Is evil universal?

There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one. Their throats are open graves, they deceive with their tongues, the poison of asps is under their lips, their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18, NET).

During decades of travel in many parts of the world, I have frequently been shocked at the amount and intensity of corruption and violence which prevails in places I have visited. I have been tempted to rate locations as to which was most corrupt, or most dangerous. However I have come to the realization that those qualities exist everywhere I have been, and am now convinced that they are truly universal. Wherever people live there are bad people with evil intent. Continue reading “Is evil universal?”

The good authority of Jesus Christ

Forthright Magazine is a free service of Forthright Press. Find more edifying material at the link.

Men abuse authority. They enrich themselves with it and oppress others with it. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and Castro were infamous in the 20th Century.  Maduro in Venezuela is but one more in the long list of tyrants. Jesus warned his followers, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors’” Luke 22.25. He showed by example how to be different from despots.

Jesus was given all authority on earth and in heaven by the Father, Matthew 28.18. We in the churches of God have long taught on the importance of recognizing Jesus’ authority. We are right to do so. We ought to continue to do it. Continue reading “The good authority of Jesus Christ”

Why our good ideas don't matter to God

thinking87

by Richard Mansel

Good ideas are ones that are interesting or beneficial to us in some way. They can even serve an altruistic purpose. However, there are boundaries for the most noble of plans.

When we become a Christian, we must reorient our minds to service and submission.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2, NKJV).

We walk by Christ and his plan, instead of our own (Ephesians 4:1).

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Darkness doesn’t exist in God, so we can trust him completely to guide us safely by the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Every situation in life can be found in one form or another in the Bible. We must listen and learn.

David provides an example when he decides to number his army (1 Chronicles 21). It seemed a good idea to David and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with a census. However, it was not authorized and God’s silence was sufficient as a command.

God sends word to David that he had sinned and the king instantly regretted his behavior. Yet, sin has consequences that repentance cannot always remove. God gives David three options and he places his people in the hands of God.

“So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell” (1 Chronicles 21:14).

Moses’ good idea was to strike the rock to bring out the water but he was prevented from entering the Promised Land as a result (Numbers 20). Uzzah also had a seemingly good idea but when he reached out to steady the sacred Ark of the Covenant, he was struck dead (2 Samuel 6:1-7).

God doesn’t think like we do (Isaiah 55:8). He has his Word to preserve for future generations. His plan has always been contingent on his faithfulness and foresight. Allowing disobedience or disregard for his will would destroy all that God had established.

Our good ideas are only good if they agree with God’s. The Lord cannot allow us to work against him, no matter how good our ideas appear to be. There’s just too much at stake.

The Influence of Men

by J. Randal Matheny, editor
• Jeff Jenkins and Dale Jenkins today launched The Jenkins Institute in honor of their father Jerry. It will focus many of their efforts with seminars, gospel meetings, writing, and publications. Take a look at the website and the many offerings available there.
• BrotherhoodNews.com was privileged to publish Jeff’s story about the Institute simultaneously with their website going on the air. We thank them for their kindness in allowing us to share in this moment important to their service to the Lord.
• Shortly, later today or tomorrow, we should publish on BrotherhoodNews.com several reactions to the Methodist professor’s article, “Why the Churches of Christ Were Right After All.”
• March was a great month for most of the Forthright/GoSpeak ministries and websites. The work continues to grow and we’re thankful to the Lord for letting us serve in the kingdom.
• What websites besides Forthright Magazine, you ask? Here’s the list of the major efforts:

• Over 100 people are involved directly in these efforts. We thank God for every contribution of sisters and brothers who lend their time and energies to the kingdom. Some have been plugging away with us for well over a decade. Others have signed on more recently to bring their fresh insights to bear.
• The news about Fred and Joy House’s murder in Fulton, Miss., saddened us. Fred was a retired preacher, and the outpouring of prayers and grief was great. Our condolences to their family in this moment of shock and loss.
• Have you ever had a moment when it seemed that the pieces to the puzzle were falling into place? I’ve had that sensation over the past few days. It’s a good one, is it not? Of course, our faith remains constant in God, whether circumstances cooperate with our expectations or life seems to be a balloon cut loose from its guy ropes at the mercy of the winds.
• President Obama visited Brazil last month. Before he arrived, the exchange rate for the dollar rose. After he left, it dropped below what it had been before. His visit serves as a reminder that the influence of men varies and wanes. The power of the gospel, however, is ever constant. Jesus is always with his people to empower them for their mission in the world. He said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b NET). Isn’t that our greatest comfort and strength?

The Calling of Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne died Sunday, Jan. 23, at age 96. The New York Times obituary called him the “founder of the modern fitness movement.” His television program ran for decades and established him as America’s First Figure of Exercise and Fitness. I seem to recall organ music in his opening introduction.

LaLanne was synonymous with exercise. His cause was fitness. Think of him, and his passion comes to mind. He practiced it, he preached it, he sang about it, he showed how to do it. The NYT said it was “his calling.”

The Christian, too, has a calling, a mission, a cause. It is the preaching of the gospel. But many saints have lost the calling. They have missed the mission. The cause has been called off. Church has become a social event, a pep talk, a personal development program. The gospel turned into a self-consumption product.

I know a few people who, like Jack LaLanne, are synonymous with the gospel. A few. Why are there not more? Are you one of them?

Jesus so identified with his mission that he practiced it, he preached it, he sang about it, he showed how to do it.

His language was full of talk — and not just talk — about the will of God, pleasing the Father, being sent by his Father, giving his life for the lost, seeking and saving the lost. His life was caught up in redemption.

And he wills that we be caught up as well in saving others. Not through a paid staff, not through a building, not through a weekly meeting, but personally, daily, an every-moment, every-person mission.

When we die, be it early or late, what will people automatically associate with us? May it be the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Anything Like Me

by Paula Harrington
daddaughter3.jpgThere’s a new song on country music radio about a father talking about his unborn son. The chorus has the words, “If he’s anything like me,” and then goes into the similarities that the two will probably have in common. Every time I hear it, I think about my heavenly Father.
I’m grateful that he isn’t anything like me. Yes, of course, I’m made in his image (Genesis 1:26), but that’s where the resemblance ends.
When things don’t go my way, I tend to get frustrated. When I trust someone and they let me down, it’s difficult for me to trust them again. I expect people to do what they say and when they don’t, I’ve been known to lose my temper.
I let the troubles of this life get me down. I squander too much time worrying about what others do or don’t do and waste energy on things that don’t matter. I don’t spend enough time with the Scriptures. My prayer life isn’t near what it could be.
I wish I gave more of my means and took bigger leaps of faith. I tire of people who claim Jesus, but don’t want to live like him or love like him.
I have to make an honest effort to be nice to some people.
In my haste to get from day to day, there are times when I miss out on helping others and fail to further the Kingdom. There are moments when my light is so enveloped with worry that it fails to shine.
It’s not always easy for me to love, forgive, serve, trust, and go that extra mile. I get run down, fed up, and overwhelmed.
But not my God.
He offers salvation to everyone. He’s always willing to forgive. He’s good, patient, trustworthy, loving, and in control. He’s caring and committed. Always.
He never tires. He won’t forsake. He’s eager to listen, inspire, comfort, and encourage 24/7. He’s fair, whether I always understand him or not.
I’m thankful that my Father isn’t anything like me and even more grateful that he loves me anyway.

Get Out of My Life!

by J. Randal Matheny, editor
doorwaylight.jpgPsalm 119 is famous as the song that praises the word of God. Even its internal structure emphasizes the language of God, forming an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet with each set of eight verses.
What is not so often appreciated is the role of evil people in the psalm.
The psalm highlights the presence of enemies as the writer pledges his faithfulness to God. With the resolve to obey every commandment of the Lord and let his statues live in the heart, there will be resistence from others.
Evil people are identified as those “who wander from [God’s] commandments” (vv. 21 ESV). The difference between good and evil is the respect, or lack of it, that one shows toward God’s word.
It is God who rebukes the disobedient and who takes away the scorn and contempt they heap upon the righteous (vv. 21-23).
Persecution will not stop the psalmist from keeping the testimonies of the Lord; he will not forsake God’s precepts (vv. 86-87).
In fact, it is by them that he attains life and is preserved whole (vv. 92-95).
As much as the psalmist depends on the Lord to protect him, he also realizes that he must keep his distance from evil people, to avoid their influence and to enable him to obey God’s commandments. So he tells them in verse 115:
“Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God” (ESV).
The connection between the two ideas is even stronger in the New Living Translation:
“Get out of my life, you evil-minded people, for I intend to obey the commands of my God.”
Psalm 119 develops this interplay between love for and obedience to the word of God and the opposition that “evil-minded people” put up against any effort to respect his laws. This joining of themes reminds us today that we cannot obey God and be friends with the world.
Departure from the faith comes through the influence of lying teachers (1 Timothy 4:1-2). In Psalm 37:35, David told what he had seen, “ruthless evil men growing in influence, like a green tree grows in its native soil” (NET).
Solomon’s many wives “had a powerful influence over him” (1 Kings 11:3), and he the wisest man of all! Ahab had only one, and that one was bad enough, for he was “urged on by his wife Jezebel” (1 Kings 21:25) to do evil.
The writer of Psalm 119 knew better than to think he could keep evil friends and do good. But many people today think they can do better than the psalmist.
Knowing this tendency to self-deceive and to over-estimate our power to resist evil, Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals'” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
But we hang out with the wrong crowd and pretend we can do the will of God. We entrust our children to pagan teachers and worldly friends for hours on end in the school systems and think we can still snatch them from the fire. Paul says, “Don’t be deceived!”
Let us wave away the evildoers, then, and chase them from involvement in our lives. We cannot otherwise keep God’s commandments.
For those who do are blessed (Psalm 1:1).