Oh For The Good Old Days

Ponder: Were they really that good?
Scripture: “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For you do not inquire wisely concerning this”
(Ecclesiastes 5:10).
I remember when working on my own car was standard operating procedure. When I popped the hood, everything was
easily accessible (well, relatively easily anyway). Today it’s a maze of wires and hoses. Nearly everything is computerized.
My shade-tree mechanic days are long since gone. Oh, for the good old days!
But would I really want to go back to the days when I had to change oil every 2000 miles, and do a complete tune-up
every 12,000 miles? Was it really better when a vehicle was sent to the junk yard before it reached 100,000 miles?
Nowadays, spark plugs last 100,000 miles, and the vehicle, properly maintained, may reach 200,000!
King Solomon wrote, “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For you do not inquire wisely concerning this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Is this teaching needed in the church today? Assuredly so! Some remember the “protracted meetings” that lasted
several weeks and resulted in dozens of baptisms. Now we have mostly week-end meetings. A Sunday-through-Wednesday meeting is a
major event. We feel fortunate if the local brethren attend. Visitors from the community are rare, and conversions are the exception rather than the rule. Our culture has changed. We can pine for the good old days, or we can adapt and move forward.
I also remember when it was commonplace for brethren to step outside for a smoke between Bible class and the assembly. I remember when it was presumed that the preacher would move every couple of years. In some congregations people of color were not warmly welcomed, or at best were patronized. Those “good old days” really weren’t so good. Thank God for improvement in these and other areas!
Like it or not, we live in the present. There are good and bad things about the present, just as there were good and bad things in the past. Learn from the past, cherish the good memories, but live in the present! May God continue to help us to become more Christ-like every day.
Song: “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand”
Prayer: Father, help us to be thankful for the blessings of the present time. May we continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. In His name, Amen.
Joe Slater (Justin, TX)

Intellectual Honesty

“I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:12 NIV).

The eighteenth century French philosopher, Denis Diderot wrote, “Wandering in a vast forest at night, I have only a faint light to guide me. A stranger appears and says to me: ‘My friend, you should blow out your candle in order to find your way more clearly.’ The stranger was a theologian” (1713-1784). He lost his faith and part of the reason was that the theologians of his day gave no freedom to explore new ideas, and that he was persecuted for his quest for truth. He was taught you had to have a blind faith to please God. Unfortunately, he became an atheist.

But what was he saying in this quotation? Wasn’t he criticizing the theologians for refusing to allow others to use the light they had to guide them in the vast forest of this world? I sympathize with Diderot although I believe the path he took was misguided, yet not without the help of foolish theologians.

We are blessed with good translations of the Bible, wonderful works on science proving the existence of God, and tools to research the Bible so that we don’t have to depend on “experts” to tell us the meaning of God’s word. You don’t need to “know Greek or Hebrew” if you know how to use a variety of Bible translations.

Today, we are freer to express our opinions and beliefs regarding anything and not fear being excommunicated as heretics. If Diderot lived today he could have seen God doesn’t demand blind faith, but intellectual honesty.

Blind faith keeps people under the thumb of powerful religious leaders. The Lord asks us to explore the adventures of faith. God says, “Come now, let us reason together. . .” (Isa. 1:18). Even Jesus said if you don’t believe Him, believe the works He performed that you might know He came from the Father (Jn. 10:38).

The New Testament also appeals to the fulfillment of prophecy relating to the coming of Jesus, His birth, death and resurrection. An intellectually honest person would see that these prophecies, such as Isa. 53, written hundreds of years before Jesus was born could not have been fulfilled by accident. God orchestrated time to bring about the fulfillment of those prophecies so that we might believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I challenge everyone to examine anything I teach or preach and show me where I am wrong, and if after studying what I’ve presented from God’s word and it is found to be true, I ask them if they are totally honest with themselves to obey it – not because I said it, but because it is God’s will.

We must follow the light we have, and more light will be given to us.

Hymn: “Send The Light”

Dear Father in heaven, give us more sincerity and honesty with ourselves and especially with You. May we be willing to change whatever is amiss, and to correct our thinking about anything You have taught us in Your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Rob Redden, Arroyo Grande, CA (rredden604@aol.com)

Rod And Staff

Ponder: How can a rod and staff comfort me?

Scripture: “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4b, NKJV).

In his younger days, David had shepherded his father Jesse’s flock. As king, he was the shepherd of Israel. In both cases, his over-all performance was quite good. Still, this shepherd needed his own Shepherd, and the Lord was it.

Shepherds carried two wooden instruments. One was basically a big club to ward off predators. The other was a long pole, sometimes with a crook at one end. A shepherd used it to help him walk, especially in rough terrain. Both are mentioned in Psalm 23:4, but scholars disagree as to which Hebrew word refers to what instrument.

We might not immediately think of either as being an instrument of comfort; yet David said he was comforted by them. What would he have found comforting about God’s rod and staff?

First, there is the fact that God would protect him, just as a shepherd protects his sheep. David certainly needed God’s protection from his enemies – not only foreign armies, but treasonous subjects, including his own children! But he also needed God to defend him against Satan’s temptations. We need such protection too, do we not? “Let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them” (Psalm 5:11).

Second, knowing that God recognized him as one of His own would be of great comfort to David, as it should be to the people of God today. As the sheep went into the fold, they would pass under the shepherd’s rod/staff and be counted (see Leviticus 27:32). Even so, the Lord knew David and recognized him as belonging to Him, as a sheep in His flock. We still have this same assurance. Paul told Timothy, and by extension tells us, that “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).

God’s rod and staff comforted David, and they still comfort us. We take enjoy the assurance that the Lord will defend us, and that He recognizes us as His own. What more could we ask?

Song: Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us”

Prayer: God of all comfort, we happily confess that You are the giver of all that is good. We are thankful that we can rest with the full assurance that You are with us, that You recognize us as Your own, and that you will defend us from Satan’s onslaughts. May we always be comforted by Your rod and Your staff. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Joe Slater (Justin, TX)

Dress For Success

Text: “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: My justice was as a robe and a
diadem” (Job 29:14 NASB).

The book, “Dress For Success,” was written as a guideline for proper attire,
especially when one is interviewing for a job or wanting to make a proper
impression as an ambassador for an employer. The idea is to always be respectably
presentable in the eyes of others. Sadly, as the book suggests, “Most Americans
dress for failure.”

God has a book which deals with many things, including how His children should
dress, both literally and spiritually. First, God wants us to clothe ourselves
in a respectful manner, in public. After all, we are representing Him.

God is not concerned with whether one wears a $500 suit or $50 jeans. Nor is
He concerned with how we dress when it comes to fashion or style. What He
is concerned with is that we dress modestly. “Likewise, I want women to adorn
themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair
and gold or pearls or costly garments” (I Tim. 2:9).

This verse, in principle, applies to men as well as women.

But, what is modest? One writer says, “If a woman’s heart is inclined toward
godliness, she will wear clothing that is neither provocative nor revealing in
public, clothing that does not reflect negatively upon her personal testimony
as a child of God.”

This includes such things as slits, low cuts, short shorts etc. I know that this
goes against the idea of “keeping in style,” thus choices must be made. Will one
dress to bring God’s approval? Or will one dress for man’s approval and in a way
that presents a negative testimony toward God?

Secondly, God is concerned with our spiritual dress.

“And put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and
holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:24). The NIV says, “clothe yourselves with the new
nature, which was created according to God’s image in righteousness and true

If we will clothe ourselves in righteousness, both our spiritual attire and our
physical attire will merit God’s approval.

Satan will try to confuse our thinking. He will tempt us to follow the current
acceptable styles as approved by man. The question is, “Shall we strive to
please God or man?”

Whether it is literal or spiritual attire may we determine, in our hearts,
that we will dress for spiritual success for God.

Are you dressing for spiritual success, or spiritual failure?

Hymn: “Beautiful Robes Of White”

Prayer: Our heavenly Father, we ask for wisdom and understanding of Your will
for both spiritual and physical attire and for the courage and strength to do
that which pleases You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Roy Allen Crutcher, Mount Carmel, Il.

Greenhouses And Salvation

Ponder: Grace, Faith, an Obedience – how are they related?

Today’s Bible Verse:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith . . .” (Ephesians 2:8, NKJV).

Why is a greenhouse full of light? One answers, “Because it is made of glass.” Another replies, “Because the sun is shining.” The two answers are not contradictory; they simply approach the question from different angles. Cover the glass, and the greenhouse will be dark even at high noon; but at midnight the greenhouse will be dark no matter how much glass it has.

What saves sinners? One answers, “God’s grace.” Another replies, “We’re saved by faith.” A third says, “We must obey the gospel to be saved.” All three are correct. The ultimate source of salvation is God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8). But the sunshine of God’s grace radiates through the glass of trusting obedience (Mark 16:16; Hebrews 5:9). Sadly, multitudes of sincere people utterly reject the third answer (obedience), mistakenly thinking that it contradicts the first two (grace and faith).

In particular, most religious people reject the necessity of baptism for salvation. Erroneously viewing baptism as a work of merit, they think it detracts from God’s grace. Baptism, however, is like the glass in a greenhouse. It does not, of itself, provide salvation. Without God’s grace and your trust in Jesus, you could be immersed until you wrinkled up like a prune, but you would remain utterly lost. On the other hand, God ordained believer’s baptism as one of the conditions for receiving His grace. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter said baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), and that it saves us (1 Peter 3:21).

Is baptism a “sacrament” that produces salvation? Absolutely not! Nor does glass originate light. ‘But glass is still necessary for the greenhouse to be illuminated. And baptism is still necessary for sinners to receive God’s gracious gift of eternal life.

Let’s teach and practice the truth about the most important question of all: “What must I do to be saved?”

Song: “Trust and Obey”

Prayer: Father in heaven, we praise and thank You for Your rich grace poured out upon us through Jesus Christ. We pray for those who have not yet accessed Your grace through faith and obedience. Help us to reach them before it is eternally too late. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Joe Slater (Justin, TX)


At Jesus’ Feet

Martha “had a sister called Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus listening to what he said” (Lk. 10:39).
Twice in Luke’s Gospel we read this expression, “sitting at the feet of Jesus” (Lk. 8:35; 10:39). This expression illustrates the place of nearness, the place of instruction and the place of safety.
It is at the feet of Jesus that all of us should be found.  He said in Matt. 11:29, “learn of me.”  What better place to learn of this perfect man?
Someone might reply, “How can I sit at Jesus’ feet when He had been removed corporally?”  It is true, heaven received Him out of the sight of man (Acts 1:9), but He is with us in the Spirit.  Before His ascension, He promised, “Lo, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).
On earth, we have His house (1 Tim. 3:15), His word (Jn 17:17; 14:16-17), and His Spirit (Acts 2:38).  He said that where two or three are gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20), He would be there.  Therefore, we can sit at His feet.
Jesus wants us there to learn of Him, but He will not send a truant officer to compel us to be in attendance.
Paul simply put it this way, “I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” *Phil. 3:8).
Song:  “Jesus Is Lord”
Mighty Father, thank You for sending Your Son whose wisdom is greater than Solomon, and yea greater than any that has ever lived for He is equal to You!  May we understand that true wisdom is found in Jesus, and we pray that we will thirst for His guidance.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.  (rr)

Hugh Shira (Deceased)

Used by permission.


Serious Business

“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NKJV).

Luke 9 represents somewhat of a turning point in God’s word. In this chapter, Jesus’ apostles to be are given a taste of the ministry which awaits them as he sends them out to “preach the kingdom of God” (vs. 2) throughout the towns in the area. Not long after their return, the twelve gather with Jesus as He prays (vs. 18). From this point forward, Jesus equips them with vital information.

First, Jesus establishes His conditions of ministry: the fact that He is God’s Son (18 – 20). The people of Judea have no idea of Jesus’ identity, believing Him to be Elijah, John the Baptist, or one of the prophets. Peter correctly identifies Jesus as “the Christ of God.” As God’s son, Jesus has all authority (Matthew 28:18).

Second, Jesus gives the charge to his disciples to “deny themselves” by taking up their crosses daily and following Him (vs. 23). Certainly, His disciples had never heard such a message. Jesus also made it known that to follow Him begins with a desire to do so.

Third, this new lifestyle of denial will require a change. From this point forward, every facet of their lives will be under Jesus’ control. Another version renders Luke 9:23 in this fashion: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead” (Message).

Finally, this change will have consequences. It may require a complete denial of all the world has to offer. However, Jesus assures them that anyone “who loses his life for My sake will find it” (vs. 24). In other words, what Jesus offers far transcends anything the world offers. In fact, focusing only on the world’s wealth – rather than eternal – is not profitable (vs. 25).

Today, we as God’s children reap the benefits of this lifestyle. Are you taking up the cross?

Song: “I Surrender All”

“Father, I pray that I’ll never be afraid – or ashamed – to take up the cross daily. May my life bring glory to You and Lord Jesus, always and forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Kenny Westmoreland, Celina, TN (lesterk@excite.com)

He Is Not Like Us

Today’s Scripture: Psalm 50:21 – “These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you. I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.”

The police silently pulled up in front of the house in the early morning hours. Lights were on in the house, and in the covering of darkness they surrounded the place. Then they pounded on the door, announced themselves, and broke in the door to enter the house.

As the couple were being led from the house to the police cruiser, neighbors stood around watching all that was going on. The man yelled at the bystanders and chastised his neighbors for calling the police. He said, “We didn’t think you cared. Nobody ever said anything.” One of the neighbors replied, “You made the mistake of concluding that our silence meant approval.”

This is not the only instance in which it may have appeared that God was slow in answering prayer. Habakkuk cries out to God, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, Violence! Yet You do not save.” Why were there 400 years between the testaments?

I certainly can conclude that those gaps in time were not because God is like us. Isaiah 55:9 – “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Often we hear comments about the length of time it has been since the promised return of Jesus. Their conclusion is that there must not be any return at all. But His silence does not mean that God is just like us.

Song: “Unto Thee Oh Lord”

God, we not only acknowledge your return, but we anticipate it. We want to be ready and that means that we acknowledge who you are and follow in your footsteps. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Dennis Russell, Santa Maria, CA

Holy Ground

“Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

Moses was told that the ground by the burning bush is holy ground, ground made holy by the presence of God. We sing two songs both called “Holy Ground.” They can convey the idea that where a group is gathered is holy ground and this is true. However, have you ever thought that as a Christian where you are is holy ground? It doesn’t matter whether you are alone or in a group, you are standing on holy ground.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you. If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (I Corinthians 3:16-17).

Paul said. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).

Peter tells us to be holy in all our behavior because, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (I Peter 1:13-16).

We are warned not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God in Ephesians 4:30. When we do not try to resist temptation, when we do not try to become Christ-like, we grieve the Holy Spirit. We grieve Him by failing to acknowledge that we are on holy ground.

Let us, as we go through life, remember that where we are is holy ground.

Song: “Holy Ground”

Ever present Father, God we fail at times to acknowledge Your presence and that where we are You are. May we never lose sight of the fact that we are in Your mighty and awesome presence. In the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Ed Wittlif, Denver, Colorado

The Cry

Job 7:6-21

“I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. My bitter soul must complain. Am I a sea monster or a dragon that you must place me under guard? I think, ‘My bed will comfort me, and sleep will ease my misery,’ but then you shatter me with dreams and terrify me with visions. I would rather be strangled—rather die than suffer like this. I hate my life and don’t want to go on living. Oh, leave me alone for my few remaining days.”

“What are people, that you should make so much of us, that you should think of us so often? For you examine us every morning and test us every moment. Why won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow! If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of all humanity? Why make me your target? Am I a burden to you? Why not just forgive my sin and take away my guilt? For soon I will lie down in the dust and die. When you look for me, I will be gone.” (Job 7:11-21)

Job stopped talking to Eliphaz and spoke directly to God. He had lived a blameless life, but now he was beginning to doubt the value of living in such a way. By doing this, he was coming dangerously close to suggesting that God didn’t care about him and was not being fair. Later God reproved Job for this attitude (Job 38:2).

Job referred to God as a watcher or observer of humanity. He was expressing his feeling that God seemed like an enemy to him—someone who mercilessly watched him squirm in his misery. We know that God does watch over everything that happens to us. But we must remember that he sees us with compassion. He looks on us with eyes of love.

Job felt deep anguish and bitterness, and he spoke honestly to God about his frustrations. If we express our feelings to God, we can deal with them without exploding in harmful words and actions. Satan always exploits these thoughts to get us to forsake God. Our suffering, like Job’s, may not be the result of our sin, but we must be careful not to sin as a result of our suffering.

The next time strong emotions threaten to overwhelm you, express them openly to God in prayer. This will help you gain an eternal perspective on the situation and give you greater ability to deal with it constructively.