The interesting thing about studying the Bible is that occasionally a new insight or truth literally jumps off the page at you. You say to yourself, “I’ve read this passage many times, but I’ve never noticed that before.” The more you study your Bible the more new things you will see that you have never seen before.

For example, I was recently reviewing the early history of the church when a new idea jumped off the page in my direction: “Now in those days, as the disciples were steadily multiplying, there arose a murmuring” (Acts 6:1). The words multiplying and murmuring are not usually found in the same sentence when you are describing a church. What an odd combination to find growth and grumbling linked together!

We tend to equate expansion with optimism, enthusiasm, and success, but in the sixth chapter of Acts it is associated with dissension, criticism, and tension. The first five chapters of Acts describe what we might call “the honeymoon days of the early church.” After personal encounters with the risen and ascended Christ, the followers of Christ prepared themselves through prayer and fellowship for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This resulted in three thousand conversions on the day of Pentecost.

Just when everything was moving forward in a wonderful way, the harmony was rudely interrupted by disharmony. Murmuring threatened to halt the multiplying. Grumbling that could have sidetracked the growth of the early church suddenly appeared. In the daily distribution of food to widows the Greek widows were given less food than the Jewish widows. The battle was on: the Hellenists versus the Hebrews.

It is the kind of thing that can happen, and often does happen, in churches – to this very day. Church members are human beings. We are not perfect. We are still in the process of growing spiritually. Just when a church catches a vision of what God wants it to do, and a sense of unity exists, Satan throws a monkey wrench into the mix. Church members divide into two groups: “our side” and “their side.” If the murmuring that takes place in churches is not addressed promptly and lovingly, the multiplying will soon come to a screeching halt. Growing and grumbling simply cannot coexist in a church without creating problems.

The early church addressed its problem by enlarging its leadership. Deacons were chosen to deal with what was a legitimate concern involving fairness by organizing an equitable distribution of food. This enabled pastors to (1) devote more time to the study of God’s Word, (2) better address the spiritual needs of church members, and (3) spend more time sharing the gospel with persons who needed to be saved.

The encouraging thing about this first-century incident is that God used the murmuring as a catalyst to launch a bold new mission. Out of ordinary jealousy and grumbling of the kind that can be found in many congregations today, God chose Stephen and Phillip to blast the church out of its Jerusalem stronghold and launch it on an expansion that finally reached the gates of Rome. By effectively responding to the problem, rather than ignoring it, the church became stronger than if it had never had a problem. By being forced to deal with the Hellenists, it learned how to deal with the world.

The same victory can belong to any church. There is no reason any church should ever be sidetracked from fulfilling its mission because of murmuring among its members. God is still on His throne. He is infinitely able and totally willing to help any church deal with its cultural diversity and the murmuring it creates.

And that includes your church!



Have you ever been involved in a questionable activity and had someone say, “Doesn’t your conscience bother you?” If so, know this: your conscience is not the voice of God; it is the gift of God, the gift He gave you to help you do what is right and avoid what is wrong.

What made Adam and Eve hide from God in the Garden of Eden? Their conscience! They had disobeyed God and knew that that they had to face Him.

What made King David cry out, “Have mercy upon me, O God?” His conscience! He had sinned grievously, and had hidden it from others. However, he knew his sin was not hidden from God.

What made Pilate’s wife say to her husband at the trial of Jesus, “Have nothing to do with this man?” Her conscience! She believed in the innocence of Jesus so strongly that she interceded in His behalf.

What caused Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, to cry out in anguish, “I have betrayed innocent blood?” His conscience! Can you imagine what it would be like to spend three years with Jesus, betray Him, and then realize that what you had done aided His enemies in their goal to kill Him?

What made Simon Peter weep after he had denied on three separate occasions that he ever knew Jesus? His conscience! He knew that He had promised Jesus he would defend Him with his own life, and he had failed Him out of fear for his own life.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you when you do those things that God’s Word describes as sin, it is likely because you have ignored its voice so long that it has gone to sleep. Some people drug their conscience into silence. Others drown their conscience in a river of alcohol. They find themselves sooner or later at the end of a dead-end street.

If your conscience bothers you, thank God. It is His providential way – before compasses, or radar, or sonar, or Global Positioning Systems were ever invented – of providing you with a helpful navigational system. Ignore your conscience at your peril.

In Words We Live By, Bryan Burrell tells of an armed robber named Dennis Lee Curtis who was arrested in 1992 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Curtis had his own set of scruples that indicated his conscience had long since been put soundly to sleep. In his wallet the police found a sheet of paper on which was written the following code by which he lived:


  1. “I will not kill anyone unless I have to.
  2. I will take cash and food stamps – no checks.
  3. I will rob only at night.
  4. I will not wear a mask.
  5. I will not rob mini-marts or 7-Eleven stores.
  6. If I get chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.
  7. I will rob only seven months out of the year.
  8. I will enjoy robbing from the rich to give to the poor.”


Dennis Lee Curtis had a sense of morality, but it was seriously flawed. He had ignored his conscience so long and so often that his sense of right and wrong was weakened little by little and ultimately became totally twisted. When he stood before the court, he was not judged by the standards he had set for himself. He was judged by the higher law of the state.

The moral of the Dennis Lee Curtis story is this: pay attention to your conscience! Your best boss is a well-trained conscience. Some people stopped listening to their conscience years ago because they didn’t want to take advice from a stranger. Character is never erected on the foundation of a neglected conscience.

Every person will one day stand before God to be judged (Romans 14:10). We will not be judged by the code of morality we have written for ourselves, or by the standard set by the crowd with whom we associated and who exerted a negative influence over us. We will be judged by the perfect law of God.

If you have never given that any thought, you would be wise to do so today.


Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” His observation, I believe, was an accurate one.

Theodore Watts, a nature enthusiast, many years ago was climbing a mountain when he overtook a gypsy woman on her way up the mountain. After greeting her, he began to elaborate enthusiastically about the beautiful scenery in every direction. The woman paid absolutely no attention to him.

He was provoked by the fact that she did not even respond to his question, so he continued, “You don’t seem to care for this magnificent scenery.” At this point she took the pipe from her mouth which she had been smoking, and said rather pointedly, “I enjoy it; I don’t jabber about it.”

“Men of imagination,” said Napoleon, “rule the world.” Imagination is only one of the many worthwhile results of being fired by enthusiasm.

David Livingston wrote: “I find I wrote when the emotions caused by the magnificent prospect of the new country might subject me to a charge of enthusiasm, a charge which I deserved, as nothing good or great had ever been accomplished in the world without it.”

Writer Margaret M. Stevens, in one of her stories tells of three brick masons who were busy at work. When the first was asked what he was building, he answered without looking up, “I’m laying bricks.” The second replied, “I’m building a wall.” But the third responded with great enthusiasm, “I’m building a cathedral.” Enthusiasm makes all the difference in the world in how a person views and values what he or she is doing.

Those who are enthusiastic consistently give everything they have to life, holding nothing back. It is difficult to stifle the ardor or dampen the spirits of people who really believe in and are excited about what they are doing. They operate on full throttle. They are aware that years only wrinkle the skin, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

There certainly is no shortage of ideas, ideals, causes, or crusades available to enlist our allegiance or enthusiasm. But we often allow roadblocks to get in the way – such as lethargy and cynicism. Lethargy comes from lack or loss of interest. Cynicism takes over when we believe that what we are doing lacks meaning and purpose.

Enthusiasm has been described as being “one with the energy of God.” It comes from root words which contain the idea of being inspired by the Divine. There is something awesome about persons who possess and practice this spiritual quality. They are vibrantly alive, and they have the ability to inspire others.

There is genuine magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment, between success and failure. It incorporates warmth and energy into personal relationships because it is infectious, stimulating and attractive to others.

Enthusiasm is contagious, but so is the lack of it. This is especially true in the life of a Christian. The gap between enthusiasm and indifference is easily recognized in every area of a person’s life. You can quickly recognize the difference between a sports team that has a record of success and a one that merely goes through the motions. A contemporary way of describing enthusiasm would be to say that it is faith with a tin can tied to its tail.

We are the persons we are because of the investments others have made in our lives – teachers, ministers, leaders, and friends. The individuals I remember and appreciate most, and who have had the greatest impact upon my life, have always been those who possessed a surplus of enthusiasm. I do not even remember the names of most of people I have known who were listless, dull and predictable.

Enthusiasm enlivens any relationship, and pumps zest and meaning into leisure, creativity, community, and service. Though it is a good engine, it needs intelligence for a driver. Parents consistently single enthusiasm out as one of the important gifts they want to pass on to their children.

Enthusiasm will never go out of style. No organization or group is likely to reach its maximum potential unless it is part of the picture. Nor will they ever be able to succeed in achieving their objective if those who hold positions of leadership in them are less than fully committed to achieving that objective.

Nowhere is enthusiasm more needed than in a Christian church, yet it is sadly lacking in many churches today. That is a needless shame, for nowhere is enthusiasm more possible.


Some people spend their entire lives trying to accumulate as much money as they possibly can. They can’t get enough of it. When they have more than they would need even if they could live two lifetimes, they still try to get more. Everything else – family, friends, worthy causes, their country, etc. – is relegated to a position of secondary importance.

We are currently in the middle of a major election campaign, and politicians are organized to the max sending out requests for money. I received an email that said, “Del, my campaign treasurer checked the list of contributors and your name was not on it. What’s wrong?” Nothing was wrong! The implication was that if I didn’t send a generous amount of money to the candidate that very day, our democracy would totally collapse.

Money has great value for the simple reason that we live within the framework of an economic system. We must have money to purchase the things we need – homes, food, clothes, education, transportation, medical needs, etc. Our need for these things makes money both important and necessary –but money does have limitations. For example, it will buy:

  • A bed but not sleep.
  • Food, but not an appetite.
  • Books, but not wisdom.
  • Fine clothes, but not a sunrise or sunset.
  • A house, but not a home.
  • Medicine, but not health.
  • Luxuries, but not peace.
  • Amusements, but not joy.
  • A Bible, but not salvation.
  • A church pew, but not heaven.

The poet Robert Burns once said that a person should not marry for money, but he recommended that a person go to where money is to fall in love. A woman in Oklahoma apparently believed this to be good advice. She refused to marry her boyfriend on religious grounds — she worshiped money, and he was broke. She wanted to marry a man who could consistently support both her need and her greed. She didn’t know that a person who marries for money usually earns every penny of it.

Money can provide the basic necessities every family needs. It can also help to advance the kingdom of God by supporting the outreach and ministry of a local congregation, and by sending missionaries to proclaim the good news of salvation to the ends of the earth. At the end of our lives on planet earth we will leave our money behind – all of it — and we will never see it again.

I have conducted literally hundreds of funerals, and I have never seen a Brinks truck carrying the deceased person’s money travel with the funeral possession on the way to the cemetery. What we have given to God to advance His kingdom and to bless others will be ours forever. We are stewards, not owners.

God’s Word makes it clear that there is nothing either wrong or sinful about possessing money – even a tremendous amount of it – as long as the money we possess does not possess us.


We have all heard jokes about people showing up at the pearly gates seeking entrance into heaven. While some of these fabrications may bring a smile to our faces, behind most of them is the false assumption that we must do something to get into heaven. Some people are shocked when they learn that there is absolutely nothing they can ever do to be saved or to gain entrance into heaven.

John 3:1-15 contains the story of one of those persons. Nicodemus, a rabbi and a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, had a difficult time understanding the difference between religion and relationship. To him salvation depended on the things he did (religion), not the result of God’s free gift of grace (relationship).

It was at night that Nicodemus decided to pay Jesus a visit. Was this because rabbis studied at night? Was it because he wanted to avoid the crowd? Was it because he did not want their conversation to be limited? I believe it was because he was troubled by some spiritual questions he wanted Jesus to answer. The important thing is that he was a seeker after truth.

Nicodemus was rich, highly respected, and strongly religious – a Pharisee. He had given his life to study and obey the Law. He was also knowledgeable of the traditions supporting the Law. As we might say today, “He was deacon material. He would make an excellent chairman for an important committee.” Having heard a lot of interesting things about Jesus, he wanted to meet Him and hear what He had to say.

Jesus cut right to the heart of the matter Nicodemus wanted to discuss. He told him that he must be born again. When Nicodemus did not understand what this meant, Jesus explained that He was referring to a spiritual birth, not a physical birth. To be born again spiritually is a divine act controlled by God. It is a supernatural act that brings about a dramatic change in a person’s life. Nicodemus had not entered into a faith relationship with Christ. One way of putting it is to say he was religious, but that he was not redeemed.

There are four primary truths a person must know in order to be born again:

Position does not save you. Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish Supreme Court. He was correct on many areas of doctrine, but he made one primary mistake: he externalized religion. Outwardly, he lived above reproach. He was part of the religious elite. Applying this to our lives today it means that being a deacon, or an elder, or even a pastor does not save you. Position does not save anybody, however high or important that position may be.

Popularity does not save you. Nicodemus was highly respected and popular in his community. He was recognized as a spiritual leader. Being born again has absolutely nothing to do with popularity.

Prestige does not save you. Nicodemus was a person to whom people turned for spiritual answers. He was a spiritual adviser who had spent his life studying the Scriptures. He was, in essence, a spiritual guru. But he had never been born from above.

Piety does not save you. Nicodemus possessed great knowledge. He knew and practiced what was considered to be right. He was religious to the core, and was widely recognized for his piety. What this means for us today is that you can attend church regularly, tithe, practice spiritual disciplines, and still be lost because possessing piety saves no one. To be born again you must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

There is only one way to be born again and, at the time of God’s choosing, go to heaven: You must go to Calvary, repent of your sins, lay them down, pick up the cross, turn to the right, and keep straight ahead.


Some Christians believe that following Christ involves being devoted to a hierarchy of priorities. In other words, Christians should put Christ first, their marriage and family second, their church third, others fourth, and so on. The priorities become far less specific and ordered after number two or three, but you get the basic idea. God and family are at the top. Your job is never higher than one through four.

This hierarchy of priorities does have some value, but it is not taught in the Bible, nor is it an adequate model for the Christian life. Its value lies in its usefulness for tradeoffs. For example, if your choice is between achieving a major career success and losing your family in the process, then biblically you should put success in your career aside and give priority to maintaining a healthy family. The hierarchy does have some value.

The New Testament, however, does not teach that Jesus is the first in a series of priorities; it teaches that He is to be the Lord of all of our priorities – our family responsibilities, our jobs, our friendships and relationships with others, our play, our hobbies, our public life and private life, our sex lives, our conflicts, our politics, our financial decisions – everything!

The picture that is painted in the New Testament is not a segmented life of minimal requirements, but a comprehensive view of life in which everything affects everything else. Such a view of life is more true to life than any hierarchy. Think about it. A man is not a father one day, a salesman the next, a church member the next, and a husband the next. No, he is a father-salesman-church member-husband-consumer-golfer-commuter-voter-neighbor all at the same time every hour of every day. And Christ is to be Lord of it all.

Apostle Paul in Romans (chapters 12-14), Galatians (chapters 5-6), Ephesians (chapters 4-6), and Colossians (chapters 3-4) addresses life in terms of five major categories: (1) your personal life, including your relationship with God, your emotions, and any other private, individual areas; (2) your family, including your marriage, your children, and your relationship to your parents and any dependents; (3) your church life, including both your local church and Christians everywhere; (4) your work – what you do, how you do it, and how you relate to your employer and those with whom you work; and (5) your community life.

Here are five diverse categories and God says that we should honor Him in all five. And because they all impact each other, we cannot arrange them into a hierarchy. The New Testament does not do that, and if we do it, it will actually hinder us from being faithful in all five areas. Instead, we need to strike a realistic balance among these areas, each of which presents us with lots of demands that compete for our time.

The problem that most of us have is how to balance these five areas. You begin by making an unalterable commitment to the goal of letting Christ be Lord in every area of life. Organize your prayer life around the five major categories mentioned above that call for your time and energy. You consider the impact on your family, and guard your use of emotional energy. You evaluate your life regularly and prayerfully, making certain that Christ is Lord in every part of your life. It is the best way we can bear witness to the world.

George Mueller told the story of a young girl who was asked: “Whose preaching brought you to Christ?” She replied, “It wasn’t anybody’s preaching; it was Aunt Mary’s practicing.” Jesus Christ was the Lord of Aunt Mary’s life – every phase of it. She didn’t just say she was a Christian; she proved it by the way she lived.

Preaching receives a lot of emphasis in our churches today, as indeed it should. God honors preaching, but it needs to be supported by a healthy amount of practicing. Otherwise, it is just a lot of words that, as a colloquial expression states it, “do not amount to a hill of beans.”


In the Santa Clara Valley in California, not far from San Jose, there stands in the midst of a huge orchard what is said to be the largest house in the world. It was built, or started, in the 1890’s by a Mrs. Winchester. At first a pleasing country home of ordinary dimensions, it was altered and added to, until it covered with its outbuildings, fourteen acres. Adding apartment after apartment, room after room, and chamber after chamber, the owner became obsessed with the idea of building statelier mansions.

Today the house is a curious and amazing labyrinth of winding stairways, upside-down pillars and posts, blind doors, intricate passages, and hundreds of windows. If left in one of the interior rooms, you would have a difficult time finding your way out. The owner labored under the obsession that as long as she kept building and adding to the house, she herself would not die. But, of course, eventually death found its way through all the passageways, stairways, and hallways of this monstrosity, to the bed where she lay.

That is also the fate of every human being – life will end. Death, the great equalizer, will one day knock on our front door and seek to gain entrance. It will not matter how much wealth or power or influence we may have. Though life on earth comes to an end, physical death does not have to be the end of our story.

The apostle Paul affirms this fact for he says, “We know that if the house in which we live is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1). He knew that the finite fleshly cottage which housed his soul was mortal, and that mortality cannot inherit immortality. He looked forward to the time when he would move into the home being prepared for him and for all who believe. It is why he said, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

The New Testament employs at least five different metaphors to describe what will take place at the end of every believer’s earthly life. It sees death: (1) As an EXODUS from the bondage of time to the joy and liberty of spending eternity with God; (2) As SLEEP – to awaken out of the sleep of the night, refreshed and ready for the new day; (3) As the SAILING – from an earthly port to the heavenly one; (4) As a TENT taken down – to move from a temporary to an eternal location; and (5) As being HOME.

One of the joys of heaven will be to see and talk with the great personalities mentioned in the Bible: Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Simon Peter, James, John, Paul, and many others. What a joy it will be to see and fellowship with leaders from the pages of church history, and to renew our fellowship with the saints we have known during our years on the earth. We all want to live in this world among family members and friends as long as we can – but moving day is coming. We do not know how soon that may be.

It is extremely important to be prepared for that day. Are you prepared? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of your life? Do you have the assurance of eternal life that only God can give? He loves you so much that if you were the only lost person in the world, He would have sent His Son to die for you, that you might have eternal life.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in The Golden Legend, expressed it this way:

When Christ ascended

Triumphantly, from star to star,

He left the gates of heaven ajar.”