February 23, 2018

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Lord, Increase Our Faith

Lord, Increase Our Faith

By Mark Mayberry

Introduction

In Luke 17:1-11, Jesus offers very challenging instruction. He warns of the danger of becoming a stumbling-block and the need for personal forgiveness. He speaks of the power of prayer and the proper perspective of a servant.

When Pushed Beyond Our Comfort Zone

When pushed beyond our comfort zone, we should say, "Lord, increase our faith." In this context, the Lord challenges us in two opposite extremes. On the one hand, considering our influence, let us never be a stumbling-block to others. On the other, may we show compassion when another person does us wrong (Luke 17:1-4). Consider similar instruction in Matthew 18:21-35, where Jesus sought to expand Peter's understanding of forgiveness exponentially.

When the Truth Seems Unbelievable

When the truth seems unbelievable, we should say, "Lord, increase our faith" (Luke 17:5-6). Sometimes the demands of faith seem out of reach. For example, God instructed Abram, saying, "Leave your home, move to an unfamiliar land, and dwell in tents the remainder of your life. Despite your advanced age, you will have a son. Take that son and offer him as a burnt offering to the Lord." How would we have responded?

Consider Christ's command in this context. Disciples of Christ must have strong and unquestioning faith, trusting in God's provision (Matt. 6:28-30; Luke 12:27-28), power (Matt. 8:23-27), and precepts (Matt. 16:5-11).

Consider Christ's illustration in this context. The Greek word sukaminos, of Hebrew origin, occurring only here, refers to "the mulberry tree" or "the sycamine" (Thomas 4807). While it is derived from the Hebrew word for "the sycamore," BDAG say the Greek word refers to "the mulberry tree, which is evidently differentiated from the sycamore in Luke 17:6 (compare 19:4), as well as in the ancient versions." Louw and Nida describe the mulberry tree as " a deciduous fruit tree growing to the height of some six meters (about twenty feet) and bearing black berries containing a sweet reddish juice" (3.6).

Note the importance of believing in God's promises (Matt. 17:14-21). Through the Holy Spirit, they were inspired to reveal God's mind, and empowers to confirm the message through signs and wonders. Nevertheless, at this point they failed, lacking sufficient faith and focus.

When We Forget Our Place

When we forget our place, we should say, "Lord, increase our faith" (Luke 17:7-10). When we have done all things which are commanded, we are naught but unprofitable servants, having done only that which was our duty to do.

Consider the disposition of David who recognized his mortality and helplessness apart from God (1 Chron. 29:14-19). Reflect upon the outlook of Isaiah who was filled with self-loathing in the presence of a holy God (Isa. 6:1-13). Ponder the perspective of Paul who counted all past accomplishments as rubbish in comparison with the privilege of knowing Christ and sharing a relationship with Him (Phil. 3:8-11).

Conclusion

Lord, increase our faith when we are pushed beyond our comfort zone. Help us to trust in God when the truth seems unbelievable. Let us not forget our place; yet, if we do, chasten us gently, bringing us to repentance and renewal.

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The Broad Way or Narrow Way—Which Is Best?

The Broad Way or Narrow Way—Which Is Best?

By Dennis Abernathy

Jesus speaks of the narrow and broad way in Matthew 7: 13-14. One is traveled by the few and the other is widely-traveled. One way leads to life and the other to destruction. The narrow way is the way of intolerance, discipline, commitment, and is rife with difficulty, and the broad way is the way of tolerance, indulgence, selfishness, and the way of least resistance.

Many believe that being intolerant is wicked and bad. But, when God is being blasphemed, when truth is under attack, or when opinion is substituted for God's Word, it is right to be intolerant i.e. we must firmly stand for what the Bible teaches and refuse to accept wrong beliefs and practices.

God's way is narrow because the way of truth and holiness, by necessity, is narrow. Christians are often called "narrow-minded," as if to say being "broad-minded" is desirable. But Jesus advocated the opposite.

People wrongly think being "broad-minded" is the same thing as being "open-minded." But being "open-minded" is good because it can aid us in seeking and understanding the truth. In contrast, "broad-mindedness" equates to "anything-goes" religion, morality, or variant lifestyle.

All lifestyles and all religions are not equally good, leading to the same destination. Christ says there are only two roads in life and they lead to radically different destinations. The broad way may look very inviting and the narrow way may look very daunting. We all stand at the cross-roads and the road we choose is literally a matter of life and death! Think on these things.

Author: Dennis Abernathy is the evangelist of the White Oak Church of Christ, located in White Oak, Texas 75693. He can be reached at preachab@suddenlink.net.

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My People

By Mark Mayberry

Introduction

The expression, "my people," occurs 230 times in 217 verses in the NASB. It reflects a closeness, a familiarity, a family relationship. Such blessings are found in both the physical and spiritual realms.

Special Relationship

As the people of God, we share a special relationship with Him. The descendants of Abraham were divinely chosen to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Gen. 12:1-3; 18:19; Exod. 19:5-6). Avoiding all forms of idolatry, the Israelites were commanded to keep God's statutes and reverence His sanctuary. By so doing, they would enjoy God's continued favor: "Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. ‘I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people" (Lev. 26:1-13, esp. vv. 11-12). Today, the Lord grants a similar offer to Jew and Gentile alike. This special relationship is ours, not by birthright or merit, but by divine adoption and grace (Rom. 8:14-17; 9:19-33; cf. Hos. 1:1-11).

Special Rights

As the people of God, we enjoy special rights. Such was true for ancient Israel, not only practically, but also prophetically (Jer. 31:31-34; 32:36-44). Such is also true for disciples of Christ. The right to become children of God is granted to all those who receive Him (John 1:9-13). The right to eat of the tree of life and enter the gates of heaven is granted to those who wash their robes (Rev. 22:14-15).

Special Responsibilities

As the people of God, we share a special responsibility. Such was true for Israel of old (Jer. 11:1-17). It remains true for contemporary Christians (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Let us avoid the perils and pitfalls of disobedience, recognizing that failure carries devastating consequences (Jer. 4:22; Hos. 4:6; 11:7).

Conclusion

Do you desire to be a part of God's family, to benefit from His blessings, to know His grace and forgiveness? You need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:13-17; Titus 3:5-7). You need to walk in the light of His word (Ps. 89:14-15; 1 John 1:5-10).

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