They were just out for a good time. Cruising around, as teenagers have done since the invention of the car, with "no particular place to go." Two boys and a girl with only fun on their minds.

One of them got the idea that it would be fun to take down a stop sign. Stop signs, along with rural mailboxes, seem to be a popular means of entertainment for a few young people. Some shoot holes in them, some bend them over, others turn them around to face the other direction. These three decided to remove them completely.

It worked! They were enjoying themselves immensely. As a matter of fact, they derived so much pleasure from it that they removed 18 more that night. What fun! A good time was had by all!

All did not have a good time. You see, later that night three more teenagers, three boys who had gone bowling, came to one of the intersections where the stop sign had been removed. Seeing no reason to stop, the young driver proceeded across the crossroad. Their car was broadsided by a large truck. The three boys were killed instantly. A good time, a lark, a silly prank had cost three innocent lives. What is a "good time" worth? Is it worth three lives? But the story is not over.

The three teens who removed those signs were arrested, tried and convicted on manslaughter charges. The judge determined there was no intent on their parts to kill anyone so he was lenient on them. They each were sentenced to 15 years in prison. In Florida, a convicted felon has to serve at least 85% of his sentence. In the case of these young people that amounts to 13 years. What is a "good time" worth? Well, in this instance the cost is now up to three lives and at least 39 years in prison.

We haven't even mentioned the parents. In essence, six sets of parents have lost children -- three to prison and three to death. The tearful remorse of the three guilty teens was little comfort to them. "I'm sorry" and "I didn't mean any harm" is little solace when such harmful consequences are the harsh reality of thoughtless actions. All for a "good time?" What is a "good time" worth?

Young people, youth is a time to be enjoyed. But please think before you act. Realize the tragic consequences that can follow thoughtless and, pardon the plainness of speech, stupid actions.

Before you do anything, even if it is for a "good time," think of what it might cost you and others.

The God of heaven also realizes that youth is to be enjoyed. As a matter of fact, He encourages you to enjoy it. In Ecclesiastes 11:9 He says, "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth."

Yes, youth is to be a happy, carefree time that you can enjoy before the difficulties, problems and obligations of adult life begin to mount up. But there is a difference between "carefree" and "careless." Youth is not a time for foolish and reckless behavior.

God continues in Ecclesiastes 11 by saying to the young, "Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment" (Eccl. 11:9). Please understand, that a "good time" that causes you to do things contrary to the will of God can cost you your eternal soul.

Young people, all people, ask yourself before you thoughtlessly do something just for a "good time," "What will this cost me?" "What will it cost others?" "Will it make me live the rest of my life with regret and shame?" "Could it cost me my soul?"

What is a "good time" worth? Please think about it.

A recent study concluded that drug use among the young people of this country is dramatically on the increase. The most alarming statistic cited is that the use of illegal drugs by children ages nine through twelve has doubled in recent years.

It seems that not only are we losing the "war on drugs" but we are losing our children. I saw a news report where a father wept openly over the death of his 16 year old son -- an honor student who went to worship every Sunday -- but who overdosed on drugs.

This problem is not just an inner city problem. One public service announcement on television says that 40% of all drug use among children is by inner city children. It then asks the question, "Where do you think the other 60% is found?" The answer is obvious --- in every place big and small, in every strata of society, children are not only experimenting with illegal drugs but are using them on a regular basis including hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Many factors contribute to this escalation. Some have suggested that many parents are to blame. The parents of "generation X" are those "baby-boomers" who in the 60's "tuned in, turned on, and dropped out." It is said that because of their own experimentation with and regular use of drugs they not only set a poor example for their own children but also have been hesitant to discipline them for using drugs, especially marijuana.

Others say society in general is responsible. From high governmental officials who admit their recreational use of drugs, to lawmakers and lobbyists who advocate legalizing marijuana and other such substances, children get the feeling that drug use is not that bad. I saw a program on TV that was exploring substance abuse among teens where one young girl justified her use of marijuana by saying, "It's not so bad. Like, I'm not ruining my life. President Clinton smoked it and he still became president." Movie and television celebrities speak openly of their drug use. Many musicians, and not just rock musicians, use drugs illegally and even advocate their use in songs heard on the radio and M-TV. These are the "idols" of our children.

Some children succumb because of peer pressure. They want to be popular or just "fit in" with everyone else. And never discount the "thrill of rebellion." Some just want to do what they are told not to do just so that, in addition to the "high" they get from the drug, they get the "high" of doing something they know they shouldn't do.

Don't think your children are immune to these things. A survey conducted a little over ten years ago in Leon County said that 46% of all Leon County high school seniors admitted to using marijuana; 20% acknowledged using it regularly -- before, during and after school. If our community has followed the national trend, those statistics are no longer accurate -- they are probably way too low.

The Bible condemns the abuse of body and mind (1 Cor. 6:19-20). It warns against habituation and addiction (1 Cor. 6:12). We need to be teaching our children its principles. We need to be educating them and warning them about the dangers, both physical and spiritual, in substance abuse.

We are so blessed to have so many children. Let us do all we can to keep them safe and to bring them up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

There was an interesting article by Jennifer Lee in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, August 11th, 1997 (Before the Fall: Small Church Seeks the Purity of Eden, page 1). It told of a church that held "clothing-optional" services.

"The one-room church with its lace curtains could be any other small-town church in America until the lay preacher, Harry Westcott, steps out from behind the pulpit naked except for white sneakers and a black watch. The accompanist, his fingers skimming the keyboard of the Wurlitzer, is similarly undressed."

Thus begins the services of a nondenominational church at Cedar Waters Village nudist resort in Nottingham, New Hampshire. This village "claims to be the first Christian nudist resort in the U.S." It was founded in 1950.

The bulk of the article goes on to relate the argumentation and justification these nudists give for their practices. They include such things as "People were always baptized nude until the second or third century;" "Nude is natural. The philosophy is body-acceptance;" and "If you believe that the human body is a creation of God in his own image, there is nothing shameful or harmful about being nude." I have come to expect such typical rationalizations for such aberrant behavior. As a matter of fact, I heard these same arguments used by a minister of a denominational church in Texas some 25 years ago to justify using an exotic dancer in worship services. It seems that any one who wants to engage in any practice can somehow justify it.

Some so-called "Christians" are that way. Those who claim to be members of the body of Christ but cling to worldly practices often seek such justification.

Those who claim to serve Christ but enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages try to justify their practice by saying such things as, "Well, Jesus drank wine;" "Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach's sake;" or "You know, the Bible doesn't condemn social drinking or just having a drink in the privacy of your home as long as it's done in moderation." The Bible does condemn "strong drink" (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-32) and drunkenness (Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21) and common sense ought to cause anyone in their right mind to realize where the use of alcohol leads. It leads to death from alcohol poisoning as with the LSU student who recently died after pledging a fraternity. It leads to impairment of faculties and death when driving as in the fatal automobile accident of Princess Diana. Be smart enough to abstain from alcohol completely. Even at Cedar Waters Village, a nudist resort, "alcohol isn't allowed."

Others who claim to be members of the church justify dancing in much the same way. Quoting again from the article in The Wall Street Journal, it said, "Sexual promiscuity and excessive physical contact aren't tolerated. All dancing -- even square dancing-must be done clothed because, as Mr. Westcott explains, 'Dancing is a vertical manifestation of a horizontal desire.'" Even nudists can see the dangers involved in dancing. Why can't some of those who claim to be Christians? It is because it is something they want to do and, as we have already seen, when someone really wants to do something, he will go to great lengths to justify it in his own mind and the minds of others. The problem is, though, no matter how he may try, he cannot change the mind or will of Almighty God.

Simon the sorcerer committed a terrible sin by attempting to purchase the gift of God with money. He was among a large number of people from Samaria who obeyed the gospel of Christ through the preaching of Philip (Acts 8:4-13). When the apostles from Jerusalem came to Samaria, Simon offered them money so that he might obtain the same spiritual gifts they demonstrated. Simon was rebuked by Peter as being a man whose heart was not right with God, for he was "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" (Acts 8:20-23).

Bitterness is a sin that will keep people out of heaven. Paul admonishes us to remove bitterness from our lives (Eph. 4:31). The Hebrew writer tells us to "pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled..." (Heb. 12:14-15).

What Is Bitterness?

Our word "bitterness" is from the Greek word pikria, a word which is only found in four New Testament passages (Acts 8:23; Rom. 3:14; Eph. 4:31; Heb. 12:15).

Arndt and Gingrich define pikria as "bitterness, animosity, anger, harshness" (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 663). H.A.W. Meyer defines the word as "a bitter, malignant, and hostile disposition" (Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistle to the Acts of the Apostles, p. 172). Marvin Vincent defines it as a "bitter frame of mind" (Word Studies In The New Testament, Vol. III, p. 397).

John Eadie says that pikria is "a figurative term denoting that fretted and irritable state of mind that keeps a man in perpetual animosity -- that inclines him to harsh and uncharitable opinions of men and things -- that makes him sour, crabbed, and repulsive in his general demeanor -- that brings a scowl over his face, and infuses venom into the words of his tongue" (Commentary on the Epistle to the Colossians, p. 357).

Bitterness is a hostile disposition and a poisonous frame of mind that causes people to brood, scowl and become repulsive in demeanor.

What Causes Bitterness?

The basic cause of bitterness is sin and the guilt it produces. An individual with a guilty conscience often becomes bitter and repulsive.

Sin is at the root of the problem -- sin leads to guilt and depression, and sinful handling of sin further complicates matters leading to greater guilt and deeper depression, for a wicked man will be "caught in the cords of his sin" (Prov. 5:22).

The story of Cain illustrates the progression of sin. Cain began by giving a sinful offering (Gen. 4:1-8). Abel gave his best, whereas Cain merely brought an offering. When God rejected the offering, Cain complicated the matter by responding wrongly -- he got angry and depressed: his face "fell." Cain's anger was noted by God, who warned against the consequences of this wrong response. God graciously said, "If you do well, will you not be accepted?" Or, as some translations say, "If you do right, you will feel right."

God also warned Cain that failure to repent and offer the right kind of sacrifice would cause him to fall deeper into sin. The clutches of sin, like a wild animal, was crouching at the door and waiting to devour him. God offered hope by saying that he could reverse the spiral of rule over sin by breaking out of his sinful pattern through repentance and a subsequent change of behavior. Cain failed to heed God's words and fell deeper into the depths of sin just as God said he would. His bitterness led him to murder Abel.

Sin leads to guilt and bitterness, and sinful handling of sin further complicates matters leading to greater guilt and deeper bitterness. Proverbs 26:23-26 describes people who harbor grudges, resentments and bitterness in their hearts. Sometimes they cover their resentment with an outer gloss of tranquility and graciousness, but finally the resentment will burst through. Outwardly they might seem respectable; outwardly they may appear responsible; but inwardly their heart is seethed with hate. Proverbs says that anger, hatred, resentment and bitterness bottled up within will give rise to half a dozen other problems -- "there are seven abominations in his heart." The passage concludes with the warning that although for a time hatred can be covered, in time it "will be revealed before the assembly" -- that is, the feelings down underneath will be revealed.

Defeating Bitterness

You can either have your sins forgiven by the blood of Christ, or you can allow bitterness to destroy you.

Only one thing lifts the depressed spirit crushed by a load of sin: confession and forgiveness of sin! David's "music therapy" did not help king Saul -- it soothed him temporarily, but it did not change him (1 Sam. 16:23). Saul's own attitudes and actions kept making his condition worse, as day by day he brooded with jealousy and resentment. Saul's pride and self-centeredness affected every aspect of his life. The Scriptures do not attribute Saul's madness to "sickness," nor is his sin excused because he is considered mentally ill. Rather, his madness and his sin are linked directly (1 Sam. 18:6-11).

An old man was sitting out on his front porch whitlin' and enjoying the sunny day. Into town drove a stranger who stopped in front of the old man's house. The stranger rolled down his car window, stuck his head out and yelled, "Hey, old man, what kind of people are in this town?"

The old gent leaned back, looked at the stranger and said, "Well fella, just what kind of people were there in the town you just came from?"

"Why they were the most unfriendly, unlikable and disagreeable folks you ever saw" the man replied.

"Well," answered the old man, "That's just the kind of people that are in this town." With that answer the stranger roared off out of town and out of sight. A little while later, into town drove another stranger. This man saw the older man on his porch and he pulled up, stopped the car and got out.

"Good afternoon sir. How are you this fine day?" the young man cheerfully called out.

"I'm doin' very well thank you, and it is a mighty fine day" the older man grinned.

"Well sir, I'm a little new around here, mind if I sit and we talk a bit?" the younger man inquired.

"Sure, come on up here and sit" the older man invited.

The younger man ambled up and took a seat on the broad porch.

"Well, there is really just one question I have," he began, "What kind of people are in this town?"

The older man gently smiled, "Well, just what kind of people were in the town you came from?"

"Well sir, they were the friendliest, nicest, most likable folks you'd ever want to meet" the young man eagerly responded.

"Well, my good friend, that's jus' the kind of folks you'll find here."

Unfriendly People?

What kind of people are in this congregation? Psychologists have recognized a fundamental principle in human relations. People tend to criticize in others the very things they dislike about themselves. The man who complains about how difficult everyone else is to get along with has trouble getting along with others. The woman who is constantly criticizing how others raise their children, feels that she did not raise her own children properly.

The Bible recognizes this behavior of self-deception. It is the problem of trying to hide one's own faults by criticizing another. Jesus warned about those who look for specks in others, while they carry a plank in their own eye (Matt. 7:1-5).

Remove the Plank

Have you ever complained that a congregation or another Christian was unfriendly? Maybe they were not friendly or maybe they were. Instead of complaining how unfriendly others are to me, I need to seriously ask the Lord and myself, "Lord, is it I?" (Matt. 22:26).

Am I the one who turns and looks the other way to keep from speaking to someone? Am I the one who quickly slips into a tight-circle of family or friends and ignore others? Am I the one who races for the door the minute services are over? Am I the one who refuses to speak unless the other person speaks first. When I accuse another of being unfriendly, am I being unfriendly?

Jesus told speck seekers, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matt. 7:5).

Be Friendly

The wise man of Proverbs provided a solution on how to handle those we think are unfriendly! "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly" (Prov. 18:24).

If you think someone is unfriendly to you, then you need to become more friendly. Maybe the person you think is unfriendly is just shy. Maybe they are waiting for you to speak first. Maybe they are thinking about other things. Maybe they have troubles and burdens that are bothering them.

"Many will entreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts" (Prov. 19:6). If you want others to be your friends and friendly to you, you must be generous, loving and giving to them. Those who see all others as unfriendly are unwilling to give what it takes to receive friendliness. Receivers of friendliness are givers of warm smiles, hearty handshakes and kind encouraging words.

Don't wait for the other person to approach and talk to you, walk up and talk to them. Smile and be friendly. You'll be amazed how friendly people, who you thought were unfriendly, can be.

The Friendliest, Nicest, Most Likable Folks

Before I complain about other people, I need to see if I am part of the problem. If the congregation is unfriendly then it is up to me to be friendly and to change it. Then I can say, "This congregation has the friendliest, nicest, most likeable folks you'd ever want to meet!"

When We Meet

SUNDAY

9:30 AM....... Bible Classes
10:30 AM..... Worship
6 PM.............Evening Worship

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THURSDAY

6:30 PM...... Bible Class

GBN Live

Church of Christ

2501 Broadway
Rockford  IL 61108
Preacher:  Maurice Brown
Daytime Phone: (815) 874-9995
 

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ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

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