gets more public recognition than others and some want to try and discredit him. Oscar Wilde said, “Anyone can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.”
Jealousy has no cultural, racial, social or economic barriers. It has afflicted all people and been the ruin of many. It has divided families, destroyed friendships, ruined health, and split churches. Jealousy acts as a wedge to destroy harmony and unity between best friends. Indeed, it has a destructive power about it that is difficult to overcome. Solomon declared, “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4). The apostle James stated that “…where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:16).
It is harmful as well as wrong to be jealous of someone else’s success, whether they have earned it or it has been given to them. It is wrong because God says so, but it is also wrong because it is so destructive.
Jealousy is a manifestation of spiritual immaturity (1 Corinthians 3:3). It will dwarf, wither, and shrivel the soul and fill one’s life with hatred and bitterness and make life miserable and wretched. The antidote for jealousy, then as now, is respect and love. To love is to rejoice in another’s good and to seek his welfare; this is Godlike. To be filled with jealousy is to have the murderous hatred of Cain who slew his brother; this is satanic. Be Godlike!
I’m glad we have a Thanksgiving Day in the United States for it reminds me of the thanks I should be offering every day. I’m persuaded that many of us take our blessings for granted. We have been the recipients of so many of them, for so long, that we have grown accustomed to them, and scarcely think of the source from which we have received them.
I can identify with Asaph in the Old Testament book of Psalms who confessed to God, “When my heart was embittered, and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant, I was like a beast before thee.” That’s strong language, isn’t it? But Asaph knew that he was like a beast, utterly irrational, behaving in a stupid, absurd manner. At least he was being honest and truthful with himself. He had failed to stop and think. He had refused to ponder and reason.
Asaph held some ideas about the godly and ungodly life that were quite false. At first glance it seemed that the ungodly prospered, and the godly suffered. Therefore, Asaph was given to complaining.
Perhaps if we are honest we will discover that we, too, have walked in Asaph’s shoes. We tend to take all the gifts and the pleasures and the happiness and the joy without saying much to God about it, but the moment anything goes wrong we begin to grumble and complain and say, “Why should God do this to me, why should this happen to me?”
We need to pause and reflect on the truthfulness of Solomon’s observation in Ecclesiastes 7:14: “In the day of prosperity be happy, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other…”
Inasmuch as every day has its good moments as well as its bad, it requires a grateful heart to be able to say, “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24).
A little boy defined salt this way: “Salt is what always spoils the potatoes when it is left out.” Using the same negative approach we can say, “Gratitude is what always spoils life when it is left out.” A thankful spirit enables one to praise God even when circumstances are difficult.
Alexander Whyte, the Scottish preacher, always began his prayers with an expression of gratitude. One cold, miserable day his people wondered what he would say. He prayed, “We thank Thee, O Lord, that it is not always like this.”
Depending upon one’s viewpoint there is something for which we can be grateful even in the worst of circumstances. We might be surprised at those things we experience in life that squelch the development of gratitude. A wealthy woman told her doctor she was frustrated by a restless desire for more and more things. He replied, “These are the usual symptoms of too much ease in the home and too little gratitude in the heart.”
The man was wise who prayed over a heavy Thanksgiving table: “God please grant us one more blessing…a thankful heart.” In our prosperous land we need to heed the words spoken to Israel when they were about to enter the land promised to them by God, “When thou…art full…beware that thou forget not the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:10-11).
Count your blessings
Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you
What the Lord hath done.
An old farmer from the country went to the big city hospital to visit a dear friend. He was told he would have to park in the visitor’s parking lot. He was surprised when he drove up to the entrance that the little gate lifted immediately. He drove right in and parked his car in the shade. He made his visit, returned to his car and drove to the exit, but it didn’t open. It required money to get out. He paid the fare and mumbled to himself as he drove away, “Maybe they changed my oil and rotated my tires while I was there.”
This example accurately illustrates sin. It is so easy to get involved in sin and is very difficult to get out from under a sinful lifestyle. Habits are easy to start and so difficult to break. Satan has always said you can get in now and pay later. Not only does he get the original price back, but with higher interest. The momentary, fleeting pleasure of sin is all the bait the Devil needs with some people. Many people sink into the quagmire of evil without realizing how deadly Satan’s slimy pit can be.
It reminds me of how quickly the gate opened for David’s sin with Bathsheba. He saw her beauty. He sent for her. She came. He committed fornication with her. Then he sent her home, thinking all was well. It would cost him dearly to get out of this parking place. She was found with child from that little night of fun. David committed more sin to cover his tracks. He had her husband, Uriah, killed on the battlefield. David and Bathsheba lost the child they conceived. There was also shame and suffering that came from this sin.
Sin is like a chameleon. That lizard-like mocker can change its colors to meet its surroundings. Such subtlety with regard to sin has overwhelmed many casual souls. Sin is dangerous because the Devil is shrewd and man is gullible.
The Devil causes sin to have a certain allure, but those who nibble at the bait are never really satisfied. The pleasures of sin are deceptive, temporary, high-priced and eternally a poor bargain. They only produce remorse, corruption and heartache.
Young people, how quickly the gate opens for the first cigarette, or that chew of tobacco, that first beer, or that first act of sexual immorality, but it could cost an arm and a leg, or a heart and a lung. You could end up paying the maximum cost – your life and your soul. Sin hides the truth and makes promises that are never kept. Sin is a dead-end street and a hollow, empty, senseless shell.
Let us not be deceived into thinking that just because there is no price at the entrance, there will be no price at the exit. We need to pay attention to Paul’s words to the Galatians in Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Indeed, there is a high cost to low living. The pleasures of sin are just not worth the price that has to be paid. However, the joys of Christianity are too glorious to miss.
A missionary family in China was forced to leave the country sometime after the communists took over. Early one morning a band of soldiers knocked on the door and told the missionary and his family that they had two hours to pack up before the troops would return and escort them to the train station. They were informed that they would be permitted to take with them only two hundred pounds of stuff.
Thus began two hours of family wrangling and bickering – what should they take? What about this vase? It’s a family heirloom, so we’ve got to take the vase. Well, maybe so, but this typewriter is brand new and we’re not about to leave it behind. What about some books? Got to take a few of them along. On and on it went, putting stuff on the bathroom scale and taking it off until finally they had a pile of possessions that totaled two hundred pounds on the dot.
At the appointed hour, the soldiers returned. “Are you ready?” they asked. “Yes.” “Did you weigh your stuff?” “Yes, we did.” “Two hundred pounds?” “Yes, two hundred pounds on the dot.” “Did you weigh the kids?” “Um…no.” “Well, you’d better weigh the kids!” And in an instant the vase, the typewriter, and the books all became trash. Trash! None of it meant anything compared to the surpassing value of the children.
If only it were that easy for us. If we had to make a physical choice, the choice would be easy. What’s worth more – your child or a computer? If you could only take one with you, which would it be? That’s easy; it’s a no-brainer. But seldom does the choice come wrapped in such an easy-to-open package.
Too often, it sounds more like this: What’s more important – spending time with your family or staying at work a couple of extra hours to get caught up? Many say, “Don’t ask me to make that choice! My family is important to me. It’s just that I really need to get this done! After all, I’m only doing it to provide for them.” Still, there are times when the question just won’t go away: Which is more important?
Man has a tendency to misplace his priorities. We tend to major in minors and minor in majors. We place the emphasis of our life on the wrong things and neglect that which is truly important. Many are like Martha in the New Testament whom Jesus said was troubled and anxious about many things, but had neglected the most important thing. Our attention and interests are focused on so many things that are really not all that important from the viewpoint of eternity. On one occasion Jesus said to his disciples, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26). Indeed, all the riches of the world do not equal the value of one soul.
There are times when we are forced to admit that we’ve been gathering hundreds of pounds of “trash” while neglecting that which is of greatest importance. The apostle Paul once said, “But what gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8).
May God bless each one of us with the wisdom to choose that which is of greatest value.
If you’re not alarmed by the current state of immorality in this country, you have reason to be alarmed about your own spiritual state. In many larger cities there is a murder almost every day. Some parents are using their own children to film pornography. There are couples living together and having children without being married. What on earth is going on? A Denver-area teacher was recently arrested for having sexual contact with a student. A Fox News anchor said, “When will these teachers ever learn their own lesson?”
Fact is, we’ve always had sexual sin, corruption in government, child abuse and out-of-wedlock births. The difference seems to be that no one is embarrassed by it anymore. Is there no shame? Very little, it seems. We’ve been desensitized. It is much like the experience of Samson in Judges 16:20 where the Bible says, “…but he did not know the Lord had left him.” It is sad when the Lord can no longer keep company with a person, sadder still when we aren’t even aware that he left! Like Samson, there was a time when the United States was incredibly strong – militarily, morally, and in most every way. The entire world respected our strength. Today, however, we find that our moral fiber has weakened significantly and the respect that other countries have of us has deteriorated. How long will it be before our military and economic strength will likewise weaken? It would be tragic to wake up one of these days and say as did Samson, “I will go out as before and shake myself free…” only to find that we have no strength left.
You see, we have created a moral climate where nothing is wrong any more. And anyone who has the nerve to say that something is morally wrong is dubbed a “bigoted, narrow-minded, red-neck,wild-eyed Christian fundamentalist.” Call it what you will, there is no denying that when this nation shoved God and the Bible into the background – when we decided that everyone could do that which is right in his own eyes – we got way more than we bargained for. We lit a virtual firestorm that is now being driven by the winds of evil across these amber waves of grain. The fire is raging completely out of control. And if somebody, somewhere, sometime, somehow doesn’t do something to save us from ourselves, our children and grandchildren will see this country fall completely apart at the seams. I can hear some threads already beginning to rip.
Do you recall the story in the first chapter of Exodus that details the hardships of God’s people in Egypt? At first, the God-fearing Joseph had been so trusted and respected that Pharaoh appointed him to the position of Prime Minister. Several generations passed and Exodus 1:6 says, “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt…” From that point on, the people of God suffered mercilessly.
In a similar fashion, unless there is a change in direction, future historians may likely record American history something like this: “Then a new President, Congress, and Supreme Court justices, who did not know God, came to power in America…” We have just now raised the first generation of Americans who no longer hold the Bible to be God’s Sacred Word. Young corporate leaders, politicians, congressmen and even some presidents thumb their nose at anyone who dares call anything a sin. These words of concern do not come from one who is disloyal to his country, but from a patriot who dearly loves his country. May God bless America and may America never forget God!
A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. “What food might this contain?” the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse sounded the warning. “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”
The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.”
The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!” The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”
The mouse turned to the cow and said, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!” The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.”
So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap--alone. That very night a sound was heard throughout the house – like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital. After treatment she was returned home, but she developed a fever.
Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient. But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.
The farmer’s wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral that the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them. The mouse looked upon it all with great sadness from his crack in the wall.
So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn’t concern you, remember – when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. Remember, each of us is a vital thread in another person’s tapestry; our lives are woven together. The Bible says, “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself” (Rom. 14:7).
The definitions of words and phrases are critical to good communication. It is often the case that words translated from one language to another lose something in the translation. An example of this is the explanation an American provided a foreign news correspondent regarding the fact that he missed a plane that was hijacked after take-off. He told the reporter that he guessed the man upstairs was looking after him. The newsman recounted the story with these words in his report: “The lucky American had an accomplice stationed on top of a nearby building who was able to warn him of what was taking place so that he could avert getting on the plane.”
Some have questioned our affiliation with the organization known as the United Church of Christ. Others have inquired about our relationship with the National Council of Churches of Christ. The truth of the matter is that the Lord’s church has absolutely no affiliation with either of these organizations. Some brethren among us have used poor terminology with reference to their own identity. They have described themselves with such language as, “I’m a church of Christ-er,” or have referred to a minister of the gospel as a “Church of Christ preacher.” Even though one may do so innocently, such language places the Lord’s church in the position of being one denomination among many. The identity of the Lord’s church is discovered by properly employing biblical teaching to the research.
Consider the etymology of the term “church.” The word refers to a “called out assembly.” As such it has been used to refer to a political body (Acts 19:39), a riotous mob (Acts 19:32, 41), or a religious body (1 Corinthians 11:18). The Lord’s church is neither a political body nor a riotous mob, but is a religious body composed of those who have responded to the call of the gospel by being obedient to it (2 Thessalonians 2:14).
Reflect on the negative parameters. The Lord’s church is not a material building composed of brick and mortar (Acts 17:24-25; 1 Peter 2:5). The church is not an extension of Old Testament practices. Jesus’ death on the cross took away the old law and established the new covenant (Galatians 3:22-25; Colossians 2:14). Neither is the Lord’s church a denominational part of the whole of Christianity; that is, it is not a fragmented part of the whole. The church of our Lord IS Christianity (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Jesus promised to build only one church (Matthew 16:18) and only one was constructed (Ephesians 4:4; 1:22-23). The various denominations that have arisen over the years are the result of man’s efforts, not God’s!
Examine the biblical comparisons that are made. The church is described as a body (Colossians 1:18). Christ is the head of the body and all members are subject to Him (Ephesians 5:23). Within the body there is diversity (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) as well as coordination (1 Corinthians 12:15-17). Likewise, members of the body have a mutual concern for each other (1 Corinthians 12:25). The church is called a family (1 Timothy 3:15). Since the church is God’s house, is it possible for one to be a child of God and not be in His church? To ask the question is but to answer it. Furthermore, the church is described as the bride of Christ (Romans 7:1-4); 2 Corinthians 11:1-2). Do you suppose Christ would be married to more than one bride? If denominationalism were true, wouldn’t He be guilty of spiritual adultery? Perish the thought! The church is also described as a kingdom. The synonymous use of the terms church and kingdom prove this (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus said His kingdom would be established in the lifetime of the generation contemporary with Him (Mark 9:1). In the early 60’s A.D. Paul wrote that he was in the kingdom (Colossians 1:13). All who presently obey the same gospel Paul obeyed can likewise be in the same kingdom of which he was a part. Hence, the kingdom is not something yet to be established as advocated by premillennialists, but is now in existence. The church is called the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2). In his touching speech with the elders of the Ephesian congregation, Paul stated that the church (God’s flock) was purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). Here’s a question for consideration: Can the blood of Jesus save one without being a part of the group His saving blood purchased?
It is imperative that we reject the husks of human opinion and embrace the truth of heaven’s instructions. Why not obey the gospel of Christ and become a member of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Wendy Bagwell tells a story about picking up a new Volkswagen at the docks in one of our coastal cities in order to avoid paying the shipping charge. He drove his new car off the docks without receiving any instructions concerning the operation of the vehicle. He knew how to drive and that was all he figured he needed to know. At lunchtime, he pulled up to a restaurant, turned off the ignition and went inside to eat. When he came back from lunch he jumped into the car and discovered that he couldn’t find reverse. Finally he had to push the car out into the street by hand in order to continue on his way.
Of course Wendy’s Volkswagen did have a reverse gear. He just didn’t know how to find it, but think how frustrating it would be to own a car that wouldn’t back up. You wouldn’t buy a car without reverse even if the manufacturer were willing to knock a thousand dollars off the sticker price.
Unfortunately many people who wouldn’t think of owning a car without reverse try to conduct human relations without reverse. Marriages break up and friendships are severed simply because stubborn people won’t back up. We dig our feet in the ground and just absolutely refuse to say things like, “I was wrong,” or “I’m sorry,” or “It’s my fault, why don’t we just back up and start over?” The Bible identifies the source of this destructive behavior trait and warns, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). The passage implies that you need reverse in your relationships as much as you need it in your car.
Jesus had an opportunity to emphasize this lesson to the apostles. He talked about the importance of forgiving others who have wronged you. The apostle Peter asked him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” In other words, for the sake of maintaining good human relations you need a reverse. You must not allow pride and stubbornness to stand in the way of a positive relationship with others.
The apostle Paul demonstrated this great quality in his life. John Mark, who traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, for reasons unknown to us, left them in the middle of their work and returned home to Jerusalem. Later, when they were preparing to embark on their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them. Paul adamantly refused to do so and there was such a sharp disagreement that these two servants of God separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him to the island of Cyprus; while Paul took Silas as his traveling companion. Evidently, Mark proved himself to be a wonderful servant of Christ in later years. So convincingly did he do so that, in his last letter, Paul instructed Timothy to bring Mark with him “for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11). Paul did not hold Mark’s past mistake against him forever, but was willing to forgive and reestablish a relationship that had been severed.
For the sake of maintaining good relations with others, don’t forget to use “reverse.”
A question of absorbing interest to every thoughtful person is, “Shall we know each other in heaven?” Whatever God has revealed on the subject of heaven, he has done so with the intent of intensifying man’s desire to go there. This article is not written to just satisfy an idle curiosity or to submit speculative ideas on this subject, but to discover what God has revealed on the matter. There are several reasons for believing that we shall know each other in heaven.
Some have argued that if we know each other in heaven, then heaven would become a sad place if it was discovered that a loved one was not there. That line of reasoning does not eliminate the difficulty, for then we would not know if anybody we love is there. Somehow, we manage to experience joy on earth in spite of the fact that we know loved ones who are in a lost condition spiritually. Even though some of our loved ones on earth will not be in heaven, surely we will experience untold joy on the other shore when God “shall wipe away every tear” (Revelation 21:4).
The doctrine of future recognition is grounded in hope, sustained by faith, and shall be realized when this life is completed.
A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her – her husband had cheated on her and she was devastated. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one arose.
Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.
Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’
‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied.
Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.
Finally, the grandmother asked the granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, grandmother?’
Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.
“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity? Do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?
Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?
Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?
How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?