Honoring Marriage

Many people in our culture today do not give the institution of marriage the respect that it deserves. Some want to redefine it. Others simply choose to ignore it and pretend that marriage is merely optional for a man and woman who want to live together. Still others do not take their marriage vows seriously, and their neglect manifests itself in various ways.

However, marriage is a wonderful, God-given institution, and the Bible says that marriage must be honored by everyone. Those who don’t honor marriage can expect to face some negative consequences if they do not repent.

Let’s all decide to give marriage the respect that it deserves.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”—Hebrews 13:4.

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Counterfeits

Anything that is extremely valuable will be counterfeited.

Fake gems have been around for thousands of years, but as the technology for making them has advanced, fakes are now harder to detect with the naked eye.

Experts advise buyers to verify a stone’s value with gem-testing labs before any sales are final. When paying big money for jewels, you want to be very careful about getting the genuine article.

It is the same with truth. We must ensure we are not falling for heresy.

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”—Acts 17:11.

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Worshiping and Serving the Lord

One of the most awesome events recorded in Scripture is the incredible encounter that Isaiah had with God in Isaiah 6. Here we read about how God commissioned this prophet and called him into his service. As we look at this text, perhaps we can see some similarities to the call that God has for our lives.

Isaiah suddenly found himself in the presence of God. We don’t know if he sought this encounter with the Lord or if it was initiated by God. We do know that the Bible urges us to seek God’s presence, and that we will be rewarded if we do.

When Isaiah found himself in the presence of God, with heavenly beings worshiping the Lord in all of his holiness, Isaiah was stricken with the recognition of his own sinfulness. V.5 says, “Woe to me!”, I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

I think that we often come into the presence of God with an attitude that is far too casual. A true encounter with God will leave us with a sense of our lack of holiness and a feeling that we do not deserve to be in his presence.

It was at this point that a seraphim flew to Isaiah with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched Isaiah’s lips with the coal, and his guilt was taken away and his sin was atoned for.

Just as God made atonement possible for Isaiah, he makes atonement possible for us today through the sacrificial death of his Son Jesus. The blood of Jesus takes our guilt away and our sin is atoned for when we are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Acts 22:16).

We tend to think that the story ends with atonement, but that is not the case. V. 8 continues, “Then I heard voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

Many people seem to be saying to God, “Here am I! Please send someone else!” But Isaiah realized that his atonement came with some responsibilities. Since he had been forgiven, he now had the duty to take God’s message to others who needed to hear it. So he volunteered to go wherever the Lord sent him. This is still the proper response for anyone today who has had an honest encounter with God.

God then proceeded to inform Isaiah that his mission would not be an easy one. He would be talking to people whose hearts were calloused and whose spiritual senses were incredibly dull. If you find yourself frustrated by trying to convey a message from God to the spiritually imperceptive people around you, don’t get discouraged! You are in good company! The prophets and apostles and even Jesus himself often found themselves talking to people who wouldn’t listen. But take heart! Isaiah 6 ends with a glimmer of hope. The seeds of the gospel message will eventually bear fruit. Those of us who know what it is like to be in God’s presence and to worship him must be diligent in trying to convince others that they need to come to God for forgiveness as well. So let’s keep worshiping God and serving him as we tell others the good news about Jesus.

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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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