The old Scouts motto of “be prepared” has stood the test of time. In whatever endeavor one undertakes, preparation is of the utmost importance. I think of two of the all-time greats in professional football: Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice. When anyone who is knowledgeable about the sport speaks of these men, their unsurpassed work ethic and relentless preparation in plying their craft is mentioned. Peyton Manning, according to the experts, spends more time in film study of his opponents and his own team than any other current quarterback. He understands the talents of his team and knows the tendencies of his foes. When he enters a game, he has a firm grasp on what plays he needs to call without being greatly surprised by what he sees on the field. Jerry Rice had a workout routine during the off-season that made him a superior physical specimen, which complimented his skill as a receiver. When others attempted to adopt his workout, they often felt it too tough, and quit. These men prepared themselves to be the best they could possibly be and the results prove their efforts were worth the work of preparation.
Most of the religious world is under the belief that getting to heaven requires little or no preparation or hard work on an individual’s part. God, they think, requires little or nothing on our part to be saved. God told Israel in Amos 4:12 to prepare to meet their God. It was not for the good but for evil they had done that they needed to be prepared. Are we prepared to meet God in victory or in defeat?
We are not in a battle with the Green Bay Packers. Satan is our opponent. He has proven throughout the history of man’s existence that he is a formidable opponent. In the beginning, Adam and Eve had not prepared themselves for the cunning of their opponent. They sinned. When we are poorly prepared, we sin. Paul wrote the Ephesians about our warfare that takes place with the prince of this world, Satan. In his encouragement to them about putting on the whole armor of God, he told them “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15, NASB). This phrase is in the past tense. We are to do battle with our feet already shod with the preparation of the gospel. When we prepare ourselves, there should be no real surprises when confronted by our vicious enemy; who is not only vicious, but also relentless. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us the devil is like a “roaring lion” prowling around to find someone to devour. Peter admonishes the reader to be sober (clear thinking) and alert (watchful). In other words, be prepared.
As relentless as the devil is in trying to devour our souls, we need to be that much more diligent in preparing ourselves to preserve our souls. If we are to attain the victory, our preparation is not going to come from any other source than the gospel. Not with self-help books, textbooks, or any other research books; only the gospel which God has graciously given us. It contains the game plan from God to gain the victory. If we will see victory, it will only come through our knowledge and obedience of the gospel. We cannot fight this battle alone. Jesus is the ultimate victor. According to Romans 1:16, He has given us the “power of the gospel” to guide us. He has given us prayer to call on Him “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NASB).
Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice did not read the game plan and automatically have success on the playing field. They studied it until they thoroughly understood it and were prepared to execute it without flinching at whatever the opponent threw at them. Paul told the Ephesians to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17, NASB). It can be understood! To not have the understanding of the gospel by diligent preparation, according to Paul, is “foolish.” Ephesians 5:15 tells us we have a choice to be wise (understand His will) or to be unwise (not understand). It is up to me and you; He allows us to choose. Joshua chose to follow God. God told him to be strong and courageous and He would give him the victory. Joshua and the Israelites were required to fight, but God gave the victory. The victory was attained only by following God’s plan and going to Him for consultation. When they did that, they were victorious; when they didn’t, they experienced defeat.
Let it not be said of us what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 78:8 (KJV) of Israel’s forefathers; “And not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
Let us prepare our hearts with the gospel and have a spirit to be faithful to God. Let us be prepared and enjoy the victory that God promises us through His son Jesus.
-by Ron Adams
I worked at Vanderbilt Medical Center for over forty years. The medical center had a number of specialty Clinics. One of the most popular centers was the Nutrition Clinic. At this clinic patients were taught how to manage their special diet. One day I was going past that clinic and saw a sign over the door that said “WHAT YOU EAT IS WHAT YOU ARE.” I got to thinking, what exactly does that mean? Then it came to me that the nutritionists were trying to get over the concept that if we eat unhealthy food that has high fat content, a lot of salt or sugar, and low fiber we will most likely be obese and very unhealthy. The nutritionists were trying to get their patients to eat healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Meats that we eat should be low in fats like fish and chicken etc. This diet will lead to a healthy body.
This concept applies to our spiritual health (What You Think Is What You Are). Think about it, when we spend a great deal of time watching adult themed movies, read adult books, spend time on the internet watching adult websites, we are poisoning our spiritual lives. We will be sick and unhealthily spiritually. There is an old saying “Garbage in, Garbage Out.” In 1 John 2:15-17 we read, “Love not the world. If any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” When we watch and read this filth, we develop a lustful attitude. We read in James 1:14-15, “but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
It is easy to see when we consume all this garbage, our mind as well as out spiritual life will be very unhealthy and sick. Paul tells us in Philippians 4: 8 what to meditate on: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things.”
In order to live the life God would have us to live, we must not simply refuse to eat whatever is found in a garbage bin, but actively seek to eat of the finest delicacies available. These finest (spiritual) delicacies can be found by spending time in God’s Word. When we do this we will develop a healthy spiritual life. 2 Peter 1:4-8 defines the growth of a healthy Christian. “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If we want healthy physical bodies, we will eat good healthy food, and if we want healthy spiritual lives, we will spend time in God’s word and think on principles found there.
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?
A person’s Last Will and Testament may contain very specific instructions to the Executor or it may have areas that are very general in nature. It is the duty of the Executor to follow the instructions spelled out in the will as closely as possible to the wishes of the deceased.
The specific areas of the will, in most cases, are the easiest for the Executor to follow. He has little discretion of his own in following these instructions.
The general areas of the will can be more difficult in trying to carry out the wishes of the deceased. It is imperative that the Executor have knowledge of the likes and dislikes of the deceased, it is helpful if the Executor has spent time with the deceased to better understand what would please them in meeting their requests.
Christians are the Executors of Christ’s Last Will and Testament. In some cases, Christ has given us very specific instructions which are clearly spelled out in his word. We must follow these instructions implicitly, regardless of our wishes.
There are other areas of Christ’s Last Will and Testament which can only be fulfilled if we have studied his words and understand what pleases him. We must spend time with him (in his word) in order to perform our role as Executors of his Estate.
John 14:15—“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
God has always exhibited His care for his children. One of the greatest ways to show His concern for us is to warn us of impending danger. He knows Satan and He knows us; He made us after all. Satan is the master liar and a great manipulator. We first become acquainted with him doing his best work in evil in Genesis 3. With his cunning, he was able to convince Eve that he was not evil or a liar, but God was. By this deception, sin entered the world, and Satan has not stopped his war against God and mankind since. But God, through His great love for His creation, has not ceased to warn us of the great evil Satan can do to us.
God warned His children through Isaiah in Isaiah 5:20 that there would be those who would be so diluted by Satan as to call evil, good and good, evil. Nothing has changed since the woe was pronounced on those who did this. We are bombarded through every conceivable method with this same message. Movies, mass media and even our lawmakers and judges preach the word of Satan; evil is good and good is evil. The most deceptive part of this is the fact that this perversion is taught us by the seemingly wise of this world.
These are warnings given by Paul in Romans 1. In verse 18, Paul warns us about those on whom God’s wrath would be revealed; those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Verse 22 says, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” How do we know who they are? Just as Isaiah had warned, they called evil, good and good, evil, and Paul said in Romans 1:25, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” How often have we been shown by men’s actions that greed is good or homosexuality is acceptable? The sad part of Paul’s warning was that those who practiced these things were ones who knew the “ordinance of God” according to verse 32. But, Paul also said in verses 19 and 20 that no one is without excuse because God has made Himself evident within them and through His creation.
Paul explained to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 what the practices of men would be like so he could recognize them. They would be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. He further told Timothy to avoid such men. Look at this list and see if you recognize people in the news, those in Hollywood, and maybe your neighbor. May we never find these characteristics in ourselves. We need to be like the man Paul described in Timothy; followers of Paul’s teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions and sufferings. We must recognize and avoid the people Paul described in verses 2 through 7 and never forget the power of the Scriptures. Paul tells us in verses 16 and 17 that they are inspired of God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. As God’s children, we need to avoid the cunning of Satan and his servants and be transformed by the renewing of our minds as Romans 12:2 tells us. The power of renewing our minds and thus our lives lies in the work of God’s word in our lives as described in 2 Timothy 3:16,17. Live it, teach it to your children and to all who will listen. Do what Paul told us in Romans 12:9, “Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good.”
In II Kings 5:1-15, there is a description of an important historical event regarding a captain in the military service of the King of Syria. The captain’s name was Naaman. He is described as a great man with his master and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria. He was also described as a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Leprosy is a long-term fatal disease that greatly disfigures individuals before they eventually die. In Naaman’s time, there was no cure for the disease.
The Syrians brought back captives from their various military actions. One of these captives was a young Jewish girl who waited on Naaman’s wife. The young captive said if her master would go to Samaria and visit a prophet there, he would recover from his leprosy.
The king of Syria heard what this young girl had said and insisted Naaman go. He said he would send a letter to the king of Israel, as well as 10 talents of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold, and 10 changes of raiment. As you might expect, the king of Israel could not help Naaman. In fact the king was very upset, and said, “Am I God to kill and make alive, that this king sent me this man to cure him of leprosy.”
Elisha, the man of God, heard about the incident and sent a message to the king to send this man to see him. Naaman and all the people traveling with him went to Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a servant out to speak to Naaman. The servant told Naaman to go and wash seven times in the river Jordan and his flesh would become clean. Naaman was incensed, he had come all this way and the prophet sent a lowly servant to tell him what to do. He said “BEHOLD I THOUGHT the prophet would come out and call upon the Lord and strike his hand over me and I would be cleansed of the leprosy” (KJV, emphasis mine-DA). Naaman also said, “Are not Abana and Pharppar rivers in Damascus better than the waters in Israel, why could I not wash in them?” He left in a rage.
However, he had a wise servant who said to him, “If the prophet had asked you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much better that he said wash and be clean?” Naaman came to his senses and went down in the Jordan River, washed seven times, and his flesh became as a little child. He was cleansed.
What can we learn from Naaman’s mistake? First of all we need to follow God’s commandments precisely as He has given them. Remember Naaman was not cured until he washed seven times in the river Jordan.
I want to focus on the words Naaman said in II Kings 5:11.
BEHOLD I THOUGHT
- Behold I thought we could improve our singing with the addition of musical instruments. In the New Testament we are told to sing with no mention of musical instruments–Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; l Corinthians 14:15
- Behold I thought I could accept God as my personal savior without having to be baptized. The Bible says “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:15-16). “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
- Behold I thought God wanted me to be happy even if my present marriage is not scriptural. God’s word says, “And I say unto you, who ever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).
- Behold I thought I could spend my money for all the things my heart desires and give to God what was left. The Bible says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7). Also, in Malachi 1:6-9, God condemned his people for offering sacrifices of blind, lame, and sick animals. When you give God what is left you are doing the same thing.
- Behold I thought I had plenty of time to obey the Gospel after I enjoyed the things of the world and sow my “WILD OATS.” The Bible said of the rich farmer who was going to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, “You fool this night your soul will be required of you…” (Luke 12:20).
We could make many points when man says “Behold I Thought,” and tries to improve on God’s commandments. However, just as Naaman was not cured of his leprosy until he did exactly as God instructed, we will fail anytime we add to or take away from God’s word.