Change and Continuity

As we age, the more acutely aware we are of how things change! Look back a few years and marvel at how your own life has undergone one transition after another. Some of these were welcome, some not. In the last five years, perhaps your family has experienced deaths, births, and weddings. Such is life.

It is one of God’s mercies that usually changes don’t all come at once but gradually, giving us time to adjust. Another of His mercies is the way He provides so much that stays the same, adding continuity to our lives.

God never changes.

He is still in control of our universe. Ever since Noah and family came out of the ark, daylight and dark and the changes of the seasons have continued without interruption (Genesis 8:22). The law of gravity has not been repealed. Nor have God’s moral laws. Right is still right, and wrong is still wrong—in spite of what some say (Isaiah 5:20).

Jesus never changes.

What He was yesterday He is today and will be forever (Hebrews 13:8). He still reigns over His kingdom (Hebrews 1:8). He is still the only way to the Father (John 14:6). His blood still cleanses (1 John 1:7).

The Bible never changes.

It is still God’s powerful word, capable of providing us with the truth that saves our souls (Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 1:23, 25). No matter how much our surroundings change, the Bible continues to serve as the reliable guide it always has been.

And then we have the never-changing promises of God.

Thank God for all the changeless amid all the changes of our lives.

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The Legacy of Dorcas

We don’t know much about her—she is mentioned in only one brief passage in the New Testament (Acts 9:36-42). But everything we know about Dorcas is good.

1) She was a disciple.

The word disciple means learner. She had learned to live the life of a Christian. She was not simply someone who did good deeds—she followed the example of the One who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

2) She did good for others consistently.

“…this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.” For Dorcas, doing good was not occasional, but a way of life. Those who do the most good in this life find a way to serve, and then they keep doing it.

3) When she died she was sorely missed.

Perhaps you’ve heard this illustration: To show how much difference you make, put your hand in a bucket of water and then pull it out. The water immediately rushes in where your hand was as if it had never been there.

Although this illustration was designed to promote humility, it goes too far. Christians ought to live such lives that when they die, their loss to the church is keenly felt. Because of death, they can no longer do the works they once did. They do leave a noticeable vacancy. And like Dorcas, they are truly missed.

For Dorcas, doing good meant using a needle and thread—and lots of time. For you and me, it may mean using our car, our kitchen, our phone, our computer, our cash—and lots of time. There are so many needs out there. We can fill some of them.

So, like Dorcas, let’s do it!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Good Cling/Bad Cling

Wise counsel

Nearing the end of his life, Joshua urges Israel to be faithful to the God who had done so much for them. He tells them, “But you are to cling to the LORD your God . . . . For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations . . .”─and then Joshua warns them of the consequences of such a choice (Joshua 23:8, 12).

These two “clings” are mutually exclusive. The pagan nations were involved in idolatry and immorality. To cling to them would be to become infected with their sins. The only safe recourse—and the only logical one—is to “cling to the Lord your God.”

Lessons for us

First, we will cling to someone or something.

Second, we have a choice what we cling to.

Third, clinging to God is greatly to our advantage.

Fourth, clinging to the world, however attractive it may be, is fatal.

Fifth, we cannot cling to both at the same time.

Our choice

Jesus said we can’t serve both God and Mammon (wealth) (Matthew 6:24). James warns that friendship with the world makes us God’s enemy (James 4:4). John says that if we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15-17). God or money? God or the world?

We who are Christians have already made our choice! May it not be said of us what God said of Israel, “‘For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen” (Jeremiah 13:11).

So how do we?

God intends for us to learn from their tragic experience so we won’t repeat the same error. So how do we cling to God? By clinging to His word, by clinging to Him in prayer, by clinging to His church.

Are we on clinging terms with God?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Another Addiction

Getting hooked

It’s amazing how many different ways Satan has to enslave us: drugs, alcohol, tobacco, overeating, gambling, etc. Our adversary knows how to get us hooked and keep us hooked.

Satan has been entrapping even more with another highly addictive practice, using Internet pornography.

How many ever thought when they started where this would lead them? How many ever dreamed what a grip this would get on their minds? How many would have ever guessed what it would do to their marriages? Or to their relationship with God?

Admitting what it does to us

“It won’t hurt me.” “I can handle it.” “I can stop it anytime I want.”

But Paul cautions, “. . . let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

The writer of Hebrews warns us that we can be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

Sin deceives us when we think we can indulge without consequence. But sin, when repeated, has a definite hardening effect on us. Our conscience can become so calloused by repeated indulgence that it becomes less and less sensitive, and we drift farther and farther away from our God who calls us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16; 2:9-11).

Taking decisive action

Jesus said, “. . . everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And then He said, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:28-29).

While Jesus does not mean for us literally to pluck out our eye, does He not mean we must take drastic action to save our souls?

Whatever it takes.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Responding to the Evils Around Us

 

All around us are all kinds of bizarre behavior, sinful lifestyles, and strange ideas that currently trouble our land. How shall we respond?

Responses that do not help

Some Christians, sad to say, gaze at the evil and are drawn into it. How easy it is to find our resistance gradually being lowered by the constant exposure to sins that once shocked us!  God’s people in the Old Testament were vulnerable to being swallowed up by the sins of their neighbors.  It can so easily happen to us too! (1 Corinthians 10:12; Ephesians 4:17-24; 2 Timothy 4:10).

On the other hand, while we may never indulge in the blatant sins of our society, we may be tempted to look down on those who do. We may forget that we too are in need of the grace of God and that we have something positive to offer those who are mired in sinful lifestyles (Luke 15:1-2, 25-32; 18:9-14).

A third reaction is thinking that the situation is so far gone that there’s little we can do to make a difference. It’s been well said that the darker the world, the brighter our light is.  Let it shine! (Philippians 2:15).

A better way

So how shall we respond to the evils of our day? Not by participating in them, not by reacting self-righteously, and not by withdrawing into inactivity.

So what shall we do?  The letter we call First Peter has much to offer us.  Christians then were struggling to maintain their integrity in a dark world in much the same way we do today.  Peter urges his readers to maintain holy lives (1:14-16; 4:1-4) and live in such a way that unbelievers can’t help but notice the difference (2:11-12; 3:1-2, 16).

By the grace of God let’s hate sin but have enough concern for sinners so that they too will be drawn out of darkness  into God’s marvelous light!

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Now Revealed

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Want to know a mystery?

Forget what you know about mystery novels, weird stuff, and all that. This mystery’s not like that.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul refers to the mystery (secret) which God kept hidden for many centuries but finally made known in the first century A.D. The mystery has to do with the salvation of all people in Christ, Jew and Gentile, on an equal basis (Ephesians 3:3-5, 8-11).

If we put what Paul says here in the form of a flow chart, here’s how it looks:

For ages the mystery of Christ was not known (vv. 5, 9).

God revealed it to Paul and other apostles & prophets (vv. 3, 5).

Paul wrote what had been revealed to him (v. 3).

The reader can then understand Paul’s knowledge (v. 4).

The mystery unveiled

God did not reveal the mystery to a select few so they could take special pride in possessing this inside knowledge unavailable to the masses. No! The apostles and prophets were God’s agents for transferring this wonderful message to all the world.

For some time they preached it orally. Since these men would not live forever, God wisely arranged for them to record for all time the message, resulting in what we now call the New Testament (John 20:30-31; Jude 3).

Now that we have the New Testament, we have access to all we need to be saved. Now we can know what God has planned for us in this life and throughout eternity.

The mystery is no longer a secret—it has been revealed!

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The Six Stages

The following are all the possible stages a person can experience from conception to eternity:

1. The womb

Reincarnation is not biblical. We come into existence at conception and not before (John 8:58; also compare the relative ages of John the Baptist and Jesus—Luke 1:36; John 1:15, 30).

Abortion is morally wrong because it fails to respect the sacredness of life in the womb (Genesis 25:21-23; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41-44).

2. Innocence

Infants and small children have no sin (Deuteronomy 1:39; Matthew 19:14). If they were to die at this stage of life, they would go to be with God.

3. Alienation

When we first sin we are separated from God and are destined for hell, unless we turn to God in faith, repentance, and obedience (Ephesians 2:1-13).

4. Reconciliation

New life in Christ begins at baptism (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12-13). We are restored to fellowship with God and now have hope!

5. Hades

At death the spirit separates from the body. The Hadean world is where the spirits of the dead await the Judgment (Luke 16:19-31; 23:43; Philippians 1:21-24).

Hades is not the same as hell (Matthew 10:28; 25:41; Revelation 21:8). At Jesus’ death His spirit went to the portion of Hades called Paradise (Acts 2:27, 31; Luke 23:43).

6. Heaven

When Christ returns, the righteous dead will be raised and be given glorious new bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). And then to live forever with God! What a glorious destiny awaits the faithful child of God!

We’ve all seen a diagram of a building or some other place that has printed on it, “You are here.” On our spiritual journey, where are we? Anyone reading this article is either in Stage 3 or Stage 4. If we stay in Stage 3, then our Stage 6 will not be heaven.

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