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The Moral of the Story

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From time to time, we hear an interesting story that is told so that we may learn something more. Do you remember the fable about the boy who cried wolf? Perhaps it is more than a simple story about the harm in speaking lies.

BoyWolfSome time ago, a young shepherd just into his teens was given the care of a small flock by his father, so that he may learn the responsibility that comes with becoming a man. Along with Rusty, the best sheep dog and friend ever born, he felt prepared for anything the farm could throw at them. Except maybe for the endless bleating of sheep and the boredom that comes with them. Boredom often gives birth to trickery and pranks.

Wolf, there is a wolf in the paddock!”, the young man cries as he hides behind a particularly lazy and fat ewe, snickering. Seconds later his father and older brothers sprint into the field breathing hard, bows at the ready. Caught up in the excitement, Rusty runs around them playing and barking at their antics. Needless to say, the conversation at the supper table that night was one for the record books. This only calmed things down for a short while however, until boredom set in again a few days later.

“I have got to think of something better,” he murmured to himself one hot afternoon, “they won’t fall for it a third time.” Rusty’s ears suddenly shot forward as a growl was ripped from his throat. Streaking off like a shot, he angled toward the woods and the large grey wolf standing at the forest edge. Terrified, panicking, the young man screamed and ran for his father. With Rusty barking in the background, his brothers shake their heads and refuse to be fooled yet again. This time however, the young mans cries for help are punctuated by a fierce growl and horrific yelp. “Rusty!”, the boy screams and runs back toward the terrified sheep.

Suddenly realizing that this is not just another prank, the older men grab their bows at a sprint toward the sounds of fighting. They arrive just in time to witness a young lamb being drug into the forest by a hulking grey form. Eyes turning to their brother, they see him in the middle of the field on his knees, holding a whimpering mass of fur and loyalty. Tears flowed as Rusty drew in a last breath. With horror overwhelming him, the young shepherd looked to his father  and sobbed…”I was too late to save him.”

 Most people will tell you that this is a tragic lesson about the harm that lies can cause. You know what? They are right, but there is more as well. You see, to the Children of God, this old story is not only about lying and integrity; it is also about the need for repentance!  How would this story have changed if this young man had changed his mind and actions because he felt true sorrow the first time he lied? How would our lives be different if we learned the same lesson? Think about it.

I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13.3)

What Do You Feed Your Soul?

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Can you imagine how completely awe inspiring it would have been to see Jesus do a miracle? I mean, come on, Jesus took five loaves of barley bread and two small fish and fed around five thousand people! (John 6.1-14) It’s no wonder the men who witnessed this said, “This is truly the prophet who is come into the world.”

The sad part about this wonderful display of divine power by Christ is that some people could not care less that Jesus was the Son of God. They were just interested in what Jesus could do for them. Look at what He tells them when He says, “you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” (Jn 6.26) What an ungrateful thing it is to look at God and basically say, ‘what have you done for me lately?’; especially when He had so richly blessed them by feeding so many just the day before.

In the face of such selfishness, how would you feel? How would you react? I know many people would be hurt and lash out at such an uncaring attitude. Jesus however uses this as a teaching moment and says, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6.27) You would think that they would pump their fist in the air, yell YES, and do a little happy dance. I mean, who would not want that kind of food?!!!

Unfortunately, these guys were not only selfish, they were dense and selfish. Can you believe their response to what Jesus said was to ask how they could get the power to work the miracles of God? They said, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” I don’t know about you but I think I might have lost my cool at that point, but not Jesus. He goes on to essentially say, ‘OK, you want to do the works of God, here is what you do.’ “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6.29) That’s awesome! Even I can do that work of God, so can you, but the men Jesus was speaking to still did not get it. They just could not see past their own self-importance, selfishness and pride.

Now they began asking for a sign or a miracle to prove Himself. WHAT? He just fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, what more could you want? They even said to Jesus, “Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written; ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

They were so focused on trying to figure out how to get the same power Jesus had, they missed the truth that the bread that feeds the soul, the bread of life…Jesus, was standing right before them! He said plainly, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and He who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6.35)

bread-of-life

Friends, while the food that fills our stomach is important, it is nothing compared to the food that can fill our soul! Jesus is the very bread of life that can strengthen your soul and feed you for eternity. Please, do not let selfishness, pride, or the problems and cares of this earthly life keep you away from that which can feed your soul forever…Jesus and His word. Think about it.

Enemies of God

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recognize-and-stand-with-truthHumanism, postmodernism, and the ‘emergent church’ are all false doctrines who are enemies of God. Unfortunately, all of these doctrines weave enough truth in them so that they may seem innocent to unsuspecting Christians.

Humanism allows that there may be a god, but denies His deity and inspiration of the Bible. Oh yes, and Jesus was just a good man in its eyes. While we are at it, since God is in question, so are the certainties of heaven and hell. This sounds good for many people; after all, hell seems like such a bad place.

The ‘emergent church’ questions the belief that there are absolute rights and wrongs. Moral values depend on the situation and the generation you belong in. Absolutes are stodgy,  ‘old fashioned’ and create boundaries for our actions that cause one to be responsible for their actions..

All of these doctrines blur the lines of distinctive male and female roles in creation. After all, if there are no definite lines then women can preach in worship services, wives can rule their husbands, and homosexuality is approved by God.

These beliefs generally have no issue with smoking or drinking, and sexual freedom is a given. Ignored are God’s commands and wishes concerning sexual behavior including premarital sex, homosexuality, lesbianism and incest.

I know most Christians who read this article so far are kind of saying, ‘well…duh’ in their heads. “Of course God has something to say about these things.” The sad thing is this, many of those same people believe that God’s commands are not really commands; they treat them more like guide lines.

We are losing the ability to interpret the Bible in a way which is right and true. We are questioning God by asking, “Is there such a thing as absolute truth?” We are eroding our faith by associating with the world yet denying that we are doing so.

Christians…wake up! Empty yourself of pride and fill up again with the heart of a servant.

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14.23-24)

It is time for God’s people to get back to “thus says the Lord” and get away from, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Think about it.

The Gospel & Soul Food

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soulfood

The Gospel & Soul Food

Any true southerner can tell you that while soul food is southern food, not all southern cooking is soul. To me, there is definitely comfort to be found in cornbread smothered in beans with ham-hock or pulled pork on johnny-cakes (flat cornbread cakes cooked on a griddle, yum) with a side of mustard greens and don’t forget a tall glass of sweet iced tea. Throw in a bowl of homemade gumbo and I’ll be your friend for life.

I have a feeling that I may regret thinking about soul food at ten in the morning as lunch is a couple hours off, yet my suddenly rumbling stomach causes me to stop and consider this… it is not the only thing that requires nourishment. Our spirit must also be fed if it is to grow and remain strong.

The apostle Peter encourages us to, “desire the pure milk of the word so that you may grow thereby.” (I Pet 2.2) He’s right you know. Only when we drink in the wisdom and knowledge of God through His word can our spirit grow to be more Christ like.

Advertisements constantly bombard our senses with the promised benefits of “power” foods. You can enjoy everything from weight loss and stress relief to brain and muscle builders if you just eat our diet. Perhaps we are missing the ‘most powerful’ food of all in our diet; one powerful enough to save a life from eternal suffering! Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation…”(Rom 1.16)

Jesus chastised Satan when He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”  (Mt 4.4) We routinely work to make sure we have our favorite foods in the pantry, investing a good bit of our time and money to the effort. Do we give the same amount of time and attention to our spiritual necessities which impact our lives dearly? Our Lord plainly said that if all we are doing in life is feeding our bodies, then we are neglecting  that thing which matters most, our souls. When this happens, I sadly believe, we become dead men walking. Talk about an eye opener.

While talking with a Samaritan woman, Jesus spoke about giving her “living water.” (John 4.10) He tells her, “Whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4.13)

Consider this. If you have ever struggled with obesity and the doctor showed you a simple food that would help you get healthy, you can even eat as much of it as you want, you just have to eat some every day, would you try it? If depression or anxiety could be a thing of the past with a daily glass of juice, would you drink it? If cancer would retreat in the face of a simple nightly snack, would you keep a stockpile of it? We all know the answers. Why then do so many people throw their  eternal lives away by allowing sin to feed bloated pride or the world to drag us into hopelessness? Why is the simple, freely offered cure for a slowly dying life left untouched?

Jesus said to His disciples, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (John 7.63-64).

Don’t let your spirit starve and wither to die.

Feed it with the living word of God.

Feed it!

Favoritism

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FavoritismAll of us have favorite things. Favorite foods, favorite cars and favorite books, are some possessions we might hold in special regard.  We even have favorite people in our lives. They could be a teacher, a kind aunt or uncle, or even a trusty local car mechanic. The question is, when it comes to people, is there anything wrong with showing favoritism? After all, we hear all the time on blogs, Facebook, and in classrooms that favoritism is wrong.

We are all different in many ways. Jesus highlighted this when He taught the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25.14-30). Peter and Paul spoke of rich men, poor men, governors, kings, apostles and preachers, all of whom play a part in the world and in the kingdom of God and are special in their own way.

Christ’s apostle Paul might seem to be saying that ‘God sees no one as special’ when he writes, “But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.” (Gal 2.6) But is that what the apostle was really thinking?

If it is true that God shows no favoritism at all, then wouldn’t it be a sin if Christians did?  What about Jesus, didn’t He have a special group of friends (apostles) that He treated differently than others? Consider also Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2.9 where Christians are called God’s “own special people.” Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?

Perhaps it is not the fact of having a favorite or special something or someone that is the issue at all. The real problem is one of value. It is impossible to keep from recognizing differences in people, and it is not wrong to do so. Favoritism becomes sinful when we value someone in such a way that we give them special privileges not offered to the rest. This is the type of thing James cries out against:

For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, “‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (Jas 2.2-4)

Does God value a poor man’s soul less than a rich man? No. All are made in His image (Gen 1.27). He is not partial (Rom 2.11). Jesus came to save all who will follow Him (1 Tim 1.15).

The problem with favoritism rests firmly within us. Our selfishness, pride, and ego’s cause us to treat men unequally. Jude says we do this so that we can gain advantage over others, “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.” (Jude 1.16)

The next time we are tempted to raise one soul unjustly above another or give preference to someone (especially ourselves) so that we will have something to gain, perhaps we should first consider the words of Christ.

Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mar 10.43-45)

Think about it.

Do Over!!!

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“Do over! I wasn’t ready yet,” she yelled out as she rounded the tree laughing. This was the scene following our recent VBS where an impromptu game of tag broke out among the exuberant youngsters. It is the excited request for a do over that is rattling around in my head this morning.PlayingTag

How many times in life have we wished for a do over? Do you ever find yourself wishing you could make a better grade, or buy a different car? Would you invest your money differently or take a different job? Would you spend more time with your family? Come on, can I get a do over? Please?

No, I can’t! We live with the life we have created by the choices we have made.

BUT, there are some things we can do from this day forward.

We can choose to live under the weight of guilt and sin for all of the mistakes we have made OR we can choose the path of renewal each day. It’s true that we may bear the scars and consequences of our past, but that does not mean that those weights and burdens have to overcome us. Consider what the Hebrews writer has to say;

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

Truth be told, there is little benefit to being caught up in the past. Beyond learning from the experiences of life, reliving our mistakes over and over just feeds on the negativity they bring, and this  is guaranteed to bring you down. After trying over a thousand filaments for his incandescent light, Edison was asked if he had failed, “No, I have eliminated one more element that will not work for me.” Paul puts it this way;

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3.13-14)

We can use our experiences to help others on the path through life. Children understand, “you are going to make mistakes, but you certainly don’t have to make the same one’s I made.” By being open and transparent about the detours you have taken and curve balls you have missed, you are better suited to help others along the way. Taking that approach to life allows you to take your mistakes and extract good from the circumstances.  This may have been what Paul had in mind when he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8.28).

Think about it.

Is There a Right Kind of Worry?

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WorryFor the most part, worry is wrong. Jesus teaches this during His sermon on the mount. Listen to His words when He says, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Mt 6.25ff)

Jesus plainly shows us that it is wrong to have great anxiety over material things such as what we will eat or wear. Worry about the mundane things of this earth is useless because it changes nothing and worry is faithless because it reflects a lack of confidence that God can and will take care of us.

 

With that being said, is there ever a healthy kind of worry? Yes, actually there is, although we might choose to use words like concern or care in place of worry. Take a look at what the apostle Paul says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (Phil 2.19-20)
Both Paul and Timothy are greatly concerned, even worried, about their brethren in Philippi. They were evidently facing some adversity that tested their Christian conduct (Phil 2.27-30) which could damage them spiritually. Paul was determined to send Timothy to help them due to Timothy’s deep love and sincere care for the Philippians. I believe we can say that both of these men were vitally concerned, or even worried, about the spiritual welfare of their fellow Christians.

 

This is not the only time Paul would feel great anxiety in his heart concerning all of the churches, to the Corinthians he said, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor 11.28)
Paul was not worried about how many times he would be put in jail, beaten, or shipwrecked, these are all worldly things. What concerned him was humbleness, teaching Christ, and standing up against false teaching. He felt great concern, anxiety, and yes worry, for God’s children who faced the kind of adversity that could weaken the spirit and their bond with God.

 

So we ought to try to conquer our fretfulness over the mundane, temporal matters of our earthly life, while realizing that there is a legitimate place for true concern and care for the spiritual welfare of others.



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