Yes, it is December; the month of Christmas; the time when 90% or more of us think about ‘giving gifts’. A recent statistic indicates that the average U.S. child will receive about $427 worth of gifts this Christmas! Does that surprise you? It does me; but sometimes I’m not sure I am the right kind of gauge or thermometer for these types of things. I wonder how much of the giving that takes place during this season of the year comes with later regret, or from a sense of obligation, or worse yet, involves a little competition? Is our giving done with good motives?
I think of myself as fairly generous, and maybe you think of yourself in the same way; but are we being generous WITH PURPOSE? Are we generous in the RIGHT MANNER? With the RIGHT MOTIVES? I love giving, and I love seeing others give – especially giving to those who can’t return the favor. But I am convinced there is a right way to give, and we find guidance in II Corinthians 9. I like to call this chapter the Giving Chapter, because the apostle Paul writes what God’s Spirit knows about giving. We should plan how we are to give, we should be prepared to give, and we must purpose our giving. Giving that is completely enveloped with a cheerful heart and liberal spirit, because God loves a cheerful giver.
Let’s examine our giving, not just in December, but at all times – let’s make sure our motives are pure, that we plan to use our resources wisely, and to be thankful to God for the ability to share with others. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Corinthians 9:15)
Our good friend and brother in Christ, Wes McAdams, recently wrote a thought-provoking article on his blogsite, asking the question ‘Are we raising athletes or Christians?’. It bears asking ourselves that question, maybe even in a more broad fashion – ‘What are our children learning from us as parents?’ Are we teaching them to honor and place God above EVERYTHING else in our lives, or is something else crowding Him out? Please – let’s re-examine our priorities.
Consider the context of youth sports in our weekly schedules: How much time is consumed with practices, meetings, and travel? How much of our financial resources are used to register and participate in our children’s athletic events? If we put pencil to paper, we may be surprised at the cost! Is this becoming an object of our worship? Are we placing a stumbling-block in front of our sons and daughters?
Even more alarming might be a review of the events that occur simultaneously with Bible classes, worship assemblies and other activities of the church. When faced with the choice, what do we do? Does this reflect a serious problem with our priorities? When was the last time you made it clear to your family that, when a choice must be made, it will be made in favor of the Lord and His church?
In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus said this about being His follower: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
It isn’t just sports involvement – it could be any one of a multitude of THINGS that occupy our time – 4-H, reading clubs, neighborhood events, and so on. Parents, please judge for yourselves whether your calendars and wallets are devoted first and foremost to the Lord, or something else. Your child’s soul may well depend on what you do to shape their lives.
In his book The Agony & Glory of the Cross, Charles B. Hodge, Jr. addresses the problem of sin. He asks, “How can someone want to be saved if he does not know he is lost? How can anyone say that sin does not exist?” He lays out a foundational study of the topic of sin in this manner:
- Sin is the refusal by man to let God be God. Sin is man’s way of claiming to know more, or know better, than God.
- Sin alienates mankind eternally from God. A person sins within himself before he sins without. Sin is the supreme choice of self over God.
- Sin cannot be covered up; it can only be forgiven by God. And God has chosen that only through the cross of Jesus Christ will He pardon and forgive sin. (Mark 2:7, Luke 5:21)
- Away from God, sinful people are dead in their own sins (Ephesians 2). And the wages (just reward) of sin is death – eternal death (Romans 6:23).
- God hates sin. People who do not fear God do not fear sin. Until sinners see the horror of their sin, repentance will not come.
- Sinful mankind cannot save himself. Sinners must repent and obey God. There is but one way to deal with our sins – each must let Jesus forgive. We must repent of our sins, die to them, and have them be washed away by the blood of Christ in baptism (Acts 2:38, 22:16, Romans 6:1-7; I Peter 2:24).
You and I can never earn, buy, or deserve to be forgiven of our sins. When each person realizes the enormity of selfish sin we must repent, confess those sins to God and ask for His forgiveness. If we have never obeyed the call to be baptized, to put on Christ in baptism for forgiveness of our sins, we must not hesitate to do so. And then, we must put sin away from our lives and put on the identity of our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord (Colossians 3). He will deal with our sin.
(from The Agony & Glory of the Cross, Charles B. Hodge, Jr., Truth for Today World Mission School, Copyright 2007)
Most hard-working Americans don’t have as much money as they’d like. They don’t throw money to the wind because it has to last to the next paycheck. They don’t spend frivolously because they’re trying to put a little back for a summer vacation and hope to have enough for the children to “have a good Christmas.” Most are also trying to pay down credit card and education debt to save some of that unending interest.
Until it comes to lottery tickets. Then the rules no longer apply. Did you know that Americans gamble more money each year than they spend on groceries? When it comes to chances of winning the lottery, a person is either in the group that believes it is absolutely impossible (to win) or in the group that believes one has a very good chance (to win), so why not play? Which one is right?
Keep in mind that the Bible forbids us to be unwise – which is another way of saying ‘don’t be foolish’ or ‘do not act stupidly.’ “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17 NASB). We are to inform ourselves with the facts and then make correct and good decisions.
In the U.S., you have 1 in 120,526,770 chances of winning the Powerball, and 1 in 135,145, 920 chances of winning the MegaMillions. These numbers are fixed every time the lottery is running. Buying more tickets does little to increase your chances of winning. Many who gamble have no idea what the odds are that they will ever win more than they put in. They have no idea that they are participating in the biggest hoax in America. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and a member of the National Council on Gambling, calls the lottery “the most pernicious form of gambling.”
“O naive ones, understand prudence; And, O fools, understand wisdom.” (Proverbs 8:5 NASB)
(From Allen Webster, Jacksonville, AL church of Christ, House to House/Heart to Heart Tract/Booklet Series
The writings of Obadiah, long considered a ‘minor’ prophet, may be somewhat obscure – but this short treatise contains several important lessons for Christians.
First, we are reminded that pride is sinful, and that if not eliminated from our hearts will lead to greater sin. The Edomites were known for pride in their physical strength and might. God’s message to this prideful nation was not one of praise, but rather that destruction was coming upon them (v. 1-9), and this destruction was from and of God.
Second, we can know for certainty that God will do what He says He will do (v. 5-6). God is faithful and just; His will is carried out in all things; He fulfills all His promises. His judgment on Edom was thorough and complete.
Third, our sin will lead to greater sinfulness if we do not stop our sinful practice. It is a path that leads to destruction. Edom’s pride led to haughtiness, crafty deception, and greater evil. Edom’s lack of love and compassion for others was the original source of its sin (v. 11-14)
Fourth, we are taught from Obadiah’s writing that God will punish all sin. Sin is diametrically opposed to God, and He will deal with all sin as He has promised (v. 15-16). That punishment will be great, but God provides an escape for His own people.
Finally, God has promised to protect and save His people (v. 17). God’s goodness and mercy is overwhelmingly greater than we could ever imagine. His people are those who belong to Him – those who have committed themselves to His care by responding in faith to the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, repenting of our sin, being obedient in confessing the Name of Jesus publicly and being immersed in baptism so that our sins may be forgiven. God’s Holy Spirit is given as a deposit for eternity in heaven with God.
Praise God for His righteousness!
What do you think when someone tells you that they have prayed for you? Are you embarrassed, or confused, or filled with joy? Are you concerned that they have prayed that God would grant something you don’t want? In most cases, I would be extremely grateful that a friend or acquaintance would pray for me, trusting that they would have considered me worthy of their time with God.
I am filled with gratitude when I’m reminded in John 17 that Jesus himself lifted his voice to our Heavenly Father for me – and for every one who has believed in the name of Jesus Christ through the gospel message entrusted to faithful men.
Read John 17:13-21: (NASB)
13 “But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
Amazing isn’t it, that the only begotten Son of God, the promised Messiah and Savior of the world cares about me? I want to trust a friend like that, and pray that you do, too.
(Note: The following article appeared in the Sept. 21, 1961, issue of the Gospel Advocate. The thoughts therein deserve sincere consideration by many today.)
Are we rushing through our periods of worship so that we may hasten to feed the poor, to preach to our neighbors, to lift up the heathen? No, we rush so that we can get to a tasty, sumptuous meal or so that we can watch our favorite TV program, or take a nap or read the secular paper, or play golf or go on an outing. If none of these attract us we may rush because we are nervous and have the habit of doing everything in a hurry.
We sing, “Take Time to Be Holy,” but we are too busy to take time to meditate, to praise, to listen to the word of God in a relaxed atmosphere. There is pressure by the more worldly members to “pay our respects” to God in the smallest capsule of time possible. Movies and TV programs are getting longer, but periods of worship are being compressed. Why? Is it because we are so spiritual that we don’t need more time to become holy? Or is it a lack of appetite for spiritual food? Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness or do we fret when the Lord’s supper takes more time than a newscast?
Time is precious and we should “redeem the time.” Our periods of worship should be planned so that our worship will be most effective. Time should not be wasted, but “efficiency” and “cutting” do not really save time if they reduce our exposure to God and multiply our exposure to the secular world.
Let us take time to be holy–time for more spiritual songs, for sermons that are long enough to move the sinner and edify the Christian. Let us take the time to promote activities of the church which will build us up in the most holy faith–time for Christians to exhort one another about giving and living. Time for meditation on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Time for silence to be still and know that God is with us!
M. Norvel Young
Los Angeles, California
Truth Magazine VI: 2, p. 1a November 1961
When I was growing up on a dry-land farm in eastern Colorado, hybrid seed was one of the best things going. Drought tolerance, disease resistance, and other desirable traits were enhanced in hybrid varieties, generally resulting in higher yields and (we hoped) larger profits. Hybrids had their drawbacks, but the advantages out-weighed them. Today, researchers have gone a giant step further. With genetic engineering, desirable traits can be added, or undesirable ones removed, by manipulating the genetic code of the plant!
As desirable as hybrids and genetic engineering might be in agriculture, they are unmitigated disasters in spiritual matters. Jesus likened God’s word to seed (Luke 8:11). We are to desire the “sincere” (unmixed, pure) word of God (1 Peter 2:2). We are specifically forbidden to add to, take from, or alter God’s word in any way (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18, 19). The spiritual seed, as God has given it, is already perfect. No mere human can ever improve upon its “genetic code.”
A hybrid or altered “gospel” may produce impressive “results” from a human perspective, causing some to suggest “they must be doing something right.” Fickle, fleshly-minded folks may flock to have their ears tickled with fables and half-truths, but will find the plain truth much less tantalizing (see 2 Timothy 4:3, 4).
Let us determine that we will not yield to the temptation to sacrifice the purity of God’s word for the sake of pleasing the multitudes. God’s word is truth (John 17:17). The gospel is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else, will do.
-Joe Slater, Mid-Valley Bulletin-(edited)
You may have heard that question asked by someone unfamiliar with the Lord’s church. What is distinctive about the church for which Jesus died, and of which He is the head? Some years ago, M. Norvel Young, former president and chancellor emeritus of Pepperdine University, wrote an essay describing the church that belongs to Christ in this way: “The church of Christ is not an exclusive or proud church. You will find it very simple. Its aim is not to amuse or entertain those who attend its services. It exists in our community as a simple body of Christians, pointing all who look its way to Jesus Christ as God’s only Son, the hope of the world. Its doors are open to those who from the quiet depths of their hearts reach out to God in simple worship and obedient living. You may be surprised to find that there is not much ready-made for you in this church. There is no ready-made creed. You take the Word of God as you read it and come to a true understanding of it. There are no ready-made prayers. Every believer voices his own earnest longing for the presence of God and for His sustenance and guidance. There is no ready-made order of worship. Each church of our Lord arranges its own order in harmony with the items described in the New Testament. There is no ready-made music. Everyone makes his own music by the fruit of his lips as the early Christians did, and it is sweet in the ears of God in proportion to the worshipers’ sincerity and humble obedience to God.”
Isn’t that a marvelous way to describe the church? Those looking for architectural magnificence of a particular physical structure, or emotional manifestations in spine-tingling presentations, may be disappointed. But if you’re seeking salvation from the One who can give it, this is the real thing.
More will come from brother Young’s descriptions of the body of Christ in future posts.