Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Salt of the Earth - by Richard Lyons

This post was written by my friend and brother, Richard Lyons, who serves as one of our shepherds as well. 

Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians, in chapter 4:5-6, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

 At the end of His Beatitudes, Jesus stated in Matthew 5:13 that His followers were to be the salt and light in the world. The value of salt, especially in the ancient world cannot be under estimated. Roman soldiers received their wages in salt. The Greeks considered salt to be divine. The Mosaic Law required that all offerings presented by the Israelites contain salt. (Lev. 2:13)

So what are the characteristics of salt that caused the Lord to use it in this context? Theologians have different theories about the meaning of “salt”. Some think that its glistening whiteness coming from the sun and sea represents purity. If we are to be salt, we must be an example of purity. In the world, efforts to lower standards of honesty, diligence in work, and morality are going on all the time. The Christian must be the person who holds aloft the standard for purity of speech, conduct and thought. Words cannot be effective unless backed up by pure living.

Others say that salt’s flavoring properties imply that Christians are to add divine flavor to the world. Salt brings out the distinctive flavor of food. The increase of God’s people should likewise increase the flavor of life. By our presence, participation and penetration of society, in our daily contacts in our neighborhood and community, we are to bring the flavor of Christ to an unbelieving world.

Still others believe that Christians are to sting the world with rebuke and judgment the way salt stings an open wound. Another group asserts that, as salt, Christians are to create a thirst for Christ.

Salt, however, has another vital purpose which is to stop decay. When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth,” He meant that all of His disciples were to serve as preservatives, stopping the moral decay in our sin infected world.

Those first disciples would have been intimately familiar with this function of salt. Without refrigeration, the fish that they caught would quickly spoil and rot unless they were packed in salt. Once salted, the fish could be safely stored and then used when needed. The spiritual health and strength of the Christian is to counteract the corruption that is in the world. Christians, as salt, are to inhibit sin’s power to destroy lives. This in turn creates opportunity for the gospel to be proclaimed and received.

We have been given a wonderful privilege to be the salt of the earth, but Jesus gave us a warning. The second half of Matthew 5:13 states: “But if salt loses its taste, how would its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men”. Jesus said that we can lose our saltiness. When salt is contaminated it becomes corrosive and poisonous. If we have allowed disobedience, carelessness and indifference to rule our lives, we have become contaminated salt and have lost our saltiness. We need to confess our sin and let the Lord restore us to the purpose for which we were called.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Fruitful Story of Patience - by Linda Payne

Thanks to our friend Linda Payne for sharing this from her own experience.

Gal 5:22-23  (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 

Having lived 20-plus years on a lot surrounded by woods, we were used to having the animals and plants from the woods become part of our yard sights.  We fought off weeds, including big crops of dandelions, and an abundance of insects which enjoy woody “country living.”  On the bright side we enjoyed the beauty of a few wild flowers and lots dogwood trees growing “free range” around the property.  We even tried transplanting a couple of small Dogwood trees in the front yard, sadly without success.

One day we noticed a nice-looking but mysterious one-stemmed plant growing up in the front yard.  Was it a weed?  Was it a sprig coming from a piece of root from one of the dogwood trees that didn’t make it?  Perhaps it was a beautiful wild bush that would be welcomed in our yard.  We decided it was probably just a hardy weed.  It was mowed down with the grass.  

In a couple of weeks it was there again, growing in the same spot as before.  It seems to be growing much faster this time as if it were trying to make some headway before being mowed down again.  Once again we questioned the quality of it. Weed? plant? bush?   Once again we decided on “weed” and mowed it down.

You guessed it!  It soon came back with a fury, growing rapidly.  Mowing it down had not stopped it.  Somehow, it looked more appealing this time with two stems and a smaller third one developing with it.  Out of curiosity, we decided to give it a chance to grow and see what it turned out to be.  As it grew bigger we were cautious and asked a friend, who knew more about plants than we did, to look at it.  She didn’t have a definite answer either, except to “watch it.” It might be a nice blooming bush or a tree, or it could turn out to be a big woody weed we would have to dig up. 

Over the months it grew quickly into a pretty young tree.  We decided to keep it.  After all it would provide some additional shade in the front yard.  We took care of it, pruning away the stray limb sprouts and cleaning around the base.  We made sure it had water in dry spells.  

The coming of its second spring brought beautiful delicate blooms.  We were delighted at its beauty.  A blooming tree can produce fruit, and sure enough it began that process.  Was it a seed pod, was it fruit, was it poisonous, or was it edible? And what kind of fruit was it?   

A friend told us he believed it was a plum tree.  While the fruit was very early in development, we cut a small limb with leaves and some of the green fruit on it, and we took it to the County Extension Agent for analysis.  In a few days we got a call saying that it was a plum tree and that the fruit was safe to eat! The original seed had probably been left there by a bird or an animal.  It was a “free-growing” plum tree. 

That spring the beautiful plum tree bore so many big, red, perfect plums that the limbs had to be supported in place by two ladders to keep the weight of the fruit from breaking them off.  We reaped a great harvest of plums for jelly, cobblers, juice, and just plain eating from the tree. We didn’t spray it or do anything special to it, but still it continued to row and bear big beautiful juicy plums.  They were worm-free and bug-free! We commented regularly that they were the most beautiful and perfect plums we had ever seen.

What a blessing to us and a beautiful act of nature that with patience we waited and watched to see what the plant would become, as we gave it time to develop.

Whenever I read Galatians 5:22-23 I am always reminded of that tree.  We develop the fruit of the Spirit over time; it doesn’t come in a snap of the fingers when we begin our Christian life.  I’m glad my family and friends have been patient with me, as I have been and still am in the process of developing the “Fruit of the Spirit” to completeness through the grace of God and the cleansing of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let us all diligently use that part of the fruit of the Spirit called longsuffering (patience) with our family, friends, and our family of God knowing that we are all in different stages of development of our spiritual fruit.  With time and with God’s help we can have an abundant harvest of more mature fruit to use for him. Others will reap the benefits of seeing Christ in us and our actions, and we will have a more peaceful life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Answering a Professing Faith Healer with Just One Word

Guest article by Steve Higginbotham

While flying home from Denver, Colo., last week, I sat next to a man who was reading his Bible. We struck up a conversation and I soon realized he believed he had the spiritual gift of healing.

After giving me a couple examples of how he used his powers, he asked me if I believed what he was saying. I told him that my beliefs aren’t based on experiences, which can sometimes be deceptive, but upon what the Bible teaches. I then proceeded to explain 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 as he followed along in his Bible.

When I finished he said, “I see what you’re saying, and have never really studied this before, so I don’t have an answer, but what I do have are my experiences, and I know that God has given me the power to heal.”

So for the remainder of the flight (nearly three hours), this man recounted story after story of his alleged healings. I had already made my point that my beliefs aren’t based on experiences but upon what the Bible teaches, so as he shared these stories, I simply let him talk. There was no need to argue point by point with all the stories he told, but as I sat and listened, I wondered what I could say that would expose his error.

When we eventually touched down and regained phone signal, this man’s phone dinged.  He had a text message from his son. It was a picture of his son’s finger that had been cut while he was using a weed-eater. When this man saw the picture of his son’s finger, he said, “Oh no, my son has cut his finger and from the looks of the picture, he will probably need a few stitches. I need to get off this plane and take him to the hospital.”

It was then that I broke my silence and simply asked, “Why?”

The man swung his head around and stared at me with a look that resembled that of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. For a moment, he just froze. It looked like he was searching for words, but they escaped him.

The force of that one word was convicting. This man had just spent nearly three hours trying to prove he had the power to heal people, but his first thought when he saw that his son was injured was to take him to the hospital.

The take-away from this story is that one word that has the backing of Scripture is more convicting than thousands of words lacking Scriptural backing.

This article was first published on Steve’s site Preaching Help.