Sunday, May 26, 2013

What Should We Think About?

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen

     My theme for this posting is simple: "What should we think about?" We all know the impact that our thoughts have on our conduct. Here is only one example of many that could be given: after the somewhat- recent terrorist bombings during the Boston marathon, it was discovered that the killers had been feeding their minds with radical Islamic anti-American ideas. Eventually they did what they had been thinking about.
     The opposite is also true. That is, if we put good things into our minds it will influence us to do good things. Many of us have seen on TV the touching reports of individuals who have helped others after a disaster such as a tornado, and we have been inspired to help others in their time of need. Perhaps it motivated you to send money to help them, or to volunter to go to where the help was needed.
      Yes, what we put into our minds has great impact on our lives, for good or evil. The apostle Paul understood this principle and brought it to the attention of the Christians in the city of Philippi. In the eighth verse of the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippians he made this statement: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." This verse is from the King James Version, and is taken from  this website that has many Bible translations on it:
      In this one verse we find eight characteristics that should be true of the things we think about:
  • whatsoever things are true,
  • whatsoever things are honest,
  • whatsoever things are just,
  • whatsoever things are pure,
  • whatsoever things are lovely,
  • whatsoever things are of good report;
  • if there be any virtue,
  • and if there be any praise, think on these things.
      This is important Biblical guidance for our thought-life. As has been said, "Garbage in, garbage out. Good in, good out."
      Perhaps you will profit from what Albert Barnes wrote about these statements by Paul. Albert Barnes was a Bible-believing Presbyterian scholar who lived in the 1800's. He wrote very practical commentaries on many books of the Bible, and they are still in print.  Here are his notes on Philippians 4:8, taken from this website:

"Whatsoever things are true - In this exhortation the apostle assumes that there were certain things admitted to be true, and pure, and good, in the world, which had not been directly revealed, or which were commonly regarded as such by the people of the world, and his object is to show them that such things ought to be exhibited by the Christian. Everything that was honest and just toward God and toward people was to be practiced by them, and they were in all things to be examples of the highest kind of morality. They were not to exhibit partial virtues; not to perform one set of duties to the neglect or exclusion of others; not to be faithful in their duties to God, and to neglect their duty to people, not to be punctual in their religious rites, and neglectful of the comment laws of morality; but they were to do everything that could be regarded as the fair subject of commendation, and that was implied in the highest moral character. The word true refers here to everything that was the reverse of falsehood. They were to be true to their engagements; true to their promises; true in their statements; and true in their friendships. They were to maintain the truth about God; about eternity; about the judgment; and about every man‘s character. Truth is a representation of things as they are; and they were constantly to live under the correct impression of objects. A man who is false to his engagements, or false in his statements and promises, is one who will always disgrace religion.
Whatsoever things are honest - σεμνὰ semna Properly, venerable, reverend; then honorable, reputable. The word was originally used in relation to the gods, and to the things that pertained to them, as being worthy of honor or veneration - Passow. As applied to people, it commonly means grave, dignified, worthy of veneration or regard. In the New Testament it is rendered “grave” in 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 3:11, and Titus 2:2, the only places where the word occurs except this; and the noun ( σεμνότης semnotēs) is rendered “honesty” in 1 Timothy 2:2, and “gravity” in 1 Timothy 3:4, and Titus 2:7. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The word, therefore, does not express precisely what the word “honest” does with us, as confined to dealings or business transactions, but rather has reference to what was regarded as worthy of reputation or honor; what there was in the customs of society, in the respect due to age and rank, and in the contact of the world, that deserved respect or esteem. It includes indeed what is right in the transaction of business, but it embraces also much more, and means that the Christian is to show respect to all the venerable and proper customs of society, when they did not violate conscience or interfere with the law of God; compare 1 Timothy 3:7.
Whatsoever things are just - The things which are right between man and man. A Christian should be just in all his dealings. His religion does not exempt him from the strict laws which bind people to the exercise of this virtue, and there is no way by which a professor of religion can do more injury perhaps than by injustice and dishonesty in his dealings. It is to be remembered that the people of the world, in estimating a person‘s character, affix much more importance to the virtues of justice and honesty than they do to regularity in observing the ordinances of religion; and therefore if a Christian would make an impression on his fellow-men favorable to religion, it is indispensable that he manifest uncorrupted integrity in his dealings.
Whatsoever things are pure - Chaste - in thought, in feeling, and in the conversation between the sexes; compare the notes at 1 Timothy 5:2.
Whatsoever things are lovely - The word used here means properly what is dear to anyone; then what is pleasing. Here it means what is amiable - such a temper of mind that one can love it; or such as to be agreeable to others. A Christian should not be sour, crabby, or irritable in his temper - for nothing almost tends so much to injure the cause of religion as a temper always chafed; a brow morose and stern; an eye that is severe and unkind, and a disposition to find fault with everything. And yet it is to be regretted that there are many persons who make no pretensions to piety, who far surpass many professors of religion in the virtue here commended. A sour and crabby temper in a professor of religion will undo all the good that he attempts to do.
Whatsoever things are of good report - That is, whatsoever is truly reputable in the world at large. There are actions which all people agree in commending, and which in all ages and countries are regarded as virtues. courtesy, urbanity, kindness, respect for parents, purity between brothers and sisters, are among those virtues, and the Christian should be a pattern and an example in them all. His usefulness depends much more on the cultivation of these virtues than is commonly supposed.
If there be any virtue - If there is anything truly virtuous. Paul did not suppose that he had given a full catalogue of the virtues which he would have cultivated. He, therefore, adds, that if there was anything else that had the nature of true virtue in it, they should be careful to cultivate that also. The Christian should be a pattern and an example of every virtue.
And if there be any praise - Anything worthy of praise, or that ought to be praised.
Think on these things - Let them be the object of your careful attention and study, so as to practice them. Think what they are; think on the obligation to observe them; think on the influence which they would have on the world around you."

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Looking At Life When Facing Death

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen

Age is partly a state of mind
     There is truth to the saying that age is partly a state of mind. We all know individuals who, though young, act and feel old. We know individuals who, though old, act and feel young. It seems it has to do with one's perspective on life in general.
The 100 year old lady 
     We new one dear Christian lady who lived to be over 100 years old. She could not see well, hear well, or walk well, but she kept a good perspective on life, in spite of all her ailments.This was largely due to her faith in the grace and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Her daughter held an open house for her 100th birthday. We and many others went to celebrate with her. When it was time to leave, I told her we would be back for her 200th birthday. She said, "Don't wait that long to come back for a visit!" She hadn't let her health problems completely rob her of  the ability to have a good time. But even though she had lived a very long life, it still seemed short.
A famous king's reflections on the brevity of life 
     It was that way with a famous king, who, though he died at the much younger  age of 70, looked back on his life and said it seemed short. I am referring to Israel's favorite leader of long ago, King David. Most know him as the writer of some the Old Testament's book of Psalms. He wrote maybe 73 of the 150 Psalms in that favorite part of the Bible. Some of his writings and sayings are found in other books of the Old Testament, as well as in the Psalms. Some are found in the New Testament. One example from the Old Testament is found in 2 Chronicles 29, a lengthy part of which is quoted at the end of this posting. In that quote, verse 15 has been put in bold print.
Some thoughts on 2 Chronicles 29:15
      I want give some thoughts on 2 Chronicles 29:15, which says this: "For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding."
     It is striking what was on David's mind in his last days. He said,  "our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding." Certainly this refers to King's David's sense of the brevity of life. Read it again: "our days on the earth are as a shadow............."  
     It is common for individuals to look back on their lives and say to themselves and to others, "The years have gone by so fast!" King David also wrote Psalm 37. Part of verse 25 says, "I have been young, and now am old." I assume he felt he the years had flown by.
    Since life is short and unpredictable, we must make sure that we will go to heaven at death.
     God wants everyone to go to heaven, but we have to do our part to make sure we will get there. Death ends all further opportunity to make reservations for heaven. To find out what we must do to get to heaven, read the first five chapters of the apostle Paul's letter to the Roman Christians, and also the Book of Acts. These are found in the New Testament portion of the Bible. You can also click on the following link and read an excellent salvation article: Acts 16:31 says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."
Other important matters.
     Now, since it is true that life is short even when it is long, we should concentrate on other important matters. Making reservations for heaven is the most important we can do, but other things are important. It is a sad thing to come to the end of one's life and have to admit that what was really important was neglected for things of much lesser importance. Many subjects deserve our attention, but consider just a few of them.
      We should take time for regular Bible reading. The Bible is God's Word. What a shame to come to the end of life and not know what God says about many important subjects. An unknown author wrote this about the Bible: "The Bible reveals the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are unchangeable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveller's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of Hell disclosed. CHRIST is its Grand Subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully, It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened in the Judgment, and will be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who trifle with its holy contents."
     We should take time for prayer. True prayer is directed to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is God's appointed means for us to tell him what is on our hearts. It is the means by which we worship, praise, and adore him. It is the means by which we bring our needs to him, and the needs of others. It is the means by which we confess our sins to him, and receive his forgiveness. Of course, we can also pray directly to the Lord Jesus Christ in his name.
     We should take time for regular church attendance. Regularly attending a church that believes the Bible to be God's Word, and that preaches and teaches it,  is one of the most important things we can do if we want to live for Jesus Christ. Church attendance opens up doors for us to get involved in the work of the church. It also gives us opportunity to develop friendships with other Christians who can help us live for the Lord.
      We should take time for wholesome personal relationships with family and friends. Jobs, careers, and hobbies are not nearly as important as relationships with family and friends. Many workaholics come to the end of life and regret that they have neglected their spouses, children, and friends. They might have made a fortune by all their hard work, and risen to the top in business, but learn that they are poverty-stricken when it comes to personal relationships. It has wisely been said that no one comes to the end of life and wishes he or she had spent more time at work.

1 Chronicles 29

(King James Version)
  Furthermore David the king said unto all the congregation, Solomon my son, whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great: for the palace is not for man, but for the Lord God.
Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for things to be made of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and the brass for things of brass, the iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood; onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance.
Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house.
Even three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the houses withal:
The gold for things of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and for all manner of work to be made by the hands of artificers. And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?
Then the chief of the fathers and princes of the tribes of Israel and the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers of the king's work, offered willingly,
And gave for the service of the house of God of gold five thousand talents and ten thousand drams, and of silver ten thousand talents, and of brass eighteen thousand talents, and one hundred thousand talents of iron.
And they with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasure of the house of the Lord, by the hand of Jehiel the Gershonite.
Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.
10 Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.
11 Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.
12 Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.
13 Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.
14 But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.
15 For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.
16 O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own.
17 I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee.
18 O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:
19 And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace, for the which I have made provision.
20 And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the Lord your God. And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord, and the king.
(This quote from 2 Chronicles was taken from this website: Those who struggle with the old English of the King James Version should consider reading the New King James Version, which is in modern English.)