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Big Problems With The First Family

Big Problems With The First Family

“…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” – Acts 16:31
Let’s talk about the big problems of the first family.

No, I’m not referring to the President and the First Lady, but to the original first family, Adam and Eve. They were also the first family to have big problems–I mean big problems. Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, and their sin infected the whole human race.

They had two boys, Cain and Abel, and the problem of sin carried over to their children’s lives. Cain became so jealous of Abel’s blessings that he murdered him.

The first family had real problems–from Adam and Eve’s simple disobedience, to seeing one of their children murder his brother. The family of man still struggles with the same problem of sin today. But God has a solution in the person of Jesus Christ, Who came to save us from our sin problem. When a person looks to Christ, in faith, for salvation from sin, it breaks the negative chain of sin that enslaves people and families.

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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one the many will be righteous.” – Romans 5:19
A common question is, “How can a loving God allow so much suffering and evil in the world?” It’s a tough question that philosophers and theologians have struggled with forever. There is no completely adequate answer, but it’s important to remember that God is blamed for a lot of things that man does wrong.

When God created man He gave us all a free will. He didn’t program us as robots to always do what’s right or what He wants. Robots have no choice, but humans do. We can choose to trust and obey God–or do things our own way.

From the first man and woman, each person has chosen to go his or her own way rather than God’s way. The result of man’s sin is disease, suffering, and death.

God has done something pretty dramatic to confront the problem: He humbled Himself to become one of us, in the person of Jesus Christ, to show us how to live. Even more, Christ came to die for us. Through faith in Him, we begin to reverse this cycle of evil and suffering.

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The Local Church And The Neighborhood Bar

The Local Church And The Neighborhood Bar

“…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews10:25
Have you ever thought of the similarities of the local church and the neighborhood bar?

In both places:

…people come looking for fellowship;
…people want to go where others know their name;
…people want to go where they are accepted;
…people want to go where their spirits will be lifted;
…people are united around one theme;
…people go where they like the music.

Like a priest, the bartender serves by listening to people’s troubles. But the differences are profound. The bar is centered on booze and the church is centered on Jesus Christ. The bar offers a way to escape problems. The church offers a way to face them, get through them, and overcome them.The spirit inside the bar lowers one’s guard when it comes to temptation and sin. The spirit of the true church encourages people to turn from sin and turn to God.

The bar may be a substitute for the environment of the church, but it never comes close to providing the meaning and purpose found in a Christ-centered church.

The Radical Call Of Jesus

THE RADICAL CALL OF JESUS

Judges 2:11-19; Ps. 105; Matt. 19:16-22

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’” (Matt. 19:21).
Here we hear the radical call of Jesus to leave all and follow him. Jesus calls all to follow him, but among them he calls some to leave all to follow him in a more radical, literal, and complete way, and to them he promises the hundredfold reward. When Peter said to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” (Matt. 19:27), Jesus responded, saying that those who make this more complete renunciation will receive the hundredfold reward. He said, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29 NKJV).
Those that renounce all for Christ also renounce marriage (cf. Luke 18:29-30). They make this renunciation to be able to love God with an undivided heart in their love for him, without dividing their heart with the love of a human spouse (1 Cor. 7:32-34). Thus they are able to fulfill the first and most important commandment of Jesus, which is to love God with all your heart (Mark 12:30), in a more radical, literal, and complete way.
Not everyone is called in this way, but Jesus does call some to celibacy and to live in evangelical poverty in order to keep their heart undivided in their love for God. This radical call includes everything, every aspect of our life. It is not only a call to celibacy, leaving us free in relation to the other pleasures of life. It is a call to leave all for God. This means that henceforth we are to live only for God and find our delight in him, renouncing all else for love of him. Therefore those who are called in this way renounce the delights of the world and rather live a simple life, eating and living in great simplicity.
This is the consecrated life, the celibate life, the religious life, the priestly life. It is the highest state of life (1 Cor. 7:38), for it enables us to love God with all our heart, without any division of heart (1 Cor. 7:32-34), and spend all our time in his service and in the service of our neighbor for the love of God.
In this way of life we renounce having our consolation in things here below in order to have it more deeply in God. We renounce the blessings of this present creation for those of the new creation; and we renounce the pleasures of the world for those of the kingdom of God, that we might experience them more profoundly.
Furthermore, we know that many who are first in this world, living in its pleasures, will be last in the kingdom of God; while many who are last in this world, having renounced all for Christ, will be the first in the kingdom of God, for “many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Matt. 19:30).
While all are called to enter by the narrow way of life and leave the wide way of destruction, the way of the consecrated life is the narrow way in an even more radical and literal sense. So you who are called this way, “enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14).

Don’t Steal, Work

DON’T STEAL, WORK

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work”. 
Eph 4:28 NIV 

In the modern world employment is a privilege that few who do work appreciate. The arrival of the computer has destroyed millions of jobs on a world-wide basis. The rapid growth of the global population has created more people with the need to work than there are work opportunities. Those “at the bottom of the pile” have been left even more destitute than ever. Even in advanced economies, unemployment has become a massive problem. Millions have to steal to eat. No solution seems to be in sight. 

Paul knew from his origins in the Jewish faith that stealing was wrong in the eyes of God. One of the Ten Commandments said so. It was, nevertheless, a problem in the Mediterranean world of his time, otherwise he would not have needed to say anything about it. It was easier to steal than to work. He left the people who had converted from the pagan religions to Christianity in no doubt where they stood. Stealing was out! Work was in! Not only was stealing morally wrong, work was creative. It gives people a sense of dignity and self-worth as well as a living by which to eat. It also keeps people out of mischief! 

In the crisis situation in which the world finds itself today, it ill becomes Christian believers to be too self-righteous about the plague of crime and theft bedevilling the world. Millions of people do not know where the next crust of bread is coming from despite their frantic search of dirt bins to find one. Christians need to be earnest in their prayers that politicians and business people will find imaginative ways to create new forms of employment. 

Lord, help those who will work to find it.

The Road To Financial Security

The Road To Financial Security

“How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.” – Proverbs 3:13
Are you on the road to financial security? Let me suggest a few goals to strive for in seeking personal financial security.

* You need to know what you make, and if you’re on commission, estimate conservatively what it’ll be.
* Spend less than you earn. I know it seems obvious, but it is so overlooked that it has to be mentioned.
* Have a personal or family budget. Budgets help us prioritize and meet our goals.
* In developing that budget, focus on four major categories:

1. A goal for giving
2. An estimated amount for taxes
3. A goal for savings and investments
4. Fixed expenses, such as car, house, groceries, etc.

What’s left is discretionary income and you will want to set goals in this area. It includes such items as clothing, furniture, vacation, and entertainment.

From where does all this practical insight come? It’s based on principles right out of the Bible. You’ll be amazed that when you look to Scripture, you’ll find the keys to financial security.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS FOR THOSE WHO TURN AND BECOME LIKE CHILDREN

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS FOR THOSE WHO TURN AND BECOME LIKE CHILDREN

Joshua 24:14-29; Ps. 15; Matt. 19:13-15

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt. 19:14).
Jesus’ reaction to children came as a surprise to his disciples. They were not expecting that. Here was something new in his teaching. He says that the kingdom of God is for those who are like children. “To such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).
What does this mean? Jesus praises smallness, those who are the last in this world (Matt. 20:16), the poor (Luke 6:20), the simple and humble, the anaweem, those who are dependent on God, and who receive the kingdom only as a gift, those who have no importance in this world, are disregarded by the world, and despised by the great ones of this world. For Jesus “the last will be first, and the first last” (Matt. 20:16). Children can also be taught. They are not closed. They are teachable. They also have a pure heart, without concupiscence. They do not have impure desires and thoughts. Their hearts are clean of all this.
For all these reasons Jesus says “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15). Jesus not only praises children, but he also says that we have to change and become like children! “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4). “For he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (Luke 9:48).
Indeed, if we follow Jesus with all our heart, renouncing all for him (Luke 5:11, 27-28), we will be like children in this world. We will be the last, not the first. We will be disregarded in this world and despised by the great ones of the world. This is because we follow Jesus with all our heart, renouncing the world in its worldliness, renouncing a worldly life, a worldly lifestyle, and do not imitate the way of life of the secularized culture around us.
We become the least in this world, like children, because we live a simple life, renouncing the delights of the world so as not to divide our heart with them. We live and think differently than others, rejecting the ways and fashions of the world, and so the world disregards us. We lose our life in this world for the sake of Christ, and so we truly find it (Mark 8:35). “To such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).
Such is the life of a Christian in this world. He lives for true values, and renounces false ones. He renounces the false values of the world (1 John 2:15; James 4:4), because he lives only for God. He turns and makes himself like a child in this world, and so enters the kingdom of God. He renounces the pleasures of the world, and so the world rejects him, but God receives and blesses him.

Don’t Give The Devil A Chance

DON’T GIVE THE DEVIL A CHANCE

“Do not give the devil a foothold”.
Eph 4:27 NIV

Some Christians no longer believe in the devil. They regard the whole idea as an out-of-date imaginary figure that we can dispense with. And those who do believe in this personification of evil have to reckon with the fact that none of the Christian creeds actually says, “I believe in the devil”. However, that reality which the phrase “the devil” represents is indisputable – evil, both personal and social is a stubborn fact of life. Anyone who believes otherwise is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. 

Paul knew how the devil had beguiled him when he, as a staunch Jew, had set out to persecute the Christians. Christ had intervened and shown him the truth. Instead of hounding the Christian gospel he then proclaimed it, and went to enormous pains to do so. He had organized little communities of believers all over the place and he had seen how easily evil crept in and took over, causing havoc and division among them. Once his back was turned the trouble started. People slipped back into their old ways, spread lies about each other and leaders gave false teachings. Paul knew he had to nip it all in the bud. And he saw how easily people fell victim to the “wiles of the devil” who operated on many fronts. “Stop him before he gets his foot in the door” was his counsel. It was sound advice. 

It still is. The devil is as crafty today as he was then. And he will nag you persistently until he gets in and causes havoc to your spiritual life and eats away at your faith. Be on your guard all the time – especially when you think your faith is strong. 

Lord, help me to remain on guard against evil all the time.

How God Measures A Man

How God Measures A Man

“…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
How do you measure the worth of another person? Is it by their wealth, their position, their fame, their looks, their education, or their success?

I don’t know how you would answer that question, but I can tell you how God measures the worth of a person. God’s Word says, “God does not see man as man sees him. For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The heart speaks of a person’s character, courage and spirit. So often when we measure the worth of a person we just look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the inside.

If that’s the case, how does He measure you? If you had a heart exam today, what kind of heart would God find? The good news is this: God has given us a way to have a new heart and it’s found through faith in Jesus Christ.

It’s an interesting insight into life that when we begin to have the right heart through Christ, we begin to measure the worth of others God’s way.

Human Respect

HUMAN RESPECT

Lev. 25:1, 8-17; Ps. 66; Matt. 14:1-12

“Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ And the king was sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison” (Matt. 14:8-10).
Here we see King Herod, who did not want to kill John the Baptist without a trial nor during a banquet, order John beheaded in prison because he had promised with an oath to give Herodias’s daughter whatever she might ask. St. Mark says, “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly” (Mark 6:20). Although Herod knew that John was a righteous and holy man, he ordered him beheaded in prison because he feared the thoughts and words of his guests at the banquet if he were to do otherwise. He wanted to make a good appearance in their eyes, and so he ordered to be done what he himself knew was wrong. He followed human respect. He was more afraid of the thoughts of his guests than he was of offending God.
In this, Herod is an example of how a Christian should not act. We should not fear men more than God. Rather we should fear God more than men. We should do the exact opposite of what Herod did. Instead of doing evil to appear good before men, we should do good to appear good before God. We should not be ashamed of God and his will before men. “Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). Herod did not do this. He refused to acknowledge God before men, and so Christ will not acknowledge him before his Father, for “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33).
Herod followed the wisdom of the world in committing this crime, not the wisdom of God. He was afraid to be different from his environment when it was necessary to be different in order to remain faithful to God. He followed the world and its ways and style instead of following God’s truth. And concerning the wisdom of the world, St. Paul says, “Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor. 3:18-19).
So we should be on guard against a secular and worldly lifestyle. We must be discerning and careful about imitating the way of life of the secularized culture around us, and rather have the courage to do God’s will. We need the courage to be different when it is necessary in order to acknowledge Christ and his truth before men. We should not fear their thoughts and words against us for being different from them when it is necessary to be different in order to do God’s will. We should not act out of human respect as did Herod, but rather be witnesses in the world to Christ and his truth.