Mom, is God in the moon?

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God Wants a Banana

A little boy named Doug was having one of those unique childlike discussions with his Mom. It was one of those conversations that only comes from the young, inquisitive mind of a child. He asked, “Mom, is God in the moon?” She did her best to explain that God is everywhere. “Is he in my tummy?” Doug asked. “Well, sort of,” his mom responded, not sure where these questions were leading. Doug paused and then declared, “Then God wants a banana” (Buff Spies, in Reader’s Digest, November 1991; from Neal Pollard’s Daily Bread devotional).

What does it mean to say that God is omnipresent? Let’s marvel at the nature of God…

Let’s look at a definition of God’s omnipresence: “present everywhere at the same time.” This means that God is completely (that is, all of Him) everywhere all the time.

There are a number of verses that show God is omnipresent. In 1 Kings 8:27, Solomon prayed of God: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” In the New Testament, we read, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Indeed, God is everywhere. He is not in everything as a part of it. That would be the false idea of pantheism. Nor is everything “god.” That, too, would be a false idea, known as panentheism. But, God is everywhere so that He is not limited to any specific place.

This attribute of God is seen in Balaam’s prophecies on Israel. Balak, king of Moab, hired Balaam to curse Israel. He took Balaam to “the high places of Baal” but Balak could not curse Israel from there (Num. 22:41-23:5). So, he took Balaam to “to the top of Pisgah” (23:13-16). But, Balaam could not curse him from there. So, he tried again from the “top of Peor” (23:27-24:2). Yet, the curse would not work from there either. What Balaam did not realize was that God is not a provincial god. He rules from heaven, not earth.

Because God is omnipresent, we know we can trust Him to provide for us, wherever we are and wherever we go.

We should have an awareness of God’s nearness – Psalm 139:7-10.  We should have a sense of total and complete reliance on Him – Colossians 1:17; Acts 17:27-28. We can trust our children into God’s hands wherever they might be!

We should realize, for better or worse, that we cannot hide anything from God – Hebrews 4:13.

–Paul Holland

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Dr. Jay Richard Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem

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Money, Greed, and God

President Obama has taught me a lot. I’ll give him credit for teaching me much about the Constitution, the concept of federalism, and even capitalism.

As he began making decision after decision, it spurred me to learn more about our founding documents. President Obama motivated me to read the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist. I have read Democracy in America since his election. But most impressively, I have read quite a lot in the area of economics.

I’m not here to teach you about economics – although the subject is much easier to understand than you might be led to believe by watching TV. But, President Obama and the left want Americans to believe that the capitalistic system, which has been the driving force behind the wealth and success of the United States, is inherently immoral and unchristian.

To correct that misunderstanding, both relative to Christianity and relative to capitalism, Dr. Jay Richard has written a book, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem. Richard can help you understand capitalism and why it is not the fundamental source of America’s woes or gap between the rich and the poor.

Capitalism is not about greed. Capitalism is about giving people the freedom to use their God-given talents (and their own money & resources) to provide a product or service to their fellowman. “Only foggy moral pretense confuses legitimate self-interest with selfishness” (pg. 121). Capitalism is no more inherently greed-centered than any other economic system developed by man like socialism or communism. Greed is found in the hearts of men who do not follow Jesus Christ – regardless of their economic policies.

What we have seen from the socialist experiment is that when you handout resources to someone who has not earned the resources, it easily creates: dependence, laziness, and corruption. Even missionaries are severely warned not to put national preachers on American support. It breeds dependence, laziness, and corruption. Handouts are dangerous on the mission field and dangerous in our neighborhoods.

Are there inequalities between the wealthy and the poor in America? Yes. So there is in communist and socialist countries. There always will be (see Mark 14:7). But there will only be total equality in heaven and in the church on earth, to the degree that we treat one another equally as is humanly possible (see James 2).

When it comes to Christians and our economic policies, here’s where we should go: Pursue truth (be “data-driven”; Prov. 23:23) which means minimum wage laws are bad for the economy and free trade is good for the economy. Pursue laws that level the playing field and do not favor the rich over the poor or the poor over the rich (see Exodus 23:3.). Pursue families where responsibility, a work ethic, delayed gratification and thrift are taught. Help people help themselves rather than destroying their own drive and initiative with handouts (see Leviticus 19:9-10). Finally, individual Christians should be willing and able to help those who truly are in need (Eph. 4:28).

–Paul Holland

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Sermons on Psalm 85

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Revive Us Again – Psalm 85

You do not have to have been an unfaithful Christian to find the need to respond again, if only in your heart, to the invitation. From time to time, we have family members who come forward and ask to have prayers, to be restored, to find strength from Christ and their church family. But you do not have to respond in that way to feel the need in your heart, in your spirit, to be revived.

George H. Morrison was a Scottish preacher who said, “The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings.” That’s what Psalm 85 is about – new beginnings. The Jews have returned from their 70-year exile in Babylon and they need to be revived.

Sometimes, you and I do too.

This first strophe is a series of six statements that reflect on what God has done.

God is, indeed, the God of second chances and third chances and fourth chances. As long as we sincerely are wanting to do what is right, God’s forgiveness is always available. God does not want us to be lost. He wants us to be saved.

When you are discouraged and depressed, be reminded that you are forgiven of your sins in Christ. Thank God for His plan of salvation.

This is the second stanza that focuses on God through a series of questions.

The indignation we receive is because of our sins. We can whitewash the fact that if we sin, God is angry with us. But, this verse is a prayer to God to “restore” and to “put away” or “cause to cease” His indignation. He will do that, if we will meet His conditions.

If you are discouraged and depressed, reflect on the nature of God. Ask Him for a renewed life.

The third stanza covers the rest of the psalm but I am going to break it up and I am going to join the last two strophes into one stanza.

When we turn back from our sins, God receives us back into fellowship with Him, and we determine not to return to our former foolishness. When we fear, respect and reverence God, His salvation is in our presence as well as His glory – the glorious presence of God, which is ours today, through Jesus Christ.

If we want to stay revived, don’t go back into sin! Fill your heart with God’s word and there will be less room for Satan!

We are surrounded by God’s nature, His truth and His righteousness! What a beautiful thought. We are never far from the goodness of God.

This sentiment is even more true with us Christians because it is truly in Christ where the truth, righteousness, peace, and lovingkindness all met, kissed, and find their embodiment.

Follow God’s path to receive the fruitful blessings He has to give.

To be revived again in our spiritual lives: be reminded our sins are forgiven; reflect on the nature of God; don’t go back into sinful habits; reflect on the bountiful blessings God gives.

Engaging others in evangelism is a wonderful way to stir up the fire within you!

–Paul Holland

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A perfect NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket

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A Perfect Bracket

There is, on my office door, a perfect bracket! You would not believe what a challenge it is to pick a perfect NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket! You start with sixty-four teams and eventually, you narrow them down to just the Final Four, then to two. Then, out of those sixty-four teams, you pick the national champion! How awesome is that?!

I have Kentucky (my team) losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four. I have accurately positioned all of MSU’s wins. Yes, even Duke is the national champion, in my bracket.

What are the chances of filling out a perfect bracket? You will be really amazed at this preacher when you see this. The chances – if you flip a coin for each game – of picking a perfect bracket is 1 in 9.2 quintillion. Written out, that’s 1 in 9,000,000,000,000,000,000! And I have a perfect bracket!

To give you an idea of how awesome I am, if everyone in the United States (300+ million of us) filled out a bracket, we would cumulatively have a perfect bracket once every 400 years! And I did it this year. (To be totally honest, I also did it in 2012).

To be thoroughly honest, as you already suspect, I filled out the bracket after each game. It is extremely easy to do that, you know…

In a sense, the Bible presents a picture to us of the final judgment after the game. That is, we know how the final judgment is going to end because the Bible tells us.

Who is not going to make it to the “championship?” Those who do not know God and those who do not obey the Gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-9). Having obeyed the Gospel, who else is not going to be there? Those who have not fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and those in prison, etc. (Matthew 25).

Since we know how it is going to end, we need to obey the Gospel and be “diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).
–Paul Holland

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Do the work of an evangelist

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“Don’t be ashamed or Rude” – 2 Timothy 2:14-26

Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to “do the work of an evangelist” (4:5); yet, he has called Timothy to leave Ephesus and come see him in prison in Rome (4:9). There is a very present danger, however, in that false teachers are popping up all over the place, including Ephesus. Paul had warned the elders in Ephesus back in Acts 20 about these false teachers and here, Paul issues a very clear warning to Timothy.

False teaching always has its appeal. That’s a part of its deceitfulness. False teaching tells us what we want to hear, not what God wants us to hear. We always create gods after our own image and so-called Christians have created a gospel after their own image and a “Jesus” after their own image and a “Holy Spirit” after their own image (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:4).

So, in responding to false teaching, Paul gives Timothy three more imperatives from here to the end of the chapter…

Verse 22 – “Flee!” youthful lusts – whatever might be appealing when it comes to false teaching – flee those desires. Is it more money? Prestige? Popularity? Ambition? Novelties? Nothing is worth the price of destroying the Gospel of Christ which destroys the faith of other people and, of course, will cause one to lose his/her own soul.

“Pursue!” (another imperative) Christian virtues as: righteousness, faith, love, and peace (quiet composure) in the atmosphere of the church, described here as those who “call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Spend time with those whose hearts are pure in the eyes of God, fellow Christians, people of “like precious faith” (cf. 2 Peter 1:1).

Verse 23 – This is the final imperative in this section – “Refuse” or “have nothing to do with” foolish and ignorant (“unlearned” and “uneducated”) speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. “To carry on a sustained argument with a fool is to show oneself to be of the same mentality” (Jackson, 248).

God does not place a premium on “quarreling.” Yet, we are to “contend earnestly” for the faith (Jude 3). The difference is in our motivation and our attitude. Is our motivation to win an argument or to win a soul? Is it to show ourselves superior to someone else or are we honestly trying to defend the honor of Jesus Christ?

Verse 24 – The slave of the Lord must not be quarrelsome. Rather, he is to be kind to all, able to teach, patient (or tolerant) when wronged (Eph. 4:15). “Even if the listener is angry and rude, the Christian teacher must try to not retaliate in kind” (Jackson, 249).

Verse 25 – Paul further says we are to be gentle in correcting those who are in opposition to the truth, if perhaps God may give them repentance, leading to knowledge of the truth. The goal of our education is to lead to repentance through knowledge of the truth. “Gentle” can be translated as “meek” and it carries the idea of approachability; in other words, one humble enough to be taught something new.

Verse 26 – Additionally, they might just “come to their senses” and escape the snare laid out by Satan through his deception, who had previously been held captive by Satan to do his will – that is, leading others astray through deception (cf. 3:13). These false teachers are pawns of Satan, doing his will be deceiving people. What is the defense against false teachers? Paul will tell us in chapter 3 – the inspired word of God.

–Paul Holland

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When was God created?

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God is Eternal

A little boy was walking down the beach. His eyes were scanning the people and he saw a motherly-looking woman sitting under an umbrella on the sand. He walked over to her and asked, “Are you a Christian?”

“Yes.” “Do you read your Bible every day?” Yes,” she said, nodding her head.

“Do you pray often?” the thoughtful boy asked next. Again, she answered, “Yes.”

With that final question, the boy looked pleased, and asked, “Will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?”

We have to trust people. When you drive down the road, you trust that the other person will stay in his or her own lane and obey other traffic laws. We trust people to do what they say they’ll do. Now, granted, sometimes people disappoint us. Sometimes they disappoint us due to their own weaknesses or they may disappoint us but it is due to circumstances beyond their control.

One of the fundamental reasons why we can, and should trust God with our most precious possession – our soul – is because God is eternal. God says in Isaiah 46:10: “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”

In studying the nature of God, His timelessness is one aspect that simply boggles our minds. When Abraham made an agreement with Abimelech in Genesis 21, he called as a witness, “the Lord, the Everlasting God” (vs 33).

We should point out here that the Hebrew word “everlasting” does not inherently carry the idea of “eternal.” Consider the definition of that word (olam) from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament: “Though olam is used more than three hundred times to indicate indefinite continuance into the very distant future, the meaning of the word is not confined to the future. There are at least twenty instances where it clearly refers to the past [Deut. 32:7, p.h. for example]. …None of these past references has in it the idea of endlessness or limitlessness, but each points to a time long ago before the immediate knowledge of those living. [The author also directs us to the Greek word, p.h.]…aion which has essentially the same range of meaning” (II:672-3).

The reason why that is significant is because both circumcision (Genesis 17:13) and the sabbath (Exodus 31:16) are said to be “eternal” (depending on the translation). But that Hebrew word carries the idea of “indefinite continuance,” not “eternal” as we use the word.

But, God is eternal in the sense that we use the word – timeless, existing forever, without end and without beginning. To say that God is eternal is to say that God is outside of time. He is, in no way, governed by time.

Meditate on these verses: Genesis 1:1 (God created time); Exodus 3:14 (& John 8:58); Psalm 90:2; 102:27; Isaiah 57:15; John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 2:7; John 17:5; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; Romans 1:20, 22-23; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; 2 Peter 3:8; Jude 25.

Because God is eternal and is not susceptible to the vicissitudes of life, we know that He can and will keep His promises: Psalm 102:27-28; Heb. 6:19-20; 7:23-25.

–Paul Holland


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It’s hard for a rich man to go to heaven

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In the light of the admonition in Hebrews 13:7—“. . . consider the outcome of their [your spiritual leaders’] way of life . . .” AND having now lived long enough to make some observations about what things in life contribute to a truly successful life and what things don’t, I’m going to make a few observations.

I’ve decided that the things that people want the most in life—to be exceptionally smart, beautiful, rich and talented—are generally more harmful than beneficial.
Do I expect anyone under fifty years old to believe that? Not really. Because you haven’t lived long enough to witness it for yourself. Everybody wants to be at least one of those, don’t we?

But these things really do not bring lasting happiness. When that’s what you build your life around, what happens when they’re gone? Or when someone comes along who is more beautiful . . . talented . . . richer or smarter? And don’t think it won’t happen. If you live very long, you’re going to lose—at least to some degree—every one of those things- because they are based in your mind or body. The possible exception is money. You might be able to keep accumulating it till you die. “And then whose shall these things be?” In the end, money becomes the master and you are the servant—if that’s what you lived for.

The very thing that made you happy in your youth may be the source of great sadness later in your life.

Now, having said all that, let me say that being beautiful, talented, rich or smart can be a great blessing—if you use it to be more effective in serving others. If you realize that none of these things are permanent. If that doesn’t become the source of your security and happiness.

So don’t waste your time envying those who have those things. It’s hard for a rich man to go to heaven. And for the same reason… it’s hard for someone who is exceptionally beautiful, smart or talented.

Ken Stegall

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Christianity and eye-witness testimony

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Seeing is Believing – John 20:1-18

In U. S. courts, several factors play into the credibility of eye-witness testimony:

1. The witness had personal knowledge – as opposed to “hearsay” evidence.
2. He or she was actually present at the scene.
3. The witness paid attention at the scene.
4. He or she told the whole truth.

The reason why we are interested in these matters is because our faith in Jesus Christ, specifically in the resurrection of Christ on which our faith stands or falls, is based on the testimony of eyewitnesses.

Grab a highlighter or pen while you read this text and underline the word “saw” or “seen” as it is used over and over again (as well as in verses 20 & 25). You may also want to draw a box around the word “believed” in verse 8. Note verses 2 and 13-14 as they relate to the credibility of these eye-witnesses.

First, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb on that fateful Sunday morning. She did not go to the wrong tomb. There is collaborating testimony from the Gospel of Mark that when Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses “were looking on to see where He was laid” (15:47).

Second, Simon Peter and the apostle whom Jesus loved, almost certainly John the author of the Gospel, also went to the tomb. Both these men were eyewitnesses and wrote or were influential in writing the historical record. What did they see?

Verses 5 & 6 say they saw the linen wrapping lying there. Verse 7 says they saw the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but “rolled up” (that is significant) in a place by itself. This is not the action of one who only fainted and stumbled out of the cave. Nor is it the action of thieves, whether His disciples or His enemies.

Notice verse 9. Just as with Mary Magdalene, the disciples did not understand the Scripture, that is the promises in the Old Testament nor the clear statements of Jesus, that He “must” rise again from the dead. This was totally unexpected to them.

The conclusion to this account is that you and I need to be motivated to do the same thing that Mary Magdalene did. Observe verse 18 – “Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” That verb tense carries the idea that Mary stood in a state of conviction that she had seen the risen Jesus.

But, let’s take a quick look at Jesus’ statement to Thomas Didymus in verse 29. “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Then, John goes on to point out that he wrote his Gospel about the life of Christ so that you and I, having faith in Jesus Christ, could be saved from our sins (20:31-31).

The resurrection of Christ is the greatest event in all of human history. It splits time into two large segments and it guarantees us that time itself will one day come to an end. Jesus is alive, reigning in heaven, and He will come again. That’s why we need to have passion for souls.

–Paul Holland

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how do you respond to someone who says, “I want to be associated with this congregation?”

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Placing Membership

If a man or woman walks into your worship assembly – we’ve had quite a few in the last four months – with no background in the church, how should we respond? Many are looking for a “church home.” Sometimes, someone comes from another congregation, and are looking for a new “church home.”

God foresaw a time when non-Israelites would be motivated and influenced to join the Israelite nation and worship their God. Circumcision would be a key requirement (Gen. 17:12-14). If a stranger, in awe of the God of Israel, chooses to celebrate the Feast of the Passover with them, God required him to be circumcised (Exodus 12:48-49; Num. 9:14). All that God required of the Israelites, He would require of the foreigner (Num. 15:16, 29; cf. Lev. 24:22).

In the New Testament age, we experience the same phenomenon. So, the question arises, how do you respond to someone who says, “I want to be associated with this congregation?”

There is no process recorded in the Scriptures. The Bible does teach that when one obeys the Gospel, the Lord adds that person to His church (Acts 2:47). When Paul preached in Thessalonica, “some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas” (Acts 17:4). We can safely presume that Luke intends they obeyed the Gospel, were added by Christ to His church, and then “joined” the assembly in which Paul and Silas were laboring.

Paul himself did a similar thing back in Acts 9. He was baptized in Damascus but was run out of town by the Jews. He went to Jerusalem where he “was trying to associate with the disciples” (vs 26). Notice the verb tense; it is imperfect. That refers to a repeated action in the past – he “kept” trying to associate with the disciples. But they kept saying, “No,” until Barnabas was able to influence them otherwise.

Later, when Paul was in Ephesus, he met some men who had been taught under the teaching of John the baptizer. Before Paul could go further in his fellowship with them, he asked them, “Into what, then, were you baptized?” (Acts 19:3). Asking about their baptism is parallel with Moses requiring circumcision under the Law (cf. Colossians 2:11-12).

In first century Christianity, before denominationalism confused everyone, letters of recommendation were used to help one member move from one congregation to another. Some scholars see references to letters of recommendation in such passages as: Romans 16:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 8:16-24; Philippians 2:19-30. Specifically, in 2 Corinthians 3:1-2, Paul writes: “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.”

John writes an “anti-“ letter of recommendation, in a sense, in 1 John when he writes that those who were of the spirit of the “anti-Christ” “went out from us, but they were not really of us” (2:19). Of those, John would say, “Do not receive him into your fellowship” (cf. 2 John 9-11).

In the modern age of numerous divisions and a plethora of different doctrines, it would behoove an eldership to question a prospective member on his/her baptism, and perhaps a number of other matters. A Bible study concerning these matters would be appropriate before one is accepted into fellowship. In today’s religious world, we can not just assume that a person has been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and understands Bible teaching concerning the Lord’s church.

So many future problems could be totally avoided if these matters were addressed with timeliness. Guiding the flock well is often difficult at the out-set, but gives way to greater peace and growth of the body with time. In this way, the eldership can oversee the flock with more confidence and less stress, “with joy and not with grief” (Heb. 13:17).

–Paul Holland

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Sermon on evangelism

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Passion for Souls – Matthew 9:36-38

Matthew’s Gospel is more than just about a simple man. Matthew records that Gabriel told Joseph that when Mary became pregnant, the Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and He would be called “Joshua/Jesus” because “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

In this paragraph of three verses, we see Jesus’ passion for souls. I pray that you and I will imitate that passion for souls…

Jesus looked around and had compassion for other people. The English word “compassion” comes from the Latin that means com – “with” and “passion” – “suffer.” Thus, the “Passion of the Christ” or “Christ’s Sufferings.” So, compassion means to “suffer” with “others.”

Jesus suffered with others. That is, He felt their pain. If we will be like Christ, we too, must “suffer the pain” of others: Colossians 3:12; 1 John 3:17; Philippians 1:8.

Notice why Jesus felt compassion:

Jesus saw that people were “harassed” and “helpless,” like sheep without a shepherd.
First, the word “harassed” originally meant to be “flayed” or “skinned.” Second, the word “helpless” means “to throw down with considerable force.” When you put these two words in their context here in verse 36, as “sheep without a shepherd,” you get the picture of a sheep that has been harassed by wolves until it finally wore itself out and then the wolves have jumped on the sheep and started tearing it to shreds.

The greatest problem all of us have is the problem of sin. But the point is, we look around and we see people today dealing with these very issues and they are harassed and helpless against Satan because they are not walking with Jesus Christ.

The population of Swartz Creek is 5,636, so nearly 3,400 people are staying at home and not worshiping God through Jesus Christ. Even many of those who are in church somewhere are still not following Jesus and listening to the Spirit of Truth as they should.

But, in contrast to the plentiful harvest, the laborers are few. In contrast to the multitude who are on the wide path that leads to destruction, there are a comparative few who are on the narrow path that leads to life.

I’m not saying that we will be lost if we never have a Bible study with someone. But if we love Jesus, how can we not be interested in the eternal destination of other people? If we love Jesus, how can we not be moved with compassion by the suffering and sin in the lives of other people?

God has a job to do – to raise up workers, empower them, and guide them to the souls who can be reached.

But, you and I also have a job to do. Right after this text, in chapter 10, Jesus chooses twelve disciples, appoints them as apostles, and then sends them out to preach! You and I have a responsibility. We can prepare ourselves, we can pray until we have callouses on our knees. But if we do not go and/or send, Jesus will not be glorified: 1 Corinthians 3:6-8.

Jesus was a man of compassion for souls. Let us be the same.

–Paul Holland

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