Fear: Scared and Alone

I’m Scared and I’m Alone

One Sunday, a group of Christians from our church went to knock on some doors in a local neighborhood.  My partner was a wonderful young man who was energized by a recent campaign that our youth went on.  Our goal was not to knock on a large number of doors, but just to knock on as many doors as we could in the amount of time that we had, which was about 45 minutes.  We ran across several houses where nobody was home, and a couple of houses where the individuals who answered the door smiled and accepted our invitation.

Then we came upon this one house where a seemingly nice lady answered the door.  When she opened the door, she screamed and immediately jumped back.  Sometimes this happens when door knocking, especially when you surprise someone who doesn’t see you, but this woman didn’t get over her start; she was visibly disturbed.  She immediately said that she didn’t entertain guests.  She asked us to leave, and then said, “I’m scared and I’m alone.”

I thought, we’re exactly the people that you need to talk with, but by that time she had closed the door. Before that, accepted a packet of information, and hopefully it will bring her some comfort.  Nevertheless, if she had only been a little more open, she could have received a blessing.  You see there is no reason for anyone to be scared and alone in this world so long as the church of Christ is present.  In fact, the church serves as the very antithesis of her sentiment.  It is a place where individuals are encouraged to be courageous and together with their fellow Christians.  Let’s consider how the church serves as a place to alleviate fear and provide a place for faithful companionship.

First, the church is a place that alleviates fear.  Consider God’s words through the apostle John: “There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:8).  It is great to have a relationship where there is no fear.  Such a relationship can only occur among mature Christians.  Love makes such a relationship possible.  When we know and understand that in the heart of the Christian lies the love of Christ, there is no fear of one another, because we will only see love.  If we don’t see love in the life of our fellow faithful Christians, then perhaps we are seeing our own reflection, our own fears, and our own lack of love.  Indeed, the one who fears is not made perfect in love.  The church is to be that place of love where individuals have the opportunity to learn and grow spiritually.  It is a place of acceptance for those who are willing to crucify themselves to the selfishness of the flesh and follow Christ.  “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Second, based upon the love God the Father and Jesus Christ have for us, we have boldness.  1 John 4:17 says, “Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as he is, even so are we in this world.”  Without fear in our lives, we can be bold, knowing that God and Christ love us, and want what is best for us.  The Day of Judgment is an event that frightens many, but it does not frighten the Christian.  The Christian knows what is on the other side, and he is ready to embrace it.  With such boldness, there is no terror in life that might threaten Him.  The Psalmist wrote, “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. . . . Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation” (Psalm 91:5-9).

Third, the church is a place for faithful companionship.  The greatest friends I know are members of the body of Christ, the church of Christ.  This does not mean that we don’t have our disagreements; it also does not mean that we don’t chastise one another, but it does mean that we don’t give up on one another.  It means that we stick tight with each other through the tough times, and help one another grow to be more like God.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  This is the kind of commitment that we give and get from those who are faithful members of the Lord’s body.

There is absolutely no reason to be scared and alone in the world when God’s people are available.  However, without the church, and without God, I would be scared and alone.  If you are someone who needs a true friend who will challenge you to grow spiritually, and who will stick with you to the end, find the church of Christ today and do everything you can to love her in your life.

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Take Responsibility

Man Up (Or Woman Up, If That’s the Case)

What started with “the dog ate my homework” has morphed into some insane refusal for many to take responsibility. If a child receives a low grade at school it is not the child’s fault, but rather the teacher’s. If a young person acts up on a youth trip it is not the teen’s fault, but rather the youth leader. If an employee receives a pink slip for not doing his or her job it’s not the employee’s fault, but rather the mean employer. Or if a driver receives a ticket for reckless driving because he or she was texting while driving, it is not their fault, but rather the mean police officer who was trying to reach his or her “quota.”

Man up and take responsibility for what you say and do.

Man up and take responsibility for what you say and do.

Take a minute and listen—really listen—to people today. People shun responsibility like the plague. Don’t believe me? Shadow a parent for one day and listen to how many times the parent will stand up for his or her child, even if the child is blatantly at fault. It is almost sickening at how often (and how easy) we shirk responsibility and instead throw someone else under the bus.

Sadly, even Christians have embraced this worldly mentality. Surely their precious “angels” could not have done anything wrong. And certainly mom and dad are not to blame for anything. Thus the child grows up believing that the way to handle a problem is to blame someone else.

Imagine if Jonah refused to take responsibility. The seas were stormy and the men feared for their lives. The men had cast lots to determine who was at fault and it fell to Jonah. Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” (Jonah 1:8). They continued on by asking why he had done this? A modern-day Jonah would blame God for the storm. Or he would look for fault in the mariners. Or he might even go so far as to blame the ship builder for not building a sturdier boat that could withstand fierce storms.

However, Jonah took responsibility: “And he said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me’” (Jonah 1:12).

While many have become professional at deflecting blame or shifting attention to someone else, their tactics will not work with God. Paul wrote, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord,

Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10-12, emp. added). On that great day it will not be the teacher’s fault, the youth leader’s fault, or the employer’s fault. Rather, the Righteous Judge of the World, who knows all, will judge each according to his or her deeds.

Accepting blame means humbling yourself. It means recognizing you have many imperfections. It means, “manning” up even in a culture that loves to blame everyone else. And while this may leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those who have perfected the art of blaming others, this is also one of the first steps in acknowledging you are a sinful creature in need of the blood of Christ.

A life of blaming others feeds a haughty spirit and causes us to not fully appreciate what Christ did for us on the cross. Commenting on this beautiful gift Paul wrote, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Can you imagine if Jesus had hung on the cross blaming you and me for each one of our sins? Instead, He shouldered our sin and gave us an example.

Responsibility is a hard lesson for many to learn. But better to teach our children responsibility on earth than to have their world rocked in heaven when they try—unsuccessfully—to shift responsibility on the Day of Judgment.

Be honest and ask yourself:

Whose responsibility is it to train up your children?

Whose responsibility is it to go teach the lost?

Whose responsibility is it to work heartily, as for the Lord?

Whose responsibility is it to care for the widows and orphans?

Whose responsibility is it to care for widowed parents?

Isn’t it time we, as Christians, set a different pattern than the world? Isn’t it time we take responsibility?

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Lack of Knowledge

A Land Being Destroyed By Lack of Knowledge

As the book of Judges closes, the future of Israel is so dismal. It had been that way for hundreds of years. Centuries before, the Jews had entered a land which flowed with milk and honey. Under the leadership of Joshua, they had conquered thirty-one kingdoms (Josh. 12:24). They could have had more if they had conquered the nations on their southern and northern borders.

The key to a successful future is knowledge of the past.

The key to a successful future is knowledge of the past.

God had blessed them. “The Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it” (Josh. 21:43). Two verses later, the Holy Spirit says, “Not a word failed of any good thing which the lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.” The future outlook was so glorious.

As you read the book of Judges, you cannot fail to see how dismal the situation had become. How had all of this come about? To answer that question might help us understand what is happening in our land right before our eyes!

The generation which entered the Promised Land was so different from the preceding one. Their fathers had left Egypt and, even before crossing the Red Sea, they murmured, failing to remember what God had just done. They crossed the Red Sea and, before arriving at Mt. Sinai, complained about the lack of water and food. He gave them water out of the rock and over 12,000 days of free food from heaven. They then complained for the next forty years until the death of Moses.

That second generation was so much better. They knew God and obeyed Him. From the time they entered Canaan, they worshiped him. The Bible describes it this way, “So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua…another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor His work” (Judg. 1:7-10).

How did they leave God? They failed to listen to Moses. “The words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them to your children…“ (Deut. 6:7). The situation came about because they failed to teach their children!

The very same thing is happening in America. Our fathers knew the Bible. They knew about seventy-one men in the Bible whose thumbs and big toes were cut off; the dead man who as he was being quickly buried and came alive again; the king whose skull was crushed by a stone throw at him by a woman; fields of grain which were burned by foxes; the woman on the moon; the floating iron axe head; the man who killed a lion when it was snowing. They taught us about God and what He has done. What have we done? Look at the list above. Do your children know these things? Do you? Think!

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Standing Up

Stand, Defend, Prepare

In 1 Chronicles 21:1 we read a chilling state-ment, “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David…” Because David gave in to the temptation of Satan God was “displeased” and “smote Israel” (v. 7). To David’s credit he took responsibility for his own actions, repented, and offered sacrifices to God.

Peter warns us to be sober minded and vigilant to defend ourselves from our “adversary” (1 Peter 5:8). When Satan stands up against us and provokes us to sin we have the choice of standing up against him and defending ourselves or giving in to the temptation. James makes it clear that the choice is ours (James 1:14). We need to stop blaming Satan and everyone else and turn a critical eye upon ourselves.

Secondly, we see David taking upon himself the responsibility of preparing for his son to serve the Lord, charging him in serve God, and praying for his son’s wisdom (1 Chronicles 22:1–6, 12). Before he died he wanted to ensure that his son would follow the Lord, and David, to an eternal reward. And that his son would have the wisdom to serve God and lead His people against Satan.

We bear a great responsibility in not only preparing ourselves for eternity but to prepare the next generation to be obedient and faithful unto the Lord as well. This begins with us standing up against Satan when he stands up against us. Setting an example for our children and arming them (Ephesians 6:11–13) with the necessary tools to “fight the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Satan is going to stand up against us. He is going to tempt us as he tempted Christ (Hebrews 4:15), he is going to attempt to deceive us (Revelation 12:9), hinder us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), and try to stop the Lord’s will from being done (Matthew 16:23). Brethren, stand, defend, and prepare; and “Be not over-come of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). [Tim]

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COMPETITIVE CHRISTIANITY

COMPETITIVE CHRISTIANITY?!?

As this article is being authored, the NCAA season of college basketball and it’s “March Madness” is coming to a close with the 2016 champions to be crowned within the next few days; the NBA & NHL’s regular season games are down to single digits for most teams, with the impending play-offs imminent; “America’s favorite pastime” is about to burst onto the scene as Major League Baseball is ready to begin with everyone’s’ favorite team tied for first place; and local spring sports are springing forth on fields and in sports complexes everywhere. The heartbeat of the American sports scene is alive, abuzz, and absolutely thriving… and unfortunately it seems, still spilling into the church of our Lord in places on a level it should never be allowed to.

Christianity is not a competition.  No person is superior to another.

Christianity is not a competition. No person is superior to another.

And no, this is not an article on the atrocity of church leaders being reminded not to schedule gospel meetings or other activities on evenings when major sporting events are occurring because Christ and Christianity cannot apparently compete anymore with such “things of the world” (1 Jn. 2:15-17) as currently capture the hearts, minds, souls, and attentions of men – even way too many men in the church of our Lord – although it certainly could be. But no, this is instead an article on the insidious seepage of the sports and competition mindset, into the one body and church of Christ. Please let me explain…

We, as the Lord’s church, all preach, and teach, and claim to believe that we are all one in Christ Jesus just as Jesus and nearly every book of the New Testament states in one form or another (Jn. 17:20-23; Acts 5:32-35; Ro. 12:1-18; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; 2 Cor. 13:11-14; Gal. 3:26-28; Eph. 2:13-22, 4:1-6; Phil. 1:27-2:8; Col. 3:12-17; 1 Thess. 5:9-28; 2 Thess. 1:3-10; Titus 3:1-11; Hebs. 2:10-13; Jms. 4:1-12, 5:13-20; 1 Ptr. 3:8, 4:8-17; 1 Jn. 3 and 4; 2 Jn. 1:5; plus many more…). We are all on the same “team,” so to speak. After all, we all wear the same ‘uniform,’ and team “Logos,” having “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27; Acts 4:12, 11:26; Ro. 16:16).

In other words, there is really no such thing as “Competitive Christianity” – or at least there shouldn’t be (SEE: Matt. 23:1-12; Lk. 18:9-14!!!). A faithful eldership or evangelist who serves a congregation of 25, is just as worthy of our love, support, and respect, as a faithful eldership or evangelist who serves a congregation of several thousand! Someone who has tried for many years to lead someone to Christ and has been blessed to finally succeed – or even if they haven’t yet -, should never be seen or made to feel insignificant of inferior by someone who has baptized a hundred. And this is ultimately true across the entire spectrum of our beloved brotherhood. It relates to everything from our publishing companies, to our young people’s bible bowls, to congregational attendance and everything else in between.

Every saint has a place and a service to perform in the body of Christ, having been put there by God Himself (1 Cor. 12:18). Every member is vital, important, essential, and special (1 Cor. 12:20-27), having been purchased by no less than the pure and spotless, sinless blood of Christ Himself (1 Ptr. 1:17-23). There is absolutely no room for pride, politics, or personal positioning for power that pits one brother against another, or that puts or portrays any of the rest of one’s brethren in Christ at a distinct disadvantage or lesser level of importance in anyone’s eyes in the Lord’s Kingdom. James and John already tried that; Jesus derailed and sought to re-direct it (Matt. 20:20-28; Mk. 10:35-45). John must’ve learned something from that encounter by the way he later dealt with the pridefully disobedient Diotrephes (3 Jn. 9-10). Solomon had sought to show us repeatedly how desperately God hates such prideful, arrogant, and competitive attitudes in the Book of Proverbs. The Apostle Paul had to address it at length with one of the most pride infested congregations of self-promoters that probably ever existed when writing his epistles to the Corinthians – read through them again!

Look brethren, we’re all co-workers and co-heirs in the same kingdom. All of us got into the Lord’s church and onto the Savior’s “team” by virtue of the same blood, and will only make it to heaven by the same great grace of God – and none of us are good enough to get there otherwise. God bought us, and blessed us, and assembled us to work together to expand His kingdom. This is not a competition, nor is it a game. Ours is a blood-bought privilege to work side by side with other blood-bought brethren; to be of like mind, faith, and doctrine, as we all work together as one, for the One. Our battle is not against one another but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12)! That is a battle we can only win standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, and completely united against a common foe (Phil. 1:27-2:7). And there is no room for prideful, sinful, personal self-promotion at the cost of others, or feelings of superiority over any of our brethren in any of us. See: Matt. 18:4, 23:12; Lk. 14:11, 18:14; Jms. 3:13-4:10; and 1 Ptr. 5:6! And then may God impress upon us, how Competitive Christianity, is actually not Christianity at all!

 

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