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“Just Getting Started”

When I was given a task to perform, and it was written all over my face that I didn’t want to do it, Dad would often say, “Son, just getting started is half the job.” He would further encourage my cooperation by saying, “when you finally get to it, you always do a good job.” It rarely took more prodding than that to get me up and going. He had sufficiently boosted my self-esteem. (Besides, the belt hanging on the closet door was never far from reach.)

But it is true of many tasks in life — “just getting started” is the hard part. If we can get over the initial hump of not wanting to do that laborious ever-needed task, we can usually get the job done fairly easily. But that’s just it; how do you get over that first hump? One good bit of advice is to put one foot in front of the other. I’ve had to pick up my children and playfully teach them how to walk to the trash can and then show them the back door. Honestly, even as adults, it helps to have someone around to motivate us to do what must or ought to be done.

As we begin a new year consider “just getting started” on those special tasks that will help you grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

How about prayer? (Matt 6:9; Luke 11:2; Acts 4:24) Go into your room (lock the door if need be), get on your knees, face down on the bed and just begin, “Father in Heaven”. Don’t say anything else (yet). Allow a little silence and you’ll be surprised by how many thoughts begin to flood into your heart that you have wanted to say for a long time in the presence of God. Just get started, and always praise Him first

How about Daily bible reading? (Psa 1:2) Choose a plan, a quiet place and time (sip on a refreshing beverage) and just begin reading. Read slowly; take-in every word and thought. Don’t feel like you have to finish the reading plan for the day. Just get started.

How about regularity of attendance? (Heb 10:25) SAME! Just get started toward the car.

How about visitation? (Jas 1:27) Write yourself a note with the name of someone who needs a visit or some help. “But I’ve got groceries to buy, & the car need an oil change. I have packages to mail and items to return!” SO! On you way out the door to run those errands, take that “name note” with you and instead of turning left to where you planned to go, turn right and head toward the hospital or the home of someone who needs your care and attention. Call them on the way if it comes to that. Sometimes you’ll have to trick yourselves into doing the right thing. Remember, “just getting started is half the job”, the second half of the job is fun and rewarding! – By Boyd Jennings

Culture of No Consequences

In the beginning, the Lord blessed man with a paradise garden to keep, trim, and enjoy. Only one prohibition was mentioned. Adam and Eve were not to eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). If they ate, they would lose their place in the garden and forfeit their right to the “tree of life.” They would lose their lives and their special relationship with the Lord. This was the consequence. Sadly, they ate of the prohibited tree and paid the consequences.

Have you noticed the singular lack of consequences in almost every system of American culture?

God’s plan of behavior management for children (the rod of discipline, Proverbs 22:15) has been set aside by parents and schools. Athletes, stars and politicians are seen to break laws with impunity. Bad manners and rudeness are tolerated if one is popular or famous. Coaches throw chairs, athletes sling helmets, and parents attack other parents, all clear violations of team rules and rules of appropriate behavior. Yet, rarely are those actions held to account. Proverbs 19:19 tells us the truth: “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” Priests and teachers have abused children without penalty. Presidents lie, congressmen take money, etc.

Human beings require structure and discipline. Fortunately for us, our Creator planned for our growth and happiness by holding us accountable. God is honest with us: sin brings death. The Word clarifies His expectations and holds us accountable. God is predictable, consistent, and fair. And aren’t we thankful for that! The beauty queen and best player have the same consequence and reward as the rest of us. Moses, God’s chosen leader, was held accountable for disobedience (Number 20). Samson, a judge chosen by God, maintained supernatural strength as long as he followed God’s directions. However, God allowed Samson to suffer the consequences of foolish behavior: the Philistines cut his hair, blinded and imprisoned him. Ultimately Samson gained victory over himself and over his enemies; God did not abandon Samson but answered his prayer.

Obedience begins with the fear of consequences. God’s people cannot thrive if they accept the culture of no consequences. Churches grow numerically but not spiritually. Many are suffering from the lack of discipline among their members. Fornication, bar-hopping, gossip, and bitterness find their way into churches. Behavior that is plainly un-Christian is ignored while the “positive” is accentuated. By overlooking sin, the consequences of sin are not seen or felt. Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for this (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). They accepted an adulterer as a faithful brother. Paul told them to deliver him to Satan — to let him know where he was spiritually. They were not even to eat with him. How cruel! No! This is God’s way of shocking the sinner into seeing the consequence of his sin.

Not all consequences are bad. In fact, the disciplining of the Corinthian adulterer caused him to repent and return to Christ. Paul urged the brethren to reaffirm their love to him (2 Corinthians 2:3-9). The renewal of Christian fellowship was crucial in helping this brother remain faithful. It remains the same today. We cannot live without consequences. Some believe, because God does not punish sin immediately, He will not punish it at all. This is a serious mistake. In this life, we might evade many bad consequences. However, in judgment all will be made right. Everyone will stand before God to be judged based on the things we have done on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10). Don’t buy into the idea of a culture with no consequences, for there is no such place in existence. – By David Hartsell

Created in God’s Image

Paul uncovered the deceptive practice of commending ourselves based on others’ faults in Second Corinthians 10:12-14. This practice lowers our expectations of ourselves and others to the lowest common denominator. On the other hand, by measuring ourselves against the standard of Jesus Christ, our expectations are raised to the highest possible level of excellence.

We often believe that we are incapable of measuring up to the standard of God’s expectation; as if we are incapable of ever achieving such a level. Is this an honest evaluation of our capabilities, or is it a self-deceptive and self-destructive practice in which we engage to justify our weaknesses and vices? Can we achieve the standard of excellence God expects of us? Consider this:

God’s revelation concerning the creation of man says this; “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; …So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:26-27). The last verse of Genesis, Chapter One reads, “And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good…”

Since God created us “in His own image,” we certainly have the capability of excellence. However, the achievement of this excellence is not intrinsically within us. The prophet Jeremiah acknowledged; “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). In fact, when we attempt to “find our own way,” invariably, we fail, and sorrow and regret follows.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that every individual is created in the image of God. We have learned through reason and experience that our created image is not achieved through comparing ourselves among ourselves. The result of this erroneous practice certainly does not display the image of a glorious God.

To realize our true created image, we must achieve our designed purpose. God has revealed that our purpose is achieved, and our created image is realized, when we simply, “Reverence God, and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13).

This truth is born out in the examples of men of the Bible who, evidently, came to appreciate their created image and strove to fulfill their created purpose through keeping God’s word. “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Job was a “blameless and upright man, one who reverenced God and shunned evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3). David acknowledged; “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32).

Jesus encouraged us to “be perfect, just as you Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). In other words, we are to fulfill and reflect the image of our Creator and Savior. Jesus is the ultimate example of this level of excellence. Since Jesus is perfect, following Him, perfectly and completely, assures His followers of perfection. While we may fall short of this level of excellence, we should never use our failure to justify a lower standard of excellence. Rather, we should acknowledge our shortcomings and be determined to do better.

Each of us can be more than we are. If we will reflect on our created image and follow our Creator’s guidance, we can be realizing greater levels of excellence in our life. — By Doug Roush

“Let Patience Have Its Perfect Work”

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Patience, a fruit of the Spirit, has been described as love and endurance under pressure. Patience is a characteristic that is longsuffering and does not retaliate;
a willingness to wait; to expect; to hope for.

We are not born with patience. We need only to hear a baby cry for their immediate needs or hear a child selfishly say, “No!” or “Mine!”. However, it doesn’t take much insight to see that maturity and strength under pressure is much more difficult than it is to return evil for evil and be swift to strike back. It takes courage, strength, and love not to return injury and insult to others. An old Chinese proverb says: “Patience is power. With time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.” Patience is the ability to endure to the end.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that is to be demonstrated in our relationships with one another. Love suffers (endures) long, and we are called upon to be patient and forbearing with one another (1 Cor. 13:4; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12). Love, with patience, hopes all things. Patience is not passive—it is consecrated active faith and strength.

The Hebrew writer tells us to run the race set before us with patience (Heb. 12:1). Truly, life is much like a race, and patience keeps doing God’s will regardless of the difficulties or the discouragements. The New Testament word for patience means “to abide under.” We are reminded of the great patience of the prophets and Job in James 5:10-11. It does not suggest giving up, compromising, or becoming complacent. Patience is keeping the course despite our circumstances.

Patience has a calm anticipation of hope. The New Testament speaks of the patience of hope (Rom. 5:4; 8:25). Hope produces patience. When we love and have hope in God, we are inclined to be more patient. If we believe in the promises of God, we can patiently wait for them. The hope, power, and blessings of the gospel fill us with patience.

Pessimism is often due to a lack of patience. We look around and see awful conditions and think God is too slow (read the book of Habakkuk as an example of this). Some lose their faith and hope, but true patience can wait, endure, and persevere. Let us not be like the one who prayed in this manner— “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me right now!” Therefore, LET PATIENCE HAVE ITS PERFECT WORK, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.” – By R. J. Evans

Rejoicing in Hope

Some people try to explain unhappy events as proof that God is not good. But His word helps us accept sorrow by teaching us to rejoice anyway (Rom 12:12). God can and will use unhappy times to help us rejoice (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28; 5:17; Phil 4:4).

I. SERIOUSNESS OF SIN

A. Adam’s warning (Gen 2:17)
B. Mankind’s warning (Rom 1:18)
C. Rejoicing in hope: obedience (Rom 1:16; Acts 8:8, 39; 16:34)

II. CERTAINTY OF GOD’S PROMISES

A. Positive ones (Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:9; 2:25; Col 1:5; 1 Pet 5:7; Heb 4:16).
B. Negative ones (Rom 6:23)
C. Rejoicing in hope: eternal life, salvation (Heb 5:8-9; 9:28)

III. SEE GOD’S GLORY & GLORIFY HIS SON

A. Jesus waited (John 11:6)
B. Jesus promised: resurrection & life (John 11:25-26)
C. Jesus promised: see the glory of God (John 11:40)
D. Jesus raised (John 11:43)
E. Rejoicing in hope: belief (John 11:45)

IV. INVESTMENT IN HEAVEN

A. Treasures in Heaven (Matt 9:19-21)
B. Asleep in Jesus (1 Thess 4:14)
C. Rejoicing in hope: baptism (Rom 6:6-10, 4)

For the Christian, sorrow is NOT dreadful!
A time of rejoicing will follow!