Seeing Potential

Useless?

When I told an older friend of ours that we were looking for a toy box, she offered us an old wooden chest she kept in her basement.

Seeing its sad condition—holding water and split in two all the way around—I was not too impressed and didn’t take it with me.

But when I told Sara, she wanted to see for herself. After an inspection, she decided we could use it after all.

Dried out, glued, and braced, it became a dandy toy box, and some years later, a rustic blanket keeper. Over four decades later we still have it.

First impressions can be so wrong. I saw water and a broken box. Sara saw potential.

Hopeless?

God sees potential too. He sees not only sinners, but the future inhabitants of heaven they can become.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“. . . for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (Ephesians 5:8).

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you were not a people, but now you are the people of God . . .” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

What Christ can do

Jesus could take Simon the impulsive fisherman and mold him into Peter—apostle, elder, and leading spokesman for Christ.

He could transform Matthew, the despised tax collector, into the author of the Gospel that bears his name.

He could turn Saul, the violent persecutor of churches, into Paul, the leading planter of churches and author of one-fourth of the New Testament.

Having done all this and so much more, what might He do with you and me?

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

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The Power of Perseverance

Bois d’arc endures. That’s why the early settlers in our area found this practically rot-proof wood so useful for fence posts and foundation blocks.

Hang in there!

God loves people who press on—who stay the course day after day, year after year, no matter what. Marriages and congregations thrive when they possess that determination to remain true, regardless of hazards or hardships.

We must complete the course if we’re to win the crown (2 Timothy 4:6-8; Hebrews 3:14; 6:11-12).

Satan uses the long stretches to weary and defeat us—if we let him. Every Christian who quits has stumbled into Satan’s trap. Knowing we’re in it for the long haul helps us resist the temptation to slack off, slow down, or give up.

Don’t quit!

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Each of these powerful exhortations is backed up with a promise. Our toil is not in vain in the Lord. We will reap if we don’t grow weary.

What is perseverance?

“It is the spirit which can bear things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope . . . . it is not the patience which grimly waits for the end, but the patience which radiantly hopes for the dawn” (William Barclay, New Testament Words, The Westminster Press, p. 144).

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you have receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).

May these Scriptures grab us by the lapels to shake us out of our lethargy and re-engergize our resolve.

It’s time to get moving!

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

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Need Help?

I was in my thirties before I learned that men are reluctant to ask directions when driving. That was news to me! When I was growing up, my dad would often stop and ask. So when I got out on my own, I thought nothing of doing the same.

When GPS and roadmaps aren’t quite enough, it strikes me as silly to be in a strange place and forge ahead, hoping to figure out the right road when a simple question could save a lot of time and gasoline.

Pride? A sense of self-sufficiency? Is that it? Is that why macho men don’t want to admit they’re lost?

Choosing our destination

Life is a journey with a destination. We’re all headed somewhere. Some don’t have a clue where they’re headed or what the alternatives are. That’s why we have the Bible.

The Bible tells us: 1) There are two roads. 2) One road leads to life, the other to destruction. 3) We must choose (Matthew 7:13-14).

The road to destruction requires no particular effort to reach that destination. We can go to hell by default, by doing absolutely nothing.

By choosing life

If we choose the road to life, we need to understand: a) how to get on the only road that actually leads there, and b) how to stay on that road.

In other words, we need lots of help to make it. We need the grace of God to forgive and sustain us, we need the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, the Scriptures to teach us, the fellowship of believers to encourage us, and the daily intercession of our Mediator at the Father’s right hand.

Proud people don’t like to admit they need help. But is there anyone who doesn’t? There’s no such thing as a truly self-made man, especially when it comes to our salvation.

No wonder the Scriptures repeatedly urge us to humble ourselves, to seek God, and to admit our inadequacies (Luke 18:9-14).

Reluctance to seek the help we so desperately need and which is so readily available for the asking is far worse than silly—it is eternally fatal to our souls.

So go ahead, ask!

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Overlooked Evidences of the Love of God

“God is love” (1 John 4:8), and the greatest evidence of that love is the gift of His Son for our salvation (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

Another way we know He loves is seen in the abundant blessings He showers on us every day (Matthew 5:43-45; Acts 14:17).

God’s love, however, has less obvious facets. The following evidences of His love may actually seem the very opposite—until we understand how His love works.

God’s discipline

“‘For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives’ . . . . He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:6, 10).

We can accept His discipline so much better when we realize what it does for our ultimate welfare, just as our children need to realize that we discipline them because we love them (Hebrews 12:7-10).

God’s jealousy

In connection with the command, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” God says, “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God . . .” (Exodus 20:3, 5).

The book of Hosea develops the theme of God as a rejected lover who yearns for a restored relationship with His unfaithful bride Israel.

As J. I. Packer has written, “. . . Scripture consistently views God’s jealousy . . . as an aspect of His covenant love for His own people” (Knowing God, p. 154).

God’s NOs

Sometimes God says No when we pray. When this happens, do we feel that God doesn’t care, or do we trust that He knows best? God said No to David’s prayer that his infant’s life be spared (2 Samuel 12:15-23). God said No to Paul’s prayer that his thorn in the flesh be removed (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). God said No even to His own Son’s plea to be spared the cross (Matthew 26:36-46).

If God said No to them, should we be surprised when He denies our requests?

God loves us so much . . . .

That “He disciplines us for our good . . . .”

That it hurts Him deeply when He is not first in our affections.

That He must sometimes say No when we pray.

God is love? Far more than we can know.

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

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Is There No Hope?

 Tragic divide

Will we ever see an end to racially motivated violence and injustices? Sad to say, as long as people occupy this planet, there will always be prejudice somewhere.

Can prejudice exist apart from people? Obviously not. Racism is an individual heart problem, a deeply flawed attitude, based on wrong teaching, fed by pride and ignorance, and reinforced by cultural peer pressure.

Does this mean there is no hope for improvement? Not at all.

Prevention and cure

Whenever a child is taught that all people are made in the image of God and that God is no respecter of persons, isn’t that child a lot less likely to fall into racist thinking?

But what if we have been brought up to see certain races as inferior? Prejudice is often blind to itself, and so if we have been taught wrong we must: 1) recognize our prejudice for what it is, 2) realize that prejudice is a sin, and 3) repent and learn to see people from God’s perspective.

The best solution

Is there any greater remedy for racism than the gospel of Christ? The gospel is comprehensive, affecting every aspect of our lives from the inside out. If we are truly converted, and we let God’s word teach us, racism is rooted out.

How can we maintain prejudice if we truly understand that the gospel is for ALL? It is God’s will for people of all nations and cultures to respond to the gospel.

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

“. . . there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

God designed the church to be the true melting pot where race does not matter but where people do. Granted, the church has fallen far short of God’s ideal, but His ideal still stands. Thanks be to God for every congregation where all are welcome and all are sought.

For this to happen, each of us as individuals must conform our attitudes to the mind of Christ.

He is Lord of all.

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

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Sources of Strength

In the hard times

Two incidents in David’s life illustrate how we can draw strength when things are not going well.

During the time when Saul was seeking to kill David, Saul’s son Jonathan “arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God” (1 Samuel 23:16).

We’re not told how Jonathan encouraged David. Surely just being there must have meant a lot. Also Jonathan probably had some well-chosen words and may have also prayed with David. Whatever he did, it worked! David was encouraged.

But what if no one is around to give us support in a crisis? What then?

There was the time when David and his men returned to headquarters and made the shocking discovery that the Amalekites had burned the city and captured their wives and children.

“. . . David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters.”

The story has a happy ending with the safe return of the captives, but before David knew how it would turn out, “he strengthened himself in the LORD his God (1 Samuel 30:6).

The same Hebrew word for “strengthened” is used here that was translated “encouraged” in the previous passage.

How did David strengthen himself in God? Surely he must have prayed fervently, and perhaps familiar scriptures came to mind. Maybe he thought about all the times God had previously delivered him. Whatever David did to strengthen himself, it worked.

Our ultimate Helper

Note that Jonathan “encouraged him in God,” and David “strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”

Later David could write, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer . . . . I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; and I am saved from my enemies” (2 Samuel 22:2, 4).

The stronger our relationship with God before a crisis comes, the better off we are when the storm hits. If we’re in fellowship with God, He is there for us, even if no one else is.

And that’s encouraging!

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

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Unamended Edition

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Founding document

The Constitution of the United States is a marvel, a model for other nations. The wisdom of those who developed it is seen in its durability. For more than two centuries it has served us well.

The Constitution has built into it provisions for change. It has been amended more than two dozen times since it was first written. Additional amendments are likely—if the world stands and our nation endures.

In some ways the Constitution is for our nation what the New Testament is for the church. It is what we go by, our governing document.

Major differences

There are, however, some significant differences. First, the New Testament is inspired by God (1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 14:37; Ephesians 3:3-5; 2 Peter 3:15-16; Revelation 1:1-3); the Constitution is not.

Second, the New Testament is more than a legal code. Though it definitely does contain law, which God expects us to obey, it is much more than law. It tells a story—of a God who loves us, a Christ who died and rose for us, and the eternal kingdom, the church, made up of Jesus’ redeemed people.

The New Testament also dares to prophesy the future, something the Constitution does not attempt. In addition, it has a divine power within it capable of turning a soul from darkness to the light (Acts 20:32; 26:16-18; Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:21).

Third, the New Testament has no provision for amendment. It is complete. It is final. Jude, the Lord’s brother, speaks of “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Completed around the end of the first century A.D., the New Testament was designed by God to continue unchanged until the end of time, serving the needs of the church in every generation.

Therefore should we listen when self-styled prophets arise to give us, they claim, a word from God to supplement the Word of God?

God has already spoken.

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

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