Monday, February 25, 2013

Descriptions of Second Coming

Jesus will come—
  1. Personally—1 Thessalonians 4:16.
  2. Literally and visibly—Acts 1:11.
  3. In glory—Matthew 27z’38’ 24:30; 25:31.
  4. In power—Matthew 24:30.
  5. With angels—Matthew 25:31; Rev. 5:11.
  6. Quickly—Rev. 22:7, 12, 20.
  7. Unexpectedly—Matt. 24:50; Luke 21:34, 35.
--Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations

- 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 Church’s Mission

By Darwin Hunter
    One constant danger facing the church is a misunderstanding of the church’s role in the world.  When its high and holy purposes are jettisoned for low and worldly purposes, the church loses its direction and its divine blessings.
    The church is God’s institution - not man’s.  It was envisioned by God before the world began, and functions in accordance with God’s eternal purpose for the salvation of the world (Eph. 3:10-11).  It is not human in origin.  Jesus Himself, the God-Man sent into the world by the Father to act as Savior, promised to build the church (Matt. 16:18).  Since this is true, no man has the right to subvert the church by altering its mission, or changing its function and worship.
    Yet, this has been done throughout the history of man.  Men have changed the church into religious organizations subjected to the ecclesiastical councils of men, and humanly-devised creeds.  They have replaced the worship planned by God with that which appeals to the worldly-minded.  Instrumental music was substituted for vocal praise (Eph. 5:19), robed clergy for humble “ministers through whom you believed” (1 Cor. 3:5), and spiritual joy was supplanted by dance and hand-clapping (Phil. 4:4).
    In addition, the mission of the church was changed.  The church is in the soul-saving business.  Its mission is plainly stated by the One who has been given all authority in Heaven and on earth: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20).  Its divinely-given mission is to preach the Gospel, the saving message of Christ (Rom. 1:16).  It is to bring men to faith, repentance, and baptism (Acts 2:38), and to teach the converted all aspects of Christ’s doctrine to commit them to holy living (1 Pet. 1:13-17).
    In many places, these lofty goals have been set aside for lesser goals.  To far too many, the church has become a social organization which functions along the lines of local civic clubs.  It builds gymnasiums, bowling alleys, restaurants, and coffee houses for socializing and does little or no Bible teaching.  “Going to church” has become nothing more enriching than attending a music concert to “get happy.”  It is time that the church return to its roots: “Preach the Word...reprove, rebuke, exhort” (2 Tim. 4:2).  The mission of the church is to teach that which saves - the Gospel (Rom. 1:16).  God’s plan for the church is that it be “the pillar and ground of the truth” and to “speak the truth in love” (1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 4:15).  Nothing humans can devise can improve on God’s design for the church.  Its lofty mission must never be thought of as “out of date” or “out of touch” with modern man.  In fact, the only thing that can touch man’s soul is the Gospel!

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

Whose Are You?

By Bart Warren
     I’ll never forget my 7th grade civics teacher. He was just about every kid’s favorite. He drove a cool car. He was lots of fun. But most importantly, he cared about his students and really had a desire to teach.
    At the end of every class, as the bell was ringing and all the students were gathering up their things to go to the next class, he would call out: “Remember who you are and whose you are!”
     If only we all would be cognizant of such things. When no authorities are around...when no one can see you...when you are sure you won’t get caught...what type of person are you? Do you live in such a way as to always make your family proud? Do you live in such a way as to always make God proud?
     King Saul is an example of one who forgot whose he was. In 1 Samuel 15:3, the command was clear and specific. Through Samuel, God had instructed Saul to totally and completely destroy the Amalekites. No person or beast was to be spared. But, as indicated in verse 9, Saul spared King Agag as well as the best sheep, oxen, calves, and lambs. In verse 11, God says, “I regret that I have made Saul king.” God made Saul king! In other words, Saul belonged to God. Saul was His! That being the case, Saul should have fulfilled the will of God, not his own selfish desires.
     Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are good examples of those who remembered whose they were. In Daniel 3:4-6, the command is given for all to worship a golden image when certain music is played. WE all know the rest of the story. The music is played, yet these three refused to fall down and worship this graven image. In spite of the frightening consequences of burning in an spite of the dramatic peer pressure (hey, everyone else is doing it)...they remembered they belonged to God and they remained loyal to Him (Dan. 3:17). God protected them (3:26-27).
     Daniel himself is a good example of one who remembered whose he was. Consider just a couple of things. First, Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (Dan. 1:8). He made the decision as a young man, before he ever felt the first notion of peer pressure, that he was going to live for God and make Him proud. Second, as he grew older, Daniel continued to put the will of God first in his life. In Daniel 6:7, his enemies devise a plan to condemn him: No petitions offered to anyone or anything other than the king for 30 days. But Daniel knew he belonged to God, not to this king. He continued to pray to the God of heaven and earth. He wound up in the den of lions. Yet, through all of this, God protected him because he was innocent (Dan. 6:22)! God takes care of those that belong to Him. To whom do you belong? Remember who you are and whose you are!

- Bart Warren; 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, February 18, 2013

Signs of Life

By Alan Smith
English sign in German cafe: "Mothers, Please Wash Your Hans Before Eating."
On a scientist's door: "Gone Fission"
Outside a hotel: "Help!  We need inn-experienced people."
On a music teacher's door: "Out Chopin."
On the door of a music library: "Bach in a minuet."
At a farmer's field: "The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges."
In a podiatrist's window: "Time wounds all heels."
At the Electric Company: "We would be de-lighted if you send in your bill. However, if you don't, you will be."
On Maternity Room door: "Push, Push, Push"
Sign on fence: "Salesmen welcome. Dog food is expensive."
Muffler shop:  "No appointment necessary. We'll hear you coming."
Veterinarian's waiting room: "Be back in 5 minutes. Sit!  Stay!"
Optometrist's office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."
     That last sign is just a humorous way of saying that it is only those people who are sick who are in need of the doctor.  And isn't that what Jesus himself said?
    "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Mark 2:17)
    Jesus and the Pharisees often had conflict over the "sinners".  The Pharisees drew a sharp dividing line between the righteous and the sinners.  No good Jew would ever associate with "that kind of people." 
     But, while the feeling of the religious leaders was contempt and disgust for sinners, that certainly wasn’t the attitude of Jesus.  Jesus often ate and drank with them and invited one of them (Levi) to be one of his apostles.  The Pharisees accused Jesus of being the "friend of tax-collectors and sinners."  But to Jesus, that was a compliment.  And it is perhaps the most endearing and touching description of our Lord.
     Jesus didn't come to hobnob with the religious elite.  He came to save sinners.  He didn't come to make small talk with people too blind to see how sin-sick they truly were.  He came to be a doctor to those who were sick and knew it.  It wasn't those who claimed to be "righteous" who commanded Christ's attention.  It was the "sinners" he came looking for.
     Sometimes we need to be reminded that the church is not a place for people who are perfect, but rather a place for those who are sick (with sin) who are seeking healing at the hands of the Great Physician.
     Don't stay away from church because you don't have it all together.  Come and find healing along with the rest of us who don't have it all together either.
     Have a great day!

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

Why Is The Plan of Salvation Spread Throughout The New Testament?

By Douglas Hoff
    In the Bible, God has revealed how he will save man from the condemnation of sin. There are certain things man must do to be forgiven. Each action is a “step” in God’s plan to bring salvation to man (Rom. 4:12). It is eminently scriptural to call the sum of these steps the “plan of salvation” since the Lord planned it before the world was even formed (Eph. 1:4,5; cf. I Peter 1:18-20). The discerning student of the scriptures soon discovers that all the steps in the plan are not found in one place. Some have wondered why this is so.
    Clearly, God desires everyone to be saved. Various scriptures such as 1 Timothy 2:3,4 and 2 Peter 3:9 attest to this fact. Since he does not want any to perish, why is the plan of salvation scattered throughout the New Testament? God would not reveal his desire to have everyone saved yet purposely make it hard to determine how to do so. Why not have the plan easily found in one passage? God in his wisdom had a reason or reasons why he revealed the plan of salvation as he did.
    Man must obey the Gospel to be saved (Rom. 1:16; 10:16; II Thess. 1:6-9). This means first learning what is required. What is necessary to obey the Gospel? First, one must hear the message of salvation (Luke 8:12; Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:13). Second, the lost soul must believe the gospel (Mark 16:15,16; Rom. 10:9,10). Third, the person must repent of his sins (Luke 13:3,5; Acts 2:38). Fourth, one must confess his belief that Jesus is the Son of God (Matt. 10:32,33; Rom. 10:10). Fifth, for sins to be washed away and the soul saved, one must be baptized (Acts 22:16; I Peter 3:21).
    No doubt some would prefer that all these commands were contained in one convenient passage. However, that is not the way God did it and our desires will not change the situation. We must accept that God knows what is best. Since the various commands are not found in one central place, man must search the scriptures to ascertain the truth (John 5:39). Though he did not explain why it is so, we may be sure his wisdom is justified (Luke 7:35). We are told God’s word brings about his desired results: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). So, why should a person have to struggle and search to learn the saving truth? We cannot be dogmatic since God does not specify his reason(s). Nevertheless, here are some possible reasons why the plan of salvation is not found in one place:
1) It may be God’s design to keep those not spiritually minded and disinterested out of the kingdom (Matt. 13:10-17). When Judgment Day comes, there will be a separation between the saints and sinners. However, the unfaithful will also be taken out of the midst of the saved in that day (Matt. 13:41,42,47-50). If a person isn’t even interested enough in searching for the way to be saved, it is doubtful they would make good servants. If one passage contained the entire plan of salvation, people with a check list mentality could soothe their consciences by saying, “I’ve done all that’s needed” and then go back to their own affairs much like the one talent man did (Matt. 25:14-30).
2) It may be God’s purpose to show the need to study all of the Bible. “The sum of thy word is truth; And every one of thy righteous ordinances endureth for ever” (Psa. 119:160; ASV). By keeping the plan of salvation dispersed, perhaps it reinforces the need to study everything in God’s word. God wants us to grow and prepare for eternity (II Peter 3:18). This requires a hungering and thirsting soul that will be satisfied only by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth (Matt. 5:6; cf. 4:4).
3) The Bible is not a textbook on salvation. As such, we should not expect a table or chart listing the five steps in the plan of salvation. The literary style of God’s word does not lend itself to a convenient listing of the plan. Much of the Bible is written in the historical narrative style. For example, the four accounts of the Gospel deal with people, places and events. This is not the place to artificially list the plan of salvation.
    Even the book of Acts, which is often called the book of conversions, would not be the proper place to find a convenient listing of all five steps. Different circumstances resulted in different responses to the question, “What must I do to be saved?”
4) God chose to reveal things little by little as man was able to accept it. This can be seen as one studies the Old Testament and how it anticipates the coming Messiah. Jesus often taught in parables and Mark recorded this was done “as they were able to hear it” (Mark 4:33). Paul also found his audience was not always able to handle the deep things: “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (I Cor. 3:2). See also Hebrews 5:12-14.
5) Searching for truth rewards the diligent seeker when he finds the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:44-46). Finding the truth becomes more important when one invests his time and effort. As such, he is more likely to value what was found (Matt. 6:19-21). God values the disposition that will fight to defend the truth (Jude 3).
6) Repetition helps ensure one will learn the truth. If the plan of salvation were limited to one centralized passage, would there be the oft needed repetition (I Cor. 4:17; II Peter 1:12; Jude 5)? God thought it necessary to preserve four accounts of the gospel. Why? Some people might be more receptive when the story is presented in different ways. So it is with study of the scriptures. Perhaps a person will get the point in one book but miss it in another.
    Is it difficult to find the plan of salvation? Not for one who is looking. Jesus promised that one who seeks will find (Matt. 7:7,8). What does it take to learn? Some time, a desire to learn, an open mind, an open Bible and some effort.

- Douglas Hoff; via the Nile Street Notes, the weekly bulletin of the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL; R. W. McAlister preaches for the congregation and may be contacted through the congregation's website: 

Always Give a Good Example and an Honest Answer

By Gerald Cowan
    A long time ago a friend gave me some good advice on how to be an  effective minister. “Give everybody something to be thankful for,” he said. The best thing you can give to anyone is a good example and an honest answer to any questions asked of you (Rom. 12:17, 1 Peter 3:15-16). A good example will cause no one to stumble (1 Cor. 10:31). An honest answer means speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Give others something they will not have to apologize to others for, something they won’t have to hide or pretend didn’t happen. Give them the truth. When rumors fly, and they always will, they cannot fly through the truth. Truth stops the rumor dead.
    If one asks an honest question, he expects to get an honest answer, a simple straightforward statement of the truth, so far as it can be known. Some people are devious and untrustworthy. They may tell you things that are not strictly true, though not really false. They may do it to protect the guilty and mislead the innocent. Here’s an example that illustrates the point (something I clipped from the Coro Lake Bulletin, Memphis, TN several years ago):
    A young woman’s husband had been justly convicted of and crimes and sentenced to be executed. In those days capital punishment was often by hanging, and was witnessed by the public. The woman’s husband was hanged and she was left a widow with five children. For several years after the event it was quite natural for people to inquire about her husband, and here is how she explained his death. “My husband died at a public function when a platform on which he was standing gave way.” She had loved her husband, in spite of his crimes. To spare his name from further disgrace, she explained his death as simply as she could, without giving more details than were required to answer the question, but not saying anything that was not true.
    Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8, James 5:20). It does not do so by refusing to acknowledge them, overlooking them, or pretending they do not exist. Some would rather not know the truth about others – infidelity of a spouse, for example, or inappropriate activities or business (gangster business in the case just mentioned). But sin cannot be hidden, removed, or forgiven unless it is faced, corrected, and forgiveness for it is sought from God.
    Give God, heaven, the church, people who know you, and your own self too, something to be thankful for.  Repent, obey the Lord, and let the Lord save your soul. Keep yourself in the faith – stay faithful to the calling of the Lord. Then no one will ever have to apologize for you or be embarrassed to have the truth about you known by all.
- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola Church of Christ in Dongola, IL.  He may be contacted at

Monday, February 11, 2013

Be Careful, Eyes and Ears!

By R. W. McAlister
     A children’s song sometimes sung in Bible class is, “O, Be Careful Little Eyes.” In it, these warnings are given, “O be careful little eyes what you see, O be careful little ears what you hear, O be careful little hands what you do, O be careful little feet where you go, and, “O be careful little mouth what you say. There's a Father up above, And He's looking down in love." It’s with what our eyes and ears are exposed to that I wish to focus on in this brief article.
     Our choices in entertainment represent an area of rapid and alarming decline. This is especially true of television. Whatever happened to shows you wouldn’t be concerned about your children watching, like, “Andy Griffith,” or “Bugs Bunny?” - shows where foul language, excessive "bathroom humor," and sexual themes are absent?
     Movies are no better. My wife’s friend went to see the new movie, “Brave,” about a young girl in 10th century Scotland who must undo a spell that has been cast on her family. Her friend reports that at least one scene is visually risqué, and this is an animated film aimed at children!
     Even “ABC Family” isn’t family oriented! What a misnomer! Carrying shows like, “Secret Life of An American Teenager,” which deals with out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancy (I doubt it condemns it), “They Lying Game,” and, “Baby Daddy,” whose theme is a 20 something year-old boy whose ex-girlfriend “dumps” their illegitimate daughter on his doorstep and leaves. I struggle to find very much that’s truly family oriented here, and those are just 3 shows on this station! God’s design for the home consists of a married, committed husband and wife (Gen. 2:24) wherein children are to be welcomed. God condemns lying throughout the Bible (Prov. 6:17, Acts 5:1-5). Sadly, much of broadcast entertainment is either built on or glorifies sin.
     The “funniest” and most used phrase on television seems to be “Oh My God!” used to express surprise, dismay, fear, and even lust. How can we make any pretense to revere the God we blaspheme? Exodus 20:7 warns us that God won’t hold anyone guiltless who takes the Lord’s name in vain.
     Standards of speech have declined from what they once were, and especially in movies and television they’re far from God’s standards (Eph. 4:29; 5:3-4). Even cartoons made for children have curse words.
     Has anyone seen the atrocity, “South Park?” Middle-School age kids using language that no one should use, especially those who claim to be Christians. There’s no way in the world I’d ever let my child watch a show like this! Equally bad is, “Family Guy,” who is anything but! Surprisingly though, a lot of kids are allowed to watch these shows and others like them either because their parents don’t care or don’t monitor them enough to know they’re doing it. Some parents even find nothing wrong with letting their young children watch R-rated movies. Shouldn’t we be careful about watching a movie with that rating?
     In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells us by inspiration to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. How can a movie that glorifies illegal drug addiction or alcoholism or prostitution or homosexuality or nude dancing possibly qualify as being “pure” or “of good report?”
     “Filth merchants” claim these things are fine, they just reflect the direction in which society is going, and we can’t do anything about it. The only way we can believe that is if we simply close our eyes to the very real danger that a whole nation of children and grandchildren – including our own – could easily follow these folks into sin and hell. Let us be careful regarding that to which our eyes and ears are exposed!

 - R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: 

“Go Into the World”

By David Holder

    “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations” (Mark 16:16). So Jesus commissioned His disciples following His resurrection. He sent His men into the world to preach good news to everyone. By application, we are to take the good news of our Savior into the world. If we don’t, who will?
    We Must Go Into The World With Our Eyes Opened. When Jesus sent out His hand-picked representatives, He wanted them to go with opened eyes (Matthew 10:16). He knew they would be as sheep in the midst of wolves and would need to be both shrewd and innocent. We must take the gospel to a world that does not know Jesus (John 1:10) and does not want light (John
3:19-20). We work in enemy territory and must have our eyes opened.
    We Must Go Into The World With Our Hearts Opened. It is easy in a society permeated by sin either to acquiesce to its pressures or to grow cynical and skeptical about it. We may need to take a step back to see the larger picture. Our world is subjected to futility. Creation is suffering and groaning (Romans 8:18-23). People live fragmented lives, scattered and shattered by sin, whether they know it or not. Sin is taking its awful toll and sinners are its victims. We need to open our hearts to the sin-wrecked lives of our friends, neighbors and loved ones.
    We Must Go Into The World With Our Hands Opened. All Christians cannot go to distant places to preach. But some can, and we should send them, support them, and encourage them. In Corinth, Paul joined with Aquila and Priscilla in tent-making to support himself while preaching. Given the circumstances, Paul was careful and judicious in receiving support from the Corinthians themselves (see 1 Corinthians 9:3-14). But then Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, and he “began devoting himself completely to the word” (Acts 18:1-5). They brought financial resources to Paul, enabling him to focus entirely on preaching the gospel.
    We Must Go Into The World With Our Mouths Opened. Finally, this is what it takes--you and me telling people about Jesus. It may be an invitation to services. It may be a suggestion to have a Bible study or to set up a Bible study with someone else teaching. It may be inviting children to Vacation Bible School or bringing children to the classes. Who knows what God may do through your invitation or words of encouragement.

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

Pride and a Haughty Spirit

By Charles Pogue
    Solomon wrote: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). The Bible is replete with illustrations of the truth Solomon expressed. Cain thought he could sacrifice what pleased him and it would please God. It did not,and his pride led to the slaying of his brother. Pharaoh knew not the Lord, neither would he listen to His voice to let Israel go. The entire Egyptian army perished in the Red Sea. Nadab and Abihu thought a fire of their choosing would be as good as what God required. They died before the Lord. The illustrations could go on and on, but these are sufficient to prove the point; pride does indeed go before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
    As the above examples show, pride is not a bad attitude reserved for those who are aliens from God. God’s people can manifest a haughty spirit. Pride shows a lack of love, because love is not puffed up and does not seek her own (1 Cor. 13:3-5). The pride of life is of the world, not of the Father (1 John 2:16). The lusts of the flesh, including the pride of life, were no doubt part of the cause of some going “out from us,” as John said they did (v. 19). Pride is often a problem found in an inexperienced person, therefore a novice is not to be an elder in the Lord’s church (1 Tim. 3:6). Jesus informed the scribes and Pharisees that pride fell into the same category as thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, and foolishness (Mark 7:22).
    All people must guard against pride. Pride has no boundaries. It can strike the poor or the wealthy, the ignorant as certainly as the knowledgeable, a follower as well as a leader, and the uneducated as surely as the educated. Pride may more often strike those who are “higher up the ladder” in the foregoing pairs, but it can strike the less affluent and influential as well as those who are more so. That is because pride is the condition of a person thinking more highly of himself than he ought (Rom. 12:3), and no one is immune to that trap.
James wrote: “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” (Jam. 1:9,10). That is true because these verses are sandwiched between those making the point that all things come from God. Whether it is wisdom (v. 5) or any other good and perfect gift (v. 17), the gospel, foreordained of the Father, and executed by the Son, makes all men spiritual equals. The gospel manifests the importance of the feeble in the eyes of God, and exposes the weakness of the strong, because he cannot save himself.Why then, should anyone glory in himself?
    There is a growing problem in the brotherhood of both the presence of pride and its corruption. Some involved in works receiving financial support from individuals or congregations have come to believe they have no responsibility to give an account for what they do, or give an answer to concerns their brethren, including supporters, have. The bigger and better known the work gets, the less accountability they recognize. When men persist in that attitude, are rebuked, yet refuse to repent of such pride, it is time for their works to fold or be taken over by others more humble.
    What a contrast there is between men like the apostle Paul who considered himself the chief of sinners, because he once persecuted the church (1 Tim. 1:15), and many of our preachers today who persecute it now. There is nothing wrong with advanced educational degrees, as such. It may be a coincidence, but it seems the higher degree of education our preachers achieve, their pride increases exponentially, and their willingness to give account of themselves to their brethren all but vanishes. They speak over the heads of the rest of us, about what this or that theologian has written, informing us of logical inconsistencies of this or that human philosopher. They dwell on the psychological imperfections that trip us up on a daily basis, but the gospel and its requirements seldom pass their lips. They “pride” themselves on their tolerance to share podiums with those of questionable soundness. When challenged over their actions, they ignore it and pursue the path of stony silence or attack those who seek an explanation.
    On the other hand, there is a necessary warning for the rest of us. We must be careful not to affix to another, the charge of a haughty spirit when it may not be there at all. None of us can know the hearts of others, thus we must not judge on the basis of appearance (John 7:24) and presume we can discern the motivation of someone else’s heart. Rather, as Jesus said, “ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16, 20). The words, deeds, and if he reveals them to us, his thoughts, tell us whether a man is full of pride and of himself, or if he is humble before God and men and full to overflowing with the truth of God and the goodness that accompanies righteousness with fear and trembling.
     Jesus told a parable (Luke 18: 10-14) of a Pharisee and a publican who went up to the temple to pray. We know the differences between the two men and the prayers they prayed, but sometimes we overlook verse 9, the context of the parable. “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” One could hardly imagine a more complete description of this human fault of pride. We also notice the destruction that followed, when the Pharisee went down from the temple unjustified. The publican, on the other hand recognized he was a sinner. He manifested a spirit of humility, and was justified in his prayer. Men do not just need a good dose of humility, without it they will fall in judgment, and what a fall it will be!

- Charles Pogue; 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, February 4, 2013


By Chris Tiegreen
   Imagine having the world’s most valuable masterpiece, a work of art that would bring thirty or forty million dollars if you auctioned it…. Then imagine that instead of taking that masterpiece to the auction, you took it to a pawn shop, pawned it for twenty bucks, and blew the whole wad on crayons and paper so you could decorate your own walls.
   Or imagine being offered a lifetime pass to the city’s best buffet spread, only to reject it in favor of one meal at a truck stop.  Silly? Ludicrous? Absolutely insane? All of that and more.  People with even an ounce of sense don’t squander glory on garbage.  But that’s what idolatry is.  That’s what the people of Judah were doing in Jeremiah’s day, and that’s what we do with alarming ease today.
   Think about how much God is worth.  He can create anything, so whatever we have, He has something better.  He governs and sustains everything, so every circumstance we encounter must bow to Him.  And He has promised lavish blessings for eternity, so all our cravings will be extravagantly exceeded by His good gifts.  Logically, there’s nothing we could take in exchange for a relationship with God.  Practically, that’s exactly what we do.

- Chris Tiegreen, via The Lantern, Highway Church of Christ, Sullivan, IL  Ron Thomas serves as preacher and an elder for the congregation and you may visit their website as


By Michael Whitworth
    Like many of you, I struggle to find balance in my life, and my wife and I don’t even have kids yet, which means some of you reading this are mumbling, “Just you wait...”
    But as it now stands, my days are busy with lessons to prepare, hospitals to visit, projects to plan and complete, sermons to write, bills to pay, errands to run, cars to maintenance, a lawn to cut, and a dog to walk. When I get done with these responsibilities, there is always my health that I have to see to, which too often gets put on the back burner. And there is my relationship with God that needs constant investment, and in a way that moves beyond daily Bible reading and random prayers. How can I juggle all of these things at once?
     My comments in this article are not going to be stylish bullet points. Nor will they be neat-and-tidy sayings because very little in my life is neat-and-tidy, not even my bed. But I do want to discuss some biblical truths that have contributed a framework for balance in my life. When things become unbalanced in my world, I often discover that I have not lived out one or some of these truths.
    The first truth is that God rested on the seventh day, and the world didn’t crash around him (Gen. 2:1-3), so I can probably get away with the same thing. In the past several months, I have fanatically taken Monday as a day off, and my elders encourage me in this. They go the extra mile of seeing to ministry needs on Monday so that I do not have to, and I am grateful for that. On my day off, I like to flip through magazines, watch a few favorite TV shows on the DVR, sleep in, walk the dog, sit in a restaurant with a good book, daydream about future vacations, and anything else I have a whim to do. In short, I try to enjoy this gift of life that God has bestowed. You can call it my “stop and smell the roses” day.
    I know I won’t always be able to do this, but I’m enjoying it now.
    If you’re a minister, I strongly encourage you to take a day off. I know that Christians are not bound by Sabbath rules, but the person you (hopefully) preach about each week took regular time-off to go to a private place and pray (Mark 1:35). The less you emulate him in this practice, the less you will emulate him in other ways. It’s just a matter of time. For parents, this may be more difficult, but still seek time where you can be alone and not be “mom and dad” for a while. Hire a babysitter. Agree to watch the kids while your spouse enjoys a “me” half-day. Do things that refresh your soul. You won’t regret it.
    The second truth I have learned is that I must segment my life, not in what I do, but how I do things. Some ministers have the mindset that, at a certain point, they have “done their job,” which really means that they don’t have to do things that “aren’t their job.” Youth ministers use this excuse to not visit hospitals. Preachers use this excuse to not host teen devotionals or teach young children’s classes with their wives.
    I have learned the hard way that after my job as preacher has been done, there are still some things that I need to do as a Christian. So I seldom visit hospitals any more as a preacher. I go as a Christian (Matt. 25:36). Ironically, I enjoy going as a Christian more than as the preacher. I usually stay longer and find myself encouraged more than my doing the encouraging (I still take advantage of clergy parking; is that unethical?).
    In short, I have found it restorative to do things as a Christian. It helped me rediscover the joy of ministry to God’s glory, not ministry for a paycheck. Desiring to see God exalted and his kingdom expanded will always motivate me more than $$ (I’m defective like that). It allows me to feel closer to God during the act. When I did things “as the preacher,” it only made me feel like a better preacher. I was doing these things because that’s what the elders and the brethren expected. Doing things as a Christian? I do those things because Jesus asked me to, and he loves me more than anyone ever will.
    A third truth is to find a sort of system that works for you to keep track of your responsibilities. I’ve known of people who were really good at keeping day-planners or date-books. Others keep a notebook in a pocket or rely on a secretary to help them remember appointments, tasks, and projects. Some simply tie string around their fingers or wear rubber bands on their wrists. I use an app on my iPhone to remind me to do this or that. Whatever system works for you, find one that works for you.
    Along with this, put a limit on time-wasters. Surfing the Internet. Social media. Watching too many movies or television shows. Find a way to discipline yourself so that you don’t immerse yourself in these things when there is work to be done.
    A fourth truth is related; make time to record your thoughts and journal where you are spiritually. I have never been faithful in keeping a journal, but blogging has helped me sort out frustrations and questions I had. Find a system that works for you, but a written archive of your spiritual journey can be very edifying. As I flip through blog posts from six, twelve, and eighteen months ago, I am reminded that God has faithfully brought me through many storms, and this prompts me to respond in praise and dedication to the tasks he has for me to do.
    A fifth truth is the importance of immersing yourself in Scripture. In daily life, we are bombarded with one ungodly concept, value, or belief after another. Radio. TV. Newspapers. Magazines. Billboards. Internet Forums. Social Media. Personal interaction with friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors. The great thing about personal Bible study is that it constantly gives us a grid or framework to interact with these ideas. With a deeper communion with God in Scripture, we learn that some things aren’t nearly as important as we thought they were, and other things are more important than we previously thought. Did I treat the restaurant waitress as someone who was made in God’s image, as one for whom Christ died? Is it always a good thing to stand up for my rights as an American or as a consumer? Would our nations’ problems really be fixed with a Republican White House or a Democratic Congress?
     Reading through Scripture, particularly the New Testament, reminds us that the world will always be the world; what remains for Christians is to set our mind on things above (Col. 3:2), seek first the kingdom (Matt. 6:33), and spread the aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15) as ambassadress of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Homelessness, crime, corruption, terrorism, racism, classism, economic hardship, and people doing stupid things have always been an issue for humanity. Some things never change. But don’t worry about what you can’t control; worry about what is directly subject to your influence.
     Finally, pray. I can say it as Paul says it—“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). But boil that all down, and he is saying that prayer brings balance to life.
     Specifically, pray that God would give you balance. Ask God to identify for you the things that need attention today, and those things that can be put off until tomorrow. Ask God to give understanding to those who you will let down today. People can have insane expectations; not even God can please everyone. At the end of the day, you answer to God and no one else, not the brethren, not your elders, no one other than God. Ask that God be relentless in keeping himself squarely at the center of your field of vision. Ask that he give you grace when you take your eye off the ball. Ask that he juggle all of your daily responsibilities and reign over the fray.
     Finally, glory in a God who created the wonder of the universe in six days, and then felt it important to rest on the seventh. Glory in a God who, on our worst, most dis-organized day, remembers that we are dust (Psa. 103:14). Glory in a God who is greater than all things, even our terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days when it seems that everything is about to crash down on us.
     I particularly love God on those days.

- Michael Whitworth; via KneEmail, an on-line devotional edited by Mike Benson. To subscribe, send ANY message to:  Mike may be contacted

Perilous Times?... Perhaps

By Robert Lambert

     An article in the March 2008 issue of Pulpit Helps  revealed that a recent poll conducted by Zogby International and AOL Personals indicated that 44% of U.S. residents aged 20-69 years believe that marriage isn’t necessary to validate love or commitment in a long-term relationship.  Keith Brengle, director of AOL Personals told Reuters, “Across all age groups, you just don’t need a marriage certificate….”
     Responding to this outrage, Jim Mueller, president and co-founder of Growthtrac Ministries, an organization that produces Christian marriage resources, said, “A Christian marriage is between two people who have committed their lives—and their marriage—to a relationship with Jesus Christ.  That couple is making a permanent promise, a covenant that is not meant to be broken.  That makes a difference.”  Mr. Mueller believes that many of the negative values reflected in the media, celebrity lifestyles and culture have led many young adults in their 20s to adopt a light view of commitment in marriage and cohabitation before marriage.
     I used to think that this was symptomatic of the lax morals of this country.  Now, I believe that the laxity of morals in this country IS the problem, not just a symptom.  Could it be that we are in the same situation that Paul faced in his day.  Read the following passages and see if anything sounds familiar: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty (perilous times—KJV).  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  Avoid such people…. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a based mind to do what ought not to be done.  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.  They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Romans 1:28-32).
     Again, how familiar does this sound? Is this not the state of our nation, even our world? Make a quick perusal of any national newspaper and find articles that describe situations relating to each one of the sins mentioned in these two passages.  It gives you pause to wonder just what God will do about it.  It is a remarkable fact of history that God has never let His people move too far into debauchery without doing something to remind them of His presence.  At times, His actions have been terrifying (e.g. serpents in the camp, the captivity of Israel and Judah , etc.).  It sees that God will do one of two things if we do not repent and return to His ways.  First, He can discipline us through His providence.  Hebrews 12:6 tells us that the Lord will discipline those whom He loves.  This will be in an effort to pull us away from Satan’s influence.  Surely the prodigal son found himself being chastened by the Lord’s love.  Second, God could do as Paul describes in Romans 1:28-32, and give us up.  The text indicates that they had put God to the test and decided that He was not the kind of God they desired.  Likewise, God put them to the test and found that they were not the type of people He desired.  Just imagine, God giving us up! I cannot read the mind of God save what He has put of His mind in His word, and based on what I read and see happening today, I fear that God may be on the verge of giving us up.  Perilous times indeed

- Robert Lambert; 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: