EPA for a Pure Heart

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My Source:
NORTH MARSHALL MESSENGER
Vol 3, #1, November 1, 1998
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Author: David Lemmons
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File Under: CHRISTIAN LIVING or PHILIPPIANS 4:8
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PHILIPPIANS 4:8–EPA for the HEART

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an independent agency of the federal government. It was established in 1970 to protect the nation’s environment from pollution. When the agency was created, it brought under its management the work previously done by 15 federal programs dealing with pollution. The idea behind this agency, of course, is to protect the environment in which we live from pollutants. Whether or not you think that many have carried this good idea to an extreme, its basic purpose seems quite good and praiseworthy. There have been some outstanding accomplishments in the improvement of the quality of water and air in our land. It is amazing what a little bit of attention to fighting pollution can accomplish.

We can thank God that in His great wisdom and in through the work of the Holy Spirit, there has been provided something similar to the EPA, only with regard to the mind of the Christian. In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul writes: Phil 4:8–“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.” Can we not and should we not allow this verse to GUIDE us toward unpolluted living?

Whenever we find ourselves in some situation or environment that causes our minds to dwell on some matter which contradicts things that are: TRUE; HONEST; JUST; PURE; LOVELY; OF GOOD REPORT; VIRTUOUS;
and PRAISE-WORTHY, then we would be wise immediately to remove ourselves from that environment or situation to avoid pollution. It could be VITAL to our souls.

Perhaps it might be some PLACE that we have allowed ourselves to visit. Such places as where worldly and lustful activities are being pursued: a gambling casino; a dance hall; a movie theater; a dark “parking place,” etc. If we are concerned to have an unpolluted mind, we will do whatever has to be done to remove ourselves from that PLACE.

Perhaps it might be simply WORDS that we allow to enter our minds. Words from such things as: CD’s; mp3 Players;  TV; movies; magazines; the mouths of “friends,” religious error, etc. Using Philippians 4:8 as an EPA for the heart, we will recognize that allowing these words into our hearts pollutes our hearts. We will be repulsed by the prospect and will determine not to allow these pollutions to do their damage. And, by the way, there is such a thing as a “rating system” for Hollywood’s product. I have never understood how it is possible for Christians to think that there is some age we reach at which it becomes OK to take pollution into our hearts. We need to use as our rating standard, Matthew 18:3. In doing so, we will greatly limit our list of available movies.

Brethren, these matters that pollute our minds need to be a matter of much greater alarm and concern than the things which the governmental agency, EPA, watches after. I would like to urge that each one of us study carefully and apply diligently the EPA of the heart made available to each of us in Philippians 4:8. How much more influence we will have for good whenever we do. The consequences of our actions in this matter are ETERNAL in nature!

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Spiritual Growth

Things Certain to Hinder

Spiritual Growth in 2010

by David Lemmons

If we wish to please the Lord it simply has to be our constant goal (not just on New Years’ Day) to grow spiritually (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Sometimes we might begin to think that we have grown quite enough spiritually, and we may consider ourselves to be safely mature.  I deny that this position is ever reached in this life by any of us.  I think a good way to picture the matter is to compare spiritual growth with walking up an inclined plane.  So long as we are moving forward/up, we are doing well.  However, if we stop for a while, what happens is that we begin to SLIP BACK.  Our Lord expects us to continue making progress onward and upward.

On the other hand, we do have an ENEMY, Satan, who wants the exact opposite of what is best for our spiritual health and what our Lord demands.  He wants us to halt any progress toward spiritual maturity.  Let’s briefly consider some of Satan’s most used tools in his quest.

Self-centeredness.  This is one of Satan’s most powerful weapons which actually demands very little effort on his part.  Folks just have a tendency to cooperate with the old devil on this one, voluntarily.  It has been my contention for many years that we can find this spirit of independence in the hearts of God’s people at some interesting points in Bible history.  Study it and see if those periods in Israel’s history when they had this independent spirit, thinking they could go it alone, not needing God, were not the very times that God had to punish His people.  Want an example of the opposite position?  Consider the household of Cornelius.  Acts 10:33 informs us that they were gathered to hear Peter because they wanted to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.

Not Listening to God. Now where have I heard of that happening before.  Yes, that’s right, way back at the Garden.  Satan convinced Eve not to listen to God by adding to His words the little word NOT (Genesis 3:4).  God’s great prophet Jeremiah called upon the people to walk in the old paths where is to be found the good way, but they refused to listen (Jeremiah 6:16-17).  The rich man of Luke 16:19ff did not listen and found himself in torment, but he wanted to get a message back to his brothers so they would.  He was told: “THEY HAVE MOSES AND THE PROPHETS, LET THEM HEAR THEM” (Luke 16:29). Unless we open up our Bibles, read and study, attend Bible classes and worship, let’s be assured, spiritual growth will not happen.  Satan’s face turns smiley.

Apathy. The ruin of many great enterprises is indifference, unconcern, and lack of caring.  The Hebrews writer points Christians back to their knowledge of the Old Testament as he gives this strong warning, Hebrews 2:1-4… “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”   A person is guilty of the worst form of neglect or apathy who pays no attention to the great plan God has for saving the souls of men.  A man might be drifting down the Niagara River in a rowboat.  He can take oars and change the direction he is going.  But if he NEGLECTS to do so he will reach a point at which certain destruction becomes his destiny.

Prejudice.  Paul wrote to Timothy these words: 1 Timothy 5:21… “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality” [NKJV].  In this particular context, Paul is evidently urging Timothy to follow through on the instructions just given relating to different groups of Christians.  He is not to deal with any of them in a prejudicial manner.  It seems to me that the word can also be applied to picking and choosing which commands of Scripture we will decide to obey and which we will decline to obey.  Following God’s will is nowhere in Scripture portrayed as to be done “cafeteria-style.”  Many folks would readily see what the Lord expects of them if they would approach His revealed will with a mind free from preconceived ideas!

It is my prayer for each of you that you will gain a great victory over Satan in 2010 and will grow, GROW, GROW spiritually.

Tomorrow

The Brevity of Life

by B.J. Clarke

They didn’t even know what hit them. Some years ago, three professional baseball players, out for an evening of enjoyment and relaxation, smashed into a boat dock at a high rate of speed. Steven Olin died instantly. Tim Crews died hours later at the hospital. Both left behind young wives and young children. In a split second the youthful exuberance, earthly hopes, dreams and goals of these two men were snuffed out of existence. The high priced contracts they had signed were meaningless. They didn’t expect to die that night, but they did. He didn’t even know what hit him. He was sitting in his house in California when a large boulder came tumbling down the mountain adjacent to his home. It smashed through the roof of his house and landed on top of him as he was reclining on the couch. He didn’t expect to die that day, but he did.

They didn’t even know what hit them. Their names are recorded on the pages of Sacred Scripture for all to behold. Their lives were put out like a candle in an instant. Who can forget about Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10), the 250 men who offered incense (Num. 16:35), the thousands in the congregation of Israel whose lives were taken by the Lord “as in a moment” (Num. 16:45ff), the Philistines slain at Samson’s death (Judg. 16:29-30), Goliath (1 Sam. 17), Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:6ff), Job’s children (Job 1:18-19), 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (Isa. 37:36), the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:22), Belshazzar (Dan. 5:30), the 18 upon whom the tower of Siloam fell (Luke 13:4), the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10)?

The aforementioned examples remind us of the need to heed the inspired words of Proverbs 27:1, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Truly, there is but a step between us and death (1 Sam. 20:3). We are just a heartbeat away from eternity. We know not the day of our death (Gen. 27:2).

While it is true that God does not miraculously extinguish life today, and whereas we may never die suddenly and without warning, life is still very, very brief. James wrote, “Go to now, ye that say Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away” (James 4:13-14). The Psalmist declared that we spend our years, as a tale that is told. “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psa. 90:9-10). “Man is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and is cut down. He flees like a shadow and does not continue” (Job 14:1-2).

I do not expect to die today, but I might. So might you. That being the case, we must number our days that we apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psa. 90:12). We must redeem the time by being prepared at all times for the day of our death (Eph. 5:16). You are not ready to live until you are ready to die! Are you ready?

Source: Baldwin church of Christ Bulletin, 3 May 2009

Aged Christians

Aged Christians

by Chance Hicks

The Word of God has much to say concerning those who are young and what they can accomplish in the work of the Lord.  Throughout the Bible, there are many examples of the young serving God.  These include men such as David, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  Paul even wrote to a young Gospel preacher, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

The young are important to the work of the Lord, but the Bible also has much to say about the aged.  The aged are special because they are to be honored (Leviticus 19:32) and because the days should add to their wisdom (Job 32:7).  Notice what the Proverbs writer said concerning the aged, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31).  However, as people age they often feel like they are no longer useful in the Lord’s service.  Is this the case or are the aged Christians useful to the Lord?  In order to answer this question, let us consider some examples.

Abraham was a faithful follower of God (Hebrews 11:8-19) who lived to the age of 175.  God had promised Abraham a son through which all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3).  It was not until Abraham was 100 years old that he was blessed with his son, Isaac.  Abraham was willing to serve God even if it meant sacrificing his only son, Isaac (Genesis 22).  Abraham, “the Friend of God” (James 2:23), was useful in the service to God when he was aged!

Moses faithfully served God during his lifetime (Hebrews 11:23-28).  Moses, the great servant of the Lord, lived to be 120 years old (Deuteronomy 34:5-7).  It was not until Moses was 80 years old that God used him to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage.  Then Moses continued to serve the Lord for 40 years as he led the children of Israel through the wilderness.  Moses proved to be useful in the service of God even when he was aged!

John, one of the twelve apostles, served God when he was an aged Christian.  John was advanced in years when he was exiled to the isle of Patmos.  John was faithful to the Lord even when he was living in exile.  It was not until John was in his nineties that he penned the book of Revelation.  What great work the apostle John was able to accomplish as an aged Christian in service to the Lord!

Can the aged be useful in service to the Lord?  The answer is a resounding “Yes!” These great examples prove that the aged are very important to the Lord’s cause.  There are many things that aged Christians can do to work for the Lord.  One of the greatest works that they can do is to teach the younger Christians.  Paul gave Titus instructions concerning the aged and what they should be as servants of God: “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.  The age women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not give to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:1-5).  Aged Christians are useful to the Lord!  May we always remember that no matter our age we can be useful servants in the kingdom of the Lord!

Source: The Visitor, Adamsville, AL, May 17, 2009

Transformed

Transformed into the Image of Christ

by Shane Millard

In my time growing up I have learned many valuable lessons, but some of the lessons I value most come from learning more about something I already knew.  For example, someone understands baptism to be for the remission of sins, but later they realize that it is an anti-type of the salvation Noah had in the flood.  It’s lessons like this that mean a lot to me as I continue to grow.  Today, I hope to share one with you.

I know personally I was raised with the mindset of being a good person, treating others respectfully, and learning God’s word.  All of these were great attributes that my parents worked to instill in me, as I’m sure it was with many of you.  But today I want to go deeper into why we act “good” as Christians and also look at the level of “good” we are trying to reach.

Our first idea we need to understand is that God is good.  When I mean that God is good, I mean that God defines what is good.  He is the One who, by His word, furnishes us “unto every good work” (2 Tim 3:17).  Without God’s determination of what is right and good, there would be no right or good.  Perhaps your parents would try to give you an idea of what they view as good but without God it is only their opinion.

Now what does God view as “good”?  Our passage we will begin with is 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  The point the author is making can be illustrated in a very simple way.  Did you know that our Statue of Liberty in New York is actually a copy?  The first one was made in Paris on a smaller scale and there is another one in Maceio, Brazil.  We received ours last!

As you can see, they are the same image and this is the same idea Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 3.  Just as the sculptor has a particular image in front of him then takes a block and copies it, we take ourselves and transform ourselves into the image of Christ.

Now one other side point is that our lives are moldable or impressionable.  No one is made sinful or righteous, we weren’t fashioned into a particular mold before the world was formed.  Also, we can change the molds we decide to be in.  If we were sinners we can change and form ourselves after the life of Christ.  These concepts are spoken of in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 and Paul shows clearly that if someone wants to change badly enough they can.

Now back to our idea in 2 Corinthians 3.  The application is that we are doing more than just casually becoming “good.”  What needs to be happening in your life and mine is taking the lifestyle of Christ and mimicking it.  Just like the childhood game of copying what someone else says to get on their nerves, we are doing that same thing in regard to all that Christ did-minus the getting on the nerves.

But isn’t that too much to ask of someone?  Isn’t that too much work for the everyday person who has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)?  I will completely agree that it is difficult, but didn’t Jesus say that some people would be unwilling to take on the demands of being His disciple?  But there are other considerations as well we must think about.  First, God will not ask something of us that we cannot perform.  If God asks us to live like Christ then we can.  Second, the process of transforming ourselves into the image of Christ isn’t something that happens overnight and God knows and understands that.  Just as the sculptor doesn’t conform the piece of stone into a beautiful statue overnight, the person who is in the image of the world will have to work hard and take time to become like Christ.  Here is one of those concepts again that didn’t ever click with me.  In God’s word there are directional commands and absolute commands.  The absolute commands are usually one time commands such as being baptized for remission of sins.  But there are also directional commands that demand we work toward a certain direction such as loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Now as we connect this to our concept, God is wanting us to head in the direction of being like Christ and understands it will take time.

Finally, let us bring this concept home for our lives.  How can I be like Christ today?  First, pray for the strength and dedication to live the “good” life.  Second, learn about who Christ is in His word.  There is no reason we shouldn’t understand the nature of Christ considering the New Testament discusses Christ’s life and nature extensively.  Third, surround yourself with people, entertainment, and influences that will help you learn and develop into being more like Christ.

This is the lesson I learned and that I hope you can see as well.  That when people tell you to act right it isn’t just because “it’s the right thing to do.”  It’s because it’s what Christ would do and as a Christian you have chosen to become what the name describes-one who is like Him.  Let’s take this concept into our study and lives and glorify Christ in our bodies.

My SOURCE: Gospel Teacher, February 8, 2009

The Best

The Best

Wade Webster

Back in the 1940s Notre Dame had a starting center by the name of Frank Syzmanski.  Syzmanski was called to be a witness for a lawsuit that was filed against the Notre Dame athletic department.  The judge asked him, “Are you the starting center on the Notre Dame football team?”  “Yes, I am, Your Honor,” replied Syzmanski.  “How good of a center are you?”  asked the judge.  Syzmanski paused for a moment and said, “Your Honor, I am the finest center in the history of Notre Dame football.”  Joe Leahy, Notre Dame’s football coach, was sitting in the courtroom.  Syzmanski’s answer stunned Leahy since the center had always been such a quiet and unassuming player.  During a recess, Coach Leahy asked him about what he said on the witness stand.  Syzmanski blushed and answered, “I’m sorry, Coach.  But I was under oath and I had to tell the truth.” [Farrar, Steve, Anchorman, Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998, p. 142-43].  I love that story, even if it is about Notre Dame football.  How good are you at what you do?  How good of a servant of Jesus Christ are you?  Be honest!  Are there improvements that you need to make in your Christian life?  If so, then make them.  Be the best.  Be a vessel that God can use mightily in His service (2 Tim 2:21).  One day, you will be called to answer.

My SOURCE: The Searcher, March 15, 2009.  DRL Note: Wade Webster has begun a new section of his bulletin in which he shares with the readers: Riches from My ReadingThis post is from that section.