Encouraging Words

Your Religion is Worthless… 

God has made it known to us that this statement is true on a certain condition (and likely others). The condition which makes our religion worthless is if we cannot control our tongues. So I say it to you, because God has said it.

The Scripture says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). If you cannot control your tongue than your practice of faith does not mean anything, you’re fooling yourself. You think you’re better than you are. We have to “bridle” our tongues, “keep a tight rein on” our tongues. We have to have control over our tongues like we would a horse on whom we have placed a bridle. This is exactly the sort of example James uses in chapter 3. If we put a bit into a horse’s mouth “we direct their entire body as well”. If we put even a small rudder on a large ship that ship will go “wherever the inclination of the pilot desires”. Even so our tongue is a small member, but it dictates so much. James uses this to show mere proclamation of faith does not amount to anything. If we say we are of Christ and yet cannot have good fruit come from our mouths, we are kidding ourselves to think we are justified before God. But why do we need to make sure such a small thing is important to us? Why be certain we have control of our speech? Because that small thing will determine the direction of the rest of you (3:2). It shows our plotted course, it reveals the source of our fruit.

Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:34a-37).

It does matter what comes from such a small part. It reveals what is in our heart. It will demonstrate to us if our faith has substance. It will show what direction we are pointed in. If we wish to change the destination we must change the course. If we wish to change the fruit, we must change the plant, from the root up.

Ethan Riffle

Dare to be Different

There were things which set early Christians apart from their worldly environment that they were noticed for and hated for. They did not concern themselves with the values of their world. “But there was a second trait that separated Christians from the pagan culture: their sexual ethic”, says Michael Kruger (“One Trait That Set the Early Christians Apart”). When an individual or group of people will not partake in a culture’s desires and sins, they will be noticed. What does that mean for us today?

Mary Eberstadt says, “Christianity present, like Christianity past and Christianity to come, contends with many foes and many countervailing forces. But its single most deadly enemy in our time, the one with which it is locked in mortal combat, is not the stuff of the philosophy common room. It is instead the sexual revolution” (“The New Intolerance”).

Even today we fight to stand against the sin of this world. These authors claim the biggest issue is sex, that may or may not be true, but it shows an observable point that the law of liberty has and will always struggle against the law of sin. We may be hated for it as Scripture says the darkness will hate the light. We may be looked upon for being different. One thing is clear, we are not to be slaves to the law of the flesh because we have died to it. We have been set free of slavery to sin and given hope of life from faith in Christ. Please read for the sake of this discussion Romans 6:1-14. We are not to be slaves to the desires of our flesh as the world is. It is clear that this righteousness is not to be from self-righteous piety. If we are righteous, it is to be a sign that we are no longer slaves to sin, but have been set free. That we have hope of life and that life is in Christ Jesus. Our righteousness is not then to our glory, but the glory of God.

You are going to stand out in this world because you are not to be a slave to it. The reactions may be great and varied, but be a sign to this world that there is hope. The world may see justification in obeying the law of their desires and think themselves great for it, but show that there is hope and freedom in Christ Jesus.

“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).

Ethan Riffle

The Golden Rule: Was Jesus Wrong?

Would you consider it true that people often try to invalidate God’s word by their own opinions and conceptions? We always want to think that we are right, but sometimes the way we think about things is not from the correct point of reference.

I bring this up because recently I heard a discussion in which a person was trying to undermine the truth of what we commonly refer to as “The Golden Rule”. The Golden Rule is a scriptural principle taught by Christ. Jesus said, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). There is also the second greatest commandment reinforced by Jesus, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

What the objection was to Christ’s teaching was that it does not work in the benefit of the other individual as intended. The example given for argument was such: say there is an individual with a strong sexual perversion, and this perversion is in such a form that it affects general interaction with others. If this person is supposedly following the teaching of Jesus and treating others the same way they would want to be treated, then there are supposed to treat others in reference to this sexual perversion of theirs, right?

I would say no. There are some issues with this method of thinking. What is the purpose in treating others the same way we want to be treated? What is the purpose for loving our neighbors as ourselves? Is it for us? Of course not! It is to be from our love for them, to be for their benefit. This is the selflessness that Christ taught.

If I am then reasoning in reference to Christ’s command that in order to treat others the same way I want them to treat me I need to impose my likes and interests and perceptions on them, where is my love? It is not there, I have still a selfish way of thinking and am not truly embracing the purpose or even the teaching that Christ has commanded of me.

I want people to treat me with sensitivity for my likes and interests, for the way that I perceive things. If I am then to love my neighbor as myself I am to treat them according to their likes, interests, and perceptions (to do anything otherwise would be to force my will upon them). Only then do I truly love them, only then have I removed my desires for their benefit as the purpose of Christ’s teaching reflects.

Brothers and sisters we need not to think of ourselves, but others. If we are selfish, this mindset will obviously find its way into our interaction with others, we then are not embodying Jesus, but rather ourselves. But we must not love ourselves only, we must love others, and treat them with care and concern and love. This is the Golden Rule.

Ethan Riffle

God Still Speaks to Us Today

“I want to hear God’s voice. I want him to speak to me in a personal way. I want to know that it’s really and truly him. Is that too much to ask?” This is the opening question to Tom Challies’ article “God Actually Spoke To Me”. In all believers there seems to be a yearning for God. To have Him speak to us. To lessen the feeling of distance between Him and us. I would probably not be far off if I claimed that we all have had a moment where we wished that God would speak to us. Challies’ question then is a justified one. The answers to these questions are around us and accessible. If searching for God is common and natural to us it would only make sense that God would address the issue.

Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and meditate on what God has told us through Paul concerning His word (we will apply it in a moment). What Challies comes to affirm later in his article is that God does still speak to us today. I agree with him, He definitely does. God does speak to us today. In the article there are others quoted who speak of experiences in which they hear God speak to them, where they have personal experiences in which God talks to them. And do you know when this occurred? In the morning when they read their bibles.

God tells us in Scripture that we have been given everything we need (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:2-4). If He has given us all we need, all He wants us to know, there is no other reason for Him to communicate with us. God speaks to us today in completion through His book.

In the times when people hear God through His word, “[is] it an impersonal experience? Did it leave [them] longing for something else somewhere else? No not at all.” When we spend time with God in His word we see the magnificent things He’s done, the eternal truths He has reveals to us, and the eternal promises He gives to us. When we spend time in God’s word we are not lacking. We are “equipped for every good work”, we have “everything pertaining to life and godliness”.

Does God talk to us today? Yes, He does. If you are seeking Him to hear Him and experience Him, look in what He has given you. You will not be lacking, you will not be searching, you will hear God speak to you in powerful, eternal words.

Ethan Riffle

“Imitators of God”

How do you decide what you will and will not do? How do you decide what is okay for you to say/do and what is not okay for you to say/do? Hopefully your answer was something to the effect of, “by the words God has given us”. In this you would be right.

What about the things that do not seem as clear? Open your Bible and look for instance at Ephesians 4 & 5. Within these chapters we find the instruction, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” (Eph. 4:29). Paul goes on in the fourth verse of chapter five to describe more specifically these utterances of which we should try to avoid. Often a person will ask, “Well how do I decide what words are okay to say? What about ___ or ___, and what about ___?”As well as, “Well this word doesn’t offend everyone, is it okay to say?”

Most often, just like this, we try to sort out the uncertainties in what we can and cannot do. We ask questions, we think, and often the answer is not as clear as we would like it to be. Ask yourself, “Am I asking the right questions?” Look at these questions presented above. They are sincere, however, they are not approaching the topic correctly.

Look at the entirety of chapters 4 and 5 of Ephesians and think about what we are being told. “[W]alk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk”, “lay aside the old self”, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth”. We find the conclusion of this thought in 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God”. We find in the thoughts Paul gives us that our questions should not be, “What is okay for me to do?” Which is essentially, “How much can I do and still be okay?” He shows us our questions should be, “How holy can I be?” “How much can I please God?” “How many things can I lay aside so He will be glorified?” If we are to be renewed and be imitators of God this should be our mindset! Not how much can I get away with, but, how far will I go to please Him and be like Him?

The next time you wonder about what is okay or not think on Paul’s words. How holy will you be? How far will you go and how much will you try to please God?

Ethan Riffle

Let’s Have [a] Devotion!

Quite often Christians assemble at times outside of the specified assembling periods to engage in worship and edification (a devotion). While this might be at someone’s home or another location, the point is time is being set aside that is “devoted” to God instead of other things.

One part of the definition for this word “devotion” means “religious worship or observance.” Another component of its meaning is, “love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause.” The latter portion of meaning speaks the loudest because this should describe our lives! Take for instance the most simple definition of God’s love, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). These words of the Savior should evoke love, loyalty, and enthusiasm toward God and toward Christ (the person, the activity, and the cause). Our gratitude for the things done and things promised should spark a wildfire of devotion. And much like a wildfire would do; consume us completely!

Now the question may be raised, how do I construct this devotion? Three methods: Prayer, [bible] study, and action. We would do well to have devotion to God not only at specified meeting times, but practiced in our daily lives.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Let us devote ourselves to love, loyalty, and enthusiasm to the One who is the Person and the Cause.


Ethan Riffle

15 & 15 & 15

“Robert Dick Wilson (1856–1930). After receiving a doctorate from Princeton University, Wilson did two years of postdoctoral work at the University of Berlin. When he was twenty-five-years old, he decided to dedicate his life to a scientific study of the Biblical text. Based upon the longevity of his ancestors, he calculated that he would live to the age of seventy (he died at seventy-four). Believing that he had forty-five years left in which to work, he divided this time into three spans of fifteen years each, with each period dedicated to a particular pursuit.

During the first fifteen years, he studied all the ancient languages that bore upon the text of the OT and mastered forty-five languages, including Hebrew,…

During the second fifteen-year period, he examined every consonant in the Hebrew OT (there are no vowels in the Hebrew alphabet). This monumental task encompassed approximately 1.25 million letters. …

During the final fifteen-year period, Wilson committed his findings to writing. To demonstrate the superior accuracy of the OT text when compared with other documents of antiquity… “ (Gospel Argument for God, revised 2014;  p.95 PDF, by Kenneth Chumbley).

Robert Wilson at the young age of 25 understood what Moses said, “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12). He knew what number he was at (25), and guessed at his end (70), yet was granted an extra 4 years (74 he died).

Our ability to “choose” is a gift from God, and we can give what time we have left to the service of God. I doubt that we will know 45 languages in the next 15 years, but Paul said, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1Co 13:1-2). This qualifies the mind from the heart, and isolates the greatest part of our religion, Love.  Let me for the next 15+ years love God first and foremost, and let me love others as I love myself.       Love is a choice.       DP

There is a Green Hill

Song #652
Sometimes we sing more scripturally than we “think”. Some people get to thinking that Jesus died just that we might be forgiven and that is as far as it goes. But notice as you read this hymn, look at what Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) wrote in the third stanza.

1. There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

2. We may not know, we cannot tell
What pains He had to bear;
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

3. He died that we might be forgiv’n,
He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to Heav’n,
Saved by His precious blood.


Did Jesus die to make us good? Paul said that Jesus did not die for “the good man” but for “sinners” Rom. 5:7-8. Jesus died to make us good, that is, he knew how to motivate us to stop sinning and start seeking God. Jesus said,  “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32). Jesus did not mean that we would be drawn to some physical location (a green hill outside Jerusalem’s wall has no spiritual power in it’s soil). Rather we would be drawn to being like him, that is drawn to being good. Jesus wants me to clean the inside of my cup, my conscience, my heart, my soul. From the inside to be good for God. This is one of the things Jesus will not do.  Jesus will not clean our conscience from the outside by force. Paul said, “but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will” (Philemon 1:14). Has Jesus succeeded in making me good?    DP

For the past 60 years…

“The manager of the Sears store in downtown Seattle says an elderly man has repaid — with interest — cash the man says he stole in the late 1940s. KING-TV reports that the man hand-delivered an envelope Monday addressed to “Sears manager.” Inside were a note and a $100 bill. The note said the man stole $20 to $30 from a cash register decades ago and wanted to pay back $100. Manager Gary Lorentson says he thinks the man’s conscience “has been bothering him for the past 60 years.” (Press Association Nov. 28, 2011). Is a man’s conscience worth $100 dollars? The answer depends upon the man. What kind of man gives back what he has stolen? Ezekiel says, “But when I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness, 15 if a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statutes which ensure life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die” (Eze.33:14-15). Here we find this anonymous man in Seattle who was not “caught in the act”, but restored what he had stolen. Too often do we find people feeling “sorry” about doing wrong, and giving back only after being caught. We hope they feel sorry not for just being caught, but for the act itself. But there is no question when a man volunteers to give back without “being caught”. There are at least two great lessons in this for us. The first is that we need to volunteer to correct our wrongs before being caught in the act or having the courts force us to do what is right. Secondly, Jesus was willing to pay a much higher price than $100 dollars. He gave us His life blood to pay the price (1Pet. 1:18-19). We must also accept such by faith, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you– not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience– through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21) Let us restore, return and repent of all that we have done wrong, and hold the conscience clean from that point on. DP

I Want to Be Discouraged 

That’s right, I want to be discouraged and all the benefits that come with it, and I mean benefits.  Yes, being, “strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10), also has benefits, but being discouraged in the Lord has far more. Here are my top 5 benefits for being spiritually discouraged.

I get a license to put others down:  When I begin to talk bad about the people around me and someone feels that I should not be gossiping about those other people, I then pull out my wallet and show them I have a  license to put others down because I am REALLY discouraged.

It’s never my fault. So long as I am discouraged, whatever goes wrong at church or at home, its not because of me. Why? “I’m discouraged”, trumps all other excuses, at least to me it does. See how “down” I am? If other christians don’t like being around me, it’s their fault not mine. If we lose members, it can never be because my poor attitude.  Being discouraged is a fruit of the Spirit (ok, so I had to write it in my side margin, but that is not my fault either).

I don’t have to come to worship services when I don’t feel like it.  You see when you are discouraged you get to stay home and if someone asks, all you have to say is, “I’ve been discouraged lately”.  This works all the time. Some of you have never never never used this, but just once you really need to try it. It works great! Even God will not hold this against you if you are discouraged (See the Book of Opin. 3:18).

I don’t have to do anything for the Lord.  Laying up treasures in heaven is hard work, it is much easier to serve my interests only. So I’ll do lots of things, but  don’t ask me to go out of my way for another, I’m discouraged.

I get to pout.  Here is a big plus in my book, because others see my pouting and will come over and give me attention. This gives me an opportunity to say all the reasons why I am discouraged, and  being able to talk bad about others makes me feel so good! Pouting makes me feel special and makes me feel like I have power over those who are encouraged. Being discouraged is really much more beneficial than being encouraged, don’t you think?

Paul had all the reasons and much more to be discouraged, but “chose” not to be. After being in prison for 2 years, being shipwrecked, and back in prison, wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Paul could do all things through Jesus who strengthened him (Phi. 4:13).    DP

Restoration Plea

In the days of the NT the Jews had been reading the Law of Moses for generations and had come to some “consensus” about what it means to follow Moses.  But Jesus thought this “consensus” fell short of what God had intended. So he contrasted his teaching to what the Jews had heard. Jesus set about restoring the true concepts of God (Mt. 5:17-20).

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ‘ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…” (Mat 5:21-22).

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mat 5:27-28).

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Mat 5:31-32 ESV).

Jesus continued as he talked about vowing, revenge, love, alms, praying, and fasting (Mt. 5:33- 6:18). In all of these things Jesus was trying to teach God’s view on all these things because the Jewish consensus and practice had fallen short of God’s glory. Jesus was a restorationist. He was seeking to restore the Jewish beliefs and practices. This should teach us many things.

The consensus is often wrong and unwilling to meet God’s instruction. Not to murder was not enough, not to be angry is the warning. Not to commit adultery is not enough, but rather not to “covet” = lust for another.

The consensus often failed because they were not willing to consider other passages. They were wiling to follow the 6th commandment of not committing adultery and thought that was good enough. But they were not willing to follow the 10th commandment, not to “covet” or lust for things that did not belong to them.

We should be wary of following the “consensus” or “human tradition” because to do so is to trust mankind, rather we should seek to restore God’s original instructions.                                                                  DP

The Devil vs Jesus

The other day I had this horrible thought about the Devil and Jesus. But before I shamelessly tell you my thought, read  a few passages with me about the character contrast between the Devil and Jesus.

The ACCUSER:  “Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” (Job 1:9-11)  “However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.” (Job 2:5).   “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.” (Zechariah. 3:1). No wonder John called Satan, “the accuser of our brethren”. (Rev. 12:10).

Our ADVOCATE: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins;  (1John 2:1-2). “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7:25).  “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little. Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” (Luke 7:47-48). ”Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

Imagine for a moment now, what if you read a passage of scripture that had the Devil sitting at the right hand of God?  Someone who was continually accusing  your every action and your every thought and God was beginning to listen to him? Then after a couple of years, the Father was nodding with agreement with the Devil about you. I told you it was a horrible thought. I’m so glad that the Devil is not at the right hand of God, “for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down” out of heaven!!! (Rev 12:8-10)  It is so comforting to know that Jesus is at God’s right hand, and Jesus has the Father’s ear (Heb. 1:3,Jn 11:42).   DP

What Are You Going to do About It?

In Acts chapter 6, “a complaint by the Hellenists arose” (v.1). This complaint was about christian widows who were actually going hungry while other christian widows were being served food. What is worse, that the Hebrew Christian widows were all being fed just fine, but the “Grecian” widows, that is the “Hellenist” Christian widows, were going hungry. A complaint worthy of attention to be sure. In summary, the congregation said to the apostles, “What are you going to do about it”?    Basically the Apostles put it back on the congregation and told them to do something about it, “pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word”(Act 6:3-4).

So the congregation was given a task of choosing seven men, but not just any seven men they wanted, but seven men qualified for being; 1. a man of good reputation 2. a man full of the Spirit 3. a man who was full of wisdom.  The congregation narrowed it down and brought seven men forward. At this point the apostles first “prayed” and then “laid their hands on them” (Act 6:6).  Seven men now feel personally responsible for these widows.  This issue about the widows never comes up again in this church, the problem was solved.

When elders are appointed, the same process needs to take place, that is after hearing the kind of men God wants as elders (1Tim. 3 & Titus 1), the congregation brings men forward to be appointed as shepherds. This is not a stopping point, but a beginning point.    Recently it was expressed that when elders are appointed a congregation has the tendency to “relax”, this tendency should be avoided. Now these shepherds feel personally responsible for the whole flock, to feed, to tend and to help develop others as shepherds. DP

Why Do We Need Elders?

  1. God thinks we need elders.  God did not say we need to appoint “kings” in every church, nor did he say we need to appoint Emperors, Dictators or “Lords”.  But the Holy Spirit directed the inspired writers of the New Testament to say, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church… For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, (Act 14:23 , Titus 1:5).  If we have men who are qualified to serve as elders, and we do not appoint them then we are failing as a congregation. On the other hand, if we appoint men who are not qualified, we also have failed.  We cannot fail.
  2. Strong members need elders.  Strong members are better followers of Jesus because of the leadership seen in elders. These members get encouragement and affirmation from these godly  men to stay strong and commit themselves to the work of service. Many times strong members become weak for the simple fact that they see little re-enforcement to their efforts. They engage in service of others, but as almost always the case, “no good deed goes unpunished”. I have seen this, felt this, and been discouraged by this. I think anytime anyone does some good thing there are others ready to put you down for it.  I think about Mary. I think she would be considered a strong member here, but she too needed affirmation from a shepherd; “a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her” (Mat 26:7-13). Just think if Mary did not have the confirmation and affirmation she got from a shepherd, from Jesus? Did she error in her judgment? Were the men correct? Were the poor in more need of the money? Someone  is always ready to punish good behavior, and that somebody is too often a fellow disciple.  But because of the affirmation she received from Jesus, and the honor above all the men, she can walk away knowing that her good deed was a tribute to Christ and not a misjudgment on her part. Strong members need this, and the affirmation at just the right moment/s keep them growing stronger!
  3. Weak members need elders.  Jesus said, “For you always have the poor with you” (Mat 26:11), and just as sure as this is true, so also we will always have the weak with us; “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1Thess. 5:14). But who will help the weak? Many times the weak get overlooked because no one person feels responsible for them. They need real help, guidance, direction and hope in their lives, but often do not understand HOW to do this themselves.  They must be shown and shown again. They long to lean upon someone to help them. Here a leader who takes time and care to show them with patience. I once heard about a man who was an outstanding business man and made a very comfortable living for his family. (He paid over $7000. a year in property taxes.)  So a younger couple struggling financially looked to him for help. He agreed. They submitted to him all their bills and their income.  He set down a budget that they agreed to keep and would get them out of debt. They would give him their  paycheck, and he would give them their spending portion, item for item, bill for bill. Everything seemed fine.  But over the next several weeks they kept coming back for more and complaining.  Soon he was fed up and gave up. It is right here that the elder would like to do the same thing, but he actually cares for the sheep. The elders knows that if they give up, nobody is going to help them and they like sheep, will spend themselves into a hole. An elder would like to give up at times, throw his hands up and say “I quit”, but his mature spiritual heart will not let himself give up on them and he will try and find a different approach so they will finally get it. No pain no gain is just as much for sports, as it is for finances, emotional life and spiritual life. It cost something to love and care; the elder is willing to help because he has done this in his own life and very likely made many the of the mistakes younger couples are making now. Just as his own family started out “weak” and he loved them, was patience with them, won them over to the Lord’s way of doing things, so he now is willing to extend that care to a larger family, the church. Paul said, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church”(1Ti 3:4-5)?          DP

Three years?

Last month I finally got around to putting the chainsaw to the old cherry tree in my back yard. Our first year in the house we had cherries, but I was a little too busy to enjoy them. Now for the last three years it has bore no fruit and it was in striking distance to the power lines that are back there. Other than being great for the black carpenter ants, it was a nuisance. The whole time while out there I kept thinking about this parable that Jesus told. There is also a three year time span in the story. So what is the point of three years?
“And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down” (Lk 13:6-9).

So what do you think is the point of three years here?

After a quick internet search I found many places that said something like, “It usually takes about three years before you get a viable crop from young grapevines. We planted grapevines at a house we built in California and the first crop that actually had enough grapes that we could actually pick and eat them was three years later.” (http://askville.amazon.com/long-grapevine-produce-grapes…).

What are the lessons we should learn from this parable?


The danger we christians face is that we think of Jesus as being overly patient. This is a mistake. The Jews had witnessed about 3 years of the ministry of Jesus (Jn. 2:13,(5:1?), 6:4, 11:55 three or four passovers = 2 or 3 years). During this time did Jesus see any fruit of “repentance”? No. He clearly said just before this parable, “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13:4-5). After saying “but unless you repent” twice (13:3,5), he then tells this parable of no fruit for three years, and cut it down if it does not bear fruit in the fourth year.  Did Jesus not preach “Repent” (Lk 13:3,5,) or “cut it down”?        DP


Why Some are Still Trying

When Jesus told us the parable of the sower he told us that most people would quit trying. The reasons they quit trying vary. Some would not believe the message and be saved (Lk 8:12).  These may think it it too hard to be a Christian or they simply continue to look away from the evidence of God. They may think they are not accountable if they don’t believe, so they fail to start. Some seeds were sown among the rocky soil, and “they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away “ (Lk 8:13). Their job may be the testing, their family may be their testing or even the local church may be their testing. Some look negatively at everything, and eventually they stop trying. Of course they are blaming everyone else except their own soil/dirt. Some have thorny problems, “by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Lk 8:14).  They “care” for the earthly things, their “riches” are not in heaven, and their “pleasures” are earthbound. The little bit of fruit they have, being undeveloped, the Master does not think its worth harvesting.

Now others have gone through the same sort of things as above, but they are not discouraged. They see the unbelievers, the short time believers, and the mid-term believers, but they are still producing fruit for the master. Why? How do they avoid being “discouraged”?

The answer is really basic, fundamental, foundational and has at least three-parts. First of all, they believe in Jesus as Lord, savior, God, and all that the Bible says he is. Their mission is his pleasure. Secondly, they are trying to please him and nobody else. If we make it our job to please the non-believers, part-time believers, mid-term believers, we will become discouraged to the core. Lastly, they take some comfort from the 30, 60 & 100 fold Christians. So they keep on.  DP


The Debt I Owe

The debt of love,

though fully paid,

is forever due.

It is hard to wrap my mind around the debt that was paid for me, and it leaves me very empty, and extremely obligated. Jesus expressed this in the story that he told about a King who thought it was time to “settle accounts” with his slaves. One slave was brought to him owing more money than many nations had, 10,000 talents (Mat. 18:24). Just how much is 10,000 talents? We get a feel for how much this is when we read about the Roman victory over the Seleucids. The Romans made the Seleucids pay for the war. In the treaty the Seleucids, “must give twenty hostages, whom the consul will select, and pay for the cost of the present war, incurred on his account, 500 Euboic talents down and 2500 more when the Senate ratifies the treaty; and 12,000 more during twelve years, each yearly installment to be delivered in Rome” (Appian’s History of Rome,The Syrian Wars). This is a total of 15000 talents, but the Seleucid empire was given 12 years to pay it! From God’s perspective I owe him more than I can possibly understand. Jesus’ point is not this in and of itself, but how we treat others. He went on to tell that this same slave who was forgiven so very much, turned around after he had been forgiven and threw a guy in jail for owing him a couple of months worth of wages, a few thousand dollars. I may forgive and forgive and forgive, but I will never come close to forgiving others what God has forgiven me. I owe it to God to forgive others. But there is a real sense of obligation here, beyond forgiving others. How can I be forgiven so much and not try and serve this King? I owe it to Jesus, whatever he requests of me. To abstain from sin? I owe it. To share the good news? I owe it. Paul felt it too, “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also” (Rom 1:14-15). I owe, I owe, I owe, it’s off to work for Him I go.      DP  8-24-13

Forgiveness Comes 


On some cars, GPS comes as an option. The 2008 Prius we bought had this option, but we decided against this feature. But now that I have purchased a portable GPS and have used it over the last couple of years I would not want to do without a GPS. Recently, using the one on my phone, it shows me where the traffic is backed up and how to avoid it altogether!

I suppose when God made man, he automatically gave “forgiveness” as a standard feature to him. Yet Cain was convinced that others would not use this feature. Cain seemed to be terrified, not just of being distant from God, but terrified of what men would do to him, “Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me” (Gen. 4:13-14). Cain did not expect to live through this, thinking others would put him to death because of his sin.  Therefore God intervened, “Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him” (Gen. 4:15). Cain deserved to die, but God intervened.

Now when God made new people in the NT, that is those who were born again, he had this “forgiveness” feature built in to every model that came up out of the water. No one has to have a special “mark” to be forgiven by these people, they have this feature built into them. They show a heart that is much like God. This new kind of person forgives as much as he prays, and he prays without ceasing, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25). Jesus himself taught them to pray this way, “This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ‘ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mat. 6:9-15). Forgiveness is not an upgrade, it comes standard on all new models.   DP 8-11-13

Lazy Cretans

Nobody wants to be called “Lazy”.  If we are called lazy and we are in fact working  very hard, we know inside that this slur against us has no merit to it, it is a label that does not meet the facts.  Therefore it does not bother us too much for someone to make such a comment.  On the other hand, if someone calls us lazy and we have not been doing much, then we get very defensive and try and recall all the things we have done.  Consider for a moment Paul’s view of the Cretans. He does not directly say they are lazy but he recalls someone else saying it, and then adds his amen to it!

“One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:12-13). With one brush, all the Cretans are lazy, among other things.  So notice in the three short chapters how many times Paul exhorts Titus to tell them to work harder.  “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed…in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds … to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds… Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed…  so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds… Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful” (Titus 1:16, 2:7, 14, 3:1, 8, 14).  Can you believe God would allow an apostle to be so negative?  Some are not lazy, some are. Will you consider what has been done lately?

A pot luck was hosted… flyers were made and mailed out… the building was cleaned the two previous Saturdays (note the cleaning room itself, the furnace room, the baptistry, the pews, the toilet fixed… etc.)… personal invitations were mailed out for the meeting… the preacher and family were invited over for meals… visitors were personally brought to the meeting on at least two occasions… posters were put up before and during the meeting… visitors were invited via Facebook.. etc.   I hope you were involved in these efforts to the point that you were pushed.  There is nothing like knowing you will, “spend and be expended for” others” (2Cor 12:15).

Personally I want to thank so many of you for such a strong effort you have put forth for a really great gospel meeting!!  Some are being fruitful!      DP


4 thoughts on “Encouraging Words

  1. Amy Givhan

    My name is Amy. I just moved to Rockford in September, started a job and got an apartment two weeks ago.
    When I moved to Rockford I came with only clothes and important items. I have only accumulated a bed and tv since I moved into apartment. I am trying to get apartment together so I can get my children I had to leave behind in Wisconsin to get myself together back.

    I am wondering if you ever receive donations and have any volunteers who could deliver, I have no transportation. I am in need of:
    1. livingroom furniture
    2.table and chairs
    3.queen or full bed
    5.pots and pans
    I would appreciate and be very thankful of any help. Thank you for reading.

    Amy Givhan

  2. Brittany Downey


    I would love to learn more about possibly hosting our wedding ceremony at your church next November.

    Thank you!
    Brittany Downey


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