Tag Archives: Christian Living

New Additions to the eLibrary

TWO NEW BOOKS!

Chester Estes was a fine man, and perhaps an even better preacher.  In his life, he wrote untold numbers of articles and sermons; and also wrote commentaries.  He even did his own translation of the Bible!

He also wrote some other books, one of which is being added today to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary.  It’s called “What is Truth?”

The eBook that you can download below is a scan of the original book.  I realize that isn’t our normal operating procedure (usually we completely reformat and proofread/correct every book we post), but hopefully you’ll forgive us for giving you the original this time.  🙂

What is Truth? (Chester Estes)

Now, for the people who really want to dig deep on the myth of evolution, we are presenting a booklet called “The Man from Monkey Myth,” written by Douglas Dewar.  This was originally published in a magazine in 1944, and later reprinted by James D. Bales as part of a campaign against evolution.

Dewar speaks the scientists’ language, as he shows their conclusions are unwarranted and untrue.

Fully reformatted and searchable, you can download it by clicking the link below.

Man from Monkey Myth (Douglas Dewar)

 

Can You Bear the Light?

 

Introduction

Wouldn’t it be great to be imprisoned?  To not be able to go anywhere?  To not have the freedom to get up and walk somewhere?  I mean, think of how happy you’d be if only you were in chains!!

Okay, not really.  But Paul’s example is a great one to follow.  He’s imprisoned, awaiting trial, and yet he repeatedly speaks of his joy.  Obviously his joy isn’t because he’s imprisoned, but he can have joy nonetheless.  There’s several passages throughout Philippians that prove this point—but as they aren’t the focus of this lesson, we’ll not delve into all of them.  Instead, I want you to look at Philippians 2:12-18 with me, and we will see that one reason Paul had joy was because faithful Christians are light-bearers in the world.

Light-bearing involves faithfulness to God’s commands (2:12-13)

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

First, Paul loves them.  The word “beloved” is the noun form of agape.  Literally, it is “loved ones.”  Because he loves them, he praises them, and he also encourages them.  Isn’t that a great example of shining like a light?  When someone does something good, praise them, and encourage them to continue!

Second, they were obedient to the things Paul had delivered to them from God.  In other words, they were faithful to the commands of the Lord.  The word “obeyed” in the original is two words put together: under and hearing.  They listened to the one whom they were under (ultimately, God), recognizing Him as the Master and Ruler.  Since “obedience” includes the word “hearing,” is it really possible for someone to obey God without hearing what His word says?  And remember, that this is being spoken to Christians—Christians need to continue to “hear the word of the Lord,” or “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  If you want to shine like lights in the world, drawing people to Christ, then you have to read, study, listen to the commands of God.

Third, Paul encourages them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  The phrase “not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence” actually goes with this encouraging phrase.  They were concerned about their salvation, they energetically worked to maintain their standing before God, while Paul was present.  Now, however, Paul encourages them to do it even more so—literally, to work out fully their own salvation—in his absence.  It’s like a parent watching his children as they clean their room, or do the dishes, or mow the yard, or whatever task it might be.  The children might work steadily and diligently while mom or dad are standing there watching, and the work will get done.  But it is far more important, far more impressive, when they do that work without mom and dad’s personal presence right there.  How those children obey, how they work when the parents aren’t right there shows what kind of person they truly are.  In the same way, Paul encourages the Philippian Christians (and us today as well) to take personal responsibility, to show our true dedication to the Lord by working out our own salvation.  2 John 8 says “Look to yourselves that we lose not the things for which we have worked, but receive a full reward.”

Fourth, they are to work out their own salvation “with fear and trembling.”   This doesn’t mean that we are shaking in our boots, afraid that God is going to strike us down the first time we sin.  This isn’t talking about never having confidence in our salvation.  It is a warning against overconfidence.  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power.  Wardlaw says:

This fear is self-distrust; it is tenderness of conscience; it is vigilance against temptation; it is the fear which inspiration opposes to high-mindedness in the admonition ‘be not high-minded but fear.’ It is taking heed lest we fall; it is a constant apprehension of the deceitfulness of the heart, and of the insidiousness and power of inward corruption. It is the caution and circumspection which timidly shrinks from whatever would offend and dishonor God and the Savior. And these the child of God will feel and exercise the more he rises above the enfeebling, disheartening, distressing influence of the fear which hath torment. Well might Solomon say of such fear, ‘happy is the man that feareth always”

This goes along well with what Paul says in Galatians 6:1: “If you see a man overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a man in a spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.”  In other words, work to gain the full reward, but realize that you can indeed fall, so don’t get overconfident.

Fifth, as light-bearers, those who are faithful to God’s commands, we must realize that it is God working in us.  We aren’t the source of the light, God is.  When we do good for others, it is God working in us.  People in the world don’t see God working and blessing their lives, offering them salvation, except through His people who have the desire (the “will”) and who follow through with the work (the “do”).  Just as it is said that Jesus baptized more disciples than John, yet He didn’t do it personally, but through the apostles—one way God works on the hearts and lives of people (Christians and non-Christians) is through His chosen people: faithful Christians.  It’s a solemn responsibility and a great honor to know that God is working in us!

Light-bearing involves the proper attitude (2:14-16a)

Do all things without murmurings and disputings so that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.

It is very rare (if at all) that a biblical writer says anything in a vacuum.  That is, it is very rare (if at all) that anything recorded in the Bible isn’t connected in some way to the context around it.  Verse 14 is often used without consideration of its context.  The principle is still valid, but there’s a purpose behind Paul’s saying “do all things without murmurings and disputings” (without whining and complaining).  And here’s the purpose in a nutshell: you can’t shine as lights in the world, bearing the light of God to souls both lost and struggling, when you’re complaining.

My family and I drove across the country to the east coast a couple years ago.  In order to save money, we decided to drop in on some family members along the way, making use of their spare bedrooms.  In each place we went, we were told we were welcome to stay (we did contact them all ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise).  However, at one place, it was made clear to us that it was an inconvenience for them to let us stay the night.  They were put out.  Their attitude in helping us out was such that we won’t ever go there again.

You can’t take the gospel to others and expect them to respond when you have a complaining attitude.  Imagine it.  You go up to someone and say, “I’ve got this great news.  Wish I didn’t have to tell it to you, though.”  What kind of response are you going to receive from that?  I’ll tell you: You’ve lost the chance of ever reaching them with the gospel ever again.

The NIV translates it as “complaining and arguing.”  We snuff out our light when all that people see from us is arguing.  While there is a time and place for discussing biblical topics with brethren—yes, even having disagreements and perhaps even arguing (depending on what the other person is advocating)—your public Facebook feed probably isn’t the place for it.  Some people’s Facebook profile is nothing but calling out or condemning people in the church!  And one such person, when asking a friend to study the Bible with him, received a rejection because all he saw from this man was arguing with his own brethren!

After making that statement, Paul explains why they should “do all things without murmurings or complainings: “So that you might become blameless and harmless, children of God, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation [literally, generation], among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

We need to be concerned about how we are viewed by non-Christians.  We must live blamelessly—live in a way that we can’t be accused of maliciousness or evil intent.  We must live harmlessly—doing no damage or injury to others by what we say or do.  We must show ourselves to be children of God.  Jesus said that “by this shall all me know that you are my disciples: if you have love one for another.”  He also included a similar idea in His prayer in John 17: “that they may be one…so that the world can see that you have sent me.”  A requirement for elders is that they “must have a good report from those outside” (1 Timothy 3).

We become blameless, harmless, children of God, and we shine as lights in the world when we have the proper attitude and use that godly disposition to show the love of Jesus Christ to others!  The world is in darkness, and God shines forth, giving light to those lost and stumbling in sin through us.

But Paul closes this thought with a reminder that it isn’t just the attitude, it must include the Scriptures as well: “Holding forth the word of life.”  We keep our lives aligned with the word of God, and when we share the love of Christ with others, we make sure to point them to the same thing: the engrafted word which is able to save their souls (James 1:21).

Light-bearing leads to eternal rejoicing (2:16b-18)

So that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.

Ultimately, God through Paul is saying that true light-bearers will receive the eternal reward. It will be a day of great rejoicing on different levels.

First, Paul himself would rejoice “in the day of Christ.”  He would rejoice to see familiar faces in that great resurrection reunion.  His rejoicing was because he would be reunited with friends and loved one, but also that his work among them was not in vain.

Three years ago, Jesse and I took in three Indian boys in order to keep them out of “the system” when their parents went to jail.  It was a rough couple months for us, as those boys hadn’t been disciplined, hadn’t been trained, didn’t care about schoolwork.  But we labored with them until their parents got out of jail.  Earlier this month, I got a message from one of the boys thanking us for everything we did for them, and how the time with us is a bright memory for them.  When you hear things like that, you can’t help but rejoice that your labor was not in vain—that the work you did had an impact on the lives of others.  It’s no wonder Paul said he would rejoice in the day of Christ!

Second, Paul would rejoice that he had the smallest part in helping them—and that they had the larger part to play.  Literally, Paul says “if I be poured out on the sacrifice…” In both Jewish and pagan sacrifices, the drink offering, which was poured out, was the smallest part of the offering.  Paul said that the “sacrifice” (the main part of the offering) was their faith.  Paul knew that bringing the gospel to them, working with them, and teaching them was important—but their final salvation ultimately rested on their faith put into action.  Paul’s rejoicing came as a result of knowing that the little work he did with them led to their own personal faith and works in the Lord as light-bearers.

Third, the Christians in Philippi would rejoice as well because of their soul’s salvation in the day of Christ.  Paul says “I joy, and rejoice with you.”

Fourth, the Christians in Philippi would rejoice because they got to be reunited with the one who brought the gospel to them: “For the same cause, you also rejoice, and rejoice with me.”

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace,
In the mansions, bright and blessed,
He’ll prepare for us a place
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory.

Conclusion

From the time I was a little kid, sitting in Sunday school, I sang the song “This little light of mine.”  (sometimes “Christian light” or “gospel light)  In that song, we try to teach the children to let their lights shine for Jesus.  “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  We try to teach this principle to the children, but we might want to start realizing it applies to us adults as well.

Hide it under a bushel?  No!  I’m gonna let it shine!

Won’t let Satan [blow] it out, I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

If we let God’s light shine through us by our obedience, our love, our attitude, and our actions, then we will make it to heaven—but more than that, we will be able to rejoice because of others who are there as a result of our labor with them.

Are you a light-bearer?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Astrology and the Christian

[Our weekly guest-blogger article by Kyle Frank]

In our society, there is a great deal of time and attention paid to astrology. One needs only to look for a moment or two in the newspaper before the horoscope is found. Usually, the horoscope is generic enough where nearly everyone can find agreement with whatever occurrences happen each and every day. Some people will not make a major decision without checking with the stars. It is my purpose to show that this pseudo-science is not approved of by God nor to be trifled with by his children.

First of all, it is not to be confused with astronomy. Astronomy is a legitimate field of scientific study. There is a vast difference between true astronomy and the mystic occult art of astrology.

To be brief, astrology is a religion of the stars. The name comes from two Greek words “astra” which means Star, and “Logos,” which is word, reason or logic. From this, it can be seen that the term refers to the  word, or logic of stars. If you look at this carefully while watching a true devotee to astrology, you will see that it has in fact become a revived religion among millions of people in our time. When viewing biographies, one often hears of “what sign” someone was born under. In fact, when asked, most can tell you what sign they were born under.

In virtually every newspaper you will find the “horoscope” for the day and that is often the first thing that some will look for when opening that newspaper for that day. Often, some will not even leave their home until they have consulted their horoscope. In the light of this, let us look  at what God’s word has say on the subject.

During Bible times, astrology was a frequent, dangerous threat to God’s people. Baal- worship, which was heavily condemned by God through his prophets is believed to be a form of sun-worship. Isaiah said in 47:12-14  Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries, with which you have labored from your youth; perhaps you may be able to succeed; perhaps you may inspire terror. You are wearied with your many counsels; let them stand forth and save you, those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons make known what shall come upon you. Behold, they are like stubble; the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before!  He is pretty clear in his condemnation of their practices. Judgment was coming and his challenge to them was to protect the people, not to mention themselves. We will also look at what Jeremiah had to say on the subject. In 10:1-2 he said: “Hear the word that the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them.” From that reference, we can see that it was a prevalent practice among the nations surrounding Israel. His concern for his kinsmen was so that they did not follow the practices that were condemned by the Lord. In Amos 5:26 we read: You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god–your images that you made for yourselves. They were worshipping the host of heaven and judgment was coming. How much more so in these days when we have the Son of God to follow rather than these sham-dealers who pretend that they have all the answers.(?) The choice is ours-as Joshua once said, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve,” Joshua 24:15  We need to sit down and take a serious inventory of ourselves, life, and behavior. 2 Cor. 13:5 tells us to: Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!  Who are we to follow? Is it the Lord who has been so kind and gracious-or the horoscope, which is open to nothing but speculation? It offers nothing because it can deliver nothing.

Another part of astrology were the so-called “prophecies” by Jeanne Dixon. She made a great number of prophecies each year. Of these, only a very few would be barely even close to coming true. Remember the great number of her prophecies that would be in such great luminaries as “The Star” or other such-like papers? Compare her success  rates with God’s prophets. If you look at Deuteronomy 18:20-22: But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’– when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. If you were to judge Ms. Dixon’s success rate according to God’s scale, you would see that she came up a total and complete failure. The world held her up as a great prophet but we know the truth of the matter. We do not “follow the stars” because we follow Him who made the stars! Let us focus on that!! He tells us to follow what His Son said-not what the stars are supposed to be saying. They don’t talk, they can’t tell us the future. Why try to learn the future when they can’t know nor can they tell us? Seriously-why?

-Kyle Frank

Emotional Arguments About Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Another Tuesday is upon us, and just like last week, we’re adding another book to the rapidly-growing Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary!

This week, a topic that has touched almost every person in one way or another: divorce and remarriage.  As with all books written by man, make sure to compare what is written with the word of God–don’t take someone’s word for it.

I could write a lot more, but I think I’ll stop now and let you just read the book for yourself.  🙂

Click the link below to read online or download to your computer/phone/tablet/whatever:

Divorce and Remarriage – Some Emotional Arguments Considered (Lynn Parker)

Is Smoking Sinful?

 

Today, I read through a 40-year old debate book with the proposition, “The Scriptures Teach that a Christian May Smoke.”

The topic is one that I’ve written on before (see here), but it never hurts to restudy positions, so long as you come to the topic willing to accept whatever the Bible has to say on the matter.

Rolf Miller, a gospel preacher who smoked, took the affirmative in this debate, saying that smoking is not sinful in and of itself, but that in some instances it could become sinful.

Eugene Britnell, a gospel preacher who had quit smoking several years earlier, took the negative position, stating that smoking did harm to the body, and therefore it was sinful.

At some point in the future, I might post a review, giving my thoughts on the debate, and areas which didn’t get emphasized as they should have, but for now, I thought it’d be worthwhile to make it available for you as the latest addition to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary!

This short debate (44 pages) features five presentations from each writer, as well as a summary from both.

We hope that you find this debate to be interesting and a useful resource for your studies.

It can be read online or downloaded to your computer/tablet/phone/whatever by clicking the following link:

Britnell-Miller Debate on Smoking

For God’s Sake, for Christ’s Sake, and for Pete’s Sake…

James says that “faith without works is dead, being alone.”  That is, the only real faith, the only living faith, is one that is working, that is doing, that is active.  Are you an active Christian?

I once heard a man say about his home congregation, “I like our church just the size it is.”  That’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard, because what that says is “None of these lost souls in my town matter to me,” or “I don’t feel like saving any souls,” or “I’m perfectly content to let them all go to hell.”

No matter how you want to phrase it, that attitude is wrong.  No matter how many people you have in the building on a Lord’s Day morning, it isn’t enough!  There are literally hundreds or thousands of people in your hometown who are alone, living without Jesus, without salvation, without hope.  And as Christians–active Christians, we need to start doing a better job of bringing them to Christ.

This week you have a certain amount of people in attendance.  Next week, top that number.  Be realistic, but do your part to plant the seed and trust in God to do His part.  “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the increase”!  When you do your part, God will do His and you’ll be amazed at the results.

An active Christian is one who is out doing the will of the Lord.  But why be an active Christian?

For God’s sake, be an active Christian.

Read John 3:16.  He sent Jesus Christ for your sake.  Read that verse again, but this time, instead of the phrase “the world,” put your own name there.  Read it out loud.  “For God so loved [your name] that He gave His only begotten Son…”  God did that for your sake.  And all He asks in return is that you serve Him and tell other people about Him and what He’s done for them.

Remember, you can put your name in that verse, but you also need to put other people’s name in that verse.  For God so loved Bob, my next-door neighbor, that he gave His only begotten Son.  For God so loved my teacher, or my cousin, or the cashier at the grocery store, that He gave His only begotten Son.

For God’s sake, be an active Christian.

For Christ’s sake, be an active Christian.

Jesus had you in mind when He was dying, hanging on the cross, blood dripping down, being mocked by the people around Him.  He was thinking about you.  “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“Greater love has no man than this: that he should die for his friends.”  Jesus spoke those words the night before He died–the night before He died for you. John 15:13.

Since Jesus did that for your sake, is it really asking all that much for you to tell others about Him?

For Christ’s sake, be an active Christian.

For the church’s sake, be an active Christian.

Look, let’s be honest.  We need you.  Each and every person in the pews is needed.  Jesus said that the fields are ripe, ready to be harvested, but there’s a lack of workers.  Pray to the Father to send out workers! (Luke 10:2).  There are people out there, wanting to know the truth, ready to follow Jesus, but they need someone to tell them about Him.

I’ve been reading a book, written by a brother in Christ back in the 1960s.  In that book was a very thought-provoking line that … well, let’s just say it hit me pretty hard.

What would Jesus do if he were a member of the congregation where I worship?

Would Jesus leave any person of your acquaintance out of His efforts to save if He physically lived here on earth today?  If so, which person would He omit? (Ideas for Bible School Growth by Alan M. Bryan, page 10)

Of all the people you know, that you work with, that you live near, that you go to school with, that you’re related to, whatever the case may be–which ones do you think Jesus would ignore?  Which ones do you think Jesus would walk by without a word?  Which ones do you think Jesus would say, “He’s not worth my time”?

You know the answer to that question.  So, “Go ye and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

For the church’s sake, be an active Christian.

For Pete’s sake, be an active Christian.

Every time I hear people say “for Pete’s sake,” I want to say, “I only know one person who goes by the name of Pete, and he lives in England.  So what exactly does he have to do with this?”

Thousands of lost souls are in this town, and we need to reach them all.  Let’s call them all Pete.  Not to their face, mind you, but let’s just think of each of the lost souls in this town as people in need of the gospel.  They are people who are in desperate need of an active Christian to touch their lives and help them come to Christ.

This helps bring people to Christ, but it also has the glorious side benefit of encouraging yourself and the whole congregation.  You make yourself happier, you bring joy to other Christians, you bring Pete to the Lord.  Really, the only one who loses in this whole scenario is Satan.

There are a lot of Pete’s in the world who are going to die without Christ, without hope unless someone teaches them about Jesus.  Be an active Christian for their sake.

For Pete’s sake, be an active Christian.

For your own sake, be an active Christian.

Faith without works is dead.  And a dead faith won’t get you very far when Jesus returns.

Who needs to come to Jesus?  It’s your friends.  It’s your neighbors.  It’s your co-workers.

Maybe it’s you.

“No,” you say.  “I’m good with Jesus.”  Are you really?  Are you certain?  Would Jesus agree with your assessment?

“Not all who say to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Jesus said it requires doing God’s will.  It means being active and obeying God’s commands.  Jesus describes a judgment scene in Matthew 25, and if you’ll notice the judgment was based on who was active and who was not.

It’s a wonderful thing to serve the kind, merciful, loving God of heaven.  Don’t you think it’s time you get right with Him?

For your own sake, be an active Christian.

A growing church starts with you.

-Bradley S. Cobb

When Shovels Break (by Michael Shank) – A Review

I’ve known Michael Shank for the better part of a decade, and we both “cut our teeth” doing fill-in preaching for the same little congregation in Southern Illinois.  So, it was with great pleasure that I wrote the first real review of his first book, Muscle and a Shovel (you can read the review/article at BrotherhoodNews.com).  A few years have passed, and God has used Muscle and a Shovel in ways far beyond what I–or anyone else–could have imagined.

Soon after it began to spread through the brotherhood, Mike began work on his second book, When Shovels Break.  It has taken a few years, but it’s finally ready.

And let me tell you this: It is powerful.

While Muscle and a Shovel was written for the non-Christian, to help show them the biblical path to life in Christ, When Shovels Break was written for the struggling Christian, the wayward Christian, the unfaithful brother or sister in Christ.  It is a stirring testimony that no matter what you have done, no matter how far you have fallen away from Him, God is always ready to take you back and forgive you.

But there’s more to When Shovels Break than that–a LOT more.

wsb_cover_small

A Sequel

When Shovels Break acts as a sequel to Muscle and a Shovel in many respects.  It follows the life of Michael Shank and his wife where the previous book left off.

But it also introduces us to one of Mike’s oldest friends, a man named John.  John and Mike had a lot in common: both came to Christ around the same time (both converted by “Randal”), worked  in the same industry, lived in the same neighborhood, even liked the same kinds of food.  In fact, John and Mike were as close as two friends could be.

The book begins [and this isn’t much of a spoiler, since Mike posted the first chapter on Facebook months ago] with John distraught over his sinful life, absolutely certain that he’s lost forever, not seeing any way of hope, and Mike trying to help him.  Then John lifts the gun to his head.

What could bring a man–a baptized believer in Jesus Christ–to such desperation that he thinks the only way out is to kill himself?  Could God ever take him back after all the sins he’s committed?  After he’s insulted his Savior by going back headlong into a life of sin?

A Message for the Church

Muscle and a Shovel was written for non-Christians, but it became a great tool to teach faithful members of the Lord’s church that evangelism doesn’t have to be hard!  It gave a clear and simple method to help show others God’s path to salvation.  It served to energize once-inactive Christians into active service for their Lord.  It helped remind experienced brethren of what they were fighting for, and the Lord’s church has become stronger as a result of God’s use of that book.

When Shovels Break is also a great tool for members of the Lord’s church.  Throughout the story of Mike and John’s life, you will see very clearly the importance of having brothers and sisters in Christ who care.  You will see the damage that can be done through a brother’s (or a congregation’s) indifference and the discouragement it can cause others.

This new book is also an example of God’s providence.  In the later part of the story, we get to see how God worked so many unexpected (and sometimes frustrating) things out in Mike’s life to bring him to the point of writing and publishing Muscle and a Shovel.  That bit of information is a nice little bonus to those who like to know “the rest of the story.”

You’ll also probably chuckle as Mike tries to show the Jule Miller Filmstrips to a bunch of drunks.

The Road Back Home

I surprised Mike when I told him that I thought the final dozen or so chapters were just as good–if not even better–than the story itself.  But I stand by it.

After concluding the story itself, Mike dedicates several chapters to a straight-forward conversation with Christians.  He devotes time to showing wayward members the way back home, but he also writes to encourage brethren whose strength may be faltering.  He describes some of these chapters as “God’s plan to keep you from ever falling away again–ever.”

And they are good.

The Survey

I’m not a prophet, but I believe the part of the book that will have the most impact within the church is where Mike gives the results of a survey he conducted, interviewing 400 people who have left the church.  It is an eye-opener–and it shows that the church itself must take at least part of the blame for their departure.

Final Thoughts

Even though I was already privy to part of the story (a side benefit of being friends with Mike since before Muscle and a Shovel), I got goosebumps reading through it.  Mike writes with a clarity and emotional power that makes you instantly identify with his struggles.  You hurt when he hurts.  You get frustrated when he is frustrated.  And you rejoice when he rejoices.

And you will never look at the Ego Board the same way again.

[note: I was not asked to write a review, but I thought it needed to be done]

To get your own copy of When Shovels Break, you can order direct from Mike Shank (or if you want it in Kindle format, it’s available here).

Are You Behaving Unseemly?

scan0004

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been posting articles on how to have a great marriage.  We’re continuing that theme again this week by looking at the ways the Bible describes love.

Unseemly

If you’ve got a King James Bible, and you look at I Corinthians 13:5, you’ll see that charity [love] does not behave itself unseemly.

Now what exactly does this word mean?

Unseemly is acting rudely. It’s making snide comments under your breath as you walk off. It’s mocking your spouse.  But this word also includes the idea of behaving disgracefully, indecently, or dishonorably.

I hope you’re starting to get the picture here. This covers a LOT.

It’s being out in public and being loud and obnoxious—embarrassing your wife. Belching loudly, getting drunk, making a spectacle of yourself.

It’s engaging in lewd behavior, telling inappropriate jokes, flirting with other women or men, letting other men or women flirt with you.

It’s wearing clothing in public that is too tight, or too short, or which are open down to the top of the breasts.

You might say, “wait a minute. What does wearing low-cut shirts have to do with love?”

If you love your husband, you’ll keep what’s his covered, and you will not be showing it off to anyone who happens to glance in your direction. Your body belongs to HIM. Letting other people peek at your body because you’re not covering it up enough is the opposite of love.

What about homosexual marriage?

You might wonder why I’m even bringing this up here, especially since we covered that pretty clearly in this post.  It all has to do with that word “unseemly.”

This same basic Greek word also appears in Romans 1:27. There, God says, “Likewise also, the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with me working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error that was due.”

So, let’s make a sound, logical, Biblical argument here.

1. Homosexuality is called “unseemly.”
2. True love does not behave “unseemly.”
3. Therefore, homosexuality is not truly “love.”

Or, to put it another way, homosexuals have completely lost any right to claim “love” as an excuse for their sinful behavior.

You want a good marriage? Then don’t behave unseemly.  That is, don’t be rude. Don’t be obnoxious. Don’t give undue attention to people of the opposite sex other than your spouse. Don’t show off your body.

In short, put your mate first.

Don’t Do This…

Me, me, me. I, I, I. I’m the one who matters. I’m the one who’s important. Let’s focus on me!

That’s so annoying! We don’t like being around people who always focus on themselves.  No, we want to be around people who will focus their attention on US! Because we’re the ones that should be focused on, right?

One person recently said that he was trying to do a comprehensive sermon on the topic of sin, and asked what he should include in it.  One of the answers was, “All sin is self-centered. It’s all about me. It’s focused only on what I want. That’s why there’s an “i” in the middle of “sin”.”

And that’s absolutely true. We are all tempted when we are drawn away by our own desires and enticed. And when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin. And when sin is full grown, it brings forth death. (James 1:14-15).

Love is the opposite of sin.  Love—true love—is selfless. It is focused on the needs of others. It is putting other people first.  It’s true in every relationship. And it’s especially true in marriage.

We’ve looked at a couple things that love is. You’ll remember, “if you REALLY love me, you’d be patient with me,” and “If you REALLY love me, you’d be kind.”

Starting today, we’re going to look at some things that love ISN’T.

That is, these are things that will be noticeably absent from a great marriage.  So, if you want to have a great marriage (you do, right?), read on:

Don’t be envious

Look at I Corinthians 13:4.  Love is not envious (KJV) Love is not jealous (NASB).

These are two very similar ideas.  Jealousy is feeling bitterness at others because of what they have.  Envy is wanting what someone else has—their success, their money, their looks, their life, etc…

The Corinthians had a real problem with this. People were jealous—envious of other Christians who had supposedly “better” miraculous gifts. So, really, Paul’s using this opportunity to show them that when they’re envious, they’re not obeying the command to “love one another.”

But how does this fit in marriage?

After all, I don’t think a single one of you guys wishes you looked like your wife. And I know that not a one of you women wish that you had your husband’s looks.

But there is jealousy and envy in marriage ALL THE TIME.

The wife who stays home is envious of her husband because he is able to interact with real adults during the day. She’s jealous of the fact that he gets to go somewhere to work while she’s stuck at home. Some wives are jealous of the attention that their husbands get from others—he is praised for his accomplishments and she feels ignored by comparison.  Many wives feel a resentment to their husband—a feeling of envy—because of these things.

On the other side, husbands can be envious of their wife because she gets to stay at home all day and do nothing. One man made it very clear that he’d love to trade places with his wife because she only had to take care of a couple kids, and meanwhile he had to do “real work.” Other men hear their wife get complimented, and they are bitter because she’s getting attention and they’re not.

It goes both ways.

You can’t be envious.

You have to be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5).  The basis of envy is that you aren’t content with what you already have.  It’s having a poor self-image.

Hey, Jesus died for you. He thinks you’re pretty important. And for some reason, that’s not good enough for you? You still want more? You still want what someone else has?

It’s time to change your focus to what you HAVE instead of what you DON’T have.  Instead of being jealous, wanting what your spouse supposedly has, be happy for them!  If your spouse is getting complimented because they’ve lost weight, or they’ve gotten a promotion, or they’ve accomplished something, BE HAPPY for them!

Realize that the things you’re jealous of might not really be the way they seem.  Oh, he gets to go to a job and interact with adult people every day. More likely, he’s going to a frustrating place and dealing with people who frequently don’t know how to do their job, and it is a place of immense stress.

Oh, she gets to stay home and do nothing all day except watch the kids. Yeah, if you think that, you need to get something called a “clue.” She’s home dealing with immature children who require constant supervision, and she’s deprived of any real intellectual interaction during that time.

If you want to have a great marriage, and one that is also pleasing to God (double bonus!), you need to kick envy out of the house.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Be Nice…

a.k.a. “How to Have a Great Marriage (part five)”

If You Love Me, You’ll Be Nice to Me

Love is kind (I Corinthians 13:4).

Kindness is one of those things that can be hard to define, but you know it when you see it.  It’s being friendly. It’s smiling. It’s showing someone that you are interested in them as a person. It’s taking time to be there for them and lending a helping hand. It’s taking the time to listen to what they have to say. Not just sitting there while they’re talking, but actually listening.

Kindness is not these things:

  • yelling at someone.
  • being mean.
  • treating them like they’re worthless.

In order to have a great marriage, a God-honoring marriage, you must be kind to your spouse.  You want your spouse to be nice to you, right? You don’t want a mean husband or a cantankerous wife. So, you be the kind spouse YOU are supposed to be.

You have no right to tell your wife to be kind to you if you’re a jerk to her. And vice versa.

Some husbands ignore their wives–not paying attention to what they say, not paying attention to what they need. In short, they aren’t being kind to their wives, and they need to repent.

Kindness means you give your spouse a smile. Kindness means you stop what you’re doing and listen to her when she needs to talk. Kindness means you listen to him talk about sports, even if it’s more boring than reading stereo instructions. Again, it’s not just being quiet; it’s actually listening to them.

You have to show your spouse that you care.

Get out your steel-toed boots, because it’s toe-stomping time! Let’s notice how God put this together.  Love is patient and is kind (I Corinthians 13:4). He connected these two.

When your spouse does something you don’t like, you’re supposed to be patient with them. And you’re supposed to be kind to them.

Do you realize what this means? This means, even when you’re mad at your husband, you don’t yell at him. You don’t scream at him. You don’t ignore him. You don’t treat him like he’s scum. You don’t make out like he’s the most horrible thing since moldy bread. You don’t decide it’s a good time to bring up all of his past mistakes.

This means when you’re upset with your wife, you don’t insult her. You don’t yell at her. You don’t throw things. You don’t berate her. You don’t say things like “you never do this,” or “you ALWAYS do that.” You don’t start bossing her around.

And—whether you’re the husband or the wife—DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT say, “If you REALLY loved me, you wouldn’t do that.” That’s an emotional attack and an insult to them, and it is NOT showing love or kindness or patience when you say it.

Instead, you treat your spouse with kindness—even when they’ve messed up.

The question now comes up, what if your spouse has stopped trying? What if your spouse has shown over a period of time WITHOUT QUESTION that he/she doesn’t care? That they think you’re unimportant? That they think you’re not worth trying for?  Are you still expected to be patient and kind to them then?

And the answer is this: the Bible says to love one another. It’s a command. It doesn’t say, “Love one another so long as it’s convenient.” It doesn’t say “love one another so long as that person is trying”. It says “Love one another” PERIOD.

So, since we are commanded to love one another, we must be patient with our spouse.  Since we’re commanded to love one another, we must be kind to our spouse. ALL the time, not just when it suits us.

Because, let’s be honest. Yelling and being mean isn’t going to get anyone to change.

If you want your spouse to change, I guarantee you that yelling, screaming, berating, or being mean is NOT going to get it done. But patience and kindness can.  They are much more powerful than anger.  “God has called us to peace. For what do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, oh man, whether you will save your wife?” (I Corinthians 7:15-16).

If you REALLY love me, you’ll be kind.  Because love is kind.

Putting It Into Practice

Now if you put your boots away, get ’em back out because here is where it REALLY starts to hurt.

You’re in the middle of a head-butting session with your spouse. They’re being unreasonable. They’re being hard-headed. And you’re ready to just put them in their place, Bible-style! So, you open up your mouth and say, “Hey, the Bible says that if you love me, you’ll be kind!”

And you know that will completely fix things immediately. Your spouse will stop and look at you and with a bright sincere smile on their face say, “you’re right. I’m sorry. I should never have been fighting with you.” I hope you’ve caught the sarcasm there.

No, that’s nothing more than using your own bad attitude to attack someone else.

Instead, you need to talk to yourself (you’re the only one you can control) and say, If I really love her/him, I’ll be kind.  If I really love her/him, I’ll be patient.

See, they’ll have to answer for their own attitude problems. You have to control what YOU are doing.

If you REALLY love me, you’d be patient and kind to me. That is 100% true. But you must first start with the log sticking out of your own eye and admit, “If I REALLY love you, I’ll be patient and kind to you.”

YOU need to be the one to start. YOU need to be the one to take the first step. YOU need to be the one who shows patience and kindness—because if you don’t, it means you don’t really love them.

Love is patient. Love is kind.

Think about it.  It’s worth the effort.