Monday, December 23, 2013

The Longing That Satisfies

By Ronald Bryant

     Christian character is not developed theoretically. Nor can it be developed merely by the force of human will. The Christian graces are the heartbeat of Christian character. The two are inseparably connected. Both are learned and developed in the deep recesses of the heart, in daily-life, and only in the context of vital life-union with Christ. Communion with God is the environment of spiritual life, and is thus the very nature of life in Christ.
     Discipleship is the manner and method of Christian devotion. The demands of the Christian faith are specific and unalterable, and they are essential to daily life and to the hope of eternal life.
     Christ begins with each Christian at the point of their new birth. He guides, protects, strengthens, and encourages their spiritual growth. That growth ever moves toward the possession of a greater knowledge of God and an ever increasing desire to know Him. Spirituality, in Christ's program, develops steadily within the heart and life of each genuine disciple, as they yield to and honor Him. The various stages of development come in order, with no stage being skipped. Steady growth takes place as each disciple is instructed in the "grace and knowledge" of Christ. God expects each Christian to grow spiritually – to conform to the image of Christ.
     The greatest and noblest desire is to be conformed to the image of Christ.
     The deep sincere desire to be like Christ is life-altering. Under the sway of love for Christ, the ruling desire of one’s heart is to catch and hold His mood and manner, to be attuned to Him in every thought, word, and deed. Such a desire is a blessing, not a burden. To possess this desire, or rather, to be possessed of this longing, is the greatest satisfaction.
     Devotion to Christ is life-altering. It is the rhythm of life, and the labor of a lifetime. It moves one to be ruled by a longing to cast one's heart into the mold that is Christ. Nothing is more attractive than the majesty of Christ. His brightness and glory moves us to love and adore Him; His mercy and grace catch and hold our affections and are the means whereby our souls are transformed as we yield to Him in obedience. We are truly Christian only when we are in Christ and are like Him. Only in Christ are we truly the people of God. Only in Him can our souls be satisfied.

- Ronald Bryant; 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:

Faith and Feeling

By Ty Nichol

     He asked how I was feeling, and I grinned a little—only a little—and said, “Aw, you don’t want to know.”  He nodded like a man that knew from experience what I meant, and he grinned a little—but only a little.  We were silent for a moment and then he said, “And how’s your faith?” It lights me up when I think of my response—a genuinely felt and deeply grounded response.  I said something like, “Now that’s a whole different story! Nothing seems ever to affect that.”  I’m not overly confident that I would be able to say that if I were living under extreme circumstances for a very long time.  As it is, I have my share of troubles and disappointments, but I don’t live in Darfur or Zimbabwe or big city streets or other such models of purgatory.
     But aren’t our feelings a gauge of how healthy our faith is? Um…not really! The notion that if you truly trust God you won’t feel pain or loss or disappointment is silly.  Trust in God doesn’t exempt a man or woman from hurt or frustration or anxiety.  Yes, I know we hear preachers and read others who say otherwise, and I know they can quote texts while they’re doing it.  And worse—because it’s more plausible—they tell us when the roof falls in on us, we shouldn’t stagger under the burden.  Faith is supposed to take the pain out of the pain and the weight out of the load, don’t you know.  (Faith in God through Jesus Christ is not the burdensome thing.  It’s an easy yoke and a light burden; but in a fallen world it generates the stress of swimming against the current.)
     Imagine one of the glib ones asking Habakkuk, “How are you feeling?”  “Awful!” Habakkuk would tell him.  “I just heard a message I don’t like.  I heard and my heart pounded.  My lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled” (Habakkuk 3:16).  If a modern believer answered this way, a modern triumphalist response might well be, “Oh, that’s too bad.  I thought you really trusted in God.  If you did, you wouldn’t feel this way.”  Had someone said that to Habakkuk he would have said, “Oh, but I do trust! Though the fig tree crop fails and the fields produce no fruit, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (3:17-19).
     This is one of the loveliest, strongest confessions in the entire Bible, and he makes it while he trembles and while his legs can hardly support him.  The same pounding heart and quivering lips that confessed his awful anxiety defied the anxiety he felt.  This is not an unusual case, but even if it were, it would make the case that fear and anxiety can exist in the presence of the profoundest faith.

- 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:

Christ Crucified

By Bobby Duncan

     Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:22-24).
    Is this statement by Paul concerning his preaching an oversimplification? Or is it actually the case that the term Christ crucified accurately denotes the preaching of that peerless apostle? In 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 he declared: And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
     This verse affirms not only that Paul preached “Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” but that his preaching was limited to that theme; he knew nothing else to preach. That which he here terms, “Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” he calls simply, “the cross,” in 1 Corinthians 1:18, where he wrote, “For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.”
    While we know that the preaching done by Paul was not limited to the mere fact of the crucifixion of Christ, it is significant that he used these terms to denote what he preached. The cross of Christ was central to the preaching, not only of Paul, but of all inspired preachers in the New Testament. The magnificent sermon delivered by Peter on Pentecost of Acts 2 centered around the cross, and showed both logically and scripturally that Jesus of Nazareth whom the Jews had crucified had been raised from the dead, thus proving Him to be the Christ, the Son of God. In preaching to Cornelius and his household, Peter declared: And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom also they slew, hanging him on a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest (Acts 10:39-40).
     The Jewish leaders at Jerusalem knew exactly what the theme of the preaching was that was done by the apostles. They said to the apostles on one occasion:
     Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us (Acts 5:28).
     Obviously, the apostles had been preaching about the crucifixion of Christ. Jesus was speaking of His crucifixion when He said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).
     We understand that Jesus had to die to enable God to be infinitely just and at the same time justify sinners (Rom. 3:24-26). But why the cross? Why crucifixion? The cross underscores the seriousness of sin and God’s hatred of it. The world glorifies sin. The religious world, in large measure, has chosen to classify sin as an ailment instead of a misdeed. Even in the church, sin is overlooked and its seriousness is minimized. But if one wants to know if sin is really bad, let him look at the cross. For me to behold the cross, realizing what took place there was brought on by my sins, causes me to see that sin is not something to be smiled at; it is serious. God hates sin.
    The cross emphasizes man’s lost condition. The familiar parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost boy (Luke 15) remind us that the “Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). If one wants to know God’s estimate of how terrible it is for one to be lost, then let him look at the cross and see the price God was willing to pay to redeem lost humanity.
    The cross points to God’s love for sinners. Though God hates sin, He loves sinners. That which pictures God’s hatred of sin is that which portrays God’s love for sinners. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
     Perhaps a passage even more meaningful in one sense is Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
     This passage does not merely say He died for sinners, but for me; as much for me as if I were the only sinner in the world. He loved me, and gave himself for me!
     The cross emphasizes the necessity of obedience to the Scriptures. Jesus went to the cross because that was the only way He could be obedient to the Scriptures. With the cross casting its shadow over Him, He said: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Mat. 26:53-54). In Philippians 2:8 Paul wrote that Jesus “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Do you want to know if obedience to that which is written is important? You will find the answer when you look at the cross.
     But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal. 6:14).

- 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:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Our Diary

By Toby Miller

     I remember walking through a store with my Dad when I was ten years old (52 years ago!), and asking him what gift I could buy Mom for Christmas. He suggested a five - year diary. At the time, I thought that was an extremely unexciting present! I thought Mom would be much more pleased receiving a new fishing pole, or something like that. However, since Dad was paying for it, I went with his suggestion.
     That began a tradition that continues to this day. Every five years, I buy my Mother a new five-year diary! In 1978, my wife and I were doing mission work in England when the fifth year rolled around. I purchased a diary in Birmingham, England and shipped it overseas to her in Indiana thus keeping the tradition going.
     My Dad passed away in 1995, but my Mother, now 86, still enjoys reading through the old diaries and bringing to remembrance many of the good things that happened throughout the past fifty years. Many arguments have been settled by those diaries! When questions arise concerning the time or place of an event, my Mom just looks it up in her diary, and that settles it!
      The fact is, each one of us are writing in a “diary” everyday of our lives, and God is reading it. As we are about to finish our personal 2011 diary, it would be wise to go back and consider how it reads (2Corinthians 13:5). What has Heaven recorded about your life during this past year (cf. Genesis 18:21). What has Heaven recorded about your zeal for the Body of Christ? (e.g. John 2:17). How many excuses has it recorded concerning why you couldn’t assemble to worship on various weeks throughout the year? (cf. John 15:22). We will probably “argue” with God on Judgment Day, but it will avail nothing, as Jesus explains quite potently in Matthew 7:21-23. God will “check our diaries,” compare it with His Word, and that will settle it.
     We need to understand that it is not God who will judge us on the last day - - it is HIS WORD (John 12:48) - - God will simply issue the verdict and sentencing: “enter into the joys of the Lord” (Matthew 25:21), or “cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
     My prayer for you is “peace.” But genuine peace can only come from the “Prince of Peace” who is Jesus (Isaiah 9:6 w/ Luke 2:11). Jesus promises this unique peace to His disciples (John 14:27); it is a “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7). It is an inner peace that surpasses all the uncertainties of this world; but it can only be realized within the soul when one is following in the footsteps of Jesus (1Peter 2:21), who is the Word (John 1:1).
     Diaries can be fun and enjoyable, but they can also have the opposite effect; it all depends on what is written therein.

- 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:

After Baptism

By Bryan Matthew Dockens

     Trusting that God's word means exactly what it says, you have obeyed the gospel by being baptized into Christ to gain salvation (Mark 16:16; 1Pet. 3:21). Now what?
     REJOICE. After Philip the evangelist baptized the treasurer of Ethiopia, “he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:35-39), and after Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him”, the prison keeper in Philippi “and all his family were baptized...and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:32-34). Joy is the most appropriate reaction to one’s baptism because baptism brings about salvation, and there can be no greater event in any person's life than to be saved from the condemnation of hell. Neither material success, nor marriage, not even the birth of one’s own children or grandchildren merit as much delight as the knowledge that God’s grace has spared you from the consequences of sin. Even the angels of heaven thrill at the news of one repentant sinner (Luke 15:7,10).
     ENJOY THE COMPANY OF OTHER DISCIPLES. After appearing to him on the road to Damascus, the Lord sent Ananias to Saul, who “arose and was baptized...then Saul spent some days with the disciples”(Acts 9:18-19). Peter went to the household of Cornelius in Caesarea, “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days" (Acts 10:48). In Philippi, the merchant Lydia believed the gospel when she heard Paul preach it, “And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us" (Acts 16:15). After the Philippian jailor was baptized with his family, he “brought them”, that is Paul and Silas, “into his house” (Acts 16:33-34). “Many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized”, whereafter Paul “continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:8, 11). Although baptism is the culmination of several steps leading to salvation, it is merely the beginning of one's life as a Christian. Those formative days, weeks, and months following baptism require nurturing from other disciples. The scriptures teach that Christians are and ought to be dependent on one another, “so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Rom. 12:5; cf. 1 Cor. 12:13-27).
     CONTINUE STEADFASTLY. On the day of Pentecost following Christ's ascension, Peter preached repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), adjuring his audience to be saved (Acts 2:40). “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:41-42). We reiterate: although baptism is the culmination of several steps leading to salvation, it is merely the beginning of one’s life as a Christian.
     With baptism, the new Christian commits to a life of faithfulness thereafter. Paul exhorted, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
     LEAD OTHERS TO CHRIST. After Saul “arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18), and “spent some days with the disciples” (Acts 9:19), “Immediately he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). Don’t be satisfied with your own salvation while others perish! Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
     What have you been doing since you were baptized?

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

The Book of Revelation

By Curtis L. Graves

     Revelation 14:6-7 says: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”

     Several years ago a so called religious broadcast network put out a brochure trying to sell subscriptions to their programming. An interesting part of that brochure was the bold headline, which read: “A Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy.” The brochure claimed that what John saw in the above passage was not an angel but his best description of a modern communication satellite with huge outstretched solar wings. Is this really an example of serious Bible scholarship from these televangelists?
     Revelation is certainly one of the most misunderstood and misused books of the Bible. Would the persecuted Christians of John’s day really be comforted by the fact that one day there would be satellites in space so that so-called preachers could tell fanciful tales such as this one? Halsay and others talk about finding helicopters out of locust, tire rationing, and nuclear weapons in the book of Revelation. Again, I ask what comfort would that be to those persecuted Christians?
      Revelation must be looked at through first-century glasses. What did it mean to the people of John’s day? What message did Jesus have for those persecuted Christians? It was not satellites and tire rationing. It was relief soon (Rev. 1:1); and ultimate, final victory for the faithful, obedient Christian. (Rev. 2:10).
     Do not be lead astray by false teachers. The angel is symbolic of God’s messengers, His saints, preaching the Gospel to the world. The message is: “fear God,” “give Him glory,” and “worship Him.” This is the message we bring to you. We are not trying to sell subscriptions or tell you fanciful tales just the simple message above as presented in the Bible.

- 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:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Where Are You?

By Charles C. Pugh III

     An old gospel preacher stood before a great audience and announced the text of his sermon.  He said, “My text is Genesis 3:9.  The Bible says, ‘And the Lord God called unto Adam and said unto him, Where art thou?’”  The preacher continued, “I will make three divisions in this study.  First, every man has to be somewhere.  Second, some men are where they ought not be.  Third, they that are where they ought not be are one day going to find themselves where they don’t want to be!”
      God’s question to Adam (“Where are you?”) serves to remind us today of spiritually geographic locations where accountable persons find themselves.
     Some ARE in Christ.  Those who have obeyed the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 6:17), and are living faithful to Christ are in Him (Ephesians 1:3).  There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1).  There is forgiveness of sins in Christ (Ephesians 1:7).  There is salvation in Christ (2 Timothy 2:10).  The Scriptures teach that one is baptized into Christ’s death where He shed His blood (Romans 6:3-4; John 19:33-34).  Paul wrote, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).  Having been baptized into Christ, one remains in this spiritual location by walking in the light (1 John 1:7) and remaining faithful to Him unto death (Revelation 2:10).
      Some WERE in Christ.  It is possible for those who were once in the right spiritual location (in Christ) to depart (fall away from) that location.  Those who think they stand in Christ are warned to “take heed” lest they fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).  The grace of God is in Christ (2 Timothy 2:1), and some have fallen from that grace (Galatians 5:4).  Some were in the location where they had escaped the sinful pollutions of the world, but they moved to another location where they were condemned (2 Peter 2:20-22).  It is possible for those who have been enlightened by the truth, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4; 10:26-32; Acts 2:38), to fall away (Hebrews 6:4-6).  Those who do not abide in Christ will, one day, be where they will eternally regret such (cf. John 15:6).
      Some ARE NOT (and never have been) in Christ.  To be outside of Christ is to be without hope (Ephesians 2:12).  Most are in this location (Matthew 7:13-14), because they have not obeyed the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).
      Where are you?  Are you in Christ?  Are you away from Christ due to having fallen?  Are you outside Christ because of having not obeyed the gospel?  “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith...” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

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

The Power of One

By Charles Harmon

     We tend to place the value on something by the size of the number. In our thinking, normally ten would be greater than one or of more value than one. But on the contrary, in the economy of God there is power in just one. The number one is most significant and important. There is power in one.
     Walk with me now through the scriptures that we may provide scriptural evidence to substantiate this truth. We want to consider:
The Power of One sin: Romans 5:12-13.
The Power of One Savior: Luke 2:11, Isaiah 53:2, and Luke 10:10.
The Power of One Salvation: Psalms 27, Hebrews 7:25, and Romans 1:16.
     In John 17:20-23 the Bible declares:
"Neither pray I for these alone but for them also that shall believe on me through their word. That they all may be one as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me and the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are on: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
     I’d like to challenge our thinking by looking at what Jesus is praying for in our text:
That we may be one as He and the Father are one
That we may be one in the Father and Him
That the world may believe that God has sent Him
     The same glory that was given to Jesus by the Father, Jesus has given to us that we may be one, one even as the Father and Jesus are one.
     My conclusion: In order to accomplish this oneness, we must not allow racial preferences, personal preferences, personal likes and dislikes, past practices, tradition, or any other thing to prevent us from having this oneness. God the Father and Jesus the Son are depending on us to demonstrate this oneness here on this earth while we journey.

- 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:


By Chuck Marshall

      “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:20). Simon and Andrew immediately left their nets and followed Him. Having been fishermen since childhood they knew much about catching fish, but probably little about catching souls. By examining biblical principles, you and I can also learn to be fishers of men.
     First, “fish” Fervently. Those who are enthusiastic about fishing spend their time and their money on the sport, or the business as it may be. They don’t give up quickly, and even when the fish are not biting they will fish all night. They also enjoy talking about fishing. Likewise when fishing for men, Jesus teaches us to be fervent—enthusiastic, devoted, and joyful.
      Next, “fish” Intelligently. Understand that everyone is not reached in the same manner. Knowing people and how to respond to different kinds of personalities, knowing the person’s social, religious and biblical background, and knowing when to press and when to “ease up” are all keys to effective soul-fishing. We need wisdom in what we say and how we say it (Col. 4:5-6).
      Then, “fish” Steadily.  Keep at it. Sporadic fishing doesn’t get the job done. Sometimes the fish aren’t biting – there is no interest in the bait. But if you stop because of that you may miss out when they become interested again.
      Finally, “fish” Hopefully.  Discouragement can end a fisherman’s career. You are going to hit slumps if you fish long enough. The prospect of catching a fish keeps a fisherman going. No one gets up at 4 AM, loads up the gear, buys, the tackle and bait, and travels for hours who does not expect to catch something that day. So it should be as we fish for men. It is the joyful anticipation of winning a person to Christ that compels us to keep fishing for men (Luke 15:7).
- 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

Monday, December 2, 2013

“You Are the Light of the World”

By John B. Tracy

     In the Los Angeles Coliseum some years ago, more than 100,000 spectators were present for an event honoring the city's war heroes. The master of ceremonies sad, “Perhaps you sometimes say to yourself, ‘My job isn’t important because it is such a little job!’ But you are wrong. The most obscure person can be very important. Let me show you what I mean.” Suddenly, on cue, the great transformers which provided the stadium lighting were shut down leaving the coliseum in total darkness.
     Then the speaker struck a match, and in the blackness the tiny flame could be seen by all. “Now you can see the importance of one little light.,?” asked the master of ceremonies. “Suppose we all strike a light.” Instantly matches were struck all over the stadium and everyone gasped with surprise. Quickly and effectively they understood that it is within the power of each individual to “light a candle” instead of “curse the darkness.”
     Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world...Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your father which is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). The apostle Paul adds this admonition: “Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).
     It is true our match-lighting influence can make a difference in a world darkened by sin. It is also the case that our collective lights can come together to shine a great beam of soul-saving illumination. Individually or collectively. God expects us to bum brightly where we are to make a positive difference in our sphere of influence.
     Remember: “You are the light of the world!”

- 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 Grandest Name

By Cecil F. Cox

     I want to ask you a question. Why be a Christian? Many times people reason, being a Christian requires very much of one. This is true. Being a Christian requires dedication and commitment to God and His Will. Being a Christian requires sacrifice. It is not the easiest life one could live. As one looks at these things he may be tempted to rephrase the question. Why would any one want to be a Christian?
      One reason to be a Christian is to wear the grandest name given among men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Let me ask you, How does it feel to wear the name “American”? The mention of this thrills us and we rejoice. How grand and glorious it is to be an “American.” But may I emphasize that this grandeur and glory is multiplied again and again when we think about wearing the name “Christian.” In Jas 2:7, speaking of those who persecuted Christians, James said, “Do not they blaspheme that worthy (honorable, ASV) name by which ye are called?” We want to emphasize, the name “Christian” is a “worthy” name! The name “Christian” is an “honorable” name.
      Someone may ask, “Why?” Some believe the name “Christian” was given to Christians by their enemies, in derision. They tell us the name was given as an object of ridicule. This is not the case. In Acts 11:26 we read, “...the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” The words “were called” in this verse are from a word meaning a “divine calling.”
      So according to the passage, God was the One Who did the calling. J.H. Thayer in defining the word here translated “were called” says, “to give divine command or admonition, to teach from heaven, to be divinely admonished, instructed.” So, this calling was not by their enemies in derision or ridicule but rather it was given to them by God (cf. Isa. 62:2). When we wear the name “Christian” we wear the name God gave to His people. It is a shame that many people today wear a name in religion that has come from man and not named by God. When we are Christians we can wear the grandest, greatest name given among men.
      This is the name in which the apostle Peter strongly affirms we can glorify God (1 Pet. 4:16). The apostle Paul said that the name of Christ is above every name (Phil. 2:9). He zealously and earnestly sought to persuade King Agrippa to become a Christian (Acts 26:28). We must realize that there is something in a name. We should gladly wear the name God has given us. In religion we need nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.

- Cecil F. Cox (slightly condensed and adapted); via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg Church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.  You may visit their website at

Where Did You Learn That?

     They are embedded in our language. We use these expressions often. They are rich in meaning, but do you know their source?
“The skin of my teeth”
      I use this one as a test question on my teaching training series. Did it come from the Bible or from somewhere else? Most folks don’t know its origin, but it comes from Job 19:20. In Job’s suffering, he said, “I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.”
     That’s not a very wide margin unless you don’t brush your teeth for weeks!
“Wolf in sheep’s clothing”
     Jesus is our source on this one. The Lord was warning his disciples not to believe false prophets. Then he said that false prophets often “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt. 7:15) Isn’t that a vivid picture? Just imagine how a wolf would look if he had a sheep skin wrapped around his body.
“Salt of the earth”
     In our conversation we often refer to how good a man is. We say he is really wonderful. Then when we want to put the very best spin on his good qualities, we say, “He’s the salt of the earth.” That’s what Jesus said to his disciples. “You are the salt of the earth.”
“A drop in the bucket”
     Isn’t that a strange expression? How would anyone ever come up with that kind of language picture? Believe it or not, we got it from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah compared God’s power to the power of men. To illustrate it, the prophet said the nations are only “a drop in the bucket.” (Isa. 40:15)
     This means that people are influenced by the Bible even though they haven’t read the Bible in years. The analogies are buried deeply within our English language, and are used by believers and unbelievers alike.
     You might remember some of these the next time you need an opening for a Bible conversation. If someone uses one of these expressions, ask them, “Do you know where that expression originated?” And with that question, you are launched into a spiritual discussion.

- Robert Oglesby; 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, November 25, 2013


By Ron Bartanen

     “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  (The Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
     “We ought to make an effort to act on our first thoughts, and let our unspoken gratitude find expression.  Then there will be more sunshine in the world, and more power to work for what is good.”   (Albert Schweitzer)
     While our nation pauses this week to celebrate a day of thanksgiving, we realize there are many who would say they are thankful for a number of things, such as their homes, their jobs, their health, and especially their families, but they don’t know who to thank.  Thankfulness should be expressed by thanksgiving.  Someone once observed, “Pity the poor atheist.  He may feel thankful in his heart for his good fortunes, but he has no one to thank.”  Sad to say, there are also many who would not consider themselves to be atheists, but would fail to recognize the real source of all blessings—God.  They are much like the birds and squirrels who frequent our patio in search of seeds or crumbs which we have put at their disposal.  They have come to expect to find something to fill their needs, but most likely have no understanding as to the source of such provisions.
     When we lose sight of the One “from Whom all blessings flow,” we seek to live our lives independent of Him.  When that happens, all spins out of control.  It is as Paul expressed it in Romans 1:21: “Because, though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became vain in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  In the verses that followed he described the darkness of idolatry and sexual debauchery.  The heart that realizes no dependence upon God is a heart that will take His blessings for granted and express no thankfulness toward the Creator and Sustainer of life.
When we put God out of our lives as a nation, the observance of Thanksgiving Day becomes no more than Turkey Day, a day for indulging ourselves.  God would have us to partake of His bountiful supply, and to truly celebrate Thanksgiving with true thanksgiving to God from our hearts.  May we heed Paul’s admonition: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:


By Paul Meredith

     Genuine friendship is one of the deepest hungers of the human heart.  We innately seek out friends who have understanding, love and unwavering loyalty. True friendship is too rare and too precious to neglect, too infrequent to forget, and too sacred to carelessly cast away.
     Jeremy Taylor wrote, “By friendship you mean the greatest love, the greatest usefulness, the most open communication, the noblest sufferings, the severest truth, the heartiest counsel, and the greatest union of minds of which brave men and women are capable.”  The value of friendship is truly tremendous.  Euripides said, “Life has no blessing like a prudent friend.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Fame is the senseless sunflower with gaudy crown of gold; but friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold.”
     Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  A little later in the book of Proverbs we see a further parallel between a “friend” and a “brother”:  “There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24).  This dramatic kinship imagery is employed in order to solicit a stirring of our emotions.  By comparing friendship to the powerful bond of blood brothers, the intensity of its significance is emphasized.  In other words, God wants us to realize how tremendously important friendship is in each of us.
     Let’s be sure to value our friends and let them know how much we appreciate them.  Also, let’s be sure to be faithful as friends and companions.  John 15:13-15 says, “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”  Are you a friend to Jesus?

- 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 Time of My Departure is at Hand

By Steve Higginbotham

    Read carefully what the apostle Paul wrote when he realized the time of his departure from this life was at hand.  He said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
    That's what Paul said when he realized the time of his departure was at hand.  Now, what might we say if we learned the time of our departure is at hand?  Would we say things like...
    The time of my departure is at hand...I had better get my house in order.
    The time of my departure is at hand...I had better go mend some relationships.
    The time of my departure is at hand...I had better repent of some sin I've been committing.
    The time of my departure is at hand...I had better start going to church again.
    You get the idea.  When Paul realized his time of departure was at hand, he confidently affirmed that he had fought a good fight, finished the race, kept the faith, therefore he had a reward awaiting him.  May we so live our lives that when our time of departure comes, we're not found scrambling, trying to receive the reward for a race we were unwilling to run.  Give it some thought.

- Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at

Forgiveness Requires Judgment

By Gerald Cowan

    The Sunday School teacher asked, “What do you have to do before you can be forgiven?” Good question!  You would probably expect the  answer to be, repent, right? Before you can be forgiven you must repent. There’s good scripture evidence for such an answer. But a little boy answered, “Before you can be forgiven you have to sin.” Now that is profound!  If there is no sin, no mistake, no wrong-doing, there is nothing to forgive.
    Two of the most misunderstood aspects of our relationship with each other are closely related: judgment and forgiveness.  We often emphasize the need for proper discipline in the church – the instruction, correction, edification, and exhortation by which we become, and help others to become, valid and faithful disciples of Christ. Judgment is implicit in the words used to describe the disciple and the process of discipleship. Judgment requires measurement, evaluation and validation, all of which serve both a negative and positive purpose and can render a verdict of either good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable.
    Some insist that we are to avoid all judgment, but we cannot actually do so. We must determine whether a thing, person, or activity is good or bad so that we will know how to respond or relate to it (1 Thess. 5:21-22, Rom. 12:9, and Mt. 7:1-20). All things must be judged as good or bad, right or wrong. It is wrong – it is a sin – to refuse to make judgments, evaluations, and determinations about any thing, person, or action. We are commanded to judge, but it must be righteous judgment (John 7:24), based on the standard of God’s word and not just upon human law, opinion, or personal preference.
    When we ask for forgiveness, whether from God or man, it is a judgment against ourselves – we are admitting that something is wrong, that we have somehow violated a rule of propriety, committed some offense against the one from who we seek forgiveness.  When we  agree to forgive  another person it is a judgment against the person – we are stating  that something is wrong,  there has been a violation, something improper has been done to us by the person (Luke 17:1-3). Yes, repentance is necessary for true forgiveness – you can’t really forgive something one refuses to confess or repent. You may be willing to forgive, and you must actually forgive, when confession and repentance are forthcoming. You may actually say, and mean it sincerely, that you do forgive the person even without repentance. But it necessarily implies a judgment against the person, implicit belief that the person is guilty.
    Scripture is clear enough about the way to give and receive forgiveness. Knowledge of sin in your own life (self-judgment leads to knowledge of guilt) requires confession to the one sinned against, an implied correction, and a request for forgiveness from the person (Mt. 5:23). Forgiveness granted by that person is an acknowledgment of your sin and a resolution of your guilt. When you judge another person to have sinned against you, go and accuse him in person. If necessary take witnesses who can verify and reinforce the accusation (Mt. 18:15-20). Hopefully, the one you accuse will confess and repent, and you can forgive him. Whenever one is accused of sin by another, if it is true the sinner’s obligation is to repent and receive forgiveness, be thus reconciled and restored to fellowship.
    When another person falls into error or sin sin – is overtaken in a fault – any spiritual person who knows of it should seek to restore the sinner, looking carefully to himself and his own spiritual condition (Gal. 6:1-2). Salvation means converting the sinner from the error of his ways (James 5:19-20). Please note that judgment is involved, that judgment leads to accusation, and hopefully accusation leads to repentance, correction, forgiveness, and restoration. Those whose sins are public may be rebuked and corrected publicly. False teachers and gossips must be marked and silenced (Rom. 16:17, Titus 1:9-11).
    The church and all faithful Christians must share the attitude of God toward sin.  There is no doubt that what God wants to do is forgive and save the sinner. That is why Christ was given to die, as a sacrifice for sin  (Rom. 5:6-8). God’s forgiveness is not automatic, nor can ours be. Forgiveness is a highly conditional matter. The attitude and response of the guilty person can determine whether or not he will be or even can be forgiven. But there is another very important matter: the attitude and response of the one sinned against can determine whether or not his own sins will be forgiven.
    What have we learned? That forgiveness implies the reality of sin. Recognizing sin is judgment. Judgment validates and necessitates accusation. If there is no sin (that too is a judgment) there is nothing to forgive. If there is sin, certain steps must be taken to get forgiveness.

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

What Irritates You?

By John Gipson

   Are you irritable?
   Irritable, as the word is generally used, is regarded as a defect of character.  We tend to think of it as that nervous tendency to explode on the smallest provocation.  As overgrown babies our prestige, comfort and “rights”—any invasion of these brings a howling which can be heard in the next county.
   Make your own private list of what irritates you: driving behind a car going thirty miles an hour when the speed limit is fifty-five; having a flight canceled and sitting in the airport until the next day; going to the emergency room and having to wait hours to see a doctor; getting the wrong order from Burger King—why these things are enough “to exasperate a saint.”   (Continued next column)
   As bad as “irritability” sounds, it can be a noble thing.  Take the case of the apostle Paul in Athens : “His soul was irritated at the sight of the idols” (Acts 17:16, Moffatt).  This sight of ruin and degradation stirred his whole being.
   Have we retained a capacity for moral indignation? In my reading I ran across a satirical quatrain which may describe the danger which faces many of us:
“St. Francis of Assisi
Was incapable of taking things easy;
That is one of the advances
We have made upon St. Francis.”
   It’s sad when we don’t get irritated or stirred by anything—when wrongs are all about us and we show the fine placidity of a cabbage.

- via Windsong Notes, the weekly bulletin of the Windsong Church of Christ in Little Rock, AR. John Gipson, a longtime minister for the Sixth and Izard congregation (now the Windsong Church of Christ) serves as one of the congregation's elders. Visit their website at


By Joe Chesser

    Several years ago we moved to a new community.  We found a house we liked very much.  In fact, it was my wife’s dream house (and still is).  Not only was the house perfect, the location was also perfect, complete with a magnificent view of mountains and valleys.  However, we were disappointed to find out that some of the local people didn’t think so highly of that particular area and the people who lived there.  They gave that area the judgmental name of “Snob-Knob.” We definitely changed that perception.
    I suppose some people consider being called “snobbish” a compliment. Some people are purposefully “high and mighty” and “arrogant.”  Many of the British books and movies portray the upper class of the 18th and 19th centuries of promoting and practicing malicious condescension and arrogant disdain for those not born of their class. But unfortunately, snobbishness rears its ugly head in other cultures and eras, even in 21st century America.  And even more tragic is when these pompous attitudes towards others invade the Lord’s church!  
    You’ve seen it.  Those of you who are old enough to remember the bus ministry days, you’ve seen it. Those of you who have lived in racially diverse areas, you’ve seen it. Those of you who have lived in university towns, you’ve seen it.  Haughtiness can be found everywhere and over just about everything: wealth, education, politics, society, race, age, place of birth, sports teams, job descriptions, automobiles, clothing, hair color, stature, skills, experiences, food choices, speech, beards, marriage, church doctrines, song leading, iphones, video games, mission trips, teeth, houses, yards, deer hunting, ….
    It’s one thing for people of the world, people without the influence of Jesus in their lives to become arrogant and puffed up over such things, but when the people of God do so it is unacceptable.  There is absolutely no place for one Christian to view himself as better or others as lower.  In Christ there is no upper class or lower class.  No matter where we were when we became a Christian, we were all lower than Christ.  But when we were raised up from baptism, we were all equally given new life, being united with him (Romans 6:3-5). Once we are in Christ, there are to be no distinctions between people (Galatians 3:26-29). Sure, we have our individuality as members of the body of Christ.  We have different talents and abilities to use in service to God, but there is no place for pride.  All the parts should have equal concern for each other (1 Cor. 12:25).  In fact, instead of having the attitude of selfish arrogance, Christians are to have just the opposite attitude: “… in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).
     What changes in the church would take place if we were all to start practicing this one principle of Christ? What would it do to gossip?  What would it do to division?  What would it do to jealousy and competition?  How would it improve our relationships, our families and our appearance to the community?  How would it affect our souls?

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:


By David R. Ferguson

    When I was a child I used to love to walk to the pond that sat back in the woods about a half mile east of our house and watch the dragonflies hovering about in abundance during the long summer days. They really seemed to love that pond, as did the many bullfrogs who inhabited its shores, most likely drawn by the great number of dragonflies. And one of the things I really enjoyed to do in what to me at that time was assuredly a magical spot, was to pick up a small rock or pebble and throw it into the middle of the pond when the water was completely still, mirroring the azure blue sky above, and watch as the ripples from where the rock broke the calm, smooth surface of the water expanded and slowly moved outward in an ever-increasingly wider circle all the way to the surrounding shoreline. It was not uncommon for those dragonflies to change the course of their flight as the ripples neared them, or cause a bullfrog to leap into the water who had hitherto been content to stay where he was – until the rippling water disturbed him. I was too young to put it into words at that time, but what I was learning from nature itself about those ripples was the lesson of cause and effect. It was that rock I had thrown into the water which caused those ripples to flow outward, affecting things far from where that rock initially hit, even the behavior of dragonflies and bullfrogs.
    I know why it was today that thoughts of that pond and those rocks, dragonflies and bullfrogs came so vividly into my remembrance, for this morning I attended the funeral of a man who was 93 years old when he passed away. If one continued walking another half mile or so east from that little pond, one would come to the house where this man lived with his family. Although it is quite an achievement for a man to live this long, there is nothing particularly unusual about a man living to be 93 years old. But what makes this man noteworthy is the fact that he was even alive at all. You see, this man was born prematurely. He was not expected to survive, let alone thrive. His birth certificate is incomplete because the doctors were so convinced he would not make it they did not bother to complete the form. He was so tiny when he was born he was kept in a shoebox in the oven during the day to keep him warm and in a drawer in that shoebox next to his mother at night.
    That baby refused to die, and he grew up to live until he reached the ripe old age of 93. Along the way he went to school. He served in the military during WWII in the Pacific, retrieving water daily for his fellow soldiers in his unit as his jeep was splayed with bullet holes from Japanese pilots. He worked as a hired hand for area farmers and he was a self-taught mechanic. He then met and fell in love with a young woman. And with this love of his life at his side until she passed away two years ago, this man fathered 13 children, who in turn produced 30 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren. All of these people, and everyone else who came into contact with him during his time here on Earth, are the ripples left behind from the life of this man. One of them serves today as a gospel preacher, leading countless other souls to salvation in Jesus Christ.
    I am sure many people wondered why it was that God through His grace chose to spare the life of that premature baby all those long 93 years ago. But He did so with a lesson to teach us, and it is this: No man is an island, and what we do in this life matters. It affects countless others. Therefore, do the work for the Lord now “as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4 [NAS]).

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

Always Try To Fall Forward

By Gerald Cowan

    Most people like the return to Standard Time (first Sunday in November) because they get back an hour of sleep lost when Daylight Saving Time started (back in March). There’s a little saying that helps one remember which way to set his clock when the time changes: Spring forward and fall back.
    There’s another saying that deserves to be better known: Whenever you fall, try to fall forward. Don’t give up and quit just because you’ve failed or made a mistake. Learn from it. Get up and try again, and keep on going in the right direction. You are not a failure as long as you get up one more time than you fall down.
    Look at some Bible examples. One might think Moses would have been justified had he given up. He had a really bad crime (murder) on his record. He had a physical handicap (slow of speech), a lack of patience and a bad temper. But he didn’t give up. The people might never have got out of Egypt if Moses had quit. Joshua might have said, “We failed to enter the promised land once, and we’ve wandered around for 40 years. I quit!” But he didn’t. Think of what could have happened had he done so. Joseph could have been forgiven for quitting, or for trying to even the score with those who had hurt him. Mean brothers sold him into slavery and lied to his father – nearly broke the old man’s heart. His boss’s wife lied about him when he tried to stay straight and honorable, and had him thrown in jail. A fellow prisoner forgot to mention him when he got out, and that increased Joseph’s time in prison. When he rose above all that and his brothers came to get help  Joseph kept right on helping.   Many are glad he did. Daniel, after being enslaved and having been tossed into a den of lions, might have said, “I think everyone’s against me. The king is trying to kill me. They don’t even want me to pray! I give up. I quit.” But he didn’t. Do you dare to be a Daniel?  David could have given up after passion, selfishness, and pride got him involved in adultery and murder. The one who had once been a man after God’s own heart ended up on God’s hit list. But he took his lumps, returned to the Lord and became Israel’s greatest king, in the line that produced the Christ. Peter might have thought, “After what I’ve said and done, what’s the use? Count me out. I quit!” But he didn’t. The cause of Christ is surely blessed and enhanced because Peter stayed with it. Paul, a one-time blasphemer of Christ and murderer of Christians, could have said, “I can’t undo what I’ve done – I don’t deserve to be saved by Christ. I can’t accept a second chance from God.” Instead he accepted defeat at the hand of Christ and gave himself fully to him as Lord. His suffering at the hands of jealous enemies was second only to that of Jesus himself. Paul became, in many ways, the greatest and most productive of all apostles – probably second only to Jesus himself in Christianity.
    No. These men did not quit. Failure was only a part of the process. Hard knocks from others were often not deserved, but failure and mistreatment taught them lessons that can only be learned the hard way, from experience. But it meant they knew something they would not have known otherwise. Their lives are proof that defeat, failure, and mistreatment can help one to fall forward – maybe we can say to fail forward – to fall in the direction God wants us to go, to fall facing toward success and still determined to reach it.
    I appreciate Galatians 6:9."In due time we shall reap if we do not faint." Eventually we will win if we do not give up. It teaches that each of us must keep on doing what is right and good, both for ourselves and others. In due time we will have the reward of well-doing – if we do not give up and quit.

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Easy Isn’t Always Best

By Don Loftis

     The media is filled with products which promise great results for minimal efforts. We are told that we can lose 20 pounds without any exercise and can eat all the foods we want, if we take one little “miracle pill” a day. We can make $100,000 a year by working only 10 hours a week, if we join a popular on-line business group.
     A lot of folks must feel the same way about their religious involvement. They desire all the spiritual blessings (forgiveness, peace, fellowship, hope, etc.), as long as they can drop in to worship once a month and give their $50 a year. They want to be spiritual giants tomorrow without giving up any of the pleasures of the world today.
     Jesus warned His listeners, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mt. 7:13-14). Later He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Lk. 9:23). Paul understood the true price tag of loyalty to Jesus and passed that message along to a young preacher named Timothy by stating, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” ( II Tim. 3:12).
     It is difficult to swim upstream, but Christians are called to challenge and resist the evil within culture. The Lord shapes our lives more through adversity and temptation than prosperity (James 1:2-4). Bargain religion is destined to fail, because Jesus demands more. Remember, we were redeemed not with cheap grace but with the blood of the Son of God.

- 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:

The Lighthouse of Love

By David R. Ferguson

    Many lonely sailors have been cheered by the flashing signal from Minot's Ledge Lighthouse off the coast of Scituate, Massachusetts. The signal that flashes intermittently spells out the words "I love you" in nautical code. Several years ago the Coast Guard decided to replace the old equipment. They announced that for technical reasons the new machines would not be able to flash the "I love you" message any longer. The public, however, protested, and the Coast Guard relented. The old equipment remains and continues to send its message of love to the ships out at sea.
    This is a great story with an even greater message, but the greatest message you can ever hear is this: "God loves you.” The message that should be on the lips of every Christian as they move about amongst their friends and acquaintances is, “God loves you.” The Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8). That we are loved by God is a fact that all people need to know. Let us take a few moments now and listen as the Apostle John, the beloved Apostle, drives this point home.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12 [ESV])

    When we read these words penned by John we gain a remarkable insight into the very character of God. Love is Who He is! Love is a fundamental quality of God. In fact, it is so fundamental to the character of God that without love God would not exist. And the alternative is equally as true. God is love, which means that love is God. Love would not exist without God being and existing!
    When I read this story of Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse I cannot help but be reminded of God and His love for mankind because not only does the word of God define our Lord as a God Who is love, it also tells us He is light. John tells us in 1 John 1:5 [ESV], “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” So just as that lighthouse of love off the coast of Massachusetts has been sending forth its beam of love and guiding countless sailors through many a dark and turbulent night out at sea, God’s word sheds His light and His love upon all of mankind, leading us through the turbulent waters of sin, sorrow and dismay, and into the salvation of His Son, Jesus Christ.

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

The Prince of Peace

By Bill Brandstatter

     Jesus was referred to in the Bible as the Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6) What does the word “peace” mean Biblically? Was Jesus the person to end all wars and stop all conflicts?
     When I look at peace, I also think about the current situation in the Middle East in Syria and in Egypt. Of course, religiously, I think about Jesus the great Prince of Peace who brought division into the religious world of His day. (Mt. 10:34) Let us look at some things that must be done so that peace in any area can be achieved. These items could apply to peace in the home, country, heart, or any place where peace is desired.
     First, there must be the right disposition. A person who doesn’t want peace is not going to agree to anything that will promote it. Christians should surely have a disposition toward peace. Paul admonished, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom. 12:18) A person who is always concerned about his way will never feel real peace.
     Second, there must be the right desire. Obviously this point is forever connected to the first. Christians ought to not only desire peace but seek it and pursue it. (1 Pet. 3:11) We must pursue the avenues of peace whenever possible. (Rom. 12:18)
     Third, there must be the proper design. The word “design” is used here to mean purpose. If a person just makes a show of peace to please someone, that peace will not last. The kind of peace Jesus can give is nothing like the peace the world may offer. (John 14:27) Some may seek certain avenues such as drugs, alcohol, or other illicit means in order to get peace, yet those are all the wrong avenues. A husband who stops drinking or running around just to shut up his nagging wife is doing so for the wrong reason. Peace must be for the right reason and from the right motive.
     The peace that God gives passes our understanding; (Phil. 4:7) but, in order to have this peace that passes understanding I must be faithful to God. I must understand that my purpose in life is to glorify God. (1 Cor. 6:19, 20) God did not put me here just to enjoy life and to be comfortable. I am to serve him. (Rom. 12:1) In doing this I can enjoy a peace that the world does not know, but that all Christians know and enjoy. (Rev. 14:13) I must first become a Christian like Jesus wants me to. He stated, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16) Then I must live a faithful life. (Rev. 2:10) When death comes, I will then have a special peace, a rest for my soul. (Rev. 14:13).

– Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Don't Overlook The Obvious

By Larry Pasley

    “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. As they lay down for the night, Holmes said, ‘Watson, look up and tell me what you see.’ Watson said, ‘I see millions and millions of stars.’
    Holmes asked, ‘And what does that tell you?’   Watson replied, ‘Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you Holmes?’   Holmes answered simply, ‘Somebody stole our tent.’”
    People are bad about overlooking the obvious in religion also. The religious world is full of people who have studied the bible all their life and yet missed key points in God’s teachings.
    Almost every book of the New Testament has statements that show that the doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved” is false and yet many in the religious world have overlooked the obvious. Heb. 6:4-6
    The necessity of baptism in becoming a Christian is prevalent throughout the New Testament and yet many still claim that it has nothing to do with salvation. They are overlooking the obvious. Mk. 16:16
    The connection of obedience to our salvation is also dominant in the scriptures but many still hold to the doctrine of “Faith Only”, overlooking the obvious. Jas. 2:24
    Still others teach as doctrine the traditions and teachings of men, never recognizing the difference. They overlook the obvious. Mat. 15:8
    May we not fall into the trap of overlooking the obvious in our desire to live our lives pleasing to God.

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

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Christian Barber

    There was a barber that thought he should share his faith with his customers more than he had been doing lately.  So the next morning when the sun came up and the barber got up out of bed, he said, “Today I am going to witness to the first man that walks through my door.”
    Soon after he opened his shop the first man came in and said, “I want a shave.”  The barber said, “Sure, just sit in the seat and I’ll be with you in a moment.”  The barber went in the back and prayed a quick desperate prayer, saying, “God, the first customer came in and I’m going to share my faith with him.  So give me the wisdom to know just the right thing to say to him.  Amen.”
    Then quickly the barber came out with his razor knife in one hand and a Bible in the other, while saying, “Good morning, sir.  I have a question for you.  Are you ready to die?”

- 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: