The Words Are Different

A man was once asked to explain the difference between the word “complete” and the word “finished”. After some thought, this is what he said: “If a man marries the right woman, he is complete. If he marries the wrong woman, he is finished! And if he marries the right woman, and she later catches him with the wrong woman, he is completely finished!”

“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”—Proverbs 18:22.

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What You Don’t Know

Years ago a friendly exterminator patrolled some neighborhoods in Chicago, peddling what he called “the Mississippi stuff.” The Mississippi stuff was a pesticide he had bought hundreds of gallons of in the South, and it really did the trick on cockroaches. The exterminator went door-to-door with his hand sprayer, and his business grew as satisfied customers recommended his remarkably effective work to all their friends and neighbors.

In the process, however, this one pest control specialist is alleged to have single-handedly created an environmental catastrophe. The effective pesticide—methyl parathion—is outlawed by the EPA for use in homes. Southern farmers use it on boll weevils in their cotton fields, and within days the pesticide chemically breaks down into harmless elements. Not so in the home. There the pesticide persists as a toxic chemical that can harm the human neurological system with effects similar to lead poisoning.

When the problem was recognized, the EPA was called into Chicago for the cleanup. Drywall, carpeting, and furniture sprayed with the pesticide had to be torn out and hauled to a hazardous-materials dump. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the total cost of the cleanup would be some $20 million, ranking this as one of the worst environmental nightmares in Illinois history.

The exterminator was charged with two misdemeanors. He apparently didn’t know much about the pesticide he sprayed so liberally. His attorney said, “It’s a tragedy. It is one of those situations where he did a lot of harm, but his intention in no way matches the damage he has done. He is a family man and handled it with his own hands. Do you think he knew how toxic it was?”

What you don’t know can hurt you. That is true both of pesticides and of false teaching. Some have said that it doesn’t matter so much what you believe as long as you are sincere. Nothing could be further from the truth! Many people in Chicago believed that they were getting rid of roaches without risking the health of themselves and their families. They were wrong. Tragically wrong in some cases.

Jesus warned against false teachers. In Matthew 7:15 he says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” The letters to the churches are filled with admonitions to avoid false doctrine and to rebuke those who teach it. Titus 1:11 says, “They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” 2 Timothy 2:17 warns, “Their teaching will spread like gangrene…”

So, it does matter what you believe, and what you don’t know can indeed hurt you. False teaching can cause great damage to individuals, families and entire congregations. Learn the truth and stick to it! Avoid false teaching at all costs!

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Loyalty of the Architect

When it was built for an international exposition years ago, the structure was called monstrous by the citizens of the city, who demanded it be torn down as soon as the exposition was over.

Yet from the moment its architect first conceived it, he took pride in it and loyally defended it from those who wished to destroy it. He knew it was destined for greatness. Today it is one of the architectural wonders of the modern world and stands as the primary landmark of Paris, France. The architect, of course, was Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. His famous tower was built in 1889.

In the same way we are struck by Jesus’ loyalty to another structure—the church. The world considers the church a monstrous construction and they wish it would disappear. But Jesus says that he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus, the architect of the church, defends his work, and he knows that the structure is destined for greatness when he returns.

“…I will build my church…”—Matthew 16:18.

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Destructive Power

A computer virus on the loose is a computer user’s worst nightmare. Once a computer is infected, the damage can be devastating. A virus can destroy everything in a computer’s memory. It may take some time for the destructive power of the virus to be felt, but once its effect takes hold, much information and hard work can be erased or corrupted.

In the same way that a computer virus spreads through the files of a computer, serious sin can spread through the church. It might take some time for the damage to be felt, but no congregation can withstand the destructive power of blatant, unrepentant sin.

The apostle Paul says that such sin is like yeast that works its way through the whole batch of dough (1 Corinthians 5:6). That’s why church leaders must be diligent, proactive and forceful in protecting the church from the hideous virus of sin (1 Corinthians 5:7-13). Any congregation that ignores the biblical doctrine of church discipline does so at their own peril.

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Decisions, Decisions!

A husband who had been married a long time shared the secret of their successful marriage. He said, “When we first got married my wife told me that she would handle all of the little decisions in our marriage and leave the big decisions for me. So far, in 30 years we have not been faced with any big decisions!”

In reality, a successful marriage is not that simple. It takes a lot of hard work over the years. The couple needs to communicate well. There has to be some compromise along the way. But the most important decision a married couple will ever make is to pledge to incorporate biblical principles into their relationship. This is the best recipe for a happy marriage.

“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”—Ephesians 5:33.

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Becoming a Mighty Warrior

Before David became king, he fell out of favor with King Saul and had to flee for his life. At that time he began to gather some men around him. The description of his followers is interesting—“All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.” (1 Samuel 22:2). One might think that David would rather have acquired a group of followers who had fewer problems, but I guess you take what you can get. David took this group of men and worked with them, and eventually this ragtag army began to shape up. Look at how these men are described in 2 Samuel 23:8—“These are the names of David’s mighty warriors…”

Imagine that! This group of people who were once “in distress or in debt or discontented” became something quite different—they became mighty warriors! By following a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and fighting God’s battles, these men eventually became everything God had intended for them to be.

This is a pattern we see throughout Scripture. Jesus took a diverse group of 12 unheralded men and started a movement that has impacted billions of people. The movement continues today as Jesus uses unremarkable people like us to do something truly remarkable—spreading the good news of salvation through Jesus!

So, if you ever get discouraged because it seems that you “don’t have it all together”, just remember that God can take ordinary people and use them to do extraordinary things. And, in the process, they become mighty warriors for God!

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”—1 Corinthians 1:26-27.

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Preach the Word!

The word “preaching” has some negative connotations in our culture today. When one spouse nags the other, or when a parent chastises a child, they are said to be “preaching”. “Preaching” is a word sometimes used when someone goes off on a rant of some sort. The fact that the word “preaching” has been used in such negative ways has cause some churches to shy away from the word. Instead of a preacher standing up to preach, they say that a teacher is going to present a lesson. This seems to be less offensive to some people.

I don’t think we need to avoid the word “preach”. After all, God only had one Son, and he was a preacher. The Bible says that “…God was pleased through…what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Cor.1:21). No, we don’t need to shy away from this perfectly biblical word that has a great deal to do with how people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. If anything, we need to restore the true meaning of the word “preach” and give it the lofty position it enjoys in Scripture.

As the apostle Paul considered his impending death, he passed the baton of preaching to his young son in the faith, Timothy. In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul gives this charge—“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

Sometimes the word of God when it is preached is like an encouraging pat on the back. The preacher reminds the congregation of God’s blessings and he reassures them that they are on the right path. As the people file out of the church building, they say things like, “That was a nice sermon, preacher.”

At other times the word of God when it is preached is nothing like a pat on the back at all! The preacher uses the Bible to correct an error, or right a wrong. He points out evil behavior on the part of those who claim to follow Jesus. The correction might come across so strongly as to be considered a rebuke of those who are living hypocritical lifestyles. As the people file out of the church building after hearing such preaching, they are less likely to say that the sermon was “nice”!

The Bible validates both types of preaching, positive and negative. Only a false teacher would tell the congregation that everything is just fine when in fact there is a serious sin problem in the church. On the other hand, a preacher that never has anything positive to say is also going to do harm to the church. The kingdom needs preachers who will correctly handle the Word of God and rightly apply it to the congregation to whom he is preaching. The preacher who takes his calling seriously will comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable!

When the preacher does his job correctly, he inspires and equips his listeners to take the Word out into the community. Acts 8:4 says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” The early church grew greatly in numbers because the believers took preaching seriously. If we want to see our communities impacted for Jesus, we will also be diligent about proclaiming the Bible. Whatever you do my friends, “Preach the Word!”

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Skipping Work

A hospital worker in Italy has been accused of skipping work…for 15 years…with full pay! It seems that this “worker” started ditching work. Then his manager retired and his ongoing absence was never noticed by her successor, nor by human resources. This employee continued to draw a paycheck for 15 years, despite never showing up for work!

Sadly, this reminds us of some church members who have neglected attending their congregation for a long time, yet they expect to receive the full benefits of church membership.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”—Hebrews 10:24-25.

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Patience

I recently saw a public service advertisement on television that featured a middle-aged man down on his hands and knees, putting the finishing touches on a freshly poured concrete sidewalk. Suddenly, the man noticed that a young boy, perhaps four or five years old, had approached him—by walking right through the middle of the wet concrete, leaving deep tracks in the man’s handiwork!

The little boy said, “Hi!”

The man could have lost his temper and berated the young fellow for messing up his concrete and causing him to have to do extra work. Instead, he took a deep breath and said, “Hi!” This took a lot of patience.

Patience is an important Christian virtue. It is one way that we show love to people—“Love is patient…” (1 Cor.13:4). Patience, or forbearance, is also an evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life (Gal.5:22). Therefore, it is important that we show patience with those who try our patience!

How do you react when somebody “walks through your concrete?”

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Standing on Holy Ground

The life of Moses is divided up into three parts. The first forty years he spent growing up in Pharoah’s household and enjoying all the privileges that lifestyle provided. The next forty years he spent tending sheep in Midian, which was quite a lifestyle change! The last third of his life Moses spent leading the Israelites out of captivity and into the Promised Land. Someone once reasoned that the lesson we can learn from his life is this—You had better take care of yourself, because when you are eighty years old, God might ask you to do something big!

Let’s examine God’s call to Moses that is recorded in Exodus 3, and see if there are some things we can learn about God’s call on our lives.

The Lord famously appeared to Moses in a burning bush. Moses noticed the strange sight of a bush that was burning, yet did not burn up. When Moses approached the bush, God called him by name, and Moses responded, “Here I am.” Then God warned Moses not to come any closer, and that he should take off his sandals, “…for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Ex.3:5). Moses promptly hid his face out of fear. God then explained that he had seen the misery of his people who were in bondage in Egypt, and that he was sending Moses to bring his people out of Egypt and lead them to Canaan. Moses responded “Who am I?” to undertake so great an endeavor. God met his reluctance with the promise that he would be with Moses. And we all know how the story ends.

From this episode in Moses’ life, we might find some similarities in how God interacts with people today.

First, I think we all agree that God wants to get our attention. It probably won’t be as dramatic as a burning bush, but God makes himself known to people in various ways, and we would do well to look for his presence in the events of our lives. He might be trying to get our attention through the circumstances around us or through the people he brings into our lives. We would do well to seek his presence wherever we may sense that it is being displayed.

Notice that God spoke the name of Moses. God knows us intimately, and he wants to communicate with us personally through his word. Just as Moses answered, “Here I am”, we too should be willing to answer the call of God when it comes.

This is when God pointed out to Moses that he was standing on holy ground, and Moses responded appropriately with fear and reverence. We must never take lightly being in the presence of the Almighty God!

Then God revealed his concern for his people. God is not distant and unconcerned about the problems of those he loves. He reminds us constantly of his attachment to those who are his own, and he promises to respond to their needs. Scripture also reminds us that we must be aware of the needs of God’s people and do whatever is in our power to take care of those needs.

God proceeded to give Moses a job to do. It was such an intimidating task that Moses began to make excuses. But God told Moses that he would be with him. In the same way, God has something important for each Christian to do. Your assignment might seem overwhelming, causing you to hesitate and make excuses. However, God promises his presence and his power to encourage us and enable us to perform any task, no matter how daunting, that he calls us to do.

To sum it all up: we must seek God’s presence, answer his call and serve in his power, knowing all along that we are standing on holy ground!

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