Friday, May 18, 2012


The young man who came to the Lord asking what good thing he should do to have eternal life probably would have said that spiritual concerns were his highest priority. But when told to sell what he had, give to the poor, and follow Jesus, "he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions" (Matt. 19:22). What he may have said about his values indicated one thing, His actions indicated another.

If we are not constantly careful, our list of priorities can become disordered. At such times, being honest enough to face the truth about the situation is not easy. When anyone asks what is most important to us, the tempting thing is to answer in terms of what we know should be most important. Because we think we are moving more or less in the direction of putting first things first ("I plan to pray and study my Bible more just as soon as I can get my schedule under control, etc."), we may think that gives us the right to say the spiritual concerns are our top priority right now. But the Lord does not judge what our priorities are by listening to our theories. He looks at our practice. And if we do not somehow gather our courage and look, as He does, at what means the most to us in actual fact -- and repent accord- ingly -- eternity holds no hope for us. Before it's too late to make any changes, we need to be asking ourselves some blunt questions about what our priorities really are.

What Would Others Say Our Priorities Are By Viewing Our Actions And Words?-- Others may not know us as well as we know ourselves, but they are often more objective about what they do know. The neighbor who lives next door could probably sum up in a word or two what we are really about. Perhaps more than anybody, our children are able to cut through our preachments and tell what actually matters most to us in the rough and tumble of daily living.

What Do We Think About? -- Our true priorities are the things our minds are drawn to when they are "in neutral." When activities and obligations do not require us to be thinking about anything in particular, our thoughts are attracted, like things to a magnet, to our real enthusiasms. The person who finds that he meditates on God only when he forces himself to do so is lying if he says the spiritual life is his overriding concern.

What Do We Talk About Most? -- Is it God? -- The conversations we engage in arise quite naturally out of the things that are on our minds. If we have to admit that we rarely talk about the Lord except in connection with the services of the church, that ought to tell us something. Even if we do sometimes talk about spiritual matters, if our acquaintances would have to say that our conversation gravitates more naturally and enthusiastically toward other things, then there is serious doubt whether our ultimate priorities are really spiritual.

How Do We Spend Our Time? -- Hardly anybody has as much "spare" time as he would like. But all of us have some, and the way we spend it displays our priorities. I have known families, for example, who "vacationed" by traveling to gospel meetings or Bible lectureships at congregations in distant states. Judging from their use of time that was theirs to do with as they pleased, one would tend to believe such folks if they said they loved the Lord more than anything else. On the other hand, I have known folks who all their working lives complained that they didn't have as much time as they wanted to do the Lord's work -- and then spent virtually all of their retirement years in personal leisure, with perhaps less time devoted to the Lord than before! The fact is, the way we spend our time speaks loudly regarding our values.

How Do We Spend Our Money? -- Suppose a Bible class teacher recommended a $50 reference book that would help us in our study of the Scriptures, but we said we couldn't afford it. Suppose a preacher recommended a $30 a year periodical that would help us grow spiritually, but we said it cost too much. If it was know that we some- times spent that much on sporting events and recreational activities, that it wasn't unusual for us to spend that much in a single evening at a restaurant, that we couldn't object to spending that much on decorative home furnishings, etc., could anyone take seriously our claim that the Lord is our uppermost concern?

What "Gives" When We Face A Conflict Of Priorities? -- Of the many conflicts involving priorities, perhaps none are more annoying than "scheduling" conflicts. Unable to be two places at the same time, we very often have to sacrifice one activity for another. When that happens, if we subordinate the things of the Lord to worldly activities, we give the lie to our professed priorities. In the matter of sports, to take a familiar example, if we can manage it such that our softball league and the services of the church hardly every conflict, that is all well and good, but it says relatively little about our priorities. When the occasional conflict does arise, that is when we make a statement about our priorities. The same is true of work. If, on business trips, we've been willing to violate our commitment to assemble with brethren at our travel destination, we may try to make it look as if we chose between one thing that was "optional" and another that was not. But, in truth, we've simply demonstrated which of our various priorities we are willing to make the bigger sacrifice for. Indeed, it's when priorities collide that we learn the most about ourselves, our values, and whether the Lord reigns within us or not.

How then do I know--in all honesty--what my priorities are? By looking at what I am, in fact, doing with my life. Paul wrote: "To whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness" (Rom. 6:16). At least one thing would seem to be clear: I can't pour the first and the best of what I am into pursuing what has euphemistically been called the American Dream and still turn around and say I love the Lord with all my heart. I can't go "all out" for one thing and then truthfully claim that something else is more important. Jesus said: "No one can serve two masters...You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24).

Where my priorities are, there will my energy and enthusiasm be also!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The obvious question is, "What in the world do garage sales and flea markets have to do with grace?" The obvious answer ought to be, "Absolutely nothing!" But such is not the case. Many people today are in search of a bargain even in the religious realm.

The overwhelming success of garage sales and flea markets in today's society demonstrates that many are interested in a bargain. Likewise, in the spiritual realm, many seem to approach the subject of grace with the same bargain hunting frame of mind. They want to obtain the benefits of grace, but they want to do so as cheaply as possible. In truth, their question is: "How little must I give before I can possess it?"

Grace Is Free but Not Cheap

In Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 5:15-18, we find that salvation is by God's grace and cannot be merited by any work which man can perform. But for someone to think the benefits of grace can be had at bargain basement prices is a serious mistake and only serves to demonstrate how that individual has completely misunderstood the subject of grace. The unmerited and gracious gift of God's Son for the redemption of fallen man was not something that was deserved by any thing man has done or ever could do. It comes as a free gift from God and is completely unmerited by man, but this is not to say it is not without great cost on the part of both God and man. Does this all seem confusing to you?

Are you wondering how something can be free yet costly? Then maybe you are confusing the physical and spiritual realms. Let's spend some time considering the cost of God's grace.

What It Cost God

Our God and Heavenly Father gave His "only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16, 17). The Father gave His Son and the Son gave His life; but there is more. The relationship the Father and Son had enjoyed throughout eternity (John 1:1) was disrupted (Philippians 2:5-8) so that man could be justified (Romans 3:26). When one begins to contemplate the great sacrifice of both the Father and the Son, one is simply overwhelmed by the great cost of this thing called grace.

What It Costs Man

One gets an insight into what the "free gift" of salvation costs man when, in Matthew 13:44,45, our Lord said: "Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and seeketh all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." To receive the benefits of grace, one must be willing to give all that one has, i.e., "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24). In other words, in order to receive the benefits of God's grace, the Lord requires a complete sacrifice of our lives to Him (Romans 12:1, 2).

The blood-bought are aware of the marvelous price God paid so that He could bestow His grace upon them (I Corinthians 6:19,20), and know they are under obligation to the Giver of this grace to walk in the footsteps of Jesus (I Peter 2:21-23). When one truly understands the great value of grace, he will give all that he has to possess it, knowing that there is no way he could ever really pay for it. It is within this context that the Lord said: "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Matthew 11:29, 30). He is not saying there is no work (i.e., righteousness) to be performed, but that when compared with the benefits to be received such righteousness is easy and light. In other words, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).

Cheap Prices

When grace is reduced to a doctrine, principle, or system it is cheapened, and those who engage in such endeavors demonstrate a real lack of understanding about this subject. The religious world is full of flea market salvation and garage sale grace. Belief in God (viz., mental assent), we are told by some, is all that is necessary for one to receive the remission of his sins. The benefits of grace can be possessed, they say, without repentance, baptism, and a continual "walking in the light." Furthermore, these "faith only" advocates tell us that once one has received the blessings of God's grace and been saved from his past sins he can never fall from such grace so as to be lost. In addition to being a clear contradiction of Scripture (cf. Galatians 5:4), such teaching cheapens grace and ultimately makes it nothing more than a cloak for evil-doing.

There are those who call themselves Christians today who have no concept of discipleship. They wish to join themselves to local churches of Christ but they do not intend to submit to church discipline. To those like this, the apostle Paul wrote: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:7-9).

That which has cost God so much cannot be cheap for us. It must be seen as the priceless gift it is. Although we give all we have to possess it, it is ours because God gave it to us. Let us always be determined to keep grace in its proper perspective, remembering what it cost our Heavenly Father and His only begotten Son. Let us be determined never to reduce grace to simply a theological system to be memorized. Let us teach that grace must be accepted on God's terms and not man's. In so doing, we will never become involved in that which is worthless, namely, bargain basement salvation!


1. I AM COMMANDED TO ASSEMBLE WITH THE SAINTS: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another and so much the more as ye see the day approaching." Heb. 10:25. If I do not attend, this command is broken.

2. I AM COMMANDED TO BREAK BREAD STEDFASTLY (REGULARLY) ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42. If I do not attend, this command is broken.

3. I AM COMMANDED TO GIVE AS I HAVE PROSPERED UPON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by in store, as God has prospered him...” 1 Cor. 16:2. If I do not attend this command is broken.

4.  I AM COMMANDED TO SING WITH GOD'S PEOPLE: “...teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Col. 3:16. If I don't attend, this command is broken.

5. I AM COMMANDED TO PRAY WITH GOD'S PEOPLE: “they continued prayers.” Acts 2:42. If I don't attend, this command is broken.

6. “IT PLEASED GOD BY THE FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING TO SAVE THOSE THAT BELIEVE” 1 Cor. 1:21. I must give attendance to the preaching of God's word.

7. I AM COMMANDED TO BE AN EXAMPLE TO OTHERS: “ thou an example of the believers...” 1 Tim. 4:12. If I do not attend, this command is broken.


9. I AM COMMANDED TO BRING MY CHILDREN UP IN THE NURTURE AND ADMONITION OF THE LORD: Eph. 6:4. If I do not attend, this command is broken.

10. I AM COMMANDED TO BE READY UNTO EVERY GOOD WORK: Titus 3:1. If I do not attend, this command is broken.

11. I AM COMMANDED TO BE STEDFAST, UNMOVABLE, ALWAYS ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD: 1 Cor. 15:58. If I do not attend, this command is broken.

12. I AM WARNED AGAINST NEGLECT: Heb. 2:1-3. Brethren, how can we afford to stay away from any service of the church, and thus doing neither should we neglect special meetings and other services of the church?

Let us begin now if we have not already to be sure that we attend every service, and thereby encourage others to do the same.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Next Generation

As Solomon looked at life under the sun, he observed that "One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever" (Eccl. 1:4). With the passing of each generation, knowledge, values and even faith are handed down from the older to the younger. Paul thanked God for the "genuine faith" of Timothy, which he says, "dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5).

Sometimes the older generation does not do a good job of transmitting what it should to the generation that follows. Sometimes the younger generation refuses to receive what was left them by their forefathers. When this occurs, the consequences are almost always negative.

British anthropologist John D. Unwin conducted an in-depth study of eighty civilizations that have come and gone over a period of some four thousand years. He discovered that a common thread ran through all of them. In each instance, they started out with a conservative mind-set with strong moral values and a heavy emphasis on family. Over a period of time, the conservative mind-set became more and more liberal, moral values declined, and the family suffered. In each instance, as the family deteriorated, the civilization itself started to come apart; and in all eighty cases the fall of the nation was related to the fall of the family. In most cases, that civilization fell within one generation of the fall of the family unit. (from Zig Zeiglar)

The effectiveness of one generation in bringing along the next generation not only has ramifications for families and nations, it also has great ramifications for God's people. The reality is that the error that one generation accepts in moderation, the next will accept in excess. In this way, standards of personal morality, decisions regarding the work of the church, and doctrinal soundness can degrade tremendously from one generation to the next. There are churches which were once faithful that have changed so drastically from what they were a generation ago, that if someone from the previous generation rose from the dead and visited, they would think they had walked in on the worship assembly of a completely different religion.

The Psalms have a lot to say to us about the need to faithfully transmit God's truth from one generation to the next (cf. Psalm 22:30; 71:18; 78:4-6; 145:3-4). There is an especially poignant passage in Psalm 48:12-14, where faithful Israelites are instructed to "Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count her towers; {13} Mark well her bulwarks; Consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following. {14} For this is God, Our God forever and ever; He will be our guide Even to death." Just as the Israelites needed to know exactly how everything was to be in Zion so that they could pass the information on to the next generation, the older generation of today needs to know exactly how things are to be in the church in order to pass that information on to the next generation.

What will ypur church at be like a generation from now? Much will depend on the job we do today of passing down truth, helping the young develop their abilities, and being examples of diligent laborers ourselves.

Effective Discipline

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). This verse, along with others, teaches the necessity of proper teaching of children. The are to be brought up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:1-4). While many parents recognize their duty of training their children, some of them have a difficult time in effectively training or disciplining their children. Some parents throw up their hands in despair over even small children, normal children, saying, "I just can't do anything with him!"

This article, by no means a proclamation that it's author can solve all problems, is intended to be a "how to" article, setting forth some practical principles that are, in my judgment, basic and essential to effective discipline. Please examine these thoughts carefully, and if they can help you, use them to the developing of good lives for your children.

1. Discipline Begins In Infancy: -- Waiting till a child is 4 or more years old to begin some of the basics of discipline creates severe problems.

2. Discipline Must Be Impartial: -- Consider the problems caused by Jacob's apparent favoritism among his sons (Gen. 37). While one child may have a more appealing manner, parents must not allow such to excuse his misbehavior, while punishing other children for the same misdeed.

3. Effective Discipline Must Be Consistent: -- This seems to be one of the greatest weaknesses with some parents. It is confusing to a child's sense of obedience to punish him one day for doing what he is allowed to do on other days. Our "no's" and "yes'es" should be as consistent as we can make them. Parents who fluctuate between severity and laxity with their children will have problems with their behavior.

4. Effective Discipline Should Contain Incentives: -- Though it is not always possible or necessary, children should be given an understanding, whenever possible, of the values and goals of doing assigned tasks or behaving in a prescribed manner. This gives them something to work for, a desirable thing to accomplish.

5. Effective Discipline Must Be Authoritative: -- When a parent gives a command, he should expect proper compliance, and the child should clearly understand that he is expected to obey. When parents command and allow children to ignore those commands, they are actually teaching their children that obedience is not necessary. This applies to minor instructions like "Pick up your shoes," as well as to weightier matters. Parents, mean what you say, and back it up with the corrective measures necessary to enforce it.

6. Effective Discipline Must Begin With Self: -- Parents who do not discipline themselves are in no position to effectively train their children. How can one teach his children the ruinous nature of bad habits while he indulges in them himself? How can he teach his children obedience to the law when he habitually violates laws? Self-control is essential for parents to effectively teach their children.

7. Effective Discipline Must Be Based On Good Judgment And Common Sense: -- Do not the Scriptures stress wisdom, discretion, and reasonableness? Technical know-how must be tempered and used with sensibility. Extremism begets extreme behavior. If one wants his children to behave calmly, to have level dispositions, he must not be explosive and violent himself.

8. Love Is The Bond Of Perfectness: -- All the efforts of discipline should be motivated by a healthy, godly love, as children are taught the love of God and man. Thus they should learn that obedience is a demonstration of love, just as proper discipline is a demonstration of love.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Should We Read The Bible?

Some people would tell us the Bible will only confuse us unless there is some Clergy to explain what we have read. Others would say we can’t understand the Bible alike. While yet others would say it doesn’t really matter whether we read it or not, just as long as we are honest and sincere in what we are doing.

Somehow in my seven years of preaching and studying God’s word, I have never found these things taught therein. As a matter of fact, when we say that we can’t understand the Bible alike, we are pointing a finger at God, and accusing Him of being the cause for religious division in the world today. Not only is this so, but we are casting a shadow of doubt upon the Holy Scriptures.

Paul said that God made known unto him by revelation, “the mystery; (as I wrote afore in a few words; whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ). Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” (Eph. 3:3-5). Evidently Paul didn’t know the Bible would only confuse people when they read it. He said when we read it we can understand. He told Timothy to study to show himself approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15). Peter says we are to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts and always be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of our hope (1 Pet. 3:15). The word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our pathway. (Psa. 119:105).

It isn’t the Bible that confuses man, but man’s lack of study of it. It is man’s doctrines that confuse. We can read the Bible and all agree on what it says, but where the problem arises is when man says, “I know that is what the Bible says but...”. Usually this means, sure, I know that is what it says but I am going to do what I want to do.

Friends, when we one day stand before the Son of God in judgment and hear Him say, “Depart from Me, I never knew you”, it will not be because the Bible couldn’t be understood or because God is the author of confusion, but because we didn’t read the Bible to see what God would have us to do. If we are lost, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves. God sent His Son to the world. Jesus gave His life on the cross. The Holy Spirit came to the apostles and guided them in the writing of the New Testament. It has been printed in almost every language and priced within the range of us all. God doesn’t give us the knowledge of the Bible, this is up to us. If you want to know what God expects of you, read your Bible and it will tell you.

The New Testament is the last will and testament of the Son of God. This is the law that we are under today and the law we will be judged by in the judgment. It isn’t a very large book and it isn’t all that hard to read. I suggest that you start with the book of Matthew and each day read a few chapters. Before you know it, you will have completed the entire New Testament from Matthew to Revelation. Try it! I believe you will find it to be very informative and enlightening instead of confusing.

Those Were The Days

I was reading some religious journals from the 60’s and found numerous times that debates were mentioned either as had happened or were being planned. There are few people today in any religious circle that remember what a debate was. Fewer still were part of those debates. Decades ago debates were quite frequent and varied from place to place. Some debates would have crowds of up to 600 to 800 people a night. One such debate spoke of nearly 1000 people in attendance. I am sure there were other debates of various sizes but the debates happened often.

The focus of the debates would examine doctrinal differences between religious groups and for many years well known men were renowned for their prowess on the debating stage. In the ones that I read after it was also noted how that each participate in the debate was cordial and respectful as they argued their position in favor or against the established point of difference. Debates would challenge Baptist, Methodist, Christian Church and so forth on a field of discussions ranging from the means of salvation, instruments of music, church work and benevolence and a host of topics appealing to the minds of the religious community.

It is painfully clear that debates have fallen by the wayside. Trying to imagine a debate between two parties discussing the issues of salvation in a public venue; attended by 600-800 people each night – is truly a thing of the past. Revivals and gospel meetings rarely attain that level of interest. There seem to be some root causes for the demise of debates and public interest.

Religion is no longer a subject that people want to discuss. It either offends them to have challenges to their faith or they have become so satisfied in their system of faith they will not discuss it. It is harder still to find many people who are interested in having a study in their home. Religion has become the manna of over satisfied self-absorbed individuals who have little time to talk about what they believe in. "You believe what you believe and I will believe what I believe" is the clarion call of the religion of convenience.

How did Jesus view this self-inflicted wound of religious pride? In Matthew 23 the Lord said, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (vv2-3). Did the Son of God suggest that it did not matter what you believed as long as you believed in God? Did Jesus Christ ever challenge the religious groups of His day? "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Mathew 23:15).

The apostle Paul went into the Jewish synagogues to discuss the scriptures on a frequent basis (Acts 13; 14:1; 17; 18; 19:8 for three months). He would find few recipients today interested in debating the scriptures. Satan has dulled our senses with the frivolities of the world. Conviction has given way to convenience. Self-indulgence hearts are guided by carnal desires. Who has time to talk of the Bible? “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6). These are those days.