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Collection of Reflections
Byron Howell Family Home Page

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  • Suppose people on a remote island who have never heard of the true God or the Bible find a Bible that has washed ashore (in a ziplock bag!). They read and study it, realize they are separated from God by their sins (Isa. 59:1,2; Rom. 3:23), repent and then baptize each other in obedience to God (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:4-6). They are now New Testament Christians in fellowship with God (and hence, with me). Regardless of the sign on their "worship hut," they are members of the Lord's body because they were added to the church by the Lord Himself (Acts 2:47). They can refer to themselves by any Biblical name (the church, church of God, church of Christ, disciples, believers, Christians, etc.). They need to grow up in Christ, learning how to worship and work acceptably. They are not a part of any denomination (Eph. 4:4-6). They never even heard of the denominations. They are just Christians and Christians only. What a refreshing idea!
  • The above island example helps clarify issues of opinion/tradition from issues of doctrine. If we came across this church of island people, would we insist that they need to change the way they are doing something and could we defend our position using clear Bible commands or principles? For example, if they were substituting coconuts for unleavened bread in the Lord's supper, we would correct them. However, we would not lose any sleep over whether they had a familiar sign in front of their church building (or even if they had no building). Because unity is important (John 17:20), the church should not divide over opinions and traditions. Because truth is important, the church should not compromise doctrinal purity. It takes prayerful study, wisdom, and love to determine whether a church issue involves a doctrinal issue that must be defended (Jude 3) or an opinion that should be accommodated for the sake of unity.
  • It is sad when people are more interested in defending their denominational creeds than in upholding the Bible. Simply claiming to be in fellowship with each other while clinging to contradictory teachings cannot be pleasing to God. Instead, God would have us stay focused on and united around His Word. Only then can we truly be one, as he and the Son are one (John 17).
  • Why do some people come out of trials with a stronger faith and others let tragedy discourage them to the point of giving up on God and the church? Suppose you are on an airplane and someone persuades you to put on a parachute because it "will improve your flight." You decide to try it but find it rather uncomfortable and some of the other passengers ridicule you for wearing it. Finally, you become discouraged and even angry at the person who talked you into wearing it so you rip off and throw it down. However, another passenger is told the real reason for the parachute -- later in the flight everyone would suddenly have to jump from 20,000 feet! That second passenger joyfully wears the parachute, doesn't mind the occasional discomfort and is not bothered by the ridicule of other passengers, because he knows the parachute will save his life! I believe that people who become Christians primarily because they hope that it will improve their lives (ie, bring love, joy, peace, and happiness) will likely get discouraged and fall away when difficulty comes. However, the Christian who understands that salvation comes through Christ will not be likely to give up. When tragedy strikes he will cling even more tightly to his "parachute." Why are you a Christian? Does tragedy draw you closer to God or drive you away?
  • During the time of Moses, God agreed to come down to earth and dwell on the lid of a box! It was a gold-covered box, but the ark of the covenent was nevertheless a box. Why did He do this? Because he wanted his people to know that he was near them. This continued in the tabernacle, then in the temple. -- When Jesus was crucified, the veil of the temple in front of the ark split from top to bottom. This dramatic event symbolically highlights our greater access to God. (Remember that under the law of Moses, only the High Priest could enter the room containing the ark.) God still resides in his temple, but as Christians, we are God's temple. God no longer dwells on top of a box in an isolated room, now he lives in his people!
  • The story is told of a little girl who heard in church that God lives in us and that He is bigger than we are. Then, she asked, "wouldn't He show through?" He certainly should. (Matthew 5:16)
 Lord Supper
  • There was a movie called "Dead Poets' Society" in which Robin Williams played a professor who inspired his students with a two-word Latin phrase -- carpe diem, "sieze the day." Making the most of present opportunities is a challenge for Christians as well. A few years ago I was working on an MBA project team doing some research on the Campbell Soup Company when I read that the CEO, David Johnson, had challenged his employees with his own two-word Latin phrase -- carpe futurum, "seize the future." It got me to thinking that if anyone in this world can seize the future, it ought to be us Christians! (I think we seize the future when we stay faithful, when we lay hold on eternal life, and when we set our affections on things above.) It is true that much of what we do when we take the Lord's Supper each week involves a backward look at the sacrifical death of Jesus on the cross. But there is an important element of this memorial feast that is forward looking. According to I Cor. 11:26, as often as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord's death 'till he comes! An unbelieving world is repulsed and bewildered that an instrument of death is such a focal point for Christians. But the redemption that it represents and the eternal future that it makes possible are dear to the hearts of Christians. As you partake of the Lord's Supper, look back at the cross with gratitude, but also look forward to the return of our Lord and long for the eternal future He has promised.
  • Marriages are not held together by good intentions, infatuation, or even romance. They are held together by commitment.
  • A husband who loves his wife the way Christ loves the church (and gave himself for it), will not likely have a wife who is unwilling to submit to the authority (and responsibility) that God gave to that husband (Eph. 5).
  • "So far today, God, I've done alright. I haven't gossiped, haven't lost my temper, haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm really glad about that. But in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed and from then on, I'm probably going to need a lot more help."
  • We cannot be close friends with someone unless we know them. This requires that we communicate with them regularly. Similarly, our deepening friendship with the Lord requires communication. God speaks to us through his word (the Bible). We speak to him through the avenue of prayer.
  • What an awesome thought it is to know that the creator of the universe, the one who spoke our vast world into existence, wants to hear from us!
  • We reject the notion that after God created the world, he set it in motion and now sits back and is not active in the lives of his creation. Also note that God's miraculous intervention in the past has always involved setting aside natural law. When we speak of providence, we are not referring to miracles. Then what is providence? It is God's active involvement in our lives through natural means. He is involved in our lives because he loves us. He is determined to fulfill his purpose (as when He saved the Jews by his providential working in Esther's life). Also, he has made a commitment to his children to make "all things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28).
  • Providence is often seen most clearly after some time has passed. Looking back on our lives often gives us a clearer picture of how He made things work out for the best. Furthermore, the providence of God is most often demonstrated during times of trial or difficulty. God's power is best seen when we recognize our weaknesses and then trust in His strength. ("Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.") Christianity is not a free pass through or a detour around difficulties; it is, instead, a guided tour through them.
  • Do not underestimate the power of providence. Recognizing God's providential work in our lives will generate gratitude in our hearts, strengthen our faith, and give us a whole new perspective on the trials of life.
  • Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous. - French proverb
  • When we try to do things ourselves (without God), we are no more effective than was Moses at 40 when he killed the Egyptian. By the time Moses turned 80 he had developed humility. It was then that he freed the Israelites God's way and in God's time frame.
  • Until we recognize that everything we have comes from God (and that we are just stewards of our material things), we are doomed to viewing the church as a beggar for our donations.
  • Sometimes people wrestle over which should take the lead, the head (logic) or the heart (emotions). Clearly, both are important. Without rational thinking, we get carried off into all kinds of error (out of line with the scriptures). Without emotion, we turn into cold, crusty folks who just "go through the motions" in their worship and service to God. We need both rational thinking and emotion. However, sometimes there is a conflict between what we feel and what we can reasonably conclude from the scripture. I believe the head should drive the heart. For example, when I don't "feel" like God has forgiven me, I can still "know" that he has because I take him at his word.
  • We seek after truth not because it is lost, but because we are lost.
  • If the universe is everything and scientists say it is expanding, what is it expanding into?
  • Words are important! Parents, politicians, teachers, and preachers use them. Words convey ideas, stir people to action, uplift or discourage, enrich or debase. Words can light the way to eternal life or they can deceive and destroy. What have your words done today?