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Archive for May, 2021

The word repentance occurs 56 times in the New Testament. Thirty-four times it is used as a verb, and 22 times it occurs as a noun. God obviously places a tremendous emphasis on the importance of repentance. Even so, the word is not often heard in many pulpits today. How long has it been since you have heard your pastor preach a sermon dealing with the importance of repentance?

The call to repentance and faith is an invitation, not a threat. It is not a call to a morbid, remorseful way of thinking or living. It is an invitation to change your fundamental attitudes about God, yourself, things, and other persons. To have wrong ideas concerning any of these areas of thought or relationships is to be out of balance. If your thinking is right about God, it will be right about self, things and other human beings.

Jesus began His public ministry emphasizing the imperative need for repentance. In His very first recorded message He strongly called for repentance (Mark 1:15). Literally He was urging His followers to arrive at a positive proper attitude toward God, and to respond to Him with a loving trust that involved cooperation. Throughout His ministry Jesus continually sought to change the attitudes of persons toward God. He knew that right outward conduct has to begin with a change in inner attitude. Just as He had begun His ministry calling for repentance, He ended it by emphasizing the importance of repentance (Luke 24:47).

Repentance was also the central theme of the Apostle Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. He wanted his listeners to know what God had accomplished as a result of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is only through the repentance of sins and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord that one can become a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.

In sophisticated scholarly Athens the Apostle Paul preached that Jesus Christ was crucified, and that He had conquered death and the grave. On the basis of His resurrection from the dead Paul encouraged, yes, even commanded that men repent – to change their basic inward attitude toward God and respond with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This initial change of mind is what the New Testament calls conversion. But we are in error if we believe that it is the only repentance in which Christians are called to participate.

In the final analysis, repentance is both an act and an attitude. It is both a decision and a journey in which we continually seek the mind of Jesus Christ. It is how Christians grow in Christlikeness. Growth toward spiritual maturity is achieved through a continual search to know the will of God for every area of life.

Christians should never forget that the New Testament places a tremendous emphasis on the importance of repentance. If you have never changed your mind from an attitude of revolt to one of submission to Jesus Christ, please take a long look at the cross on which Christ died for you, and at the empty tomb He conquered. You will recognize that God wants to give you the gift of eternal life.

Jesus Christ deserves to be and wants to be your Lord. If you haven’t repented of your sins and experienced His forgiveness, you need to do that today. You cannot repent too soon, because you have no way of knowing how soon it will be too late. There is only one way you (or any person) can become a Christian – You must go to Golgotha’s cross, repent of your sins, lay them down, accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord, turn to the right, and keep straight ahead.

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Would it surprise you to know that anger is mentioned 455 times in the Old Testament? It is true! And 375 of those times refer to God’s anger. Several times in the Old Testament the phrase appears, “the anger of the Lord.” The holy anger of God is part of His judgment against sin. This is what we see illustrated in the anger Jesus displayed when He cleansed the temple. It was God’s will that the temple be a house of prayer, but they had turned it into a den of thieves where commercialism took precedence over prayer.

The Bible often speaks of anger “being kindled.” This seems to indicate that anger can be compared to fire. Sometimes a person’s anger smolders, and this we call malice; but the same anger can burst forth and destroy, and this we call wrath. It is difficult for humans to practice a truly holy anger or righteous indignation because our emotions are tainted by the fact that we are sinners. We generally want things our way, not God’s way. We do not have the same knowledge that God has in all matters.

In the New Testament six different words are used for anger.  The one most quoted by Christians is probably Ephesians 4:26 – “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” The word in this verse that refers to anger is accompanied by irritation, exasperation, and embitterment. It can be easily expressed in your attitude, speech, and behavior. It leads to a spirit of resentment and revenge which seeks to get back at another person.

“Anyone can become angry,” wrote Aristotle, “but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.” Aristotle’s statement does not conflict at all with the New Testament principle that there is a right kind of anger – to be angry at sin, but to demonstrate love toward people.

In Dr. S.I. McMillen’s book, None of These Diseases, the story is told of a visit Dale Carnegie made to Yellowstone National Park. While observing the grizzly bears feeding, a guide told him that the grizzly bear could whip any animal in the West with the exception of the buffalo and the Kodiak bear. That night as the people sat watching a grizzly eat, they noticed that there was only one animal that he would not allow to eat with him – a skunk. He could have beaten the skunk in any fight very quickly. But he didn’t attack the skunk. Why? He knew the skunk had a secret weapon.

Many of us have not learned that important lesson. We spend long days and longer nights dwelling on our resentments and even plotting ways to strike back, to our own detriment. To be dominated by anger is like taking a dose of poison and waiting for the person who is the object of our anger to die. There is a price to pay for the wrong kind of anger. It not only can lead to severed relationships with God and other people, but can also cause strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, hypertension, colitis, ulcers, and other health problems.

Frederick Buechner, in Wishful Thinking, Transformed by Thorns, gives one of the finest definitions of anger outside the New Testament: “Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

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Robert Louis Stevenson spent most of his life suffering from the debilitating complications of tuberculosis. In his poem, “The Lamplighter,” he reflects on one of his boyhood dreams. On winter evenings he would watch the lamplighter making his way up and down the street near his home lighting street lamps.

Stevenson watched him as he climbed his ladder at each lamp post, leaving a glow behind that pierced the darkness. He experienced a thrill every time the lamplighter passed his door, for he always paused to give him a friendly smile. Challenged by this childhood experience he wrote these words in one of his poems:

But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I’m to do,
O Leerie, I’ll go round at night and light the lamps with you!”

When I reflect on Stevenson’s childhood dream I become aware of how much darkness we have in our world today. The causes of this darkness are many – hatred, prejudice, greed, lust, selfishness, complacency, disappointment, sorrow, and various other kinds and levels of trouble or difficulty. God has a plan for piercing darkness in our world, and it is given by Jesus, God’s Son, to every Christian.

Are you a Christian? If so, this is what Christ wants you to know: “A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:4b-16).

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I doing to pierce the darkness of my community?
  • Have I offered a word of hope to those who are discouraged?
  • Have I shared the load of even one person who is burdened?
  • Have I prayed for anyone who has experienced loss or grief?
  • Have I shared my faith with even one person who is not a Christian?

Jesus walked away from the carpenter shop at the age of 30 with a burning passion to transform a divided world into a brotherhood of love. His dreams were noble and His purpose was pure. He drew large crowds and was accepted by multitudes of people. Then hostility against Him grew into open opposition. The crowds dwindled, and the voices against Him became louder and more threatening. His own family failed to understand Him. While others turned back He kept on going. He walked toward the cross with a steady step.

“Because He was faithful unto death, “God has given Him a name that is above every name, a name at which one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). He who said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12) also said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14a). Every Christian is called to be a lamplighter!

A lamplighter must believe three things: (1) That God is Creator of the universe; (2) That God provides eternal life to those who accept His Son as Savior and Lord; and (3) That every person who follows Christ should “let his or her light shine.”

In other words, as the old gospel song says, “Brighten the corner where you are!”

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An 8-year old boy had been naughty and his mother said, “I told you if you were naughty again that you were going to get a spanking.” He knew what was coming, so he ran upstairs, went into his room, and hid under his bed. His father came home from work a few minutes later, and the mother told him what his son had done. He immediately went upstairs and began to crawl under the bed in his son’s direction.

Excitedly, but nervous, the boy said, “Hi, dad! What’s the matter? Is mom after you too?”

Sometimes things get pretty strained around the house, don’t they? Differences creep in between members of the family. Disagreements crop up that are divisive in nature. The atmosphere suddenly changes, and a member of the family has to run hide under a bed for protection.

Many are the things that can rob a home of its spiritual significance – envy, jealousy, greed, selfishness, etc. When a husband and wife allow such negative attitudes to gain a prominent place in their daily lives their love for each other can dwindle and die. And when this happens they lose their ability to deal constructively with the problems and challenges that make the family a battleground.

A bride on her wedding day, though swept off her feet and carried away on a cloud of love, does not always realize how easily love can be allowed to dissipate. A groom, who has eyes only for his beautiful bride, often fails to see that grave responsibilities lie just around the corner. Positive adjustments will have to be made, and in a hurry. When this doesn’t happen the sunshine of love suddenly disappears and dark ominous clouds of trouble appear on the horizon.

What about your home? Do you have enough love there to enable victory over the problems and burdens that can easily take place? Are you willing to love at all costs? The New Testament describes the highest type of love as being willing to love even when there are obstacles to overcome. If that kind of love is daily present in your home it can be “a colony of heaven.” If it doesn’t, your home can be a living hell.

What is a home? It is a world of strife shut out, and a world of love shut in. It is one of the primary places on the earth where faults and failures of fallen humanity are hidden under the mantle of charity. It is the father’s kingdom, the children’s paradise, and the mother’s world. If serving God is given priority, it is the place where you are treated the best and can be totally happy. An anonymous poet expressed it this way:

“Before I married Shirley, Dear,
I was her pumpkin pie,
Her precious peach, her honey lamb,
The apple of her eye.
But after years of married life,
This thought I pause to utter;
Those fancy names might be gone,
But I’m still her bread and butter.”

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