Monday, May 21, 2012

The Lamb of God

   John the Baptist had been preaching with fire and passion in anticipation of the emergence of the Messiah.  When the Christ appeared in public to begin His ministry and John saw Him walking toward him, the prophet announced, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
   It would have been accurate for John to say, “Behold the Lion of Judah who has come to lead the people of God to victory.”  He could have shouted, “Behold the Son of David, the King of Israel who has come to rule the nations.”  Yet, he didn’t.  Instead John proclaimed the plan for Christ to come and offer His earthly body as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  What would be His greatest deed, the greatest manifestation of His identity? His greatest hour was His shameful death as a condemned criminal on the cross.
   All the Old Testament sacrifices make sense now.  They were shadows of the one great event when the Son of God would walk to Calvary as a lamb led to the slaughter and humbly submit to death so that men might live.
   “Behold the Lamb of God”—Fall down before this unselfish King and give Him your praise, your love, and your life (Revelation 5:6-9.

– Source 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:


     (With all the talk of marriage becoming obsolete, the following article from House to House/Heart to Heart needs to be read by all.  By the way, HTH/HTH is on our website.  Check it out.)
     Forget the popular image of the married couple driving each other nuts.  “Studies show that getting married improves mental health and decreases depression,” says Linda Waite, a sociologist at the University of Chicago .  In fact, one study found that people who never walked down the aisle are more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric facility. The intimacy found in marriage bolsters your self-worth and sense of purpose, which actually enhances mental stability.
     “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing.” –Proverbs 18:22

- 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:

Why Should I Go To Church?

By John Telgren

    Why should I go to church?  I have heard this question many times from many people over the years.  The question itself may show a misunderstanding of what “church” is.  Church is not a place, nor is it a time.  The word itself simply means, “assembly.”  According to scripture, the church is the body of Christ and consists of the people of God.  Since the church is the people of God, then you don’t go to church, you are the church.  In fact, God’s concern is not for us to merely go to church, but for us to be the church.
    An integral characteristic of the church is our connection not only to Christ as the head (Eph 1:22-23), but also to one another (1 Cor 12:12-14).  This is why the Bible calls us the “body” of Christ.  We don’t distance ourselves from Christ or from one another, but are intimately connected, supporting one another  (1 Cor 12:20-26).  This is why the Bible tells us not to forsake the assembling together as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another (Heb 10:25).
    I remember reading about a letter to the editor in a newspaper many years ago.  A man complained that he saw no sense in going to church every Sunday. He wrote, "I have been attending services quite regularly for the past 30 years and during that time I have listened to no less than 3,000 sermons.  But, to my consternation, I discover I cannot remember a single one of them. I wonder if a minister's time might be more profitably spent on something else."
    That letter sparked many responses. One response from a middle aged man stood out.  He wrote, "I have been married for 30 years. During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals, mostly of my wife's cooking.  Suddenly I have discovered that I cannot remember the menu of a single meal.  However, I received nourishment from every one of them. I have the distinct impression that without them I would have starved to death long ago."
    There is a cumulative effect on making a habit of assembling with the brethren.  This includes things such as Sunday worship, Bible classes, small groups, serving together, and other non-scheduled times.  If a major emphasis of the church assembled is mutual encouragement and edification, then attendance, attentiveness, and participation are of utmost importance.
     If being a Christian also means being the church, then a Christian without church is an oxymoron.  Being a Christian would be like being a student without school, or being a soldier without a country, of being a citizen without a country, or a sailor without a ship, or a drummer without a drum.  A Christian is inherently a part of the church, the people of God.
     “Why should I go to church?”  This is not the best question to ask.  A better question would be, “What does it mean for us to be the church?”  Spend time this week reflecting on the answer to this question for yourself.

- John Telgren preachers for the Leavenworth church of Christ in Leavenworth, KS. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at

Grace At Work

     “For through the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think: but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
     Grace can do a wonderful work in our lives.  It will save us from sin; it will keep us from the power of sin; it will equip us for every good work as a Christian.  It also should humble us under the mighty hand of God.  Here’s where we need to be careful.  When His grace is working in us we won’t be exalting ourselves; we will give Him the glory.  We will allow God to equip us and lead us into our working place.  This is the pattern Jesus left for us.  When we boast and “blow smoke”, it hides our gifts.  Let’s empty ourselves as Jesus did.  Let’s keep ourselves as meek, and God will supply our power.

- 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:

The Battle in the Pews Trenches

By Mark Ray

In my years of preaching I  have had an easy time of it during  worship assemblies because I sit up front. I have missed out on the experiences of wrestling with small children. But I have seen young mothers and fathers work diligently to keep those babies peaceful and content. Sometimes it has even involved Cheerios! These parents are doing a tremendous service to these children, to the church, and to our world by doing their best to raise these little ones in the training and instruction of the Lord.
    To those who fight this battle, we are proud of you. Keep up the good work. The chaos that currently characterizes the assembly for you will not last forever.  And you will have the blessing of   looking back and knowing you made a difference. 
    An anonymous mother put it well:

Has your child ever tossed a doll back two rows during the  services while you wished you were invisible? Or, have you heard the voice of your own little one during  the pause of “Rock of Ages” singing “Jesus Loves  Me” in an off-key? You may have heard, during the interlude of    announcements, a little prayer loudly praying for dogs and cats.
Incidents such as these make one wonder at times, “Why am I here?” No sooner do you sit down that you reach out, get up, pick up, and take out. You want so much to keep your children quiet and not distract others. Everywhere, there are mothers like you.

They pick up toys, dry eyes, wipe noses, and bow heads. They swat, they spank, scold softly, and often wonder, “Why am I here?” But they come: a pattern is being set, and the hand that threw the  doll may someday sow the seed of salvation. Many times we mothers wonder...we sit embarrassed, and often our attention is drawn away    from  the worship.  We have moments of discouragement, but we’re here.

    When you see a young mother at worship, tell her you are glad that she and her family are there. A word of encouragement is in order, for there goes tomorrow’s church and the moral backbone of our society. Many times older people forget how their own children behaved or misbehaved in public. Our hats are off to the mothers and fathers who will bring their children because they desire that they grow up with a strong, enduring faith in God and the Bible.
“The bravest battle that was ever fought, Shall I tell you what or when? On the maps of the world you will not find it. It was fought by the mothers of men.”

- Mark Ray; 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:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

“Beautiful Abbeys”

By Kyle Moses
    While in England, I had the opportunity to visit many of the buildings (known as an abbey) for the Church of England (henceforth CoE). These abbeys to see are beautiful. Many of these buildings were constructed in the 1100’s, 1200’s, or 1300’s. Some, of course were either lost or damaged during World War II, but most of them still stand and are still in use among the Anglicans for their “worship” periods. The CoE broke away from the Roman Catholic church in the 1550’s when King Henry VIII was not granted a divorce (or annulment as some sources call it) from Katherine of Aragon by the Pope in Rome. Henry the VIII said then that he would just begin his own church that would allow him to divorce. This difference and the fact that they no longer answer to the Pope are the only two fundamental differences in the CoE and the Roman Catholic church. I want to take the next few paragraphs to describe these buildings for you.
    When standing outside of these beautiful buildings, you can easily see the intricate designs of these buildings’ pillars and the shape. For example, the Peterborough cathedral is in the shape of a cross.
    Next, when entering through the front door of an abbey, the visitor is immediately greeted by signs and boxes pleading for money. Usually there will be a “baptismal” font around the “foyer” of these buildings. It is interesting the history that is seen even in this one element of the CoE. In one of the abbeys I lifted up the cover of this font and saw where there had been several major changes. This font, when first made, was large enough to baptize – in the true meaning of the word – an adult convert. Then, over time, they sealed the font half of the way up to make it large enough to baptize – again in the truest sense of the word – a baby. Then, there was a chalice sitting on this second renovation in which the “holy water” is place where they began to just sprinkle babies. Therefore, we can see the decline of the following of God’s law: from baptism of adults to baptism of children to sprinkling of children.
    There are often at least two podiums from which the services are directed. One podium has its own set of stairs because it is elevated so highly. Only the clergy in charge is allowed to stand behind this podium. If there is going to be a lesser clergy member or a “layperson” reading or doing some public act, they must stand on the floor and use a less-than-elegant podium.
    There are beautiful stained-glass windows that line the great halls of “worship”. These windows often depict –as they refer to her – the Holy Virgin Mother of God (or as we know her, Mary) with a halo over her head, or they show images of Christ on the cross and other Biblical scenes.
    In these auditoriums of these buildings, there are often large and very elaborate tables upon which sits candles and a large cross or crucifix. From this table they administer their communion services on Saturdays or on special religious holidays (i.e. Christmas, Easter, etc.).
    In one of the abbeys, there sits a statue of Mary, Christ, and other figures. They have these images of such figures as well as images of past clergy, kings, and queens. This is idolatry at its worst.
    After taking a tour of the abbey in Cambridge on the campus of the world renowned Cambridge University, I saw just how idolatrous this religion is. The historical documents show how the monarch (which serves as the head of the CoE) is held in a god-like manner. The CoE worships someone alongside of God. In one of the displays, they listed the people worthy of our adoration and worship. Here is the list in the same order: “Mary, God, Christ, Holy Spirit.” Many other things that time nor space will allow could be demonstrated from this exposition.
    I wanted to illustrate this religion to tell you this: this religion is not out of the ordinary. Many religious bodies allow idolatrous acts to come into their midst (i.e., calling a person by a special title such as “reverend” or “pastor” thus elevating them above another person). We must be sure that we do not allow ourselves to make idols in our lives. By putting something else above our service and worship to God, we allow idolatrous worship to take over our lives.

- Kyle Moses, Mathis, 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:


Procrastination is the road
To Never-Never land,
Where birds are always in the bush
But never in the hand.
Where trees drop saddened branches down
With fruit of Might-Have-Been,
And brooks wash youthful dreams away
Into the river When. It is no fun to travel on
Procrastination Way,
For promised work is never done,
And gain is always Say. I think I’d much prefer to walk
The Do-It-Now Highway,
Where tasks grow never large or hard
For him who works Today.

- Selected; via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.  You may visit their website at

Humorous Labeling

(I am told the following are actual label instructions on consumer goods. I'll have more later.)
On a bag of Fritos-"You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside." (the shoplifter special?)
On a bar of Dial soap-"Directions: Use like regular soap." (and that would be how???..)
On some Swanson frozen dinners-"Serving suggestion: Defrost." (but it's just a suggestion).
On Sainsbury peanuts-"Warning: contains nuts" (talk about a news flash). -Selected

- 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:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Preaching the Gospel

By Harrell Davidson
    One certain characteristic of the first century church was its evangelical nature. Today men deplore efforts to convert others. We hear charges of proselyting, infringement on personal rights and “bad taste” if we solicit the interest of others. Requests are made that we go to the “unchurched.” May we remind our readers of these examples of conversion in Acts. Most all of the recorded cases had a religion. The three thousand converted on Pentecost were “devout” Jews (cf. Acts 2:5). The eunuch may have been either a Jew or Jewish proselyte. Cornelius was a God-fearing, devout Gentile. Saul was a zealous Jew and “a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee” (cf. 23:6). Lydia was a practicing Jewess (cf. 16:13-15). God had a message for these religious folk and likewise He has a message to religious people today who have not obeyed the commands of Christ. To adopt the policy of never asking another person to become a Christian is completely out of harmony with New Testament Christianity.
    The church was mission-minded. As we restore apostolic Christianity, may we not fail to restore mission work. Every congregation must see to it that it has a part in missionary work. A congregation cannot afford to spend all its income so selfishly on itself. We fall short of the Lord’s will if we are indifferent to the spread of the Gospel.
    The church in Antioch of Syria is a worthy example of evangelism. It sent forth Paul and Barnabas to the harvest fields. Luke says they sent them away (cf. 13:2). After months of toil and hardship, they returned to Antioch with a delightful report of what “God had done with them.
    And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles (14:26-27).
    Some must go and some must send. Paul and Barnabas went and the Antioch church sent and both received a reward for assuming the responsibility. Let it be observed also that the church was capable of sending and receiving missionaries without the aid of a missionary society.
    The church is its own missionary society. It is superfluous to utilize a human missionary society. Loose thinkers do not believe that the world can be evangelized without a centralized society, but it was done in the first century. God’s plan for each congregation to be independent is workable even though this may not coincide with human wisdom.
    Luke writes that “daily” the apostles preached Christ (5:42). People were “added to the church daily” (2:47). Discipleship calls for daily cross bearing (Luke 9:23). The brethren enjoyed daily fellowship (Acts 2:46). The devil, our adversary, never takes a vacation. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). We therefore, should feel compelled to say something for the Lord each day.

- Harrell Davidson, Obion, 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:

The Spirit of Involvement

By Dennis Gulledge
    In the book of Nehemiah we are introduced to people who had "a mind to work." This is the same as saying that they had the spirit of involvement.  It takes involvement to get a job done (Nehemiah 2:17-18).  It takes involvement for the church to grow.  Long before men devised a scheme for "Ministers of Involvement" God had a plan for individual involvement.
    The spirit of involvement demonstrated here is opposed to the spirit of laziness, fear, contentedness, hopelessness, apathy, and indifference.  Enemies try to provoke a spirit of hopelessness in us just as they did in Nehemiah's day (4:1-3), but, we can respond to discouragement by praying (4:4).  It is easy to provoke a spirit of non-involvement in ourselves with negative thoughts and self doubt.
    Interest and enthusiasm are contagious commodities as are their opposites, stagnation and non-involvement.  Leaders can lead, urge, encourage, and provide the example for greater involvement in the Lord's work, but, until people "catch fire" with interest and zeal there is little else they can do.
    One of the problems we face in the church today is that of a spectator mentality. Someone has suggested that most congregations are composed of people who are "100% willing" - 10% are willing to work and 90% are willing to let them.  No doubt all of us want to see the Lord's work prosper and grow, but, what are we doing to help?  We all want to see the lost taught the gospel, the sick visited, the needy relieved, the weak encouraged, and the body of Christ edified, but who is personally involved in any of these areas?  Are you?  We have no aversion to being involved in clubs, sports, scouts, organizations, social interests, and hobbies, however, how much will we commit ourselves to do in the greatest cause on earth?
    The spirit of involvement, or, the "mind to work" comes from the following areas:
1. Everyone feeling the need to be involved.  That doesn't come from one sermon being preached on involvement.  It comes from the spirit of Christ being in us (Matthew 20:28).  There is no reason for anyone to feel that they are not a part of the work of the church (Romans 12:45).
2. Everyone willing to do his part in the work.  After the dispensers of discouragement had done their work in Nehemiah's day, the Jews returned "every one unto his work" (4:15).  Often members of the church are not willing to do the work of which they are capable.  What do we need to make us willing workers?
3. Everyone realizing the seriousness of his task.  How often do we think that any contribution that we might make is of minimal significance?  We are all in this work together and we need the mind to work rather than the mind to fight, argue, and tear down (cf. Titus 2:11-12).
    When people work together they grow together.  The church that is busy at work is busy at growing.  How busy are we?

- Dennis Gulledge; via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.  You may visit their website at

Facing the Inevitability of Death

By David R. Ferguson
    Many people come to the conclusion that the Book of Ecclesiastes is pessimistic and cynical.  Why else would Solomon use the word "vanity" in relation to the good God has done if it was otherwise?
"And I applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under Heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with.  I have seen everything that is done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.  (Ecclesiastes 1:13-14)
"There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in his toil.  This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the man who pleases Him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God.  This also is vanity and a striving after wind."  (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)
    I, for one, do not believe the Book of Ecclesiastes should be called pessimistic or even cynical.  Instead, a better appellation would be to describe it as simply brutally realistic.  Ecclesiastes makes the reader confront the full and dreadful significance of one's mortality.  Most people, whether or not they are religious, refuse to face what death really is.  But when you get right down to it, death is a calamity that nullifies all of the achievements of one's human existence.  Ecclesiastes strips away the myths we employ, either consciously or unconsciously, to shield ourselves from this stark fact.  In pointing out the dreadfulness and stark reality of death, the Book of Ecclesiastes helps us to see just how profound is our need for resurrection.  More simply stated, this wonderful book drives us to seek Jesus Christ.  The New Testament shares this perspective as well.  Death is not a friend or even a doorway as it is popularly espoused, but a terrible, terrible enemy.  It will be, however, a conquered enemy eventually.  Listen to how it is described by Paul and John:
"The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: `Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is thy victory?  O death, where is thy sting?'"  (1 Corinthians 15:26; 54-55)
"Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death, the lake of fire;"  (Revelation 20:14)
    Face the inevitability of the enemy, death, with confidence.  Face it with Jesus Christ!
    May the Lord bless you!

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: 


By Dalton Key
     Adultery and fornication are now extra-marital affairs and sexual experimentation. Promiscuity is nothing more than “hooking up” and hopefully having “safe sex”. Homosexuals are gay. Their relationships are no longer described as perverse or deviant but are rather touted as free expressions of an alternate lifestyle.
     No one steals anymore. But there are those misguided souls involved in petty larceny, suffering from kleptomania, or perhaps overcome by embezzlement, creative bookkeeping, or perhaps the misappropriation of funds.
     People don’t lie. They shade the truth. Politicians don’t lie. They spin the facts. Governments don’t lie. They fuel massive disinformation campaigns. Drunkards have become alcoholics. Drug addicts have become substance-dependent.
     The story is told that Confucius, when asked what his first deed would be if he were to be made Emperor of China, replied, “I would re-establish the precise meaning of words.”
     Much could be said for this idea. Stripped of accuracy, language becomes impotent.
     When the world goes gray, and vagueness engulfs the land, confusion takes hold. No one is quite sure what is right and what is wrong; or, indeed, if anything is wrong, except the bigotry of suggesting that some things may be wrong.
     Truth is easily hedged and responsibility avoided when words lose their meaning and become so elasticized so as to mean almost anything – and nothing.
     The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were experts at creating legal loopholes and semantical quagmires in order to free themselves of responsibilities which they expected of others.
     They concocted a unique and creative vocabulary to side-step truth and cloud their own imperfections.
     They could: ”lie” without “lying,” by the way they worded their oaths. To these ancient adherents of political correctness, Jesus warned, “Whatever you have to say let your ‘yes’ be a plain ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ a plain ‘no’ – anything more than this has a taint of evil.” (Matthew 5:37, Phillips.)
     Remember this: truth is truth regardless what men may say or how they may say it. Some things – no matter what they are called or how benignly they are described – are wrong, have always been wrong, and will always be wrong.

- Dalton Key; via The Central Message, the weekly bulletin of the Central church of Christ in Paducah KY.  Jim Faughn serves as an elder and preacher for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website at: