CARRYING THE SKY ON YOUR SHOULDERS

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Greek Mythology has always been interesting to me. Even though these characters are fictional, one that always stands out is Atlas. Atlas is known best for being punished by Zeus to stand on the earth and to carry the sky and heavens on his shoulders (Wikipedia). What an enormous burden Atlas was forced to bear.

It’s funny how easy it is to relate to Atlas at times. When problems pile up, it feels like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. We become so bogged down with worries about money, health, family, and life. We lose jobs, possessions, and worst of all, people close to us. On top of all of this, we deal with our spirituality and wrestling with the question, “What will happen when I die?” At times life becomes so burdensome that it seems overwhelming.

Certainly this feeling is not new to our generation. This is why the words of Scripture are so appealing. 1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Bringing God into our lives is a breath of fresh air and a weight lifted off our shoulders. God never promised that life would be problem free, but He does tell us that He is willing to help. The problem is that we get stubborn and try to bear the load alone. We might be able to bear some of the stress and worry of life, but we cannot carry the weight of sin and walk with God at the same time.

God is offering to share the burden with us. He wants to help with the worries and stresses of life (Matthew 6:25-34), but more importantly, He wants to take care of our burden of sin (Acts 2:37-41; 1 Peter 3:21; 2 Peter 3:9; Matthew 11:28-30). We can’t bear this load for long. Let’s bring God deeper into our lives and let Him help with our burdens.

Brett Petrillo

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Three distinct beauty marks of God’s ideal woman.

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God made women as one of His crowning achievements of beauty and I am blessed to be married to one of His finest samples of this. They are called the “fairer sex” for obvious reasons. This was obvious from the first generation of man (Gen. 2:22-23). While Solomon extolled the physical beauty of his wife in Song of Solomon and King Lemuel’s mother extolled the intellectual beauty of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, Paul, a single man, and Peter, a married man, are led in their writing by the Holy Spirit to identify three distinct beauty marks of God’s ideal woman.

“Good Works” (1 Tim. 2:10). This mark is set in contrast with the immodesty of ungodliness in 1 Timothy 2:9. Whether overdressing or under dressing, the ungodly woman accentuates her outward self. This is not true beauty. Paul says being adorned with good works covers her with true loveliness. When a Christian lady is engrossed in good works, visiting, teaching ladies and children in Bible classes, soul-winning, or as context emphasizes (2:15), fulfilling her role if possible in the home raising children, she is a rare beauty. There are countless good works in which she can be engaged for Christ and the church. In doing these, she reveals remarkable beauty.

“A Gentle And Quiet Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4). In 1 Peter, Peter makes some statements quite similar to Paul’s. Notice first that Peter, like Paul, preaches a message that could not be more different from the world’s sermon. The world tells a woman to allow herself to be a sexual object for men, to flaunt what she has, and to be provocative in her dress and manner. Peter tells her to accentuate chaste conduct and fear (3:2) and the “hidden person of the heart” (3:4). This is “incorruptible beauty,” literally not subject to decay. One thing I have observed through the years is that the godly woman grows more beautiful with age, the wrinkles and other marks of age not marring her appearance one bit. Her godly disposition, disciplined righteousness, and spiritual greatness beautify her in a way Cover Girl or Oil of Olay absolutely could not! Her friendliness and tranquility attract in an ageless way.

“Holy And Trusting” (1 Pet. 3:5). Peter mentions another beauty mark in his description of God’s stunning woman. She is like Sarah and other Old Testament women of righteousness. She is holy, meaning she lives near to God and far from the world. What truer beauty is there? She hopes for God, suggesting that she counts on Him and puts her confidence in Him. The world’s ideal woman boasts of her self-sufficiency, self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-making. Selfish persons of either gender are decidedly unattractive. But, the Christian woman appears beautiful through her dependency upon God and His ways.

Paul reminds us that despite our “beauty products” and cosmetic surgeries, the outward person is running down and wearing out (2 Cor. 4:16). There is nothing wrong with keeping in good physical shape (1 Tim. 4:8) or taking care of our physical appearance. However, let God’s woman be convinced that the things mentioned by Paul and Peter in these verses cause her to win the beauty contest in which God the Lord is the judge.

Neal Pollard

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Ophiophagous animals

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IMMUNE TO VENOM?

Neal Pollard

My son, Dale, tells me that the mongoose builds up immunity to cobra venom by eating smaller poisonous creatures, from spiders to scorpions to wasps.  That makes the mongoose an “ophiophagous” creature.  Ophiophagous animals are those which hunt, kill, and eat snakes (including the poisonous ones).  Many of these kinds of animals are thought to be immune from their prey’s venom, and they have antineurotoxic antibodies in their blood.  However, the most venom-resistant animal known to science is the wild and exotic Virginia opossum.  They do not build up immunity, but rather seem to be born with this resistance.

As a Grade A Snake Hater, my skin is already crawling.  However, what a splendid application there is.  In Genesis three, we are introduced to a creature many take to be nothing more than a serpent.  While this may be true, Satan is referred to in symbolic terms as “that ancient serpent” in Revelation 20:2-a seeming allusion to the garden scene (cf. Rev. 12:9).  Is it coincidental that the beguiling serpent is mentioned in the same context as Satan’s beguiling work in 2 Corinthians 11 (cf. 3 + 14-15)?  Whatever may be concluded about any connection between the serpent of Eden and the devil, there are some potent comparisons.  Like a poisonous serpent, Satan is destructive and deadly (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8-9).  As such creatures can strike suddenly and without warning, Satan can do the same (cf. Matt. 4:3).  Just as these can cause fear, so can the devil (Heb. 2:14).  The devil can be made to flee (Jas. 4:7), just as those nefarious reptiles can.

Keeping with our analogy and original illustration, can we build up immunity against the devil?  Yes and no.  We cannot, in the sense that we can ever court sin and temptation and hope to come away unscathed.  The wages of sin are always the same (Rom. 6:23).  However, in another sense we can.  By drawing close to God, we can build up devil-resistance (Jas. 4:7).  Building a proper relationship with the Lord serves the dual purpose of helping us stand against the power of the devil (see Eph. 6:10ff).  By being and remaining in Christ, we are free from the effects of the sting of sin and the spiritual death brought thereby (1 Cor. 15:56-58; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 Pet. 5:8-9).  Let’s work to protect our souls from the ravaging effects of sin by building righteous, submissive, and holy lives!

–Neal Pollard

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The Secret to Happiness

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Years ago a study was conducted by the Institute for Child Behavior Research. Bernard Rimland, the institute’s director, asked each person involved in the study to list the ten people they knew best and then to label them as happy or unhappy. Next, they were told to go through the same list of people and label them as selfish or unselfish. Amazingly, Rimland found that every single person who was labeled “happy” was also labeled “unselfish.” He wrote that those “whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness…are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy” (Rimland, Bernard. The Altruism Paradox. Psychological Reports 51, 1982: p. 521-2).

Many people spend their entire lives in an unending pursuit of happiness. In reality, happiness isn’t some mysterious secret. In some ways it’s sad that a study had to be done in order to teach us where happiness comes from. All this study really did, however, was confirm what God already told us about happiness. Consider the following Scriptures.

  • “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
  • “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you…” (Matthew 7:12).
  • “…It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
  • “But the greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).

Both the study and the Bible confirm it, happiness and unselfishness go together. Happiness will come through being loving, being servants, and being selfless. If we want to be happy, then the secret is to stop thinking about our own happiness and start working to make others happy.

Brett Petrillo 

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Courage

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  • What does the Bible say about courage? What can give us courage? Should Christians be courageous?
  • In the Bible we find examples of people lacking courage.
  • 42:28 urage – READ
  • A “failing heart” means courage faltered; there was fear, terror, concern, great worry.
    A similar expression is found in 1 Sam. 17:32 – David to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him.”
  • Job (23:16) said God had made his heart “faint.”
  • Early in the book of Jer. (4:9) we read about the “heart” of a “king” – Jeremiah said this man’s heart w/ “perish.”
  • Ezekiel (21:7) spoke of “every heart melting.”
  • 12:2, Jesus “endured the cross.” He “despised shame” (same verse).
  • The Lord “endured” the “gainsaying of sinners against himself” (Heb. 12:3).
  • 10:35 – READ
  • Backing up to verse 19 – READ
  • The Christian faith should give us “boldness” (courage).
  • 4:16 – READ
  • 3:6 – READ
  • “Lift up the hands that hang down and make fast the shaky legs” (Heb. 12:12).

I DO NOT FEEL VERY COURAGEOUS AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHERE OR HOW I CAN GET AT LEAST SOME OR PERHAPS A LOT MORE COURAGE.

  • Deut 31:6 we read: Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be affrighted at them: for Jehovah…
  • In the opening chapter of Joshua (1:6-9) we find this same thing; God made a promise, therefore be courageous.
    Gideon was told to “go” and attack the Mideonites because God had “delivered” them into his hand (Judg. 7:9).
  • The opposition may be big and strong (2 Chron. 32:7), but God is always greater (2 Chron. 32:8).
  • Haggai (2:4) said, “be strong” and then gave a reason: God would help.
  • 1:28 – “in nothing affrighted by the adversaries.”
  • Moses’ parents were “not afraid of the king’s commandment” (Heb. 11:23).

We know about Peter and John and how they were grilled by the Sanhedrin (Acts 4).

  • 2 Chron. 20, let’s begin with reading the 2d verse – READ
  • Verse 3 – READ
  • Verse 6 in 2 Chron. 20 says, “and he said, O Jehovah.”
  • Verse 12 is an expression of hopelessness without God – READ
  • God’s door is always open to those who are His people.
  • The text says the spirit of the Lord came upon a man and a message from God was received –
  • Verse 15 – READ
  • The end of verse 17 says “For Jehovah is with you.”
    13:6 says, “So that with good courage we say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: What shall man do unto me?”
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A daily dose of “Vitamin E” within the Lord’s church can increase our effectiveness exponentially.

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Years ago a young man fell into a deep depression. Even though he was a layer and had many good qualities working in his life, his despair was serious enough that his friends felt they should keep all knives and razors away from him. This man was questioning his life. In the depths of his dejection, he wrote, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.”

This man clearly needed help from others. Whoever brought this man out of his pit of despair is a mystery. Whatever words of encouragement or expressions of edification that came to this man’s ear are unknown.  In one form or another, encouragement and edification were responsible for bringing this man out of his depression. As a result, this man, Abraham Lincoln, went on to become one of the greatest Presidents our country has ever known.

 

I cannot imagine a time or situation when a word of encouragement will do anything but help. No matter what state of mind or painful experience a person is going through, edification can provide healing like nothing else can. Perhaps this is why God calls on us to encourage each other every single day. As the familiar passage states, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

A daily dose of “Vitamin E” within the Lord’s church can increase our effectiveness exponentially. Preachers, teachers, deacons, and elders wouldn’t become so burnt out. Teens, young adults, and new Christians would be less likely to fall away. More people would be fostered and developed into tomorrows worship leaders, elders, deacons, and preachers. The spiritual potential in our children could explode. Who knows, a daily dose of encouragement could even grow someone into one of the greatest Christian leaders of this generation. Beyond all else, a bit of encouragement could even save someone’s soul.

At times there is a Vitamin E deficiency in the church. We need more of it, and we need it every day (Hebrews 3:13). Who have we encouraged today? –Brett Petrillo

Source:

Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Vol 1.

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THE WIDE AND NARROW ROADS

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This particular subject has been on my mind frequently as of late. This is partly due to a conversation I’ve been having with a friend, and partly due to the great lesson delivered this past Sunday night. Notice the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Certainly there is much that could be said about these 2 verses, but I want to emphasize the phrases “there are many who enter through it [gate of destruction],” and “there are few who find it [gate of life].”

According to many sources, 2.2 billion people (about 1/3 of the population) are “Christians.” All sects of Christianity believe that a person needs to “believe in Jesus” to be saved (at least in part), but many denominations claim that this is all that is needed for salvation. Several of these same denominations believe that a person cannot be lost once they have been saved, no matter what they do from then on.

Matthew 7:13-14 is a very clear indicator that these denominations are mistaken. Think about it. If all a person needs to do to be saved is to “believe in Jesus,” then potentially 2.2 billion people are saved and will go to heaven. This means 2.2 billion will enter heaven every 60-80 years (the span of a generation). Certainly these numbers have been this way for hundreds of years and will probably continue until the end of time. But does this fit Jesus words, “there are few who find it”? Not at all.

We simply cannot follow the popular mold of the denominations to find salvation. Let’s look to the Bible for the answer. Scripture says that one is saved by…

 

  1. Hearing the gospel of Christ (John 6:45; James 1:18, 21).
  2. Believing that Jesus is God’s Son (Romans 10:17; John 8:24).
  3. Repenting of past sins (Luke 13:3; 2 Peter 3:9).
  4. Confessing that Jesus is the Lord (Romans 10:9-10).
  5. Being baptized for the purpose of having sins forgiven at that very moment (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:3-4).
  6. Remaining faithful until death (Revelation 2:10) – because one can fall away from God and lose salvation (Galatians 5:4; 2 Peter 2:20-21; Hebrews 3:12; 8:4-8).

Something to keep in mind is that all verses of Scripture must fit together. We cannot take one verse that says we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8) and ignore the many others that say salvation comes through repentance (Luke 13:3), confession (Romans 10:9-10), and baptism (1 Peter 3:21; Romans 6:3-4). All have to fit together! In fact, many Scriptures list several at the same time (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12-13; 18:8). Every single item mentioned in the list above plays a part in obtaining and keeping salvation. Baptism is the final act, after the others have been done, to bring a person from a lost condition to a saved condition (Acts 2:37-41).

Does your congregation or religious faith teach and follow these things? If not, then the words of Jesus indicate that you are traveling down the wrong path with the “many” (Matthew 7:13). We must make sure we are on the right path (Matthew 7:14). Heaven is just too good to miss, and hell is too terrible to attend. They only way make sure we are on the right path is to follow all the turns on God’s road map, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3).

Brett Petrillo

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A birdie told me

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“Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and the winged creature will make the matter known” (Ecclesiastes 10:20).

I still don’t know how my Mom found out. As a young boy I had done something I shouldn’t have done. But I didn’t worry. Mom would never find out, I thought. Wrong. She confronted me about it the very next day!

I got the nerve to ask her how she found out. “A birdie told me” was her reply. I still, to this day, do not know how she found out. I doubt, though, that some winged creature revealed it to her.

Solomon mentions something like this in Ecclesiastes 10:20. What does he mean by “the winged creature will make the matter known”? Solomon is using an ancient saying that is still popular today. In using this expression he is revealing several important truths:

First, we must appreciate the speed of words. We often say “good news travels fast.” But in this modern age of technology, news (good and bad) travels at speeds never before imagined. On my computer I can talk with a friend in the Ukraine. My message is instantly received by him and he responds immediately. Knowing, therefore, how quickly news gets out, we should choose our words carefully.

Second, we must appreciate the power of words. We can say things – even in “confidence” (like our bedroom) – that can negatively affect us and others. Words do hurt, offend and kindle hard-feelings. Therefore it is vital that we guard what we say at all times – even in situations where we believe none will ever figure out what we say. Paul says that our speech should “always” be with grace (Col. 4:6). He tells the Ephesians “let no unwholesome word proceed out of your month” (Eph. 4:29). No qualifiers are allowed. There is no room for any words which are critical, derogatory or what might be classified as gossip.

Third, we must appreciate the appropriateness of words. Again, we’re reminded of Paul’s admonition to “consider how we ought to respond to every person” (Col. 4:6). In Solomon’s example a person wants to “curse” both a king and a rich man. What the king and the rich man did to provoke this curse is not stated. Let’s assume that they did something terrible, thus eliciting such a response from the man. But here is the point. Even though they may deserve the curse, it still shouldn’t be given – even by one in private. We should develop the quality of being “slow to speak” and “slow to anger” (Jas. 1:19). Is it ever appropriate to curse someone? To speak evil of someone? No! Solomon is warning about in inappropriateness of such words, even when spoken in private.

Fourth, we must appreciate the danger of words. A few verses earlier Solomon warned that “the lips of the fool consume him” (10:12). What will happen if the king and rich man find out what was said? It is assumed that it will not be good for the one who uttered the foolish curse. Jesus warned that if one cannot control his angry words he will get what he deserves (Matt. 5:21-26).

So what is the practical lesson to be learned? That we must learn to control our tongues! James spent considerable time making this very point in his epistle (Jas. 3). May we always exercise wisdom with our words, not only in what we say but where we say them.

–Denny Petrillo  

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Many studies have shown that worry, anxiety, and similar negative emotions are very bad for a person’s health.

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“In The Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient, Norman Cousins tells of being hospitalized with a rare, crippling disease. When he was diagnosed as incurable, Cousins checked out of the hospital. Aware of the harmful effects that negative emotions can have on the body, Cousins reasoned that the reverse was true. So he borrowed a movie projector and prescribed his own treatment, consisting of Marx Brothers films and old “Candid Camera” reruns. It didn’t take long for him to discover that 10 minutes of laughter provided two hours of pain free sleep. Amazingly, his debilitating disease was eventually reversed. After the account of his victory appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Cousins received more than 3,000 letters from appreciative physicians throughout the world” (Today in the Word, MBI, December 18, 1991).

It really is amazing what a change in attitude can do for us. Cousins went from “incurable” with negative emotions, to “completely cured” because of laughter and positive emotions. Many studies have shown that worry, anxiety, and similar negative emotions are very bad for a person’s health.

Similarly, God has told us things like, “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6), and “Do not worry…” (Matthew 6:31). When the Lord commanded these things it wasn’t just because He wants us to trust and rely on Him, He was sharing with us the secret to better health. Trusting and relying on God is actually good for us!

No one should be more happy, worry free, and at ease in life than a Christian who trusts in the Lord. As Paul stated so well, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). For Christians, the end of this life simply means eternity in heaven. What an encouraging and stress reducing statement!

God has told us things like, “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6), and “Do not worry…” (Matthew 6:31). The benefits of trusting and having a relationship with the Lord are limitless, but it’s nice to know that it is actually healthy for us to be close with Him. This only leaves us with one question: Have we been full of worry and anxiety, or have we been putting our trust in the Lord?

Brett Petrillo

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If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm

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Steve Moore writes about Julio Diaz, a New York city social worker who would take the subway to the Bronx each night to eat dinner at his favorite diner. One evening, a teenager brandished a knife and attempted to rob him.  Diaz handed over his wallet, but as the thief walked away he said to him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” This baffled the teen, and from there Diaz was able to talk him into eating dinner with him in the diner. The teen was struck by how so many knew him and greeted him. The bill came at the end of the dinner, and Diaz offered to buy if he could get his wallet back. Without thinking, the teen handed it back to him. Diaz gave him a $20 and asked only for the knife in return (Who Is My Neighbor?, 44-45).  We would hope that this prompted the teen to reform his life and make something nobler of himself, but if he does not it will not be Diaz’s fault.

What would you do if you were in a predicament like that?  Maybe you would fight back, and who knows how that would end.  Maybe you would compliantly give the wallet and watch in silence as the thief left.  Yet, notice how profoundly Julio Diaz impacted this young man by doing more than was expected.  His victim was willing to give even more than was asked of him.  The world cannot produce that kind of wisdom and street smarts.

Diaz took a page right out of the Divine playbook.  Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Mat. 5:38-42).  What incredible wisdom!  Such action melts hearts and gives people a glimpse of Divine thinking.

It’s not likely you’ll be robbed at gun or knife point today.  However, somebody will mistreat you, speak evil about you, or otherwise hurt you–soon!  What will you do in response?  Why not pull a Diaz? Why not follow the guidance of the greatest sermon ever preached?

–Neal Pollard

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