Monday, March 31, 2014

What is Jesus to You?

By Edd Sterchi

Many people would obviously give many different answers to that question. In the book of John, Jesus gives seven “I am the” statements.  In these, not only do I see what Jesus is, but what He is to me.


* “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35) - Jesus is my satisfaction.  He fills my life with His love and blessings.  If I crave spiritual growth, He makes sure I find it.  If I desire peace, He will grant it.  He will never leave me hungry.
* “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) - Jesus is my enlightenment. When I go to His word for advice, He always show the right way.  I am ever finding great words of truth and wisdom as I search the Scriptures.  He will never darken my life.
* “I am the door.” (John 10:9) - Jesus is my passageway.  He is the doorway from death to life – the transport from uselessness to usefulness.  As long as I remain faithful to Him, He will never shut me out of heaven’s blessings.
* “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:14) - Jesus is my protector.  He watches over my soul and shields me from that which would cause eternal harm.  He will never let Satan the wolf get to me if I do not want him to.
* “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) - Jesus is my life force. - He is the one who created me, saved me, and continues to sustain me.  He will never let death rule over me.
* “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) - Jesus is my path to righteousness.  He desires what is best for me, and I can find all truth and goodness in Him.  He will never steer me wrong.
* “I am the vine” (John 15:5) - Jesus is my support.  He holds me up when I am weak.  He strengthens me when I need it.  He gives me power to succeed.  He will never let me down.

Jesus is my everything.  Without Him I am nothing.  With Him I have everything.  It is as the song states: “He is my everything, He is my all; He is my everything, both great and small; He gave His live for me, made everything new; He is my everything, now how about you?”

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted at
eddsterchi@comcast.net

Love Never Fails

By Clifton Angel

      We build our houses on solid foundations so they do not fall, and think we have it all. How is our love? We build up our bank accounts so they do not fall, and think we have it all. How is our love? We secure our possessions with insurances and warranties so they do not fall, and think we have it all. How is our love? The truth is, no matter the solid foundation, no matter the number in your bank account, and no matter the insurances or warranties, our houses, our money, and our possessions will fall (see 2 Peter 3:10).
      Furthermore, we go to church every Sunday so we do not fall, and think we have it all. How is our love? We put our money in the collection plate so we do not fall, and think we have it all. How is our love? We pray in the morning and at each meal so that we do not fall, and think we have it all. How is our love? Each of these is needful and beneficial, just as the abilities to prophesy and speak in other languages not studied were to the church at Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 12–14). As important as those things were, Paul wrote to them, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, ASV). Why? Because “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). Or literally, “Love will not fall.” A.T. Robertson put it this way, “Love survives everything” (Word Pictures in the New Testament).
      The realization of our love is known by the ways we think of others, the ways we view ourselves, the ways we treat others, the ways we respond in times of trial and frustration, the ways we respond to sin, and the ways we use our time. Lord willing, we will think about these in more detail in future weeks. For now, “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). How is our love? Can we all agree that we could grow to love more? “But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:
http://www.coldwatercofc.com/

The Beauty of Jesus

By Charlie Davis

     “Let the beauty of Jesus Be Seen” is the title of a very beautiful song.:  “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me, All His wonderful passion and purity;  May His spirit divine all my being refine, Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”
     Holiness really amounts to the beauty of Jesus in our lives.  “True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and hearing, and practical exhibition of active and passive grace.  Our tongues, our tempers, our natural passions and inclinations—our conduct as parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, rulers and subjects—our dress, our employment of time, our behavior in business, our demeanor in sickness and health, in riches and in poverty—all these are matters which are fully treated by inspired writers.”
     “When your burden is heavy and hard to bear/; When your neighbors refuse all your load to share; When you’re feeling so blue; Don’t know just what to do, Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you.”
  - 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:
http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com

The Photograph

By David A. Sargent

     The article didn’t say why he left home.  But when 20-year-old Nicholas Simmons left his parents’ home in Greece, NY, on New Year’s Day, he left his wallet, his cell phone, and everything else behind.  When his parents, Paul and Michelle Simmons, discovered that he had left, they had no idea where he had gone or how long he would be away.  They began a diligent search for him.
     Four days later, Jacquelyn Martin, an Associated Press photographer, was in Washington, D.C.  She had been assigned to the White House, but President Obama and his family were on vacation in Hawaii.  Martin decided to look around D.C. to snap pictures that illustrated that unusually cold weather in the area.  She found a group of men huddled by a steam gate outside the Federal Trade Commission.  She introduced herself and began taking pictures.  She noticed one person huddled under a blanket that was unusually young.  “It struck me how young he was,” Martin said. “I again introduced myself and shook his hand. He said his name was Nick.”
     It was the picture of that young man huddled by the steam gate that appeared the following day (Sunday) on the front page of USA Today.  “Nick” was wearing a ski jacket with a hood over his head and a thick gray blanket covering his lower body.
His face was unshaven and he was pressed against the steam gate, obviously trying to keep warm.
     Someone who was familiar with the Simmons’ search for their missing son brought the photo to their attention on a Facebook page that had been set up to help locate him.  Michelle Simmons was certain that the young man in the photograph was her son.  The Simmons contacted USA Today who in turn contacted Martin with a message via Twitter.  The location of the picture was verified and the police were dispatched.  They found Nicholas Simmons and took him to a nearby hospital, where later his family was reunited with him.
     Michelle Simmons expressed her relief on Facebook: "It could have been months before we had a lead on his whereabouts. My baby looks so lost and I will be spending the rest of my life making him well," she wrote.
     Nick’s lost condition “pictures” our own condition in sin…
It is SIN that separates us from God who made us (Isaiah 59:1-2).  Because of our sin, we are lost and struggling in our desperate and deadly state.
     But God knows about our condition and He loves us, even though we have wandered away from Him.  He sent His Son Jesus to “seek and to save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10).  In order to save us and give us the gift of eternal life, Jesus had to die on the cross as payment for our sins (Ephesians 1:7).  Through Jesus, we can be reconciled to God and receive the gift of life with Him throughout eternity in a heavenly home (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
     God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38).  Then God will continue to cleanse and one day “take home” those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
     God doesn’t need a PHOTO to know who you are and where you are.  He already knows.  And, He wants YOU to be His child and enjoy eternal salvation.
     Won’t YOU accept His offer on His terms?

* Information gleaned from the Los Angeles Times (www.latimes.com)

- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled Living Water."  To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org


Monday, March 24, 2014

"Don’t Quarrel on the Way!”

By Lance Cordle
      As is so often the case, a fresh reading of scripture brings a fresh perspective and new insight on passages we have read many times. Such was true with me as I recently perused the story of Joseph and his brothers as recorded in the last few chapters of Genesis. 
      As you know, Joseph was hated  and envied by his brothers. Part of this was due to his father’s favoritism. Quite likely Joseph himself contributed to the ill will by immature actions and comments. However, the brothers themselves made the     decisions to be angry and become bitter. You are also likely aware that this bitter- ness resulted in Joseph being mistreated and ultimately sold into slavery in Egypt. However, God was using the situation for good (Genesis 50:20) and ultimately the cruel acts of sibling hatred actually resulted in the saving of the family of Jacob. 
      It was near the end of the story where my focus was drawn. Joseph had revealed himself to his brothers. There can be no doubt that the memory of the mistreatment and the effects of it on their father weighed heavily upon them (Genesis 37:32-35; 50:15). Joseph however, knew the urgency and need of having his family in Egypt before the famine became severe. So when he sent his brothers to retrieve their fa- ther and the rest of the family, he said, “Do not quarrel along the way” (Genesis 45:24, ESV). The NIV translation of this is even more brisk: “Don’t quarrel on the way!” Why would Joseph need to exhort his brothers not to quarrel or argue on the way home? Let me suggest that he knew they would be filled with regret and there was a very real possibility that they would place blame on each other. This type of behavior would likely spiral  into division and their mission would either be aborted or delayed.
      May I be candid? We live in a world where divisiveness and bitterness is far too often the norm. We would do ourselves (and those outside the body of Christ) a great service to do our part to keep our families in harmony. I inwardly cringe when I hear someone say (with knowledge and evidence) that “So and So” may be a Christian but they do not try to get along with their family. Trust me; I know  that a Christian can only do so much to live in peace (Romans 12:16, 18). However, there is absolutely NO excuse for a Christian to be the cause or the perpetuator of trouble and bitterness in a family (Hebrews 12:14). Such behavior hurts the person, the family, and ultimately the church as a whole.
      May I be even more candid? Bitterness and fighting have NO place in the local congregation either. However, in some congregations it is “how business is done.” People who claim to be Christians are envious and hold grudges against one another. As James writes, “My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10). As a result, the world is not convinced of the need to be “one of us.”
      Our time on our journey is much too short; our mission is much too urgent; and the cost is much too high (Matthew 16:25; 18:5, 6).  Please  . . . “Don’t quarrel on the way!”

- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com

“I Just Like It Better!”

By Joe Chesser

      People are always changing churches.  Sometimes there are valid reasons for doing so, reasons based solidly in scripture.  But most of the varied reasons people give for changing churches can be boiled down to personal preferences.  “I like the youth programs.” “I like the music.” “I like a bigger (or smaller) church.” “I like the relaxed (or structured) atmosphere.” “I like the location.” “I like a more liberal (or conservative) church.” “I like this church because it’s what I'm used to. My parents and grandparents went to church here.” Basically, people just like one church more than another.
As a general rule, liking certain things about a church is a good thing.  It’s good to like the church you go to or it will soon become the church you like to stay away from. But while liking a church can be a good thing, there is an inherent danger in choosing and staying with a church just because you like it better than other churches.  Here’s the danger: choosing a church based solely on your own personal preferences puts you in the place of God in determining what is acceptable in a church.  That’s not a good idea.  That has never worked with God, and never will.  While God has given humans the ability to reason and create and choose, there are some things that are outside of our realm of creating and choosing.  Church is one of them.  Of course we still have the freedom of choosing God’s way or not.  It’s just that if we choose our way over God’s way we have to be prepared to accept the consequences.
      Cain chose to offer God some of the fruits of the soil in worship to God.  God was not pleased and Cain had to accept the consequences (Genesis 4:2-16).  Although Cain liked his worship better, God didn’t.
      Nadab and Abihu made a fatal mistake by offering unauthorized fire in worship to the Lord (Numbers 10:4).
      The Corinthian church thought it was OK to accept a sexually immoral man among them.  They were even proud of their openness.  But God wasn’t (1 Cor. 5:1-5).
      Diotrephes thought he could choose who would be accepted in the church because of his position and power.  He was wrong (3 John 9-10).
      Paul thought that because he had great zeal and a clear conscience he could do whatever he wanted to do to the church. God showed him how wrong he was (Phil. 3:4-11).
      Instead of being on the constant prowl looking for what pleases me in a church, maybe I should make a strong effort at learning what pleases God. I know it grinds against all the common beliefs of modern day American culture, but “I” am not all that matters in this world, and especially in the church.  Instead of constantly looking for what pleases me in a church, maybe I should try to see what I can do to please others.  In fact, that’s exactly what I should be doing: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).  Why not “like” God’s way best?!

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

Surrender To Win

 By Clint Patterson

   “Never surrender” is a phrase that has been around for many years.  It has been screamed out by men of war; it has been used to motivate sports teams to victory.  It can be found in entertainment, and it also has been used by many boys pretending to hold off a fierce attack of world-dominating creatures.  This phrase has been a part of almost every person’s life at one point or another.  I can relate to this phrase, for I grew up being one of those boys who had a wild imagination.  Nevertheless, while the world shades this phrase with honor and respect, the truth is that there is more to life than the physical battles we face.  There is a spiritual warfare that is taking place as well, and in order to win, we must surrender to God and fight no more.
   2 Kings 21 is an account of Manasseh’s reign over the southern portion of the divided kingdom of Israel .  Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, who was a devoted man of God, was nothing like his father.  Instead, Manasseh spent his days in absolute rebellion against God and His Law, and if one reads only 2 Kings 21, he would think this is where the story ended.  However, 2 Chronicles 33 fills us in on what 2 Kings leaves out, and there we find a wonderful example of someone surrendering to win.  Due to Manasseh’s sinful ways, God allowed him to be carried away by the hooks of his enemies.  When he arrived in an enemy territory, instead of looking to heaven with a high hand toward God, Manasseh humbled himself and prayed to God.  God heard Manasseh’s prayer and brought him back to his country, where he spent the rest of his life serving God (2 Chronicles 33:10, 17).
   If Manasseh would have lived by the phrase, “Never surrender” with regards to God, he would have died a captive in a foreign land.  Because he surrendered, he was delivered.  In our life we will face battles where we need not surrender, but with God, we must surrender to win!                  

- Clint Patterson, Youth and Family Minister for the Main Street Church of Christ in Milan, TN. Chad Ezelle serves as the congregation's pulpit minister and may be contacted via the church's website:
http://www.mscoc.us

 
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jesus Christ—The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

By David Ferguson
 
The Hebrews writer declares in chapter 13, verse 8 (NKJV), “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  Nowhere is this so visibly manifested than when one compares the visions given to Daniel and John concerning the Lord.  It becomes quite apparent when reading these that Daniel and John were given the same vision of Jesus Christ.

    “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated: His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool.  His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire”(Daniel 7:9, NKJV).   

    “His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.  His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters.  He had in His right hand seven stars; out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength” (Revelation 1:14-16, NKJV).

     Both of the above passages refer to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, and depict Him as He appears in Heaven.  As we learn from the author of the Gospel of John,

     “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4, NKJV).

     The authors of the Gospel of John, the Book of Daniel, and the Book of Revelation are all telling us the same thing the Hebrews writer does: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  He is the same, for Jesus Christ truly was God in the flesh.  May our Lord and Savior, the Great and Mighty Ancient of Days, Jesus Christ, bless you and your family today! 

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://lakelandchurchofchrist.web.officelive.com/default.aspx

A Parent’s Broken Heart

By Clifton Angel

      It happens much too frequently. A faithful Christian father and a faithful Christian mother agonize over a loss. It’s not a loss of life over which they are grieving. Instead, their distress has been brought on by a son or a daughter who has gone into the world of sin and turned his or her back on God. 
      The circumstances vary. In some cases the child had been a faithful Christian but has since fallen away. In other cases the child never obeyed in the first place and is now hard-hearted. Regardless of the reason, the child is a servant of Satan and Godly parents fear for that soul. 
      Often the first reaction of a parent in this situation is to blame himself or herself. What could have been done differently? What wasn’t done that should have been? What was done that should not have been? Since Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” the fact that the child is disobedient to God must mean that there was parental failure, or at least this is the conclusion to which a parent might come. Granted there are examples of parents who did not tend to their children’s spiritual needs, but is a child’s unfaithfulness always the result of errors in parenting? If it were true that a parent’s faithfulness guarantees faithful children, then would it not also be true that a parent’s unfaithfulness guarantees unfaithful children? Of course, there are several examples of righteous men and women who grew up in ungodly homes. Go back and read the history of the kings of Israel and Judah in the books of Kings and Chronicles to see some Bible examples of Godly men whose sons turned away from the Lord as well as ungodly men whose sons turned to the Lord. Let’s also consider families in which there are multiple children, some of whom are faithful and some of whom are not. How can that be explained? Even though the parent of an unfaithful child deeply feels guilt over the child’s waywardness, the fact of the matter is that the child has free will just like the parent does. With that freedom to choose, he or she has the freedom to make wrong choices, one of which is disobeying God. Certainly a parent should do some self-examination and if an unholy example has influenced the child for evil, then repentance should be made by that parent. Whether or not this is the case, a frank discussion with the child regarding the parent’s influence over the years should be conducted. 
      Communication plays such a critical role in a parent’s attempt to restore a disobedient child. Why would a parent not lovingly yet firmly show that child from God’s Word that he or she is lost? Why would a parent not let that child see and feel the hurt that he or she is causing? When a parent is trying to bring a child to God or back to God, it is not a time for timidity or fear of saying the wrong thing that might drive the child away. The child has already left the Lord. Jude wrote, “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” (Jude 23). 
      I invite parents to share this article with their unfaithful children. Hoping that will be done, I make an appeal. Unfaithful friend, not only are you lost in your current state of disobedience, you are also tearing your parents up inside. They are afraid that you will die in your lost condition. They love God and are looking forward to being with Him in eternity. They love you and want you in heaven as well. Won’t you at least sit down and talk to them about the direction you have taken in your life? They are hurting. They are heavily burdened by your disobedience. How much do you care about their pain?

Tonight a heart is shattered,
 A face is wet with tears,
 A mind is heavy laden
 With worries and with fears.

Tonight a soul is praying
 In sad and mournful strains.
 Few tragedies on earth
 Can bring such depth of pain.

“Dear God, I pray, be patient,
 Longsuffering and kind.
 He’s turned his heart toward sin.
 Please, Lord, give him time.

“Lord, it must be my fault.
 I must have erred some way.
 If I’d been a better Christian
 He would not have gone astray.

“Lord, I feel so helpless.
 How can I bring him home?
 I just can’t bear the thought
 Of losing this precious soul.”

Tonight is like the last one
 And all the ones to come
 For the parent of a prodigal
‘Til he returns to God.

The doubts and fear and anguish
 Keep weighing on the soul.
 There is little rest for the parent
 Whose child has left the fold.

 If only sons and daughters
 Who’ve chosen to depart
 Could see how their unfaithfulness
 Breaks a parent’s heart.                           [A Parent’s Broken Heart, by Mike Gifford www.soundbiblestudies.com]

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:
http://www.coldwatercofc.com/

Abundant Pardon

By John Gipson

     Jesus never met a man he wouldn’t save.  Look through the gospel records and see for yourself.  You will never find him saying, “I wish I could help you, but there’s nothing I can do.”  You will never hear him say, “Your case is too difficult for me.”  He doesn’t leave any inkling of unwillingness or   inability.  He died for “the sins of the world” – all of them.  He shed his blood “for the remission of sins” – all sins.  No wonder he was such an      attraction for guilty men.  No wonder “then drew unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.” 
     Let lost men “seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.”  Why?  “For he will abundantly pardon.”  Have no lingering doubts about God’s pardon.  It is abundant!  Those who have fled to Christ for refuge have not been disappointed – nor will you be. 
     That’s not to minimize the sins we commit.  How many they seem:  Sins of thought – rebellious, proud, blasphemous, cruel, false, unholy, ad infinitum:  sins of word – I would have to repeat the list; sins of deed –    ranging from theft to murder.  But cease your counting.  There is no way to tally so many sins.  They are as countless as the drops of dew, which fall in the autumn morning, as numberless as the sands of the seashore. 
     “God . . .will abundantly pardon.”  How refreshing it is to return to this theme.  He will really pardon.  Have you that have been pardoned ever asked, “Is it really true?  Can it be?  Am I really forgiven?”  Yes, it is true!  God doesn’t pretend to forgive; he forgives.  Your sins no longer exist.  They have been removed as far as the east is from the west.  They are gone        forever.  Those sins have been covered in a deluge of grace.  The poet was right when he said: 
     See here an endless ocean flows,
          Of never-failing grace, 
    Behold a dying Savior’s veins, 
         The sacred flood increase. 

    It rises high and drowns the hills, 
      Has neither shore nor bound, 
 Now, if we search to find our sins, 
    Our sins can ne’er be found.  

- via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City Church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com

Monday, March 10, 2014

Just The Right Response

By Charlie Gamble

   Many times we would have a small group get together for a lunch Bible study at work. We always invited others to sit in with us. One individual was particularly rude in his rejection. One day he decided to walk through the center of the group on his way back from the cafeteria. “Stupid (expletive deleted)!, he muttered so everyone could hear.
  One of our members spoke up and asked him what he was so angry about.
  “I’m not (expletive) angry,” he replied.
  “Well you sure come across that way and I believe that I know why,” said our member. “We have something that you don’t have.”
  That drew more expletive animosity along with a sneering, “What could you possibly have that I don’t?”
  “Peace,” said our member.
  There was silence and a perplexed look that came over him. He had been unmasked and revealed to all. I have never forgotten that moment. When the temptation may have been to reply with a harsh answer, my friend was meek. It stunned the aggressor. Last week I preached about Matthew 5:5and I, again, recalled the power of a meek reply. 
 
- Charlie Gamble preaches for the Brunswick Church of Christ in Southport, NC. He may be contacted at cgamble64@gmail.com

Intensely Prepared


By Ron Thomas

                The Lord told His disciples that as He was opposed, they would be also (John 16:1-4). In the 21st century in which we live, in the United States our appreciation for that sentiment is hardly experienced. Those who were faithful to the Lord in the first century, and the following centuries, experienced it often. For instance, even going back to the time of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20), the Lord’s prophet was put in stocks (similar to hand and leg cusps) that was designed to torture its victims. One man said it was designed to distort one’s posture, making it crooked. If you can’t appreciate that, be sure to thank the Lord for it. Again, in the first century, at the time in which Nero was emperor (A.D. 54-69), Christians were persecuted in Rome, even used as human torches to be a “lamp” in Nero’s garden. “The Roman people who hated Christians were free to come into the garden, and Nero drove around in his chariot wickedly enjoying the horrible scene” (The Church in History, p. 8).

                Persecution, the Lord told us, is something that each Christian should be prepared to experience (2 Timothy 3:12). Because of such preparation is made, because there is clarity of vision with regard to why it occurs, and because there is hope associated in the knowledge of eternal things, does not mean the one who must be willing to endure will necessarily have the intensity of his experience lessened. Let us not forget, however, that when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he said, “...it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, NKJV).

                There is no real way to speak in a positive way of persecution, but it is much easier to speak well of those who are prepared to endure it for the cause of Christ. Jesus willingly went to the cross of His death; it wasn’t because He looked forward to the pain and agony, but because He understood the purpose of it all. This is in contrast to one who has placed his or her hope in self-preservation, or that hope one finds in worldly things.

- Ron Thomas serves as preacher and an elder for the Highway Church of Christ, Sullivan, IL  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.highwaycofc.com
 
 

Monday, March 3, 2014

A PRICELESS PURCHASE

By Ron Bartanen
 
     There are some things in life that are of such value that they are considered “priceless.”  They are things “money cannot buy.”  Once obtained, you would never want to part with them.  I enjoy watching “Antiques Road Show” on TV, especially the episodes in which individuals obtain items that others may have discarded in a junk-pile, or sold in a rummage sale, only to be told by antique dealers that what they found or purchased for next-to-nothing would be valued in multiple thousands of dollars.  While these items may not be considered by their owners to be exactly “priceless,” what was once considered by others as valueless are regarded by the beneficiaries as being of tremendous value.
     What price would you put upon love, friendship, health, happiness, etc.? Would you part with any of these at any price? Among the words of wisdom a father passed on to his son are those of Solomon: “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Proverbs 3:23).  Surely no advice could be more practical than this.  What lessons can we obtain from these few words?
     Truth is priceless—obtain it at whatever the cost.  Though others may deem truth as indefinable, or even irrelevant, and therefore of little value, the seeker for truth seeks what is beyond price.  The true scientist will not allow himself to be blinded by popular scientific theories or by political pressure, but will devote his life to the pursuit of scientific, provable truth.  The founders of our nation have sought to establish a peaceful society on the basis of truth.   Patriots have shed their blood to defend the truth. Martyrs have chosen to perish rather than renounce the truth.  Truth is life’s most valuable asset.  Seek it at whatever the cost.
     Truth is priceless—sell it not.  Scientists may sell the truth for acceptance in scientific and political circles.  Politicians may sell the truth for votes.  Preachers may sell the truth for popularity.  Let us not be as Esau who sold his birthright to his brother Jacob through indifference.  Some, in possession of the truth, have “changed the truth of God into a lie” (Romans 1:25a).  Some, lured by the enticements of the world, have sacrificed godly ethical and moral truth through willful sin, even seeking to redefine truth that it may comply with popular culture.  Some would abandon truth when truth becomes unpopular, preferring the comfort of accepted traditions.  Paul prophesied of those who would “not endure sound doctrine,” but would “turn away their ears from the truth, and would be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
     Truth is the foundation for liberty.  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).  Free nations will be those that respect God’s truth as revealed in His word.  Tyrants rule where truth is no longer held in honor.  Individuals freed from the bondage of sin are those who obey God’s truth—His word.  Jesus prayed for the disciples, “Sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).  He revealed Himself as the standard of truth, saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  In the world it is easy to substitute religion for truth.  Absolute truth is a rare commodity in today’s society, with many substitutes.  The devil’s lies,deceptively presented by him as truths, are more appealing to the carnal mind.  The indolent will satisfy themselves with whatever is popular, while truth-seekers will “buy the truth and sell it not.”
 
- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com

         

Friendship Is Important!

By R.W. McAlister

     There has been a lot said about love throughout history and in popular media. Yet, on examination, most of the love that is talked about would be better described as, “physical attraction.”
     The basis of any good relationship is true biblical love, which is much more of an action than an emotion. We see that in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…” He demonstrated His love for mankind – with action – in giving Jesus to die. God wanted the very best for us, as Rom. 5:8, says “while we were yet sinners.” God choose to love us because He cared for our well being and future.
     God designed us to need companionship. He said in Gen. 2:18, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”  Each of us needs others. It’s important in our families and in the church. When we fail in our relationships and fail to exercise biblical love one to another, we become lonely, and loneliness is a terrible condition. There are two types of loneliness.
     First, there’s a loneliness that occurs when we’re isolated from our husband/wife, families and friends. Some of us experience this through our jobs. Sometimes they take us away from loved ones.
     Second, and worse, there is emotional loneliness. This type of loneliness can occur in the midst of a crowd and believe it or not, it’s the most common type of loneliness. It occurs when we feel we have no one with whom to share our deepest concerns, no one who truly understands our struggles or our joys.
     The solution to the problem of loneliness is friendship. All human beings both need and want friendship. We need someone who will rejoice with us or cry with us (Rom. 12:15), someone who’ll comfort us when we crawl through valley of despair, or laugh with us on the mountaintops of happiness. In fact, friendships can be our most valuable possessions. Emily Dickinson, wrote “My friends are my estate.” Every human being needs friendships on two different levels.
     One level is that of horizontal friendship. We need deep, meaningful friendships with other people. Solomon wrote in Prov. 18:24: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.” In other words, we have to work on building friendships and that begins with us – the key is to first be friendly yourself. Do you work on building friendships with others, or do you just sit around and wait for them to develop on their own?
     True friendship is not one sided, but there are those who are looking for friends who will help them, meet their needs, listen to their problems, be sympathetic and love them and nothing more. They’re seeking a selfish friendship in which they receive friendship in a one-sided arrangement.
     Let me emphasize that true friendship is not based on getting, but on giving. Many people have a hard time finding true friendship because they’re looking for what someone else can do for them. They want people to love and care for them – hold their hand all the time – and they fail because that is not the basis of true friendship. True friendship begins when we give of ourselves and show ourselves friendly. When you give friendship, it always comes back.
     We also need VERTICAL friendship. The basis of any sound lasting relationship begins by having a Biblical relationship with God. The second part of Prov. 18:24 says, “…and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
     Dear Reader, I hope that each of you has at least one earthly friend in this world that you can think of when you read this verse, but even if not, everyone who has been baptized into Christ has such a friend in Jesus Christ. Unless you have a personal, Biblical relationship with Jesus, you'll never truly escape loneliness.
     James 2:23 says, “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”
     Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:14-15, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” Abraham was a friend of God. Christ could now call His disciples friends because of their obedience. Love – friendship, you see, is giving sacrificially for others. Love is not so much an emotional feeling, but it’s the act of giving (Jn. 3:16). To be a friend of Christ means to obey Him. There’s nothing greater in this life than to be a friend to Jesus, and to claim Him as your own. Have you done so? - R.W.

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

Keeping Spiritual Focus

By Hugh Fulford
 
      As Christians, we know what we need to think about most in life: 1) God—His greatness, goodness, power, love, mercy, grace, care and protection; 2) Christ—His life, teaching, death for our sins, burial, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and second coming; 3) the church—the privilege of membership in it, our involvement, service, spiritual growth, and worship experienced therein. These are the things that we want to think about and give priority to in our lives.
      But we live in a busy world. Life is fast, frenetic, and demanding. We all have to earn a living, make mortgage or rent payments, car payments, utility payments. We have to buy groceries, clothes, insurance, and take care of our physical health and that of our families. Our children (or grandchildren) are involved in a multiplicity of activities, each demanding a piece of our time and involvement. There are deadlines and expectation of all kinds to be met. In such a world how do we keep our spiritual focus?
      Consider the words of 1 John 3:1—3. Summarized, John tells us that before we get too caught up in thinking about the things of this life we need to reflect on God’s love that enabled us to become His children, to understand that the world does not know us (in the sense that it does not accept our standards), to remember that something better is waiting for us after this life, and to keep in mind that with Christ’s second coming we shall be like Him. These exhilarating truths will enable us to keep our spiritual focus!

- Hugh Fulford, Speaking from the Heart; via Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.karnschurch.org