On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright had successfully kept their homemade airplane in the air for fifty-nine seconds. Immediately they rushed a telegram to their sister in Dayton, Ohio, telling of this great accomplishment.
The telegram read, “First sustained flight today fifty-nine seconds. Hope to be home by Christmas.” Upon receiving the news, the sister was excited about the success that she rushed to the newspaper office and gave the telegram to the editor. The next morning the newspaper headline read, “Popular Local Bicycle Merchants to Be Home For Holidays.”
One of the greatest stories of the 20th century was missed because an editor missed the point.
Have you ever told someone something and they missed the point? Years ago, I preached a sermon on Christian unity. One gentleman came up to me after the sermon and complimented me on my sermon and proceeded to thank me for promoting his favorite translation of the Bible. I was speechless and did not know how to respond. This gentleman really missed the point, my sermon was not about translations of the Bible.
As I think about these two illustrations, it is a reminder of how easy it is for people to miss the point, especially when it comes to our faith and relationship with the Lord. Ecclesiastes 12:13, instructs us that the main point of life is this: “…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
How many of us know that this is the main point of our lives, to fear God and keep his commandments? It is so easy to get sidetracked thinking our main point of living is to make money, to have a family, to help our children succeed in sports, academics, or popularity, or to live for pleasure and the enjoyments found in this life. So, many times we miss the point of life and forget that fearing the Lord and keeping His commands is the whole point of living.
We are here on this earth, to serve the Lord. Paul put it this way in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Despite all the distractions of the world, may we always remember to fear God and keep His commandments. Don’t miss the point! In Christ’s love, Mark T. Tonkery
Several years ago it was reported that the telephone operator in a town in Cape Cod received a call every morning asking for the correct time. Finally, overcome with curiosity, she asked the inquirer, "Would you mind telling me why you call about this time every day and ask for the correct time?" "Sure, I'll tell you," the man said. "I want to get the exact time because I'm the man who blows the whistle at twelve o'clock." Well, that's funny," said the operator, "because every day at the stroke of noon I set our clock by your whistle."
How often do we set spiritual standards for ourselves based on what others are doing -- without even considering what standard they are following? It is good to follow the examples of others ONLY if those setting the examples are following the CORRECT standard themselves. The apostle Paul says, Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (I Cor. 11:1). Note that he says following another (him) must always be with the greater view of following Christ. To follow the example of others, without being aware of what standard they themselves are following, is the height of folly. The Scriptures speak of those who, "measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (2 Corinthians 10:12). Let us ultimately always set our spiritual clocks by the Lord, not man.
borrowed-courtesy of Whit Sasser, Appleton (WI) church of Christ
It is an eclectic club. Some of its members have only ever come one service per week, whose perceivable spiritual progress has been hard to measure. Others, perhaps more tragically, have waned from greater faithfulness in the past to the more tepid attitude toward the assemblies at which God is always present. The Bible makes it clear that those who fail to put Christ first have put something in that place. This is an unenviable position to be in. Yet, those who neglect faithful attendance deprive themselves of so much.
- They miss information. Bible classes, sermons, table talks, and mid-week devotional talks all help increase our knowledge and strengthen our conviction in what we already know. This information is like a flashlight for the journey in a dark, dark world (Ps. 119:105). If we take heed to that word, we do well (2 Pet. 1:19). To identify the enemy, you must know all about him.
- They miss association. The people dearest to God are there. Christ, our Savior, friend, older brother, King, Shepherd, Door, and Mediator is there. The earliest Christians were steadfast in fellowship with each other, a fellowship contextually shown to be spiritual in nature (Acts 2:42). Paul reminds us we should prefer one another, something we fail to show when we give preference to some other place and event (Rom. 12:10).
- They miss the inspiration. We need our spirits lifted. Others need us to lift their spirits, too (Heb. 10:24; cf. Phil. 2:3-4). In worship, we can get our spiritual batteries charged. Coming together helps us each face the world. We are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph. 4:23-24). The assemblies aid us in this.
- They miss provocation. Often, we do things we know we should not do. As such, we need to be provoked or stimulated to do what we already know is right (Heb. 10:24). At the assemblies, we lift each other up and hold each other’s hands in our common life (cf. 1 Thess. 5:14).
- They miss edification. We have a responsibility to be here and build up other Christians. Remember, love edifies (1 Cor. 8:1). You cannot do that as well from a remote location. We are to use our abilities to help perfect the saints, to work in ministry, and to build up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12). That’s a “done together” activity in which those withholding their presence cannot engage.
- They miss immunization. The world is infected with sin and it is often hard to live for Christ (cf. 1 John 5:19). We can and do “inject” ourselves with strength at every service, an injection that will help us fight off the cancer of sin (cf. Jer. 7:18). Attending all the services strengthens our spiritual health (Ps. 42:11). Who thinks he or she is better equipped to fight alone than with the collective help of the church as well as the special strength available as by God’s design when we assemble together?
- They miss jubilation. There is nothing as seemingly miserable as the Christian who feels that it is his “duty” to come to the services (look at David–Ps. 122:1). It is a shame that “S-M-O” Christians miss the excitement of baptisms and others who come forward for prayers, the encouragement of seeing new Christians participate in worship or young people demonstrating their faith, and the example of others whose words, actions, and attitudes make us glad we are Christians. Few whose hearts and minds have been fully engaged in an assembly will walk away regretting it or being more depressed than when they arrived.
- They miss an obligation. We are mutually accountable (Rom. 1:14; Heb. 3:13; Col. 3:13; etc.). We are indebted to God (Rom. 8:12). We are commanded by Him to come together (Heb. 10:25). None of these obligations comes with an expiration date. We consider those who shirk their obligations to be irresponsible. What obligation outweighs the one laid upon us by the Lord?
The many, many principles of scripture lead to an unavoidable conclusion. We should want to be together with Christ and His people at every opportunity. If we do not want this enough to make it happen, maybe something is terribly wrong with our “affections” (cf. Col. 3:1-2). (author unknown).
When a crazed gunman shoots children at an elementary school, protestors are rioting in the streets, a hurricane destroys a city, or terrorists detonate bombs and shoot innocent people, people are quick to take to social media. The things they post range from sympathetic to absurdly inappropriate. If you will allow me, I would like to suggest four things Christians should do when tragedies like these occur:
When horrible things happen we need to pray. Notice I didn’t say, “Post a status update that you’re praying.” It’s fine to let people know you’re praying and encourage others to do the same, but let’s make sure our motives are pure and that we actually are praying.
And perhaps we should consider the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5-6) and how these words might apply to the way we rush to social media to say, “I’m praying for people!”
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.
Spend time sincerely, quietly, and fervently praying for the victims and their families. Really pray for them. Pray for their comfort, for their healing, for their spiritual lives, and for their futures. It’s not wrong to say that you’re praying, but make sure it’s true and rightly motivated.
If we spend more time checking how many times our status about praying was liked, commented on, or retweeted than we actually do praying for people, our motives are probably not what they ought to be and we risk making a mockery out of the words, “Praying for the victims.”
2. Empathize Before You Politicize
We appear pretty heartless when we post political commentary immediately after some horrible tragedy occurs. Whether we mean it as such or not, it comes across like we just see the event as an opportunity to say, “This proves my point. If you people would just accept my political viewpoint, these kinds of things wouldn’t happen.”
When people have lost their lives or lost loved ones, when people are in critical condition in a hospital somewhere, it’s probably not the time to play the I-told-you-so-game. Tragedies are a time to consider the frailty of life, a time to ask how you would feel if you were in their shoes, a time to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
Absolutely nothing is solved by over-simplifying complex political issues and de-humanizing the victims, just so we can make political points. Chances are, the causes of the tragedy – and the solutions – are multi-faceted. Not only is our timing often inappropriate, but our understanding of the situation is extremely limited.
You have every right to make a political point, but you’ve got to stop and ask yourself, “Is this the right time? How would I feel about someone making this point if it were my child or my spouse lying in a hospital bed – or a morgue – somewhere? Do I really understand the ins-and-outs of the situation as well as I think I do?”
3. Don’t Feed the Fear Machine
Politicians and news networks capitalize on fear. News networks know fear keeps people watching their network 24/7. Politicians know fear gives them the opportunity to look like a hero. Yes, even politicians in your political party capitalize on fear. It doesn’t mean they’re necessarily wrong; but it does mean the more people are afraid, the more they stand to gain by swooping in to “save the day.”
We need to learn to keep things in perspective. When a nation, a gunman, or a handful of terrorists make Christians quiver in fear, it’s obvious we don’t have a biblical perspective. All throughout history, God’s people have lived in the midst of “wars and rumors of wars.” It’s always been that way and it will always be that way. The key is knowing that our God makes our enemies look puny!
I have always found Isaiah 40 to be a chapter to help me put things in the proper perspective. Our God is so big that He can measure all the water of the earth in the hollow of His hand and measure the Universe with the width of His hand (Isaiah 40:12). All the nations of the earth are “like a drop from a bucket” to Him (Isaiah 40:15). And all the nations are “accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17).
When tragedies occur, we must resist the urge to fan the flames of fear. We must remember – and help others remember – in comparison to God, evil men are laughably small and weak. This is the overwhelmingly consistent message of Scripture.
4. Keep the Faith
When tragedies occur, keep the faith. In other words, do the right thing. Be obedient. Stay the course.
For some reason, we sometimes think Jesus’ instructions on how to live our lives only apply to ordinary situations, but not to extraordinary situations. Extreme situations are not excuses to abandon our Christian principles, they are the true test of whether or not we actually live by Christian principles. Jesus is not concerned about us maintaining our comfortable way of life (or even maintaining our lives), but He is concerned about us keeping the faith when our lives or lifestyles are threatened.
Keeping the faith doesn’t just mean going to worship on Sundays; it means living out the teachings of Jesus (even in extraordinarily difficult circumstances). Keeping the faith means:
- Loving our neighbors…even when they are complete strangers, foreigners, or someone of another religion (Luke 10:25-37).
- Loving our enemies…even when they want to kill us (Romans 12:14-21).
- Honoring our nations’ leaders…even when they enact policies with which we disagree (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
- Loving our brothers and sisters in Christ…even when we disagree (Romans 14).
I’m not taking sides on the current debate. Trust me, these principles were laid out in Scripture long before the current debate and they will still be relevant after this situation has passed.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this, when tragedies occur, let us conduct ourselves as Christians. Let us remember that Jesus is Lord and that should not only give us great comfort but also help us to remember we must be obedient and faithful, no matter what is happening in the world.
I love you and God loves you,
Twenty-five years ago, there was a phrase that was familiar to most New Testament Christians: “bringing reproach upon the church.” A person who was caught publically intoxicated or caught having a marital affair brought shame upon the church, as well as themselves. Christians committing a public sin were expected to go forward at their local congregation and ask for the forgiveness of the congregation. After all, that person represented all the Christians in that particular community.
Fast-forward twenty-five years and that particular phrase has been cast on top of an antiquated heap of words that are not used very often. Most young people today have probably never heard that phrase used in the Lord’s invitation. But the situation remains: New Testament Christians can bring reproach upon the church by their very actions. And sadly, for many Christian young people, this reproach is just one click away.
Want a modern-day example? How about when a Christian “likes” or “retweets” someone’s post that contains profanity or immodesty? Sure, the Christian was not the originator of the post, but their “like” or “retweet” has now brought it before the eyes of their friends and family—and sadly, it now bears the Christian’s stamp of approval.
There are two problems with this situation. First, and probably most critical, is a heart problem. What you “like” displays a window into your heart. Why would a Christian young person today be “liking” a post or meme that contains profanity, vulgar slang, or indecent language? Or why would they retweet or like an image of someone scantily clad? These are not things that a person seeking to be more Christ-like would be doing. These are symptoms of someone who has fallen comfortable being in the world. This is someone who has not put on the new man and has forgotten what it was that put Jesus on the cross.
Second, this individual has forgotten that they represent the church to many of their friends or coworkers. They are “Christians” in the eyes of classmates or coworkers. And so those lost in sin look at this behavior and never feel any conviction about their own sin. They look at this Christian and feel comfortable—because after all, they are not much different from one another.
Friends, it matters what you “like” or “retweet” on social media. It matters what your friends think you are putting your stamp of approval on. Christ died for His bride, the church. When you click that “like” button you are a representative for His bride. Don’t take your job too lightly. And don’t “like” something that crucifies Him afresh.
By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.