When All Else Fails


One of the common stereotypes of men is that they refuse to read the directions.  More of us than are willing to admit it will immediately begin to assemble some item without giving a second thought to the assembly instructions that accompany it.  Often, after spending much more time than it should have taken, we finally surrender and turn to the directions to see where we went wrong.  Then, having read the instructions, we begin again.

As much as we enjoy making fun of men in this regard, the fact is that we all tend toward this attitude in many areas of life.  This is especially the case in spiritual matters.  Social media is full of memes that declare the wish that life came with an instruction book.  The sad truth is that it does, but most people have tried to live their lives without consulting it.

Our Father in heaven knew before He created mankind that we would be this way.  Therefore, He put many warnings and exhortations in His word calling on us to read His instructions for life.  When Moses reminded Israel of the Law God had given them, he solemnly warned them to diligently adhere to it, so they could live and prosper in the promised land.  In Deut. 6:1-3 Moses said, “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.  O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”

This theme is a constant throughout the Old Testament, and it remains so under the covenant of Christ.  The Lord Himself declared this fundamental principle at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount.  In Mt. 7:21 He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”  The simple truth of this statement is that God has provided us the instructions for life in His revealed word, and only those who follow His instructions will enter heaven at the end of time.

Many through the centuries have contended that these instructions are incomplete, or unknowable, from the scriptures.  However, these contentions are patently false.  In Eph. 5:17 Paul called on us to not be foolish but to understand what the will of the Lord is.  If the Lord’s will is unknowable, we cannot obey this command.  The very fact that Paul commanded it proves that we can understand God’s will.

In 2 Tim. 3:16-17 Paul said that all scripture is inspired by God and equips us for every good work.  In 2 Pet. 1:3 Peter said that God has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of the one who called us.  These statements assure us that the scriptures are everything we need in order to live life the way God intended us to.

The grace of God and the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ offer us redemption for the sins we commit by ignoring or violating God’s instructions for life.  This redemption saves our souls, but does not undo the physical consequences of our sins.  How much better our lives would be if we chose to follow God’s instructions from the beginning, instead of only turning to them when all else fails!

While The Earth Remains


Since 1970 April 22nd has been officially recognized as “Earth Day”.  The impetus for this ongoing event was a catastrophic oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA in 1969.  Each year on this date environmentalists gather in nearly 200 nations around the world to draw attention to their concerns.  Two factors tend to characterize these events.  The first is the implication that the world would be a better place without humans on it.  The second is the notable absence of any reference to God.  Instead, proponents refer to “Mother Earth” in terms that deify the planet.  The stated goal of these events is to save the earth.  While no honest person would argue against being responsible in the use of the resources on our planet, the greater danger is in removing the God who created this planet from any consideration in this matter.

The scriptures are explicit in their discussion of the purpose of the earth.  The origin and purpose of the earth are described in Gen. 1.  God systematically created the earth and filled it with everything necessary for mankind to live upon it.  In Gen. 1:26-30 the scriptures tell us that God created mankind and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  He also told them to subdue the earth and to rule over the animals.  At that time God gave both man and animals every green plant for food (vs. 29-30).  Later, after the flood, He again told mankind to be fruitful and fill the earth (Gen. 8:15-17), and then He gave all the animals to man for food (Gen. 9:1-4).

Before He did so, however, God said something about the earth.  In Gen. 8:22 He said, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”  The covenant of the rainbow (Gen. 9:8-17) reassured Noah that God would never again destroy the earth with water, as He had just done.  This statement reassured him, and us, that the earth will continue to provide for all mankind’s needs so long as God allows it to remain.  In other words, mankind cannot exhaust the resources that God has placed on the earth.  There will always be enough resources to sustain life until God decides to destroy the earth.

Environmentalists are trying to save the earth, as though it will last forever and there is nothing beyond life on this planet.  The scriptures, however, are clear that the earth is not intended to last forever.  In 2 Pet. 3:10-13 Peter said that the elements will be destroyed with intense heat when the day of the Lord arrives.  This will not be the result of a man-made nuclear holocaust or some environmental doomsday.  Instead, it will be the result of the word of God (2 Pet. 3:7).  The destruction of the earth and universe will be the prelude to the final judgment of all mankind.

While we should all be responsible in our care of the environment in which we live, our greater concern should be to prepare ourselves for eternal life.  When the day of the Lord comes, and with it the destruction of the physical realm, the Son of God will come with His mighty angels in flaming fire to deal out retribution to all who do not know God and who have not obeyed the gospel (2 Th. 1:7-8).  At that time the saved will be ushered into the new heavens and new earth to which Peter referred in 2 Pet. 3:13.  This is the place to which our Lord has gone, and in which He is preparing dwelling places for the redeemed (Jn. 14:1-3).

In the meantime, let us make the most of the abundant resources of our earthly home without being wasteful or irresponsible.  Let us also be grateful to God for this beautiful place in which we live, knowing that while it remains the earth will sustain all who live here, just as God planned from before the beginning of time.

All, Some, or None?


There is a song that at one time was frequently sung in our worship assemblies, but has recently fallen into disuse.  The song is entitled, “None of Self and All of Thee”.  This song is one in which all stanzas should be sung because of the story it tells.  It is the story of one who stands defiantly before the Lord, seeking his own way.  He proudly proclaims, “All of self and none of Thee”.  As the song progresses, however, his demeanor softens to “Some of self and some of Thee” and, “Less of self and more of Thee”.  In the final stanza the change is completed, and he humbly says, “None of self and all of Thee”.

One can only speculate why this song is no longer popular.  It could be that many modern worshipers prefer the catchy tunes, made up of simple, repetitive phrases, that are so common today.  However, it could also be that this song rings too true to real life for comfort.  It is easier, after all, to sing upbeat praises about the love and grace of God than to admonish ourselves about the struggle to be faithful disciples.  It is more pleasant to sing “happy” songs than to sing songs that remind us of the practicalities of putting God first in our lives.

There is a place in our worship for songs that convey every facet of our relationship to God, but we must not neglect those that call us to diligent service.  When the Lord was asked what the greatest commandment was, He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37).  This was not one of the Ten Commandments, but is a foundational principle that Moses taught the people of Israel as he led them toward the promised land (Deut. 6:5).

Nearly everyone will profess that they love God, but too often this profession means little more than an affection for Him.  When Moses commanded Israel to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind, he defined it with a series of commands regarding their personal and daily devotion to Him (Deut. 6:6-9).  They were to make God’s word the central feature of everything they did each day.  Although the Lord did not go into the kind of detail that Moses did, He had the same principle in mind.  Loving God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind means putting Him first in everything we do.

In practical terms, this is about how we use our time each day.  As we allocate our time, do we fill it with God’s things, or do we fill it with our things?  Personal Bible study and meditation on God’s word, prayer, worship, fellowship with other Christians, and sharing the good news are all things that demonstrate that we are putting God first in our lives.  Doing these things does not detract from our physical responsibilities, but enhances our performance of these things.  When we commit to a “none of self and all of thee” perspective, the Lord will bless our efforts in ways that the less committed will never enjoy.

Our Lord said that loving God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind is the greatest commandment.  For this reason, we must make this our primary goal in life.  To do so we must commit to the “none of self and all of thee” principle.  Doing so requires the faith to trust in the Lord’s promise that He will take care of those who seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33).  How blessed our lives would be, and how much better the world would be, if each of us made this commitment!  Then our lives, as well as our lips, would truthfully and joyously declare, “Higher than the highest heavens, deeper than the deepest sea, Lord, Thy love at last has conquered, None of self and all of Thee”.

He Has Done All Things Well


When I was a boy my mother would sometimes take me to visit an elderly lady for whom she had worked many years before.  This lady was very religious and had a favorite statement about the Lord that she often inserted into her conversations.  She would say, “Always trust in the Lord, who doeth all things well.”  As a young boy I lacked sufficient knowledge of the scriptures to know the source of this statement.  Only many years later did I discover that the heart of her statement was completely biblical.

In Mk. 7:31-37 Mark records an incident in which the people in the region of Decapolis brought to the Lord a man who was deaf and spoke with difficulty.  The Lord put His fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue.  He then commanded his ears to be opened.  The man’s hearing and ability to speak were immediately restored and the crowd reacted in amazement.  In v. 37 the scripture says, “They were utterly astonished, saying, ‘He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.'”

We should not be amazed that the Lord did all things well.  In fact, we should be grateful that He did, and still does, all things well, because we depend upon Him to do so.  In Lk. 19:10 the Lord said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  In 1 Tim. 2:5-6 Paul said, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”  In Heb. 7:25 the scripture says, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  Where would we be if the Lord did not do these things well?  We thank God that He does indeed do all things well.

This being true, it places a level of responsibility on those who are the beneficiaries of His well-done work that we may sometimes overlook.  In the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30), the master gave each slave responsibility equal to that slave’s ability.  Two of them did their work well.  One turned five talents into ten, and the other turned two talents into four.  They were praised by their master and rewarded by being welcomed into the joy of their master.

The one-talent slave, however, did not even try to do his job, much less to do it well.  When he returned his master’s money he was condemned for being a wicked, lazy slave.  Too late he discovered that even a small amount of effort on his part would have satisfied his master.  Because he did not do his job well, he was cast into the outer darkness.

We who are Christians are slaves, like the men in the parable.  Our Lord Jesus Christ is our master.  He has given us responsibilities to fulfill in His service based upon our abilities.  Like the master in the parable, He expects us to do all things well.  He expects this of us, because He was also a slave to His Father’s will.  He humbled Himself to do the Father’s will, and He did all things well.  Therefore, we must do the same.

However, doing all things well has nothing to do with human standards of success or failure.  In the Lord’s service, as in the parable of the talents, doing well simply means to expend the energy necessary to demonstrate respect for what our master has entrusted to us.  When we make our master’s will the primary concern in our lives, we are doing well.  When we devote ourselves to serve in His kingdom, we are doing well.  We will not all have the same results, but if we each do our best, we will have done well, and we will be welcomed into the joy of our master at the end of time.