Monthly Archives: December 2010

New Year

This article is by Gary Henry. His website is a great resource to encourage us to seek God. He is the author of two good books Diligently Seeking God: Daily Motivation to Take God More Seriously and Reaching Forward Daily Motivation to Move Ahead More Steadily I would recommend these books and his webpage.

New Year
The new year ahead of us will be, in some ways, like every other year that has ever been. It will repeat cycles that are centuries old. There will be the ageless round of days and seasons. There will be births and deaths, joy and sorrow. There will be triumphs and defeats, honor and shame. Solomon, the wise, perceived this truth: “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).

But in other ways the new year ahead will be unique, a solitary set of events that have never before taken place and that can never happen again. As long as the world lasts, there will never again be exactly the same combination of circumstances. Never again will we be at precisely this point in our lives. Never again will we be able to see things from exactly the viewpoint we enjoy this year. Doors will open that have been shut, and will never be open again.

Because of the one-time opportunities the next twelve months will bring, the new year will be what we make of it. The Scriptures counsel us to “redeem” the time carefully (Eph. 5:16). We may joke about “new year’s resolutions,” but without resolve the new year will be less than it should be. We ought to rise early and work late, crafting the year’s moments into worthwhile achievements. The unique value of the coming year will be damaged if we fail to act energetically. This year is ours to do with as we choose.

Sadly, many of life’s greatest deeds are often left undone. Rather than “seizing the day” and proactively doing the good that is within our reach, we presume that there will be plenty of opportunity “later” to take care of these things. Through simple neglect and the mere postponement of effort, we let months and years slip by unused. The result is that our lives are unimproved. Solomon said, “Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks” (Eccl. 10:18). If you’re like me, your life’s “house” is leakier than it should be, given the time you’ve had to work on it.

Looking at the opportunities we failed to make use of in past years, we often wish we had been more decisive and more consistently exercised our will in the direction of good. For most of us, regret is an all-too-real component of our emotional life. And of course, the reason why that is so is that we have failed to discipline ourselves. As someone has said, there is no alternative: either we will live with the pain of self-discipline or we will live with the pain of regret. But the pain of regret can best be diminished by acting wisely in the present. During the new year, we will again be presented with daily opportunities to use ourselves actively for God’s purposes. What will we do with those opportunities? For myself, I have resolved to do each day things that tomorrow I will be glad I did yesterday! I hope you will join me in this resolve.

We ought to keep in mind, however, that the true value of the new year consists in what God will make of it, and not we ourselves. Ultimately, we are able to speak and act for good only because of the graciousness of God. Honor for the new year’s accomplishments should be His. To Christians, Peter wrote, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pt. 4:10,11).

A year is not much time, really. Before we are ready, it will be this time next year. When that time has come, what will be our memories of this year? This writer’s wish is that you may put first things first all through this year. When the next twelve months have come and gone, may you have grown, with God’s help, toward Him in many ways. May you walk with Him, and live for Him each and every day!

Gary Henry

Holes or Drill Bits

Theodore Levitt wrote Market Myopia where he argued that people become product oriented instead of customer oriented. There is an anecdote that is commonly used to explain this principle. There was a company that sold a million drill bits and not one of the customers wanted a drill bit. The customers wanted holes.

So what does this have to do with us and our spiritual life? We are not selling a product, but we are supposed to sow the seeds of the gospel. Personal evangelism is something that has changed and will continue to change the world. In this we are trying to teach people the gospel. The first thing that is required for us to successfully teach is a willing student. So why would someone be willing to listen to the gospel?

If you are selling rules and regulations, there are people who are interested. They may like the idea of having boundaries in their lives. They may like being different and living to some standard outside of themselves.

If you are selling multiple weekly meetings of the club, there are people who are interested. They will get the chance to see “good people” and sing and enjoy the sense of belonging.

If you are selling academic studies of an interesting book, again some people will be excited with the opportunity to participate. They can get different reference materials and study and teach classes and impress people with their knowledge.

Or we can offer to help them learn the true meaning of life, find a higher purpose, and most importantly salvation through Jesus Christ. This salvation will include conforming their life to a higher standard, meeting with the saints to encourage and edify, and studying the word of God to find out how to be pleasing to Him. These are the things that can and will be enjoyed by the saved, but they are not the end of the matter. They are the “drill bits” that bring us closer to God and salvation through Jesus Christ His Son.

Heaven – Where We Finally Fit

“This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all of these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you – you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good was, to utter satisfaction. The Brocken spectre ‘looked to every man like his first love’, because she was a cheat. But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it – made for stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand. (The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis pages 151 & 152)

In this excerpt Lewis describes heaven in a way that I understand. I have never really wanted to float around playing a harp, but I do have the desire to finally fit perfectly. We are made in the image of God. This aspect of our nature requires much of us. All of the animals were made by God but they are not made in his image. As such, they are not required to do or become anything, they are just animals. However, we are required to deny ourselves and strive to conform to the image of His Son. To be successful in this endeavor we have to change our desire from self to God. Only with this change can we successfully navigate this world. The traps that Satan has laid will get us, if our hearts are not focused completely on Him. Not only is the right heart required to get into heaven, it is required for heaven to be the perfect reward.

Heaven is wonderful because we stand in the presence of God and Jesus. Our faith becomes sight. When we get to heaven we will forget to ask all of the silly questions about science or theology. It will not matter if we see our aunt or grandfather. It will not matter who is there or isn’t there because we will be in the presence of our heart’s desire. GOD. We will finally be where we belong, where we were made to be.

Bothered in Christ?

No it isn’t a typo. Are you bothered by a brother in Christ? Does the continual lack of dedication and lack of attention of other Christians really annoy you?

This is a trap I get caught in occasionally and I can’t find a way to justify it by the standard of Jesus Christ. What do I mean by this? Find a time in Jesus’ life when he was annoyed or bothered by the lack of knowledge or the failings of his followers. This is different than the hypocritical Pharisees. We are talking about people who are trying but lose heart, lack knowledge, or are struggling to find their way. Jesus looked on them with compassion (Mark 6:34). He loved to help more than he needed physical food (John 4:32). He loved them enough to hurt his reputation among the leaders of the day (Luke 15:2). How did he do this? He never lost sight of the preciousness of a soul! He never lost sight of God’s will (John 10:25-30).

So when I am faced with this situation what do I do? I try to get back into the Christ-like mind set. I do this by asking myself which of the two descriptions best describe me:

1. I am worthy of anything and everything that God has done and will do for me. Since I am so perfect I have every right to be annoyed that others just can’t seem to catch up with my spiritual superiority.

2. I am unworthy of anything and everything that God has done and will do for me. He loved me as a sinner and only through the perfect sacrifice of His Son do I have any hope of seeing Him one day in heaven. Any spiritual heights that I may attain are the work of His grace and enduring love for me.

The obvious answer is that I am unworthy to be called by the name of Jesus Christ. So what would Jesus say to me in these moments of spiritual blindness? He would most likely tell me the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt 18: 21-35)

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (ESV)

Note: A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer.

This parable teaches me the attitude I need to have with my brother. I have to remember that God has forgiven me so much. My brother can do nothing against me that will compare to what I have done against God. So when my brother is stumbling, struggling, or sinning, what should I do? The simple answer is to respond with love. In I Cor. 13 we learn that love hopes, endures, is patient, and kind. So instead of annoyance, we should feel concern and sadness. Jude 22 & 23 gives us our directions: “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (ESV) I don’t see any indication that we should be bothered by a brother’s struggles.

Today’s personal challenge: I will have a more Christ-like attitude toward my brothers.

— Zane

A Heart of Faith

A friend of ours has given us a number of audio files with lessons that have been preached by Paul Earnhart. As I walk in the morning, I love to listen to those lessons—his words not only get my brain thinking but help open my heart first thing in the morning; for those of you who know me well, you know that is no easy task for me at that time of day! This morning, I was listening to a lesson about what it means to believe in Jesus. Brother Earnhardt makes a distinction within the lesson between subjective faith (one that is based on my own experience and feeling) and objective faith (one that looks beyond my own experience and to God’s instruction). As an illustration of this, he discusses the attitude of Peter and the others when they have fished all night with no success, and Jesus comes and tells them to go out again and cast their nets. Subjective faith would say: “What does he know? After all, I am a fisherman, and I know these waters—there’s nothing there to catch this day! I mean, He’s a carpenter! What does he know about fishing?” Objective faith would say, “I may be a fisherman, but He is the Lord. I will go.” That kind of heart of faith is so inspiring to see in the pages of Scripture, but why is it so difficult to cultivate day to day?

The one example of such faith that Brother Earnhart mentions has always struck me as well—the example of Abraham’s utter willingness to sacrifice Isaac—the son whom he loved, the son God has promised him. Would I, as Abraham did, be able to say, “Yes, Lord, I will do as you say”? My heart breaks for Abraham each time I read that account. Brother Earnhart points out that if you had encountered Abraham that day and questioned how in the world sacrificing the son that God had given him would ever lead to the completion of the other promises God had made, Abraham would have most likely said, “I don’t know. But God does.” Isn’t that the very basic heart of faith? I certainly don’t know, but God does. No wonder it is asserted that Abraham believed the LORD, and his faith was accounted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).

God has so graciously and clearly taught me His path in His Word, and in so many ways what He wants of me is so clear, but I struggle with daily application. I am struck by how often in my life I have “kicked against the goads” of the circumstances that have been put before me in life, knowing in my head the truth that God works all things to His glory. Knowing in my head that any challenge, any suffering will bring me closer to Him if I will allow His molding to take place, yet I battle. I want to know why I am the one who has to deal with these things, why life can’t work out the way I want it to, why there isn’t a less painful way of handling a situation, and on and on. But a heart of faith simply says, “Yes, Lord. You see the path I do not, so will follow your lead.” A heart of faith simply does what God asks, and leaves the rest to Him, knowing He is able to handle the rest. I am reminded of the plea the father makes to Jesus in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief!” I DO believe He can handle it all, but oh, how I long for the answers and the vision to see how it will all work out in the end. But that isn’t my portion. It is God’s to know, and mine to follow. His path is always right, even if doesn’t make perfect sense to me. My dear friend Dixie Goolsby once told me that before she goes to bed at night, she likes to read Psalm 23—that this is not a psalm of death, but a psalm of life, and how right she is. It teaches me the gentle heart of a trusting faith:

The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me by still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil.
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
They comfort me.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies,
You anoint my head with oil,
My cup overflows
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD, forever.

May we all grow to rest and trust in the love of the Good Shepherd in full, obedient, faith.

– Tracie

The Green Commentaries – Bible Study Textbook Series – New Testament

This is the post of the New Testament (Old Testament here).
I inherited a set of commentaries from my father and have really enjoyed them. They are no longer in print but the publisher College Press has put them on their website and have given me permission to put them here. The files are large but the pdf’s are searchable and are a great asset when you are really wanting to dig deep into a passage. I especially like the background and cultural information. Feel free to download them for personal use. Also visit College Press for a good selection of religious books (and thank them for allowing people to download these commentaries for free).
Due to the large number of files, I am separating the files into three posts: Old Testament, New Testament, and Supplementary Materials

The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 1
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 2 Part 1
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 2 Part 2
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 2 Part 3
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 2 Part 4
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 3 Part 1
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 3 Part 2
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 3 Part 3
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 3 Part 4
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 3 Part 5
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 3 Part 6
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 3 Part 7
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 4 Part 1
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 4 Part 2
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 4 Part 3
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 4 Part 4
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 4 Part 5
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 4 Part 6
The Gospel of Matthew Vol. 4 Part 7
The Gospel of Mark Part 1
The Gospel of Mark Part 2
The Gospel of Mark Part 3
Luke – Applebury Part 1
Luke – Applebury Part 2
Luke – Applebury Part 3
The Gospel of Luke – Butler Part 1
The Gospel of Luke – Butler Part 2
The Gospel of Luke – Butler Part 3
The Gospel of John Vol. 1 Part 1
The Gospel of John Vol. 1 Part 2
The Gospel of John Vol. 1 Part 3
The Gospel of John Vol. 2 Part 1
The Gospel of John Vol. 2 Part 2
The Gospel of John Vol. 2 Part 3
The Gospel of John Vol. 2 Part 4
Acts Made Actual Part 1
Acts Made Actual Part 2
Romans Realized Part 1
Romans Realized Part 2
Romans Realized Part 3
First Corinthians – Applebury
Second Corinthians – Applebury Part 1
Second Corinthians – Applebury Part 2
Second Corinthians – Applebury Part 3
First Corinthians – Butler Part 1
First Corinthians – Butler Part 2
First Corinthians – Butler Part 3
Second Corinthians – Butler
Guidance From Galatians
The Glorious Church: A Study of Ephesians
Philippians, Colossians, Philemon Part 1
Philippians, Colossians, Philemon Part 2
Philippians, Colossians, Philemon Part 3
Thinking Through Thessalonians Part 1
Thinking Through Thessalonians Part 2
Thinking Through Thessalonians Part 3
Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus
Helps From Hebrews
A Chain of Jewels From James and Jude
Letters From Peter
Hereby We Know: A Study In The Epistles of John
The Seer, The Savior, and the Saved (Revelations) Part 1
The Seer, The Savior, and the Saved (Revelations) Part 2
The Seer, The Savior, and the Saved (Revelations) Part 3
The Wonder Book of the Bible (Revelations) Part 1
The Wonder Book of the Bible (Revelations) Part 2
The Wonder Book of the Bible (Revelations) Part 3

From the College Press Website:
Bible Study Textbook Series

Many of you are familiar with the Bible Study Textbook Series (The Old Green Commentaries). These were very popular several years back and many of you have requested copies of these timeless treasures. Because reprint cost are so high we have chosen not to reprint but instead, we are offering them electronically for free. These commentaries are being made available for your personal use. Feel free to download them to your computer. These files are very large and may take a while even with high speed and DSL services. If using dial up service please be aware the your download times may be extensive and you may encounter problems during the download. If you have problems downloading these files you want to consider using a download manager.
Thank you for your interest in College Press.

Sailing Too Close To Shore

This was submitted by Greg, hope you like it.

The following is an excerpt from a prayer believed to have been written by Sir Francis Drake:

“Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.”

~ Sir Francis Drake

I really like this quote and it reminds of a story from my childhood. During my teenage years, my family used to go to the lake for skiing and swimming. This was truly a family affair encompassing three generations, and oftentimes, there would be close to 30 of us there. It was my Grandpa’s job to drive the boat. He was a fairly strict man and liked going about his business with little fanfare. When it was time to ski, he would take one passenger in the boat, as a lookout, while he pulled the rest of us…usually one at a time. Which is another story for another time. Anyway, the lake we usually went to was a small lake, about 600 acres. As young men, most of us could ski a full lap before exhaustion made it impossible to hang on to the rope.

I remember one particular afternoon when one of my cousins had just completed a full lap and was bragging that he had made it all the way around without falling. At which time Grandpa turned to him and said, “if you don’t fall down, it means you aren’t trying anything new.” Now keep in mind that my Grandpa is a man of relatively few words and is not one to readily criticize another. What he was telling my cousin was that it’s not very challenging to stay in the wake behind the boat and definitely not worthy of bragging about. He was also wanted him to challenge himself by getting outside his comfort zone, the wake, and start working on his cutting and jumping skills.

When I reflect on his comments some 25 years later, I realize that his comments can be applied to all aspects of our lives, including our pursuit to strengthen our relationship with God. The quote by Sir Francis Drake says the same thing that Grandpa was telling my cousin that day. You will never truly be great at something if you don’t fall down a couple of times along the way, and I believe that it applies to our journey to become good Christians as well. You can’t get there by just doing the minimum amount required, like say…going to church on Sunday. You have to face your own weaknesses and work on them. You may have to get out of your comfort zone and help others. Whatever it is, you’re certain to fall down a couple of times…Greatness doesn’t happen without practice.