02 April 2008

What Part of STOP Don't You Understand?

When I look out my office window I see this stop sign in my yard right at the intersection. It is a constant reminder that this sign is important because it has been placed there by our city officials and for an express purpose. Even if a driver cannot read, the sign itself exclaims something when one recognizes it and that is, you need to stop your vehicle. It may be that some people do not understand the various signs along our highways and streets or even in the parking areas of the various shopping centers.

For example, my wife and I were leaving a department store and we were walking in a lane that was painted there for reason. There were signs on either side of this lane that read YIELD. We felt relatively safe walking to our automobile. I say ‘relative’ because you never know what a person may be thinking or doing while driving an automobile. I saw this car approaching us very slowly and at the same time I saw the driver talking into her cell phone; yet, I felt rather sure that she would stop for us – but she didn’t. I pulled Virginia back and the car went right in front of us. The ‘red-necked’ side of me yelled out, “Can’t you read that yield sign?” She stopped her car a short distance from us and got out and shouted back to me, “It didn’t say stop!” I wanted to say but I didn’t, “Here’s your sign.” You see the poor lady did not know what ‘yield’ meant.

A dear Christian lady and friend of ours related her experience about not stopping at a stop sign in the city where she lives. She said that she slowed down and moved carefully through the stop sign but to her dismay a city policeman saw her action and stopped her. The policeman happened to be a former student of this retired English teacher. As she pleaded her case, that is, she did slow down for the sign before proceeding through it. In response to her pleading he said something like this; “Yes, Mrs. ‘Jones’, but you taught us that there is a difference between a comma and a period.”

Here are three reasons why we all should obey ‘stop’ signs, especially the one in my front yard and at this particular intersection. First of all, we are to obey our civil governments and that would include our city officials according to Romans 13:1-7. Listen to what the apostle Paul said about this matter: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Second, we should obey the laws governing our driving habits, if for no other reasons than for “conscience’ sake”, knowing what the law requires (Romans 13:5). The third reason that is so applicable to our situation and our immediate neighborhood and that is for the sake of our children.

We have scores of precious children in our community. When you come to this particular stop sign and you speed through it you place our children in danger whether you turn to the right or to the left because there are children often playing in every direction. You have no intention of injuring one of these precious ones but you never know when one of them might dart in front of your automobile before you could stop. So the next time you approach this stop sign do it for the children’s sake and come to a complete stop before you proceed. Now I am not one who would be willing and able to “cast the first stone” simply because I have from time to time violated the laws regulating the driving of automobiles but I am doing better with the passing of the years.

NOTE: As you can readily see this article was written primarily for the people who live in our small subdivision. This article will be distributed by mail to all who live in our neighborhood by the elected officials who head our Homeowners Association.

Also this will be the last in the series ‘Scenes from my office window’. I have been rather amazed at what I can see from where I am sitting here in my office/study. I hope you have profited in some measure from our seeing things together from my perspective. Pardon me while I close the blinds (I will open them later).

29 March 2008

Buying and Selling

My neighbors across the street and two houses removed from our house have a very familiar sign in their front yard that reads ‘FOR SALE’. The house has been bought and sold several times over the years, so I am told. You see, we are a mobile society. Each year in the spring our community is affected by several military families moving to different locations throughout the world. Nation wide it seems that this is a bad time to have a house on the market. Buying and selling products and services is an integrated and important way of life in our country. However, there is a commodity of which I presently speak that should only be purchased and never to be sold at any cost.

In Proverbs 23:23 an important exhortation is given by the writer: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” Notice first of all this commodity is called “TRUTH”. It was Pilate who asked Jesus, “What is truth” (John 18:38)? Jesus in His prayer to God had already answered this question when He said, “Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus himself is the “truth” (John 14:6). The “truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). In this last passage, the Law of Moses was used in contrast to “the truth”. In this sense, the truth revealed through Jesus Christ is the gospel with its facts to be believed, its commands to be obeyed and the promises to be enjoyed (I Corinthians 15:1-3; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15, 16). Why should we purchase (obtain) the truth (gospel)? The apostle Paul declared that the gospel “… is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Second, we should buy ONLY the truth. Not everything is as good as it is said to be. There are some products that we may purchase that may be inferior to the standard that it claims. Even in religious matter not every teaching presented is the truth. We must examine such in the light of the Word of God. Paul taught in I Thessalonians 5:21 to “test all things; hold fast what is good.” The apostle John later wrote: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). We must discriminate between truth and error. The counterfeit is very difficult to detect because it so like the real thing.

Third, we are to buy ALL the truth. It is a critical mistake to fail to buy all the truth. When we purchase a product we desire and expect to receive all of that which pertains to the product. However there are those who will not buy all the truth. The rich young ruler who came to Jesus and inquired, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life” (Matthew 19:16-22) was not willing to buy all the teachings of the Lord. Because when he was instructed to sell his riches and give to the poor, he was unwilling to buy into all that Jesus told him to do. There are many religionists who will accept only partial truth. They refuse, however, to follow all the teachings of Jesus Christ regarding the plan of salvation and how to worship God acceptably. May we all possess a deep desire to learn all the truth that we can and have the faith and fortitude to obey the same.

Fourth, the sincere seeker of truth will purchase this precious commodity regardless of the price. In parables presented by Jesus He emphasized this very thing. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it’ (Matthew 13:44, 45, 46). Whether we speak in regards to the truth or the kingdom of Christ, the principle is the same; one must make every effort and exert every ounce of energy to obtain the truth.

Fifth, it is not enough to merely hear and know the Word of God, we must accept and obey the truth. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). The person who only hears the words of the Lord and does not do them is like the man who built his house on the sand. However, the disciple who hears the words of Jesus Christ and obeys them is like the man who built his house upon the rock which stood the ravages of nature (Matthew 7:24-27).

Sixth, we should buy the truth while we have the time and opportunity. Procrastination is a work of Satan. Many are the souls who planned to obey the gospel but delayed such a decision and died without Christ. We should never assume that additional opportunities will be afforded us to give our lives to Jesus. The wise man wrote in Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Also James gives this advice in James 4:13-17, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

Seventh, the passage in Proverbs 23:23 which exhorts us to “Buy the truth” also informs us to “sell it not.” The purchase of the truth is a permanent investment and we should never depart from it. We should never exchange the truth for fame, popularity, wealth, position, power or pleasure. These are solemn words of our Savior as found in Matthew 16:26, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Each person should study the Holy Scriptures in order to learn the truth. It said of the inhabitants of Berea that “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts17:11). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave this promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Again our Lord assured seekers of truth that they would be able to find it as explained in this passage in Matthew 7:7, 8, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

18 March 2008

The Resurrection of Life

As I look out the window and across the street I see a beautiful Bradford pear tree in full bloom and a Redbud tree also in full bloom. God, the Creator of the universe, is causing the vegetative kingdom which has been dormant to come alive! The display of such beauty that we presently see and will be seeing for weeks to come as the trees bloom and the flowers and shrubbery break forth their radiant colors should cause the believer’s heart to praise and glorify the name of the Almighty God.

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 19:1-4: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork, day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Someone has said that there are two books, nature and the Bible that declare there is a Supreme Being.

The heavens and the earth in their splendor and magnificence should cause every person to have faith in God but that is not the case. The apostle Paul in writing about the depravity of the Gentile world in his day mentions this very thing in Romans 1:18-21: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them, For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Some people have eyes that will not see and hearts that will not accept the truth that Jehovah God, by the power of His word, brought the universe into existence. And with the renewal of life in the vegetative kingdom at this time of the year our hearts are made to think of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb. This is one of the cardinal doctrines of the New Testament. A part of the good news of Christ is the teaching regarding His resurrection from the dead. Had Jesus not risen from the dead early that first day of the week, His death on Calvary would be meaningless. We would still be in our sins, our faith would be in vain and we certainly would be miserable (See I Corinthians 15).

The apostle taught in this chapter that because our Lord arose from the grave we have the promise that we shall also rise from the dead at His second coming. Jesus Himself said as recorded in John 5:28: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” When I witness the beauties of spring with its shows of new life I cannot help but think of the words of my Lord Jesus Christ,

“Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life,
He who believes in Me,
though he may die, he shall live.
And whoever lives and believes in Me
shall never die.
Do you believe this?”
~John 11:25, 26

13 March 2008

Scenes From My Office Window

There is this nice gentleman who often walks his beautiful dog right by my house where I can see him from my window. Also there are two ladies who live in our small subdivision who walk together regularly where I can see them from my office. And from time to time there are others who either walk or jog through our community. This is good exercise for one’s body and mind. After all, God formed our bodies in the beginning of time and He expects us to care for it. The problem area lies not in the exercise itself but in the amount of time consumed, when it takes place and how much we spend on it.

For example we often see individuals jogging on Sunday morning while on our way to the worship assembly. But that would also be true of people who go to some place of recreation like the lakes and coastal area on the weekends where they can ride in their boats and/or go in swimming. Great emphasis is being placed in our modern society as to what we should eat and the amount of exercise that we should engage in on a regular basis. Untold millions of dollars are spent on exercise equipment, vitamins and other products that would make us feel and look better. No problem unless we speak of extremes and exclusions.

I can walk in my garage on a treadmill for thirty minutes and not move but a short distance. I can ride on a used exercise bike for thirty minutes and remain in the same spot where I began. However we must understand that that which is perfectly harmless and even useful and healthful can be wrong if that which is more important is excluded. I mean by that, the man or woman who is riding a bicycle or jogging on the Lord’s Day and not attending the worship assembly of the Lord’s church is doing wrong. A person who is careful and zealous for eating the healthiest foods may in fact be neglecting eating the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. There is the matter of priority. What is more important, the care only for the body or the care for one’s spiritual needs?

Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). The Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13 to “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” And the wise man wrote in Proverbs 3:7, 8, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”

In his speech to the elders of the church of Ephesus, Paul said, “So, brethren I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32;Emphasis mine, RE). That which will strengthen the inner man is found in the words of Paul concerning brethren who had been “nourished in the word of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed (Emphasis mine, RE; I Timothy 4:6). “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (Emphasis mine, RE; 2 Corinthians 4:16).

But we must also exercise ourselves in order to have a proper balance in spiritual matters. The apostle Paul wrote in I Timothy 4:7, 8, “But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” We are to “walk humbly with your God”; “run with endurance the race that is set before us”; “finish the race” “and a crown of righteousness” will be given to us (Emphasis mine, RE; Micah 6:8; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

29 February 2008

A Love That Lasts

One day the door bell rang so I opened the door and a lady who is a neighbor of ours pushed a small girl into the foyer and asked if she could stay here for a few minutes. It wasn’t long until the door bell rang again and this time it was a young man standing at the front door and instructing his daughter to come out to him. I really did not know at the time what was going on but here I was right in the middle of things I soon detected as being a real family problem. The neighbor who brought the child to our house was only trying to help but the father was wanting his daughter so I had no alternative in the matter but to have the child leave our house.

I watched the activities across the street at the house where the girl and her mother were staying with the child’s grandparents. A few days later the grandfather came to visit me and explained that his daughter and her husband were in the process of getting a divorce and things had gotten out of hand. His daughter and the child’s mother obtained a legal document that prevented her husband from coming near her and the daughter. It was only a short time that I began to see a man visiting this lady who was divorcing her husband. Soon she moved out of her parent’s house and left with this man. However, the little girl (I would say about eight years old) has remained for the most part with her grandparents.

Undoubtedly her mother and this man now live in a different school district from where her daughter has been attending school so in order for the child to remain in her school she has to live temporarily with her grandparents. Just this morning I saw her leave with her grandfather on her way to school. Now I know that some of this is my own surmising but I think I am correct on most of this story. To my right and across a different street live a very nice couple and friends of mine. Their situation is this. He has a son and she has two sons by a previous marriage. They were married last summer and now she is expecting their child. You heard it before, “his, hers and theirs.” Sadly to say this has become common place in our society today.

I feel sorry for people in homes where there has been a divorce. Children suffer so deeply when their parents do not stay together. Without passing judgment I may say that there are no good divorces. Someone has sinned and souls may be in danger of being lost. Children are being separated from one parent and can only see him or her on occasions. Longevity in marriage is fast becoming obsolete. It ‘blows their minds’ when I tell young people that my wife and I have been married for fifty-two years. “Until death do us part” may already be an antiquated statement that is no longer being used in marriage ceremonies for many couples.

Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century ~Mark Twain

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person ~Mignon McLaughlin

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’? and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate (Matthew 19:4-6) ~Jesus Christ