When I was growing up in the country there were certain things I experienced that were without a doubt real and easily believable. Take for instance when my dog had confronted a skunk; I smelled the odor and the evidence left no doubt what had taken place. Looking west and seeing the colors as the sunset were just beautiful. Before eating dinner one evening I picked up a pan with food in it and was reminded very quickly, it was hot; didn’t take long to realize it was either.
I remember driving a tractor while helping dad with the crops many years ago. He instructed me to steer the tractor in a certain direction. From my position in the drivers seat I could see the steel drum in front of the tractor but dad could not see it from where he was standing. I didn’t run over the drum but ran against it. How did I know dad was upset? I heard him in no questionable terms. Dad pretty well let his feeling be known in words that are not printable. Once on a vacation trip my granddaughter wanted me to taste one of those jelly bean type candies, I did and it was horrible. She laughed and told me the flavor was earwax and dirt. I certainly had no doubt as to what it tasted like.
I have used the above examples to illustrate the way we identify something. These 5 senses leave little doubt that what we hear, see, smell, taste, and touch are real. But there is something in this life that a lot of people have and it can’t be detected by one of these senses: Faith.
Faith as used in the New Testament is defined as “firm persuasion,” a conviction based upon hearing. We read in the Scriptures things that are true. We cannot determine this by the 5 senses. How do we determine it is true? We read in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” When read, God’s word produces a firm persuasion and a conviction in our heart based on the Word. For the best definition of Faith notice Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the substance or assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. In this verse, which is the only definition of faith revealed in the Scriptures, the root word from which “substance” is translated means “ that which becomes a foundation for another thing to stand on.” In the last part of the verse the root word from which we translate “evidence” signifies a “conviction” in the mind by the substance as hearing reveals it. This faith is the evidence that it is and cannot but be so. We cannot see it, otherwise it would not be faith. As 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, ”We walk by faith and not by sight.” If we could prove by the 5 senses that faith existed then we would be walking by sight and not by faith.
But some have doubts about what the Scriptures reveal. There are certain things I don’t understand and can’t explain other than that is the way God accomplishes His purpose. His thoughts are so far above ours and His ways past finding out. But doubts and not understanding are completely different. One may believe that God raised Jesus from the dead on the 3rd day, and that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and yet have doubts what God said happened in other instances. My question is “How do you determine which to believe and which to doubt?” We cannot say one miraculous event is believable and another we doubt. Doesn’t this show a lack of faith on our part of believing God accomplishes things in his own way?
Consider when Jesus told Peter to come to him from the boat in Matthew 14:31. Peter walked on the water but when he looked around he started to sink. Jesus extended his hand said, “O you of little faith why did you doubt?” The context of James 1:6-8 certainly applies here. The one doubting is described in verse 7 – 8. Let us accept the fact that there are some things God has done. The way He accomplished his purpose we may not understand. But not understanding and doubting what God says and the way He has done things are totally different. May we pray to understand as we increase our faith and not doubt what is revealed in Scripture.
There are two things that most of us understand in this life, these are commitment and dedication. Haven’t we as parents encouraged our children to commit themselves to getting a good education and to be careful who they pal around with or the company they keep, telling them as they get older to pick certain goals, commit to these goals and pursue them? If you don’t follow these basic rules of wisdom, then you will divert your attention to some other area of involvement, be it good or bad. They may completely leave their former goals and direct themselves to something different.
I would like to notice two examples of this area of commitment and dedication. The first being the quarterback of a very recognizable football team. He is probably the best and most successful quarterback of any football team in the world today. Let us ask the question: How do you suppose he got to where he is today? I’ll tell you how, “commitment and dedication”. He set his mind to the challenge and diligently pursued his goals. Suppose this quarterback quit practicing and communicating with his coaches and fellow teammates. Let’s say he stopped all community affairs and meeting. He removed himself from all football related involvement and became involved in something else totally separate and apart from football. Doesn’t he cease to be a football player?
The next example is a farmer, a “tiller of the land.” He raises crops to feed his family and provide food for the hungry. He makes a living from farming and supports the local farmers co-op and even brings visitors to the meeting. He is dedicated to his chosen field. Let’s say this farmer stops preparing the soil, stops planting seeds, stops all cultivating; therefore no harvesting. He stops paying his dues to the co-op and farmer’s organization. When he stops doing these things that identify him as a farmer, doesn’t he stop being a farmer?
Now let’s apply this line of reasoning to a Christian. He is committed to serving Christ. He attends all the services of the church whenever possible. He uses his talents to further the Gospel, honors the leadership of the church and brings visitors to the services when he can. He studies his Bible and prays daily. He gives as he has been prospered. He is a positive influence to those around him. But in time he stops studying his Bible, he stops praying, stops attending services, ceases to do personal work. He stops giving as he has been prospered. He stops living a faithful Christian life. May we notice; just as when the quarterback quit playing football, he was no longer a football player and when the farmer quit farming, he was no longer a farmer, we may surely say that the Christian who stops living and serving as a Christian, he effectively ceases to be a Christian. If we are not serving Christ, we are serving our own desires and the things of this world.
James 4:4 says, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” This verse does not speak of God’s attitude toward the believer but the believer’s attitude toward God. Notice Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks in his heart so is he.” Consider the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:4, “We are buried with him in baptism…we should walk in newness of life.” Notice the last part of Romans 6:6, “That we should no longer be slaves of sin.” Romans 6:12 says, “ Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies, that you should obey it in its lust.” Romans 6:16 says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” You cannot serve two masters; for you will hate the one and love the other or else you will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore, the most recognized football player, the dedicated farmer and the committed Christian can leave that to which they were so dedicated and committed. Let us consider who we are serving in this life. It is ultimately our decision.
I would like to ask a question for your consideration and study. After a sermon or Bible study or even a conversation with someone have you ever said, “that lesson or sermon was great, a very good presentation,” when really we thought the sermon or lesson was not as good as we indicated? Don’t we express our thoughts sometimes as positive when in reality our thinking about them may be more or less negative? We can voice our opinion about the matter and the person hearing it will think that is exactly what we meant when it really wasn’t. Will they know that what we said was not really what we meant? No, of course not. We are not given the ability to know the thinking of others. Our thoughts are our own, unless we reveal them.
I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about my prayers to the God of Heaven, trying to search my mind and select the proper words as I approach Him in prayer, are they too long, too short or repetitive in content. Do we sometimes listen to the prayers of others and ask the same questions?
May we consider Prov. 23:7? “For as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” I cannot know what is in a man’s heart; neither can I judge a man by his prayers. Notice with me what these Scriptures say. In Luke 24:38, Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” He knew the disciples thoughts. They didn’t tell Him; He knew their mind without them even speaking. In Matthew 9:4, “Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” These Scriptures tell us that God knows our mind before we even express it.
Romans 8:26-27 is very comforting to us when we think of how we express ourselves in our prayers. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” As we pray, choosing words that we feel are appropriate for praying to the God of Heaven, it is a great comfort to be assured that the Spirit speaks to God words that cannot even be uttered by us.
May we search the Bible and apply the teaching that it contains to our daily lives.
Let us make a deal. You read this short article concerning the reality of life and how we look at it and accept it. If it does not create some thoughts as to how we view our lives while on earth, then my time writing this would not have accomplished what I would have liked. On the other hand, if these few thoughts will cause even one person to look at the events in their lives and consider what the point of this article is, then I would have accomplished my intended purpose.
We prepare and train for important contests; it does not matter the type. We push ourselves; we sweat and suffer through rigorous daily routine preparing ourselves to meet our or someone else’s goals. How much effort and energy do we put into training and preparing for jobs and careers. Don’t we think ahead and make plans for our children and their future education?
Do we ever plan for a vacation? Wow, the thought and planning that proceed this coming event. Just think of the time and effort that goes into making sure the event goes well and is well remembered by all those involved. When it’s over, it’s back to the regular and normal life after having enjoyed that for which we made so much preparation.
May I redirect your thinking with this question. Is there a place that you and I will be going to and never return? You have heard this statement sometimes in your past: “From the cradle to the grave.” This is certainly a true statement concerning man’s existence on this earth. It is an accepted truth that we are not immortal; we don’t live forever in this earthly body. Simple evidence: look at the records of our relatives or, more simply, look around and see the evidence of natural aging up to the point of one passing from this life and not being here on this earth anymore.
By observation and plain understanding, we see there is a place we are going and will not return. Shouldn’t we make plans and prepare for this last trip before our existence here on this earth ends.
Let’s see what the Scriptures say in Hebrews 9:27, “And it is appointed for man to die once but after this the judgment” (NKJV). In Revelation 20:12, “And I saw the dead small and great before God and the books were opened and another book was opened which is the book of life and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books”(NKJV). Certainly the question arises, how does my name get into the book of life? The context of the verse is those who labor and work in the Gospel are there.
Is this not a reasonable conclusion that we prepare and make plans for trips in this life but neglect to make plans and prepare for the journey that we will not return from? These Biblical instructions are for our thinking and consideration. May God give us ample opportunity to consider these most important matters as we live.
May we consider for a few moments that we are humans, “Homo Sapiens,” the highest level in this world of the living. We, along with all the other animals, occupy this environment called Earth. This happens to be the only planet in our Solar System that is livable and occupied by life, as we know it. We share our lives with all the other animals, breathe the same air and benefit from the life giving warmth of the sun.
We humans along with the other animals share the same 5 physical senses, hearing, seeing, smelling, taste and touch. Some of these, the smell and hearing, are much more sensitive and keener in the animal world than our senses are. We notice the similarity we share with the animal world, the communication and touch, The dedication of the family pet to their owners is remarkable. How soon they respond with love and play even after some discipline from their owners. Yet between man and the domesticated animal there is a major difference.
In the Biblical account of Creation in Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in Our Image, after our likeness.” Genesis 2:7 states, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (ASV). Man has this living soul that will return to the God who gave it when our earthly life ends.
In Job 33:4, Job said, “The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty giveth me life.” Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, “The Spirit returns unto God who gave it.”
There is another significant difference between man and the rest of the animal world. Man has the ability to understand, to reason and satisfy the need of one of his friends or brethren. He has the choice to respond or not as in James 2:16, “Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled”: or give them the things needful to the body. He has the ability to think and respond using the Scriptures or some other guide concerning the situation, to either satisfy the need or ignore it.
In 1 John 3:17, a very similar verse, we read, “Who so hath the worlds goods and sees his brother in need and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abideth in him?” The point being the man or brother that hath the goods has the ability to make the choice, whether or not to satisfy the need or through lack of concern or whatever, to say “be ye warmed and filled” and not supply the cold and hungry with what they need.
Here in lies another difference in man and the animals in our environment. Our Creator has given us the reasoning and thinking capacity to act but not by instinct as the animals do.
May we be blessed with the desire and wisdom to recognize the opportunity to do good and satisfy the needs of our brethren and mankind.
As we grow older, some words used to describe events or habits of mankind have changed or are very seldom used any more. I want to look at one of these words in this article. We just don’t hear the word “backsliding” used much, if at all, in our speech these days.
The word “backsliding” is used solely in the Old Testament. The Hebrew meaning for this word is “a turning back or away.” This word is used 9 times in Jeremiah 2-14 as the above meaning. The same Hebrew word translated backsliding is used 2 times in Hosea 11:7; 14:4. Again the same Hebrew word meaning “turning back” appears 4 more times in Jeremiah 3:14, 22; 31:22; 49:4. It is used one more time in Hosea 4:16 meaning, “to turn around.”
These references are directed to God’s chosen people Israel. Consider 1 Chronicles 16:13 and Psalm 29:11. God through Moses told Israel in Exodus 19:5, “ If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenants, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people.” Yet as time passed this special relationship as a treasure to God changed. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge. Since they have rejected knowledge I will also reject them, that they shall be no priests to me: seeing they have forgotten the Law of God.” Thus the “backsliding,” the turning away or turning back from God.
The Old Testament was written to reveal the history of God’s chosen people and for mankind to learn from these recorded events (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11) and for us to make application to our lives as Christians. Let us notice Hebrews 3:12, which speaks to us in this dispensation. “Take heed brethren lest haply there shall be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the Living God.” 2 Peter 1:10 warns us not to stumble and jeopardize our entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We must consider the example in God’s Word of, not changing the heart or turning back or away from the revealed truth. Consider the example of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:21-23. In 2 Timothy 4:10, Demas loved this present world and had forsaken Paul and the work. These two are among the list in the New Testament that have turned away and went back to serving the world and not in a committed relationship with Christ as the Scripture teaches.
How can we prevent this from happening to us? Notice 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God.” 1 Corinthians 4:6 says, “Not to think beyond the things which are written.” Matthew 26:41 says, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation.” May we in our relationship with Jesus Christ consider these things and learn not to turn back from God?
Recorded in Genesis 2:15, God took the man that he had formed from the dust of the ground and put him in the Garden of Eden. He told the man to tend it and keep it. In verse 16 God told the man, “Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat but of one tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat. For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” In the latter part of chapter 2 God made from the rib of man a woman, a helpmeet and a companion, and brought her unto the man.
Continuing in chapter 3 we see the first recorded appearance of Satan in the form of a serpent speaking to the woman. Satan asked the woman, “Hath God said you shall not eat of every tree in the garden?” The woman responded, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it nor shall you touch it lest you die.’” Satan knew what God had said. This was just one of his subtle approaches.
Satan, in verse 4 of the same chapter, said to the woman, “You shall not surely die.” He contradicted God’s instructions to the man. John 8:44 states that Satan is a liar and the father of lies.
Lets look at Job 1:6. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came among them.” Satan is always present; he comes to make and present his cunning and crafty alternatives.
In answer to the Lord’s question, “From where do you come?” Satan answered, “From going to and fro on the earth and walking back and forth on it.” Some think Satan is in a far away place of spiritual existence waiting the sentence of eternal Hell. While he is under that condemnation, Satan has been given the freedom to roam about the earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1Peter 5:8).
In so many instances mankind at times has come to realize Satan will use every means at his disposal to tempt and war against God’s people and His divine word. Many have had to fight Satan as he worked through a wife, husband, friend, or relative to accomplish his purpose.
Jesus was not immune to the crafty temptations of Satan while he was on earth. Satan exempts no one from his goal to capture and conquer. May we notice Matthew 4? Satan tempted Jesus after he had fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness. Now, in my thinking, that period of time would have caused Jesus to become hungry. How does Satan approach Jesus? In Matthew 4:3 Satan says, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Notice the “IF” you are the Son of God. This comment from Satan struck at the very faith of Christ.
God has left you alone, forsaken you in this wilderness. Notice Satan didn’t say, “Pray to your Father that these stones become bread.” He said, “You do it, your Father has forsaken you; you can’t depend on God.” All these approaches were to tempt Jesus and accomplish Satan’s purposes.
What was Jesus’ response? He said “It is written.” Jesus used what was written in the Law. Isn’t this an excellent example of a sure way to fight the temptations of Satan? Know the Scriptures and use them when Satan comes with his disguised and deceiving strategy to tempt us. We must keep it in our mind that Satan will offer certain and pleasurable things in return for service to him. Many will forfeit their faith and commitment to Christ for the pleasures that Satan offers.
Matthew 16:26 asks, “What shall man give in exchange for his soul?” How long are we here to enjoy the pleasures in this life that Satan offers in return for serving him. Compare this earthly existence to eternity separated from God and His promises in the place of torment and blackness revealed in the Bible as Hell with the Devil and his angles. Think on these things.
Some time ago I cut an old plum tree down that had grown in our yard since we have lived here. Due to the spring rains and other responsibilities I did not remove the stump until just recently. Even though the tree was gone and the stump looked like it was drying up, some small green shoots of growth came up from the base of the stump.
I remember years ago when dad would replace an old fence post with a new one cut from a locust tree when the sap was rising. Some time when the conditions were right a new sprout would grow from that locust post even though it had been cut from the tree and all visible signs of life were gone.
These two instances remind me of the Scripture in Job 14:7-9. Here God through Job is comparing the cutting down of a tree to the death of man in verse 12. I will not quote the whole but verse 7 says, “ for there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down it will sprout again”. The roots may grow old in the earth and its stump may die in the ground yet at the presence of water and proper conditions it will bud and sprout new growth.
Now lets look at what Job says about the other living part of God’s creation. In verse 12 he says “so man lies down and does not rise till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep.”
May we take note of the comparison here; the tree is cut down, dies, and from the decaying stump sprouts an identical new plant just like the original.
Man dies and is put in the grave to return to the ground from whence he came. Unlike the tree no new physical life has ever come from the dead body of man that decays, and is dissolved; for the man breaths out his last breath and returns to dust.
Notice Job’s response to man’s plight in verse 13. “Oh, that you would hide me in the grave, that you would conceal me until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time and remember me.” Job expresses this to be a privilege to be hidden from physical affliction and distress. To be kept in secret until all the unpleasant things of earth are no more. Job indicates, “I will rest here where you have concealed me until the appointed time for me and you will remember me”.
In verse 14, Job says, “If man dies shall he live again, I will wait till my change comes.” Here Job assures us of the certainty of a resurrection.
Isn’t the following Scripture enough to assure us that through Jesus Christ we will be remembered in the resurrection in the last day? In John 11:24, Martha said to Jesus concerning Lazarus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said “ I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die he shall live.”
In the comparison of the tree stump and the man in Job 14, man’s spirit will return to God in the last day through faith in Jesus and his body will dissolve back to the ground from whence it came. What a great and significant difference.
In our discussions with others concerning the Bible or other subjects haven’t we heard the following statements before? I know in my heart that this is right. Or, I think this is right. Or, I’ll ask my pastor or Bible teacher about this, I want to see what they say about it. When we come to questioning what is right or wrong, shouldn’t there be some concrete bottom line information that is the truth about the questions we have. If it is the “I feel” or “I think” scenario, don’t we all have different feelings and thoughts about religious topics that affect our attitudes and spiritual goals. You have just as much right to feel and think about a certain matter as I do or vice versa.
There must be and is a standard that is recognized and accepted as the final and only authority on what is right or wrong. Most will agree that this is the divinely inspired Word of God.
Man needs this standard just like we need the standards of time, weights, and measures. We accept these with no basic differences but when issues and questions come up concerning religious belief we must ask, “What does God say about it in his Word?”
Do not the Scriptures imply that they are the standard, the bottom line that we can agree should settle the question or what is scripturally right or wrong?
God’s word says in 2 Timothy 3: 16,17(KJV) “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good works.”
2 Peter 1: 3 (KJV) says His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge of him.” Psalm 119:105 (KJV) says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
The question asked by the Sadducees in Matthew 22: 23 prompted this reply by Jesus “Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” The source of their error was ignorance. Consider Acts 3:17(NKJV), “Yet now brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance.”
Note the question asked by Pilate in John 18:38, “What is truth?” The answer is found in John 17:17. “Thy Word is truth.” Isn’t Jesus’ reply so easy for us to understand? Not my word or yours or anybody else’s but God’s word settles the matter. May we conclude from the above that our Faith should not stand in the wisdom of man but in the power of God (cf. 1Corinthians 2:5).
Does this not settle the matter as to where we must go to determine the answers to our differences? In Jeremiah 10:23, it states, “It is not in man to direct his footsteps.” If not in man to direct, then who? Consider the aforementioned Scriptures in Psalm 119:105.
Let us not follow in the people’s path in Hosea 4:6, “ My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge because they have rejected knowledge.”
The title of this short article is “Nothing.” Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words list the meaning of “nothing” as “not anything.” Read on and note some uses of this word in the New Testament.
It is used in John 6:12. Here Jesus feeds the multitude of 5000. When they were finished eating Jesus told his disciples in verse 12 to gather up the broken pieces that nothing be lost.
In Genesis1:1, God created the world out of nothing. This is the only way to account for Biblical creation. We have to begin with a self-existent being who created something out of nothing and spoke it in to existence. Man can redesign and rearrange but he cannot create. The understood law of science is, “Something can’t come from nothing”.
1 Timothy 6:7 states man brought nothing into this world and will certainly carry nothing with him when he leaves. Since man can carry nothing out of this world when he leaves, then the real purpose of his stay here is not a quest for the material possessions of life. According to Ecclesiastes 12:13 the purpose of his stay here is spiritual, an opportunity to prepare for another life after death.
1 Timothy 6:6 tells us godliness with contentment is great gain. If we lose sight of this, we will have nothing after this life is over. Deeds in the name of religion without love equal nothing according to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. If we have not love then we become as clanging cymbals and untuned instruments. Love never fails with kindness and concern. Without it we have nothing.
2 Corinthians 6:10 (ASV) says, “As having nothing and yet possessing all things.” The world sees the committed child of God as sad, afflicted and grieving: yes they may see us this way when some brother or sister is grieving after losing a loved one, but the other side they may not see. We rejoice and are happy when our Christian brothers are happy. This we can do through the comfort and assurances of our faith in the promises of our Lord and his revealed Word. This may appear to the world, by their standards, as having nothing. However to Christians, this faith and source of joy and understanding comes through Jesus and His Word.
Consider Romans 8:18 (ASV): “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us after we leave this life.” Therefore if we lose the opportunity to prepare for the life after death we truly have gained “nothing.”