Monthly Archives: February 2014

We’re all in the same boat, by Ron Coale

The same boat

Ferry crossing in Ding An, China

We do not live in a perfect world.  This is very unfortunate for all of us. It would be wonderful if everything we tried to do was easy. But unfortunately it is not. It is difficult to find the right mate to create a family with. It is difficult to bare and rear children. It is difficult to make ends meet, to struggle in the never ending pursuit of money just so that we can pay our bills, put enough food on the table for our families and to be able to have a little bit to do something fun once in a while. Life certainly is not easy the world presses in on us with all sorts of external pressures that want us to fall not only physically but spiritually and mentally as well. There are pressures in relationships, pressures about finances, pressures about health, and pressures about being able to compete and keep up with the Jones–so to speak. However all of these pursuits are pursuits that are going to one day vanish in the wind and mean absolutely nothing. As a Christian I am sure that you know as well as I do that only the things that we do spiritually for God are what remains. All other endeavors are simply to take care of the immediate needs of our lives, and they will all one day, as a vapor, vanish in the wind floating softly out into nothingness, and they will mean absolutely nothing. They will neither be a repulsive smell unto the Lord or a sweet smelling savor unto him. They will mean nothing.

With that in mind I would like to challenge each and every one of you today to try to remember that we are all in the same boat. We all have the same difficulties, we all have the same problems, and we are all struggling with one thing or another. It doesn’t matter what it is we are struggling with, we are still all struggling. Each and every one of us know how difficult it is. We know it is difficult to deal with life, we know it is difficult to deal with the world, difficult to deal with self, we know it is difficult to deal with the future; especially when we know it is certainly holding for us nothing more promising than pain, distraught and trouble. I mean we know that we call it the uncertain future but it is really not uncertain. Men only perceive that it is uncertain but it is not.

Because we are all in the same boat, we ought to be hand in hand, interlocking arms, intertwined, supporting each other, helping each other, holding each other up in prayer. We ought to be tolerant of each other because we know that the trouble that we have others have as well. Unfortunately this does not always work and it doesn’t work because there is that silly thing that always comes into the picture called pride.  Pride is when we are more interested in our self than we are in someone else. At times I might be able to say that there could be great justification for that, because it is wearisome to have someone constantly knit picking you. It is wearisome to have someone constantly comparing themselves to you or to demanding their rights based on their standards and trying to place that upon you. It is wearisome trying to obey the laws of the land and then when you travel into another country for example the laws are much different so you have a whole new set of things to learn. When you travel back you find that in your own country laws have changed. So it is hard to keep up with the times in such a dynamic world and dynamic place where things are changing all the time.

But let me comfort you with this, God’s word never changes despite what the world does to attack it and make it seem like it is constantly in motion, evolving toward temporary situations that are not true. There are the basic elements of man that never change. There is always going to be jealousy, there is always going to be pleasure, there is always going to be sin, there is always going to be envy, there is always going to be strife and so on and so forth. All of these things may take different forms as we deal with different people or different cultures or different times even, but the basic tendon’s of those things never change. As Christians we need to not live on the surface where things are changing and sand is shifting all the time. We need to do what the Bible calls stand on the rock, where we know that these things never change and that envy is envy whether it was for a chariot of old or for a BMW of contemporary times or maybe some space vehicle in the future. Who knows? But envy is still envy.  It is a human nature that makes up what we call sin. Love will never change it is always going to be love. We may change our approach toward it but it is still there.

Now why is it that many Christians are wrapped up in the surface issues of life and the changing demands of time? I believe it is because they have not yet learned to be content in whatsoever state they are in as the apostle Paul said. Once you become content then those things don’t really upset you. You don’t need a whole bunch of surface things in your life to make you feel good about yourself or give you something where by you can judge yourself to see how you are doing in life or not. You know it all comes down to this one little statement. The statement that my mother always said as we were growing up, I don’t know if she realized it had such a Godly principle or not, but here it is: “Que sira sira”. Spanish for meaning: whatever will be will be. We are not going to change the avalanche of fate over-running this world. We can either go along with the flow; not meaning go along with the world, but go along with what God brings into our life, and look at it that way or we can allow it to bowl us over. It will either do one or the other.  Now what will it be? In China they had a phrase called “Mei guan xi”.  It means, “it doesn’t matter”. They would say that about everything, “it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter”. That is because when they’ve lived in such a poor state all of their lives, barely having a shack to live in with dirt floors.  They were completely filled with joy just to have more from their harvest than they would need to be able to last them all through the winter.  When they did, they were happy to share it with others. When you get to that state, things do not really matter too much. You learn to live within the state that God has you in.

So why don’t we pick up our boot straps and look at the world like this? Mei guan xi. That is not to say stick your head in the sand.  It is not to pridefully shrug your shoulders and say it doesn’t matter, as if you don’t care. You should care but you should not let it upset you. Let things just go their course.

I have found out though my life that things just seem to work out. You do not have to get all upset about things. I use to get upset about many things, little things, stupid things, dumb things. Now that I have been thinking about this perhaps it is just that people get some kind of emotional high off of being upset.  When they feel that adrenalin set in, it sparks anger or interest in their life and they feed off of it. Have you ever see two people argue and they just won’t let it go?  They always have to “one up” the other person. You look at it from a distance and you say, “Why don’t they just give up? What are they going to gain by it?” Many times people argue just to argue. When they are doing that, they win an argument and walk away saying I won! But what does that mean? It means absolutely nothing. Mei guan xi, it doesn’t matter.

God said the principle thing is love. Love is letting the other person be right. Love is not letting your anger boil to the surface. When you feel it coming you just realize it and you side step the pitfall that will waste all of your energy and allow you to end up at the bottom of a big hole somewhere with every body looking down on you, and you feeling ashamed of yourself. Of course you will be able to walk away with pride, holding up your head saying, “I won.” But, what does it mean? It means nothing if the outcome doesn’t have some positive result.  What is it worth?

I remember a time when a friend of mine went out to eat with his wife. He didn’t have much money so he took her to Subway. A third man walked in the door.  He was all upset and was making a big scene, being angry, yelling at the girl behind the counter about his sandwich. Finally she had served him and he was leaving and as he was leaving my friend with his back to him the whole time didn’t know anything about what was going on but his wife could see it all. She kind of snickered, a slight snicker, slight smile thinking my goodness people sure are terrible. The guy picked up on that and he ran over and grabbed my friend by the shoulder and said you think that is funny? My friend was just shocked; he didn’t know what was going on. The guy turned around and punched him in the face. My friend was sitting there happily eating his sandwich one moment and the next moment laying there in the seat on the bench with a big shiner. Well the guy got all angry and he turned around and went to go out the door and as he went he flung the door open toward himself, and as he went storming out he hit his head on the door and gave himself a shiner. Walked out and got in his car real angry because he beat himself up with the door. Now what did it all accomplish? Not a thing. Probably made him feel better about himself and got down the road a little ways and thought that was a dumb thing to do. Maybe his pride was so strong that it just didn’t allow him to think it was a dumb thing to do. But guess what! It was a dumb thing to do.

We’re all in the same boat concerning love too!  People need to love each other.  They need to have a little patience, and give things a little time. Now there are those situations where it doesn’t matter how much you love someone, or how patient you are with them, people pick up on your love as a weakness and they begin to dominate you. You feel completely helpless in a situation like that. You think I can either fight back or I can just get out of the situation. My friend that is the best advice.  Limit your time, distance and shielding. My mother said time heals all wounds.  She was right about that. I have learned that if you keep distance you end up shielding yourself from the effects that cause you to want to fall and stumble for the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes you have to stay away from things. For example, it is not good for a diabetic to go into a candy store.  Why tempt yourself on something you know is going to end up making you fall.

So I encourage you all lend a helping hand to each other, be patient to everyone and if you can’t and it ends up dragging you down, don’t go in the candy store.  Shield yourself. Things will work out in the end. People have to be people and people have to learn to deal with each other for Jesus Christ.  We’re all in the same boat!

IS GAMBLING A SIN?

People often try to justify their desire to gamble by saying, “after all, life itself is risky.”  Investing in the stock market, crossing the street, riding in an airplane, falling in love, getting married, even doing church work all carry with them an element of risk.  People also try to justify gambling by pointing to the element of chance that was involved in the Old Testament use of lots or the Urim and Thummim, and in the New Testament method of choosing Judas’ successor. However, there is no legitimate point of comparison between the type of chance involved in these Scriptural practices and the type of chance involved in gambling.  The Old Testament lots were specifically sanctioned and commanded by God (Lev. 1:8, Josh. 14:2, Ex. 28:30, Num. 27:21, Dt. 33:8).  Gamblers today cannot produce such commands of God for the lots they cast!  Likewise, in the choice of Matthias to succeed Judas no real risk was involved, Both candidates, Justus and Matthias, were fully qualified for the position, so the final choice was entrusted to the Lord in prayer.

The real crux of the problem of gambling is not the element of risk or chance, but the question of motivation. This is the real heart of the problem, for if the motivation involved is wrong, gambling is wrong even when the element of skill predominates over simple chance.

The basic purpose of most gambling is not to help and serve others, but to help ourselves at their expense. Luther observed: No one gambles with another in order to give away to the other what is his own (for he could do that without gambling), nor in order to lose what is his own, nor in order to seek the gain of the other man as though it were his own. This is why gambling is always contrary to love and is motivated by greed because a man seeks, to the harm of another, what does not belong to him.

The basic Christian objection to gambling is that it is an attempt to gain something from our neighbor without giving a fair service in return. If we really love our neighbor, will we wish to win at his expense? In gambling are we heeding the admonition of Scripture, Philippians 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.’  Christians must keep two facts in mind when seeking gain or profit from their activities. They must give fair labor in exchange for what they receive. They seek to earn for themselves, not from selfish motivation, but in order to be of service to others. Ephesians 4:28 “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”

A Christian’s life is to be devoted to serving others, not to serving self. In most games of gambling, part of the enjoyment is taking advantage of someone else’s loss. Gambling is nonproductive, and can be justified only by arguing its entertainment value or the good use made of a portion of the revenue. Since the end never justifies the means, gambling cannot be justified on these grounds if greed is involved. The fact that dishonesty and selfish motivation can be practiced in any form of business cannot be used as an excuse to justify gambling, if gain at the expense of another is part of the very nature of gambling. The common consent involved in gambling does not excuse the stealing involved in gambling anymore than common consent excuses the murder involved in dueling.

The Bible does not specifically forbid gambling, but there are several biblical principles that should make Christians hesitate to participate:

  1. God presents work as the normal way to get the money we need (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:12).
  2. When a person cannot work, the second choice is prayer (Phil. 4:6, 19).

All my income belongs to God, not me (Psalms 24:1), and I am not free to use it as I wish. I am a steward, who should use it for God’s purposes. Christians are called on to meet the needs of their family (1 Tim. 5:8), and share with others, particularly Christians who have needs (2 Cor 8-9; Gal. 6:6-10; 3 John).

Does God want me to use His money to buy a lottery ticket?  God uses money to accomplish important purposes in my life:

  • Meet basic needs (Matt. 6:11; I Tim. 6:8).

  • Build character (Phil 4:10-13)

  • Give direction, by providing or withholding resources.

  • Helping others through me.

  • Show His power by providing miraculously.

Gambling does not accomplish any of these things.  In fact, it hinders these things being accomplished in my life.   So, a person must ask themselves, “Am I looking to God or to the lottery for my needs?”

The Bible says that it is required of a steward that a man be found faithful 1 Cor 4:3).  Since we are to be stewards of everything we have, (not just our money), and we are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), gambling that which we have stewardship over is directly opposite of a life of faith.

Greed and covetousness are sin (Exo. 20:18; I Tim. 6:9; Heb. 13:5), and these are motives in most gambling. The book of Proverbs warns of disaster for people who want to get rich quickly (28:20, 22).  Not only that, wealth that comes easily goes just as easily (Pro. 13:11).  AND, if it is gained the wrong way it can even break up families (Pro. 15:27).

Present Day Persecution

persecutionWe have heard of the times of old when people were persecuted for the Lord Jesus Christ. Many in the early centuries even gave their lives because of their love of Him. They would not recant their belief in the Lord and were therefore “purged” from society by death. Their deaths were often gruesome and would take days to complete. Some were starved; some were bled; others were tortured in the most heartless of ways. These brothers and sisters in Christ are an example to us of defiant love for God. Yes, defiance towards the worlds system. They too lived in the world system, but the world system during their time would actively persecute them by hunting them down to put them to death. It was a holocaust beyond belief.

Many know of the “holocaust” of the Jews by Adolf Hitler in the late 30’s and early 40’s. It is claimed that over 6 million Jews were exterminated from the earth. Adolf was a Catholic with Catholic support and this explains why the pope didn’t lift a finger to condemn Hitler’s evil plan. Hitler tried to eradicate the Jews from Europe, but what really was transpiring was a fanatical rebellion against God.

Long before Adolf Hitler and his national socialist’s followers, there was another holocaust. This one was of the followers of Jesus Christ. It was performed primarily by none other than the Catholic Church. At that time, it was legal to kill Christians. In fact, it was viewed that if you caught a Christian and turned them in to the state, you were doing society a favor. Under these difficult conditions, some of our brothers and sisters died gladly for the Lord; they exchanged their life for eternity. Many others exchanged the lives of their loved ones because they would not deny the Lord Jesus Christ.  They endured their persecution well.

There was an instance where a woman was hung over the side of a bridge by a rope tied to her feet. With her hands tied behind her back, she was lowered just enough that her head hung submerged in the water below. Struggling, she would bend her head out of the water just to take a breath of air. At first it was not too difficult, but as the hours went by, she became more tired and it was very difficult to lift her head out of the river to catch a breath. During her time of persecution, her husband was forced to watch. Their crimes? They were Christians and were caught. Because her husband would not deny Jesus Christ and bow to kiss the ring of the Catholic bishop, she would die. In between breaths, as his tired wife would lift her head out of the water, she would cry out in encouragement to her husband, “I am more than happy to give my life for Him who gave His life for me. Husband, do not bow to the pope!” After many hours, she died. Then her husband was burned at the stake. As the faggots fed the flames, he cried, “May the Lord Jesus Christ forgive you for doing that which you know not!”

There are instances where the Catholic soldiers would come into a town and take the young Christians children from their mothers.  The soldiers would throw the children into the air and then make sport of trying to catch them on the tips of their spears as they came down. Why? The mothers would not deny Christ and replace Him with the pope as the king of their life.

“Well,” you might say, “All of that happened back then. I am glad this doesn’t happen in the world today. We are all much more civilized then they were back then.” Brethren, don’t be deceived. The world and its system has not changed. It still cannot tolerate anything or anyone else being superior to it. It must make Christianity ineffective. It can do this by directly attacking it or it can infiltrate it and dilute it so that it becomes “worldly” in its nature. That way, Christianity will be so watered down, and would be no more of a threat to the world’s claim for the top spot. This has been its main tactic in this century. But, there are places in this world where direct attacks to Christianity still take place. The world has never been void of it. There are still Christians dying for their faith in the Lord. Some such places are: the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Iran, Afghanistan, and others.

Recently, I read of a possible death sentence for an Iranian pastor all because he is refusing to renounce his Christianity. Iran has an “utter disregard” for religious freedom with an extreme and radical hatred of God. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, 32, is being forced by the Iranian authorities to renounce his faith in Christ. Over the past four days he has been in an appeals court and expects a ruling by the end of next week. If found guilty, he faces the death penalty.

When asked to repent, Pastor Nadarkhani stated: “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge replied.

“I cannot,” Nadarkhani said.

Nadarkhani, a pastor in the 400-member Church of Iran, has been held in that country’s Gilan Province since October 2009, after he protested to local education authorities that his son was forced to read from the Koran at school. His wife, Fatemeh Pasandideh, was also arrested in June 2010 in an apparent attempt to pressure him to renounce his faith. She was released in October 2010, according to Amnesty International.

Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for apostasy last September based on religious writings by Iranian clerics, including Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite the fact that there is no offense of “apostasy” in the nation’s penal code, Amnesty International reports.

There are still Christians that are facing death in exchange for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We should never get too complacent with the world and its hatred for God. We may be faced with such a persecution. I certainly hope not. Like most of you, I hope I get to go home to be with the Lord long before I would ever be faced with watching a loved one be tortured to death for the Lord. The little things which I call “persecution” that I have experienced in my life seem to be miniscule when compared with facing the death penalty. May God come quickly and may his judgment be swift upon man.

~Pastor

The Relationship with Christ

relationship with christLuke 9:62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

The relationship with Christ is the most important relationship any person can enter into.  It is more important than the one that you can have with your spouse or your children.  It is more important than the one you can have with your parents or grand-parents (Luke 14:26).  Lets face it, who can be more important than God?

There are scores upon scores of “Christians” who do not believe this.  Most of these instances can be attributed to their ignorance of the person of God.  Most people get  saved because they want to escape hell.  When confronted with the reality of their sin, and their destination, they quickly want to do something about it.  When they learn that all they have to do is accept a “free gift”, they quickly scoop it up, being ignorant of everything else.  As long as they get saved, that is enough.  What they don’t realize, what they are not taught, is they have begun a wonderful journey in their relationship with God: they are now a “son of God” (John 1:12). But, you never see them studying their Bible, learning from some other grounded Christian or growing in the Lord.  Not only does Satan like to get them side-lined, but Christians never follow up on them to wisely guide them around the many pitfalls of life that are awaiting them.  And, there are many like this.

It is sad to think that there are many “sons of God” wandering around lost in their relationship with Him.  If they could just get some direction, then God could do something in their life that would profit them.  Some even think they are growing when they are not.  The Devil might have them growing in the social activities of the community or even the church, but not in their relationship with the Lord.  This is why it burdens my heart to see people so “off” and “on” about church attendance or Group Bible Study.  I know that if they could just keep coming long enough, or often enough, then they will begin to see the secrets of the universe revealed within the pages of God’s Word.  They will develop a curiosity for the things of God; a hunger and thirst for the WORD.  This too, I have seen many times and it has not been without a perplexing of the mind.

In foreign countries (I have visited 16 of them) people seem to have more of a hunger for God’s Word.  This seems to be more prevalent in communist countries.  It is a pleasure to see them grow in the Lord.  It doesn’t take long before the answers of life begin to reveal themself.  Then they become most curious.  They want to know more and more.  Things begin to connect.  They are able to answer their own questions from the Bible, because they have a foundation built into their life that cannot be broken up.

It doesn’t seem to be this way in the USA though.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps it is a familiarity with what people THINK Christianity is supposed to be all about.  I am guessing that is where the answer lies.  There is no way to change this except getting people into their Bibles and hoping they stay in it long enough to get hooked.  If they do, they will learn what the Bible says instead of what man says.

The Bible teaches that we have a relationship with God.  He is our Father and we are His children.  We belong to a family of believers, and it is difficult for any family when there are prodigals in it.  It tears at the heart of a family when one member turns away from God.

What can we do to prevent this?  We must emphasis we are all a part of a family, even before someone gets saved, else I fear that we have just put another name in our Bibles; chalked another one up for our self; another notch in our cane.  Winning souls is not a competition.  It is just as important to disciple someone than it is to lead them to the Lord.  God does not hand out winning lottery tickets to the one who leads the most people to Christ.  We are showing people the right way of life.  What good may a salvation be that does not change a persons life?  We are commanded to “teach them ALL THINGS whatsoever I command you.” (Matt. 28:29).  One may argue, “Well, at least they are saved.”  This may not be good enough to really help a person develop for Christ.

How many families have a baby and put the baby in the crib and never check on them again?  I don’t know of even one family that has done such a thing like that.  It would certainly be cruel or abusive. What chance does that baby have of growing up to be a strong man or woman?  How would they even survive a few days in such a predicament?  NO!  We take care of babies.  We feed them and teach them for many years until they are able to stand on their own, and this they do gradually.

New born “sons of God” are in this same situation.  They need nourishment.  They need instruction.  They need to develop their muscles and learn to walk on their own.  I feel that we often don’t see it this way because they look like a mature human being, and this is true, but they are a new born babe in Christ.

How do we teach them?  How do we nurture them if we are not confident in ourselves to teach them the things of the Lord?  The answer is to bring them to church.  This way they can be in an environment centered on learning about God.  Encourage them to be at church; taking advantage of every opportunity to learn.  It is vital to their growth.

You can’t give a baby a book and say, “Here you are.  Grow up.”  They need to be in an environment where they can see how to apply the things they learn out of the Book.  They need to have fellowship with others in the church to stretch them and strengthen them.  Just like you want your growing child to have supervised association with others for their growth’s sake, new born babes in Christ need the same thing.  This is why they need to “rub elbows with” others in the church.

Another very important item is for them to be faithful in learning about the Lord, you must be as well.  They will take the things they learn, then look at your life to see how to apply them to their life.  SO, you must be a good example.

Yes! Souls need to be saved.  But they need to be made aware of their family ties.  They need to be introduced to the family so the family can take care of its own.  The Lord has placed them into a wonderful part of the body of Christ.  Their great adventure awaits them.  We must hold them and hug them.

~Pastor