• CONSIDER YOUR LATTER END

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    “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!”
    Deuteronomy 32:29

    Moses, the aged prophet, had rehearsed God’s dealings with Israel, placed before them a challenge to obey God, and publicly charged Joshua to be his successor. He then taught the children of Israel a song. The verse of Scripture we are considering is actually part of the song that Moses is leaving his people. In speaking of a shortcoming of his beloved people, Moses describes a mistake that is all too familiar today: “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” Moses laments the fact that they were too shortsighted in their vision. They did not consider where their present decisions and choices might lead them.

    This is good advice for each of us. CONSIDER YOUR LATTER END. If people “would consider their latter end,” it might serve as a strong deterrent to disobedience and an incentive to resist temptations. Israel was guilty of disobeying God’s commandments. They had made marriages with the heathen in defiance of the Word of God. Rather than separating from the ungodly worship of their neighbors, Israelites participated in their idolatrous practices. Where did they think these decisions would lead them? What might be their “latter end”? Are there not consequences for rebellion and disobedience? Chastisement would surely come. The sins of the fathers would invite greater abominations by their children. Idolatry accepted in the high places would open the door for idolatry in the house of God. Eventually, the nation would be overcome by its enemies, the temple destroyed, Jerusalem ravaged, and the people taken captive. They would not “consider their latter end.”

    Satan wants us to believe that willful disobedience will bring no consequences. He wants us to think only of the immediate, with no regard for the future. God wants us to think about where our journey will lead us. What will be the “latter end”? Where will a life of selfishness end up? Will we be thankful we lived for self rather than for God? Will our children be left with a good example of what Christian living is supposed to be? What about that appointment we all have at the Judgment Seat of Christ? Many heartaches and disappointments could be avoided if people would “consider their latter end.”

  • DON’T GET SPOILED

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    “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
    Colossians 2:8

    The Bible is filled with warnings, and our text today is given to warn us. The word “beware” is calling us “to caution, to take heed.” There is a real and imminent danger that we need to be alerted about.

    The warning is that men might “spoil you.” The word “spoil” describes being led away as booty after combat. The spoils of battle are those things that the enemy gains as a result of winning a skirmish. We are indeed in a war between good and evil, between truth and error, between God and Satan. God does not want us to be the spoils of battle.

    How are men spoiled? Concerning this spiritual warfare, the Scripture teaches us that the weapons that strive to defeat us are ideas or beliefs. Our text uses this language, “philosophy, and vain deceit, after the traditions of men,” and “rudiments of the world.” People become casualties of war through deception and believing things that are not true. The enemy would prefer that we hold to “traditions of men” rather than the Word of God. Many people are being spoiled in our day. The teaching of evolution instead of the truth of creation is spoiling children. False prophets are spoiling simple followers who accept their traditions that are not based upon the truths of the Bible. Bitterness and unforgiveness are spoiling those who choose to hold to grudges rather than accept God’s grace to forgive. Humanism, secularism, and materialism are spoiling multitudes.

    God wants us to be warned. A little leaven has the power and potential to leaven the whole lump. To avoid being spoiled, we are to build our lives on Christ, not on the wisdom of this world. The verse that precedes our text tells us to be “Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught” (Colossians 2:7).

    People are spoiled through error when they do not know, or have not believed, the truth. Because they are not established in the faith, they are susceptible to false teaching. The great battle that is being described is a war of words. False imaginations, unscriptural ideas, and lies against the Word of God are the weapons of the enemy. To prevent being spoiled, we must arm ourselves with the truth, recognizing and resisting every falsehood.

  • SEEKING HIS PRESENCE

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    “And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart.”
    II Chronicles 9:23

    Solomon’s wealth and his wisdom were beyond imagination. People traveled great distances to witness the magnificence of the temple and Solomon’s court. He “exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom” (I Kings 10:23). He wrote three thousand proverbs and over a thousand songs. Much of our Book of Proverbs in the Bible is attributed to the writings of this wise king. Our text says, “all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom.” Imagine the respect and interest these dignitaries had, with a desire to be in Solomon’s presence and to hear his wisdom. Had we lived in the days of Solomon, it would have been a great privilege to be in his presence and to hear his words. However, we are reminded that Jesus said in Matthew 12:42, referring to Himself, “a greater than Solomon is here.”

    There is no king like our King. As much of a privilege as it would have been to sit in Solomon’s presence and to listen to his wisdom, we have an even greater opportunity. We can be in God’s presence and hear His Words and wisdom. As earnestly as the kings of the earth desired to be in the presence of Solomon, we ought to seek to be in the presence of Jesus. We want to live in His presence, walk in His presence, sing in His presence, and serve in His presence. Of course, we realize that God is everywhere, and we are always in His presence. But He has also promised to manifest Himself in our hearts and lives and dwell, particularly, where He is welcome. He said, for instance, concerning the assembly of His churches, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). When the New Testament church assembles, Jesus promises to be in their midst.

    It is interesting that kings would travel great distances to be in Solomon’s presence and to hear his words, while many who claim to belong to Jesus will not choose to gather with fellow church members to learn of One greater than Solomon. Through prayer, the child of God is invited to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).

    If kings passionately desired to visit the throne of Solomon, should we not more so desire to visit the throne of God in prayer? May it be said of us that we “sought the presence” of our Savior.

  • TAKE HEED WHAT YOU HEAR

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    “And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.”
    Mark 4:24, 25

    These verses follow one of the most important parables Jesus taught, the Parable of the Sower. This parable has to do with the reception of the Word of God.

    Using the analogy of sowing seed, the seed being the Word of God and the soil being the heart of man, Jesus taught how the condition of the heart affects the influence of the truth. Sometimes the seed is sown by the wayside, on stony ground, among thorns, or on good ground. He then spoke the words of our text, warning about the importance of hearing and obeying God’s Word. The phrase, “Take heed what ye hear,” has to do with the manner in which we attend to the Word of God.

    What do we do with the truth that is given to us? Do we believe it? Apply it? Share it with others? Obviously, the manner in which we receive God’s Word will have a direct bearing on how it affects us, but the following words of our text reveal something else affected by the way we heed God’s Word. Jesus said, “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.”

    Our response to the truth that God has previously given us will influence the truth that will subsequently be given to us. If we are faithful to learn, apply, and share God’s truth as we receive it, He promises to give us more truth. By the same token, when we do not take heed to the revelation we have received, and refuse to obey the commands given to us, we should not expect God to continue to show us things from the Scripture. Why should God show us more of His will if we are not attempting to follow what we know to be His will? If we want God to show us more of His Word and will, we must diligently seek to walk in the light He has given us. We cannot just pass over or ignore the truths that challenge us, and then expect God to continue to open His Word to us.

    When we refuse some point of revelation, it will have a direct affect on what God shows us in the future. However, when we, by faith, receive and obey God’s Word, we are meeting God’s requirements to be given further direction and truth.

  • PREPARING TO SERVE

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    “And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.”
    Daniel 1:3, 4

    The Babylonians had taken Israel captive. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, ordered Ashpenaz to bring some of the choicest of the Jews, that some might be selected and used in the king’s court. He specified that they must be physically fit, knowledgeable, educated, capable of learning the language of the Chaldeans, and able to stand in the king’s palace.

    We are very familiar with four of the men chosen to serve the king. Their names are Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Later in the chapter, it says that in matters of wisdom and understanding, these four were found to be ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in the land. God used these four men in an extraordinary way. Daniel’s interpretation of dreams, his commitment to prayer, and his deliverance from the lions have encouraged us all. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the king’s idol and were subsequently delivered from the fiery furnace.

    What was it that caused these four men to find such strategic places of service in the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar? Of course, we recognize it was God’s design and plan that allowed these Israelites to have an influence for God and righteousness in such an ungodly place. However, we must also see that the Lord used certain things on a human level to elevate these men to places of significant service. They were skillful, educated, and willing to learn. When the king’s servant initially looked for capable candidates for these positions, he was impressed with what he saw in these four individuals. After a period of proving themselves, the Hebrews had surpassed the achievements of all others. This speaks loudly to the matter of PREPARING TO SERVE.

    It is imperative that we give God our very best. It is also extremely important that we take seriously the opportunities we have to learn, that when doors of service become available, we are already PREPARING TO SERVE.

  • THE WORD OF GOD IS NOT BOUND

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    “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.”
    II Timothy 2:9

    Paul knew what it was like to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. From the very beginning and throughout his ministry, he was criticized and assaulted for his message of hope through Jesus Christ.

    Our text says that he suffered “trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds.” He wrote these words to Timothy from prison where he was awaiting his execution. He was jailed on a number of occasions. He knew what it was like to be bound by chains and prison walls, unable to come and go as he desired. In spite of these hindrances and restrictions, Paul triumphantly declared, “but the word of God is not bound.” The Word of God may be assaulted, criticized, and denied, but it cannot be bound.

    Just as the Living Word, Jesus Christ, was crucified and then raised from the dead, God’s Word cannot be contained. The Bible is not an ordinary Book; it is the very Word of God. Because of the miraculous power of Scripture, the Bible needs to be distributed in every available place, in every available nation, in every available language. Many people today are being reached, taught, and helped by the circulation of Scripture in countries that are theoretically closed to missionary activity. Tons of Bible literature is being shipped to those who live in spiritual darkness. We personally know of people who are actively serving the Lord who were converted by reading a gospel tract or portion of Scripture when there was no personal worker present to lead them to salvation.

    The “word of God is not bound.” This underscores the need to give out gospel tracts and share the Word of God to those we have the opportunity to reach. Not only do we need to get God’s Word into the hands of those who need it, we also need to get God’s Word into our hearts and the hearts of those we care for. God’s Word has the power to work in the lives of those who hear it. His Word is not bound.

    We have known of those who were reared in a Christian family and attended church as a child, who then turned to the world and a life of sin. They no longer attended church and did not read the Bible. But they later testified that the Scriptures they heard as a child began to convict them in their minds and drew them back to a place of repentance. The “word of God is not bound.”

  • GOING WELL WITH THY CHILDREN

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    “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.”
    Deuteronomy 4:40

    A wonderful benefit of obedience, and one that many of us were once unaware of, is clearly identified in our Scripture passage. This verse, like so many similar places in the Bible, speaks of the importance of keeping God’s commandments.

    Everyone knows that we are to obey the commands of God, but the thing that many do not realize is that obedience is good for us. Some of us grew up with the idea that our obedience was good for God because He required it, or it was good for our parents because they demanded it. But we somehow missed the fact that it is equally good for us. Our text admonishes us to obey God’s commands that “it may go well with thee.” Things go better for us when we obey. Many can testify to the fact that things have not gone well for us when we have been disobedient.

    This is in such contrast to the way Satan wants us to believe. He wants us to think that God is somehow harming us, or limiting our opportunities by His commands or restrictions. This was part of the enemy’s false reasoning used against Eve in the Garden. The serpent suggested that God was being unjust in withholding access to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is one of the great misunderstandings and deceptions of the world: that somehow it might go better for us if we disregard God’s unchanging laws and commands. The opposite is true. It goes better for those who obey.

    Not only will it “go well with thee” when we obey, but God’s Word also says that it will go well “with thy children after thee.” Here is another great and often overlooked promise. We may not fully understand how this will always work out, but we know it is true. Our obedience will bring blessings to our children. This does not mean that God will overlook their disobedience or save them because of our faith in Christ. Our children are individually accountable to respond to God and His truth. However, God teaches in the Scripture that certain benefits resulting from our obedience will be experienced by the generations who follow us.

  • STRIVING TO PLEASE HIM

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    “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”
    II Corinthians 5:9

    In the first part of this chapter, Paul speaks of the promise of Heaven and the hope of eternal life. He also says that while we are here, we have been given the earnest of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. One day, we will be with God in Heaven, but now He is with us on earth.

    In this context, we have our text verse that says, “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” The phrase “accepted of him” is not indicating that He might reject us as His children, or that our salvation is uncertain. The words “accepted of him” mean that He would be pleased with us. We want to be pleasing to our Master. Whether present in this world or present with the Lord, we are STRIVING TO PLEASE HIM. Our past is behind us, our present is provided for, and our future is secure. Therefore, whether we are here or in Heaven, we want to be “accepted of him.” We want God to be pleased with our lives. A child of God, who is living by faith and has his affection on things above, is interested in pleasing the Lord Jesus Christ. We know there have been many times when we have not been pleasing to Him, but our aim in life is to please Him. We ought to consider what it is that our Savior approves of and what He would definitely not be pleased with.

    Obviously, a person could never be pleasing to God if he is unsaved or living in the energy of his flesh. We are also sure that we are not pleasing to God if we are indulging in sinful and carnal practices, or living in sin. If we are not obeying His commandments, He will not be pleased with us. When we are not living by faith, it is not pleasing to the Lord. We are plainly told in the Scripture that it is impossible to please Him without faith. The verse that follows our text introduces the subject of the judgment seat of Christ. When we get to Heaven, we all will stand before the Lord and give an account for the way we have lived our lives. Paul had this appointment in mind when he spoke of being “accepted of him.”

    When we see Him in Heaven, when our eyes behold our great God and Savior, we want Him to be pleased with the way we have lived for Him and served Him. We want to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

  • LEANNESS OF THE SOUL

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    “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.”
    Psalm 106:15

    The Israelites were complaining because they had no flesh to eat. They were remembering with fondness their existence in Egypt and their dissatisfaction with the manna God was providing, and were requesting meat to eat. Eventually, God gave them an abundance of meat, in the form of quails. He “gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” They got what they wanted, but lost what they needed. They were physically full and spiritually empty. Because of their complaining and lack of contentment, because of their desire for the things of Egypt, God “sent leanness into their soul.”

    We need to be careful about our attitude toward the will of God and the place He has given us to serve. It may not be exactly what we would want, but it may be precisely what we need. God is much more qualified to know what we need than we are. There is something more important than our fleshly appetites or carnal desires. It is always a cause for concern when Christians complain about God’s will or speak about how much better they had it when they were still out in the world. Spiritual “leanness” is going to come to those who keep longing for the world, symbolized by Egypt in the Word of God.

    By contrast, God blesses those who trust Him completely and are content with God’s will for them. We have all known those who seemed to have little of this world’s goods yet possessed a relationship with the Lord that was undeniable. We must remember that the priority for our lives is spiritual, not carnal. The fact that the Lord gave the Israelites the thing they persistently requested, even though it was going to bring spiritual “leanness” to them, should say something to us as well. God may give us what we ask for, when we continually insist on our way, even if it is not going to be good for us spiritually. God allowed Lot to pitch his tent toward Sodom, knowing that it would result in spiritual shipwreck for Lot’s family. Just because a thing is permitted to occur does not necessarily mean that God ordained it as a source of blessing. Sometimes we can be so determined to have our way that we take little serious thought as to whether God is really in it.

    May we always remember that we will be far better off and spiritually blessed if we are content in His will.

  • WHAT IS YOUR NICKNAME?

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    “And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,”
    Acts 4:36

    The apostles chose a nickname for Joses and “surnamed” him Barnabas. The name Barnabas means “comfort or encouragement.”

    You can probably think of someone you know, perhaps even yourself, that received a nickname because of some attribute or characteristic in his personality or behavior. This is what happened to Barnabas. He was such a man of encouragement that the apostles gave him this nickname. What if we were given a nickname that described our character or mannerisms? Are you an encourager? Would the name Barnabas be a fitting nickname for you? What kind of nickname would be appropriate for our lives or would be consistent with our behavior? I have known many people who could appropriately be “surnamed” Barnabas. They are genuine encouragers. I have known those who have earned the nickname “Faithful,” “Servant,” “Humble,” “Generous,” “Cheerful,” “Positive,” “Merciful,” “Friendly,” etc. There are other people I have known that should be nicknamed, “Critical,” “Selfish,” “Prideful,” “Tardy,” “Greedy,” or “Negative.” We do not know how Barnabas earned his nickname, but we have several examples of his encouragement after he “was surnamed.”

    When we are introduced to him in our text, he sold a piece of property and gave the proceeds to the church. His generosity was encouraging. In another place, he befriended the newly converted Paul when other disciples were suspicious of his testimony. His friendship was an encouragement. His support of John Mark when Paul thought Mark to be unqualified to serve was another example of his encouraging attitude. Barnabas was commissioned to go to Antioch to lead in the establishment of a church there, and he was an encourager in his soul winning and discipleship.

    As we can see in Barnabas’ life, he was an encourager in many ways, and an example to all of us. How might we be encouragers to others? Are we the kind of friend that encourages others? Does our personal witnessing and concern for the spiritual growth of converts serve to encourage others in the same way? Our reputation is being formed by the actions and attitudes others see in us.

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