Going Down to the Brook

By Kevin Cauley

It seems that on every side we turn now a days, we find a nation that is increasingly hostile toward Christianity. From Rosie O’Donnel’s comments that fundamentalists Christians are worse than radical Islamists to Bill Maher’s mocking the Lord’s supper by comparing it to a homosexual affair, we find in popular culture that hostile and offensive comments toward Christians are becoming the norm. Moreover, the ACLU intimidated bureaucracy also continues to hammer away at Christian liberties: denying prayer, refusing some the right to publicly demonstrate, removing “in God we trust” from public view and countless other injustices that are too numerous to include here. So what is a Christian to do in such a society?

First, there is the prayer and fasting. When we look at the example of the early church in seemingly impossible situations, we find them employing these means. Acts 12 records for us that Herod had just put James to death with the sword. He had Peter in prison and was waiting for the Passover to end so that he could then kill him as well. The church was praying, fasting, that somehow such would not occur. And in these days of the miraculous, God intervenes and rescues Peter from Herod’s death grip. Did fasting and prayer make a difference? Absolutely. It made a difference when nothing else could have made a difference. And while God doesn’t work miraculously today, he can work in ways that are beyond our comprehension to answer the saint’s supplication ( Ephesians 3:20). Such is the privilege of the Christian that when we have nowhere else to turn, we can turn to God.

Second, we can continue to teach the doctrine of Christ and move individuals to become disciples. Some attribute Abraham Lincoln to saying “I destroy all of my enemies by making them my friends.” We need to adopt this attitude as well. This doesn’t mean that we become milquetoasts, caving and cowering to avoid offense. No. To the contrary, Christians of the first century were quite bold when faced with opposition. Paul told Elymas the Sorcerer, “O full of all guile and all villany, thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” He wielded the sword of the Spirit ( Ephesians 6:17) to condemn and convict. His boldness swayed Sergius Paulus, the one honest of heart, to become a believer ( Acts 13:4-13).

Third, we can take advantage of our political opportunities to stand up for the truth. When Paul was faced with jail or death, he would often resort to such an option. He told the authorities in Philippi after his unlawful imprisonment that he was a Roman citizen ( Acts 16:37) and as such he had certain rights that could not be violated. He repeated the same right to a centurion that was about to flog him in Acts 22:25. Paul stood before proconsuls, kings, and emperors to defend his faith often times waiting in prison for months, years on end to get his opportunity to speak. Many, perhaps, would criticize Paul for being such a sparkplug; they may say that much of this could have been avoided. What was Paul’s attitude? He said, “woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” ( 1 Corinthians 9:16) and “I die daily” ( 1 Corinthians 15:31). He was zealous with a godly zealousy ( 2 Corinthians 11:2).

Today these political opportunities take the form of participation in polls, petitions, peaceful protest and yes, even demanding our rights when the opportunity arises. Participating in online forums, polls, and petitions provides us with a way to speak on the issues of the day. Would to God that we had more individuals willing to stand in the gap and brave the gauntlet of a hostile culture to stand up for what is right!

Consider the lesson that Martin Niemoeller teaches us. The Nazis imprisoned him at the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps beginning in 1937. He wrote:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Will Christians be overrun because we failed to speak out? I pray that the future will be otherwise, but I’m not staying on my knees to find out. I’ll be out there seeking to counter the cultural melee against Christianity. Like David, I’ll not be content to sit back with the defied and silent multitudes. Instead, I’ll be going down to the brook, taking action where others will not ( 1 Samuel 17:40).

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My Broken TV

By Kevin Cauley

A few years ago I bought a small VHS/TV combo from Wal-Mart so the kids could watch videos while traveling. Today we’ve pretty much converted to DVD, so we’ve been using that small television for the boys’ video games and cable TV from time to time. About a month ago this TV started doing something really strange. We would turn it on and then, after about five seconds, it would turn itself off. The rest of the TV seems to be working OK. The reception is good and display of picture and changing channels and etc. However, it simply refuses to stay on! So, it is useless to us as it sits in my bedroom waiting for me to decide whether I want to get it fixed or not.

I’ve been thinking about this television and how some Christians have the same problem. Consider that there are some Christians who turn on for a short period of time, but then they quickly turn off again until someone else comes along and pushes their button. I’m thinking about those Christians who may attend services only once in a while, get all fired up, and then go right back into a worldly pattern of living. Perhaps we can learn a few lessons from my on again/off again television.

First, it is extremely difficult to watch a television when it turns off every five seconds. Consider the difficulty for unbelievers to observe the pure Christian life in the on again/off again Christian. Unbelievers watch Christians and evaluate our behavior based upon our own standards of right and wrong. If I’m an on again/off again Christian, my behavior isn’t going to be consistent with those standards. My speech won’t be pure; my lifestyle may not be pure; perhaps my marriage will be on the rocks. People will see me as a hypocrite and not a true Christian. Christians must live as Christians. Paul says we walk by faith ( 2 Corinthians 5:7) and that faith comes by hearing the word of God ( Romans 10:17). We must know God’s word and live by it in order to live the life of faith so that we won’t be an on again/off again Christian.

Second, just as my television is in obvious need of repair, so is the on again/off again Christian. How does this Christian repair his life? He repents! Paul told all of those who he taught both Jews and Gentiles to turn to God and do works worthy of repentance ( Acts 26:20). Peter told Simon the sorcerer to repent when he sinned against God and pray for forgiveness ( Acts 8:22). Simon then asked Peter to pray for him. On again/off again Christians need to have this attitude as well. We can be forgiven of our sins if we ask. God is willing to forgive, if we repent ( 2 Peter 3:9) and He will forgive up to seventy times seven in one day if our repentance is from the heart ( Matthew 18:22). This is great incentive to live like a Christian every day.

Third, just as my on again/off again television is useless to me, so also, the on again/off again Christian is useless to Jesus. If he fails to repent he’ll be like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:16. Jesus said because they were lukewarm, he would spew them out of his mouth and “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” ( Luke 9:62). Jesus’ message in Matthew 25 is that the on again/off again Christian will find himself with the unfaithful in the final judgment.

I have not resolved what to do with my television yet, but let’s resolve not to be on again/off again Christians. When God pushes our button to “on” he expects it to stay on and not to give up. If we turn off, let’s repent and turn back on quickly. We don’t want to disappoint Him.

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The Turnip Congress

By Kevin Cauley

“On the twenty-fifth of July, Sow your turnips, wet or dry.”

There may be a few among us that remember President Harry Truman. I am currently reading a biography about his life. While President Truman brought a swift end to the war with Japan and deftly handled United States foreign policy, Mr. Truman did not start off as a popular president domestically. In fact, half way through his first term the nation elected a republican congress to express their disapproval with his efforts. Four months before the 1948 election his approval rating was down to 36 percent. The republican candidate, New York governor Thomas Dewey, was considered a shoe in. But Truman wasn’t beat yet. He called a special session of congress during his democratic nomination acceptance speech calling for the congress to pass bills on social security, health care, and civil rights. They were to convene on the twenty-fifth of July, Turnip Day in Missouri. Dubbed the Turnip Congress, they failed to get the bills passed. Truman’s campaign speeches became highly critical of the do-nothing republican congress, and Truman, against all odds, was re-elected president in the fall.

The turnip congress was a complaining congress. They griped and complained about how poorly Truman was doing his job, but they failed to do anything better. Perhaps we ought to consider if we are a turnip Christian. Are we so preoccupied with the poor way that others are doing their jobs in the church that we fail to see our own failures and inabilities? Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without murmurings and questionings” and James 5:9 states, “Murmur not, brethren, one against another, that ye be not judged: behold, the judge standeth before the doors.” Where is our focus? If all we can see are the other guy s failings, without considering our own and without offering an alternative plan for improvement, then we may be a turnip Christian.

The turnip congress was a do-nothing congress. Truman really gave them an opportunity to shine in that fifteen-day session beginning July 26th, of 1948. If they had passed some legislation and done something, Truman would have been finished. Instead, they did nothing. Are we do-nothing Christians? Jesus said, “Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock” ( Matthew 7:24). James wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves” ( James 1:22). As Christians we are not to sit idly by and wait on someone else to do our job. We must be willing to do it ourselves. If we cannot get busy and do what we have been called to do, then we may be a turnip Christian.

The turnip congress was a defeated congress. Not only did Truman win the Presidency in the fall, but the republican congress was kicked out and a democratic congress took it’s place. Are we destined to be defeated Christians? There’s a serious question to ponder. It reminds me of what Jesus said about the one talent man who did nothing with what he had. “Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him that hath the ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away. And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” ( Matthew 25:28-30). If we cannot find a way to use our abilities to serve the Lord profitably, then we may be a turnip Christian.

God wants us to be successful in our Christian walk. However, we must have the right attitude and make a modicum of effort in that walk. We have all the tools we need to do the job before us; we’ve been called by God into special session; now what will we do with it? Will we simply be a turnip Christian or will we work to accomplish God’s goals on earth through faithful service? May we all seek to be more than a mere turnip.

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Labels

By Kevin Cauley

On the outside of an old fruit crate sitting in my office is a label: “Liberty Brand / Grown and Packed by Escondido Lemon Assn. / Escondido – Calif. / Sunkist.” I understand that these fruit crate labels today are collectors’ items, though this one has been damaged to the degree that it wouldn’t be all that valuable. Nevertheless that label had a purpose. It identified the original contents of that crate, the grower, packer, and the brand name of the distributor.

There are some people who do not like labels. Usually these are individuals who do not want to be characterized as subscribing to a particular point of view, though they do. I had a professor in college who refused to be identified by the label of his philosophy, though, that was his philosophy. A life certainly can’t be described in one word. However, I believe that he missed the point. A label isn’t supposed to tell you everything about a person’s life. It tells you what is responsible for that person’s beliefs. My lemon crate label tells me who is responsible for the product. So also, certain labels tell us what is responsible for the beliefs and decisions made in an individual’s life. Let’s consider for a moment our lives as crates. What we have in our crates are our beliefs and decisions. What label would we put on our crate?

Some would have to put the label “hypocrite” on their crate. The outside of their crate appearing pure, but the inside being full of wickedness. This is what Jesus labeled some of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.” Hypocrisy had become the characteristic that was most responsible for how these men lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

Some would have to put the label “lawless” on their crate. Seemingly there are more and more individuals in society today who behave as if there are no standards of decently and morality by which we must live. Jesus said about such individuals, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (lawlessness)” ( Matthew 7:23). For these individuals, lawlessness had become the responsible characteristic by which they lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

Some, however, could put the label “honest” on their crate. Some individuals in the world, when confronted with God’s truth, have the integrity to listen and respond appropriately to God’s word. Jesus said of such individuals, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” ( Luke 8:15). For these individuals, honesty became the responsible characteristic by which they lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

Some also could put the label “faithful” on their crate. These are individuals who believe the gospel and live by it, refusing to hide their talents, and by using their abilities bring increase to the Lord’s kingdom. Jesus said of such individuals, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” ( Matthew 25:21). For these individuals, faithfulness became the responsible characteristic by which they lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

There is one label by which I wish to be recognized when my life is done: Christian. If it can be said of me that I magnified Christ, that I exemplified His words to those around me, that I honored and glorified Him in His church on a regular basis – if it can be carved upon my headstone, “He was a Christian” – then it will be enough. There are many today who take that name and denigrate it either through verbal castigation or through hypocritical living. May such never be said of us who desire that holy label.

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The Silence of the Scriptures

By Kevin Cauley

“I don’t understand the concept of the silence of the scriptures.” This is an increasingly voiced sentiment. However, we do understand the prohibitive nature of the silence of the scriptures to some degree. For example, take the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me.” This is a positive command. Jesus didn’t have to explain who NOT to remember. Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t remember Abraham. Don’t remember Moses. Don’t remember Joshua. Don’t remember David. Don’t remember Hezekiah. Don’t remember John the baptizer.” I don’t know of any religious group observing the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of anyone but Jesus. Would it be sinful during the Lord’s Supper to remember someone other than Jesus? Yes. That shows a basic understanding of the silence of the scriptures.

It is not difficult to apply this same principle to other areas of worship. When it comes to singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, the New Testament doesn’t equivocate. The passages that speak of music in the church are limited. None mention instruments. All mention singing. Conclusion! The positive command regarding music in the church is: “Sing!” No one denies this. All agree that singing occurred. So why conclude that singing only is God’s desire? The scriptures are silent on the use of instruments.

Is that silence permissive? Is that silence prohibitive? Can the scriptures answer these questions? Yes. The examples of Nadab and Abihu teach that God’s silence is prohibitive ( Leviticus 10:1-2). God’s commands to Noah to build the ark teach that God’s silence is prohibitive ( Genesis 6:22). Silence prohibited the church at Corinth from calling themselves Paulites ( 1 Corinthians 1:13). Silence prohibited Jesus from being a priest under the law of Moses. ( Hebrews 7:14, says “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.”) Silence prohibited the exaltation of angels to positions of divine authority ( Hebrews 1:5, 13). In each of these examples God’s positive commands limit what may be done. “This do in remembrance of me.” No explicit prohibition is further necessary.

When we consider that man is not authorized to do anything he wants to do in worship ( John 4:24), that worship becomes meaningless when we elevate human tradition (i.e. the use of instruments) to doctrine in worship ( Matthew 15:9), that we cannot approach God in worship with a display of our own righteousness ( Romans 10:2-3), and the prohibitive nature of the silence of the scriptures, we conclude it is sinful to worship God with the instrument.

May we strive to make our worship pure, holy, and acceptable to God. May we prostrate ourselves before His majestic throne with glory, honor, and thanksgiving. May we have the utmost spirit of humility as we contemplate His sovereignty, magnificence, and beauty ( Revelation 4). May we realize that we are created for His pleasure and we do not live to serve self in offering worship ( Revelation 4:11).

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