Thursday, March 31, 2011

Finding the Way of Escape

It is very difficult to feel too sorry for Samson. He knew what he was facing. He knew he was in an environment “out to get him.” In fact, Samson was so oblivious to the danger he was in, Satan did not have to use one of his greatest weapons, deception. Delilah was not beating around the bush at all. She wanted to know the source of his great strength. She wanted to know where “her man” was vulnerable. With each passing opportunity, it had to be more and more obvious that the purpose of Delilah and the Philistines was to take down Samson. Samson should have learned from the story of Joseph, shouldn’t he? He should have learned that there comes a time that even the strong need to run away. Before we ever read of the events in Judges 16, we already know Samson had a weakness for the ladies. As “strong” as he was, by his own choices, he had a significant “achilles heal” and he gave in to it on multiple occasions. I understand temptation. I understand that every person is not tempted by the same things. I also understand that some people handle temptations differently than others. But, I do not really understand the “Samson Condition.” What is the “Samson Condition?” The “Samson Condition” is being right in the heart of trouble, and not realizing how vulnerable you really are. Frankly, Samson played games. He found a level of humor in riddles that lead Delilah and the Philistines down the continual wrong path. He knew the intention but he stayed right in harms way! Did he think he was too strong? Did he think he would always be able to resist? Maybe he just was not thinking. The Bible tells us in Judges 16 that she continued to press him every day. She wore him down and out. Eventually, he poured out his heart to her and exposed the source of his great strength. His hair was cut, his eyes were removed and he, ultimately, lost his life. Could it be that sometimes people “pretend” to care for us when they really do not care at all? Samson was blessed with this amazing, storybook strength. His feets, as a blessing from God, were legendary. But, he was made very weak by his own choices. If you let Satan “stay in the game” long enough, eventually you too will be worn down. I’m reminded of the passage in 1 Corinthians 10 that tells us with every temptation, there will be a way of escape. I know there is a way of escape, but we have to exercise the judgment to know what that “way of escape” is!!!
            The words of 1 Corinthians 10:12 give us something to really consider. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Be careful. Use good judgment. Do not willfully put yourself in situations that you know will expose your vulnerabilities. Always know where that “way of escape.”

~ Clark Sims 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Am I Disappointed?

I love college basketball. In fact, the NCAA tournament that is going on right now is probably my favorite sports event of the year. Along with that, I am a passionate Alabama Crimson Tide fan. So, as you can probably imagine, I was very disappointed when my team did not make the tournament field. But, why am I disappointed? Did Alabama deserve to be in the tournament? I believe I could make an intelligent argument either way. They have played wonderfully lately, including big wins against tournament teams. They won their division in the conference. They were playing their best basketball toward the end of the season. However, there were some weak performances on the schedule as well. Their computer rankings were poor. Did they deserve to be in the tournament? If you remove my passion, I could see it either way. So I am still left to ask, what is the primary source of my disappointment? I think I know what it is. Much of my disappointment is tied to teams that did get in! In the 68 team tournament field, I can list a significant number of teams that deserved it less than ‘Bama! How did they possibly “get in” over us? What did the “selection committee” miss that I see so clearly?

My disappointment is directly tied to my human perspective. It seems to be, basically, human nature to rate myself compared to you. It’s not just basketball tournaments. It is job interviews, yards, restaurants, dating, and the list goes on and on. In much of life, that is the best we can do. It’s what selection committees, contest judges and job interviewers have to do. Not everyone has the same “human” perspective. Sadly, many times we bring this same way of thinking into our spiritual lives. The Pharisee did it in Luke 18. He felt pretty good about himself, identifying all the good he was doing and his thankfulness that he was not like the Publican standing off to the side. Truthfully, though, God measures by a different standard. His standard has nothing to do with human competition and who does more and who is worse. Honestly, according to His standard, none of us are ever going to be “good enough.” We’ve all sinned and fallen short of His glory. God simplifies His standard for us in 1 Peter 2. He tells us His perfect Son, who became flesh and dwelt with us and was tempted like us, yet without sin, established the perfect example. He tells us our challenge is clear. Walk in the steps of My Son!

While I’ll always have a level of disappointment with the tournament, the job, the contest that got away. That’s just the way it is from a human perspective. Some times it goes like you want it, sometimes it doesn’t. But, there is never any reason for disappointment at the hand of the Great Judge He is. As I submit to Him, and walk in His steps, I have a place promised in a mansion, that is being built for me!

~Clark Sims

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cookies Outside the Gym!?

I’ve been trying to go the fitness center regularly to exercise. I know I desparately need daily exercise. Frankly, I have not always gotten the exercise I needed. But, I am trying to do better. Recently, I made my way to the center to exercise and noticed some kind of activity just to the side of the front door. Further examination of the activity made it clear to me that in front of the fitness center, where people go to exercise, including many people like me who are in significant need of breaking bad habits, someone was selling Girl Scout Cookies! In order to enter the place you needed to be, you had to walk right by the cookies. Going in and coming out! You can guess the decision I made.
The words are found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. In this verse, God makes it clear to us that we are going to be tempted and we do not have to “give in” to it. We know our adversary goes about as a roaring lion, “seeking whom he may devour.” We even know the Son was tempted like we are, “yet without sin.” We know it’s coming. We know who is behind it. We know that even the “standard” faced it. But, not all temptation is the same. It is likely all who are reading this can think of those things that are particularly “tempting” for you. We know it is best to stay away, to not put ourselves where that temptation is. That is always the best choice and gives us the best chance for success. There is no “way of escape” that is better than removing yourself from the temptation. However, we know that is not always realistic. Sometimes, to get to the gym, which is where you know you need to be, you have to walk past the cookies, which represents a very real temptation for you. Sometimes we just do not have the choice of staying away.
Joseph had to “go to work.” He handled the temptation the best he could. He faced up to Potiphar’s wife and resisted, knowing he could not commit this great wickedness and sin against God. He also recognized the point he could not “stay around it” any longer. It was then that he ran away. He knew that the decision to run away would result in earthly difficulty but spiritual victory.
We’ve all got “fitness centers” in our lives that are very real responsibilities, things that we do not want, or need, to avoid. In front of many of them are tables filled with “Girl Scout Cookies” that present very real temptations to us. I am thankful our God “is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” 
~ Clark Sims

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Q and A: When and Why Should the Lord's Supper Should Be Observed?

Question: Some friends I talk to go to a church where they only have the Lord’s supper occasionally. They have it on special occasions like Christmas Eve, Easter, weddings, and every once in a while at church on Sunday. Where should I go in the Bible to show we should have it every Sunday?

Answer: The Lord’s supper consists of two things. One is the unleavened bread, which represents Jesus’ body. The other is the fruit of the vine, which represents Jesus’ blood. When Jesus died his flesh was broken open and his blood was poured out. Therefore the bread and juice is a symbol for his body and blood. Jesus died for the sins of the world (John 3:16). His death made forgiveness and redemption from sin possible for all mankind (Matthew 26:26-28, Acts 20:28, Ephesians 1:7).

There is a significant reason why the Lord’s Supper is to be taken on Sundays. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday three days after his death (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1, John 20:1). So when communion is taken on Sunday there is a connection between Jesus’ death and resurrection. This connection would not be there on any other day of the week. Sunday is the only day the supper should be partaken of.

The Lord’s supper was partaken of each Sunday by the early Christians. The church was established on the day of Pentecost fifty days after Jesus died. Pentecost always occurred on a Sunday (Leviticus 23:15-16). Luke writes in Acts 2:42 that the disciples of Jesus “continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread.” Saying they did so steadfastly is an indication the early Christians had the Lord’s Supper unwaveringly as the church would assemble for worship on Sundays.

There is also non-inspired historical evidence that the early church observed the Lord’s supper weekly on Sundays as is indicated in the New Testament. The Didache (didache means teachings in Koine Greek), a late 1st century or early 2nd century Christian document, in 7:14 says that Christians “come together each Lord’s day of the Lord, break bread, and give thanks.” There is no doubt that the Bible teaches that the Lord’s supper should be observed each and every Sunday. There is no doubt that the early church observed the Lord’s supper each and every Sunday. There is no doubt that the 21st century church should observe the Lord’s supper each and every Sunday and continue to do so until heaven is our home!

- Charles Steiner

Q and A: Is Baptism Necessary To Be Saved?

Question: I’ve been talking with a friend at work. He grew up attending a church of Christ but is now Baptist. He believes that baptism is not necessary for salvation but that it is something you should do after you are saved to show you are saved. Can you show me some verses I should talk with him about to show him baptism is necessary for salvation? Thanks!

Answer: Yes, there are many verses throughout the New Testament that teach baptism is necessary to be saved. It would be good to study these passages with your friend.

Acts 2:38 – Baptism is for the remission of sins.
Acts 22:16 – Baptism washes away a person’s sins.
1 Peter 3:21 – Baptism Saves.
Mark 16:16 – Jesus said he who is baptized will be saved.
Romans 6:4 – Baptism is done to walk a new life.
Galatians 3:26-27 - Baptism is the way a person puts on Christ.
Acts 10:47-48 – God commands baptism.
Matthew 28:18-20 – Baptism was authorized by Jesus.
Ephesians 5:26 – Baptism cleanses a person.
John 3:3-5, Acts 2:47 – Baptism adds you to the Kingdom (the church).
I Corinthians 12:13 – Baptism gives entrance into the one body (church).
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Baptism is to become a new creature.
Acts 8:36-39, Acts 16:32-33 – Examples of those who rejoiced after being baptized.

A person with an open heart and mind will read these verses and want to be baptized for the remission of their sins, just like the people did when the church began in Acts 2.

- Charles Steiner

Q and A: What Happens When We Die?

Question: What happens to us when we die? Are we unconscious until Jesus comes back and the Judgment Day takes place?

Answer: Thanks for asking. I’d be glad to answer this for you. I think the story told by Jesus about the rich man and Lazarus is a very insightful one when it comes to learning about what happens to us after death. The story is found in Luke 16:19-31Read this passage, and then I want you to notice a few things about what this story teaches about life after death. 

When Lazarus died he was carried away by the angels to a place this passage calls Abraham’s bosom (22). The rich man died too. However he opened up his eyes after he was dead and was in torment. He was also able to see Abraham and Lazarus who were in a far away place from where he was (23). This story takes place during a time when people are still living on earth while Lazarus and the rich man are in their respective places after they have already died. We know this because the rich man begs for Abraham to allow Lazarus to go and warn the rich man’s five brothers to repent so they will not be in torment as the rich man is when they die (27-31).

So to answer your question, no we will not be unconscious until Jesus comes back and the Judgment Day takes place. If we are saved we will be in paradise following our death like Lazarus was and is today. If we are lost we will be in torment like the rich man was and is, wishing someone could come and put a drop of water on our tongue to relieve us from the intense torture. We will also wish that a ghost could go and warn our loved ones who are lost.

However both of those wishes will be denied. Once a person is in torment there is no relief. Just like the rich man’s five brothers would not repent if a ghost preached to them, instead of Moses and the prophets, neither would people today listen if a ghost preached the gospel instead of faithful Christians. However, Christians can be comforted by the state of Lazarus. Lazarus who used to be a poor, sick, beggar is now eternally as happy, peaceful, and Joyous as he can be. While the rich man was aware of where Lazarus was and the lost state of his five brothers, we have no indication that Lazarus knew where the rich man was or knew that any of his loved ones still living were lost. That is also comforting to know.

When Jesus descends from heaven to begin eternity the dead in Christ will rise first (I Thessalonians 4:16). The saved will be on the right side of Jesus and the lost will be on the left side of Jesus (Matthew 25:33). The earth will be burned up. Life on earth will cease to exist (2 Peter 3:10). The Judgment will take place where all will give an account for their lives. The saved will go to heaven. The lost will go to Hell. The saved will hear Jesus say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Matthew 25:34).” The lost will hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).” I hope this helps you gain an understanding of life after death. May we all prepare ourselves to be in eternal bliss instead of eternal fire. “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing that any would perish, but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).”

- Charles Steiner

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Q and A: Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

Question: "Your a full/born again Christian right? My question-do you think EVERYTHING happens for a reason or some things? Y do some of the worst things imaginable happen to the Best of Christians and the most Decent of people and other people (like tom cruise) whom are Not christians get what they want/when they want?"

Answer: Thanks for the question. I'm glad to answer it. Yes, I am a born again Christian. Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose." So does everything happen for a reason? Yes. But the reason something happens is not always because God wants it to happen. God has given people the ability to make choices and with choices comes consequences for decisions we make that can sometimes affect innocent people in a negative way. Romans 2:11 "There is no partiality with God." Since there is no partiality with God that means that a Christian most endure pain and suffering just like everyone else. In Luke 13:4-5 Jesus makes reference to a tower that fell and killed 18 people and explains that this did not happen because they were worse sinners than the people who were not killed. In reference to your comments about Tom Cruise and other people like him, consider the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31. The Rich Man lived a luxurious life getting whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it. Lazarus was a poor man who suffered through life. When they died, Lazarus was in paradise and the rich man was in torment. My point is that we will all give an account to God for our lives. Things may not seem fair now, but in the end God is just. The entire book of Job in the Bible is about a righteous man who went through severe pain and suffering because Satan thought it would cause him to stop serving God. God knew better, and allowed Satan to put him to the test. The same can happen to us today. It is important for us to follow God in the good times and the bad. 
- Charles Steiner