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March/April Issue 2004 - Volume 23 Number 2
“Guess Who Doesn’t Believe In God?”
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting….” Romans 1:28
As I was logging on to check email recently, the question above caught my eye. I clicked on the link and logged onto the site. According to a survey by Harris Interactive of 2,306 adults, belief in God varies quite widely among different segments of the American public. This survey found that ten percent of Protestants, 21 percent of Roman Catholics and 52 percent of Jews do NOT believe in God. The survey did not indicate whether the people they questioned were active or in-active participants in their religious preference. The poll would indicate that ten percent of the Protestants, 21 percent of the Roman Catholics and 52 percent of the Jews that they surveyed were not active members!
The survey asked another question: How often do you go to a place of worship? Not much according to their findings. Most people surveyed attended a religious service less than once a month. However, they stated that Americans are far more likely to believe in God and to attend religious services than people in most other developed countries, particularly in Europe.
According to this survey, 79 percent of Americans believe there is a God, but only 66 percent are absolutely certain of it. Nine percent do not believe in God and 12 percent aren’t sure. This poll stated that just over half (55 percent) attend a religious service a few times a year or more. Thirty-six percent attend once a month or more often, and just 26 percent say that they attend every week. Forty-one percent of women and 31 percent of men attend once a month or more. Protestants (47 percent) are more likely to go to church once a month or more often than Roman Catholics (35 percent). Jews are least likely to go with 16 percent saying that they go to synagogue once a month or more. Church attendance is highest in the Midwest and lowest in the West.
With only 26 percent saying that they attend church every week, there is little wonder that we have a crisis in this country in our educational and business institutions. Our schools are hamstrung by a lack of discipline, and the business community is rife with unethical practices. There are cases in which an undisciplined child with behavior problems intimidates the entire teaching staff and administrators. “You can’t touch me!” the child screams as he rushes down the hall followed by a string of teachers, counselors and other helpless school staff. The school is afraid of lawsuits and little Johnny knows it. Unless his parents take responsible action by administering some discipline at home and allowing the school to take proper disciplinary action, little Johnny most likely has a future full of lawsuits. The morals taught in a typical church on a weekly basis would be of great help in cases like this. But as a society we have decided that church is boring and have opted to stay home and watch the latest “reality” show. Television’s idea of “reality” is so farfetched and contrived that, if anything, it will drive little Johnny farther into the wilderness of self-deception.
Rejection of God is not anything new. It is as old as time. The prophets cried out against the people of old who had rejected the knowledge of God. Isaiah declared:
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not consider’” (Isaiah 1:2-3).
“’For pass beyond the coasts of Cyprus and see, send to Kedar and consider diligently, and see if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate,’ says the Lord. ‘For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns---broken cisterns that can hold no water’” (Jeremiah 2:10-13).
These two prophets were not writing to foreign nations. They were writing to Israel. These were the covenant people who were rejecting the knowledge of God. Unfortunately some of the statistics quoted above are about people who are Christian, in a very broad sense of the term. But like Israel of old these half-hearted Christians have rejected the knowledge of God. Their disbelief is evident in their disobedience. Self-discipline wilts under the searing sun of self-indulgence. Fellowship of the saints is replaced with fellowship of the world. Sound doctrine is scorned as harsh and intolerant, and the pseudo-Christian praises the philosophies of men. Like Israel, those who reject the knowledge of God are dumber than both the ox and the donkey. They have forsaken the fountain of living waters and hewn for themselves broken cisterns.
We are not without hope though. There is still time to accept the loving invitation of our Lord, “Come to Me all of you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Although the prophets denounced the disobedience that abounded in their day, they spoke of a glorious future that awaited all the spiritual children of Abraham. As the Hebrew writer attests, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).
Isaiah peered into the future and penned this promise:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (Isaiah 65:17-19).
We do not have to continue in unbelief and disobedience. The Lord is longsuffering and not willing that any should perish. The Lord’s desire is to reward us, but without faith it is impossible. Hear anew the word of inspiration: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Guess who can believe in God and receive His eternal reward? You, my friend!
“How We Treat People”
Five lessons to make you think about the way we treat people.
1. First Important Lesson - Cleaning Lady
During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘hello.’” I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.
2. Second Important Lesson - Pickup In The Rain
One night at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960’s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others, Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.”
3. Third Important Lesson - Always Remember Those Who Serve
In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae,” he asked. “Fifty cents,” replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream,” he inquired? By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. “I'll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see he couldn't have the sundae because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.
4. Fourth Important Lesson - The Obstacles In Our Path
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.
5. Fifth Important Lesson - Giving When It Counts
Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes I'll do it if it will save her.” As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?” Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor. He thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.
Forwarded email from Richard Brannon - 4/28/04
“Missing the Treasure”
An Associated Press story a few years ago told of a man in Texas who purchased a 1,905-carat sapphire at a gem show for $10.00. How? He bypassed the professional dealers and went to an area where the amateur dealers were displaying their merchandise. He found the stone in a box of rocks priced at $15.00. He realized that the rock was valuable and inquired about it. The dealer cut the price to $10.00! The purchase was made. The sapphire was later appraised at $2.28 million!
The uncut sapphire probably passed through the hands of many people before someone finally recognized its value. Everyone would love to have an opportunity to purchase a sapphire for a fraction of its worth. The problem is that many of us would not recognize it, even if we held it in our hand. Today, many fail to recognize a treasure far more valuable than sapphires. It is well within their grasp (Acts 17:24-28), yet they do not realize its WORTH. That treasure is "eternal life" in an "eternal kingdom" -- the kingdom of heaven!
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matthew 13:44-46).
The kingdom came at a tremendous price - the death of Jesus, the Son of God. He purchased the kingdom (the church) with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Through this purchase, He also provides a way for you and me to become a part of His glorious kingdom – to walk as citizens of this heavenly kingdom now
(Colossians 1:12-13) and to inherit the kingdom at His appearance (Matthew 25:31-34, 1Corinthians 15:50-55). All those who submit to the King are added to His kingdom (see Acts 2:41, 47). In order to be added to the kingdom, one must place their trust in Jesus (Acts 16:31), repent of sins (2 Corinthians 7:9-10), confess that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). The King has decreed, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit [a reference to baptism], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).
This treasure of being a part of a glorious, eternal kingdom is available to all who will submit to the King. Yet, so many miss this "treasure" because they do not recognize its worth. Please don't make that mistake! "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and…you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:10-11).
God bless you.
David A. Sargent
From ABBA – 11/6/03
“The Disputer of This Age”
On more than one occasion, Christians who “contend earnestly for the faith” are mistaken for those who engage in sinful “contentions” (Jude 3; 2 Cor. 12:20-21). Without question, we must be able to discern when to contend for the faith and when to not be drawn into “disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth” (1 Tim. 6:4-5). We must also be able to distinguish between the “disputer of this age” and the “good soldier of Jesus Christ” who is fighting “the good fight of faith” (1 Cor. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:3; 1 Tim. 6:12).
Please note some of the traits of the disputer of this age set in contrast to the good soldier of Christ. Perhaps these things will help us “prove the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 Jno. 4:1). In advancing his cause, the “disputer of this age” does not consent to “wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:3). He spurns the “word of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18-20). On the other hand, one who contends earnestly for the faith will “hold fast the pattern of sounds words” (the inspired word of Christ’s apostles, 2 Tim. 1:13). The disputer of this age uses flattery and smooth speech to persuade and deceive unsuspecting hearts. But, the result of their oratory is division (Rom. 16:17-18). The contender for the faith straightforwardly speaks the truth of the gospel (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2). The disputer of this age inflames strife with foolish and ignorant endeavors (2 Tim. 2:23). Being ensnared in their ignorance of the truth, they pridefully think themselves wise (2 Tim. 2:24; 1 Tim. 6:4). On the other hand, the Lord’s servant does not display a quarrelsome spirit, but is gentle and patient, attempting to teach and save some (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Do not confuse boldness in speaking the truth with a lack of gentleness (some made that mistake concerning the apostle Paul, 2 Cor. 10:1-2). Boldness exhibits a gentle strength of faith and is not prompted by the flesh to quarrel (2 Cor. 10:3; 2 Tim. 2:24). The disputer of this age relies on human wisdom to persuade, not the simplicity of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:19-25). Human intelligence and eloquence impresses many people, but when it will not submit to “the word of the truth of the gospel,” it is not an asset (1 Cor. 2:1, 4; Col. 2:8, 20-23). The good soldier of Christ will find his wisdom, knowledge and understanding of truth in Christ (Col. 2:2-3). Do not confuse one who is contending earnestly for the faith with the disputer of this age. May we always hold up the hands of the former and turn away from the latter (Rom. 16:17; 1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 1:8).
Joe R. Price
From ABBA – 11/2/03
“Is God Dead?“
Ol' man Lister and I were watching the school kids get on the bus in front of the Daily Bread store, and we began to reminisce about our school days. We talked about the smell of crayons, paste, and Big Chief tablets in first grade, being scared of our gym teacher in Jr. High, and thinking we owned the world in high school.
I asked, “Who was your favorite teacher, Lister?"
Lister pondered for a moment, and then said, “Well, kid, I had lots of good teachers, but one I really liked was Miss Esther. She was my English teacher my senior year. Every morning when we came into class, she had written on the chalkboard a quote from a famous person. I never will forget the day she put two short quotes on the board.
“The first one said ‘God is dead.’ and was signed ‘Nietzsche.’ The statement right under it read, ‘Nietzsche is dead.’ and was signed, ‘God.’
“I leaned over to my best friend, pointed at the last statement and said, ‘You know...I reckon He's right.’”