Good Friends

Behavior is influenced by companions.

Do you choose friends based on what you want to see in your behavior?

If I want to succeed in life, I must choose friends who also value success; but I ‘d better know what I consider to be success. Paul told the church at Corinth that evil companions corrupt good morals (1st Corinthians 15:33). In this case, evil companions had influenced some members of the church so profoundly that they stopped believing in the resurrection of the dead. Not good.

Just as we see how evil companions corrupt us, good ones help us grow and succeed in life.

What could be a better measure of success than seeing the fruit of the Spirit of God as described in Galatians 5:22-23 produced in ourselves?

Do my friends help me have more love for others? Do I have more joy after being with them? Am I more at peace around them and do I find myself exercising more patience with circumstances and people? Does their influence provoke me to acts of kindness and a commitment to what is good? Is it likely that I will be more gentle with others after spending time with my friends? How about self-control? Do they strengthen and encourage my resolve to self-control?

If my friends move me towards God and opening myself to follow His Spirit, then they are good friends.

In today’s world, however, friends are not simply those with whom you keep company in the flesh. We bring folks into our lives via the television, music, movies, books, magazines, videos and other media. They too are influencing me. Whatever I allow to fill my mind will also shape my values and my behavior.

This is both a blessing and a curse; but I get to choose which they will be.

Of course, there is no better companion than Jesus. You can spend time with Him whenever you want by reading His book or praying to God through Him. But be advised, He will change you. His people will have a similar effect.

You will never walk away from this friend or His people the same; and that is a good thing.

Jesus Is King

On October 25, 2019, a rapper named Kanye West released his ninth studio album entitled: “Jesus is King.” Though in the last 15 years, Mr. West has been known for his secular music, this album is not. It is a worship album. An entire project dedicated to Jesus. Kanye has said, “This album is my expression to what He (Jesus) has done in my life.”

In the Christian community, people are divided as what to think about this switch in tone for Mr. West. In January 2019, he began to hold “worship services.” A majority of the Christian community labeled him a hypocrite and an all-around lost man doing more damage than good (including myself). Now, at the end of 2019, he has released a “worship album.” Again, the Christian community became divided and I find myself sitting on the opposite side of my original thinking.

You see, it is not my place to try to understand Mr. West’s intentions. It is not my place to check how God is working in his life and judge him based upon what the media tells me. The album that is dividing the Christian community has no cursing, no innuendoes and carries a message of the goodness of Christ and has reached over 196 million listeners just last week. Mr. West has also said he is going to continue making “gospel albums.” Maybe we in the Christian community ought to not be divided over Mr. West’s seemingly radical change and come together and embrace him as the community of believers should and guide him to the truth.

Proverbs 3:27 “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,

when it is in your power to do it.”

The Thief

It’s the holiday season again! It’s that time of year when we are supposed to be joyous and thankful. Unfortunately, that is not always a realistic view. Despite what we are told through the radio, tv, and other media, there is no holiday magic cure when we are not able to be joyous or thankful. We still take advantage of each other. We argue with each other. We insult and kill each other no matter what season it is. Sin steals our ability to be thankful and joyful.

Col. 3:15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I believe these verses point to self-examination. The Devil does and will steal from us. When sin steals from us, do we take a step back and start counting the things to be thankful for in our lives? God offers us a peace in this life through Jesus Christ. That in itself should inspire faithful Christians.

So, ask yourself, “Is sin stealing from me?”

The God of Small Things

Do you ever find yourself wanting to ask God for something but believe that it is too small or insignificant to “bother” him about? I know I do.

But I’ve been a dad long enough to know how pleased I am when one of my children asks for my input about anything in their lives; even when they think they need to apologize about its seeming insignificance.

Our sun is approximately 864,938 miles in diameter (!), but is made up mostly of hydrogen atoms fusing two by two into helium. So how small is an atom? An atom is about a million times smaller than the thickest human hair.

These tiny atoms splitting are what makes our great sun what it is. So from the tiniest electron, to the largest red hyper-giant, God remains the Almighty mover & shaker.

Jesus made this very point when he asked, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered”, Matthew’s gospel 10:29-30.

He’s waiting to hear from you, little sparrow, about the hairs on your head. Why not let him decide how important your concerns are? Just because you and I are small, and so often believe our troubles are too small to take to him, doesn’t mean that’s how he sees it. Like Isaiah said, his ways are not our ways.

Remember that Jesus is also the one who said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much”, Luke’s gospel 16:10. It seems obvious that God cares about the little things.

I would hate to think that I missed out on a conversation with one of my children because they thought their troubles too insignificant. Does it make sense that this fact makes me believe that God also wants to hear from us about our small things?

Besides, if what I take to him is smaller than I should concern myself with, asking him about it will open an opportunity for him to lead me to something bigger & better.

Never pass up an opportunity to take your small stuff to the one who takes care to split atoms and count hairs.

Thank God and Take Courage

Even though Paul was a prisoner, had been in a shipwreck, and had been bitten by a snake, when he saw those brethren from the Market of Appius and The Three Taverns “he thanked God and took courage” (Acts 28:15). The Choctaw congregation at the service of the Lord’s Day, November 3, was able to greet Mary and Geoffrey Kirima (whom we support to share the Gospel in Kenya), and to hear brother Jean-T-Elmera preach the Word, while giving a report of his work with us in Haiti. At the evening service, hearts were surely stirred to hear Mike Mazzalongo share his insights and blessings related to 40 years of preaching the Word. The edifying events of that Lord’s Day have stimulated some other heartening thoughts.

Have you ever mediated and calculated how many placed the Gospel has bene taught and preached by members of the Choctaw congregation? Here are the known places: Montreal (Canada); Guadeloupe; Switzerland; Haiti; Jerusalem; Nigeria; Capetown (S. Africa) ; Bangkok (Thailand); Madras & Bombay (India); Philippines; El Salvador; Trinidad (Tabago); Russia; Ukraine; plus many more places in over 32 states in the US! Add to this the preaching over the internet by the work of Mike Mazzalongo and Hal Gatewood through “BibleTalk,” then only the Lord knows all the places and people who have heard the Word preached by members of the Choctaw congregation!

Paul surely gave the proper two fold response for such outreach efforts by the brethren. 1. Paul did “thank God!” To God be the glory for great things He has done! (note John 15:5). Would you slip off somewhere and thank God for His grace and goodness? 2. Paul took “courage”! The noun and verb form of the Greek term Paul used (tharsos; tharseo) is defined as “be of good cheer, spoken by way of encouragement; be confident, be courageous; don’t be afraid.”(1) Note carefully that definition. Are You thinking and living like that? Let that splendid spirit lead you forward in the Lord’s service. Without fear and with confidence, be od “good cheer” and “be encouraged!” Daringly be a devout disciple for our Father in heaven! Why? Because there are so many other places and people who need to hear and heed the glorious Gospel of Jesus the Lord!

(1) Cf. Edward Robinson, A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.330; and William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gringrinch, A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.352

Is It OK to Observe Halloween?

It is believed that most of the ideas behind the night we now call “Halloween” originated with the Celtic religion of Druidism which flourished for around 300-350 years between the second centuries BC and AD.

For the Druids, this night meant that the “lighter” part of the year was coming to an end and the “darker” part was beginning. They further believed that on this night the veil between the living and the dead was its thinnest and that Samuin, lord of the dead, would call forth evil spirits to do mischief. In response to this belief, bonfires would be lit and some would dress themselves with masks and/or paint, apparently all in the hope of warding off said spirits.

Through the years, such ideas have been intermingled with other fall or harvest festivals from various cultures until we come down to what we have today. What does Halloween night mean for most of us in America? Simply put, it’s the fun kind of “scary stuff” we enjoy. It’s kids in costumes mooching candy, then going on a hayride and afterwards having popcorn balls and smores. Halloween means jack o’lanterns, fake spider webs and bobbing for apples at parties decorated with orange and black.

Sure, there are a few who see Halloween as a special night to dabble in the occult, but no one I know either does or promotes that. That kind of thing just never even comes to mind for most of us.

Two questions seem important to me to ask here. First, “Is this, holiday, intrinsically evil?”. In my experience, it is not. Even the practices of the Druids were intended to avoid contact with evil. I’d promote that, how about you? My second question would be, “Does Halloween provide any opportunity to do good?”.

Again, according to my experience, it certainly does. Year after year I see young families enjoying each others’ company as they go from house to house with their costumed children who squeal with innocent delight at the haul of goodies happy homeowners dole out. I’m fifty-four, but I still remember how much fun it was when my older brother and sister took me trick-or-treating!

Sometimes we simply gather in Christian fellowship around our own bonfires, toasting marshmallows and deepening relationships, warming ourselves both inside and out in the cool night air of early fall.

Now if your view of Halloween is different from someone else’s, don’t despair. Paul said in Romans chapter fourteen that each of us has the freedom in Christ to observe such days according to our own opinions:

One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.

Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the

day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he

gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and

gives thanks to God. Romans 14:5-6

So be at peace with others regardless of how you see the day, and give thanks to God for it!

Who is Your god?

The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’”, Genesis 3:4-5

The above reveals for us the most profound struggle of our own existence; which is our desire to govern ourselves as though we are our own god.

Intellectually, it makes no sense. We know that we did not create ourselves and so we have no idea what the “owner’s manual” would say if we had one. We are left with pure speculation as to how to help ourselves.

Emotionally, it makes no sense. Insecurity dominates our thoughts when we try to make ourselves, the highest authority for ourselves. Even as we grasp for control, we know it is out of our reach.

Spiritually, it makes no sense. We have absolutely no control or influence over anything in the spiritual realm, and without God, are totally ignorant of even our own spirit.

The only way being our own god makes any sense at all is through the eyes of our own flesh. We become like undisciplined and rebellious adolescents when our parents have left the house. We revel in making our own rules and living by whatever makes us happy in the moment. And like such an inexperienced and selfish youth, we wind up trashing our own house, being miserable, insecure, in chaos and without the means or even an idea of the direction out of it.

Self-help books are pitiful excuses for real solutions. Even if we realize our need to “get it together”, doing better on our own is impossible. All we can hope for without submitting to the true and living God is to follow some wayward path that might at least make it look like we have it all together. But we won’t. Not without God.

Solomon was right when he concluded, “Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil”, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Living Words

Most people who have listened to sermons have heard the Bible called, at one time or another, the “Living Word.” Have you ever wondered what that means? Surely it does not mean that your Bible comes to life and goes from being an inanimate object to an animate object that lives, breathes and needs nourishment. It can be a difficult concept to grasp that words live. So, how can we better understand this statement?

John 1:1-5 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

In John 1:14, we are told that the Word became flesh. This Word was and is Jesus our Christ. When we learn that, John 1:1-5 becomes much clearer. Replace “Word” with “Jesus.”

Furthermore, Romans 8:10 tells us that Christ lives in us, and then Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is living and active. Think about that! God speaks to us through the Bible, His Word. Yet, contained in the Bible is the story of Jesus from the beginning to the end! The Word prophesied, fulfilled in birth, hung on a cross and resurrected. We carry this story with us in our hands, minds and hearts. The Living Word.

Hey, What's Up Ahead?

Sunday, November 24 2019, has been designated by the shepherds here at Choctaw as “Every Member Present Sunday”. That’s what’s up ahead!

On a given Lord’s day, folks will be absent from our assembly for any number of reasons. Kids get sick, work schedules interfere, vacations come along, and well, you know. It is difficult to get everyone together at the same time; but how neat would it be if we did?

You may recall that we’ve made this effort before with marvelous results; and November 24th is the Sunday before our national day of Thanksgiving. How appropriate is that!?!?

But is this just about numbers?

Think about it. You’re having a family gathering. Is the size of the crowd the point? Duh, of course not. What is important is that everyone belongs, and has a place to fill and a part to play. Any absence of a beloved family member takes away from the gathering. The love we have learned from God compels us to want each one to be there; even the ones that behave like goobers sometimes (of course that’s never you nor me). You get it.

If we want to have all of us here on the same Lord’s Day, or even get close to having the entire congregation together for the same worship assembly, we have to plan. So, mark your calendar! Put a big red circle around November 24th. No, wait, not red, but use either royal blue or purple, since we are the royalty of the kingdom of God who are coming together to honor the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

Markers ready?

Did I mention that the day to mark is November 24th?

"The End is Near!"......or not

My thanks to the Competitive Enterprise Institute for a compilation of news articles predicting dooms of various types. Below are some of the foreboding conclusions reached by scientists in the recent past that were noted in their piece.

17 November 1967 – The Salt Lake Tribune published an article by George Getze, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, with the headline, “Dire Famine Forecast by ‘75”. Dr. Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford University biologist, cited world population as the problem and called for radical birth control measures to be taken.

April 16th, 1970, – The Boston Globe ran an article with the headline, “Scientist Predicts A New Ice-Age By The 21st Century”. In it, James P. Lodge Jr. of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, warned that pollution would soon obliterate the sun and freshwater rivers would be dried up to create electric power.

July 9th, 1971 – The Washington Post, Times Herald published the findings of Dr. S. I. Rasool of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Columbia University claiming that air pollution would cause a disastrous new ice-age in as little as 50 years. The findings were also presented at the International Study of Man’s Impact on Climate, held that year in Stockholm, Sweden.

December 3rd, 1972 – A letter from Brown University informed president Nixon that a council of 42 scientists from the U.S. & Europe determined that glacial temperatures and food shortages due to shorter growing seasons could soon be expected.

January 29th, 1974 – An article in The Guardian with the headline, “Space Satellites Show New Ice Age Coming Fast”, warned that scientists had indeed examined satellite pictures of weather patterns and concluded that a mini-ice was soon to come.

June 24th, 1974 – A TIME science article reported that since the 1940s, the mean temperature had dropped 2.7°, that the persistence and thickness of the icepack around Iceland and a 12% increase in area covered by ice & snow in the northern hemisphere were all harbingers of a coming ice-age.

Many other such articles were included, but as always, God will have the last word, “While the earth remains, seedtime & harvest, cold & heat, summer & winter, day & night shall not cease”, Genesis 8:22