Archive for November, 2013

Things in Common

A favorite scene of mine among all movies is the meeting of truce between the Outlaw Josey Wales and the Comanche Chief Ten Bears. What could have been a moment of killing between the two, turned into peace and fellowship, and Ten Bears summed it up by saying “It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life… or death. It shall be life.”TenBears

A great deal of good, peace and fellowship can be gained when we are able to put aside our differences in life and search for our commonalities. Although we are encouraged by our Lord not to be a part of this world (John 15:19, James 1:27; 4:4; 1 John 2:15), we are in the world and must seek to share that peace and hope within us. (2 Cor.3:12; Eph.1:18; Eph.4:4). The commonality that we have with the world is that we are all sinners (Rom.3:23), and are all in need of justification and sanctification of those sins. (Rom.4:25; 5:16-18). When we who have been sanctified by the blood of Christ fail to see or utilize this commonality, a great deal of harm in the effort to win the unbeliever is done.  Unfortunately, many of our fellowmen do not want to see that commonality or the condition that they are in and thus choose to reject our plea and us.  John 15:18-19  “If the world hates you, you should realize that it hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as one of its own. But because you do not belong to the world and I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. The world may hate us and reject us, but we still bear the responsibility of loving our fellow-man just as our Lord loved all of us and died for our sins (John 3:16).  We are all warriors in the struggle of life and death. Followers of Christ choose life.  Those who reject Him  have chosen death.

Our responsibility toward each other as followers of Christ, however, goes much deeper. And there is a good cause for this. We find ourselves involved with unbelievers as the result of various human relationships (family, neighbors, work, school, etc.), but we have no spiritual union with unbelievers beyond those human ties. With regard to our relationship with fellow believers, however, human ties are no longer the defining issue. In Christ we are joined by his Spirit into one body in a constitutional union. (cf. I Cor. 12:12.27). This new spiritual union brings with it new responsibilities.

First, and most importantly, we first love one another as Christ loved us (John 13:34). This means that our love for each other must be ceaseless, sacrificial and absolute (1 Cor.13:4-8). Our love must not be self-serving, but Christ-like in its dedication to the betterment of others. According to Scripture, there is no place for rudeness in our love for one another, nor are we to keep records of our offenses against each other (1 Cor. 13:5). On the contrary, if we truly love one another as Christ loved us, we will be patient and forbearing, quick to forgive, trusting, and ready to protect one another from all enemies of the faith (1 Cor. 13:47; Eph. 4:32; Col 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:22; 3:8; 4:8).

We should never be involved with anything that divides or tears down, but must be engaged only in those activities that edify, or “build up the church” (1 Co,. 14:12). While our gifts and the roles based on those gifts may vary, we are all responsible for promoting growth in the body. To that end, we should all be involved in mutual support, encouragement, exhortation, admonition and whatever else is necessary to achieve ever greater conformity to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29,15:14; 1 Thes. 5:11,14; Heb. 3:13; 10:24,25; 1 Pet. 4:10).

In all that we do or say, we are to strive for things that lead to peace (Rom. 12:18). We must not be participants in strife or contention, but instead should,  “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Pet. 3:11). As peacemakers, we must carefully follow biblical principles  whenever it becomes necessary to resolve conflicts with others (Mat. 5:9; Heb. 12:14). We must never forget that peace is the very essence of that which was purchased for us by the blood of Christ (John 14:27; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 1:19-20). It is that which most distinguishes us from those who are yet in their sins (Isa. 48:22).

In all, our union as fellow heirs with Christ should compel us to make every effort to seek and build upon that commonality.

“It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life… or death. It shall be life.”

Darryl Fuller

References

http://www.searchingtogether.org/articles/bjork/duties.htm

by Jon Zens & Cliff Bjork

Photo courtesy: Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

Message and Messengers

One obstacle, when teaching the gospel, is defending the truth against those who question the authority or integrity of God’s word.  I recently had a conversation with a woman who claimed to be a minister in “her church” (she was correct here, it certainly wasn’t the Lord’s church!) I quoted to her  1Co 14:33-34  For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,  the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. Her retort, “Paul is old school and we live in a new day when women have been liberated from such tyranny.” Her defense was to attack the messenger and his message. It’s the age-old argument that Satan first used on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; Gen 3:1  Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” Satan successfully planted seeds of doubt and rebellion in Eve’s heart by questioning the message and the Authority behind that message. Eve gave in to her desires, ate the fruit and the rest is the history of man’s rebellion against God’s authority.

The same thing is happening whenever I discuss or try to reason with those in regard to fornication, whether it is adultery or homosexuality.  People will often be quick to say, “Jesus never condemned it!” (Actually, He did in Matt.19:9). However, Satan’s tricks and sleight of hand are still at work; doubt the message and the messenger.   The problem stems from a lack of understanding or sheer rejection of God’s word; all of it!  The red letter addition of the bible was a clever way to help the reader distinguish the words that Jesus spoke as opposed to everyone else.  The problem is that we begin to give more weight to the words that Jesus said than the rest of God’s word.  2Ti 3:16  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,JFKCommission_wide-ad539059061c5dcec988ca81a18fac4544a8cb02-s6-c30

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy, many critics are now coming out in support of the Warren Commission’s finding, made some 49 years ago. The 7 member committee, appointed by President Johnson, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president and that there was no credible evidence to support a conspiracy by the government or other agents including the Soviet Union or Cuba. These men acted in good faith, and their different political and social backgrounds are evidence that any cover-up could not be contained. It carried the weight of authority invested upon those men by the President of the United States. Yet from the date of its release, the public questioned the report and the government. You could say that the very embodiment of the rebellious 60’s is connected to that report. Doubt the message and the messenger.

Jesus received His authority from God.  Before Jesus came to Earth, God spoke through Old Testament prophets, but now God speaks through His Son. Heb. 1:1-2. When Jesus did come to Earth, He spoke and taught only that which He was told to speak from God. [John 12:49,50; John 7:16; 8:28; Acts 3:20-23; 10:38; Luke 4:1,14,17-21]

Then, Jesus promised the Apostles that the Holy Spirit would come and teach them all things, guide them into all truth, and remind them of Jesus’ teachings. [John 14:26; 16:13] When they taught, they were not teaching from themselves, but the Spirit of the Father spoke through them. [Matthew 10:19,202 Timothy 3:16,17; Acts 1:5,8; 2:1-4,33; Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Peter 3:2; Revelation 1:1

Then, the Holy Spirit revealed the things of God to Paul. Paul taught in words what the Spirit gave Him, just like the other Apostles did. As a result, he knew the mind of Christ. [1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2:10-13,16; 14:37] The teachings of Paul came from God;  the same source of Jesus and of the other apostles. [Galatians 1:11,12; Ephesians 3:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; Romans 1:15,16; 15:15-19; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Acts 13:12; 16:32; 1 Cor. 11:23; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 5:27; 4:8] All of them spoke the will of God as revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ teaching was as accurate and as authoritative as Jesus’ teaching. All spoke with the infallible authority of God.

The report is out! Believe and obey the message and the messengers.

Darryl Fuller

Waiting for Pecan Pie

Pecan-Farm-Orchard1My favorite pie? Pecan pie! I do believe that it’s the best part of the holiday season. Now, growing pecans is tough!  It requires a great deal of patience and fortitude.  A typical pecan tree that is indigenous to the southeast, will take on average, about 10-12 years to produce small yields (100-150 lbs/annual), and 15-20 years to produce fully (400-500 lbs/annual). If your only source for your pecan pie is the tree you just planted, you’ll have to sit at the table for 20 years! However, if you’re steadfast, that single tree can produce 400-500 lbs of pecans every year, for the next 300 years! That’s a lot of pecan pies!

In Acts the 11th chapter we are introduced to a true benignant named Barnabas, whose steadfast devotion to God proved profitable. Act 11:23-24 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.  Barnabas was planting pecan trees.  Not, mind you, trees that were cultivated and bred from the root of Jesse (Jews), but foreign trees, that were raised in the land of the Greeks and Phoenicians (Gentiles). Then, he had the fortitude and foresight to find Paul and tend to that tree with resolve so that it would grow, flourish and produce fruit for hundreds of years to come.  Together, they would help plant many trees throughout Syria, Galatia and Cyprus. Paul himself would cultivate and plant many more trees throughout the world, churches of Christ that withstood the test of time, flames and famine to yield produce year after year. These included churches such as Antioch, Paphos, Laodicea, Derbe, Iconium, Lystra, Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Athens, Berea, Thessalonica, and even Rome.  These huge yielding trees produced fruit that bore more in places like, Alexandria, Cartridge, Sardis, Philadelphia, Pergamum, Colossae, Hierapolis, Hippo, and many more. So, by the end of the second century, there were literally millions of Christians throughout the Roman world and a great portion of them could say that they were the produce of the tree that Barnabas planted in Antioch many years before. Barnabas, who encouraged the few in Antioch, to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.

Sometimes we forget that it’s not the tree we must make grow, but rather the increase in faith in God that He’ll make it grow. We have to have faith in that which God has already made. Sometimes we see individuals around us and think they’ll never make it. They’ve got too many problems and too many issues. Perhaps we look at young saplings just barely out of the ground and we lack the patience to see them 20 years down the road, producing abundant crops. Maybe it’s not the tree we’ve lost patience in but rather the infrastructure needed to help it grow. We grow faint from constantly having to water it and fertilize it. Our patience runs short when heavy storms come and damage the trees or pestilence and disease infest its roots.  Often we become discouraged in tending the grove and feel betrayed by our fellow workers who have grown lax in tending to the trees themselves.  Winter comes and we must work even harder to keep the immature sprouts from frost and exposure. In all this we must not grow weary in the work, for at the right time, our labor will not be in vain, it will produce! God said so! Gal.6:9

A year into WWII, Winston Churchill gave one of his finest speeches at Harrow School. An excerpt from that speech is eloquent and fitting for inspiration of resolve:

You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period – I am addressing myself to the School – surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never -in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

                                                Winston Churchill

Let us plant, water and care for the trees that God has made, and never give up on them.

Darryl Fuller

Power of a Soft Voice

I can still hear the far off lonely call of the 11:05 Seaboard Coast Train heading north out of the Lakeland Yard. I would lie in bed at my grandmother’s house as she would quietly endeavor to send me back to sleep with the whisper of a soothing lullaby. Then, she would hear the hum of the diesel locomotive as it left the yard some 9 miles away.  Its low moan would travel across fields and orange groves and softly make its way through the open window. Dogs far away would hear the vibration too and begin a mournful howl. “Listen!” She would say, “That’s the train heading north to Zephyrhills.”scl545 I would lie there very still as she recounted for me every crossing.   Far away, the engineer would sound the whistle; “That’s the Galloway Crossing,” she would say. Some time would pass and Grandmother would begin to hum a song again. All along I could see her staring through the window into the night, listening. Farther away now, the whistle would cry one last time, a mournful farewell, “That’s the crossing in Kathleen,” she would say, and somehow or another that peaceful wail would bid me to sleep.

I’ve often lain in bed at night, when it’s hard to fall asleep, and recounted those nights when I would stay with my grandparents and hear that train whistle through the night air. It still has the calming effect of peace and assurance.

Strange how the power of those huge diesel engines can somehow produce a peaceful and soothing sound. Job remarked on this same irony about God; Job 26:13-14  By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.   Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”

It’s interesting to note that there are a lot of similarities in God’s universe of things which are powerful and deadly yet bring us peace and assurance. For centuries now men have gazed in awe at Niagara Falls.  Its beauty and splendor have inspired poets, artists and honeymooners alike. It is one of the most majestic waterfalls in the entire world, yet its tranquil, hypnotic appeal is best observed from far away!  The power of that water plummeting into cauldrons far below has killed many an adventurer who ventured too close to the precipice.  Likewise, the soft glow of a night light has scared off many, a boogey man, but don’t dare stick your finger down into the receptacle or you’ll turn into one.

We like the soft voice of our Heavenly Father, whispering to us that everything is going to be alright, to feel safe and protected and to be assured of good things.  We all are seeking peace and assurance. The great news is God has and will continue to offer that comfort; it’s called the Gospel.  Paul said in Romans;  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Rom 1:16 

When Elijah grew scared and lost his confidence in 1 Kings 19, he fled far away to Mt. Horeb.  God demonstrated His power through wind, an earthquake, and fire.  Then, God came to Elijah through a whisper.  A small but powerful voice says to Elijah, “Everything is going to be OK! But get up and get busy doing my will,” peace and assurance, with a strong and mighty hand.

Years later in my life I got hit by a train. For a long time the sound of a train whistle was a freighting thing.  The far away train whistle of my childhood was a memory of peace and assurance.  The truth is, it was always a sound to warn.

God’s words are likewise, words of peace and assurance.  However, His words which come across the fields and groves of long ago and far away still carry the same sound and the same message. Heed His warning! Mark 4:23-24  If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”  And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear…

Darryl Fuller