The Apple of Thine Eye

The Apple of Thine Eye

“My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.” (Proverbs 7:1-2 KJV)apple eye

Solomon is admonishing his son to keep, or give heed to his words and retain them. He says to hide them in his heart as a man buries treasure to keep them and protect them. He says in so keeping his commandments that he would prosper spiritually and live a spiritual life. He advises also to keep or live by his fatherly directions and instructions – his law. He says to keep these words, commandments, and laws as “the apple of thine eye.” “The apple of the eye” Refers to the pupil. He is essentially saying to make these things, I.e. his father’s wisdom, the focus of his eye. Today we are often admonished to “keep our eye on the prize,” Meaning to focus on the goal and not be distracted by other things.

Likewise, if Christians keep our heavenly Father’s words, Commandments and laws, and hide them within our hearts and make them the focus of our lives, then we will truly have a spiritually prosperous life.

Read John 6:63; Psalms 119:11, 105

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Knowing the Mission Makes the Difference

Knowing the Mission Makes the Difference

Tragically, the current crisis in Ukraine gives us an incredible insight into the comparison between two very different – and in fact, diametrically opposed – responses,when it comes to war-time casualties; a contrast which may very well help to ultimately decide the difference, between absolute victory, and utter defeat.difference in war

On the one hand, you have the Russian military – many of whom have absolutely no idea why they are there, or what they are supposed to be accomplishing. With their mission a mystery, their objectives unknown, and their casualties piling up, they have, in many places, not only ground to a deadly halt, but in some cases,begun a caustic retreat.

On the other hand, you have the Ukrainian military. They know exactly why they are there, and exactly what their mission is: To defend their homeland and drive the brutal Russian invaders out at all cost – even fighting to their deaths if that’s what it takes.Hence, as their casualties mount up, they just sadly, solemnly, but ever more resolutely, simply close ranks, and keep on coming.

It is virtually impossible to defeat such a foe; one who knows their mission; understands what is at stake;knows the cost of what must be done; and is hence, willing to take the absolute worst and most deadly that their adversary can possibly throw at them, and just resolutely close ranks, and keep on coming.

It has been that same way in the Lord’s church since day one. Shortly after Christ’s church was established on the Day of Pentecost in 33 A.D. (as recorded in Acts Two), “a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem… As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:1-3), where after many were put to death (Acts 26:10). It is therefore not at all inconceivable that in that day and age, from one week to the next, that many of the brothers and sisters who assembled with and sat beside you in worship one Sunday, might very well be gone forever – imprisoned or even put to death for their faith – by the following Sunday, never to be seen or heard from again… a cycle which would have most certainly continued to repeat itself over and over again, as these first-century ‘wartime’ casualties continued to mount up in the Lord’s church. So; what did the remaining saints do? Simple. Because they knew exactly what their mission was (Matt. 28:18-20); precisely what was at stake (Matt. 16:26); and the absolutely infinite cost that Jesus had paid for the souls of all men everywhere (Jn. 3:16); they simply closed ranks and kept on coming; moving forward andfighting the good fight of faith (2 Tim. 4:7); taking the gospel into all of the world and turning it upside down with their unyielding zeal and dedication to the heavenly mission (Acts 8:4-40, 17:1-7; Col. 1:23).

We would note the same thing in the more recent history of the Lord’s church as well. When the 1906 census was released, it showed that the recently re-united church of our Lord in America, which had, only a few mere decades before, escaped captivity to the soul-damning doctrines and commandments of men, then suffered a staggering setback between 1880-1906, as the vast majority of her members had once again been re-captured by Satan, becoming spiritual ‘prisoners of war’ to many of the same sorts of vain and man-made doctrines from which they had so recently been liberated. In fact, the census data from that year reported that when the “Disciples of Christ” sect or division of the Lord’s church left those faithful saints who would continue to stand and march forward on the word of God alone as their sole rule and authority, that they took a staggering 75% of the congregations (7,799) of that day with them, along with a whopping85% (923,698) of her members!

What did that small portion or remnant of the Lord’s church (159,123 members and 2,642 congregations) that was left behind do?Simple. Because they also knew exactly what their mission was (Matt. 28:18-20); precisely what was at stake (Matt. 16:26); and the absolutely infinite cost that Jesus had paid for the souls of all men everywhere (Jn. 3:16); they simply closed ranks, and kept on coming; kept on going; kept on moving forward and fighting the good fight of faith, taking the gospel into all of the world while turning it upside down with their unyielding zeal and dedication to their heavenly mission.Do you know what happened as a result? Just 20 short years later, in 1926, that 159,123 membership number had swollen to over 435,000. Another 15 short years later, in 1941,it was estimated to have grown to around 600,000. By 1965 it was 915,000; and by 1980 it was 1.24 million(

However, since then it has not gone so well. Congregations are shrinking, struggling, and in some cases, being forced to close their doors forever. The reasons for this are many and varied – everything from culture, to complacency, to most recently, the devastating 25-30% losses inflicted on many congregations by the pandemic’s soul-poisoning dynamics.

So; what will the Lord’s church do today? Simple. The Lord’s church, will simply do, what it has always done, whenever taking such devastating losses since day one: Because they know exactly what their mission is (Matt. 28:18-20); precisely what is at stake (Matt. 16:26); and the absolutely infinite cost that Jesus paid for the souls of all men everywhere (Jn. 3:16); they will simply close ranks and keep on coming; close ranks and keep on going into all the world with the gospel, starting right next door, at home, and in their own communities; closing ranks and moving forward for the kingdom, as they keep on fighting the good fight of faith (2 Tim. 4:7); turning the world today upside down with their unyielding zeal and undying dedication to the heavenly mission (Acts 8:4-40, 17:1-7; Col. 1:23).

Now… are we the Lord’s church… or not?

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The Little Things Count

The Little Things Count

Several years ago, a man named Richard Carlson wrote a book titled, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and it’s all small stuff.” I think his point was not to worry about little things, and certainly that is good advice since any form of worry demonstrates a lack of faith in God (Matthew 6:33-34). However, there is a sense in which he was wrong as well. Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10). Jesus’ point in this context had to do with the Pharisees who thought they were “big men,” and could be responsible for the “big things.”little things

The situation reminds me of the lyrics of the Jim Croce song “Working at the Car Wash Blues.” The singer (who was just paroled) thinks that he should be an“executive” because he was a “genius.” He opines that he should be sitting in an office chair and is an undiscovered Howard Hughes, but all he can do is work at the car wash, which gives him the blues. Having an overinflated sense of self will often create such a mental paradox!

Jesus was talking about that in Luke 16:10. His point is that when we think more of ourselves than we ought to think (Romans 12:3), then we won’t be responsible for what we have. If we want more responsibility, then we need to take care of our own “little” business first, but this requires humility. When we demonstrate that we are faithful in the little things, that proves that we can be faithful in more.

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God Working in the Background

God Working in the Background

The Bible clearly says, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above” (Jas. 1:17). While we might sometimes misunderstand what is truly good, there is no doubt that there has never been a good and perfect gift which does not come from God. It is so wonderful to read the Bible and see where God reveals just how He often works in the background to bring blessings to His people.God in the background

Think of the providence of God in the life of Joseph and how it shows He works. Years before anyone understood what was actually happening, God gave Joseph two dreams about what some day would come about. The first dream concerned his brothers’ bundles of wheat bowing down to Joseph’s bundle. When he told his brothers this dream, their hatred of him became even greater. When he told them of the second dream, where the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to Joseph, his father, Jacob, rebuked him by saying, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” (Gen. 37:7-10).

Because we know the “rest of the story,” we read and immediately understand how all of this came about. There was no way Jacob, Joseph or any of his brothers could have imagined how this would happen, even as it was happening. This is such a revelation about how God used events (even the jealous hatred Joseph’s brothers had, the lies of Potiphar’s wife and the seven years of famine) to accomplish His purpose. Any of them could have asked at various times in their lives, “Where is God?“ It is only afterwards that Joseph could look backwards and say to his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve life…You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 45:50; 50:20).

Some might foolishly say, “Jacob and his children were so lucky that Joseph was the ruler in Egypt.” It was not luck—it was God working in the shadows. How do we know this for certain? It is because God foretold it in the two dreams.

The only way anyone can know that a specific event was God working in the shadows is for God to speak to that specific event and say, “I did that.” To see this, read the words of Mordecai to Esther about all that had happened to enable her to become Queen of Persia. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Without divine revelation, we cannot know any specific event happens because God changed the world to make it happen. We do not need to know, for it is enough to know that every good gift comes from our Father.

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Three Ways to Defeat Satan

Three Ways to Defeat Satan

In last week’s bulletin, we showed that when Jesus ascended into heaven the power of Satan was amazingly diminished (read that bulletin or study Revelation chapter twelve to see how that occurred when there was war in heaven, and Satan was cast out). His power was so diminished that the Bible says that the life and death of Jesus destroyed his power and released all mankind from the fear of death and the ravages of Hades (Heb. 2:14-15).

The church had just begun when Satan was cast out of heaven, and he immediately attacked the church, knowing that his only hope was to destroy it in its infancy. After the church spread into all the world, the Devil could never destroy the kingdom of God. His time was short, for the text says, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down among you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:12).

How could those members of the church in its infancy have any hope against the great wrath of Satan? What means did they have to win this battle on the earth which began just after Jesus ascended? The Bible gives such a clear answer to these questions. To understand how they won the battle is to show us how to defeat him in our lives. Look at the answer.  “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Rev. 12:11). Their victory, and ours, was because they were saved by the blood of Jesus, they knew and used the word of God, and they loved heaven more than life!

Christians of all ages have been justified by the blood of Christian and are assured of victory. God, the judge of all mankind asks, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died…and is also risen…” Rom. 8:33-34). Satan has no basis to claim victory over God’s saints.

Victorious saints of all ages have overcome Satan by the power of the word of God. David hid the word of God in his heart so that he might not sin (Psa. 119:9-11). Jesus used the word of God to overcome all three temptations by quoting that which is written. The devil fled from him and flees from Christians who use the Bible, the sword of the Spirit, to resist Satan.

Christians of all ages have robbed Satan of any power over them because they loved the Lord more than they did their lives. If you are willing to give your life for Christ, Satan has nothing left to use against you (consider Job).

They overcame Satan in three ways. Meditate on these three attitudes they had, and you can rest assured that victory is yours. Heaven is assured to those who know this!

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