28 July 2008

Drifting Away

The inspired writer of the book of Hebrews gave an exhortation in chapter two encouraging those early Christians to “…give more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them.” There is a constant need to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and sound doctrine to every generation. There is the danger of the untaught not learning and of the taught drifting away from that which they have learned. The apostle Peter felt it necessary to remind his brethren of those essentials which they already knew (2 Peter 1:13; 3:1). Paul warned Timothy about a time when certain ones would no longer “endure the sound doctrine”, thus the need to “preach the word” continuously (2 Timothy 4:1-4). There is presently a yearning among many in the church to learn ‘new things’. Of course we should not extol traditions to a position of inspiration. Personally, I’m not interested in propagating mere tradition; however, there are objective truths revealed by the Holy Spirit that are essential and must studied, examined and proclaimed.

The desire to imitate other religious organizations in practice and teaching has caused many people to frown on the old ways of safety and security. Others, not studying the Holy Scriptures, are led away by “every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men in craftiness, after the wiles of error” (Ephesians 4:14). Often when one expresses a desire for ‘new things’, it is simply a rejection of ‘old truths’. Presently there is a prevalent attitude that the Bible is antiquated and should be relegated to the 18th century. The 21st century, they say, demands a more liberal view of the Holy Scriptures. In other words, our culture should determine the interpretation of the Word of God. What may have been acceptable in the first century is out of date in the thinking of modern men and women. Such rationalization has led to a digression and apostasy from the teaching of Jesus Christ and the holy apostles and prophets.

Oh that we today, as disciples of the Lord, would possess the same spirit as did the psalmist when he exclaimed in Psalms 119:97, “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” His will for us to follow is both relevant and refreshing. Let us never grow weary in hearing the words of salvation. It gives strength and guidance in our earthly pilgrimage. And if obeyed, the promise of eternal life when the journey on earth is finished (2 Timothy 4:4-6)

09 July 2008

The Giving of Thanks

Our blessed Lord taught, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7, 8). The apostle wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made to God…”

As children of God we have the words of Jesus and the Holy Spirit (through Paul) informing us that we have the wonderful privilege of asking, making supplications and requests and our God will hear us. The fact is we probably ask more in our prayers than we do in the giving of thanks for His infinite grace through which He bestows an abundance of blessings upon us. For example, brethren often fail to give thanks for the food that is about to be eaten. A brother is usually requested to “ask the blessing” or to “bless the food”. And so many times the brother will ask the lord to “bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and our bodies in your service” and there is nothing wrong in that request. But what we fail to do is to express our gratitude for the food that we have received as a blessing from God. It is on this point that I would like to emphasize in this article so that we all might be mindful of our need to give thanks, not only for our food but for all the blessings of life that God has given us. The writer James states that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

Concerning the giving of thanks specifically for our food, consider the example of Jesus Christ. In the feeding of the four thousand men plus women and children Matthew wrote, “And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude” (Matthew 15:36). On another occasion when He fed the five thousands John wrote, “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted” (John 6:11, 23).

Then there is the example of the apostle Paul giving thanks before he ate food that had been given as a blessing from God. He was on his way to Rome as a prisoner and the boat in which he was traveling was in serious trouble and was about to sink. The people on board had not eaten in fourteen days and Paul encouraged them to take nourishment. In Acts 27:35 we read, “And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.” In matters of judgment Paul wrote the following in Romans 14:6, “…He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.” The apostle later wrote in I Timothy 4:4, 5, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (Emphasis is mine in the above verses, RE). In our prayer before our meals let it be one of thanksgiving for the food that we are about to receive along with other expressions of praise and requests.