Fixating on What’s Important: Persisting thru Pressure

By Bill Fix

One aspect I have usually enjoyed about watching the Olympics on tv is seeing the inspirational stories of the athletes—how these individuals overcame poverty, disabilities, fears, etc. to push themselves beyond physical limitations to achieve excellence in their respective sports. A new wrinkle has been added this year, however, as arguably the face of the U.S. Olympic team pulled out of the team and individual competitions for her mental health. While some lambast her for “quitting on her team,” others are holding her up as a hero for not risking injury so she can focus on getting herself right…

Simone Biles, U.S.A. gymnast

I don’t have the appropriate qualifications to diagnose whether she made the right call or not. Although I have experienced pressure-packed moments in my life, I don’t know that any of mine compare to having billions of eyes watching while competing under the modern gymnastics microscope, where the slightest flinch or waver can result in a deduction of precious points. On the other hand, are the Olympics more pressure than a potential game-winning drive in the last two minutes of the Super Bowl? And would we ever see a starting QB voluntarily step aside in that moment under similar circumstances?

On a spiritual level, Christians must be prepared and vigilant. I believe that Paul’s encouragement to Timothy “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7) wasn’t specifically just for him, but that all Christians should generally have the same confidence and sound mind. We have a responsibility to teach others about Jesus, and that is impossible to do with a “spirit of fear”—yet sometimes we might need a Paul or Barnabas (“Son of Encouragement”) to tell us we can. Unfortunately, some Christians may grow tired or weary, but we must press on. Paul writes later in the same chapter, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13). Sticking to these sound words will guard our sounds minds, in faith and love. Furthermore, “…Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12:1-2).

Word of the Week: Growing

By Ken Weliever (The Preacher’s Word, July 12, 2021)

What do we have in common with a lobster?

Nothing, you may think, except that the tasty crustacean provides for us a delicious and expensive dinner.

Eda LeShan, the late author, counselor, educator, and one-time host of the PBS show “How Do Your Children Grow,” would disagree.

LeShan tells about attending a dinner party and being seated next to an Oceanographer. She wondered, what will we talk about? Almost immediately the gentleman turned to ask her, “Do you know how a lobster is able to grow bigger when its shell is so hard?”

Eda admitted that learning how lobsters grow had not been high on her list of priorities. But now that he had mentioned it, she was curious.

The oceanographer explained that the only way for a lobster to grow is to shed its shell at regular intervals. When its body begins to feel cramped inside the shell, the lobster instinctively looks for a reasonably safe spot to rest while the hard shell comes off, and the pink membrane just inside forms the basis of the next shell. But no matter where a lobster goes for this shedding process, it is very vulnerable. It can get tossed against a coral reef or eaten by a fish. In other words, a lobster has to risk its life in order to grow.

LeShan said she found herself preoccupied with the lobster story for days after hearing it. As a result, the lobster story has found its way into numerous magazines, books, and blogs through the years.

Christian discipleship demands that we continue to shed our shells throughout our lives to keep growing.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossian brethren, he said that their faith and hope were known through the Roman world, and through them, the gospel was bearing fruit and growing since they first became Christians. Thus, his prayer for them.

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

To the Thessalonians, Paul said their faith was “growing abundantly” and their love for one another was “increasing” (2 Ths. 1:3).

The apostle Peter instructs us with this direct command, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Clinton Hamilton points out in his commentary on this verse that the verb “grow” in the Greek language is the present active imperative. The idea is continuance. Thus, some Bible translations render this “keep on growing.”

Growing demands that we get out of our comfort zone. Become vulnerable. Change. Take risks. And accept new challenges.

In life, we can get in a rut of doing the same thing over and over again to the point of boredom or even depression. Life can lose its zest. Our love can grow stale. Our passion can wane. The fire that once burned brightly can fizzle. To keep that from occurring, we must keep on growing.

Here are a few questions for self-examination to see if you are still growing.

  • Do you need to grow in knowledge and understanding of scripture? (2 Tim. 2:15)
  • Do you need better judgment in applying what you already know? (Phil 1:9)
  • Do you need to develop deeper convictions? (1 Tim 1:12)
  • Do you need to make greater commitments to developing your skills, gifts, and abilities in service to the Lord? (1 Pet 4:10)
  • Do you need to become more servant-minded? (Matt 20:26-28)
  • Do you need to add to your faith areas where you’re lacking in virtue? (2 Pet 1:5-11)
  • Do you need to be more engaged in opportunities to do good? (Gal. 6:10)
  • Do you need to be a more devoted husband? Wife? Parent?
  • Do you need a better, deeper, stronger love? For God? For your neighbor? For your brethren?

Have you quit growing? Progressing? And improving? Are you just surviving instead of thriving? Is your shell getting too tight? Do you need to shed it?

As we grow older chronologically it is easy to become complacent. To feel self-satisfied. To become over-confident. And settle for a certain spiritual plateau.

Finally, in the words of William S. Burroughs, “When you stop growing you start dying.”

Fixating on What’s Important: Biblical Understanding

By Bill Fix

brown wooden beach dock under cloudy sky
Photo by Zuzana Ruttkayova on

When reading or studying the Bible, it is helpful to consider the context and primary audience for a particular text. Sometimes we might be able to take a text with a specific meaning and extrapolate that out to make a more general application, but we must always be cautious to let the text speak for itself and not twist the scriptures to fit our own thoughts. For example, people today absolutely miss the point if we take a prophecy intended for Israelites 2,500 years ago and try to apply it to current events. Let us seek wisdom from above as Paul encouraged: “Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things” (2 Tim. 2:7).

(As an aside, no reasonable person would read that Judas “went and hanged himself” (Mt. 27:5), add that to Jesus’ directive “Go and do likewise” (Lk. 10:37), and then for good measure, “What you do, do quickly” (Jn. 13:27), and come away with the idea that Jesus wants us all to commit suicide.)

To highlight the importance of context, John’s epistle has a far different purpose and audience as compared to Revelation. As a result, different language is used throughout, and John specifies distinct objectives. For instance, his epistle was written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:31); whereas Revelation was recorded “to show His servants things which must shortly take place” (Rev. 1:1). Someone who is not one of “His servants” should first read John’s epistle and become a believer before reading Revelation (and then understand that many of the signs and symbols depicted therein likely occurred “shortly” after John penned it).

With this in mind, I want to share with you the following idea I read this past week. Doy Moyer is a preacher in Alabama, and he highlighted an important distinction about baptism that I had previously not noticed. Read his point and prayerfully consider the message:

One of the most significant arguments for baptism that I believe is under-utilized is the fact that the epistles, written to those who are already Christians, assume that the believers were all baptized. Look at passages like Romans 6:3-6; 1 Corinthians 1:13; 12:13, Galatians 3:27, Colossians 2:10-13, etc. These are not written to unbelievers to try to persuade them to be baptized. These were written to those who already were baptized, reminding them of what they did and what it meant when they were baptized. If baptism were not expected, necessary, or the norm for all Christians then, why is there a pervasive indication that all the believers in these churches were baptized? There is no distinction being made in the epistles between baptized saints and unbaptized saints. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” In other words, the epistles were not written to the unbaptized.

But let’s not lose sight of this: again, these were written to remind believers of the significance of their baptism and how that should affect their living for the Lord.

How is your baptism affecting your walk with the Lord?

Fixating on What’s Important: Obedience

By Bill Fix

Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have noticed our son asking a lot of questions. Maybe it’s the dog days of summer or perhaps it’s just the age he is now, but some days he’s challenging our very sanity with so many inquiries. So I told him that for him to really learn some of the things about which he’s asking, he should look up the answer, and I found the perfect opportunity…

“Dad, were there bugs on the ark?”

I turned a Bible to Genesis 6 and had him read. When he got to verse 20 that mentioned birds, animals, and “creeping things,” I asked him what he thought creeping things were. We assume that term would include insects, spiders, scorpions, and perhaps reptiles also. To circumvent the inevitable question about specific types of bugs, birds, or animals, I then asked him if God told Noah to take two of every type of bird, did God really need to specify that they needed two eagles, two hawks, two hummingbirds, etc.? He understood that “two of every sort” included the whole category.

Seeing the wheels turning in his mind, I then used Noah’s obedience to God’s instructions as an example for him. (Normally, our son Thomas is an excellent listener, especially in school and large groups. But at home, he’s often argues or complains if he doesn’t want to do what he is told.) So I pointed out to him all the specific instructions God gave Noah in Gen. 6:14-16. What if Noah had made the ark out of cedar instead of gopherwood? What if Noah made the ark two stories instead of three? What if Noah hadn’t covered the inside and outside with pitch? Would he and his family still have been saved from the flood had he not followed God’s instructions exactly?

Then I had Thomas read Gen. 6:22: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” Noah didn’t negotiate with God. He didn’t complain that a three-story ark was too hard to build. Or that he needed power tools to adequately build the ark. Or that the skunks stunk too badly to come on board. He didn’t say he had other priorities he had to place above building the ark. He followed God’s instructions.

The lesson for my son was if Mom or Dad gave him an instruction, I wanted to be able to say, “Thus Thomas did; according to all that Mom commanded him, so he did.” He understood my point.

On a much larger scale, the same principle still applies to mankind today. When God provides specific instructions, He expects us to listen (2 Tim. 3:16-17), not invent our own doctrines (Col. 2:20-23; Mt. 15:8-9). This pertains to the day Christians meet to observe the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), the type of music in worship (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), and the role of baptism in salvation (Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-4), etc.

Whatever God’s instruction is, let it be said of us: “Thus Christians did; according to all that God commanded them, so they did.”

Fixating on What’s Important: Wisdom

By Bill Fix

The other day, my son asked what wisdom was, and I explained to him the difference between knowledge and wisdom. That distinction might be deep for a six-year-old, but I know he at least understood how to use his knowledge to protect himself from harm—like not touching a hot stove.

Sometimes though, we often do stupid things when we should know better. And since I just mentioned the hot stove, I can remember my older brother (who was in high school at the time) burning his hand because he touched multiple burners on the stove “to find out which one was hot…” Too often, we hear about people today getting mixed up in illegal drugs, alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, extramarital affairs, domestic violence, and various other ill-advised decisions when they “should know better.” Or maybe it’s less egregious activities—like gossip, envy, white lies, or a lack of love toward others. The fact is we all know better—we just fail to exercise sound judgment and wisdom at times.

When James cautions us that “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jm. 4:17), it is a strong warning that failing to exercise wisdom is sin. And this warning follows another admonition about making plans without considering God: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” (Jm. 4:13-15).

We should exercise patience in all facets of our lives. Doing so will give us more time to think, helping us better apply our knowledge to whatever situation we’re in—thus exercising wisdom. “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jm. 1:4-5).

Fixating on What’s Important: Freedom

By Bill Fix

At this time of year (Independence Day), we often remember the sacrifices others have made for us to enjoy the freedoms we share in the USA. We recently saw a decorative sign in a home décor store that read, “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:  Jesus Christ and the American G.I. One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.” However, some major differences exist between the sacrifices made by soldiers and our Savior:

  • Soldiers endure many hardships: training, absence from family and friends, mental trauma, and risk of injury & death. (See 2 Tim. 2:3)
    • Jesus endured hardships unlike what anyone else ever faced, including direct temptation from Satan after a 40-day fast (Mt. 4:1-11), homelessness (Lk. 9:58), betrayal by one of his closest friends (Mt. 26:21-25; Lk. 22:47-48), and a criminal’s execution (Lk. 23:32-33). “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-15).
  • All Americans benefit from the service of our soldiers who fought to gain and keep our independence, even if some choose to protest it.
    • While Christ died for all mankind (2 Pet. 3:9), only those “who are in Christ Jesus” and walk “according to the Spirit” will have the benefit of “no condemnation” (Rom. 8:1).
  • We frequently recognize active duty military members and veterans for their service. This common courtesy shows respect for them, especially since many made a conscious decision to enlist.
    • How often do we express gratitude for the sacrifice of Jesus? “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28).

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” — Jn. 15:13-14

Queries and Answers

By Robert F. Turner, April 1965

When one congregation is disciplining a brother who is in sin, what is the responsibility of neighboring congregations? Should they receive one who is rejected by the first congregation?

Reply: Common sense, and respect for the actions of brethren whom we hold to be sound in the faith, should make a church wary of one who is disciplined by another church. It seems reasonable that the “home” church would be better able to determine the light or darkness of his course than others.

However, it is error to consider the rulings of one congregation binding upon all others. Fellowship is hinged upon truth (God’s word), not upon the actions of any congregation (1 Jn. 1:3-7; 2 Cor.10:12). Sometimes men keep fellowship with one who has walked in darkness and is no longer in fellowship with God (1 Cor. 5). It is also possible for men to refuse fellowship with some—putting them out of the church—whom God continues to fellowship (3 Jn. 9-10).

Disfellowship calls for collective action (Mt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:4), and the organizational structure of the church is limited to that of a single congregation. One church cannot take disciplinary action for another, any more than it can take any other action on behalf of another. Each must make an independent decision as to whom they receive into their number, with a view to pleasing God, according to His word. Any other standard will denominationalize the church.

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

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.