The Gospel According to You

By Arthur McPhee

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Are read by more than a few,
But the one that is most read and commented on
Is the gospel according to you.

You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day
By the things that you do and the words that you say;
Men read what you write, whether faithless or true,
Say, what is the gospel according to you?

Do men read His truth and His love in your life,
Or has yours been too full of malice and strife?
Does your life speak of evil, or does it ring true?
Say, what is the gospel according to you?

Peter Hurt My Feelings

By Robert S. Turner
November 1966, available via Plain Talk, at http://www.wordsfitlyspoken.org

When Peter first came to Antioch, he came to eat with me—or people like me. He visited in my home, and treated me as his equal. We were both children of God, and he treated me like a brother—which I was.

Then some “big shots” from Judea came to town. They were of the same race and color as Peter, and they felt superior to people like me. They sometimes spoke of my people as “dogs” and they considered themselves “unclean” when they had contact with us. My people and I were clearly “second-rate” citizens in God’s kingdom, in the eyes of these people from the big church in Jerusalem; and I will not deny, that this hurt—a lot.

But what hurt even more: when Peter learned of their coming, he broke our engagements, and would have nothing more to do with me. He withdrew, and separated himself from us. Our personal hurt was compounded by realizing that Peter, whom we had considered a sort of “hero” in the faith, was actually afraid of these Judaean men, and what they might say about his association with people like me.

And Barnabas, our close friend and teacher—the one who had done so much to plant the cause of Christ in our home town—he also began to back away from us. We realized that he was influenced by Peter’s actions; but this did not soften the blow. These were indeed trying times for us.

Then Paul went to Peter, and withstood him to the face. Our embarrassment at being rejected, now gave way to fear—as we saw two Apostles at odds because of us. But Paul made it clear that there was more at stake than our personal feelings. He said that the principle involved was essential to the very truth of the gospel of Christ. At the time, rejected by many of our former friends, and treated as outcasts by important members of the church, I suppose we looked upon Paul as our personal deliverer. But now—calmly reviewing the past—I see that Paul was right. He did not try to force a social reform upon Peter, nor upon other brethren. I have read that he even returned a runaway slave—also a brother—to his master. He was not less concerned about our social plight, but more concerned that Peter’s people and mine learn the true meaning of oneness in Christ.

Paul taught us that Christ was the great leveler. What was difficult, if not impossible to accomplish by law, strike, or pressure tactics; became a natural thing as we individually lost ourselves in Christ. Paul did not argue our “civil or moral rights” with Peter. He showed him that neither of us could win without the Lord. He gave us a common denominator—made us realize our dependence upon something without ourselves. And when he did this, our color, race, and former creed faded into the background. Many years were needed to effect this change. I must not forget that I am the white Gentile—thedogfor whom Paul argued: AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, FOR WHOM CHRIST DIED.  Gal. 2:3-10, 11-f. 3:26-29.

Fixating on What’s Important, 6-28-2020

By Bill Fix

I’ve heard people disparage the Bible because it does not include an outright condemnation of slavery, and such criticisms grow stronger whenever racial tensions are high. Why did Paul send the slave Onesimus back to his master instead of helping liberate him from Philemon? Why does he seemingly give slavery a pass in Gal. 3:28? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” See also Col. 3:11.

I believe the answer is that while the Bible has much to say about societal issues, its primary purpose is not to remedy every social ill in this world. Instead, the Bible tells us how God wants each of us to live and how we can please Him. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, we can do that in whatever situation we find ourselves—no excuses. If Paul were writing today, it might read, “There is neither rich nor poor, black nor white, married nor single, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Furthermore, this allows man freedom to make the right choice — “that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary” (Phm. 14).

We are commanded time and again to love one another, which leaves no room for racism (Jn. 15:12-13; Rom. 12:10; 1 Jn. 3:18). Jesus instructs in the Great Commission to “make disciples of all the nations” (Mt. 28:19). True Christians will not exhibit hatred, unfair judgment, or preferential treatment of others. But if we fail like Peter did (Gal. 2), we should modify our attitudes and actions, while forgiving others who likewise adapt and grow following some offense to us. If Christ broke down the “wall of separation” between Jew and Gentile, and we are “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens” with all the saints (Eph. 2:14-19), then we must set aside any personal biases to do what’s best for Christ and the salvation of our fellow man.

Little Things in Life

By Robert S. Turner

It is the little things that get under one’s skin that really trouble us in this life. Like “little foxes that spoil the vineyards” (Song 2:15), the effect is out of proportion to the initial cause. When we react in an exaggerated manner, our response cultivates the soil, waters and fertilizes the seed, and thus contributes to greater problems. And if some friend reminds us that scratching only increases the itch, we tell him to mind his own business, our blood pressure increases, and so does the effect of “the little things that get under our skin.”

I have seen grown men—strong in body and mind, capable of standing unflinchingly against brute force, personal abuse, financial reverses or doctrinal onslaughts of the Devil—who will squirm and twist or stoop to degrading practices when some mites get next to them. We must continue to war against the “giants in the land,” but surely there is a reason to drop all pride and admit that we need a better defense against chiggers. (What did you think this was all about?)

The wise man said, “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). The metaphor is a good one, but blackberry vines harbor something that gives friend or brother a real challenge. What about “closer than a chigger”? (I just itch to make my point.)

If there is anything closer, more powerful for his size, easier to acquire, harder to put off, or more democratic in his fleshly taste than a chigger, I do not want to know or have anything to do with it. One can rub down with turpentine, grandma’s lye soap, and gobs of modern chigger medicine, only to make his flesh more inviting for the invisible red-bugs that are waiting, who knows where, for him to prepare the feast.

An Arkansas farmer told me the best remedy was “scratch him ‘till ye brings the blood;” but how can I tell when a chigger is bleeding? I have resigned myself to kerosene, a good wife’s sympathy, and the job of making some kind of point out of my misery. Oh, to get out of a chigger just a fraction of what it gets out of me!

So, if one must be philosophical about chiggers, just remember what I said at the first: It is the little things that get under one’s skin that really trouble us in this life.

Reprinted from Stuff About Things, a compilation of Mr. Turner’s Plain Talk columns, now available in the public domain at www.wordsfitlyspoken.org.

Fixating on What’s Important, 6-21-2020

By Bill Fix

I plan to use this column/blog as a way to highlight the importance of spiritual matters, perhaps contrasted against current events or the daily struggles we encounter in life. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2).

While I thankfully can’t remember having any personal unfortunate interactions with chiggers, I have had my share of mosquito bites, sunburns, and allergy attacks that made it difficult to focus on whatever important task was in front of me. Or at work, it’s often a challenge to complete assignments when calls or emails interrupt my concentration and time.

Similar to these irritating annoyances, Satan (or our own weaknesses) seems to work on us little by little until we fail. How often have you…

  • Unfairly snapped at your kid who sang the same single line of a song for the 57th time?
  • Taken your spouse, family members, or friends for granted because you were too focused on your own worries/problems?
  • Ignored someone who could have used your help or encouragement?
  • Heard a friend, coworker, or actor use foul language or the Lord’s name in vain so often that the same words slip out of your mouth?
  • Yelled at some “idiot” or “maniac” while driving? [Regardless of whether the other driver heard you or “deserved it”, did you set a good example for your kids or exhibit anger with a brother “without a cause” (Mt. 5:22)?]
  • Got too busy with work, hobbies, recreation, etc. that you forgot to pray or open your Bible to adequately maintain your relationship with God for the day?

In the United States, I don’t believe we’ll ever see the old hypothetical actually play out where someone holds a gun to our heads, threatening to kill us unless we renounce God. That’s a BIG thing. But the little things can build and build to where they erode our faith, patience, and diligence to study, pray, and teach others. We can get so preoccupied with everything else in this world that we misplace our priorities. Let’s keep the little things in check so we don’t lose sight of the biggest things.