Monday, June 27, 2011
Not long ago, a sister in Christ made a comment to me that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about. As I remember, she had gone online and had been listening to some sermons that were preached by some of our brethren a number of years ago. Some of the men to whom she had listened have long since passed from this life. The comment she made was due, in great part, to the fact that she did not have access to any videos of the lessons, only audio.
Her comment (as best as I can remember) was, “You know, when you can’t see the hair styles or the kind of clothing they had on, nothing much has changed.”
Every time I think of that comment, I do so with both regret and gratitude. My regret is due to the fact that some have changed much more than hair styles and wardrobes. There is no longer anything distinctive. The message, the worship, and (in some instances) even the name have all been modified in order to “meet the needs” of people who are thought to be much more enlightened than people of days gone by.
As much as I regret that, I have more reasons to be grateful. I am grateful to and for men who properly understand God’s message to mankind and who have not deviated from preaching it exactly as it has been revealed to us. Their clothing and hairstyles may or may not make them “stand out,” but their message does.
Secondly, I am also grateful for congregations that expect to hear a message from God’s word whenever a man preaches. The man may not look exactly like preachers of years gone by. His “preaching style” may even be different from theirs. He might use a computer instead of a typewriter or pen and paper to prepare his message. Something like PowerPoint, instead of a blackboard or chart, might be used as he presents that message. Even with all of these changes, the message is the same as faithful men of yesteryear.
Finally, I am grateful for each individual with an “…honest and good heart…” (Luke 8:15) who receives the gospel, obeys it, and becomes a member of the Lord’s church. That will never go “out of style.”
No, I’m not looking for potential members who might help me start “The International Society Devoted to Bringing Back the Leisure Suit.” To be honest, I’m kind of glad that style is out of style.
However, I am looking for people who have an interest in living lives of obedience and service to the Lord and spending eternity with Him. That cannot be accomplished with style. Only substance will do.
- Jim Faughn serves as an elder and preacher for the Central church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org
King Nebuchadnezzar had a problem – himself. (Yes, he probably had another problem, too – learning to spell his name.) Not only was he a king, he was king of the most powerful nation on earth at the time. And, as often happens, power has a way of destroying a person. Although he wasn’t Jewish, he was still subject to the will of God, and God was using him to punish the unfaithful Jews. In rinsing to such a lofty position, Ole King Neb had become so proud of his power that he thought he was above God. In His mercy to King Neb, God sent him a dream and sent Daniel to interpret it for him. This is found in Daniel 4 so I’ll not go into all the details at this time. God even gave the king a year to repent and avoid the fulfillment of the dream. Instead, at the end of the twelve months, Nebuchadnezzar boasted, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (vs. 30).
The words were still on his lips when God stripped the mighty king of all his royal authority and drove him into wilderness to live with and like the wild animals, to eat grass like cattle (vs. 32). “His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird” (vs. 33). Not very kingly, is it? He had to live like this for as long as it took to acknowledged that God was sovereign over the nations and controlled who sat on the thrones of the world. When God wants to humble a person, He knows the best way to do so.
To his credit, King Neb finally got the point. He raised his eyes toward heaven and began to praise the Most High, to give Him honor and glory, and to acknowledge that He has the power to do as He pleases in both heaven and earth. And the amazing thing to me is that when King Neb finally humbled himself before the sovereign God, God restored the king to all his previous honor and splendor.
Yet, it was all so unnecessary. God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to be the king of the most powerful nation on earth. He wanted him to have honor and splendor. All the king had to do was to acknowledge that God was sovereign, not himself. And even when he didn’t, he was given time to change his mind. But instead, King Neb had to go through the painful, humiliating wilderness experience to learn to humble himself and lift up the Lord.
I wonder what God is withholding from us because of our pride? I wonder what blessings are in store for us when we pass the humility test? Perhaps the hardships we endure are lessons in humility. Hopefully, we can learn from the surprising experiences of Nebuchadnezzar to humble ourselves, and not have to be taught humility through our own difficulties. But either way, let’s be sure to humbly acknowledge that God alone is sovereign. To God be the Glory!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.cofcfruitland.com/
Ever wonder why people quit coming to church? Jesus offered some reasons in His parable of the sower. The causes He listed are: the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, desires for worldly things, and physical pleasure (Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:18; Luke 8:14), and this list could be expanded from numerous other passages (false teaching [II Thessalonians 3:6; Titus 3:10]).
Some years ago, a survey was conducted of 469 adults who used to go to church but had left their respective denominations. Here’s what the survey found:
Many of them “quit church” because they “simply got too busy.” Too busy to honor God; too busy to serve Him who died for mankind; too busy to prepare for Heaven. Inconceivable!
A sizable number complained that they had become disenchanted with church leaders or members. Some don’t like the elders’ decisions, others find the preaching boring or dislike the preacher’s style (with little consideration for the content of his message), and some feel the deacons don’t minister to their needs.
Another common complaint is that they’re not being included in the church’s activities. Of course, they never volunteer for service and usually complain when asked to do something.
There’s also a faction who claims other church members aren’t friendly enough to suit them. One wonders if such an individual is coming to church for the hugs and well-wishes of others, or to serve God, which is our joyful duty (Eccl. 12:13). Granted, New Testament Christians should be a friendly, loving lot (Jn. 13:34) and it’s a shame when they’re not, but is it really worth avoiding worship and jeopardizing one’s soul because others aren’t as friendly as one thinks they should be? Ultimately, what bearing does that have on my responsibility to, and relationship with, God?
Have you ever seen anyone leave the church and take personal responsibility for his or her departure from the faith? He or she always plays the blame game: “It’s not my fault; it’s theirs!” Such is the excuse of dishonest people who refuse to acknowledge their own problems.
A small number claim they left the church because they lost faith in organized religion. Would they prefer disorganized religion? Some claim they want Christ without the church, but honest Christians know you can’t have the Head without the body (Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:23). God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33), and we have no authority to cobble together our own worship system (John 4:24; 17:17).
Sadly, there are cases where people genuinely lose faith. Maybe they wanted a “shortcut” to salvation & weren’t willing to work at building faith. Maybe they were never grounded or they were disappointed when their expectations of God & other Christians were more idealistic than realistic.
No matter what the circumstances, loss of faith is never justified! Read the book of Job! He never lost faith in God, even though his wife advised him to “curse God and die” (Job. 2:9). Job’s response? “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh… In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”
The “bottom line” is this: there are no valid reasons for forsaking Christ—only lame excuses! And Jesus made it very plain: excuses will carry no weight on Judgment Day (Luke 14:18ff).
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/
Monday, June 20, 2011
In this world of ours, it is most disappointing to have to address some of the popular topics of the days as Satan’s lies. But, to not address Satan’s lies is to, in time, participate in them. Paul said he was not ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11) and neither should we be ignorant. Satan is active and “he” finds willing participants in every field before “him.”
Let us be clear. Satan is a liar and the father of lies. Jesus said to those of His day, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). By any standard of measurement, Jesus words were hard and pointed! He did not want anyone to misunderstand His point. Misunderstanding can be eliminated when the speaker gets straight to the point.
Note some of Satan’s lies that many have adopted as part of their way of thinking:
That marriage is for all people including those of the same sex. The Madison City Council ( Wisconsin ) is allowing its members to take the oath of office and express an opinion that says the state’s constitutional amendment on marriage being between a man and a woman is something that “besmirches our constitution.”
The Bible is not the word of God, but that it only contains God’s word. There is a difference. If Satan can get people to back away from the authority of Scripture, he will have been successful. He seeks to do this, among many ways, by dismissing the Scriptural record with remarks from university professors (and others) that the Bible is mistaken in some of its parts. When this is accepted, then the Bible is not something God put together, it is something man put together and it contains God’s word.
Abortion is merely a political issue. Satan would most certainly hope you buy into this. If you can’t distinguish between a moral issue and a political issue, you will vote Satan’s candidate (or party) into power. Sensible, God-fearing Christians vote issues, not parties.
Getting rich is important. The primary focus in life for young people is to go to college, get a good education, and make a lot of money for themselves in order to provide for their families (this includes their wants). In a recent report, young people ages 18—25 see getting rich to be the top goal in life ( Pew Research Center poll).
That one church is as good as another. In the religious world this is a fantastic lie. It is a lie that people of Scripture should recognize easily. They don’t because they bought into the lie. They look at people instead of God. The psalmist said that he hates every false way (Psalm 119:104). To identify a false way in to know the true way. ONLY those who are in the church that belongs to Christ will be saved (Ephesians 5:23-26).
Salvation can be attain at the point of belief without obedience. Salvation is by grace through faith. A person’s faith is a response to God’s loving Savior. Jesus said, He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; he that does not believe is condemned (Mark 16:16; John 3:5; Acts 2:38).
“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God" (John 8:47).
- Ron Thomas serves as preacher and an elder for the Highway church of Christ, Sullivan, IL He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.highwaycofc.com
By Bryan Kirby
Jesus said, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Matthew 8:20). When we decide to follow Jesus, we become a wanderer through the world that we are living in right now. This is not the place that we should consider our home. There might be houses and places where we are more comfortable, but none of them are truly home to the Christian. Our only home, the place we will truly call rest, is heaven.
Here are some signs that we are becoming too comfortable in the world: we talk like the world, we dress like the world, we think like the world, we have the morality of the world and the people of the world mistake us for one of their own. I’m not suggesting that we go out into the world and look to make enemies, but we do have to be enough of a wanderer and a vagabond for people to notice a distinct difference between the place we are living in now and the place that we call home. Remember what the song says: “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.”
- Bryan Kirby preaches for the Goodwood Boulevard church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www..goodwoodchurch.org
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). This verse of scripture demands that one must make a choice either to believe and be baptized, or choose to not believe and be lost. This is where faithful Christians play an important part in the decision of those who are lost. We can teach them the word of God that they may learn the truth. Then they will be able to make an intelligent choice based on knowledge of the gospel of Christ
Those that love the souls of men are grieved to see lost souls going blindly on doing the things of the world. I can't think of a life being more profitable than to be saved and to lead others to Christ. It seems clear that this is the real purpose of life.
Husbands and wives must help each other be faithful, and together they must lead their children to Christ. They then must continue to reach out to souls that are lost. This is the way the church is to grow. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus says, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them int he name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." We must obey the commands of the Lord if we are to be pleasing to Him.
- Dale Grissiom has for many years served as an elder and minister for the Dexter church of Christ in Dexter, MO. Travis L. Quertermous preaches for the congregation. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.dexterchurchofchrist.com/
Monday, June 13, 2011
The Christian life is portrayed in the New Testament in a variety of ways. The writers of the New Testament use word pictures to help us understand. They use things that we are familiar with. They take common, everyday actions and give them spiritual application.
One way the life of a Christian is portrayed in the New Testament is that of a “walk.” That is something that all of are able to do unless hindered by health reasons. Eph. 5:2 reads as follows: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (ESV) We also read in verse 8, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” We have been called out of a “kingdom of darkness,” into the “kingdom of the Son of His love.” (Col. 1:12-14) The Lord expects us to live for Him. The ‘walk” of the believer should be a one of progress.
We know that the way we walk physically and the pace of our walk is different with each person. This can be illustrated in the “marathon concept.” Here in Louisville, KY we have what is called the “Mini-Marathon.” Many are entered, and while only one person wins the race, all who finish receive some recognition. Some are fast runners, slow runners, fast and slow walkers. Some are on crutches, some in wheel chairs, but their goal is to finish the race.
So it is with the believer. We are “in Christ”, we are admonished to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus” (2 Peter 3:18). Jesus has a right to expect continual growth in His children. But He realizes that as we all grow at different stages in the physical realm, so it is also in the spiritual realm. “walking” denotes progress. If we desire to “learn of Him,” and grow as Christians he will equip us for the journey. We must have our eyes upon Jesus at all time (Heb. 12:1-2). He gives us His Word to study, meditate upon and apply to our lives.
We must be found “walking in the Truth.” This phrase is used numerous times in the New Testament. Jesus is the great example of One walking in Truth. In John’s 2 short epistles, 2nd & 3rd John both recipients, “the elect lady” in 2nd John 4 and Gaius in 3rd John4 are commended for walking “in the truth. John also is thankful that others are walking in the truth also.
We want to be pleasing to our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus in eve3ry possible way. Since we have been called out of darkness into the marvelous light of the Gospel, we have an obligation, yea, privilege to help others find their way to Christ also. “Walking in Truth” will help us cultivate the type of life we need to continue to grow in the Lord.
We must be found following the teachings found in the New Testament that show us how to live for Him who died for us!
- Larry Miles lives in Louisville, KY and publishes "Larry's Lines" several times a week. Copyright 2009. Visit his website: http://larryslines.com/
When I was growing up we knew a family that had adopted this precious, beautiful, little blonde headed girl. She was so special to them and they let her know it, both in actions and in words. They always told her that she was their chosen child and this never failed to bring a smile to her face and a definite sense of belonging. I can remember, as a child myself, how I wanted to be “chosen”. This amazing sentiment had made this already beautiful child appear even more special and set apart in a way that I was not and could not be because I had not been adopted.
As an adult remembering this family I think of the scriptures in Acts 7 :20-22
At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and his deeds. (ESV)
This family from my childhood had brought up this beautiful child as their own and instilled in her the fact that she was not only special, she was chosen, and given her the security she would need to be a healthy, strong adult.
As parents, this is our responsibility, to take the children that God has seen fit to bless us with and to fill them with the wonder and the comfort that comes from knowing that we are indeed beautiful, chosen children of the King. We must teach them the word of God! We must teach them to wield this sword in readiness to battle all of the elements of evil that will undoubtedly arise through the course of their lives. We have to educate them to recognize evil for what it is.
As parents, we are failing to instill this sense of belonging and security, along with the knowledge that our children need so that they also will grow up to be “ mighty in words and deeds”.
Let’s look at 1 Pet 2:9 -
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (ESV)
Remembering how, as a child, I wanted to have that special feeling of being “chosen”, this scripture really gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling, if you will. This is the idea that I want my own children to grasp; that they are not even mine, I have been given them with the responsibility to raise them up in the way they should go, as they are truly God’s possession because He chose them. I had no reason to feel that jealousy because we have all been chosen, each and every one of us; this is our truth!
A child who has had an earthly adoption reaches an age where they can choose for themselves whether or not they want to stay with the family that chose them. They may choose to say thank you for everything you have given me so far, but I can take it from here on my own. How sad, but this is the decision so many of our young people are making about their spiritual adoption. Unfortunately, this is the example that we have given our children. Faith has been treated with a cynicism in our society, in our schools and all to often, even in our homes. We have got to find the courage to fight for our faith and teach our children to do that by example.
Eph1:3-6 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (ESV)
We are predestined for adoption into Christ because God loves us that much. What an amazing thought! We know that we have been chosen for greatness for the glory of God; but now, as mature adults, we are faced with choices of our own. Will we choose God as our sovereign Father? Will we teach our children to know that they also are chosen and to be faithful in their walk. Will we, in this time of spiritual and religious conflict, proudly and faithfully, stand up and proclaim that, “ I am a chosen child of God !”?
Rev 17:14 - They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.
- Barbie Law is currently a member of Cedar Springs church of Christ in Louisville, KY. Matthew Ashby serves that congregation as minister. The church's website ishttp://www.hecares.us/blog/
Jesus is greater than all. We know the exception to this is God, the Father. The Bible teaches that they are both equally divine. However, the Father is the head of the Son. (1 Cor. 11:3; 15:27-28). "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." "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." (John 1;1, John 1:14). But, other than God, the Father, Jesus is greater than all, and He is our example.
Jesus is greater than Jonah.– Jesus told the Jews ". . .one greater than Jonah is here." (Matt. 12:41). Jonah was a sign to the people and had a great effect through his preaching to the Gentile city of Nineveh. Jesus would be a sign and His preaching was powerful. Yet, the Jews in general rejected One who spent three days and nights in the heart of the earth. The sign of Christ far exceeds the sign of Jonah.
Jesus is greater than Solomon.– Jesus rebuked the Jews for not recognizing Him and said "the Queen of the South" would condemn their generation because "She came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold a greater than Solomon is here." (Matt. 12:42). The wisdom of the Lord far exceeds Solomon’s wisdom.
Jesus is greater than Abraham– Beyond dispute, Abraham was a great man. He was called "the friend of God". (2 Chron. 20:7). His faith is put before us as an example. (Heb. 11:8-19). Abraham, though, was a man; Jesus is the I AM. (John 8:48-59; Ex. 3:14). Abraham’s glory and notoriety stems from the Messiah, not the other way around. The faith of Jesus far exceeds the faith of Abraham.
Jesus is greater than His disciples.– Christians sometimes esteem themselves more highly than they should. Jesus, to teach a lesson on humility and servitude, washed the disciples feet. He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him." (John 13:16). We need to have the proper estimation of ourselves, realizing that if the King Jesus can humble Himself to be a servant, so can we. The Savior is greater than His servants.
- Paul L. McElroy preaches for the Columbia Church of Christ in Columbia, MS. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
In our Lord’s famed address on a mountain near the Sea of Galilee, he powerfully taught the multitude of individuals who had gathered around regarding an array of spiritual principles that were to guide his disciples in their daily lives. In the beginning of the discourse, Jesus delivers what is commonly referred to as the “beatitudes” (Matthew 5:3-12). Within this portion of Scripture, Jesus pronounced incomparable blessings to befall us when we possess certain qualities of spirit and behave in a way that is worthy of the kingdom of heaven. If you and I are judicious, we will consciously pursue the cultivating of these attitudes that we may be in complete alignment with Jesus Christ and continually grow in his favor.
May you and I never forget that we are daily to reflect the unity that we share with God by manifesting a spiritual like–mindedness. It is imperative we hold and highly esteem the same spiritual values as our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
May we carefully consider a couple of Jesus’ affirmations from the text: First, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (verse 7). Second, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (verse 9). Do we agree with Jesus here?
God is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) and he calls upon you and me to follow his example in extending mercy to others (cf. Matthew 23:23). God’s will and power unites those who are truth-seeking and truth-loving. We are to do our part in living peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18). A man is either of the spirit of truth, or the spirit of error (1 John 4:6). Of which are you? Of which am I?
- Tim Childs preaches for the Hillcrest church of Christ in Baldwyn, MS. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.thelordsway.com/hillcrestms
God is often blamed for things He did not orchestrate. When terrorists attacked the US, some said it was God’s will. When people are confronted with temptation, some believe God is managing it. Some whoface terrible situations in life, like death, disease, and disability, hold God accountable for what they are suffering. These things are within the will of God but they are not His desired will.
This is a hard pill to swallow for many people. How can something be within God’s will but not within His desire? The answer lies in understanding one very important concept—the free will of mankind.
When God created the universe and placed mankind in the Garden of Eden, He gave them these instructions, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
These instructions prove that mankind was given something that separated them from the animals. They were given free will. They were given the opportunity to eat freely of every tree in the garden. They were,also, charged not to eat the fruit of one tree.
The free will of man altered the original will of God. He placed them in the garden to prepare for a heavenly home. The taking of Enoch and Elijah without having to go through death may indicate God’s originalplan for the garden. It is possible that He intended mankind to live in the garden until they were ready to be plucked like ripened fruit by the Lord Himself and taken into their heavenly home.
Sin, however, changed the course by which God’s ultimate will for all mankind—a heavenly home—would be gained. We live in a world that is operating under the circumstantial will of God. The circumstances in the world have been changed with the sin of mankind. However, the ultimate will of God has not been changed or altered. We simply must get to that final home through the altered circumstances of sin in the world.
It is, therefore, necessary to understand what is meant by the statement, “So and so is the will of God.” All things are within the will of God in that they exist and He has not stopped them. However, He is not directly responsible for evil in the world. That is Satan’s area. Let’s give him the proper credit.
- Mike Johnson; 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: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com
By Gerald Cowan
Jesus stated His complete submission to the will of God, even though it meant death on the cross. He would not allow His disciples to prevent His death. To be "lifted up" indicates the kind of death He would die, but implies a great deal more.
There is a similar expression in John 3:14 where "lifted up" means "made visible" to others. But the symbolic lifting up was more in the mind of Jesus. He would be lifted up from death. It was His resurrection from death by the power of God that would attract others to Him. If He was raised from death will we be?
He was also lifted up from the earth at His ascension. His exaltation to the right hand of God, the place of authority and power, is attractive to men seeking to overcome oppressive forces in the world.
But to be really attractive to others, Jesus must be "lifted up" in the lives and examples of His own disciples, His followers - Christians. Those who are like Christ and who do what Christ would do are able to draw others to Him - He is able to draw others to Himself through them.
Here is a point worth noting: the Christ who has been lifted up has power to lift others up too, to exalt and glorify His people. Are you lifting Christ up so that He can glorify you and draw others to Himself through you?
- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola church of Christ in Dongola, IL. He may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com