Are You Running On The Wrong Fuel?

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Have you seen the commercial where a young lady is at a gas station trying to put diesel fuel into her new car? People all around the service station notice and try to stop her. Events begin to happen in slow motion. As she lifts the nozzle and opens her fuel-cap, the townspeople are running and yelling and waving their arms to gain her attention. But no one can stop her!

The commercial returns to real time as the neighbors arrive at the pump, only to find that her sporty little car actually has a diesel engine under the hood. The people look relieved and the young lady looks confused – she knew she had selected the right fuel all along.

The commercial is hilarious because everyone knows what happens when you put diesel fuel into a gasoline engine – you wreck the engine! You cannot do it. It does not work.

Likewise, people are designed by God to run on certain “fuel,” but how many of us are trying to run on the wrong fuel? Notice the invitation extended by God’s prophet Isaiah.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,

Come to the waters;

And you who have no money,

Come, buy and eat.

Yes, come, buy wine and milk

Without money and without price.

2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,

And your wages for what does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,

And let your soul delight itself in abundance.

3 Incline your ear, and come to Me.

Hear, and your soul shall live;

And I will make an everlasting covenant with you —

The sure mercies of David,” Isaiah 55:1-3

Why do we spend all of our money, time, and energies on things that do not satisfy, that is, on the wrong fuel? Greed, materialism, gluttony, and mammon – all these give the appearance of satisfying our souls and bringing purpose to our lives. But they fail. We were made to run on different fuel – the Word of God (Matthew 4:3-4).

Until we stop trying to fill our hearts and lives with poor substitutes for a right relationship with God, we are wrecked engines trying to run on the wrong fuel. Isaiah’s invitation resonates with all who realize that their own attempts at joy, peace, and abundance have only ended in frustrations and yearnings.

It is time for something different, something more. It is time to feed our lives with the right fuel. It is time we trust and obey God’s Word.

by Andrew Roberts

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Drawn To Jesus

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Recently I’ve been learning about the religious phenomenon of “Muslim-Background Believers” (MBB). That is, people who live in predominately Muslim lands, or even grew up in Muslim households, are leaving the religion of their youth for the gospel message.  Their conversion stories are gripping, inspiring, and abundant.

Some MBB remain in their homelands and face terrible persecution at the hands of their families, their neighbors, and their governments where apostasy is a capital crime (I Am N, Voice of the Martyrs, 2016). Many must flee their nation to preserve their lives (Islam and Terrorism, Mark A. Gabriel, 2015). I’ve benefited greatly from a number of books written by MBB that share an insider’s perspective on Islam, contrasting it with the Christian Faith (Unveiling Islam, Caner & Caner, 2009; Understand My Muslim People, Abraham Sarker, 2004). These books and many more encourage Christians to understand Muslim backgrounds, offer answers to Islam’s objections to Christianity, and explore ways to help other Muslims leave Islam (Answering Islam, Geisler & Saleeb, 2003; Beyond Opinion, Ravi Zacharias, 2010).

What is drawing Muslims out of Islam? Why are they willing to risk such great personal cost? I’m learning that it’s the same compelling evidence and message that draws all people to Jesus. Listen to some of the reasons:

 

“These converts evidently found something in Christianity that they felt was lacking in Islam. Many are attracted to the figure of Jesus, others find the Christian dogma of forgiveness of sins comforting, and still others are impressed by the charitable behavior of individual Christians around them. But if there is a common thread running through these conversion testimonies, it is that Christianity preaches the love of Christ and God, whereas Islam is forever threatening hellfire for disobeying, and obsessively holds up the wrath of God in front of the believer. In other words, the two religions have two totally different conceptions of God: In the former, God is near, loving, and protective, God the Father, in the latter, God is a remote, angry, tyrannical figure to be obeyed blindly.” – Ibn Warraq, Leaving Islam, p.92

“Muslims are drawn to the love of Christ, and this is a big responsibility as well as a blessing. When I read the New Testament, what amazed and astounded me the most was the teaching on love, not only toward one’s kin and kindred, but even toward one’s enemies. It was so different from my training in Islam that it actually made me angry that someone could suggest something so obviously impossible. But as I continued reading, the reality of it entered my heart and changed my life.” – Sam Soloman, Beyond Opinion, p.78

“After one year of reading the Bible in an honest way, I understand now what happened to me. I found my way to God, the real God, the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope now for all the people I love, my family, my friends, and everyone else to change also and begin to read the Bible in an honest way. I am sure that God will help them find their way.” – Desert Son, a Saudi Arabian Muslim convert to Christianity, Leaving Islam, p.95

“Christianity is life, Islam is death” – an Algerian Muslim convert to Christianity, El Youm (an Algerian Arabic daily, December, 2000)

 

People, any people, can be drawn to Jesus by the Word of God. The Father draws people to Jesus by the teaching of Scripture (John 6:44-45). So when people honestly read the Bible they discover the gospel of Jesus. Jesus’ gospel is the true message of light (John 8:12), life (John 11:25), and love (John 15:10-15)! It is the Word of Truth (1 Peter 1:22-25) and the Power to Salvation (Romans 1:16). Nothing compares to the New Testament because the gospel is true and world religions are false. Faith is founded on the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

People have all sorts of backgrounds – religious and irreligious. People have all sorts of baggage – sin and guilt. And all people have the same appointment to keep – death and judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Will you have the Savior on that day?

Are you drawn to Jesus?

Will you help others learn about Him from the Bible?

 

By Andrew Roberts

An Extra Day

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Leap Day! Leap Year! An extra day! What would you do with an extra day?

Joshua’s prayer for an extra day is an amazing Bible account.

The prayer was a dynamic mixture of God’s determined will and mankind’s bold request. The result was a miracle.

“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies…So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel,” Joshua 10:12-14.

The Lord fought for Israel and protected her against her enemies, the Amorites. The Lord was with Joshua and the troops, He even rained hail down on the enemies (Joshua 10:11). The hail killed more Amorites than the sword!

That day was special. There has been no day like it. But what was more special than the sun stilled was the prayer prayed! There has never been another day where the Lord heeded the voice of a man like that.

Joshua wanted more time, an extra day, to fulfill the Lord’s determined will. The Lord fought for Israel and Joshua fought for the Lord. It’s exciting to see that when the Lord reveals His will, and His people are eager to obey, the only thing yet required is the time to do it. And God supplies the time!

For New Testament Christians, the apostles teach us to consider each day as time God has given to serve Him. Time is a valuable and limited resource. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” Ephesians 5:15-17.

It’s safe to say that Joshua understood what the will of the Lord was in his day (Joshua 10:8).

So, it’s not beyond Christians to understand what the will of the Lord is either. The Scriptures teach us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What remains for us to attain is an attitude of faith like Joshua. An attitude that says, “I will spend today serving God. I will not procrastinate but I will ask God to give me all the time necessary to accomplish His will. And if I get another day – even an extra day – I will use it in the same way: for the glory of God.”

Make the most of your leap day, make the most of every day!

By Andrew Roberts

A Good Day To Pray For The President

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An election year often produces more buzz over the next President than concern over the current President. Yet, the office of President produces the potential to make landmark, life altering, decisions every day. They don’t get weekends off and the buck stops with them. For instance, with the passing of Justice Scalia, President Obama’s appointment to the Supreme Court will impact the nation for years to come.

This is a good day to pray for the President. But it is always a good day to pray for the President.

Whoever the President, whatever his party, however long he holds the office; it is the duty of saints to pray for him. Indeed, 2 Timothy 2:1-4 encourages saints to pray broadly for leaders and kings among men. Let’s remember that our brotherhood, Christ’s kingdom, crosses all national boundaries because the Lord Jesus rules in the hearts of men. In other words, there are Christians praying for their rulers in Democracies, Dictatorships, Monarchies, Communist States, and even Islamic States – all at the same time.

Whatever could all Christians ask that all national leaders could influence? Again, 2 Timothy 2:1-4 offers the answer:

  • Peace – “that we may all lead a quiet and peaceable life…”
  • Godliness – “…in all godliness…”
  • Dignity – “…and reverence…”
  • Salvation – “who desires all men to be saved…”
  • Proclamation of the gospel – “…and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

George Washington set a positive precedent by encouraging people to pray.

“It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors.” – George Washington, 1st President of the United States of America

Abraham Lincoln confessed that his work was too taxing not to pray for himself.

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” – Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America

National calls for prayer still come from our leaders, but often in the aftermath of some sort of tragedy. That’s not a criticism but an observation. Where else can we turn in dark hours? Yet, I can’t help but wonder, if our leaders entreated our prayers daily and we responded with daily prayer for them (and our neighbors) if some tragedies couldn’t be avoided altogether?

Today let’s not limit our prayers to thanksgivings for Washington and Lincoln. Let’s make supplications and intercessions for the President of the hour and the leaders of the world. The Bible teaches us what to say. And let’s remember to pray for them all again, tomorrow.

By Andrew Roberts

We Can Endure!

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Have you ever met someone whose perseverance through their own struggles motivated you to do better?

For me, it was Angela, a 33 year old Christian with Down’s syndrome whom I met while preaching in the Birmingham area. Though she only came up to my shoulder she had a personality that was bigger than life. Angela was nearly the first person who shook my hand the morning I arrived at the church building. She marched right up and greeted me with a bright smile, saying, “You must be Andrew Roberts. I am looking forward to your sermons.” Then she quickly returned to her pew. She greeted me every night of that week-long preaching meeting.

There were interactive outlines for my sermons during the week but Angela would not take one. She told the ushers, “No. I don’t want it. I take my own notes.” Then on Friday night, after the last service, she handed me a stack of papers. She said, “Here are your sermons. And I want you to have them.” As I looked down, I realized that she had handwritten nearly everything I’d said in each sermon!

I was overwhelmed at her perseverance because I understood that every aspect of the note-taking process was more difficult for her. She truly endured. From her fine motor skills, to her cognitive ability, to her visual acuity – everything was just a little harder. And I treasure those papers as a testament to her faith and a poignant example of endurance.

The Hebrew writer admonishes: we all need endurance. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). Endurance is necessary to “do the will of God” (Hebrews 10:36), “live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38), and “run the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). We need endurance because doing, living, and running won’t happen accidentally. Furthermore, we need endurance because we don’t know how long we must continue doing, living, and running. Will we serve God faithfully for the next 60 years? Will Jesus return tomorrow?

What exhausts our endurance? The book of Hebrews shows Christians who began running their race amidst great struggles. Hebrews 10:32-34 recounts how, as new converts, they were mocked, imprisoned, lost property, and shared their goods with persecuted saints. Yet, according to Hebrews 10:23-25, those same Christians currently wavered about their confession and rarely assembled with the saints. They used to go to jail for Jesus and now they won’t even go to church!

Without endurance, Christians “draw back to perdition” (Hebrews 10:38-39). Being burdened and ensnared in sin, they cease to run their race (Hebrews 12:1).

So, what encourages endurance?

The Hebrew writer directed Christians to follow good examples of faith and endurance. First, they were reminded that faith fuels endurance through many Old Testament examples (Hebrews 11). Then they were directed to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3)! Jesus is the primary example of perseverance for the prize. Finally, they needed to consider their leaders and spiritual forebears (Hebrews 6:12; 13:7). These all received God’s promises.

The Bible recounts God’s faithfulness in the past and promises for the future. It makes the case for endurance today. Furthermore, we benefit from the good examples of leaders in the church or beloved elderly saints who’ve shaped us and endured in the faith.

Endurance is rewarded in receiving God’s “promise” (Hebrews 10:36) – “the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39). We can endure! What helps is time spent reading Scripture, an intent focus on Jesus, and meeting saints like Angela who, themselves, persevere.

By Andrew Roberts

The Answer For Hatred

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On this MLK Day it is good to pause and reflect upon the incredible life’s work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He modeled peaceful protest and cast a vision for genuine racial equality in a nation that had been framed with the words, “all men are created equal.” Dr. King died for this cause nearly 48 years ago. Sadly, recent events demonstrate that racial strife still simmers in the hearts of some Americans with occasional eruptions of violence and lawlessness in various places around the country.

What can change the hearts of men and transform aliens and enemies into brothers and sisters? The gospel of Jesus Christ can do it. That’s what every person needs. Racism and hatred is sinful. Murder, theft, and revenge are sinful. Injustice and crime demand requital. But as men seek to “even the score,” only greater inequities are achieved. Human beings are not a perfectly Just, Omniscient, and Holy “scorekeeper” to make everything right. Only God can do that. God promises perfect Justice and Righteous Judgment in the end (Acts 17: 30-31; Romans 12:19-21; Revelation 20:11-15). Yet, for today, His Word reveals grace and forgiveness that truly makes peace and allows for healing through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The answer for hatred is a changed heart and that’s something the gospel achieves. But it means we look at ourselves and our problems from a different perspective – from God’s perspective found in the Bible.

First, God created all mankind. Human life is sacred and human beings share a fundamental dignity because we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28; 9:5-7). We all have common ancestors in Noah, as well as Adam and Eve. The apostle Paul preached concerning the true God, “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth…so that they should seek the Lord…” (Acts 17:26-27). No matter the nation, tribe, or language someone speaks, we are the brotherhood of humanity. And regardless if another person is aware of this Bible truth, because I am aware of it, I have the responsibility of treating that person accordingly.

Second, all have sinned. Clearly people do not treat each other like we are all one big human family. Hate, theft, murder, war, deception, evil speech, and evil surmising too often characterize our human interactions. All such evil proceeds from a defiled heart (Matthew 15:18-19). It is sinful and evidences the reality of sin – the Bible diagnosis for the wickedness we do against God and our fellow man. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Our ancestor Adam sinned by transgressing God’s rule and each of us since has transgressed the teachings of God. Cain murdered his brother Abel and such sins of hatred and violence have separated brothers from each other and from God throughout the ages.

Third, the gospel is for all. But God devised a plan wherein peace could be achieved between Him and His creation as well as brotherhood fashioned between sinners. According to Ephesians 2:11-18, God created one body, His church, the body of redeemed sinners in Jesus Christ. Brotherhood is restored there. Sins are forgiven in Jesus, by the sacrifice He made to pay for them. Sinners are reconciled to God and restored in forgiveness and salvation toward one another. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ teaches Christians (members of that body) how to treat others – with the grace and forgiveness that we have found in Him (Matthew 6:14-15). The gospel changes our mind and heart (Romans 1:16; 12:1-2). We see ourselves and the world around us differently. And we are taught to treat others differently, to seek their welfare and the salvation of their soul above all else (Philippians 2:1-11).

The evil of hatred is ancient. The answer to hatred is timeless: the gospel. But one virtue of MLK Day is to remind us how timely the gospel is to answer hatred, as well as all our sins and iniquities.

By Andrew Roberts

Islam, Abortion, and Other Hot Topics

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The calendar year has changed but challenges to the gospel remain. By God’s grace we have entered 2016 but it is surely so He may work in us according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). A new year means fresh opportunities to be “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13), “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14), and examples to others (1 Timothy 4:12). Such biblical mandates compel us to bring biblical truth to bear on the pressing issues of our time.

So many of the WithGodsWord followers live in Middle Tennessee that we tend to think of all of our readers as neighbors. Jackson Heights Church of Christ (Columbia, TN) makes this blog possible and we sure appreciate all who read and comment on the posts. Our desire is to continue to send you a weekly, insightful, encouraging Bible message – free.

But today is a little different. We want you to know about something special going on at Jackson Heights Church and invite you to be part of it. At the beginning of each month we are going to have a sermon addressing the Hot Topics of our times. Here are the first three:

  1. January 10, 10:15 AM – “Answering Islam’s Challenges”
  2. February 7, 10:15 AM – Racism
  3. March 6, 10:15 AM – Abortion

Would you consider attending one Sunday morning to worship God and explore what the Bible says regarding the pressing issues of our time? We would love to meet more of our readers and these are great opportunities.

People have genuine questions, anxieties, experiences, and opinions about all of the subjects we wish to address throughout the series. Our goal will be to share Book, Chapter, and Verse from the Bible so you can see God’s Word on these matters for yourself. Whether these kinds of topics stir up anger, shame, sorrow, or fear, we can know that there is grace in the gospel and the power of God to redeem us, transform us, and fill us with hope and peace about tomorrow. With God’s Word we can know what is right and how to live it righteously (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16).

We hope to see you this Sunday.

By Andrew Roberts