Words From Keith and Debbie Crews

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.  And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17).
God prepared a great fish.  There are no fish like this today!  Jonah was running from God.  Three days and three nights in the fish brought Jonah to his senses.  He was ready to do what God asked.  What does it take to bring us to our senses?  Must we end up like Jonah in the pits of despair with no hope?  Serving God gives us hope and happiness.  We may suffer for a while but we look to the reward as Moses did (Heb 11:24-26).  A life without God is a life without hope.  
By the way, Jesus confirmed the true account of Jonah and the great fish in Matthew 12:40.
Keith

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

By Derek Long

Kindness is a virtue we all can appreciate. Everyone wants others to treat them with kindness. If we are going to heed Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 7:12 to do unto others as we want them to do unto us, we should develop the quality of kindness in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 lists kindness  as a part of the fruit of the Spirit. It says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” People who are walking in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit and living in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 18,25) will possess kindness. Kindness is a part of the fruit of the Spirit because it is part of the character of God. The people in Nehemiah’s day remember God’s dealings with the nation and say, “They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage. But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them” (Nehemiah 9:17). Joel reminds the people of God’s kindness as an incentive to repent. He tells the people, “So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:13). The Psalmist on occasion will contemplate the kindness of God. Psalm 31:21 says, “Blessed be the Lord, for He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!” Psalm 117:2 says, “For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” The New Testament speaks of how God displays kindness to the unthankful and evil by giving temporal blessings (Luke 6:35).The New Testament also reminds us of God’s kindness toward us in sending Jesus to die for our sins. Titus 3:4-7 says, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” See also Ephesians 2:4-7 for a similar description of God’s kindness. God displays His kindness by being willing to do good and forgive others, even those who have wronged Him. God’s kindness allows Him to be slow to anger. God’s example helps us see what is involved in showing kindness to others in our own lives. If we are going to, “be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1), we must learn to show kindness in our lives (Colossians 3:12). Kindness needs to be displayed when we are teaching others the truth. Paul spoke of the way he acted as an apostle so “that our ministry may not be blamed” (2 Corinthians 6:3).While we are not apostles entrusted with the same sort of ministry, we should seek to imitate his example lest we bring reproach to the cause of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 6:6 he commended himself as a minister of God by the kindness he displayed. As we teach others, do we use gentleness and kindness (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Galatians 6:1)? People need to know we have their best interest at heart when we teach them the gospel. People need to know we do not have any ulterior motives behind teaching them the gospel. Let us be people who are“speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Kindness needs to be displayed in our relationships with our brethren. 2 Peter 1:7 mentions qualities we are to be adding to our lives as Christians and among the list it mentions“brotherly kindness.” Kindness should be expected among brethren but we need to make sure we conduct ourselves in this manner. “If you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Galatians 5:15).Kindness needs to be displayed in our relationships with our enemies. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and by doing so we are imitating the example of God (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:34-36). It is typically easy to be kind to someone who is kind toward you but more difficult to be kind when someone is being mean toward you. Romans 12:20-21 reminds us of the power kindness toward our enemies can have. It says, “Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” When others mistreat us, do we respond with kindness and mercy? Are we willing to forgive as God in Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32)? Kindness needs to be displayed in the home. It is said of the virtuous wife, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26). The relationship between husbands and wives as well as the relationship between parents and children would be improved by having kindness. Love is kind (1Corinthians 13:4). If we love our spouse, children, and parents, we will show them kindness. Remember the proverb, “What is desired in a man is kindness, and a poor man is better than a liar” (Proverbs 19:22)! Are we kind people? If not,let’s make the necessary changes in our lives so we can be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Words From Keith and Debbie Crews

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess 4:17).
For those who sleep in Jesus, there is hope of a resurrection of the dead (1 Thess 4:13-14).  Some will be alive at the coming of the Lord (1 Thess 4:15).  The dead in Christ will rise first when the trumpet of God sounds (1 Thess 4:16).  The living and the dead in Christ will be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord (1 Thess 4:17).  There will be no heaven on earth (2 Pet 3:10).  Jesus has prepared a place for His followers (John 14:1-3).
Keith

To Live Is Christ To Die Is Gain

To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain
Phil. 1:19-26

In as brief a statement as was possible for the apostle Paul, we are given his philosophy of life and death. In a few short verses we discover what it was that made him so effective in life and fearless in the shadow of death. May God help us to adopt this same outlook in our lives.

First we observe Paul’s purpose statement – Now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death (v.20). In a moment we will look at Paul’s quandary, which will make no sense unless we first understand his understanding of the purpose of his being which is to magnify Christ. The word magnify (Grk – megaluntheésetai) means to show great. Paul’s desire in life and death is to make much of Christ. He wants to show others how excellent, wonderful and glorious the Lord really is. Christ is great, but because of our sin and self-absorption we fail to see Him for what He really is. Paul says, “my life is devoted to helping people come closer to seeing Him for what He is.” He also says he wants to have the courage and boldness to face death in such a way as to show others the greatness of Jesus.

There are so many great applications of this. So much for us to learn if we only will. Paul is saying, “I don’t want to waste my life.” He is saying, “I don’t want to waste my imprisonment.”  He even says, “I don’t want to waste my death.” For Paul, freedom means going about preaching Jesus as Lord. Prison means influencing the Praetorian guard and household of Caesar for Christ. Death meant showing his executioners that the glorious and loving Christ was standing just beyond the veil of death to catch him when he passed through it. So, Paul is telling us, no matter what our circumstance, don’t waste your life!

From his imprisonment, Paul awaits his trial. What will be the verdict? Will he be put to death, or set free? Which option does Paul prefer and which does he anticipate? Paul describes this quandary as being hard pressed v.23. But he views it not as being  hard pressed between two difficult decisions, but between two wonderful possibilities. To depart and be with Christ is far better. To continue in the world would be beneficial to his brethren. He summarizes his feelings about the situation with the well known words, For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain (v.21). To live is to preach and live and labor for Christ. To die is to gain the unsurpassed profit of being in the very presence of Christ. Paul want’s both so bad, that he is hard pressed to choose between them, let’s explore the meaning of each of these a little closer.

To Live Is Christ & To Die Is Gain (v. 21).  To live is Christ is expressed elsewhere this way, For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God (col 3:3), or like this, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20-21). To die is gain.  When we come to see Christ as the source of every earthly blessing, we are willing to say farewell to the blessings, that at last we may enter into full fellowship with the Blesser.  This is not a rejection of life or a hatred of creation. It is simply the surpassing desire to be in the embrace of Him from whom all life and creation flows. We should not hate life. Do not want to die so that you won’t have to live here anymore. To live is Christ! But, nurture your relationship with Christ so that your desire to live on in this world, though great, is eclipsed by your desire to go and be with Him.

I want to close by revisiting the quandary Paul faced. Is that the quandary before you? How would you fill in the blanks:

“For me, to live is                                     , and to die is

Blog Post By Gary Henry

How Do We Measure "Encouragement"?

If you needed encouragement and someone encouraged you, how would you be different? Having been encouraged, what would be the difference between the “before” and “after”?

Unfortunately, most people would say that being “encouraged” mainly means they “feel better” emotionally. In an age of subjective individualism, where human feelings are the ultimate value and highest authority, nothing is more significant than how we feel. So problems like discouragement are defined primarily in terms of feelings. To be discouraged means to feel “down,” while to be encouraged means to feel “up.” And in this cultural milieu, “encouraging preaching” usually amounts to some variation of “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Now, feelings of defeat and depression are certainly unpleasant, and we like to avoid them whenever we can. But these feelings, which often accompany discouragement, should not be confused with the problem itself. The real problem lies deeper and has to do with our will rather than our emotions. What we need is to be jolted into action.

Look at the word “encourage.” You can see the root word “courage.” The basic meaning, then, is “to impart courage to.” And as any soldier can tell you, courage is more than a feeling; it’s an action.

So test yourself. Did you find last Sunday’s sermon “encouraging”? Was it “encouraging” to have that heart-to-heart talk with a friend? Be careful how you answer. If you say yes, but all you mean is that you feel better, I would suggest that you have not been truly (or at least fully) encouraged. In the deepest sense, you will have been encouraged when you do what is right — and you keep on doing it.

There is no more encouraging book in the New Testament than Hebrews. Written to Christians whose faith was wavering, this powerful treatise says one thing: don’t give up. I read the entirety of Hebrews to a church one time as my last “sermon” to them. I wanted to encourage them, and I could think of no better way to do it than to read Hebrews. “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus , the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1,2).

So to those of us who teach, preach, and write, let’s be careful in our definition of “encouragement.” If the result of our work is that people simply feel better but they are still too afraid to jump that dangerous chasm in front of them, we have not really “imparted courage” to them. So let’s be truly — and deeply — encouraging. Let’s embolden people to take those scary steps that faith would take, even if their hearts are quaking. Courage, as has been said, is not the absence of fear; it is going ahead and doing the right thing even when our feelings are failing us.

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

The post The (Real) Difference Encouragement Makes appeared first on WordPoints.

Words From Keith and Debbie Crews

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved (2 Thess 2:9-10).
We must love the truth.  God has always put an emphasis on truth.  Be honest and tell the truth.  God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  Some people want to be deceived because it suits their interests (2 Tim 4:3-4).  Some people deceive themselves.  Do not be deceived.  Search the Scriptures for truth.  Do not believe every thing you hear.  Search the written word of God for truth (Acts 17:11).
Keith