The Parable of the Talents By Derek Long

Jesus uses a parable regarding a man entrusting to his servants talents to help us understand some important truths regarding the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received my own back with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We can learn several important truths from this parable spoken by our Lord. God knows what we are capable of just as this lord knew how much each servant as able to handle (Matthew 25:15). God does not place upon us expectations which are greater than we are able to meet. If God tells us to do something, we know it is within our ability. God does not expect of us service which we are incapable of giving. In addition, not everyone has the same abilities but God does not hold that against a person. Someone may have more ability in one area (e.g. teaching, singing, etc.) than someone else. God expects us to use our abilities but does not require us to be as able as the next person might be. God has entrusted us with opportunities, abilities, and time as the lord entrusted these talents to his servants. We are expected to use the things God has given us in service to him as the servants were expected to use the talents entrusted to them in service to their master. God is not pleased when we fail to use the opportunities He has given to us. God is not pleased with our excuses just as the lord is not pleased with the excuses made by the one talent man (Matthew 25:24-30). People sometimes view God the same way the one talent man viewed his lord. There are people who think of God as a harsh, unrealistic master. As a result, some people fail to try to serve Him as they should. There are people who are afraid and as a result of their fear of failure never do anything in service to God. There are people who think God will be pleased with them doing nothing but God is not pleased with such people. God does not accept our excuses like the lord does not accept the excuses of the one talent man. The lord calls his servant “wicked and lazy.” What will God say of us if we fail to use the opportunities He has given us to serve Him? God will punish the person who fails to act in His service. There is a place of punishment where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” for those who fail to actively serve their God. The lord of these servants went away for a long time and it appears did not give them a warning about when he would return. When he returned, he expected to find his servants had been busy serving him. Jesus has left us and will return without any special signs He is about to come. When He comes, He will expect us to be serving Him? Will we be found pleasing like the five and two talent servants or will we incur our Lord’s wrath like the one talent servant?

Words From Keith and Debbie Crews

For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6).
The prophet Hosea was urging Israel to return to the LORD.  Israel had been unfaithful just like Hosea’s wife had been unfaithful.  “My people ask counsel from their wooden idols” (Hosea 3:12).  They had rejected the knowledge of God (Hosea 3:6).  They broke all restraint by swearing and lying and killing and stealing and committing adultery (Hosea 4:2).  Sacrifice and burnt offerings are worthless without mercy and knowledge of God.  Vain worship (Matt 15:8-9) is prevalent today because people have no knowledge of God’s laws and choose to worship their way instead of God’s way.  Grow in knowledge (2 Pet 1:5-7; 3:18).

Submission By Derek Long

Submission is not a popular topic with many people in our world today. Most Americans resent anyone telling them what to do. It is often thought submission indicates inferiority in some way or another. God’s word is filled with commands to submit and shows us what is involved in submission. God commands submission of many different classes of people. God’s word teaches, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1, 5). God expects children to be in submission to their parents. Among the qualifications given for a bishop is he should be, “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence” (1 Timothy 3:4). God expects members of a congregation to be submissive to the elders who watch over them. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” God expects citizens to be submissive to the governing authorities. His word says, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). God says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” (1 Peter 2:18). All mankind needs to heed the admonition of Scripture, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). God expects everyone to be in submission to someone. Ephesians 5:21 speaks of us, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” If we recognize our need to be in submission ultimately to God and also to those whom God has placed in positions of authority over us, we need to know what is involved in being in submission. Someone has said submission refers to ranking oneself under another. Submission is something we willingly offer as we are willing to place ourselves under the authority of another. Submission requires one to be obedient to those in positions of authority over us (Ephesians 5:24; Titus 2:5; Hebrews 13:17). Understanding these concepts is helpful but what are some practical illustrations of what is involved in submission. Submission does not mean one cannot appeal to one in a position of authority over them. Jesus has taken on a role of submission to the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 2:5-8). While Jesus is the perfect example of submission to His Father in heaven, Jesus made appeals to God. Jesus appealed to the Father in Gethsemane saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). Jesus made known His request and petitioned the Father while being in submission to the Father. Prayer is a means by which we too can let our desires be known to the Father but prayer is not a lack of submission. Wives, citizens, children, etc. can make their desires and wishes known to those who are in positions of authority over them and still be submissive. Submission is demonstrated when we like Jesus are willing to place our desires under the will of the one in authority over us. Our submission is not an excuse to do something which is ungodly. Peter and the other apostles had been commanded not to teach in Jesus’ name by the governing authorities. We have already seen where God expects people to be submissive to government. Why do Peter and the other apostles continue to teach in the name of Jesus? Acts 5:29 tells us they replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” Our submission to God and His will must trump our loyalty and submission to any other human authority placed over us including parents, government, husband, etc. (Matthew 10:34-37; Luke 14:26). Ananias and Sapphira both agreed to sell a possession and deceptively keep back part of the price of the land for themselves (Acts 5:1-11). Sapphira could not justify her deceit by saying I was simply going along with my husband’s plan. Submission also does not mean we cannot attempt to correct the folly of others by taking certain actions. Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 took actions to avert the consequences of her husband’s folly. Submission does not mean we fail to correct those who are in sin. Timothy was taught to honor the elders (1 Timothy 5:17). Yet there may be a time when Timothy would have to rebuke an elder who was living in sin. Paul instructs him, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:19-20). As a Christian, if I see a brother committing a sin, I have an obligation to warn them whether they are in a position of authority over me or not (Matthew 18:15-17). In correcting those who are in a position of authority over us, we would do well to heed the instruction given to Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). We still need to show respect for the person and their position of authority over us when correcting them. Submission is a necessary attitude to adopt if we are going to be pleasing to God. Let’s learn to understand what submission is and what is not involved in submission. Let us ultimately remember our responsibility to submit to God who has authority over us all.


Words From Keith and Debbie Crews

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home.  And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days (Dan 6:10).
Jealous of Daniel for his position of authority, men of Babylon sought a charge against Daniel.  They had the king issue a decree that no god or man could be petitioned for 30 days except for the king.  Daniel always prayed to God every day.  He did not try to hide it since he left the window open for any outside to see.  Would we have such courage to defy our government if challenged to choose between our God or serving man?  Daniel was consistent.  This was his custom since early days.  Are we consistent?  Do you pray every day?  Do you allow anything to hinder your prayers?  Do you thank God or do you only ask for things?  Daniel was on his knees.  Do you ever pray on your knees?

Throwing Deep, Into Heavy Coverage

Throwing Deep, Into Heavy Coverage

It is football season. Although progressivism and political correctness say we’re not supposed to enjoy football anymore, I still like it.

Like most fans, I am thrilled when a quarterback throws “deep,” attempting a pass to a receiver far downfield, often under heavy coverage by defenders. Even if the pass is not caught, the attempt to do something unexpectedly bold is exciting. I believe it is also admirable.

On January 2, 1967, I got to sit in the old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans while Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide played the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Sugar Bowl that year. On the very first play from scrimmage, Kenny Stabler, Alabama’s left-handed magician of a quarterback, hit Ray Perkins with a 45-yard bomb that stunned the Nebraska defense and their fans. They never recovered, as Stabler kept throwing one deep, devastating pass after another. Alabama won the game 34-7 — and they didn’t do it by avoiding risk and playing it safe.

In my life, I’ve often “thrown deep, into heavy coverage” — sometimes with disastrous results. But although I’ve gained wisdom from each of my big mistakes (and the biggest ones have done tragic damage), I hope those bad experiences haven’t made me so conservative that I won’t take any more chances. I would rather fail trying to achieve a bold, disruptive vision than to succeed in doing something that was merely “safe.” Despite the mistakes, I hope to keep throwing deep.

Yes, we do need to be careful. Prudence is a virtue (Proverbs 22:3). But in life as in sports, our objective must be more than simply the avoidance of mistakes. A quarterback too “prudent” to throw deep will not help his team very much, and a human being who won’t do anything “unsafe” is not going to be of much help to anybody either.

Many examples come to mind, but here’s just one. Many of us who preach are playing it safe. Like an athlete who plays only to “keep from losing,” we seem to have no higher objective than to keep from offending anybody (at least those who provide our paycheck). When we have something to say that might truly be challenging and provoke some real change, we pull our punches. Lest anyone think we’re suggesting there’s any change they need to make, we soften our statements with so many qualifications, exceptions, yes-buts, and fine print, by the time we get done, we haven’t really said anything at all. Whether in the pulpit or in print, we make our points so “safely,” we seem to be apologizing for having made the points in the first place. This was not the way Jesus taught, of course. He was willing to “throw deep, into heavy coverage.”

So preachers, many others will tell you to be careful, and you should listen to them. But I say, if you’ve counted the cost, be willing to pay it. Run some risks. Stick your neck out. Rock the boat. If you’re not willing to do that, don’t be so foolish as to say you’re emulating Jesus.

Gary Henry –

The post Throwing Deep, Into Heavy Coverage appeared first on WordPoints.

Making God Our Top Priority By Derek Long

      God expected the Israelites to be completely loyal to Him and Him alone. He told them, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, our of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord you God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:2-5). In the New Testament, God continues to expect us to put Him first. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). God must take priority over family responsibilities and even ourselves. Luke 14:26 says, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”          How can we make sure we are making God our top priority? Let’s examine a few areas where we need to examine our actions and determine if God is being placed above all else. We will not willfully forsake the assembling of the saints and times of worship if we are putting God first. The Hebrew writer instructs us, saying, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). When we put other
things before assembling with other Christians to build them up and strengthen them, it is an indication God is not being put first in our life. If we allow family activities, work
responsibilities, recreational pursuits, etc. to stand in our way of assembling with the saints, we are not putting God first. God instructs us to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), give of our means (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), sing to one another (Colossians 3:16), pray collectively (1 Corinthians 14:15-16), and hear His word be taught (Acts 2:42). If we decide something is more important than obeying these commands of God, then we have decided not to put God first.
      We will not neglect to pray if we are putting God first. The Bible teaches us to “pray without ceasing” and to be “continuing steadfastly in prayer” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 12:12). How often do we pray? Do we simply pray when we go to bed and before meals? Is prayer a common part of our life? A failure to pray may indicate a lack of trust in God and an arrogance which thinks we can handle things on our own. Prayer is a means by which we can cast our cares upon God (1 Peter 5:7) and deal with anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7). How often do we feel overwhelmed in life and think we have to handle the situation all by ourselves? If we are not an individual who is given to prayer, it is a good indication God is not coming first in our lives.
      We will be diligent in studying the word of God if we are putting God first. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Do we go days, weeks, or months at a time without picking up our Bibles to study them except when going to services? If God is our top priority in life, learning about Him and discovering His will for us will equally be important to us. Let us, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2)! We will spend our time in carrying out God’s will if we are putting God first. If God is first in my life, I will make time to speak to the lost about the gospel (Mark 16:15). If God is first in my life, I will find time to help restore the lost (James 5:19-20). If God is first in my life, I will find time to visit widows and orphans in their trouble (James 1:27). If God is first in my life, I will help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). When God is not first in our lives, our time will be spent entirely on ourselves. We will do the things we want to do. We will spend our time living for pleasure and entertainment. A great way to tell where our priorities are is to look at what we spend our time doing! Hopefully we will all examine our lives (2 Corinthians 13:5) and if God is not first we will put Him first in the time we have left upon this earth!

Words From Keith and Debbie Crews

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved (2 Thess 2:9-10).
We must love the truth.  God has always put an emphasis on truth.  Be honest and tell the truth.  God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  Some people want to be deceived because it suits their interests (2 Tim 4:3-4).  Some people deceive themselves.  Do not be deceived.  Search the Scriptures for truth.  Do not believe every thing you hear.  Search the written word of God for truth (Acts 17:11).

Blog Post By Gary Henry

Salvation . . . y Mas!

Sometimes, I guess, doing the “same old thing” is not enough. In California recently, I noticed that CVS Pharmacy has opened a new group of stores branded “CVS Pharmacy y Más.” In Spanish, of course, y más means “and more.” The new stores are doing well, apparently.

It occurs to me that churches are also doing the y más thing. In fact, I know very few that aren’t doing it. In the world today, consumerism has gained a nearly total dominance in our minds, and it is difficult for us even to think outside the box of this mindset. In religious and spiritual matters, areas where you would think consumerism has no relevance, churches not only think in terms of marketing but even outdo businesses at their own game. And I am not talking about denominational churches that have joined the “church growth” movement. In this post, I’m concerned with the number of “our” congregations that cater to members who would not worship there if there wasn’t a good bit of y más going on. It’s time to admit it: the gospel is no longer enough. What used to be extras have become essentials, if a church expects to grow.

The gospel has become a generic “commodity” (ordinary, uninteresting, and of low perceived value). Offering the gospel is not nearly enough anymore to make a church a place that people would want to go to. Today, it’s all about the extras . . . the y más. Acting like consumers, people typically go to church where they find the extras they want. “The gospel? Well, yes, you can get that in several churches near us. But we’re looking for a church where they also have __________ .”

Some will say they despise this kind of thinking, and they have in mind mega-churches that draw crowds with rock-band music, rock-star preaching, and rock-arena church buildings. But that doesn’t worry me as much as my brothers and sisters who will often drive right past a sound congregation that desperately needs their help in the Lord’s work in order to worship with a group that offers “more” — more youthfulness, more friendliness, more married couples with children, more enthusiastic singing, more interesting preaching. Worship . . . y más. In short, a nicer “experience.” After all, in a consumer society, it’s the “experience” that counts. Starbucks succeeds by brewing up an experience, not just coffee. The NFL succeeds by putting on an experience, not just an athletic competition. And churches succeed by providing an experience, not just the gospel. It would be comical if it weren’t so sad.

And what about us as individuals? Are we content with salvation or do we require salvation y más? How honest are we about what really attracts us? Is it the gospel itself, or is it the extras? In a day when so many interesting temporal things often accompany the Christian’s hope of heaven, how many of us would continue to do what we do (and worship where we worship) if the extras were taken away?

Gary Henry –

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Words From Keith and Debbie Crews

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God (1 Thess 4:3-5).
Each of us should possess our vessel (body) in sanctification an honor.  Our clothing, speech, and behavior should reflect Christ (Gal 2:20).  We are not animals.  We are called to be holy (1 Pet 1:15).  We are expected to discipline our body and bring it into subjection (1 Cor 9:27).  We are to make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts (Rom 13:14).  We are to control our passions and desires (Gal 5:24).  We are to control our tongue (Eph 4:29).  We are to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5).  We can do this if we are spiritually minded (Rom 8:5-6).

Blog Post By Gary Henry

Shutting Out the Noise

While speaking in Newark, Ohio recently, the brother who led our thoughts at the Lord’s Table on Sunday morning made some points that have stuck with me. He talked about the need for us, while observing the Lord’s Supper, to “shut out the noise.” In an increasingly “noisy” world, this is an important bit of advice.

The most obvious noise comes from our digital devices and their incessant barrage. The mass of “things to know” and “things to do” is beyond comprehension. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Just life itself, whether digital or not, is complicated. No aspect of it is simple these days. And the cumulative effect of the whole thing is that our minds are rarely free from the demands placed upon us by information, activities, and relationships. To repeat, it’s a very “noisy” world that we live in.

There is no changing the way the world is, of course. The clock can’t be turned back, and it is foolish to try. So what are we to do?

One thing we can do, as the brother indicated at the Lord’s Table, is consciously “shut out the noise” when we need to. We can deliberately reject every thought except the one we wish to be thinking about, focusing our complete (and restful) attention on that single truth or principle. I don’t say this is easy, but I say it can be done. At least it can be learned. Even if our minds are not used to being disciplined, we can start training them today. Little by little, we can acquire the ability to meditate on just one thing — and really let that one thing sink in.

Learning to “shut out the noise” takes practice and training, especially if we’ve not been making any effort to do this lately. As with any skill, we learn it gradually, starting small and then learning to take bigger steps. The growth is not immediate; it is incremental. If we can quiet our minds today for only a few seconds, the day will come — if we keep working at it — when we can do it for a few seconds longer.

But here is my point: we won’t be able to “shut out the noise” at special times (like the Lord’s Supper) if we haven’t been practicing the discipline at other times. So I recommend having a “quiet time” each day, if nothing else just for the “training” effect of it. It’s an old idea, but it’s valuable.

Granted, there is nothing specifically “Christian” about this. Buddhists and Hindus have long known the value of “mindfulness” and “meditation.” Nobody owns the exclusive rights to this discipline; it is the common property of the human race. But if it has been a tool that people in general have found helpful in their various pursuits, how much more valuable would it be for a Christian to use in pursuit of the highest of all goals. If tools take their character from those who use them and from the use to which they are put, the practice of “shutting out the noise” can be an honorable tool when used to bring us quietly before God’s throne for a few moments of rest and reflection each day.

Gary Henry –

The post Shutting Out the Noise appeared first on WordPoints.