Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Most Difficult Command

By Joe Chesser
      
     What do you think is the most difficult command God has given us? I’m sure you could think of many options. I'm guessing the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 thought selling all his property and giving it to the poor was the most difficult thing God expected. And that would be tough, wouldn’t it? Others might think the command in Luke 9.23 to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus might the most difficult thing to do.  What about the command to make every effort to live at peace with all men (Hebrews 12.14)? All men? Really? That is challenging.
     To decide which command God has given is the most difficult of all may not be possible, or even necessary. But this question came to my mind when I read 1 Corinthians 16.14: “Let all that you do be done in love.” Now, that’s a tall order!
     This is not a difficult command because it is hard to understand. It’s a pretty simple statement. Do everything in love. You’d need help to misunderstand this. No, what makes this so challenging is that it is so unnatural for us. We do not naturally love like God does, especially in everything we do. God’s love is agape love, meaning that love is constantly looking for a way to do good to others regardless of how that love is received or returned. God is the epitome of “Let all that you do be done in love.” And through His transforming power, that is what we can become, but it goes against our human nature. Our love is inconsistent. Our love is conditional. Our love is biased. Our love is selfish.
     It’s not natural for husbands and wives to treat each other with love all day every day.  It’s not natural for parents to be 100% loving to their children all the time. It’s not natural for us to always be loving towards our neighbors or co-workers or even our friends. It’s not natural for us to do everything in love when in traffic or at ball games or in politics. It’s not natural for us to love the lost so much we will sacrifice our time, money and energy in taking the gospel to the whole world.
     It’s not natural. It’s very difficult. But it is possible. I know it’s possible because that what God says He expects of us. That’s why He taught us that the greatest command is to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and the second greatest command is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12.30-31). That’s why it was necessary for Jesus to become flesh and go to the cross … so that we could witness love in action. That’s why God gave His powerful, active word (Hebrews 4.12) that can transform our minds to become like Him (Romans 12.2).
     Doing everything in love is a most difficult command. But it is possible!

 - Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com

I’ve Had My Fill!

By Ron Thomas

     Perhaps you heard someone say something like the following: “The last time I went to church, some lady named Mary seemed to be very unpleasant. I can move past that, I thought, but when I sat down, I received cold stares because,” I was told, “you are sitting in Brother and Sister Pleasant’s seats. That was it, I moved on. Thought to myself, if that is ‘church,’ I’ve had my fill of it!”
     Has this or something similar happened to you? Perhaps not. Many, however, have had an experience like this, maybe even worse. If you’ve had a bad experience, let me encourage to think afresh about “church.”
     In the New Testament, the word “church” is directly related to people called out of the world of sin into a world where people assemble to praise the Almighty for the salvation He freely gave and gives to each. With all the baggage they should have left behind, many present themselves to the Lord with it. Sue has been divorced three times and now married to her fourth husband. Mike has spent the last eighteen years fighting his drug addiction. Tim and Mary have children that are very undisciplined because Tim and Mary are also undisciplined. The list of all the baggage that people bring goes on and on. I, too, have my own baggage.
     Yet, here they are inside a building where people gather together to be taught the Lord’s word, sing and praise His holy name in worship. Not a one has lived life without some blotch (or many) on their personal record of failings. Some hide it well; others live with it openly.
     After a moment’s reflection, is it not best to be in the environment where people gather to praise the Lord and taught His holy way? It was Peter who said to the Lord, after the Lord asked His disciples if they were also going to turn away from Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” To whom will you go?
     Why not consider, again, the Lord’s church and what He intended the church to be, spiritually sick people who recognize the Lord’s mercy and in real need of it.

 - Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

There’s An All-Seeing Eye

By Al Behel

     Perhaps you remember the old hymn which says, “There’s an all-seeing eye watching you.”   As a child I was terrified at the idea that somewhere out there was a huge eye looking at me.   The hymn emphasized that “every step that you take this great eye is awake...there’s an eye watching you!”   That was a scary thought to a young boy who was trying to sort our just what kind of God I was hearing about in those hell-fire sermons.   I surely didn’t want Him to catch me doing anything wrong.
     Today, however, I find that this idea brings comfort to my heart and a sense of lasting security.   God is always aware of every step we take, and our every action is under His watchful eye.   He knows where we are at all times, what is going on in our lives, and what challenges will confront us.   As the Almighty, there is nothing hidden from Him, and nothing escapes His watchful eye.  More than that, He knows the intentions of our hearts, whether good or evil.
     King Solomon said, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).   Wickedness does not escape Him, nor does any good deed or act of love.   Darkness does not hide man’s sin.   But God is always aware and awake to every need and every struggle.  I am glad He has an “all-seeing eye.”
     We are told that “the eyes of the Lord search the earth looking for people whose heart is pure toward Him, so He can show His great power in helping them” (2 Chronicles 16:9).   God wants to see man doing good and reward him with His presence and power.   His heart is grieved when we do wrong.  He always rejoices when He sees us doing the right thing.  He shows His great power in helping those whose hearts are pure.
     How lonely and desolate our lives would be without His “all seeing eye.”  Seeing our every step He is able to protect us from enemies within and without if we let Him.  He promises that we are never alone.  
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/

“I want it my way!”

By Jeff Arnette

     Have you ever said that? I bet a lot of us have never said that! Well, I bet we haven’t said it “out loud” for others to hear. Yet, I would venture a guess that we have all acted that way at one time or another. This way of thinking is almost typical of most Americans. We have grown up thinking that we are entitled to get what we want simply because we are Americans. We have been told so many times that if we want it and work hard, we will get it. I think it goes even further because we believe that we should get what we want. This mindset creates people who try to conform to Christ and Christianity to suit their wants and expectations.
     This has affected the way people approach God. It doesn’t matter if it is worship or how to become Christians. We want it our way, and if we don’t get it, we will go in search of a place where we can get it our way. You would think that it was not a big problem, especially since Christians should be Christ-like and selfless. The problem is that the majority of those who call themselves Christian are not Christ-like. Instead, they are narcissistic, selfish, and egocentric.
     This has affected the way we accept teachings about difficult subjects. As soon as someone teaches something that does not line up with what we want to believe we leave or at least try to change it. If we want a church that believes that homosexuality is ok, we will go in search of it until we find it. If we want a church that is ok with any number of sins, it is not hard to find a church that will say it is ok. If we want an exciting church, with lots of programs, and lots of things designed to entertain us, it too is not hard to find. I could go on, but I think you get my point. The reason for the thousands of churches in America is because we want a church to cater to our wants and desires.
     I have actually had people tell me, “If I don’t get what I want, I will go find someone who will.”
     This attitude is anti-Christian and opposes everything Jesus Christ lived and embodied. Church, it is time that we lay down such attitudes and pick up the new life Christ died to give us.
     Stop right here and open your bible and read Ephesians 4:20-24. Don’t continue until you have read it for yourself.
     Paul’s point is that we should put off the “old self.” The “old self” is the person we were before becoming Christians. That person was corrupt and sentenced to death, but the good news is that in our obedience to Jesus, the old person has died. This is what baptism is meant to teach us (Romans 6:3-4). As Paul said, it is time to be renewed in our thinking, in our minds, and in our spirit. It is time that we put on the new self that is created by God, to be just like Him.

     So let me challenge you to learn, think, and grow. Just as important, I want you to focus on becoming more Christ-like in what you do, more Christ-like in how you treat others, and more Christ-like in your willingness to conform your life and actions to the will of God.

Romans 12:2 - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/
 

The Contribution: The Rest of the Story

By Ron Adams

     Whenever the subject of “contributing” is discussed, most often it involves talking about supporting the work of a local congregation financially. It takes money to pay for the upkeep of the building and to carry on the work of the local congregation. Many churches report the weekly contribution along with the budget, keeping its members informed of the financial status.
     The New Testament has a number of references that provide guidelines for the local congregation in meeting its financial needs. Yet, it’s interesting to note that most of the verses cited initially concerned a one-time collection for needy saints in Judea.
    What is revealed in Paul’s epistles (especially1and 2 Corinthians) is a project whereby brethren in churches in other countries would provide aid to the needy saints in Judea. This was a one-time event wherein Paul instructed the brethren (many of whom were Gentiles) to share their  material  resources  with  mostly  Jewish brethren in Judea. He instructed the churches to “lay by in store” so the collection could be picked up by him and his traveling companions. It would be taken by them, along with any representatives of the participating congregations, to Judea.
     The “rest of the story” of contributing can be overlooked when the  focus is only on the congregation’s treasury.

‘CONTRIBUTING’ INCLUDES GIVING, SHARING

     Giving, and it’s close relative, sharing, are part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the beginning of the church there were many instances of brethren contributing to the needs of others. Not all of the giving and receiving involved money. It was giving and sharing what others needed.
     The same is true today. Sometimes what is given doesn’t have any monetary value. The giving of time to help a brother or sister with a load too heavy to carry. Lending support to one in need of spiritual, physical or emotional assistance. Giving words of encouragement, consolation, or exhortation to a brother or sister. Doing deeds of kindness that contribute to the welfare of others.
     Such  acts of giving and sharing are worth their weight in gold .... contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality (Romans 12:13).

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
"Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ ... So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Galatians 6:2,10

THE MOTIVE: LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER

The giving and sharing are not done to receive recognition. It is done because members are motivated by love to do whatever they can.Thus, we are not privy to all of the occasions of giving and sharing by members done individually or collectively. Let each one contribute using his or her unique resources, abilities, and opportunities. Doing what you can, with what you have, where you are.
In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus,that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”Acts 20:35

- Ron Adams publishes F.Y.C., a monthly publication. Bible references are from the NASB except where another translation is referenced. Back issues are archived at http://ra10ar.com Be thoughtful and kind. All rights reserved. © 2020
 

Wake Me!

By Larry Pasley

     A man who was taking a flight from L.A. to Dallas, but the plane he was on was to continue to N.Y.
The man was not continuing with the plane to N.Y. but had an important meeting in Dallas.
     He was very tired and was very concerned that he might fall asleep on the plane and sleep right through to N.Y. So, he instructed the flight attendant that he was going to nap, but that she must be sure to wake him up when they stop in Dallas. He warned her that when he is woken up he is often very grouchy and uncooperative, but that regardless of how ugly he might be at the time, make sure he gets off at Dallas. She said she would and he was asleep before they reached cruising altitude.
     Well, the next thing he knew he awoke to hear the pilot say, “Welcome to N.Y.” He couldn’t believe it. He was livid. He went to that flight attendant and read her the riot act, veins popping, and using every nasty word in the book.
     After the irate man left, another passenger apologized to the flight attendant saying that he had never seen anyone so angry. She said, “Thank you, but that was nothing compared with how mad the man was that I forced off the plane in Dallas.”


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     We have probably all had cases of mistaken identity in our lives at some time or another. Hopefully the results were not as serious as the story above.
     There is a case of mistaken identity in the Bible which had much more severe consequences than that above.
     God came to this world, in the form of the man Jesus, and the world did not know who He was.
John 1:1-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
     Jesus existed in the beginning with God, the Father, and was the Word. The Word was God and verse 14 says the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The world was made through Him and yet the world did not recognize who He was. Even His own people (town) did not accept His for who He really was.
     It is a very serious thing not to know who God and Jesus are. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9  and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
     Not knowing Jesus as our Lord and God and not obeying the gospel will keep us from being with Him in heaven for eternity.


     May we all make it our aim to know Jesus and be obedient to His gospel.
With love and concern,

- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.JacksonStAlex.com
 

The Need for Some Good News

By Bill Brandstatter

     I am tired of all the negative messages in the news these days. What the world needs now is good news. The good news needed is the news that has endured for generations. This good news will get us through any war or conflict. The good news of the gospel is needed for all men in all nations.
     The gospel is never outdated. It never needs to be made culturally relevant. The gospel should never be comprised. God wants all men to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Paul indicates the gospel has power. In Rom. 1:16, the writer from Tarsus states that the gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”  The gospel can save. It is therefore good news for all men. Here are some good news headlines that would be great for men to hear:
               YOU CAN BE SAVED.
               YOUR LIFE CAN BE CHANGED.
               YOU CAN START OVER.
               GOD CAN AND WILL FORGET YOUR PAST.
               THE NEW MAN BEGINS NOW.
     Good news is available today. It’s the same good news preached by the apostles. If that news is heeded and obeyed, man can have the same benefits as those in the early church. What the world needs is good news. What the world needs is the gospel!

- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/