Monday, August 27, 2012

Parable: Evil Spirit Returning to an Empty House

     Ignorance about spirits, evil and otherwise, is universal. The desire to know about them leaves people open to superstition, legend, and religious error. All we need to know about the spirit world is in the Bible, but few are content to stay with that.
     Jesus told a parable about an evil spirit dispossessed of its “house” which was able to return later with reinforcements because the house had been allowed to stay empty and was not filled with righteousness and the presence of the Lord God.
     He explained that none could cast out a “strong man” unless he himself is more powerful. Only one more powerful than evil spirits could cast them out of persons they possessed. But the person to be cleansed has an obligation to seek and accept the Lord’s help, to correct his own life and  fill it with good so that he does not sink into sin again, and be worse off than before.
      Nature abhors a vacuum. If one’s life is not filled with good, the bad will fill it by default. Negative virtue is never enough. The only rightful tenant of the house of any person is the one who cast out the evil spirits (or, in our case, sin and guilt), which is to say, Jesus the Lord and Savior. If the cleansed person returns to evil, either by intention or default, he ends up worse off than before the Lord saved him.
     If we let Him, the Lord can break the power of Satan and sin that holds us down. But He will not and cannot unless we do our part to get free and stay free.

- 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

The Rich King's Four Wives

     Once upon a time there was a rich king who had four wives. He loved the fourth wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to the finest of delicacies. He gave her nothing but the best.
     He also loved the third wife very much and was always showing her off to neighboring kingdoms. However, he feared that one day she would leave him for another man.
     He also loved his second wife. She was his confidante and was always kind, considerate, and patient with him. Whenever the king faced a problem, he could confide in her, and she would help him get through the
difficult times.
     The king's first wife was a very loyal partner and had made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and kingdom. However, he did not love the first wife. Although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her!
     One day, the king fell ill and knew his time was short. He thought of his luxurious life and wondered, "I now have four wives with me, but when I die, I'll be all alone."
     Thus, he asked the fourth wife, "I have loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"
     "No way!" replied the fourth wife, and she walked away without another word. Her answer cut like a sharp knife right into his heart.
     The sad king then asked the third wife, "I have loved you all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"
     "No!" she replied. "Life is too good! When you die, I'll remarry!"
     His heart turned cold. He then asked the second wife, "I have always turned to you for help, and you've always been there for me. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?"
     "I'm sorry, but I can't help this time!" replied the second wife. "At the very most, I can only walk with you to your grave." Her answer struck him like a bolt of lightning. The king was devastated.
     Then a voice called out: "I'll go with you. I'll follow you no matter where you go."
     The king looked up and saw his first wife. She was very skinny as she suffered from malnutrition and neglect. Greatly grieved, he said, "I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!"
     In truth, we all have the four wives in our lives:
    Our fourth wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it will leave us when we die.
    Our third wife is our possessions, status, and wealth. When we die, these will go to others.
    Our second wife is our family and friends. No matter how much they have been there for us, they can't go with us past the grave.
    Our first wife is our soul. We often neglect it in pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasures of the world. However, our soul is the only thing that will follow us wherever we go. Cultivate, strengthen, and cherish it now, for it is the only part of us that will follow us to the throne of God and continue with us throughout eternity.

- 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 Power of an Invitation

     Brother Glenn L. McCullough was in the dairy business near Tupelo, Mississippi.  Mr. A.D. Prince was a salesman from Memphis who regularly called on him for needed supplies. One day, Mr. Prince arrived at brother McCullough’s farm rather late in the afternoon. He was told he would have to come back the next day because there was a Gospel meeting at the Gloster Street church of Christ that night and he was getting ready to attend. Mr. Prince said that was fine and agreed to come back the next day. As he was leaving, brother McCullough thought, "I should ask him to attend our Gospel meeting." He invited the salesman to stay for supper and attend the Gospel meeting. Mr. Prince agreed and not only attended that night, but attended three nights of the Gospel meeting conducted by Jack Meyer. Even though he learned what to do to become a Christian, he did not obey the Gospel during his visits.
     A few months later, Mr. Prince was given a new job and did not come back to Tupelo to call on brother McCullough. Many years passed by and one day brother McCullough saw a newspaper story about A.D. Prince III, who was a student at a Christian college. He made a few phone calls and found out Mr. Prince had received another invitation to attend a tent meeting in Memphis which was a few blocks from where he worked. He attended the Gospel meeting and obeyed the Gospel the first night. Later, he became an elder in the church and the student honored at the Christian college was his grandson.
    Years later, both brother McCullough and brother Prince learned they had a terminal disease and were given just a few months to live. As time drew near for both men, brother Prince had his sister to drive him from his home in Arkansas to brother McCullough’s home in Tupelo to pay one final visit and to say, "I want to thank you for inviting me to the Gospel meeting that night. If it had not been for your invitation, I probably would never have heard the Gospel and become a Christian. It was your invitation that made it possible for my family, my grandchildren, and me to become Christians. I will be forever grateful. Thank you."
     What would have happened to the Prince family if brother McCullough had said, "My conscience says I ought to invite this salesman to the Gospel meeting, but I know it won’t do any good?"
     The Bible says, "Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage" (Matt. 22:9). Gospel meetings are not out-of-date; neither is inviting the lost to hear the preaching of the Gospel.

- Author Unknown; via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.  Edd Sterchi serves as one of the congregation's ministers.  He may be contacted at  You may visit their website at

Monday, August 20, 2012

Your Job

By Ron Thomas

     On occasion, one might ask a question concerning the “job” of a preacher or an elder. Because that question is asked every now and again, I thought it would be good to see what the Scriptures say the “job” of each member is.
     The elders. The elders of the Lord’s church are spiritual men who oversee the spiritual health of the church. That is, they shepherd (feed) the church in spiritual things. To be an elder (shepherd or pastor) is to be involved in the lives of the congregants. The elders are not board of directors. They are not to meet at certain intervals for the sole purpose of making decisions. They can meet at certain interval—whatever they determine is appropriate—to discuss matters that are important. In the scriptures, God put elders in place because they were to (are to) guard the flock (Acts 20:28). If a man will not elder properly, he should resign. What about one who can’t shepherd properly? He should resign. What about one who is unqualified to serve? He should resign. The Lord’s church needs spiritual men to actively shepherd the flock. 
     The deacons. The Scriptures speak less to this than many of us would like. However, I think we can get a sense of what it is they do and are to do. The word deacon comes from a Greek word that means to serve. If Acts 6 is our modal for the work of deacons, then we can see these spiritual men serve the congregation in material things. The elders (apostles in Acts 6) who place men in the role of deacon are to trust them to the do the work. If an elder does not trust a man who serves as a deacon, that speaks more against the elder than it does the deacon. If a man cannot do the work because he is untrustworthy, that man is to be dismissed.
     The preacher. The preacher is one who proclaims God’s word to both the congregation and to the people at large (2 Timothy 4:2). He is to preach God’s word. This will include encouraging them who struggle, correcting those who are in rebellion, and teaching people the Lord’s will for their individual lives. If a preacher does not do this, then the elders of the congregation are to dismiss him. The congregation is to insist that he preaches the Lord’s word. They are not to allow themselves to be aligned with him because they like his personality. They are to be aligned with him because he teaches God’s word faithfully.
     The members. The members of the congregation are men and women who are Christians. They are people who have already submitted themselves to God and His word, serving Him faithfully. They are to submit to the authority of the elders. They are to be workers in the Lord’s kingdom, not sitters. The older men are to teach the younger men about life’s important things. The older women are to teach the younger women in life those things that are important. All Christians are to adorn the doctrine of God. Now, what is your job?
- 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:

Christ – The Way

     We are not unlike eight-year-old Jack Keely from the East End of London.  He was bound for the U.S. when the Benares on which he was sailing was struck by an enemy torpedo and went down in the Atlantic.  It was ten o’clock at night, and the wild waves flung their young victim back and forth in almost complete darkness.  Finally three men pulled young Jack up on their little life raft.  Immediately he asked, “Which way is America?” No whimpering, no begging for attention.  Just, “Which way is America?”  His imagination was gripped, not with the wind and the waves, but with where he was going.  Fear had no place in his concern, for his present plight was unimportant compared to his destination.
     We too, with the weight of cynical unbelief sucking us down in the crush of competition which would crowd us off the little raft we have found in the sea of life, in peril of temptation or tragedy, with the valley of shadows not far ahead—we pause in worship and take courage even as we ask which way is heaven.  We know there is a way because the Son of God came from thence and has returned to it down at the right hand of the throne of the Father.  Christ’s resurrection assures us that even death is not our goal but a gateway, not the end but an entrance, not a terminus but a thoroughfare.  We are on our way.  Today we pause for direction.  Which way is heaven? Within our hearts we hear the Son of God say, “I am the way—come, follow me.”

-Best Sermons,  Harper and Bros.; sermon: “The  First Day of the Week;” 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, August 13, 2012

Sobering Facts About SIN

    One called “sin” the saddest word in the Bible and in human speech. Sin is the fountain of woe, the mother of sorrows, as universal as human nature and as eternal as human history. It can be labeled as "the cause of all war and violence and hatred and sorrow and pain." Sin alienates from God, establishes fellowship with the devil, bring moral perversion, sears the conscience, and ultimately issues in death (Rom. 6:23). There are some things that we all need to know about sin.
    1. Sin is made to look attractive. When Eve beheld the "forbidden fruit" she saw that it was good for food, pleasant to the eyes and desired to make one wise (Gen. 3:6). What she did not see was sin's true nature. It brought pain, suffering, death and separation from God. Sins true colors are seldom seen until too late.
    2. Sin is fun. The writer of Hebrews commended Moses because he turned his back on the "pleasures" of sin" (Heb. 11:25). Anyone who would suggest that sin is not enjoyable simple does not understand how Satan works. Sin is not only made to look good, but brings some pleasure when pursued.
    3. Sin never produces everything it promises. It is enjoyable, but the pleasure is always short-lived ("for a season", Heb. 11). A few minutes of euphoria may result in a lifetime of misery and pain.
    4. Sin is destructive. Its destructive effects may be experienced now and throughout eternity. Solomon observed that "the way of the transgressor is hard" (Prov. 13:15). Life is made more difficult because of sin in our lives. If it is not dealt with, it will lead to eternal separation from God (Rom. 6:23).
    5. There is forgiveness in Christ, but the scars still remain. Jesus died to save men from the eternal consequences of sin. We never want to downplay the importance of His role. He is the giver of life. Through Him forgiveness is available to every man. But, though forgiven is in Christ, the ghosts of a former life of sin often linger to haunt us. The best advice for life was offered by the apostle Paul when he wrote, "Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thess. 5:22).

- Author Unknown; 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:

Christians and Evangelism

By Gerald Cowan

    "Can we be totally Christian until we are soul winners?"
    The implication of this is that one who has not won another soul for Christ is not fully Christian, or at least is not a very good Christian. Some overzealous people have implied that unless one is a soul-winner he is not even an acceptable Christian, that he may forfeit his own salvation and not be able to go to heaven. Some have actually said, "You can't go to heaven by yourself. You've got to take someone with you."
    But here is a critical point that bears heavily upon the question: you cannot win someone who does not want to be won.  You cannot teach someone who does not want to be taught. You cannot convince or persuade someone who does not want to be persuaded. You certainly cannot make another person's decision for him. There are many times when the preacher, teacher, or would-be soul winner says everything he can say and effectively leaves the person who hears it with no excuse for not obeying it. But still the hearer refuses to obey. He simply makes no positive response at all. To insist that no one can go to heaven without persuading some others to obey the gospel sets a condition that God did not and does not impose, a condition that some might not be able to meet. If you grant that part of your "ticket" to heaven must include some accompanying souls you have "saved", then how many must there be? Is one enough?
    Paul's personal example is instructive for all of us. He said that his commission from the Lord was to preach the gospel. Whether or not anyone obeyed the gospel that he preached, he fulfilled his own responsibility by proclaiming the truth at every opportunity. His commission was not to be a baptizer, but to be a preacher, a proclaimer of the gospel. If he did that faithfully the Lord would be pleased with him. If he did not, he would be cast away from the Lord himself (1 Cor. 1:14-17, 9:16 and 27). The response to the gospel is up to the one who hears it. Those who understand it and receive it gladly will obey it (Acts 2:38-40, Mark 16:15-16). It is not credited to the personal account of the preacher/teacher.
    Does that mean a Christian does not have to be or need not desire to be a soul-winner? No, of course it doesn't mean that. Every Christian must want to be involved somehow in the soul-winning process. It may be better to say each one should be involved in evangelism - in teaching, preaching, sharing or making the gospel available to others. The word soul-winner does not appear in scripture, but has been coined by those who promote "personal evangelism," the efforts of any person to share the "good news" of the gospel of Christ with others. There are several ways to be involved in evangelism.
    (1) Pulpit preaching and classroom teaching are both evangelistic activities. They try to instruct those who hear so that they can make properly informed decisions, then motivate them to put into practice what they have learned.
    (2) Some are directly involved, either teaching a group or in one-on-one instruction.
    (3) Some are indirectly involved: they pray for those who teach directly, they offer words of encouragement, and they give financial support. All of these have fellow-ship in a ministry of the gospel, the process of reaching and winning souls for Christ.
    The trouble with making the admissions I have just made about soul-winning is that people may come to believe they are in a good relationship with the Lord, saved and safe, even though they are not personally involved as soul-winners. Of course that is not true. Those who are able to teach should be making some effort to teach. Having personal ability brings personal responsibility. Everyone can be involved at some level. If one has no desire to see others saved, no interest or concern, or no willingness to be involved in the salvation of others we could safely question the genuineness of his or her Christian faith.
    Ultimately, the only soul any of us can win for Jesus Christ is our own. We will give an account of ourselves to Him, to explain why we did or did not accept His words and obey His gospel, and why we were or were not faithful to His calling and His mission.

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

Characteristics of the Gospel

By Jim McGuiggan
     He says it is the “gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).  This phrase may mean it is a gospel that comes from God, a gospel that God Himself makes known.  It may also mean it is a gospel “about” God.  There is no need to choose between these two because Paul might have had both in mind.  Both are certainly true and it is important in the book of Romans to see that both are true.
     The gospel isn’t about less important things like the weather, or the economy of the Greco-Roman world or how to get along with our neighbors.  The gospel is about God Himself and how He relates to this sinful creation. And the gospel comes from God Himself.  It isn’t good advice or a philosophy that Paul or others have dreamed up—it comes from God.  All this means is that the Romans (and we) should pay close attention to his message.
     He says the gospel is God’s power to save (1:16).  We’re tempted to think of God’s “power” as merely “divine muscle,” but it’s a mistake to think of it like that in this context. Even when speaking about human power, we know the difference between the power to move a huge stone and the power to “move” a person.  A person “saved” in Paul’s sense means God brought that person back into relationship with Himself and so saved him/her from sin and loss.  This kind of “saving” isn’t done with “divine muscle.”  Since God saves us in and by the cross of Christ, it’s clear that He doesn’t bully us into life and doesn’t save us by force.  To be saved by God’s “power” means God set Himself the task and was able to complete it.  The gospel, or good news, is the message that a faithful God did that very thing, and that He did it through the crucified Jesus Christ.  There are some places naked power or force can’t enter, and one of them is the human heart.
     He says the gospel is God’s power to save all who believe because in the gospel God’s righteousness (faithfulness) continues to be revealed (1:16-17).  God’s righteousness is God’s faithfulness.  He keeps His commitments, and when He created humanity He made a commitment to humanity.  Despite our rebellion against Him, He didn’t utterly destroy us. He was faithful to His word, and that’s part of what we mean when we say God is “righteous.”  His faithfulness is to all people, and not only those who are Jews.  The gospel message that proclaims God’s faithfulness draws people to God in response to that faithfulness, and they put their trust in Him.  So the gospel is “from” faith (God’s faithfulness) “unto faith” (the faith of those who hear).  The relationship between the righteous God and those who are declared righteous by faith is a dynamic one if salvation is to be experienced.  It isn’t just God keeping faith with man; it is man trusting himself to that God who keeps faith.

- Jim McGuiggan,
Romans: The Witness & His Story (1), 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, August 6, 2012

The Straight Path

    Once a father took his three sons on a winter hike.  They came to a field glistening white from a snowfall the night before.  The father, wanting to challenge his youngsters and perhaps teach them a lesson suggested a contest: Which one could walk the straightest path across the field.
    The first trudged across the field keeping his eyes down to watch each step, trying to put one foot in front of the other.  When he reached the other side, he looked back, and to his surprise the tracks were curved like the letter “S.”
    The second lad started, taking a few steps then looking back to see if his path appeared straight.  About every ten to fifteen steps the process was repeated.  When he finished he eagerly surveyed the entirety of his course, but discovered it wasn’t really straight at all - it was in segments, veering to the right, and then to the left.
    The third, seeing the other two had failed, employed a different strategy.  He looked directly at his father who stood on the opposite side of the field.  He walked toward his father, never taking his eyes off of him.  Having completed the trek, his path was the straightest of the three by far.
    The wise father then taught the boys, saying, “Sons, there is just ONE path in life that is straight and true, and that is the way of Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  As you go through life, keep your eyes on Him, “looking unto Him” (Heb. 12:2), and your course will always be right!  Remember, He is the Way.  Trust Him and do what His Word teaches and you will never go wrong.”

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

"Is It Scriptural For A Congregation To Hum While Partaking Of The Lord’s Supper?”

By Guy N. Woods
    It is not scriptural for a congregation to engage in humming during the Lord’s supper, nor at any other time during public services. Humming is not an acceptable substitute for singing, and is wholly unauthorized in New Testament worship.
    (1) It springs from improper motives. People who engage therein do so for the express purpose of producing an emotional situation which they prefer to the Lord’s own arrangement. Those who thus do are more interested in aesthetics (which pleases them), than in following the New Testament (which pleases God). The desire for such innovations evidences an abandonment of any real desire to do exactly what God says, for the reason that he says it. In so doing, they follow their own wills, and not the will of God.
    (2) It is utterly without divine sanction. There is no hint of such practice in the records of the worship of the New Testament church, and it is a human devise intruded into divine service, the design of which is to please man, and what ground may any such devises be excluded?
    (3) The divine will is clearly and unequivocally expressed in these areas. Paul wrote, “Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5: 19); “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God. And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16, 17) “I will pray with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (I Corinthians 14: 15). Singing is thus specifically enjoined; to sing in the meaning of the word here used (adoo) involves lyrical participation (cf. Thayer), whereas, humming is “to sing with closed lips and without articulating,” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary); the obligation which these passages set out requires words; therefore, it is not possible to discharge the duty they enjoin by humming.
    (4) In our singing, we are commanded to participate in praise which enables us to speak, to teach, and to admonish; none of these duties is possible in the exercise of humming; therefore, humming, in our worship, is wrong. To add humming to the observance of the Lord’s supper is to compound the error, such being wholly unauthorized. There is as much justification for the addition of instrumental music to the observance of the Supper as there is for humming. Neither has New Testament sanction, and both ought and must be vigorously opposed if we are to maintain a pure faith and a faultless practice.

- Guy N. Woods; - 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:

I Am A Soldier

    I am a soldier in the army of God.  Jesus is my commanding officer.  The Bible is my code of conduct.  I am a volunteer in this army, and I am enlisted for eternity.  I will either retire in this army at the Lord’s return or die in this army, but I will not get out, sell out, be talked out, or pushed out.  I am a soldier.
    I am a soldier.  I am not a baby.  I do not need to be pampered, petted, pumped up, or picked up.  I am a soldier.
    No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me, or lure me.  I am a soldier.
    No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards, candy, or give me handouts.  I am a soldier.
    I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for, or catered to.  I am committed.  I am a soldier.
    I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around.  I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside.  I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit.  I am a soldier.
    When Jesus called me into this army, I had nothing.  If I end up with nothing, I will still come out ahead.  I will win!
    “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
  - Author Unknown; via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.  You may visit their website at

Being An Angel

    One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class who was walking home from school. His name was Kyle.  It looked like he was carrying all of his books.  I thought to myself, 'Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday?  He must really be a nerd.' I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.
    As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him.  They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.  My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.
    As I handed him his glasses, I said, 'Those guys are jerks.'  They really should get lives.' He looked at me and said, 'Hey thanks!' There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before.  He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.  We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.
    I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle , the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.
   Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.  I stopped him and said, 'Boy, you’re gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!' He just laughed and handed me half the books. 
    Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors we began to think about college.  Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship.
    Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd.  He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak Graduation day, I saw Kyle.  He looked great.  He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses.. He had more dates than I had.  Boy, sometimes I was jealous!  Today was one of those days, but I could see that he was nervous about his speech so I smacked him on the back and said, 'Hey, big guy, you'll be great!' He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. ' Thanks,' he said.
    As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began 'Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years.  Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach .... but mostly your friends .... I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story..' I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.  He told of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. 'Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable..'
    I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.  I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.  Not until that moment did I realize it's depth. Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life. For better or for worse. God puts us all in each others’ lives to impact one another in some way.  Look for God in others.
    'Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.'

- 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: