Tag Archives: Christian Living

How to Have a Great Marriage (part two)

I was 7 years old when I heard some people talk about a local preacher.  They had been over to his house, and apparently he decided to tell some stories. Now, these weren’t just any stories. These were stories that made his wife look ignorant. And he laughed and laughed, even though no one else did.

And I’ll never forget what they said next in this conversation: She looked like she wanted to crawl under the table and hide.

Of course, when I was 7, I was trying to figure out why she’d want to play hide and seek during dinner. But as I got older, those words stuck with me, and I came to understand that she was embarrassed by the stories, ashamed by her husband’s behavior, and hurt that he could laugh while tearing her down.

My friends, that is not a God-honoring marriage.

Last week, we examined some requirements for a God-honoring marriage.

  • You have to leave your mommy and daddy and be joined to your spouse.
  • You have to be committed—100% to your spouse and your marriage.
  • You have to be faithful—and not just physically. Be faithful with your eyes and your thoughts.

When you do these things, divorce should never come up in the conversation.

This week, we’re continuing the same theme.  In order to have a great marriage, and a marriage that is pleasing to God, this ingredient must be present.

Respect for your spouse.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people bad-mouthing their husband or wife.  It’s nothing but complain, complain, complain to everyone. It’s like they can’t do anything right. All you hear is about how awful their spouse is ALL THE TIME! He’s a lazy jerk. She’s a horrible cook. She doesn’t clean. He won’t help with the kids.  And what’s worse is when they say those things in public while their spouse is right there.

That is not showing respect to your spouse AT ALL.  And let me assure you, the Bible commands that you show respect to your spouse.

Husbands, give honor to your wife (I Peter 3:7).

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

That word honor means to value them. It means to show deference to them. To reverence them. To esteem them. To treat them with dignity. In short, it means to RESPECT them.

Husbands, show respect to your wife! Treat them like the weaker vessel.  Fine china is precious, expensive, and you have to be careful with it or it will break.  In the same way, your wife is precious, valuable, and you must treat her with the kindness and respect that she deserves, otherwise she can break.

Her self-esteem can be broken by a husband who doesn’t treat her with respect. Her will to work can be broken when she’s treated like she’s nothing special. Her desire to try to make the marriage better can break when the husband lets her know he doesn’t respect her.

Husbands, treat your wife kindly. Treat her with respect!

That means that you don’t treat her like she’s stupid—especially in front of other people!  That means you don’t mock her or ridicule her.  It means that you treat her like the gift from God to you that she is.

You should show her respect because she is also an heir of the grace of life.

What does that mean? It means that she has been given the gift of life by God, just like you have. She’s made in God’s image.  She is someone for whom Christ died.  And if you treat her like she’s unimportant, then you’re saying that you’re also unimportant–you can’t have it both ways. Ultimately, if you treat God’s creation disrespectfully, you can expect the same treatment from Him.

You should treat her with respect because if you don’t, you can’t get forgiveness of sins.

This goes hand-in-hand with what we just finished saying.  If you don’t treat her with respect, God will not hear your prayers. If God won’t hear your prayers, then you cannot have your sins forgiven. If you can’t have your sins forgiven, you’re going to hell. DO I HAVE TO MAKE IT ANY CLEARER?

Treat your wife with respect or you go to hell. Period. No exceptions. You have no hope—AT ALL.

Wives, reverence your husband (Ephesians 5:33).

Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, and that the wife see that she reverences her husband.

The word reverence means to show them honor. It means to show deference to them. The Greek word (phobos) actually means to fear them—as in show them respect. In fact, the NKJV, NIV, NAS, ESV all translate this word as respect.

This means that the wife isn’t going to go around bad-mouthing her husband. She won’t be complaining about everything he does. Even if there are things that her husband needs to work on, she’s not going to make that public knowledge. She’s not going to berate him for his mistakes. She will show him respect.

Thayer defines the word here as showing reverential obedience.

You should respect your husband because he is the God-ordained head of the household (Ephesians 5:23).  God has given him the responsibility of leading the family. Of providing for the family. Of caring for the family’s spiritual and physical needs.  These are heavy responsibilities, and he deserves your respect for taking them on.

You should respect your husband because God said so.  Regardless of how you may feel towards your husband, this is a command of God. And if you refuse to obey it, you have just forfeited your soul. Intentional disobedience is an automatic ticket to hell (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Whether you are the husband or the wife, RESPECT YOUR SPOUSE!  It may be hard, but if you want a happy marriage, you’ll do it. If you want a marriage that helps you grow as a person and as a Christian, you’ll do it. If you want to go to heaven, you’ll do it.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

But, if you want a mediocre marriage filled with yelling and screaming and constant complaining–one that makes you feel stifled and trapped–then go ahead. Don’t respect your spouse. If you want to go to hell, feel free to ignore God’s commands.

How to Have a Great Marriage (part one)

It’s amazing when you consider that God’s commands for marriage are all ones that–when followed–improve your married life.  So, by following God’s commands, you are making your marriage better!  So, we could call this “Requirements for a God-Honoring Marriage” and it would be absolutely true, but it is also just as accurate to call these next four articles “How to have a Great Marriage!”

Over half of all marriages are ending in divorce. These messes leave sadness, broken hearts, hurt, anger, frustration, distrust, and disaster all around. These messes ruin the lives of children who often times cause the same messes in their own marriages later on. People shake their heads and wring their hands—what can you do?   You know that God doesn’t approve of all these rampant divorces, because God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

In the last post, we talked about the things that were absolutely required in order for God to recognize a marriage as valid. It must be between a male and a female, and the parties must be eligible to be married. Any marriage that doesn’t meet God’s definition and pre-requisites isn’t a valid marriage, it’s nothing more than “shacking up.” God calls it fornication, which is a sin that will keep you out of heaven (Galatians 5:19-21).

This week, we’re going to take a look at what is required for a God-honoring marriage—a marriage that pleases God.   These are things that—if done—will guarantee a happy home life, and will keep divorce from happening.

Leaving Father and Mother (Matthew 19:4-5).

“Haven’t you read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female? And He said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they two shall be one flesh?'”

The people Jesus is speaking to claimed to be experts in the Law, yet He says to them, “haven’t you read?” It’s like he’s saying to them “It’s right there in the Bible—you know, the one that you claim to be experts in? Haven’t you read it?”

He said that a marriage involves leaving father and mother behind and clinging to your spouse. But one of the biggest causes of marriage problems is when one or the other (or both) have never actually left mom and dad.

Constantly saying, “well, my mother says this,” or “my dad does it this way,” is guaranteed to cause resentment. It also shows that you haven’t left mom and dad behind. And people wonder, “Why do you hate my parents so much?” It’s because the parents have been brought into the marriage. It’s because the husband is always running to his mommy to complain about his wife. It’s because the wife is saying, “that’s not how my daddy does it.”

God, from the very beginning, said that a marriage involved LEAVING mother and father and CLEAVING (clinging) to your spouse. When you get married, you must start your own family unit. This doesn’t mean that you have nothing to do with your parents, but it must be made clear that your spouse is the most important person in the world to you.   It must be made clear that when there are problems that arise in the marriage, arguments or whatever, that you deal with it with your spouse—don’t go off running to mommy and daddy. That shows an incredible lack of maturity. If your spouse doesn’t respect you very much, this may well be the reason why.

If you want to have a marriage that honors God—a marriage that will make you happy—then make your spouse the focal point of your love and attention. The marriage should be a safe haven in the midst of a troubling storm. And frequently, that storm is called “Hurricane In-laws.” If your parents talk bad about your wife, stand up for her. If they talk bad about your husband, stand up for him. Many marriages are doomed to failure because one or the other still wants to be daddy’s girl or momma’s boy instead of being a good husband or wife.

A God-honoring marriage is one that obeys God’s command to leave the father and mother and cleave to your spouse. And if you haven’t done it yet—do it now! It is a violation of a direct command of God if you don’t! It is a sin to remain tied to your parents when you’re supposed to be tied to your mate!

Parents, this is something that you need to keep in mind as well. Because immediately after Jesus mentioned the whole “leaving parents” and “cleaving to the spouse,” He said, “what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Far too many parents are trying to run their kids’ marriages. Telling them where to live. Telling them what job to get. Telling them that they aren’t doing enough. Telling them that they need to start having kids. Telling them that they need to stop having kids. I know of one man who basically told his son and daughter-in-law that they needed to have an abortion when she got pregnant.

Some parents try to drive a wedge between the man and wife. The mother doesn’t think the daughter-in-law is good enough for her little boy. The dad doesn’t think his son-in-law is good enough for his little girl. And so they try to tell them what to do. They try to pit one against the other.   They bad-mouth them. Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight. And it brings horrible stress on a marriage, because they won’t let their kid obey Jesus by leaving the parents and cleaving to the spouse.   Unless you see them engaged in sin, then don’t be telling them what to do. Be there for them if they ask for advice, but don’t let them come to you complaining about their spouse. That’s gossip. And that’s sinful.

Commitment to Each Other.

A man and woman were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.   There was a big party for them. And one of the people in attendance asked them, “What’s the secret to staying married for 60 years?” And the wife gave a very deep, profound answer: “don’t die.” This answer represents commitment.

Years ago, people actually meant it when they said, “I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife, for richer or for poorer, through sickness and in health, FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, until death do we part.” For them, their attitude was that they were going to stick together no matter what!

The Bible teaches that marriage is a life-long commitment. Matthew 19:6 – What God has joined together, let not man tear apart (that command is for the husband and wife just as much as it is any outsider who might try to break up the marriage). God hates divorce. In fact, God commands “Let not the wife depart from her husband…and let not the husband put away his wife” (I Corinthians 7:10-11). One way that God describes divorce is “dealing treacherously” with your spouse (Malachi 2:16). It is when the spouse dies that the marriage ends (Romans 7:2).

If both the husband and the wife lived out a life of commitment to each other, there would be no danger of divorce at all. The husband loving the wife (Ephesians 5:25). The wife loving the husband (Titus 2:4). This “love” is the conscious decision to put your spouse ahead of yourself. To put their needs first. To put their wants ahead of your wants. To show them kindness, respect, and compassion. It is a decision that you make.

If you don’t go into marriage with a firm commitment to your spouse, then you are sinning. Prenuptial agreements (If this doesn’t work out, here’s how we’ll split things) are just planning in advance to fail.

If you’re married, and you’re not committed, then you’re sinning. A man who was tired of being married to the same person went to the preacher and said, “I just don’t love my wife anymore. We don’t get along. We fight all the time. And I’m ready to quit.” The preacher looked at him and said, “Well, I guess there’s only one thing to do, then.” The man’s eyes lit up—the preacher was about to tell him to go ahead and get a divorce…at least, that’s what he thought. The preacher looked him in the eyes and said, “Yes, only one thing to do. You get yourself home and repent. Pray to God for forgiveness and beg your wife for forgiveness for not being the husband you ought to be.”

If you’re married and you aren’t committed to your spouse, then you have some heavy duty repenting and begging for forgiveness to do.

Faithfulness to Your Spouse.

Both cleaving to your spouse and being committed to your spouse involve being faithful to your spouse. God designed marriage to be the place where sexual desires can be satisfied (I Corinthians 7:1-9). Any sexual activity outside of a God-authorized marriage is sinful and can cause you to lose your soul eternally. When you get married, God joins you and your spouse together, and you two are to become one flesh (Matthew 19:5-6). No one else is allowed in this union.

Sexual activity outside of the marriage is condemned by God, and has always carried a very harsh punishment. In the Old Testament, both the man and woman were to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). It is called “adultery,” and Galatians 5:19-21 states very clearly that those who commit adultery will go to hell. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was described as God’s bride, but they had gone after other gods. God describes what they did as adultery. And as a result of what they did, God utterly destroyed them.

Not only is adultery sinful, Proverbs 6:32 says, “he who committeth adultery with a with a woman lacketh understanding. He that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.” ISV says, “Whoever commits adultery with a woman is out of his mind!” The CEV says, “But if you go to bed with another man’s wife, you will destroy yourself by your own stupidity.” Basically, God says if you go sleeping around, you’re stupid! I didn’t say it, God did!

Sexual unfaithfulness is so wicked that it is the only reason that God allows someone to get a divorce and then get remarried (Matthew 19:9). When someone has sexual relations with someone other than their spouse, they have destroyed the union that God joined together. This, and this alone, gives someone the right to leave their spouse and get married to someone else. And according to Jesus, if you cheat on your spouse—they can divorce you, and you can never get married to anyone else again.

But, let’s dig a bit deeper—what about the whole argument of “well, I never CHEATED on my spouse”? Does the fact that you never physically cheated on your spouse mean that you are faithful in your marriage?

The Bible demands COMPLETE faithfulness to your spouse—or you will burn in hell.

  • The Bible demands faithfulness with your eyes (don’t even stare or lust after another person—Job 31:1, Matthew 5:28).
  • The Bible demands faithfulness with your thoughts – same verses.
  • Pornography is a sin! Having sexual conversations with someone other than your spouse is sin! That includes conversations in person, conversations on Facebook, “Sexting,” sending pictures, etc—all of them are sin.

And if you’re doing any of them, STOP IT! For crying out loud, STOP IT! You’ll go to hell because of it, so just STOP IT!

The Bible demands COMPLETE faithfulness to your spouse—in who you sleep with, who you look at, who you think about—it had better be your spouse!

Conclusion:

If you want a good marriage, a happy marriage, a marriage that honors God, a marriage that will never be destroyed by divorce, then you have to do what God has commanded: Leave your parents and cling to your spouse. Be 100% committed to your spouse and your marriage. Stay faithful exclusively to her/him.

And if you aren’t doing these things, then START doing them now! Don’t wait! If you refuse to do them, you make yourself an enemy of God, and He will destroy you (Hebrews 10:26-31). Do it for your soul. Do it for yourself—be selfish about it. You want to be happy, and the easiest way to be happy in your marriage is for your spouse to be happy with you. So, make things easier on yourself by being the spouse God wants you to be. Do it for your spouse—they deserve it. Whatever reason you want to use for doing it, just do it!

Pre-Requisites for a God-Approved Marriage

In this messed up country that we live in, people have confused the topic of marriage to the point where no one seems to know what marriage even means! Just look at some of the definitions that people give for marriage:

  • It’s a man and a woman who commit in a civil ceremony to live together and share last names until they decide they don’t want to anymore.
  • It’s two people (gender doesn’t matter) who commit in a legally-binding civil ceremony to live together until they decide they don’t want to anymore.
  • It’s a man and however many women he wants, joined in religiously-binding ceremonies to live together as man and wives until death.
  • And of course, there are variations on each of these.

Some are already pushing for marriage to animals, marriage with multiple men and women all joined in one blob of a family unit, and who knows what else!

Though the people here on planet earth might be confused, God isn’t. God knows exactly what marriage is, and what it isn’t. And if we bother to look at the Bible, we can have the same knowledge.

This is the first in a series on marriage, and deals with the question of “What is required for God to approve or recognize a marriage?”

A God-Ordained Marriage Requires a Man and a Woman.

In the beginning, God created a male and a female (Genesis 1:27-28). Adam and Eve were the first married couple. In fact, if you go through the entire Old Testament, you will never—not once—see an instance of a man being married to another man or a woman being married to another woman. In the Old Testament, marriage is ALWAYS, 100% of the time, when a man is married to a woman.

But let’s go to the New Testament and see what Jesus has to say about it.

I want you to look carefully at just how many times Jesus shows what He thinks about marriage in Matthew 19:4-9.

  • And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female [MALE AND FEMALE, did you catch that?]
  • and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife [A MAN SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE—male and female]
  • and they two shall be one flesh [Which two? A man and his wife—not a man and his husband or a woman and her wife, but a man and his wife]
  • Therefore they are no more two, but one flesh [Who is the “they”? A man and a woman! Only a man and his wife are authorized by God to be one flesh].
  • What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder [God only joins male and female, the only marriage recognized by God is a man and his wife].
  • And I say unto you, Whoever shall put away his wife [HIS wife. Not HER wife, but HIS wife. Again, only a male and female!], except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away does commit adultery.

Six times in those few verses, Jesus makes it clear that the only marriage recognized by God is between a man and a woman.

Therefore, in order to have a God-ordained marriage, there must first be a man and a woman—and ONLY a man and a woman. Not two males. Not two females. Not one human and one animal.

A God-Ordained Marriage Requires Eligibility.

Some people are not eligible to be married, and thus any marriage involving these people is not ordained (approved) by God.

Children are not eligible to be married. One of the commands given to the first married couple was to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:27). This absolutely rules out anyone who is not old enough to bear children. It is noteworthy that every instance of marriage in the Bible uses the term man (as in, adult male) and woman (as in adult female). Of course, when someone becomes an adult can be debated, but there can be no doubt that a 10-year old is not eligible to be married.

Mentally incapable people are not eligible to be married. The Bible commands that husbands “love” their wives, as in make a conscious decision to put the wife’s needs above his own (Colossians 3:19). The Bible commands wives to reverence their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Some people are mentally handicapped to the point that they are incapable of following God’s commands for marriage. If it is physically impossible for the person to follow God’s marriage laws, then that person is not eligible to be in a God-ordained marriage.

Already-married people are not eligible to be married again. If someone is already in a marriage, they cannot get married to someone else as well. I know what you’re thinking. “But what about polygamy in the Old Testament?” Yes, God tolerated it, but it was not His plan. After all, Jesus said that from the beginning, it was “they TWO shall become one flesh,” and that the husband should cling to his WIFE (singular). Under the New Testament, the Bible is clear—each woman shall have her own husband (singular), and each man shall have his own wife (singular)—I Corinthians 7:2. Polygamy is a violation of the New Testament and is not authorized by God.

When someone who is married is widowed—that is, when that person’s spouse dies—that person is indeed eligible to marry again (I Corinthians 7:1).

Those who have divorced for a reason other than fornication are not eligible to be married. Jesus said, “Whoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another commits adultery (Matthew 19:9). And we all know that adultery is something condemned by God (Galatians 5:19-21). That means that unless a person got a divorce because his spouse was cheating on him, he is not eligible to be married to anyone else. The only divorced people who are eligible to be married are: (1) Those who divorced their spouse because they were being cheated on (Matthew 19:9). Or (2) those who wish to marry the one that they had been married to in the first place (I Corinthians 7:11).

Some Things that are NOT a Pre-Requisite for a God-Ordained Marriage.

Being in love. While it’s not a bad thing to really enjoy the company of the person you want to marry, it’s not a requirement for a God-ordained marriage. In many cultures, the marriages are arranged by the parents. I can imagine that most of the younger people find that idea repulsive. But guess what, it’s biblical!

I Corinthians 7:36-38, NASB – But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.

According to the Bible, whether or not a girl gets married (and to whom) is up to her father. That’s why we have the custom of the man asking the father for permission to marry the daughter. That’s why, in a wedding ceremony, the preacher asks, “who gives this girl to be married?” You’d better keep that in mind before you decide to announce to your parents that you’re getting married.

A man named Doka Obadiah, from Kenya, told me that his friends picked out a girl they thought he’d like, and then he went to the father and bought her for the hefty price of a cow and four bushels of corn. There was no “being in love” first. No dating first. Just an agreement between the man and the father, and a commitment to be the husband God wants him to be. And they are happily married and working in God’s kingdom there in Kenya.

Dating. It sounds strange to Americans, but dating isn’t required in order to get married. In fact, dating is never once mentioned in the Bible.

Physical attraction. Just like the whole “being in love” thing, it’s nice to have a physical attraction to the person you’re going to marry, but the Bible nowhere makes that a requirement.

Conclusion:

Marriage is a wonderful thing, created by God. But it has been abused and misused and twisted by people who don’t respect His word. God has created specific parameters for who can be married, and if we have any desire whatsoever to go to heaven, we will stay within them.

God didn’t create these rules arbitrarily. No, in fact, these rules are there for our own well-being. If everyone just stuck with God’s rules on marriage, the divorce rate would fall to zero, and people would have happy marriages.

-Bradley Cobb

Autobiography of R.C. Bell

Taken from the pages of the upcoming “Studies in the Scriptures: Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians,” we present to you the autobiography of R.C. Bell.

Autobiography of R.C. Bell

On a farm near Bell Buckle, Tennessee, I, Robert Clark Bell was born, March 20, 1877. My father, S. A. Bell, Sr., was of Scotch Irish and my mother, Sally Catherine Hoover, of Pennsylvania Dutch descent. I inherited a sound bodily construction and a mind of quiet, studious bent rather than of the quick, brilliant type. As my parents were both faithful members of the church when they were married, I went to church regularly every Sunday from babyhood.

Native Religious Temperament

As indicative of my natively serious autumnal, rather than of gay vernal temperament, the first reading I did of my own choosing was a page, colored by pious thought and feeling, entitled, “Home Reading” in the Gospel Advocate, a paper that came into our home every week. (This page was long since discontinued, but the old man is grateful that the boy had a chance to read it.) I came into the church at fifteen years of age, during a meeting conducted at Fosterville, Tennessee, by E. A. Elam. At the close of this meeting, Brother Elam asked those who had just been baptized if they were so disposed, to promise, by reading three chapters on week days and five on Sundays, to read the entire Bible within a year. I promised, and for three consecutive years read the Bible through yearly, according to this plan.

Nashville Bible School

At the age of eighteen years, I entered the Nashville Bible School, Nashville, Tennessee, to alternate for five years attending this institution and teaching in the rural schools of Tennessee. Under the influence of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding, I soon saw that Paul’s description of some who would hold a form of doctrine, but deny its power, fit me. Especially, Brother Harding’s living, magnetic, contagious faith in God as a real personal friend matched the wavelength of my spirit. I slowly enough imbibed his enthusiasm for God’s fatherly care of individual Christians, for Christ’s brotherly sympathy and fellowship with them, and for the empowering Holy Spirit’s residence in them. In other words, for Brother Harding’s conception of Christianity as a “divine-human encounter,” in which spiritual communion between God and man, the sweetest of human experiences, was enjoyed.

I gradually came to realize, however, that the spiritual power of the church was contingent upon the actual personal presence and working of the triune God in and through Christians. More and more the conviction grew on me that Brother Harding’s interpretation of Christianity, which was Paul’s too, was needed to save the church from being merely a human organization with a formula to follow, a prayer to recite, and a dull, demagnetized program to render; with professional preachers in her pulpit mechanically saying dead words detached from the living realities of which they spoke, dealing in trite moralizings, threadbare platitudes, and heartless preaching about the heart and passion of Christ. This kind of a church instead of being the divine organism, instinct with the life and power of God, as designed by her Founder! In short, Brother Harding’s interpretation was needed to save the church from changing divine dynamics to human mechanics.

Potter Bible College

This fuller understanding of revolutionary Christian truth began to turn my “world upside down,” and to open up for me a new world of worship, of work, and of values in general. Consequently, when Brother Harding started another Bible school at Bowling Green, Kentucky, to be known as Potter Bible School and asked me to become one of his teachers for the fall of 1901, I, believing that God was guiding, eagerly accepted. Thus, began my half-century of teaching Bible in our Christian schools. Every member of Brother Harding’s faculties was expected to teach at least one class in Bible daily. Four happy years were spent at Potter. Bessie Sparkman of Era, Texas, who had been a classmate at Nashville, became my wife September 24, 1902. As sweethearts at Nashville, we, as only young people can, together accepted the view of Christian life and work that has continued and bound us together as “God’s fellow-workers.” All these years, we have never doubted God’s will for us was being fulfilled and that in such school work we could best serve ourselves, our fellow-men, and our God, the maker of us all. Each of our three daughters is a graduate of a Christian college.

Westward

By the fall of 1905 J. N. Armstrong, R. N. Gardner, and I (three teachers at Potter), and B. F. Rhodes (a student at Potter from Kansas), were ready, with evangelistic fervor, to open a Bible school west of the Mississippi River at Odessa, Missouri, to be known as Western Bible and Literary College. After four years, Armstrong, Rhodes, and I went to Cordell Christian College, Cordell, Oklahoma. Both of these schools, as such, have long since ceased to operate, but their influence lives on. For instance, how many native Africans will be saved eternally because these unpretentious schools lived, no man can know. The Scotts, the Reeses, the Shorts, and the Lawyers (three of these families have already furnished two generations of workers in Africa), some of our first American missionaries, all came through these schools.

Thorp Spring

My work in Thorp Spring Christian College, Thorp Spring, Texas, began in the autumn of 1911. After five years with this school, I saw that with the constantly rising educational requirements for teachers, my continued teaching in our schools demanded an academic degree recognized as standard by the ac-crediting agency for colleges. Therefore, I went to Sherman, Texas, to preach for the old Walnut Street church a year and to do enough college work in Austin College to standardize the B.A. degree, received at Potter years before. The next year was spent in Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, working out the M.A. degree. Then, I returned to Thorp Spring for a year’s teaching. During this last year at Thorp Spring, I first met, as a member of my freshman English class, Don H. Morris, now president of Abilene Christian College.

Abilene

I became a member of the faculty of Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Texas, in September, 1919. Twenty-five of the thirty-two years intervening between then and now, were spent teaching in this college. Of the remaining seven years, one year was spent in Harper College, Harper, Kansas, two years were spent in Harding College, Morrilton, Arkansas, before it moved to Searcy, and the other four years in David Lipscomb College, Nashville, Tennessee. Fifty years of teaching Bible in eight different schools, located in seven different states is not such a hodgepodge as it may seem at first thought. In the first place, halt of the time was spent in Abilene Christian College. More important, the fifty years, in reality, is all of a piece like a tree. Its general purpose, direction, and objective remained unchanged throughout.

In Retirement

Some old men regret the choice they made in youth of their life work. I am so far from such regret that were a second life to be lived on earth, I should be most happy to have an open door into such work for another long life through. I even like to toy with the fancy of living it all over again just for the privilege—I say, not duty—of teaching God’s word and of making a new generation of Christian friends. I should labor to do the same work, only with purer motives. That is, without personal ambition, without pride of human recognition and position, and without envy of others; and with more diligence, patience, kindness, hope, and love. In brief, with less flesh and more Spirit; with less self and more Christ.

And now that the sail is reefed, I shall take things a bit easier, and, being somewhat lifted o’er the strife of life, shall live the remainder of life’s book as God turns the pages, remembering in grateful thanksgiving and prayer the men and women who helped me as I helped them, and the friends I have made and kept through the years who are still bound to the whirl of the wheel of life. And, since such friends are too good to lose, I shall, in mellow musing, dream of greeting them again in the future life with God, as friends, “lost for a while” recovered; and therefore a little different from the host of stranger-friends from many races, times, and climes whom I shall meet in heaven for the first time. Is it not a great and blessed thing to be able to view the eventide of life here as a resting time, “Ere I be gone once more on my adventure brave and new” in the hereafter, somewhat as the period for tired football players between halves? One life—first half lived on earth and the second half in heaven. “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift” in Christ.

“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made.
Our times are in his hand
Who saith, ‘A whole I planned’;
Youth shows but half. Trust God; see all, nor be afraid!”

—Robert Browning

“I think the sheriff has very little ability and no guts.”

These words were spoken by Major General Milton Foreman about Sheriff Melvin Thaxton of Williamson County, Illinois, back in 1922.

You see, for days, everyone knew tensions were rising in Herrin, IL, then the biggest city in the county.  One of the mines had brought in non-union men (“strikebreakers”) to work during the UMWA strike.  The mine had brought in hired guns as “guards” who terrorized people who drove down the roads that crossed over mine property.  The union miners had robbed stores of guns and ammunition, saying “charge it to the union” as they left.

The governor was receiving telegrams from concerned citizens about the events, but when the Major General of the Illinois National Guard contacted Sheriff Thaxton, the sheriff said, “I have everything well in hand.”  And he added that there was no need for troops to be sent.

Even as June 22, 1922 came, and literally thousands of union miners and sympathizers attacked the mine, took the miners and guards prisoner, dynamited the mine equipment, and led the men at gunpoint to the city, the Sheriff did nothing.  In fact, he was nowhere to be found, having gone to a neighboring county to investigate a shooting (which wasn’t even in his jurisdiction).

Even after reports surfaced of prisoners being dragged from behind cars, shot, stabbed, beaten, and hanged, the Sheriff told the national guard “I have everything under control.”

When Major General Foreman was asked what he thought of the Sheriff’s response, he replied “I think the sheriff has very little ability and no guts.”

See, the Sheriff knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it.  He either supported the actions (my personal guess) or he was to big of a wimp to stop it.

You might wonder at this point why I’m even mentioning all of this.  I’ve noticed (and I’m sure you have too) that there are many Christians who fit this same description.  They have very little ability to fulfill their role as Christ’s messengers and they have no guts.

I don’t say this to sound demeaning towards these people.  I really don’t.  I’m talking about people who have been Christians for years, but who couldn’t tell someone the plan of salvation and prove it from the Bible if their life depended on it.  I’ve heard of preachers who passed out a worksheet to the congregation asking for this exact information.  The overwhelming majority of the congregation couldn’t tell you where the Bible says to hear, or to believe, or repent, or confess, or be baptized.

These Christians have very little ability–because of their own choice.  The writer of Hebrews chastised people like this because they should have been able to teach others–instead, they needed someone to teach them again!

We’d think there was something wrong if a baby was born and 15 years later, he was still a baby, unable to walk, to talk, or to chew food.  But for some reason, we give people a pass when they remain spiritual babies for 5, 10, 15, or more years!  This ought not be!

Another great fault of many Christians is that they have no guts.  Obviously, the ones who don’t know how to even show something as basic as the plan of salvation have good reason to be afraid to engage in spiritual discussions with others.  But what about those who do know the Scriptures?

Have you noticed that in this modern age, many Christians are more concerned about how others will react than they are about their eternal judgment?  We see lost and dying souls everywhere we go, but we don’t want them to think that we’re “religious nuts” or “Jesus freaks.”  We don’t want to potentially hurt their feelings by pointing out that they’re going to hell because they’ve not obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We’ve got the greatest news in the history of mankind, yet we’re more willing to tell someone about low gas prices than we are to tell them about that which can save their soul!

In short, several Christians have no guts when it comes to spreading the gospel.

My friends, we’ve got a job to do.  Whether we feel prepared for it or not, we still have a job to do.  We can either go into the job completely unprepared and fail miserably, or we can prepare ourselves.  If we are unprepared; if we do not cultivate the ability to carry out the work of the Lord, it is our own fault.

It takes guts–it takes courage to show others that they are living in sin and what the consequences of their continued sin will be.  It takes guts to be active in the Lord’s work.  It may not be easy, but it still must be done.

When you stand before the Lord on Judgment Day, will He say “well done, good and faithful servant”?  Or will His words be more like “I think you have very little ability and no guts”?

-Bradley Cobb

Note: The above story is true, and the quotations come from an Associated Press story printed on June 24, 1922 in newspapers across the country.

The Great Importance of a Two-Letter Word

Have you ever noticed how much difference one word makes? Take, for example, the word “not.” Insert that word into a sentence, and the meaning is completely opposite! What about the importance of just a single letter or two? There is a writer who once wrote in one of his Bible commentaries, “Jesus is not sitting at the right hand of God.” Do you notice the problem? It was a typographical error, and was instead supposed to read “Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of God.” The difference was only one single letter, but it changed the meaning of the entire sentence! One sentence was Scriptural, the other blasphemous!

There is a common false doctrine called “Perseverance of the Saints” or “once saved, always saved” that permeates the religious world, as well as infiltrates the thinking of the Lord’s church. The inspired apostle, Paul, speaks clearly against it. He states “I declare unto you the gospel…By which you are saved” (I Corinthians 15:1-2a). However, he does not end the sentence there. He specifies that Christians are only saved by means of the gospel “if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you” (I Corinthians 15:2b). Do you notice the importance of that one little word: “if”? The gospel saves, but only if it is kept in memory (meaning that one continues to walk in it – see Romans 8:1, Revelation 2:10). When one becomes a Christian, yet does not continue in the gospel, he is not saved. Are you truly keeping the gospel in your memory?

The Giving Attitude

Shortly after the church was established, needs arose among the Christians in Jerusalem. Many people came from far and near on the Day of Pentecost to worship God, and after being converted to Christ, they stayed in the city. This created what could have become a very large problem. These people had no homes or jobs, so they were dependent on the kindness of those Christians who were natives of Jerusalem. The attitude of many in the church at that time was amazing! They gave no thought to selling whatever extra things they had so that these foreigners could live there in Jerusalem and continue to be taught by the apostles (Acts 2:42; 4:32-35). This was not anything that was forced upon them. It was what they wanted to do from their heart!

Unfortunately, as many times the case is, egos begin to get involved. There were some that wanted the praise of men (like the Pharisees – Matthew 23:5). Ananias, a Christian man from Jerusalem, along with his wife Sapphira, got caught up in this desire. They saw many other Christians selling their lands and other possessions and giving the money to the apostles. They may have even seen praise given to these people (like Barnabas – Acts 4:36-37). In addition to the praise, they wanted to reap the financial benefits that came with selling their land (Acts 5:1).

When Ananias brought the money to Peter, he surely expected to be praised for his generosity. He received nothing of the sort. Peter chastised him because he attempted not only to lie, but to lie to the Holy Spirit and to God! Peter clearly points out that there was no reason to lie about how much money they received for the land. Ananias never had to sell the land in the first place, and when he did, he did not have to give the money to the apostles (Acts 5:4). For his wrong attitude in giving, he was struck dead, as was his wife later when she repeated the same lie. Their sin was not keeping back part of the money. Their sin was lying about it. This shows that they were not doing it to help others, but to help themselves. This is exactly what is condemned by Christ during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:1).

The lesson for Christians today is that attitude matters in giving (2 Cor. 9:7). The Christians in Jerusalem who sold their land and brought the money to the apostles were doing it out of love and kindness towards their Christian family. They did not think twice about giving to help these fellow-Christians, and in fact they shared everything (Acts 4:32). Ananias and Sapphira, had they given the money with the right motives, would not have been killed. Instead, they tried to lie and deceive in order to receive praise. What was the difference between the two? The attitude.

Christians should always look for ways to help people, not because they “have to” but because they “want to.” Paul explains that unless helping is done out of love, it profits one nothing (1 Cor. 13:3). This does not mean that Christians should not give if they do not “feel like it.” It means that the Christian who is not doing such out of love needs an attitude adjustment. The Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, exhorted, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all, especially those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). May all follow the example of Barnabas and other Christians in Jerusalem by doing all they can to help out their Christian brethren from a spirit of love and not one that seeks for praise of men.

-Bradley Cobb

Starting Over Requires Making A Commitment

Studies have shown that people who make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight–on average–have given up on their diet before the year is even three weeks old.

Ever wonder why it is that most people who go on a diet may do well for a week or two, but ultimately they fail?  It is because they don’t make the total commitment to making the diet work.  They cheat once, think they’ve blown the whole diet, and then they just give up.

They don’t show commitment by getting up and getting back to it.

If you fall off a horse, what are you supposed to do?  Get right back on, of course!  The idea being that if you don’t get back on, you’ll be scared to try again.  But if you get back to it, you show determination and show that you aren’t going to let that horse beat you.

We’re all familiar with the scene where Charlie Brown runs to kick the football, and Lucy yanks it out of the way at the last second, with a sadistic smile.  What you might not know is that she originally got scared at the last minute and let it drop.  She didn’t follow through with her commitment.  Just to prove it to you, here’s the original comic strip from 1952:

CharlieBrown10

But how does this relate to our relationship with God?

God is willing to give you a new beginning, a fresh start, but it requires commitment for you to really get anything out of it.  Thousands upon thousands of people have become Christians in the last year, but have they kept their commitment to God?

When you put on Christ in baptism, you’re making a commitment to serve God to the best of your ability.  But what happens when you mess up?  Should you just give up and stop trying?

NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!!!!

God understands that we’re going to make mistakes.  We’re going to stumble.  We’re going to fall.  The big question is what are you going to do when you stumble?

Commitment means you get back up, confess your sin to God and try again (I John 1:9).  God has promised to forgive you–as a Christian–of every sin you’ve committed, so long as you keep “walking in the light” (I John 1:7).  That means that so long as you’re trying, so long as you’re getting back up when you fall, so long as you’re confessing the sins you know you’ve committed, God will forgive you of everything.

Commitment isn’t always easy, but it’s something that is required.  You should know that going in, because Jesus said that you have to count the cost to be His disciple (Luke 9:62).  You’ve got to keep to running to win the prize of eternal life in heaven with God (I Corinthians 9:24).

The old gospel preacher, the apostle Paul, was confident in his salvation because he had fought a good fight.  He didn’t say that he fought a perfect fight, but that he fought a good fight.  Sin hit him and hit him hard.  He got depressed.  But he kept getting back up.  He didn’t let sin beat him.  That’s commitment.

Commitment is also required for a new start in our physical relationships.

Eventually, if you keep doing the same stupid things over and over, your spouse is going to seriously question your sincerity and your commitment to your marriage.  A man might ask his wife, “Can we start over?” or “Can we have a fresh start?”  But it’s really just a ploy if he’s not committed to trying.

Don’t ask someone for a fresh start if you aren’t going to be committed to following through.  The one who has sinned has no business asking the one he sinned against “can we start over?” if he’s not committed to doing better.

Starting over means being committed to doing it right.

Give it some thought.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Starting Over Requires Forgiveness

Kids seem to have no problem forgiving others when they say “I’m sorry.”  They apologize, and then the kid forgives them, and then they go on as though nothing happened.

But as the kids get older, they learn to hold grudges.  When they become teenagers, it seems that some of them get to the point where nothing that a person could say or do would get them to forgive him.  And then these people become adults, and they still do the same thing, holding grudges and refusing to forgive, even if that person truly has changed.

Then you end up with strained or ruined relationships, hurt and anger, high blood pressure, ulcers, confusion, sadness… Well, let’s just say that it’s not good.  It would be so nice if we could just hit the “reset” switch on all our relationships.  It is possible to start fresh in those relationships, but it takes forgiveness.

The same thing is true in our relationship with God.  If we want to start over, be completely free from guilt and sin, then forgiveness is necessary.

A new start, spiritually, requires forgiveness on three levels.

You must accept God’s forgiveness on his terms.

So many people today are promising people God’s forgiveness without going to God’s word to show how to get it.  Have you ever heard “pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart”?  That’s nowhere in the Bible!

God said that forgiveness comes by hearing the gospel (Acts 2:22-24), believing it (Mark 16:16), repenting of your sins (Acts 2:38), Confessing Christ (Acts 8:37), and being baptized so your sins can be washed away (Acts 2:38).  When you do all of these things–and not before–then you are promised God’s forgiveness.

What about those people who have done all those things, but have messed up again? How do THEY get God’s forgiveness so they can start over?  Those people are told to repent (change) and pray to God (Acts 8:22).  Those people are told to confess their sins to God, and He will forgive all of their sins (I John 1:9).

How does God forgive?

I worked with a man once who couldn’t bring himself to study the Bible because he was convinced: “God could never forgive me for what I’ve done.”  This is actually a common belief some people have, but it’s not true.  After all, God forgave Peter of denying that he even knew who Jesus was.  God forgave Paul of murdering Christians.  God forgave king Manasseh of killing his children by burning them alive in worshiping a giant statue; murdering God’s prophets; causing the people to forsake God.

God will forgive anyone for anything if they come to Him on His terms.  Not only will God forgive, He will NEVER bring it up against you again.  Hebrews 8:12, 10:17 – their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.  When God forgives, it is complete forgiveness.  When God forgives, you can know without a doubt that He basically forgets it and doesn’t take it into account against you…ever.

You must forgive others.

If you truly want a fresh start, you can’t hold grudges against other people.  How many times have you been so upset with someone that you get angry every time you see that person or hear that person’s name?  A lot of times the person may not even realize he’s done something to upset you.

Some people like to bury the hatchet (meaning they stop fighting and trying to destroy one another), but they leave the handle sticking out.  They’re willing to say, “we’ll just not bring this up again right now and try to move on,” but the problem is never resolved.  Instead of forgiving, they are just trying to ignore it.

It seems that far too many people in this world have a hard time of letting go of things that upset them.  Not that I watch them, but it seems that one of the main themes that run through Hallmark movies is the need to forgive others so you can be happy.

Peter was told by Jesus Christ that even if someone sins against you seven times in a day, and then seven times he comes and apologizes, you are to forgive him.

This is not an option, it is a command.

Jesus didn’t say, “forgive him after you’ve yelled at him and shown him that he’s scum.”  He said just forgive him.  Not only that, but Jesus also said there is no limit to the times we are to forgive people.  He said “seventy times seven times.”   This means that we are to continue to forgive people, regardless of how many times they may sin against us.

Even if it is the same sin, we are to continue to forgive.  Have you ever committed the same sin more than once?  Do you think God will forgive you, even if you mess up and commit that same sin again?

Forgiveness applies in every aspect of life, from marriage to work to driving down the interstate.

Jesus, in Matthew 18:34-35, said that if we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us.  If you care AT ALL about going to heaven, you have to learn to forgive other people.

You must learn to forgive yourself.

If a person is convinced that he is worthless and that he will never change, will he ever change?  If a person goes into dieting with the idea that he will fail, is he going to lose any weight?  If a person is convinced that nothing he does is going to make a difference, will he really try?  The answer to all of these questions is an obvious NO!

We all have to learn to stop beating ourselves up over the past and move on from it.  We should (like Paul) learn from our past mistakes, and say now I know what NOT to do.

If we want to make a new start, we have to say “the past has passed.”  If we want to make a new start, we have to forgive ourselves for messing things up and start over.  Instead of moping about how much of a failure we are, we need to say, “I am forgiven, and I’m ready to get back up and try again!”

Forgiveness is Key!

Remember that God’s commands are always in our best interest.  God gave every command for a reason.  When you forgive people, your stress level goes down.  When you forgive people, you will be happier.  When you forgive people, you show an appreciation for God’s forgiveness.  When you forgive people, you encourage others to do the same thing.

Therefore, when you forgive people, your life improves, and so do the lives of the people around you.  Why would you NOT want to forgive others?

We each want a new start.  We each want forgiveness.  Shouldn’t we be willing to give that same chance to others?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Starting Over Requires Change

Billy Milner is sent to prison for drugs, and spends the next 12 years behind bars before he is finally released.

He doesn’t want to go back.  His goal is to start over and make a new life for himself.  His goal is to avoid getting in the same mess.  But just as important to him is this: He doesn’t want to be known as the drug-addict jailbird.

Now, put yourself in his shoes.  Do you want people holding the past against you? Do you want the chance to prove yourself without the past being brought up?  Do you want to have a new start?

It’s usually about this time every year that people make up their minds to start over.  It doesn’t matter that they have failed in the past, the new year brings a sense of freshness, a sense of newness, a sense of possibilities.

Some have estimated that over 50% of the adults in the United States will make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight in 2015.  It doesn’t matter that most of them (including me) made the same resolution last year, this is a new year, a new chance.

Some make resolutions to be more healthy.  Others make resolutions to study their Bible more.  Still others decide that this is the year they are going to get their bills paid off.  Whatever it happens to be, the new year makes people feel that they truly have a chance to make things better.

Is your life the way you want it to be?  Are you happy with where you are, spiritually speaking?  Are you happy with the person you’ve become?  Are there parts of your past you wish you could just leave behind and have them disappear?

Well, here’s the good news: today you can really make it all go away and have a brand new start!

Starting over requires a change.

No one is going to lose weight if they don’t make a change in their lifestyle, like eating better, eating less, and being more active.  In the same way, no one is going to have a better life if they don’t start making some changes.  If someone wants to make this the year they get out of debt, they have to make some financial changes (less frivolous spending, less eating out, more saving, perhaps making a budget).

Have you felt like a disappointment to yourself and to God?  You want things to be better?  Then it is time for you to make some changes in your life.

First, you’ve got to make up your mind to change.  A man once complained that he was always broke because he spent so much on cigarettes.  When his buddy said, “why don’t you quit?” the man replied “I don’t think I can.”  He needed to change, but he never took the first step of making his mind up to change.

The Bible describes this concept as “repenting.”   Repenting means that you change your mind to stop doing those things you used to do, and start doing the things God wants you to do.  It’s not always easy, but it can be done.

Do you ever wonder why it is that so many people constantly make the same resolution to lose weight, year after year?  It’s because the change that’s required to lose the weight is not easy to accomplish.  It requires willpower.  It requires looking at the long-term goal instead of the immediate satisfaction.

In the same way, changing our lives so we can have peace with God is not easy, but it can be done.

We are creatures of habit, we get to doing things in a certain way and we don’t like change.  But we must change if we want to have peace with God.  We should get rid of the bad and replace it with the good.

Negative habits that should be left behind could include:

  • Leaving friends behind.
  • Giving up hobbies (drinking, going to parties, reading things they shouldn’t be reading, etc…).
  • Bad attitudes
  • and many others.

Positive changes that ought to take place include:

  • Being more outgoing in spreading the gospel.
  • Setting aside time each day to read God’s word and pray.  Most people spend hours a day in front of a screen, so can you really say you don’t have time to read the Bible?

If you are not a Christian, the change you must make to find peace with God is to become a Christian.  You will notice a consistent theme throughout the Bible: the command to repent (change).  Repentance, when put together with baptism, will take away all of your sins (Acts 2:38).

-Bradley S. Cobb