A Battle to a Blessing

A Battle to a Blessing

Genesis Chapter 32 records one of the strangest stories told in the Old Testament, in which Jacob wrestles a mysterious man through an entire night.  Jacob is one of the forefathers of our faith, but prior to this wrestling match he was not much more than a liar and a thief. Remember in Gen 27, where Jacob stole his twin brother Esau’s birthright and blessing.  Jacob later disguised himself as his twin brother and blatantly lied to his dying father in order to steal the largest inheritance.  Esau swore that he would kill his brother after their father died, which caused Jacob to flee his home.  Jacob spent the next 20 years with his father-in-law, Laban, where he continued to be deceitful and self-willed.  Many years pass, and Jacob now is a rich man.  He has a large family and large flocks, and now must flee his father-in-law’s home under command of the Lord.  Jacobdecides to return to his original home where he grew up, but that means he must face his deceit against Esau. As he and his family travel home, Jacob hears that Esau is just across the countryside, heading right to him with 400 men. Jacob fears for his family, so he sends them in separate groups while he stays behind and prays to God. 

Deep into the night, as he is praying his earnest prayer, a Man appears in Jacob’s camp and the two begin a wrestling match that lasts all night. Genesis 32:22-31 records the strange story.  At some point during the wrestling match, Jacob seemed to come to the conclusion that he was not wrestling against an earthly man, but a heavenly being.  And so, Jacob goes from attacking this Man to just clinging to Him and requesting a blessing. The Heavenly being tells Jacob to let go, but Jacob refuses to let go until he receives a blessing. Jacob now sees that what he thought previously was a battle, actually turned out to be an opportunity for a blessing. 

Often times in life we may experience misery, pain, and heartache.  We may feel like we don’t deserve it.  Maybe we ask God “Why is this happening to me?” If you are in this situation, let the strange story of Jacob’s wrestling match be a comfort to you. This story teaches us that many of life’s great trials can turn into blessings if we just hang on and cling to God.  Jacob’s wrestling match started in conflict, but ended in a blessing.  As we know from Biblical example or from experience, all of God’s people will experience hardships. But take faith that sometimes our greatest trials can turn into blessings if we just hang on.  James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.    

Another verse that helps comfort us in trials is found in Romans 8:28 “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.” This verse promises that, if we remain faithful to God, He will take every event that occurs in our lives, positive and negative, and work them out for our ultimate good. This verse does NOT say that everything in life that happens to us will be positive, happy, and joyous.  What this verse says is that all the events of our life, both good and bad, will work out to our ultimate spiritual good if we remain faithful to God. Many of us have experienced a trial in life that felt nearly impossible to survive.  But later in life, sometimes months or even years later, when we look back at that challenge, test, or trial that we endured, we could clearly see God working it out for our ultimate spiritual good.  Think of Jacob.  During the wrestling match, the heavenly being reached down and removed his hip from its socket, which made Jacob walk with a limp the rest of his life.  And yet that physical trial turned into a blessing for Jacob, because from that wrestling match on, he was no longer self-willed and deceitful.

Jacob was able to recognize that this battle, a trial of his character and strength, was actually an opportunity to grow and be better for God. As Christians today, we can greatly benefit from recognizing that God is always working for our ultimate good, even if times are tough at the moment. We can have great comfort from trusting and clinging to God when we are enduring hardships, trials, and tests, because we know that God is turning our battles into blessings.

Bailey Stephens

Wise Decisions

There is a story of a young man who decided that he wanted to earn a college degree.  He was accepted at a prestigious University and began his studies.  But the night before one of his exams, this young man was invited to a party and he skipped preparing for the test.  Days later, a paper was due.  Instead of working on his assignment, the young man went on a camping trip with friends.  Mid-term studying was put off due to a canoe trip.  And rather than study for finals, he went on a date with his girlfriend.  As you can imagine, this young man flunked out of college.  The young man had made a great decision in life:  To go to college.  But he failed in the goal because of a series of small unwise decisions.  

In a similar way, the same is true for us today.  Our goal is to make Heaven our eternal home, but many fail in that goal not because of a single unwise decision.  Rather people generally lose their faith because of a series of small unwise decisions just like that college student. At the same time, people do not become stronger in the Lord because of a single big decision.  Rather, one becomes stronger in the Lord because they make a series of seemingly small but very wise decisions.

Making wise choices is something the Bible talks a great deal about.   The word wise or wisdom appears 197 in the Bible, 35 of which are in the NT.  But rather than read all of these verses, the conclusion we can reach is that the Bible is rich in offering us advice on how to make wise decisions. You know we can know if we are wise according to the Bible or not. Just like how you can know what sickness you have based on your symtoms, you can know if you are Biblically wise based on symtpoms as well. Here are some of the symptoms of wisdom: 

We can make the small yet wise decision to watch our words. It is estimated that a talkative person speaks over 100,000 words every day. Words have the power to strengthen us spiritually, encourage us to live faithfully, or even to correct us. But words also have the power to destroy souls, damage relationships, and ruin congregations.  Prov. 10:19In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.      

Prov. 21:23Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.        

James 3:2For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.  

We can make the small yet wise decision to listen to counsel.  Everyone of us needs some advice and coaching from time to time.  We find ourselves in situations where we need to seek the counsel of someone with more experience, age, and our spiritual elder.  Prov. 13:10By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom. 

We can make the small yet wise decision to be humble.  How many of life’s problems are generated because we think too highly of ourselves and our own opinions, and we begin to think we are better than others around us.  Luke 9:48  “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”.   The mind of humility is also taught in Phil. 2:5-7

We can make the small yet wise decision to live the life of a New Testament Christian.   If we truly are wise from the Bible’s standards, then it will be evident from the lives we live.  James 3:13-James asks the question that we are considering and then says: Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.    Eph. 5:15-16See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.     1 Peter 2:12-13-If you are wise, you will understand that you represent Christ and the Church to the world wherever you go, and that people are watching you, the way you act, the way you dress, the way you talk, your attitude, everything about you. 

Solomon, the very man who asked God for that great gift, after all of his wordly experiences and in all his wisdom stated in Eccl. 12:13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. 

These are only a few of the symptoms of true wisdom, but there are indeed many more, as James tells us James 3:17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 

If you want to reach Heaven as your goal, remember, a person does not fall away from the Lord generally in one giant step.  Rather they fall away by making a series of unwise decisions.  If we want to know if we are wise, let us look into the Bible and see for ourselves.

Carter Stephens

A Warning From God

In the days of Joshua, the Israelites crossed the Jordan river to inherit the Promised Land. Their first big task was to take the fortified city of Jericho with its famed mighty walls. God instructed his people to march around the city for seven days, to shout, to blow their horns, and God himself would cause the walls of Jericho to collapse. Once the walls fell, the Israeliteswere instructed to kill everyone inside and burn the city to the ground. Because the Israelites obeyed God to the letter, they soon stood in the smoking ruins of what was Jericho.  Then God gives them instructions on what NOT to do next. 

Jos 6:26 Then Joshua charged them at that time saying “Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city of Jericho: he shall lay its foundations with its firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.” God commanded his children that he never wanted them to build the city that HE, God himself, had destroyed.  While not explained, maybe the ruins were to stand as a monument to God’s people throughout the ages of his faithfulness to them.

An estimated 530 years later, during the reign of King Ahab and Jezebel, a man by the name of Hiel was charged to rebuild the city of Jericho. But remember, God had given a specific warningto the man that rebuilt that city:  his oldest child would die when he began the work and, if he persisted building, he would attend the funeral of the youngest when he finished. 1 Kings 16:34 reads “In his days Heil of Bethel built Jericho. He laid the foundations with Abiram (A-bir-am) firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub (Seg-ub) he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun. These are the only two verses in the Bible that mention this man Hiel.  But important lessons can be learnedfrom him.

#1 Gods Word is always true– Not one word of this curse passed away in five centuries. The curse was fulfilled exactly as God had said.  Two sons died, they died in the right order, and they died at the right time. The life of Hiel followed the warning of God to the letter. Now we live 200 centuries from when these words were written but Gods word remains ever truthful today. We are foolish to think that the bible is untrustworthy or that its warnings carry no weight. Heb 6:18 says it is impossible for God to lie. Psalm 19:7 “The testimony of the Lord is sure”. Psalm 89:34 God said “My covenant will not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips”

#2 Time does not render a warning void – 500 years passed since Jericho had felled. Surely Hiel thought a law written so long ago could not still be in effect. But it was and Hiel paid the price. Today people say “well the Bible is out of touch with current times. Its teachings do not apply to us today because it is written so long ago.” Time is not marked in Gods eyes the same as mans. Time does not render a warning void. 2 Peter 3:8 One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” 

#3 God means for his warnings to be heeded. God is the full mercy, grace, and love but he still means for his warnings to be followed. Most parenting books would have a parent utilize praise, love, and positive teachings. But, it would be poor parenting to not mix in some warnings. Thru the life of Hiel, I hope we can see that God is a God of love but he is also a God of his Word. If God gives a warning, a negative teaching, a “Do NOT” command, he intends for it to be followed. God is both good and severe. Ro 11:22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you,goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cutoff. 

#4 Even a command that seems strange must be obeyed. The location of the original city Jericho was perfect. It was near the River Jordan and had been a bustling city of commerce. I’m sure Hiel eyed the location as prime real estate. Surely Hiel thought to himself, God did not mean what he said.  So he ignored Gods warnings not to rebuild. Isa 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” says the LORD 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. There are challenging commands and warnings in the Bible. You nor I might not have written them the way God did.  Sometimes our logic would want some of God’s warnings out of the Bible.  But God has a purpose, a reason for giving us that teaching. While my vision is limited, God sees the value of his teaching from an eternal point of view. I must simply accept that fact that God commands will not steer me wrong no matter how challenging I personally find the verse. 

We ignore Gods warnings at our own peril. I’m sure Hiel thought the warning was outdated, did not apply to his good intentions, or was simply a tradition. But regardless of our intentions, we pay the price when we ignore Gods warnings.

Sterling Stephens

No Fruit for the Master

No Fruit for the Master 
M. Lynwood Smith 
February 1945 
Jesus and His disciples, having spent the night in Bethany, arose from their 
slumber to resume the work in which they were engaged. The previous day had been 
spent in the temple where He sharply rebuked the sinners that had disgraced 
the “house of prayer,” healed many of the afflicted, and taught the people. There 
was still much work to be done, for the fields “were white unto harvest, and the 
laborers were few.” So, Jesus and His followers arose and turned their faces 
in ‘the direction of Jerusalem, which lay about two miles away. As this little band 
journeyed down the hot and dusty road that led to Jerusalem, the Savior became 

Let us stand by the way and watch Jesus and His Chosen as they, pass on their way 
to Jerusalem. We see Jesus hungry and weary with his journey, leading the Disciples 
on to the work that was so dear to His heart. At length the Savior saw a solitary 
fig tree standing by the way. Seemingly, this was a vigorous tree, and the early 
leaves in which it was clad, were proof enough that the tasty fruit the Savior 
loved, was there. The fig tree always puts forth its figs before it does its 
leaves. So, there was every appearance that this was a fruitful tree.

Now, we see the hungry Son of God as He approaches the tree robed in the verdure of 
spring; expecting to find this prized fruit beneath its broad leaves. But what did 
He find? Alas! There was no fruit for the Master! As Jesus looked upon this 
unfruitful tree, there must have been an expression of disappointment on His 
countenance. That the Savior was displeased with this barren tree is evident from 
His words, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth forever.”

Why did the Lord curse this tree, because it was barren, unfruitful, and a cumberer 
of the ground? Why should this tree stand there by the roadside and deceive 
mankind? It had not borne fruit the preceding year, or else the fruit would have 
still been on it (for in the Oriental countries figs hang on the trees almost the 
year around). It would not bear fruit that year, or the figs would have been there 
before the leaves were. It was just a useless, barren, tree. It is very true that 
this tree appeared to be fruitful; it was adorned externally with everything that 
was necessary to appear fruitful. But when it was examined by Jesus it was found 
barren. There was no fruit for Master.

This story of the barren fig tree is comparative with–
The Barren Christian

How many church members today, like this leafy fig tree, are just “cumbering the 
ground”? A barren tree has always displeased the Lord, and so does a barren 
Christian. God wants His people to “bring forth fruits,” and when we fail to do 
that we fail to please the Lord. I wonder how many Christians, if submitted to the 
same test, as was the fig tree, would stand the test. If the Lord should examine us 
(and, He does, daily) how many would fall into the class of the barren fig tree? 
Like the fig tree, when many Christians are examined by the Lord, I fear He finds 
they have borne no fruit the preceding year (or. would still be there); nor show 
any sign of fruitfulness for the forthcoming year. Hence, to be found thus would 
mean that we “stand in a bad condition before the Lord”. The Lord is not pleased 
with us when we fail to work or bear fruit for Him. This is clearly set forth in 
Matt. 25, where Jesus gives the parable of the talents. Jesus blessed and approved 
all the servants that had made use of their talents; He cursed the man who had only 
one; not because His talent was smaller than the others, but because He failed to 
develop and use it for the Lord. So the Lord expects us to, grow, work, and bear 

Jesus said: “Every branch (tree in this case) that beareth not fruit, He taketh 
away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it that it might bring forth 
more fruit” (Jno. 15:2). Christ also said, “Herein is My Father glorified, 
that ye bear much fruit” (Jno 15:8). We know how sad it must have been when the 
hungering Savior was disappointed by the unfruitful fig tree; yet, He will be just 
that disappointed with an unfruitful Christian. This also teaches against-

The Hypocritical Christian

This barren fig tree is a fit emblem of the church member, who is concerned only 
with making a show before men. How many church members, and even preachers, like 
this fig tree, stand by the road of life to be seen, appearing to be something when 
in reality they are nothing? Let us not appear too conspicuous, let us “see that we 
do not our alms before men.” Though many of us appear to be doing much for the 
Lord, should the Savior push aside our leaves, as He did the fig tree, and look 
into our hearts, I wonder what spirit He would find. I wonder if He would find a 
spirit of love and interest in the Cause, or would He find a spirit of malice, 
hatred, and jealousy? Let us bear more than leaves for the Lord. When we stand 
before the Judge of all the earth, how many will have to meet Him with leaves, 
nothing but leaves, because we have borne no “fruit unto perfection”?

May we all stop being so concerned with the outward show, or big name, and let us 
take up our cross and humbly bear fruit for Jesus. Let us not be of those who 
boast; for the more we boast, the less fruit we will bear. The man, who does the 
most bragging, is the man who does the least work, just as the tree with the most 
leaves is the tree with the least fruit.

Robert Burns wrote words that truly teaches this thought. “Words, like leaves, 
doth most abound; Where deeds and fruit are seldom found.”

M. Lynwood Smith, Wesson, Mississippi Old Paths Advocate February 1, 1945

Complete Devotion to Christ

Complete Devotion to Christ

by Trever Calvert

Mark chapter 14 is one of the longest chapters in the New Testament and includes several events from the last few days of Jesus’ life. Recorded there are His observance of the Passover with His disciples, the institution of the Lord’s supper, Jesus’ memorable prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, His arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin council, and the denial of Peter one of His “faithful three” apostles.  

The chapter begins with the Jewish leaders’ plot to kill the Messiah – a plan which quickly begins to materialize a few verses later when Judas agrees to betray Jesus.  But nestled in between the plotting of verses one and two and the betrayal in verses 10 and 11 we find one of the most beautiful examples of reverence and honor for God in all the Bible. Conversely, it is also, perhaps, one of the most underappreciated stories in the life of our Lord.

In verses three through nine we read of a woman who takes a jar of oil and anoints the head of Jesus. We find from John’s gospel account that she also anoints Jesus’ feet with the oil and wipes them with her hair (John 12:3). John provides us with the woman’s identity – she is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

The gospel according to Luke is the only account that does not record this event; however, Luke does provide us with a very important view into Mary’s heart. In chapter 10 beginning at verse 38 we read a simple, yet profound story in which Mary sat at Jesus feet and listened intently to His every word. Meanwhile, Mary’s sister Martha was busy serving Jesus and the other guests who had gathered at their house. Martha was resentful that she was having to work alone, but Jesus quickly made her aware that Mary had wisely chosen to prioritize listening to His teachings. Mary blocked out everyone and everything else around her and focused solely on Jesus.

Keep this image of Mary in mind as we return to Mark 14 and the anointing at Bethany. Mary’s jar was made of alabaster – a white colored type of gypsum. It was often used in the ancient world to make things such as vases and statues and was considered an expensive material. What was even more remarkable about the jar Mary owned was its contents. It was filled with spikenard oil, a substance derived from a plant (Nardostachys jatamansi) found mainly in the Himalayas. It was very valuable, and Judas Iscariot estimates its worth wasgreater than 300 denarii (John 12:5) – roughly a year’s wages for the common laborer. So, we see that both the jar and its contents were very costly.

Interestingly, the most precious characteristic of this item was not its monetary value. In Jesus’ day this type of oil-filled jar was mainly reserved for two purposes: 1. As a dowry for marriage or, 2. As an anointing oil for one’s death. Additionally, it could have possibly been in a family for a couple of generations. Mary may have very well looked upon this jar at various points throughout her life and dreamed of her wedding day when she would have the opportunity to present it to her husband and his family.

With this knowledge in mind, we can view her sacrifice of the jar with even greater appreciation and amazement. When she broke the flask and emptied it of its contents, she was literally pouring out her future on Jesus Christ. She risked being socially disapproved of and ridiculed for “this waste” – as the disciplesreferred to it (Matthew 26:8). However, there was no hesitation on Mary’s part. Her mind was closed off to the thoughts and opinions of others and she focused squarely on providing this act of reverence and honor to her Lord. She didn’t know if she would have the chance to anoint Jesus for burial after His death, so she seizes what she thinks could be her only opportunity and anoints Him while He is still alive.

Jesus responded to the disciples’ criticism of Mary in Mark 14:8 by saying, “She has done what she could.” This may seem like an insignificant phrase to us but essentially what Jesus said was, “she has done everything she could.” She sacrificed her most treasured possession, as well as her future, in order to provide a single act of service to Jesus. That is why He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:9).

The application for us is simple, yet what is simple is often difficult to emulate. The reason why we struggle to do what Mary did is because we succumb to the various distractions of our busy lives. It may be our jobs, hobbies, or temptations that prevent us from rendering our greatest service to God. Perhaps we are afraid of what others might say if we were to fully devote ourselves to Him. Regardless of our excuses; however, we need to have the perspective that Mary did – an unwavering focus on Jesus Christ. We should strive to offer up our lives in complete devotion to Him. After all, there is no sacrifice that we can make that will ever be too great for God. Let us follow Mary’s example and give our heavenly Father everything so that it may be said of each of us in the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You’ve done what you could.”

Is It Helpful?

Is It Helpful?

As a Christian, viewing the evil that persists in the world today is a reminder of Lot, who is said to have tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds (2 Peter 2:8). The wickedness of this worldseems ever-present before our eyes. It is even more obvious, as we listen to friends confess the hardships they face—some because of the color of their skin.

Unfortunately, instead of empathy and compassion, many are made to feel as if their existence can be narrowed down to statistics that do not fit their reality. Those who use statics in such a way are seeking to win an argument and not win a brother. This type of argumentation is not fruitful in the Christian’s ultimate goal of seeking the lost and promoting unity within the body of Christ. Do not misunderstand: truth is essential but so is our relationship with other people.

Paul says his ultimate goal was to seek the profit of all men by helping them be saved (1 Corinthians 10:33); in the same way, our ultimate goal is to help those lost in sin take hold of the promise of salvation. Likewise, as Christians, we are to promoteunity and peace within the body of Christ (Romans 15:19). Can we truly believe that arguing will ultimately help win the lost and encourage unity? Not so, when we are causing our brothers and sisters to feel as if they are nothing more than a statistic. Seeking to win the argument is an unfruitful way to win the soul and build unity. Instead, Paul provides us with some helpful ways to consider our words during this season of distress.

First, we must always ask, Is what I am about to say or share helpful. When writing to the church in Corinth, Paul gives a glimpse into his mind saying, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful… (1 Corinthians 10:23).Paul’s ultimate goal in life was to be helpful, not so much in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. Paul wanted to help every person he came in contact with to come to the knowledge of the truth. Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus to use their speech in a way that is good for necessary edification(Ephesians 4:29). Does this statement mean Paul perverted the truth of the Gospel? Far from it! Instead, he sought words that would help convert the lost and promote growth within the body. He even went so far as to say he would never eat meat again if it would cause his brother to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:13). Are wewilling to be helpful to someone to the extent that we would never eat meat again?

Second, Paul’s actions and words had the singular purpose of glorifying God. Again, to the church in Corinth, Paul says, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The strife, conflict, and hurt that arises when individuals ignore the real-life experiences of others stand in opposition to the wisdom of the Proverbs. The wise Solomon says of those who cause strife and conflict, It is honorable for a man to stop striving (avoid strife) since any fool can start a quarrel(Proverbs 20:3). God receives no glory when we pursue that which causes strife. Instead of seeking to push our point of view, Solomon says wisdom comes from seeking advice (Proverbs 13:10). It is always productive to listen; and where disagreementoccurs, our response must seek to glorify God.

Third, Paul says we as Christians are to give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Gentiles, or to the Church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32). This word offense speaks of not causing to stumble or acting as a smooth road (Thayer, 2531). Yes, it is true, each person will be held accountable for his own sin (Ezekiel 18:20), but it is also true that each Christian has the command to act as a smooth road to salvation for the rest of the world. We must take into consideration the question, Will this comment negatively affect my ability to evangelize the person I am speaking with? before we hit post on our keyboards. If we are not careful, our failure to show emphathywill act as a stumbling block in our evangelistic efforts. Paul’swords in Romans 12:18 are applicable today: as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Whatever webring to a conversation must have peace as its ultimate goal.

Yes, there is unrest all over the world, but the last thing this world needs is for those who should be empathetic and humble to act in a way that causes more heartache and strife. Surely Paul, our ultimate example (1 Corinthians 11:1), felt frustrated with the world around him. Nevertheless, throughout this frustration, he was able to accomplish his ultimate goal of calling the lost and seeking unity in the body of Christ through the simple mantra, Is it helpful? It is possible today, by imitating Paul, to accomplish this same incredible goal. Wisdom dictates that we should stop and ask if what we are doing willhelp promote the Gospel call of salvation?

Aaron Boone


Guidelines for Christian Living

Guidelines to Christian Living

Imagine if you will that all progress in the United States stopped in 1875. There would be no automobiles, no skyscrapers, no antibiotics, no computers, no refrigerators, no electricity, as well as a host of other things.  

Now, ask yourself: What if all my spiritual progress stopped years ago? That would be very sad thing. We must realize and know that God requires growth and progress in our life for Christ.

The growing Christian seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, Matt 6:33.His chief interest is expressing the reality of the Gospel in every circumstance.

The growing Christian takes his faith to ever-widening circles. Salvation is not just for him, but for all men. His circle of interest involves his family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances. He is concerned about them and looks for opportunities to share his faith with them.

In this article, I want to give threeguidelines for living the Christian life.

The first guideline is involvement. As Christians there are at least three areas of involvement that we need to maintain:

1) The first area, of course, is with God and Jesus Christ. Our first involvement resulted in our salvation. If we are to maintain a close relationship with our Lord, we must think about Him when we make our plans and we must pray for His strength and guidance. This is the most important area of involvement in our lives.

The relationship of Christians to Jesus Christ is described in a variety ways in the Bible: Christians are described as members in Christ body;Rom.12:5. Everyone knows that each member of the human body has a function that is peculiar to itself. All are essential, so you can’t say one is superior to the other. Christians are described as citizens of the kingdom; Col. 1:13-14. Christians have been translated by God out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. They have been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.

2) Another area of involvement is with other Christians. Involvement with each other is known as fellowship. We are to have fellowship with our brethren; Acts 2:42-45.

The word fellowship denotes having things in common, participation, friendship. Christians have the same hope of heaven, the same joy, the same hatred of sin and the same enemies to deal with.

The early Christians shared their burdens and sorrows with each other. This helped hold them together in times of great need. It was always sincere and from the heart. It added to their sense of unity and harmony. Early Christian fellowship was a beautiful and wonderful thing. We need to be involved with fellow Christians because God commands it and the church needs it; Rom. 12:9.We are not just to pretend we love one another. We are to love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.

The devil’s strategy for our time is really working. He has fooled us into believing that we really should not be concerned with each other.

There is no doubt that we need each other.If the church is going to do what it is supposed to be doing, we must be working together. To get rid of division we are to be involved with one another. We must assist each other as servants and friends just like the human body comes to the aid of injured parts. In God’s family there is no such thing as completely independent members.

We live in a world that is preoccupied, indifferent, and isolated. This is not so with the church. We must care about each other and be interested in each other.

3) Our third area of involvement is with non-Christians. As followers of Jesus Christ we must be involved in telling others about Jesus Christ. Jesus did not just seek out the religious people of His day. We should not let opportunities to tell others about Jesus pass us by. We must be interested in the salvation of others.

So we see that one of the guidelines of Christian living is involvement; involvement with God, Jesus, fellow Christians, and non-Christians.

Our second guideline for Christian living is prayer. Although Jesus’ disciples saw Him work many miracles during His time on earth, the Bible only records one instance in which they asked the Lord to explain His power. Lk. 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. These disciples must have saw that somehow prayer was the invisible source of Jesus ministry.

The core of genuine prayer is seeking and submitting to the will of God in every circumstance. As we see that was the primary concern of Jesus……. not as I will, but as thou wilt. Often time prayer is seen as a last resort; an escape hatch if all else fails. There are times when we turn to everything else but prayer. We need to realize that prayer is not a spiritual crutch.  Prayer is the most effective problem solver we can use. God wants us to lean on Him. Prayer is His divine provision. How foolish to ignore God’s helping hand.

We all have problems in our lives and prayer is capable of helping us solve those problems. God possesses inexhaustible wisdom. We must realize that whatever difficulty we may face, God is able. Prayer is a guideline to Christian living and,without it; our lives will not be what they ought to be.  

The third guideline to Christian living is surrender. In our society the word surrender has a negative connation. We respect and cheer champions who never surrender.

What if we were asked to surrender to someone who longed to bless and reward us? What if that person desired our welfare and was interested in our highest and best good? What if our submission brought us to someone who would lavish all His riches and provisions upon us? In such a case surrender would be very practical and appealing and to resist would be foolish.

This is the way it is when Jesus asks for the surrendered wills and hearts of men. He is our rescuer, not our captor. Our bended knees and souls are acts of trust and liberation, not weakness.

Is there a point at which you have refused to surrender to the Lordship of Christ? If you are rebelling, you are fighting His love and that is foolish. To surrender everything to Christ is victory and power. When a person gives in to Christ they will never regret it.

We must remember that Jesus Christ is no figurehead and surrender to Him is a necessity. He is a monarch in full sense of the term. He is “King of all the earth” Psa. 47:4. He is the head of the body which forms His church. He has complete and absolute control. He is seated at the right hand of God and has all authority and power. His will must be submitted to and obeyed. Everyone must surrender to Him. Matt. 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. This means that a person must surrender his will, his affections, his body, and his soul. A person who surrenders to Jesus does not seek his own happiness as his supreme object.

The apostle Paul was an encouraging example of what surrender is all about. Surrender was the only thing that was important to the apostle Paul and that is the way it must be with us. Surrender is one of the guidelines to Christian living. We must be willing to give up everything for Jesus.

In this article I have given youthree guidelines for Christian living. They are involvement, prayer, and surrender. There are surely many other things I could mention, but if we will follow through on these three we will be much better followers of Christ.

Rick Martin

What Time Is It?

What Time is It?

How many times in a week do we hear the question “what time is it”? How many times do you ask it? It might be concerning going to bed at night or getting up in the morning. It might be about our meals or an appointment we have made. It could beabout what time to take our medication or about catching a plane to take a trip. It is very important for us to consider time.

Have you ever thought about the confusion that would be created if we ignored time? A little clock in a jeweler’s window stopped one day for half an hour at twenty minutes past eight. School children, noting the time, stopped to play; people hurrying to the train looked at the clock and walked more slowly; businessmen stopped to chat a little longer. All were late, because one small clock had stopped. Never had the people realized how much they had depended on the little clock until it had led them astray.

As important as that is, in this article we are not talking about physical time. We are talking about paying attention to spiritual matters. Do you know “what time it is” regarding the spiritual things of life?

We are living in a confused world where people have replaced the real thing of value with the counterfeit and artificial things of life. People have gone after things that do not matter and have left the things that do matter; Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” The problem is not with God’s clock; the problem is man is so caught up in today’s world until they don’t know what time it is, and they will not check and see.

First, we see it is time to awake;Romans 13:11-12 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now, is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armour of light.” Satan has lulled people to sleep; Ephesians 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. To be in the light of Christ we must wake up out of our sleep. The Prodigal woke up out of his sleep of sin and “came to himself.” Many need to come to themselves and awaken to their responsibilities to serve the Lord.

Second, we see it is time for men to seek the Lord; Hosea 10:12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. It is obvious that man needs to seek the Lord. The time to seek the Lord is now. This is when onebecomes accountable-this means when a person is able to understand; Romans 6:17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. From this passage we see that a man obeys from the “heart.” This means understanding. The Gospel is what awakens people. It is God’s power to salvation; Romans 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Satan tells us tomorrow, but the Lord says now; 2 Corinthians 6:2 For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Many are like Felix and look for a convenient time to seek the Lord; Acts 24:25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.There are some who would seek the Lord, but the time is not convenient for them. They have other things such as the world, family, or jobs that are keeping them back. We are urged to seek the Lord while He may be found; Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near”. It is a dangerous thing to not seek the Lord. Men often delay and the opportunity passes them by.

We are to seek the Lord after the due order; 1 Chronicles 15:13For because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.”  Isaiah 34:16Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them”. Many want to find God in some modern religion. They look for Him in a religion of convenience or one that suits their taste. The Lord of heaven can only be found in the Bible.

Third, we are to redeem the time; Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time; Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Notice that Paul admonishes two different churches to redeem the time. Therefore, it must be an important thing. What does it mean to redeem the time? The apostle is talking about buying up moments while others seem to throw them away. He is speaking about steadily improving every present moment, so that one may in some measure regain the time that was lost. Time should be our chief commodity. We must buy it up and use every portion of it. Time is that on which our eternity depends and in time we are preparing for the kingdom of God.

We must do this with diligence because time is short; Psalm 89:47  Rememberhow short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?  What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?” Soon we will slip away into eternity and we must use our time wisely.

Finally, we see time is in God’s hand;Psalm 31:15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. Daniel said to Belshazzar,” in whose hand thy breath is in” Daniel 5:23. The God of heaven controls the time and one day he will declare time to be no more. We must make good use of our time here on earth. Our time should be spent serving God and advancing His kingdom on earth. Do you know what time it is?

Rick Martin


The Problem with Loneliness

The Problem with Loneliness
During this time of self-isolation, many, including myself, have felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Even when surrounded by family, the inability to go about our usual way of life has left us longing for the interactions we once took for granted. It is in these moments, as I read my Bible, that I am surprised to find so many throughout scripture have felt this same way. Yet throughout each of these accounts, one point stands out: the problem with loneliness is loneliness doesn’t come from being alone; loneliness comes from thinking you are alone.
Following one of the most significant victories by any one man, we see the problem of loneliness on full display. As Elijah stands atop Mt. Carmel, outnumbered by 450 prophets of Baal, he cries out to the people “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord….” (1 Kings 18:22) Yet, as Elijah stands alone, he never forgets the one companion that still stands with him, God. And as Elijah begins to mock Baal and his prophets, he highlights a defining difference between the one true God and a false god: false gods are never there for you, but the one true God will never leave your side. It is upon this faith, Elijah prays to God to make Himself known to the people, and in a consuming fire, God reveals Himself as the one true God.
Subsequently, this victory did not have the impact Elijah expected. Having defeated the prophets of Baal in one of the most memorable showdowns ever, Elijah now finds himself being hunted instead of being celebrated. It is this fear of Jezebel, which drives Elijah to leave his servant, possibly his only earthly friend, go out into the wilderness alone, and pray that he would die. Within this moment of loneliness, God comes to Elijah to remind him that he has never been alone. God’s question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9) echoes God’s question, “Where are you?” to Adam in Genesis 3. These are great questions for when you are feeling lonely. Where are you? What are you doing? Have you cut yourself off from the people who love you and the God who loves you? You see, Elijah’s loneliness was not from being alone, but from thinking he was alone. As Elijah returns home with the knowledge that there are seven thousand in Israel still faithful to God (1 Kings 19:8), he immediately comes across Elisha, who would drop everything to work alongside God’s prophet Elijah. Elijah’s loneliness would soon turn into an abundance of faithful companions, not because the people weren’t there before, instead because Elijah started looking for them.
Understanding this, we can conclude that loneliness has a power over us that can immobilize even some of God’s most exceptional workers. Loneliness thrives within our minds; it is a mindset that can defeat us, if we let it. But, with a proper view of God, isolation will have no power over those who, as David did in Psalm 16:8 “set the Lord always before me….” Elijah, David, and others throughout the Bible teach us the importance of remembering the presence of God and His people in our lives, especially during the times we feel lonely.

Aaron Boone

Forgiving Others

Forgiving Others

Forgiveness is something that each of us has had to deal with in one way or another. When we refuse to deal with bitterness and resentment that puts us in bondage, we cannot have the fellowship with our Father that we are supposed to have.
As part of His teachings on the need for human forgiveness, Jesus states that a condition of receiving God’s forgiveness is to forgive others.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Paul reminded the Ephesians, “and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Eph.4:32.
Once we understand the depth of our sin and the distance it puts between us and God and once we see the sacrifice that God made to restore fellowship with us, we should not hesitate to forgive.
In Matt. 18:23-35 Jesus tells this story; The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him $10 million, literally, “10,000 talents.” He couldn’t pay, so the king ordered him sold for the debt, also his wife and children and everything he had. “But the man fell down before the king, his face in the dust, and said, “Oh, sir, be patient with me and I will pay it all.” Then the king was filled with pity for him and released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a man who owed him $2,000 and grabbed him by the throat and demanded immediate payment. The man fell down before him and begged him to give him a little time. “Be patient and I will pay it,” he pled. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt would be paid in full. Then the man’s friends went to the king and told him what had happened. The king called before him the man he had forgiven and said, “You evil-hearted man! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me, shouldn’t you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every penny due. Jesus concludes by saying, “so shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers.”
The unmerciful servant found his own attitude of unforgiveness returned to him. We must not be that kind of person¬—quick to condemn, unwilling to forgive, unable to show compassion. Instead, we must be like Christ—who overlooks our unintended weaknesses, begs us to repent of our known sins, and eagerly forgives us when we confess our wrongdoing, even though he knows we will regrettably sin again, then ask for forgiveness again.
When we hear this parable, we become self-righteous and say how could anyone be so ungrateful? The believer who will not forgive another is even more guilty than this slave. If we understood how much of a debt we owe God, we would begin to realize how petty even the worst debts we are owed truly are. God’s forgiveness is much greater and more precious than whatever forgiveness we are tempted to withhold from those who have wronged us.
We must realize that we have been forgiven of a debt that we could never repay and therefore we have no ground to stand on when we refuse to forgive others. It is a dangerous thing to be unwilling to forgive.
Two little brothers had finished supper and were playing until bedtime. Somehow one hit the other with a stick. Bitter words followed and tears flowed. Charges and accusations were still being exchanged as they got ready for bed. The mother said, “now Sam you need to forgive your brother.” Sam thought for a minute and said, “ok, I’ll forgive him tonight, but if I’m alive tomorrow he had better watch out.” This is amusing, but it shows us once a person asked for forgiveness, we must let it go.
Many have the attitude, “If you’ll act right, and pay the right price, I’ll consider forgiving you.” However, we forget the fact that, we must forgive the penitent brother, not in order for him to be saved, but in order for us to be saved—not in order for him to go to heaven, but in order for us to go to heaven! God only forgives us when we are willing to forgive others.
Those whom we have forgiven can be a tool in our lives to help us in our growth and understanding of God’s grace. Joseph understood this principle. Even though his brothers committed a great wrong against him, he was still able to forgive. They were viewed as the way to get him to Egypt, where he would be in position to save his people when a famine struck. His brothers were fearful of what he might do. They expected him to exact revenge, but Joseph was not vengeful. He told them not to be afraid, that he would nourish them and their children. He comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Forgiveness is hard. It is a process that can be painful. Whatever our pain, whatever our situation, we cannot afford to hold on to an unforgiving spirit. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Rick Martin