Me? A Wrestler?

A guest post by Vicki and Bill Tyner

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

The idea of such combat is objectionable to most of us, but wait a minute. What does the Scripture say? Read the above Scripture again. There is bound to be a lesson in there for us.

First, the danger against which a Christian wrestles is not of “this world.” The Christian knows that this world “lies in wickedness” (I John 5:18). Such information should arm us against its encroachments on our lives in Christ.

Yet our conflict arises from forces in league with the world. It may be even within ourselves or our closest associates and like the demons of Gadara, they are many.

Then we must remember they are “mighty.” A little casual Bible reading will illustrate how they have brought down the mighty, strong men have been overthrown. Adam and Eve in the absence of other evil forces were overthrown.

Our enemy is invisible. If he was flesh and blood we could escape him, but like pestilence he is the unseen enemy whose strength comes from his craftiness, pictured in the Bible as the “wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11), or the “beguiling” of the serpent.

We are warned of Satan’s “devices” for as the Bible says, he was a murderer from the beginning.

Like Pharaoh pursuing the children of Israel, he will follow us and that is why we need the protection afforded by the armor of God, in Paul’s further illustration in Ephesians 6. The figures of speech may seem a little confusing, but the message is clear:

We are to be wrestlers!

Faith

A guest post written by Anita Bontjes

For we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7, NKJV).

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, and was not found, because God had taken him, for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was gong. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:5-10).

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).

Christian, Live Like This! — Happy Are the Persecuted

Guest Post Author: David Swanger, Outreach and Involvement Minister (Hendersonville church of Christ ~ Hendersonville, Tennessee)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

Jesus ends the beatitudes by saying, “Blessed are those persecuted, reviled, and spoken against.” Would anyone care to get in “the blessed line” after hearing that?

Most of us prefer popularity, praise, and prosperity over persecution. Certainly applause is more appealing than abuse, and we’d much rather have one’s support than be slandered.

From a Christian perspective, persecution isn’t that hard to evade. One needs only to live as the world lives and by default approve of its standards, or lack thereof; simply engage with the world by using its language, adopting its practices, and enjoying its entertainment.

Furthermore, never confront any sin or engage a sinner in a discussion of his eternal destiny. Never, ever suggest that Christ is the only way and any other religious “system” is a lie. If questioned, lie about your convictions (which you don’t have) and never publicly take a stand for God or Biblical truths.

Could it be that we suffer so little persecution because we have don just that?

Truth be told, our lives are just not that different form the world. Surveys repeatedly reveal that professing Christians do not live that differently from the world in that their stated faith has had little impact on how they live their daily lives.

While they profess faith and attend services, most tend to watch the same movies and TV programs, listen to the same music, dress and talk the same, and pursue the same goals.

The divorce rate among Christians is almost as high as that of the world, as are the rates of school cheating, teens lying to parents, alcohol use, and premarital sex.

We want to point to the world and blame it for the change in our own behavior. In our hearts we know that isn’t the problem.

The fact is we have lowered our personal standards for righteous living. While our standards have changed, God’s standards for righteous living have not. Personal holiness is still part of the required curriculum for following Christ.

Followers of Christ have been called t olive righteous lives. In the context of this study, we have been called to live a beatitude kind of life.

Here is the hard reality of such a life: Anyone who lives out the first seven beatitudes is guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth.

The word for “persecuted” (dioko) means to harass or to treat in an evil way. The word for “revile” (oneidizo) means to abuse with vile, vicious, mocking words. It is the word used by the thieves in Matthew 27:44 who “heaped insults” on Jesus. The phrase “falsely say all kinds of evil against you” means to slander by stating things that are not true.

Jesus was clear in that one who chose to follow Him and live by His standards would encounter opposition and persecution.

He spoke of carrying a cross and counting the cost (Luke 14:27-28). He made it clear to His disciples that just as He had been persecuted, they would experience a similar fate (John 15:20).

Paul echoed that same truth often with such words as, “All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12).

The early Christians were persecuted horribly. Christians were flung to the lions, wrapped in pitch and burned, sewed in animal skins and torn to death by hunting dogs, tortured on racks, burned to death by molten iron being poured over them, body parts cut off and roasted before them, and many other such horrific acts of torture.

They were accused of eating each other, committing immorality, participating in orgies, setting fires to cities, being revolutionaries, inciting political unrest, and breaking up families.

When Paul wrote, “For to you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29), those were far more than words on paper to those maligned and persecuted Christians living in Philippi.

Those called to bring peace had discovered the price for such, and that price was often persecution and death.

It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote, “When a man encounters Jesus, he will do one of two things. Either he must die, or he must put Christ to death.” The question each must face is which of those two we have done.

A beatitude kind of life s a death wish.

Bankrupt in spirit, broken with grief, submissive to God’s leading, living with an insatiable desire for righteousness, sharing the mercy received, seeking purity in everything they do, and sharing the message of peace, one finds himself totally committed to living a Christ-centered, God-honoring, kingdom-focused, self-denying life.

One also finds himself at odds with a sinful, selfish, self-indulgent world. Every virtue stated in the beatitudes is at odds with the world of which we are a part. A broken spirit stands in stark contrast to the proud, self-promoting world in which we live.

Mourning sin certainly creates issues in our “I’m okay, you’re okay” culture. Submission to and a hunger for God is a foreign concept in our selfish, self-centered world.

One who lives a life of mercy and purity while promoting peace through a relationship with Christ will find himself swimming in unfamiliar, uncomfortable, hostile waters.

I want to tell you that persecution is something you read about in the Bible and something that no longer happens. The reality is there were over a quarter million individuals killed last year because of their faith in Christ throughout the world.

While the vast majority is in other countries, one has to have his head in the sand to fail to see the constant progression of opposition to Christianity in our own country. In 2012 there were 115 incidents of church-related violence reported, 63 of which resulted in death.

When we think about violent opposition to people of faith, we are reminded of Columbine a few years back when Cassie Bernall was asked, “Do you believe in God?” and when she answered “Yes,” she was shot. Rachel Scott, a young lady known for her faith, was also killed.

Where the opposition to and persecution of Christianity is headed is anyone’s guess, but at present things are not getting better but worse.

How is one to respond to persecution?

Biblically, one needs to understand that persecution can serve a good purpose, a sit forces us to look heavenward, take stock of what we believe and are committed to, strengthens our faith, and encourages others who may endure a similar fate.

To handle persecution in a God-honoring way, I would suggest that you:

(1) Recognize the source. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we will always be in a battle with the “forces of evil.”

(2) Refuse to retaliate. Romasn 12:17-19 tells us that vengeance is not a part of the Christian’s job description. Vengeance belongs to God.

(3) Respond positively. If you are always trying to get even, you will never get ahead. Romans 12:21 tells us to overcome evil with good.

(4) Reflect on God’s will. David in Psalm 37:7-9 reminds us to “rest in the Lord and wait patiently on Him.”

Jesus never preached a prosperity gospel. His final promise in the beatitudes was a promise of persecution for those who lived out those qualities listed before.

God’s greatest were persecuted. That will never change. How are you doing?

This article was written by David Swanger. David currently serves as the Outreach and Involvement Minister at the Hendersonville church of Christ in Hendersonville, Tennessee. If you would like more information about heaven, happiness, or how to be saved, please be sure to check out www.alivewithchrist.com.

Christian, Live Like This! — Happy Are the Peacemakers

Guest Post Author: David Swanger, Outreach and Involvement Minister (Hendersonville church of Christ ~ Hendersonville, Tennessee)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God (Matthew 5:9). 

One would be hard pressed to find a better description of the peace that God desires for His children than the words of the old song written in 1875 by Edward Henry Bickersteth:

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin; The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed; To do the will of Jesus—this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round: On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.

Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away; In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.

Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown: Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours; Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.

It is enough; earth’s struggles soon shall cease, and Jesus calls us to heaven’s perfect peace.

Only one bankrupt in spirit, broken with grief, submissive to God’s leading, living with an insatiable hunger for righteousness, filled with mercy, and committed to purity can know such peace, a peace that comes from God (James 3:17) and results from our faith in and our relationship with Christ (Romans 5:1; John 16:33).

This peace has been compared to the deepest recesses of the ocean where, regardless of the storms raging on the surface, remains serene and tranquil.

Christians know a peace the world cannot give or take away, a peace that does not depend on the circumstances that surround them or the situation they find themselves in. Christians know that in the best circumstances without God there is no peace, and in the worst circumstances with God one never lacks it.

Peace within is essential, for there will never be peace without.

In the past 4,000 years there have been less than 300 years of world peace. World War II was billed as the war to end all wars. It didn’t.

In 1945 the United Nations set as its motto, “To have succeeding generations free from the scourge of war,” and thus far that has not been true one single day.

Every peace treaty ever brokered has been broken, and peace has proved to be only that brief moment in time when everyone stops to reload.

The problem lies in the fact that we have delegated the job of peacemaking to politicians, statesmen, and diplomats and have failed to realize the only real peace the world will ever know will result when God rules in the hearts of people, a rule that only God’s children are called upon and privileged to promote in our world. Their ultimate calling is to be peacemakers.

In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The followers of Jesus have been called to peace. When He called them they found their peace, for He is their peace. But now they are told that they must not only have peace but make it.”

Peacemakers are those who want others to have the peace they enjoy and actively commit themselves to sharing Christ. While the world thinks peace is the absence of conflict, Christians know peace is the presence of righteousness in the hearts of men and women, a righteousness that can only be experienced through a relationship with Christ (John 14:27).

Don Richardson tells of working with the Sawi tribe in Irian Jaya and the frustration he experienced in trying to help them understand the meaning of Christ and His death on the cross.

At the time, the Sawi’s were in a bitter feud with another tribe, and Don often wondered if there would ever be peace. He learned of a custom among the tribes that if a child was given as a permanent gift to the enemy, peace would prevail as long as that child lived. As the story goes, a father took his only child, ran from the village, and presented him to the enemy. That baby became known as the Peace Child, for as long as he lived, there was peace.

Don had his analogy.

He presented Jesus as the perfect peace child, and as long as He lives, peace can reign in the hearts of His followers.

That is the story of a peacemaker. That is the Christian’s story. Experiencing the peace of God in our own hearts (Colossians 3:5), we “make every effort to live in peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14) and share the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15) with those who do not know it.

Practicing peace isn’t always easy as indicated by the following story.

Each night as the lights went out in the barracks, a young soldier would slip out of bed and on his knees spend time in prayer. His sergeant, who had little use for anything “Christian,” saw this one night, picked up his muddy boots, and slung them in the soldier’s direction.

The young man barely flinched as one of the boots hit him in the side of the head and the sergeant, muttering an obscenity, rolled over to sleep. The following morning the sergeant found his boots beside his bed, cleaned and polished to perfection.

Peacemakers in the words of Jesus “love their enemies, pray for their persecutors, turn the other cheek, and go the second mile.” Peacemakers make every effort to live in peace with others.

Ultimately, the enemy of peace is sin.

While mans’ sin in the garden destroyed the relationship man first enjoyed with God, at the cross Jesus made peace a reality again. There He offered all who would seek Him and live under His Lordship the opportunity to experience a life of peace.

Paul, speaking for all Christians, wrote, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Long ago God through the prophet Isaiah spoke of the “perfect peace” that belong to that one who trusted in Him (Isaiah 26:3).

Sinful man cannot create peace within or without. God is the only answer and Christians are the ones to bear that message of peace, the only message that offers a righteous solution to a sin-inflicted world.

What a special calling it is to both experience and restore something that has been lost since the fall.

The promise to the peacemaker: They shall be called the sons of God.

What an honor to be my father’s son. What a greater honor to be a child of God. What a privilege to share with others what I have because of that relationship.

Do you have that relationship? Consider making the simple switch.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

This article was written by David Swanger. David currently serves as the Outreach and Involvement Minister at the Hendersonville church of Christ in Hendersonville, Tennessee. If you would like more information about heaven, happiness, or how to be saved, please be sure to check out www.alivewithchrist.com.

Christian, Live Like This! — Happy Are the Pure in Heart

Guest Post Author: David Swanger, Outreach and Involvement Minister (Hendersonville church of Christ ~ Hendersonville, Tennessee)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).

The ermine is a short-tailed weasel that has the unique feature of having its fur change to a snow-white color in the winter. God created this animal with this feature to protect it from predators.

The ermine instinctively protects his white coat against anything that will soil it.

Fur hunters in northern Europe and Asia take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him; instead, they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow in an old tree.

They smear the entrance and interior with grime. then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward home but will not enter because of the filth.

Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity.

For the ermine, purity is more precious than life.

Looking at what we have thus far studied in the previous verses, one who is bankrupt in spirit, broken with grief, submissive to God’s leading, living with an insatiable desire for righteousness, sharing with others the mercy he has received, Christ now turns his attention to the most precious passion he can pursue and that is purity of heart.

Without a passion for purity, one will never see God, be a part of His kingdom, enter His presence, or enjoy His forgiveness. It is hard to imagine that there is anything more important than purity.

That being said, I can’t imagine any Bible subject harder to get a full grasp on than purity. It encompasses everything revealed in Scripture and draws upon every biblical theme.

Hundreds of verses point to the need for, the pursuit of, the blessings of having, and the consequences of a failure to obtain, purity.

While in our day much time and effort is focused on the purity of such things as food, water, and air, we would be wise to focus more intently on the purity of heart that Jesus speaks of here.

When Solomon tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do” (Proverbs 4:23), we would be wise to listen.

For God, man’s heart has always been the issue. While throughout the world the idea of the heart has always represented the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, biblically it represents more than that.

Biblically, the heart includes the thinking process, specifically the will. Solomon pointed out that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7), and Jesus asked on one occasion, “Why are you thinking evil in your heart?” (Matthew 2:8).

The emphasis is always on the heart because everything flows from the heart. It is the spiritual center of one’s being, the battlefield on which God and Satan wage war for our affections and allegiances.

The outcome in this battle for the heart is critical, for God knows if He has your heart, He has all of you. If He doesn’t have your heart, He has none of you.

The word “pure” is the Greek word from which we get “catharsis,” which means the cleansing of the mind or emotions. Scholars suggest that this word has basically two meanings:

(1) The first has to do with pure motives. Like the chaff that is winnowed from the grain or the impurities that are removed from metals through the refining process, this word speaks of a heart whose motives are pure, whose loyalty is undivided, and one which is guided by God’s word in a specific direction.

(2) Secondly, it refers to the holy life that is the end result of those Godly motives. This purity of life is not restricted to moral or sexual purity, but rather it denotes one who loves God with all of his heart and whose single-minded loyalty to God has affected every single area of his life.

Put together, these definitions of purity speak of a singular focus and undiluted fervor for God, an uncompromising passion that wills the love of god into one’s life and is clearly reflected in everything that one thinks, does, and says.

The promise to the pure in heart is beyond comprehension. The pure in heart get to see God.

In every area of life there are those who can see what others cannot. A trained engineer, botanist, or doctor can see what others cannot see. Jesus says that only the pure in heart can see God.

It was C.S. Lewis who wrote, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” It is an awesome thought that when God sees our hearts as pure, it is then that we are allowed to see Him.

As I thought about the heart that God desires of me, I thought of Stevie Jones. Stevie was a childhood friend who loved me unconditionally. When he saw me, he would scream out my name, run to me, give me a big hug, pat me on the back, kiss my cheek, and continue touching me.

When given the opportunity, he would slap me and kick me on the shin, for that is what his hero Tojo Yamamoto (professional wrestler) did.

Stevie had Down Syndrome, and it wasn’t just me who was special. To Stevie, everyone was special. His heart and motives were so pure, perfect, and predictable.

I learned a lot about motives from Stevie, though admittedly not nearly enough. I learned that spiritually I am the one with special needs, for when it comes to motives (whether toward God or others), they are often less than pure. Stevie’s pure love, innocence, and passion were something I needed then and continue to need today.

One side of purity I get. I understand that as the result of the blood Christ shed on Calvary, my sins are covered and I am declared righteous (pure) before Him (II Corinthians 5:21). The hard part of purity is the practical side.

Paul’s plea for pure living is best stated in the following words, “Dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness and the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1).

Peter said it this way, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (I Peter 1:13-16).

Practically, pure living is daily practicing the presence of God in our lives, living every moment of the day with the goal of doing and saying what Jesus would in this situation.

How does one cultivate such a heart? It begins by admitting that such a heart cannot be obtained on one’s own (Proverbs 20:9), accepting what Jesus has done and is doing in your life (Acts 15:9; I John 1:7), and daily clothing yourself with “the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11-18).

Simply put, remember whose you are, why you do what you do, and daily align your priorities and activities to reflect such.

As I thought back on Stevie, I kept thinking, “Blessed are those who have been gifted by God to innocence, for they are privileged to have an audience with God.”

Or, as I think back on where we began, I keep thinking: “Blessed are the ermine.”

This article was written by David Swanger. David currently serves as the Outreach and Involvement Minister at the Hendersonville church of Christ in Hendersonville, Tennessee. If you would like more information about heaven, happiness, or how to be saved, please be sure to check out www.alivewithchrist.com.

Christian, Live Like This! — Happy Are the Desperate

Guest Post Author: David Swanger, Outreach and Involvement Minister (Hendersonville church of Christ ~ Hendersonville, Tennessee)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

His name was Nicolas Herman, and due to a lack of education, he spent his life serving in the kitchen and cobbler shops of a monastery in Paris.

Though passionate about spiritual matters, Nicolas was often dissatisfied with his own life and worried much about his relationship with God.

One day while looking at a tree, Nicolas came to the same conclusion as the psalmist long ago—the source of life for the tree was in the fact that it was rooted in something other and deeper than itself.

From that day forward, his life became an experiment in what he called a “habitual, silent, secret conversation of the soul with God.”

Upon his death, this long-time servant’s friends put together a book containing his letters and written conversations with God. It is called Practicing the Presence of God, and apart from the Bible, many believe it has been the most widely read book of the past four centuries.

Dissatisfied with one’s relationship with God may be the best terminology to use for one who seeks God, but when I consider the words of Jesus in this verse, I choose to call it Divine Desperation.

It is an all-consuming passion to know God, to be like God, and to live forever with God.

In Biblical terminology: “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).

“I want to see His glory” (Exodus 33:18).

“As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for You” (Psalm 42:1).

“O God, You are my God, early in the morning I will seek You, my soul thirst s for you, my flesh longs for You as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

In Jesus’ words, it is “hungering and thirsting after righteousness.” Such terminology is hard to wrap our heads around when either of those problems from a physical perspective are easily solved today by opening a refrigerator or tuning on a tap.

Such was not the case in Jesus’ day. They knew hunger and thirst in a way most of us never will.

When it comes to righteousness, we as a nation are passionate about a lot of things, but righteousness isn’t high on that list.

The words of Mother Teresa ring in my ears as she wrote, “People in India are physically hungry. People in America are spiritually hungry. That makes people in India better off, because American don’t know they are starving.”

Are we starving? Do we know it? While our Declaration of Independence asserts that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness, that is neither a guarantee nor a reality for most people. I would argue based on the words of Jesus that we are simply looking in the wrong places.

It isn’t that we aren’t passionate in our pursuit of happiness, but like most before us we are confused. Lucifer was passionate for power (Isaiah 14:13), Nebuchadnezzar for praise (Daniel 4:30), the rich fool for possessions (Luke 12:17), and Demas for “the present world.”

It isn’t that ambition, passion, and drive are bad things if that which is pursued is used for right reasons. Therein is the problem, because when it comes to Godly priorities and God-honored pursuits, the creation is not generally listening to the Creator.

Do you want to be happy? Desire, pursue, seek a right relationship with God. Jesus uses the strongest words that can be used for hungering and thirsting, as He wants all to know that the only place happiness is found is in such a relationship.

Upon understanding our brokenness, mourning our sinfulness, submitting to the authority of Christ, one now lives hungering and thirsting for that which they need and only God can give.

Too many spend their lives chasing what God wants to give.

Position, possessions, pleasure, and power will not produce happiness. Happiness is brokenness, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

Long before Jesus’ promise, God saw the folly of His children’s selfish pursuits when He said, “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Jesus’ promise a bit later in this sermon is, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and ALL THESE THINGS will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). John’s warning was, “Don’t love the world or the things of the world” (I John 2:15).

Happiness is a byproduct of righteousness. We want happiness but do not want to deal with the disease that prevents it. The problem with our world (and many of us) is not sickness but sin, and only righteousness can remove the source of the problem.

One who hungers and thirsts for righteousness desires to be free from sin, its power, presence, and penalty. They want the salvation and righteous standing that can only be had in a relationship with Christ, a desire that only intensifies as those saved by the blood of Christ now turn their attention to be like Him.

Pay close attention to what Jesus says. He does not say, “Blessed are those that possess righteousness” but rather, “Blessed are those that pursue righteousness.”

It is a passionate pursuit that knows no end. One translator put the meaning of this verse in perspective by writing, “I continually hunger and thirst for all the righteousness there is, and only then am I satisfied.”

It is an all or nothing pursuit of God, a relationship with Him, a desire to be like Him.

It is a passionate, consuming ambition for righteousness.

Can one know that the pursuit of righteousness is priority number one in their life? For me, the following four questions are helpful in evaluating my heart:

  1. Are you satisfied with yourself spiritually? – The one who wrote of being content with what you have was never content with what he was (Romans 7). “Am I there yet?” is a good question to constantly ask.
  2. What makes you happy? – I love the question, “If who you are is what you have and what you have is lost, who are you?” Righteousness has nothing to do with “things.”
  3. Do you love to spend time in God’s Word? You do not have to beg a hungry man to eat. Psalm 1 speaks of the spiritual blessing one receives when time is spent in God’s law. Are you blessed?
  4. Is your hunger and thirst unconditional? In other words, does personal righteousness take priority over everything else?

Did you know that your picture is on God’s refrigerator? It really is! He loves you, loves looking at you, and longs for a relationship with you.

The question is: What do you want?

So many in Scripture wanted to know Christ, but the issue now is what you want. Where do you fall on this scale of divine discontent? Do you need to make the simple switch?

Happy are the desperate.

This article was written by David Swanger. David currently serves as the Outreach and Involvement Minister at the Hendersonville church of Christ in Hendersonville, Tennessee. If you would like more information about heaven, happiness, or how to be saved, please be sure to check out www.alivewithchrist.com.

A True Story of Influence

Photo attribution: Torsten Hauptvogel

Photo attribution: Torsten Hauptvogel

Gymnastics is a sport with a complex scoring system based on risk, danger, possibility of injury, originality, and virtuosity. Other sports carry some risk, but no other rewards it with points.

The events I’m about to share with you are true. They happened at a dual meet one fall evening, during my junior year of competition, McQuiddy Gymnasium, Lipscomb University.

Men’s gymnastics competes in 6 events, one of which is the ‘high bar’ or ‘horizontal bar.’ Movements on this apparatus consist of giant circular motions held by the hands in a variety of positions, intricate hand changes, releases above and below the bar, and a dismount. Remember “risk!”

Back to the meet: next up for Lipscomb, Marty Wilson. Marty’s opening move consisted of a half swing backward with a flip in pike position at bar level requiring a hand release and regrasp. He missed, falling from about 8 feet onto the back of his neck.

He lay motionless and made a sound half horror, half cry for help. I will never forget it. Time stood still. Everyone’s eyes, competitor and audience alike, were on Marty. Everything else that night is a bit of a blur.

The paramedics arrived quickly and Marty was taken with great care to Vanderbilt Hospital. He was in good hands, but there was a meet, a competition, to complete.

Uncertainty had become an unwelcome guest.

The next competitor on the bar took his place and began his routine. In the middle of a simple swing he lost his grip and went flying across the floor. Shaken, but uninjured, he completed his routine.

The next man up also lost his grip and hit hard.

A cloud of doubt and uncertainty hung over that event that night, unlike anything else I have ever experienced.

Prior to Marty’s fall no one had even faltered. Never before nor since have I seen the impact of one man’s mistake burden so many. Risk loomed large.

Mental? You bet!

You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. What a scene of struggle as each young man stepped to the bar confronting his own fear and resisting the powerful mental image of “a fall!”

All of this serves to remind us of the importance of what we see in others, and more importantly, what others see in us. We call it influence. Influence can be for good or for bad. It’s up to us.

I can’t think of the importance of influence without thinking of Marty Wilson. By the way, we all went to see Marty after the meet. He was walking out as we arrived. A slightly bruised spinal cord. A very lucky young man.

A mighty lesson on influence.

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)

(J. Larry Snow)