Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Instant vs. Delayed (or Denied) Gratification

By Lance Cordle

    “Give me what I want, and I want it right now,” seems to be a message that is prevalent in our world today. In years past it was normal for children to go through the stage of selfishness. It was just  as  normal  for parents   to  recognize selfishness and help the child through that  by taking their focus off their wants and wishes and directing them toward more responsible  choices. Unfortunately, the desire for instant gratification is present in many adults.
     However, taking one’s focus off their own wants and needs serves at least three purposes: 1) It helps them see the value of patience and hard work.  2) It helps them realize their responsibility to other people. 3) It helps them see that there are things they should not have—ever.
     Patience and hard work have long been recognized as virtues. Employers look upon these characteristics as desirables one for current and  prospective employees. But when people are not taught these virtues, goals are pursued without them. The results will be decreased  quality and productivity.
     Beyond the damage to one’s own productivity and worth, is the impact that selfishness has on society. Whether we realize it or not, we depend heavily on others and they in turn, depend upon us. Going into debts which we know we cannot pay will not only hurt us, but our community as well.
     Finally, there is  the matter of wanting things (more specifically, relationships) we should (morally) not have. It might be reasoned, “If I can have the things I want, why can I not have the relationships I want.” Should it surprise us then, that in a materialistic society, fornication and adultery are rampant? Recent societal consequences of such behavior have been minimal at best. The need for companionship can be supplied through seeking someone who is eligible to be in a lawful relationship with us.
     Often when we read of Samson, we focus upon his exploits as a strong man—He killed a lion with his bare hands, moved the gates of a city to a hill, etc. We neglect however, a very important statement, made by him, which reflects an attitude of selfishness. He saw a woman he should not have considered as “wife material.” Instead of dealing with his desires, and bringing them into line with what was best for him and the people around him, he told his father, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me” (Judges 14:3). Samson’s father followed his wishes, and Samson, and those around him, suffered the consequences. Getting what we want when we want it may seem good, but it is not always best.

- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Be Of Good Cheer!

By R. W. McAlister
     When problems strike, how do we handle them? Everyone responds differently; some choose to overcome, and others choose to be overcome. I’ve encountered both types during my time in the ministry (indeed, during my lifetime) – those who allow adversity to make them become better, and those who allow it to make them become bitter. For those who have confidence in the Scriptures, Christ provides the answer for how we should deal with adversity. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation …” (John 16:33). Most of us look ahead for good things to come in our futures, but that’s not always the case. How do we deal with unexpected and depressing events?
     No man can know tomorrow, but it’s certain we’ll have unforeseen difficulties that take us by surprise – everyone does. On the surface, some appear to live a fairly problem-free life, but we can’t know what may be happening below the surface in the private parts of their lives. The story has been told of Ludwig Von Beethoven, one of history’s greatest composers, who was also nearing deafness at the age of 32. His condition was pressing upon him so heavily that he considered suicide.
     Thankfully, he didn’t yield to his despair. If he had, the world would have never experienced his impressive musical talent.
     What about the countless “ordinary” people who feel they have nothing of such great value to offer the world? Recall the parable of the talents in Matt. 25. Verse 15 says of the man traveling to a far country: “And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability...” You’ll notice that there was no zero talent man! We may not have some unique genius to offer the world, but that doesn’t mean we have no value! When we face challenges, we may have no special passion from which to draw strength, as did Beethoven. How can we overcome despair?
     The answer is as simple as Jesus Christ. Christ came into the world to save sinners (Romans, 5:8; I Timothy 1:15). What Christians do have is the knowledge of the gospel (John 8:32). Therein lies the Christian’s gift to the world (Romans 1:16). This is his purpose and strength for living! He knows all about the cure for spiritual diseases, far greater than any cure for physical diseases and more important than all the medical knowledge the world over!
    We have a certain strength for living that outweighs any possible unforeseen challenges and discouragements: if we have obeyed the gospel and we are living with sincerity and diligence, with heaven as our primary objective.
     “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Our time here is but a vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes away (James 4:14). We can have peace in Christ, and being “in Christ” puts on the winning side! So, be of good cheer!
  - R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Monday, December 19, 2011

“My Help Comes From the Lord”

By Bryan McAlister

     “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
     Finding a companion is a blessing, one to be cherished. If that companion stumbles or is hurt, there is one who is ready to help in time of trouble and need. It is a fitting theme for marriage, but that is a theme fit for another day. For now, with the hearts of many of our brethren hurting and wearied for various reasons, we look to scripture, the source of God’s words to us, for a companion who is eternal and untouched by the troubles of our hearts. We look for a companion stronger than us, wiser than us, and holier than us. We look for a companion who is not burdened by our weakness or our worry. We look for a companion who is able to conquer what we encounter.
     Scripture reveals Who that companion is for us. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help” (Psalm 121:1)? A person’s eyes can tell the whole story. In one look you can see pain or pleasure, sorrow or surprise. With one look you can know if a person is distracted, disappointed, or even despondent.
    The eyes are the window to the soul. “My heart pants, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me” (Psalm 38:10). “I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God” (Psalm 69:3). Did you see that? The light of life had been taken from the eyes of the one hurting. The eyes of the hurting had cried so much, their throat had gone dry and the eyes failed, they had no more tears to give. When the heart has reached its breaking point, when it has had all that it can take; when the eyes have cried all the tears they can cry and when there is an emptiness beyond description of words, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills.” Disease, divorce, death, discouragement, debt, disaster; if you stare long enough and intently enough at any one of these, your eyes will be filled with the pain of these moments. “From whence comes my help?” It was rhetorical, because deep down inside, cutting through the pain, was the reminder of truth, “My help comes from the Lord.”
     The transitions our soul will encounter are too numerous to name here. Suffice it to say, whether it is a course of life, a change in season of living, a new year of work, school, or general alteration of any thing, I hope you know, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord.”

- Bryan McAlister preaches for the Centerville church of Christ, in Centerville, TN.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

I Will See Him

By H. L. Gradowith

I may not see the top of holy Sinai,
Or the land that once with milk and honey flowed;
I may not, like a bird, soar up through the sky,
Or have on me the honors of men bestowed...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

I may not find the cure for some dread disease,
And thereby astound the experts of the world;
I may not end war and bring to all men peace
And see one flag over all unfurled...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

I may not have a friend to stand by my side,
Or even one to help as His work I do;
I may not see bad men here success denied,
Or good men exalted when the day is through...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

I may not, in this world, know the precious rest
That the Lord has promised those who would be true;
I may not have the things others count as best,
With precious little I may have to make do...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

I may not overcome all the foes I face,
Or see the weaknesses that hindered me gone;
I may not ever find for myself a place...
Or see the works He gave me at long last done...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

- H. L. Gradowith  For more information on H. L. Gradowith and GRADOWITH POEMS e-mail group visit - the website of Tim Smith, minister of the Enon church of Christ in Webb, AL.

Families Need Teamwork

By Mike Haynes      In life, as well as in sports, it is vital to know that “we” is more important than “ me. ” the USA basketball team did not win a gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games. The U.S. team was loaded with NBA all stars. Yet, they lost to Argentina, Lithuania and Puerto Rico. How could that happen? It is a  good question. John  Wooden, the former UCLA basketball guru, offered this explanation: he said, “The U.S. sent great players; the opposition sent great teams.” The U.S. had superstars; but they could not compete with a super-team!”
     Ego management is a big concern for every supervisor, teacher or leader. Some individuals have over-inflated egos. They think too highly of themselves. Others have under-inflated egos. They have low self-esteem. The antidote for too much ego or too little ego is the team concept. Teaching is usually required in the area of team spirit. Some people have been encouraged to be rugged individualists. They are independent in thought and action. Their natural inclination is to watch out for self. Personal glory is more important than team success. And, of course, there are times in life when one must stand alone. But, there is also the matter of community.
     There is value in being a part of a learning organization (job, church, school, family, etc.). I was reared in Oxford, Alabama, near the Talladega Speedway. The influence of NASCAR was certainly felt in my community. The big-named drivers, of course, got most of the publicity and attention. But, a big-named driver can’t do it all by himself. One, in a sense, isolated individual, must pour gas into the tank of the race car. Another person is responsible for removing and replacing lug nuts. One person removes the worn tire. Yet another person puts on the new tire. One person stands by with a fire extinguisher in case a problem arises. All of these individuals realize they are team members. The family, in a very real sense, is a team. Successful families have a team or family spirit. Parents are responsible for teaching family members about team work. Such teaching will strengthen the family and prepare family members for participation in other groups.

- Mike Haynes received his training at Freed-Hardeman University, Southern Christian University, Auburn University, and Nova Southeastern University. He supervises a number of forensic programs for the Alabama Department of Corrections. [This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer issue of Our Families Magazine]; via
The Family Friend, a monthly newsletter published by the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  It is an excellent resource for articles relating to the family.  To learn more consult the congregation's website:

God Knows and Meets Our Greatest Needs

[Hebrews 9:11-14, 10:1-4 and 11-14]
By Gerald Cowan
     It can be said in this way: If our greatest need had been for information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been for technology, God would have sent us a scientist, a technician, or an engineer. If our greatest need had been money and material wealth, God would have sent us a financial adviser, an investment broker. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. If our greatest need had been to be served, God would have sent us a servant. If our greatest need had been for freedom, God would have sent us a deliverer.
     We do have a need for information – about God, about our world, and about ourselves. So God sent men inspired by His Spirit to tell us about himself and the world and how to relate to properly to Him and the world. He endowed us with intelligence and rationality; He made us able to investigate and learn how to develop and use the resources at hand. Of course we got sidetracked by the desire to possess more and more of the things that became available to us and God-sent teachers could never convince some of us of the futility and transience of earthly treasures, though they often stressed the point. The search for entertainment is mostly man-made, and God does not supply it. But the need for information about how to relate to God has never gone away, so God’s inspired persons prepared us for life in His kingdom, life in the called-out church of His Son. He revealed through them all we will ever need to know to function properly in the Kingdom/Church of the Lord, to please Him and secure a place in His heaven (1 Peter 1:1-9, 2 Peter 1:3-4).
     Jesus was called The Teacher, and was surely the greatest teacher ever in things pertaining to God and the spirits of men. He knew the mind of God and was able to put God’s will into understandable words for us, to give us a perfectly understandable and applicable object lesson in how to live and please God. In him we could see God and hear God – we could know and experience God for ourselves by following his words and example (John 14:9, 15:1-8). He did not come to entertain us or make us feel good. But he did tell us how to be blessed and how to be a blessing, how to enjoy life – abundant life – how to be truly happy, satisfied, and always rejoicing in God (Mt. 5:1-6, Phil. 4:4). He supplies all our real and abiding needs through His Son, Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:13, 19).
     God knew that our greatest need was not to be free from all others, or to be served by others. We can be submissive to masters, rulers, and other authorities under whom we are placed – that kind of adjustment is required for happiness and satisfaction (Rom. 13:1-7, Eph. 5:21-6:9). Our greatest needs are spiritual. God knew our greatest need would be for the forgiveness of sins, errors and mistakes – whether deliberate and willful or inadvertent and accidental – our weaknesses, failures, shortcomings, and doubts. Our greatest need was for salvation. So God sent us a Savior, a Redeemer and Deliverer for our spirits. He sent a Sacrifice who was able to remove all our sins and give us the peace of mind that can only come from a clean and clear conscience (Heb. 9:26-28, Phil. 4:6-9). In giving himself Jesus became the servant of all, serving and ministering to our greatest needs. His service can be rejected and his gift not received, but if that is the case, nobody else can make up for the loss (John 13:6-17).
     In the process of providing for our salvation God made it possible for us to live in peace with Him and with each other. He also made it possible for us to be at peace within ourselves, with untroubled hearts looking forward to the consummation of all things in heaven (John 14:1-9) where neither He nor we shall ever fade away (1 Peter 1:3-4).
- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola church of Christ in Dongola, IL.  He may be contacted at

Monday, December 12, 2011

Can You Count the Apples in a Seed?

By Mark Adams
     In 1877, James A. Harding (for whom Harding University is named) went to Clark County, Kentucky, where he held a gospel meeting. When asked how the meeting went, one of the elders at the congregation responded, “It was not much of a meeting.
     Oh, brother Harding did his usual powerful preaching, the attendance was fair, but the results were negligible. Only little Jimmy Shepherd was baptized.”
     God doesn’t always perceive things the way that we do. When we work hard to serve people in the name of Christ and few respond to our message, it is easy to think, “The results of my work are negligible.”
    But we must never underestimate the power of one seed that really takes root. In the case of little Jimmy Shepherd, the sole response to Harding’s preaching in that guospel meeting, he stayed dedicated to the cause of Christ all of his life. He is better known to some as James W. Shepherd. While he was in college, he began preaching. In 1883, he helped to establish the Berea Church of Christ in Madison County. In 1888, he left with his family to do mission work in New Zealand for several years, preaching all around the country, as well as in Australia.
    Upon returning to the states, he worked from 1905 to 1912 as the office editor of the Gospel Advocate, where he both wrote and edited some works that have been treasured for decades.
     In Luke 8:8, Jesus is teaching a parable about a sower. Though much seed might never take root or grow, the seed which does take root can produce “one hundred times” what has been sown. Every seed you plant matters, because only God knows just how much good can be done when a person plants a seed through a single act of Christian conviction.

- Mark Adams; via
The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:


By Lynn Parker
    Those words, often uttered in prayer, make up a proper request. We all should desire to be stronger spiritually (II Pet. 3:18). We should indeed long for growth (I Pet. 2:1ff). Let us examine this prayer request, as well as our attitude and efforts toward spiritual growth.
    What would you think of a man who prayed, “God, please help me not to lose my job,” and then that same man slept in and was late to work every day? I have heard both men and women who say they want to be stronger spiritually. I have heard some say they want to know the Bible better. I have heard some folks piously sing, “More, More About Jesus.” And then I have seen the very same souls skip Bible classes on Sunday and Wednesday. Any wonder why there is no growth????
    When ones attendance at worship assemblies is “hit and miss,” then that person will exhibit spiritual stagnation. When a tree in the orchard does not grow, we give it extra attention. When a Christian does not grow, we try to give some extra attention as concerned brethren. After all, we have an obligation to build up each other. “So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another” (Rom. 14:19).
    Your brethren cannot help you grow if you do not engage in really challenging, serious Bible study. Some brothers and sisters have been in the church for 10 years or more and never yet made 10 pages of study notes. Folks, casual reading of the Bible is not Bible study. We cannot edify you if you are not in the assembly of the saints on a regular basis. If students at public school attended like some of my brethren attend the worship assembly, they would be charged with truancy!
    We cannot help you grow if you persist in saying, “This is not a convenient time” or employing similar excuses. Everyone is busy. Everyone has more to do than week to get it done. Still, if heaven is really important to you, you will make time to sit down and study. We have the teachers. We have a strong desire to see you grow. We can come to your house and spend an hour a week in diligent study with you. We are ready. Still, we cannot help you grow if you never make an effort or lift a finger. We will make the time—will you?

- Lynn Parker, New Braunfels, TX; via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC.  Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website: 

The Importance of Reputation

By Jonathan B. Jones II
     A recent Wall Street Journal interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt revealed some disturbing realities about privacy and reputations in the digital age.
    The Google CEO says you may have to change your name to escape your past.
    The Internet-search-engine-giant's CEO stated, "I don't believe society understands
what happens when everything is available, knowable, and recorded by
everyone all the time." Because records are kept of all of your internet activity including internet searches, websites visited, and social networking posts, the indiscretions within the cyber world will scar your reputation and follow you throughout life. It is well known that many employers today will check social networking sites (such as twitter, Facebook, and MySpace) to evaluate the character of a prospect before serious consideration for hire. Google's CEO stated that the only way to "escape" such a wounded reputation in the future will be to legally change your name!
     Rather than trying to do “reputation damage control” after the fact, it would be far better to guard your reputation from being ruined in the first place. Scripture teaches us the importance of having a good reputation. The writer of Proverbs gives the true life-principle, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).
    The Preacher of the book of Ecclesiastes seconds this advice, "A good name is better than precious ointment" (Ecclesiastes 7:1). As Christians we must care about our reputations. We should put a high priority upon the value of our reputations.
     We all make mistakes in the days of our youthfulness that we regret. David prayed to God, "Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions…" (Psalm 25:7). However, there is no excuse for "sowing wild oats" because we are young. God does not excuse the indiscretions of youth.
     Accountable young people must realize there are consequences to their choices--even choices made on-line. The young man Joseph is elevated in Scripture as a young man who continued to seek God when in a foreign land (Genesis 39:9).
    Likewise the young men Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego realized that they were accountable to God even when not around their parents (Daniel 1:8).
    Actions have consequences. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). We are to "sow for yourselves righteousness" (Hosea 10:12). If you sow to the wind, you can expect to reap a whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). May we all, both young and old, realize the importance of our reputations.

- Jonathan B. Jones II; via
The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Riches Within Reach

By Dan Chambers

     One day last week, Andrea called my attention to a news story that appeared on the homepage of “Yahoo.” The story told how in England back in 1945 a grandfather gave his seven-year-old grandson, John Webber, a mug to play with.  It was a golden-colored cup about 5 ½ inches tall, and was decorated with the heads of two women facing in opposite directions, their foreheads garlanded with two knotted snakes.
     Among other things, seven-year-old John used the cup for target practice with his air gun, but it survived intact, and eventually was stashed away and largely forgotten.  Sixty-three years later that mug was still languishing in a shoebox under seventy-year-old John’s bed.  When John moved last year, he decided to get the bronze cup valued.  As an English scrap metal dealer he believed he had a “good eye” for antiques.
     It turned out that the bronze mug wasn’t bronze at all.  It was actually a rare piece of ancient Persian treasure, beaten out of a single sheet of gold hundreds of years before thebirth of Christ.  Experts said the method of manufacture and composition of the gold was “consistent with Archaemenid gold and gold smithing” dating back to the third or fourth century B.C.  The Archaemenid empire, the first of the Persian empires to rule over significant portions of greater Iran, was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C..  The cup will go up for auction in England in June 5, and is estimated to fetch around 500,000 pounds, which is about $1,000,000.
     Imagine that—for over six decades there was a treasure within John’s reach that would make him rich beyond his wildest dreams, and he didn’t even know it.  John’s story reminded me that every person in this world has within his or her reach a treasure that will make him or her rich beyond their wildest dreams and most don’t even know it, or they don’t do anything about it.
     Of course I’m talking about the treasure of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  In Romans 10:12-13 Paul says, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for, Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Notice that, through the Holy Spirit, Paul uses the word “riches” to describe the salvation that the Lord offers everyone.
     If you’re a Christian, do you realize how rich you are, and do you thank God every day for making you so rich? And, if you’ve not obeyed the gospel, I hope you’ll realize the treasure that’s at your fingertips and do something about it today.

–Dan Chambers, via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Things The Church Is Not To Do

By James W. Boyd
    It is not God’s intention that the church direct the affairs of civil government. While we have legitimate interest and concern about civil affairs as citizens of our country, we should not involve the church in these matters that are purely political, economic, and government policies regarding trade, foreign affairs, police work, elections, road building, etc. But in matters of morality, ethics, truth, though often thrown by some into the political arena, the church should and must be involved because that involves the business of righteousness. For example, the issues of abortion, alcoholic beverages, gambling, same sex marriages, the teaching of evolution, intrusions against the moral standards of God, these are the concern of the church.
    The church is not intended to provide for the social life of its members – furnishing entertainments, sports, gymnasiums, playgrounds, camps, recreational facilities, etc. To those who think so, we simply ask for the Scripture that authorizes such things. The craze to have the church to entertain has, in some digressive churches, turned the worship services into near revelry, show, "a holy wow," and a religious Hee Haw.
    While places for assembly and facilities to do the work are necessary, it is not the work of the church to simply build buildings, temples, sanctuaries, etc. For too long many have depended upon glamorous buildings to be the attraction of the church. Disproportionate amounts of money have been spent building and maintaining elaborate buildings. But the church grew more rapidly, physically and spiritually, when our buildings were more “on the other side of the tracks.”
    The church is not in the money making or money saving business. Some churches hold huge savings accounts, drawing interest, hoarding funds, while people all over the world are dying lost without the Gospel. Good stewardship of funds is one thing. Greedy and grasping brethren who just hold on to money while the work languishes is something else. I would fear to be an elder of a church presiding over large savings while the Gospel is not being preached.
    It is not the work of the church to provide secular education. Secular schools are businesses and do not belong in the church budget. For many years school people have dug into the treasuries of churches for their school work. Christ did not die to provide chemistry labs, tennis courts, computers, or make “scholars.” Schools can be helpful or harmful to the cause of Christ. At present, 1997, most of the colleges established by brethren, have become enemies of the cause of Christ rather than friends because they have led the way into digression and apostasy. Brethren have for too long bought the false teaching that whatever an individual can do, the church can do.
    The church is not simply to make people feel good, draw crowds, build self esteem, get numbers and funds, be accepted by the community, etc. The church should seek to please God, not men. You will never please all men anyhow. It's like the man and boy and the donkey. They started out with the man riding the donkey and the boy walking. Some criticized, thinking the man should let the boy ride. So they changed places. Then some criticized because the boy should have had more respect for the man than to ride while the man walked. So both got atop the donkey. Again, some criticized because they thought both of them on the donkey was too heavy for the donkey. So they both walked. Then they were accused of being fools for having a beast of burden but not using him. You cannot please everybody. Why try?
    Some have befuddled the work of the church by seeking to do something without authority, but then asking, "What's wrong with it?" If it is without authority, it is wrong. We must have authority for the work of the church as we must have it for the worship, the plan of salvation, organization, and terms of entrance.

- James W. Boyd, McMinnville, TN; - via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC.  Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website:

Whether Yes or No or More or Less – Give Thanks to God

      There is much that each person can do for himself and much that one can get only from others. And when he gets something from others he should certainly acknowledge it and be grateful.
 In Luke 17:10-19 Jesus told a story in which nine out of ten did not even say thanks for a great gift of healing – from leprosy. All ten had the same problem, all asked for and received mercy and help, all were healed and cleansed. All received the same charge. All should have made the same acknowledgment of gratitude. Nine failed.
     Humans do not seem to be  “naturally” grateful. Not to parents. Not to each other. Not even to God.
     For what should a Christian thank God? For every good thing, for every YES answer to a prayer. Can one be thankful for burdens and troubles, hardships? Perhaps not for the thing itself, but certainly for the lessons learned, and more than that, for the strength God supplies so one can keep the faith even in difficult times. If nothing else, trouble can open one’s eyes to his need for God.
     Here are a few things you may not have thought of, for which you owe God thanks.
– If you have more health than illness, thank God. Millions of people will not survive this week.
– Hundreds of millions have endured
battle, imprisonment, and the pangs of starvation  this year. Thank God if you are not one of them.
– If you can meet in the name of God for worship without fear of harassment, persecution, loss of possessions or loss of life, you are more blessed than three billion others in the world. Thank God.
– If you have enough food, a safe shelter, a little money in the bank, and do not have to worry about whether you will have those things tomorrow, you are better off than 92% of the people in the world.
– No matter what you age, if your parents are still alive and married to each other, you are in a very select minority.
– If you hold up your head and smile and are truly thankful, whether you have little or much, you are a true blessing. Almost everybody can, but most do not. 

- via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Dongola church of Christ, Dongola, IL.  Gerald Cowan serves the congregation as minister.  He may be contacted at 

If You Can

If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can always be cheerful,
     ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and
     boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every
     day and still be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your
     loved ones are too busy to give
     you any time or attention,
If you can take criticism and
     blame without resentment,
If you can conquer tension without
     medical help,
If you can relax without liquor or
If you can sleep without the aid
     of drugs...
Then you are probably the family dog.

- Author Unknown; via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website:

A “Can Do” Attitude

By Jason Hart

    “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  Allow me to create what I call a “step study.”  A “step study” may seem a bit tedious but it can greatly help in the application of a passage.
    “I” - Because of the first person pronoun “I,” the reader automatically becomes a part of the verse.
    “I Can” - Saying “I can” leaves out any “I think,” “I might,” “I could,” or “I should.”
    “I Can Do” - When we say, “I can do,” what we mean to suggest is that we can put our lives into action with confidence.  I’s not just a passing thought.
    “I Can Do All Things” - Everything within righteous reason is possible with the right attitude.
    “I Can Do All Things Through” - There is a powerful source through which we can accomplish much.  It is not beside of, over, or under - it is through.
    “I Can Do All Things Through Christ” - Christ is the central force through whom all righteous things can be accomplished.
    “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens” - It is Christ, who, as our Savior, Redeemer, Mediator, High Priest, and King, provides insurmountable strength to those who love Him.
    “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” - Last but not least, the reader is not only encouraged by the strength that Christ provides, but by the strength He provides on an individual basis.

- Jason Hart (adapted); via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.  

Giving Thanks

By David A. Sargent

    On Friday evenings about sunset, on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast, one could regularly see an old man walking -- white-haired, bushy eye-browed, slightly bent.  Each and every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return carrying a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to him, and he would feed them from his bucket.  And he would thank them when doing so.
    To the casual observer, his actions would be met with some mixture of bemusement, ridicule and pity. But those who had insight and understanding saw something far different.
    The old man was Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the most decorated American ace pilot of World War I.  Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea.  But then the unexpected occurred…
Somewhere over the South Pacific, his plane -- the Flying Fortress -- became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so Rickenbacker and his passengers ditched their plane in the ocean.  For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, the weather, the scorching sun, and their most formidable foe: STARVATION.  Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water.  Their situation looked very bleak.
    At one point, Captain Rickenbacker was dozing with his hat pulled down over his eyes when something remarkable happened: ”Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. … Everyone else knew, too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant FOOD … if I could catch it.”
Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, seemingly offered itself as a sacrifice.
    And… Rickenbacker never forgot to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle, a sacrifice that meant salvation to him and others. *
Every Sunday, there are people in various parts of the world that pause
to reflect on the ULTIMATE Sacrifice that has been made for mankind. 
The memorial is the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-30) and the participants are Christians.  They are commemorating the death of Jesus, God’s Son, who died on the cross to pay the redemption price for the sins of the world (Eph 1:7; 1 John 2:2).
    YOU can also receive the benefits of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice if you will:
place your faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed)
in His name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, as Christians, we continue to follow Him and look forward to an ETERNAL home in heaven (Revelation 22).
    Won’t YOU gratefully accept His offer of salvation on His terms?

- David A. Sargent, minister for the church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled Living Water."  To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: 

[* Adapted from “The Old Man and the Gulls” from Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Storyby Paul Aurandt, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, pp. 79-80 as qtd. in “Sermon Illustrations,”]

Monday, November 28, 2011


   “These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.  For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival” (Psa. 42:4).
   David spent a lot of time in exile away from Jerusalem , and he wasn’t able to be at the temple worshiping God.  He really missed it.  His soul was thirsting for God, like a deer pants for water (Psa. 42:1), and he was longing to be in worship again.  He remembered how great it was to be in worship and rejoiced when he could get back.  When we make our lives around worshiping the Lord, the loss of worship time will leave a big hole in our lives.  Let’s not fill that hole with something else.  Let’s get back to God before it is too late.

- Grace for Your Spirit ,via
THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website: 

Lean On Me

As the road ahead seems rugged
and the path is getting steep,
I feel that I can't make it
so my heart begins to weep.

Then I turn to see who's coming

to join me on my way.
I see it is my Lord
and He slowly turns to say,

"Lean on me.....

when you have no strength to stand.
When you feel you're going under,
hold tighter to my hand.

Lean on me......

when your heart begins to bleed.
When you know I'm all you have,
then you'll find I'm all you need."

Then when I felt that no one cared

if I lived or died,
and no one bothered asking why
I'd go alone to cry.

When the burden got so heavy

I could barely face the day,
I felt His arms around me
as I gently heard Him say,

"Lean on me......

when you have no strength to stand.
When you feel you're going under,
hold tighter to my hand.

Lean on me......

when your heart begins to bleed.
When you come to know I'm all you have,
then you'll find I'm all you need."

- Author Unknown 

Oh, Taste and See

By Mike Baker
    The leaves are falling, the days are shorter and time is nearing to gather with family and loved ones to have a period of thanksgiving.  All  school  children learn the story of our American Thanksgiving, complete with the Indians, Pilgrims, and bountiful harvest of food. We also soon learn to associate Thanksgiving with many other things‑turkey, football, parades, visits to grandparents, time off from work, etc.
    Having been so blessed to live in such a country, we sometimes overlook or fail to fully appreciate all that we have. Having a time of the year when everyone pauses to be thankful is a good thing. But the commercialism of this time of year also seems to overshadow the basic concept of the holiday. That is, of course, to thank God.
    David wrote in Ps. 34:1‑2, "I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; The humble shall hear of it and be glad."
    For the faithful child of God, thanksgiving is always on his lips as he praises God. Knowing that we have been forgiven from our sins, we learn to humble ourselves and thank God frequently each day.
    Later in the same Psalm, David writes, "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing." Ps. 34:8‑10.
    Let us resolve to be thankful to God each and every day for all that we have‑our health, our families, our friends, our employment, our relationship with God through Jesus, etc.   Let us also resolve to encourage others around us  to do so as well.
    Paul writes in 2 Cor. 9:10‑11, "now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God."
    "Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together." Ps. 34:3. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"  2 Cor. 9:15.

‑ Mike Baker,  Lewisburg, TN; via
The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:


By Gerald Cowan
     Thanksgiving is gratitude in action. In return for your own good fortune, give something to others that will give them cause for joy and will lead them to thank God too. Here are a few ways to do it.
     THANK GOD for the gift of life by living it triumphantly, as a channel of blessings from God to others.
     THANK GOD for your abilities and talents by accepting them as obligations to be invested for the common good.
     THANK GOD for opportunities by accepting them as challenges to achieve.
     THANK GOD for your health and strength by care and respect for your body.
     THANK GOD for inspiration and encouragement by giving encouragement to others.
     THANK GOD for comforts received by calming and comforting others in their times of trouble and stress.
     THANK GOD for your happiness by trying to make others happy.
     THANK GOD for contributions made by others by adding your own creative contributions to the stream of human progress.
     THANK GOD for your humanity by practicing true brotherhood, without prejudice or malice against those who are not of "your kind."
     THANK GOD for friendship by being friendly, being a friend.
     THANK GOD for love by loving - by unselfish giving of yourself and by unselfish receiving from others who give to you.
     THANK GOD for each new day by living it to the fullest.
     THANK GOD!  Thank Him by giving hands, arms, legs, and voice to your thankful spirit. Thank Him by adding you your prayers of thanksgiving some works, some acts of thanks-living. Thank Him for all your yesterdays. Thank Him for today. Thank Him for tomorrow - as long as there is a tomorrow -“ and then thank Him in eternity.

- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola church of Christ in Dongola, IL.  He may be contacted at

Turkey Poem

   When I was a young turkey, new to the coop,
   My big brother Tom took me out on the stoop,
   Then he sat me down, and he spoke real slow,
   And he told me there was something that I just had to know.
   His look and his tone I will always remember,
   When he told me of the horrors of, well...... Black November!
   Come about August,  now listen to me,
   Each day you'll get six meals  instead of your three.
   And soon you'll be thick, where once you were thin,
   and you'll grow a big rubbery thing under your chin;
   And then one morning, when you're warm in your bed,
   In comes the farmer's wife, to hack off your head;
   Then she'll pluck out all your feathers until you're bald 'n pink,
   And scoop out your insides and leave you in the sink;
   And then comes the worst part he said not bluffing,
   She'll spread your hind quarters and pack your bottom with  stuffing!
   Well, the rest of his words were too grim to repeat,
   I sat on the stoop like a winged piece of meat,
   And decided on the spot that to avoid being cooked,
   I'd have to lay low to remain overlooked.
   I began a new diet of nuts and granola,
   High roughage salads, juice and diet cola;
   And as they ate pastries, chocolates and crepes,
   I stayed in my room doing Jane Fonda tapes.
   I maintained my weight of two pounds and a half,
   And tried not to notice when the bigger birds laughed;
   But it was I who was laughing, under my breath,
   As they chomped and they chewed, ever closer to death.
   And sure enough when Black November rolled around,
   I was the last turkey left in the Turkey compound;
   So now I'm a pet in the farmer's wife's lap;
   I haven't a worry, so I eat and I nap.
   She held me today, while sewing and humming,
   And smiled at me and said "Christmas is coming." 


‘Twas the night of Thanksgiving, but I just couldn’t sleep.
I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep.
The leftovers beckoned—the dark meat and white,
But I fought the temptation with all of my might.
Tossing and turning with anticipation,
The thought of a snack became infatuation.
I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door
And gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore.
I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
Pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes.
I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
‘Til all of a sudden, I rose off the ground.
I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.
But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees...
Happy eating to all – Pass the cranberries, please.
May your stuffing be tasty.  May your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes ‘n gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize.
May your thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs.

May your Thanksgiving be blessed!!

- via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website: 

Thanksgiving: the Gratitude Attitude Should be Present Every Day

A Sermon Outlione by Gerald Cowan

1. Thanksgiving Day is not in the same class as some other religious and pseudo-religious holidays. But surely nobody thinks being grateful on one day is enough.
2. A true gratitude attitude is enhanced by knowledge of our own history and heritage.
+ Israel learned how to be grateful to God by remembering their history.
+ We may learn something about gratitude from the pilgrims. Perhaps we should fast rather than feast, to enter into their spirit.
3. We can improve the experience and expression of gratitude.
+ Avoid materialism as the basis for gratitude.
+ Do not assume material well-being is evidence of God’s approval.
+ Focusing on the giver and not just the gift will help us evaluate the gift properly and receive it properly.
+ What it meant to the giver is more important than benefit to receivers.
4. Results of focusing on both the giver and the gift.
+ A sense of obligation – a debt of gratitude – a desire to reciprocate.
+ The supreme gift of all time was from God. "For God so loved...that He gave His only begotten Son."
+ Though Jesus was and is a gift, the one who agrees to receive him is placed under a great obligation.
5. Everyone of us is a debtor.
+ ...To those who prepared the way and secured for us the freedoms and blessings we now enjoy.
+ ...To those who work with us now and are giving to us now.
+ ...To God for His blessings and gifts, especially for Jesus.
Only when we are grateful and show it do we have the right to ask for the good things to continue.

- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola church of Christ in Dongola, IL.  He may be contacted at

Monday, November 21, 2011

Are You a Saint?

By Winford Claiborne

    Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, I am not a sinner and I am not a saint.” Is there some position between a sinner and a saint? Did you know that the words “holy,” “saint,” and “sanctified” all come from the same Greek word? If you are not a sinner, then you are a saint. There is no third category. But are Christians saints? If you mean by the word “saint” someone who is without flaw, then obviously, no one belongs in that category.  But that is not the meaning of the Greek word hagios. You know that is true if you have carefully read 1 Corinthians. Paul referred to the Corinthians as “saints.” You know how many sins are outlined in this great letter. The Corinthians were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.
    Peter explains what it means to be obedient children. We are not to fashion ourselves according to the
former lusts of our ignorance (1 Peter 1:14). Then he adds: “But as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of conversation” (1:15). God is the one who has called us into His service. His character is the standard of holiness. Since God is holy, He wants us to be holy. In fact, if we are not holy, that is, set apart for His service - set apart from the world - we cannot be His faithful followers. Fortunately, He has given us the means by which we can become holy, that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we obey the gospel of Christ, our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16) and we become holy in God’s sight.
We are urged to be “holy in all manner of conversation.” One who has not studied the Bible carefully may think Peter was speaking about our tongue—keeping our speech clean and pure. Holiness certainly includes that, but it is much more than that. The word, “conversation,” means manner of life. James asks, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).
    Every day—and not just on Sunday, we are to keep our hearts and our lives pure. Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

- Winford Claiborne (From the chapter with the above title, in his book, Divine Relationships, 155 Five-Minute Sermons on First Peter); via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Thanksgiving Outlook

By Alan Smith
     With Thanksgiving approaching in a couple of weeks, I thought you would enjoy this excerpt from a book entitled, "Weather Prognosticators and the Media: Fallacies, Facts, and Fun in Forecasting" by Norm MacDonald:
    "Turkeys will thaw in the morning, then warm in the oven to an afternoon high near 190 F.  The kitchen will turn hot and humid, and if you bother the cook, be ready for a severe squall or cold shoulder.
     "During the late afternoon and evening, the cold front of a knife will slice through the turkey, causing an accumulation of one to two inches on plates.  Mashed potatoes will drift across one side while cranberry sauce creates slippery spots on the other.  Please pass the gravy.
     "A weight watch and indigestion warning have been issued for the entire area, with increased stuffiness around the beltway.  During the evening, the turkey will diminish and taper off to leftovers, dropping to a low of 34 F in the refrigerator.
     "Looking ahead to Friday and Saturday, high pressure to eat sandwiches will be established.  Flurries of leftovers can be expected both days with a 50 percent chance of scattered soup late in the day.  We expect a warming trend where soup develops.  By early next week, eating pressure will be low as the only wish left will be the bone."
     While many of us in the United States will be enjoying a delicious feast in a couple of weeks, may our outlook truly be one of thanksgiving.  May we be reminded once again of the source of our bountiful blessings.  I love the cartoon that shows a bewildered-looking fellow sitting at a Thanksgiving table loaded down with turkey, dressing, hot rolls, and all the trimmings. The caption reads: "Alvin the atheist realized he was at his lowest point, for he felt grateful but had no one to thank."
     We do have someone to thank.  May we do it not only on Thanksgiving but every day with hearts overflowing with gratitude.
     "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17)
     "Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving..." (Psalm 95:2)
     Have a great day!

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the Helen Street church of Christ in Fayetteville, NC, may be contacted at

What Gratitude Can Do

By Bill McFarland
     Some form of the word "thanks" appears in the English Bible 140 times. Obviously, God's people are to be known for their thankful hearts. Have you ever thought about why it is so necessary that we give thanks to God? It's certainly not because God needs it! The Scriptures teach that we need to give thanks because of what gratitude will do for our own lives.
     Gratitude can give us the desire to serve God. Those who genuinely appreciate what the Lord has done for them gladly obey His will. The apostle Paul, for example, was so thankful for the Lord's grace and mercy that he was willing to do anything for the Lord's cause (1 Tim. 1:12). Thankfulness destroys lukewarmness.
     Gratitude can give us peace of mind. Someone said, "it is not the happy people who are thankful. It is the thankful people who are happy." Thanksgiving helps us to fix our eyes on the brighter side and erase the anxiety which stands in the way of peace (Phil. 4:6-7). The peace of God can rule in hearts which are thankful (Col. 3:15).
     Gratitude can contribute to spiritual strength. It is not easy to face the temptations and trials which come our way in life. The inner strength required to be patient and longsuffering is inevitably linked to the giving of thanks (Col. 1:11-12). People who are strong in the faith will be found "abounding in thanksgiving" (Col. 2:6-7).
     Gratitude can increase harmony among brethren. Thankful people are not as likely to struggle with envy and hurt feelings. Those who are "giving thanks in all things," have no trouble submitting themselves to one another (Eph. 5:20-21). A grateful spirit opens the heart to others.
     Gratitude can keep us from the path of sin. For example, the 1st chapter of Romans shows how people sink through uncleanness to vileness and finally reach the level of a reprobate. Paul says that this tragic process begins when people are unthankful (Rom. 1:21). A thankful heart can prevent this sad fall.
     No wonder the Scriptures so often call for the giving of thanks! A sincere spirit of gratitude is a giant step toward a better life.

- Bill McFarland; via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.