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Monday, January 17, 2022

Need for a Formal Invitation

By Gerald Cowan


    A certain preacher was charged with not being a “gospel preacher” and some wanted to fire him because he did not always issue a “formal invitation” at the close of each sermon, Bible class period, or devotional exercise. An invitation to or for what? An invitation complete with a review of the various points (the “five steps” so called) in the “plan of salvation,” just in case anybody needed to be baptized. Of course it must also emphasize the need to be faithful in living and serving the Lord, in case anybody needed to be “restored.” Apparently a formal recitation of “the plan of salvation” is an expected part – some might say a required part of our identity as “the church of Christ.”

    Questions: Is it formal, form, or mere formality?  Is it a convenience or a convention? Is it a tradition?  Is there a scripture command, example, or inference to justify or necessitate such a formal “invitation” or “appeal” at any or every assembly?  Is it a necessity or an identifying ritual? Does adding a formal invitation make it “a gospel sermon”? Is it the ritual and the words that save, or is it obedience from the heart by one who has been properly taught what to do and why he should do it? (Rom. 6:17).

    Not all ritual acts are true necessities and many have no Biblical foundation. Like “crossing oneself” or “making the sign of the cross.” Like holding up a hand over the head of a baptismal candidate and saying, “By the authority invested in me as a minister...” Who gave ministers any authority? If one does not say, “Upon your confession that Jesus is the Son of God I now baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for the remission of your sins,” or other words to that effect, is the person not properly baptized? There are some “sacred traditions” that many are not willing to question – certainly not to abandon. The “formal invitation” to “obey the gospel” may be one of them.

- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at

Will There Really Be A Judgment Day?

By R.W. McAlister

    In Heb. 9:27 the Bible says, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the
judgment:” In Rom. 14:11-12, the Lord says, “… every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” That’s a reference to final judgment. In II Cor. 5:10, the Bible says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” The Bible is very clear about the reality of a final judgment. I think the real question is, “What happens to us before Judgment?” II Peter 2:9 addresses this, and it reads, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:” The Greek text suggests the idea of keeping the unrighteous “under punishment (present tense— continual punishment) unto (looking towards) the day of judgment.” The phrase “under punishment” reveals that the penalty was already being inflicted at the time the apostle is writing.
    The punishment begins at the point of death, in somewhat the same way an individual
apprehended in the commission of a crime is jailed until his trial. In that case, he is being
punished before actual judgment has been passed.
    In Luke 16, we find the story of the rich man and Lazarus, who begged at the rich man’s gate. We don’t have time to read all of it, but beginning in v. 22, the Bible says, And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
    It’s important to understand that both Lazarus and the rich man are in a place called,
“Hades.” The Hadean realm is divided into two parts, separated by a great gulf (Luke 16:26): “Abraham’s Bosom” (also called Paradise – Luke 23:43), and “torment” or, “Tartarus.” Hades, consisting of Paradise and Torment, could be viewed as “Eternity’s Waiting Room,” where all departed souls await final judgment, which is guaranteed to come, as we’ve already noted from Heb. 9:27, Rom. 14:12, and II Cor. 5:10. It is on the Day of Judgment that souls who are in Paradise will be ushered into Heaven, and those souls found in Torment will be consigned to Gehenna Hell, the final and eternal abode of those who die apart from God.
    In short, if I die as a faithful Christian, my soul will await final Judgment in the Paradise half of Hades, but if I die outside the body of Christ, or as a once-faithful Christian who has turned his back on God and never repented, I will, upon my death, await final Judgment with the rich man of Luke 16, in Tartarus, being tormented in fire. None of us wants that to be our ultimate fate, so I urge us all to seek out God’s plan of salvation in the Scriptures and obey it.
- R.W. McAlister served as a minister to the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL until his death in October 2021.This was his own home congregation in which he grew up. R.W. was a beloved member of his community and a popular teacher in the agriculture department at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. To visit the congregation's website go to:

On Being Visionary

By Joe Chesser


    You’ve probably heard the proverb many times, especially around the new year.  You know, the one that says, “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).  This verse has been used (and abused) by dreamers and goal setters for decades (or even centuries) to encourage people to make plans for the new year and beyond. It’s been used to urge churches to set goals for growth and involvement.  If we don’t, they say, we are doomed to apathy, failure and frustration.

    While I personally believe it is very important to have goals and dreams towards which to work, I do not believe having goals is the message of the above proverb – at least, not the primary message.

    By taking a closer look at the verse, especially by comparing the KJV translation of it to other versions, a different meaning will emerge.  God’s Word translation (GW) says, “Without prophetic vision people run wild.”  The NIV puts it this way: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” The primary message of this verse, then, is that without guidance from God through His revelation to prophets (i.e., in visions), people will not know how to act properly, and thus will run wild, cast off restraint and perish.  It’s about hearing God and following His rules for righteous living. In addition, consider the latter part of the verse: “But happy is he who keeps the law” (NKJV). You see, keeping the law of God connects the reader to the need for visions from God, so the people can be blessed.

    However, the proverb is not totally unrelated to having the vision to set goals for what you want to accomplish or become in the future.  The difference is that it’s not your vision, but God’s vision that this proverb says is important to have.  Through hearing God’s revelation we all are to become visionaries, or perish.  We have to hear from God (through His messengers) what we can become, how we can do it, and where we can spend eternity. Then we set our sights on those “visions” and work toward achieving them.

    Jesus came to give us a “vision” of the Father and to provide the way and means for us to become like Him and live with Him forever (John 1:14; 14:5-9).  It’s up to us not only to catch this vision ourselves, but to help others also catch it.  A part of being a visionary is to help others become visionaries also.  Without this “vision” of Jesus we will certainly perish. No one goes to the Father except by seeing Jesus (John 14.6).

    As a church, let’s be a collection of visionaries in 2022.  Let’s encourage each other to not only have the vision of Christ before us at all times, but also to see through the eyes of Jesus how to impact the world around us.  Let’s talk about it; let’s hope for it; let’s reach for it.  Without this kind of vision, people will perish.

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at

Pleasing Everyone

By Ron Adams


   There is an old Spanish parable about a man, a boy and a donkey. They were all three walking down a dusty road on a hot summer day. They overheard some passer-by say, "Look at those foolish people walking when they could be riding." So they both climbed on the donkey.

   They had ridden only a short distance when another passer-by exclaimed, "Look at that poor donkey carrying those two people. Aren't they heartless?" Whereupon the son climbed down from the donkey and walked beside the father on the donkey.

   Then some said, "Look at that inconsiderate man making that poor little boy walk while he rides." Upon hearing this the father and boy exchanged places and still they had not satisfied the passer-by, who then said, "Look at that young man riding and that poor old man walking in the heat of the day."

   So the boy climbed down. They tied the feet of the donkey to a pole and proceeded to carry the donkey. Everyone exclaimed, "Look at those foolish people."


  The lesson is obvious, isn't it? We spend a lot of time worrying about people being pleased about us. We are continually perplexed because we can never please everybody. Don't try! (Borrowed from Unknown Source)

   We should strive to please God and do unto others as we would have them do unto us and not worry about someone thinking us foolish. There is a lesson here for all of us. We will be happier if we learn it.


The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: "But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord."

1     1 Corinthians 4:3-4

- Ron Adams publishes F.Y.C., a monthly publication. Bible references are from the NASB except where another translation is referenced. Back issues are archived at Be thoughtful and kind. All rights reserved. © 2021

Pharaoh’s Hardened Heart

By Ron Thomas


    In Exodus 9:16, the Scripture teaches the Lord “raised up” Pharaoh for His purposes. What were those purposes? From the context of Exodus, it was to remove Israel from Egyptian bondage. How it unfolded was in the contest between the Lord’s will and the will of Egypt’s Pharaoh (king), who thought of himself as a god.

    Interestingly, in 9:12, for the first time we read the Lord hardened the king’s heart. In 4:21, the Lord promised He would do this, but in Exodus 9, at the time of the 6th plague, the Lord brought it about. Up till this time, Pharaoh did his own hardening (cf. 7:14, 22; 8:15, 19, 29; 9:2, 17).

    For a good many Bible students, this has been a troubling matter. If the Lord hardened the king’s heart, how can he be responsible for what he did, for the Lord caused him to do it? No one can resist the Lord, right? To say it differently, how can one be responsible for what the Lord forced him to do? In a court of law, if one points a gun at your head and makes (forces) you commit a crime, are you guilty?

    This is not what happened with regard to Pharaoh.

    What happened? In reading Exodus, the Lord clearly placed at the foot of Egypt’s king the opportunity to let the children of Israel go out from bondage into the wilderness to worship. These opportunities granted to the king could have been accepted and implemented, but the king refused. Between these two powerful entities, Pharaoh and the Lord, it was a contest of wills and a contest of authority/power. Stubborn as he was, Pharaoh was doing what he could to give no ground to the Lord (remember 5:2?).

    Because of his stubbornness, in Exodus 9:12, we arrive at a different time in the way the Lord responds to the king. Notice what the Scripture said about Pharaoh’s response: “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn” ( 7:14, NASB), “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them” (7:22 ), “If you refuse to let them go” (8:2; 9:2), “when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them” (8:15, cf. v. 19) , “Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also” (8:32), “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let them go” (9:7).

    Notice the heart’s response Pharaoh gave to the Lord invitation, demand, and command. He may have buckled a time or two, but it ultimately resulted in his rejection of the Lord’s will.

    Now, the Lord responds in His own way, as seen in 10:20, 27, and 14:8. Interestingly, notice Moses gave Pharaoh no room for unaccountability in his response to the Lord’s demand: “Still you exalt yourself” (9:17), “I have sinned” (9:27, 34; 10:16), Moses said to him, “I know that you do not yet fear the Lord” (9:30), “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” (10:3, cf. vv. 10-11), “Beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die” (10:28).

    In all of this, Pharaoh acted on his own, but he reached a point where the Lord acted in conjunction with the king’s response by hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Yet, as one man said, divine hardening does not stop the possibility of self-hardening (Hamilton). The Lord created humanity with the freedom of will to choose his or her course in life. Once rebellion sets in, the Lord acts in a way none of us understand, but we know that He does it because the Scriptures declare it so. Notice the words of Paul, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:9-12 ESV). Lesson: when the Lord calls for repentance, don’t play with the Lord, it’s a battle that can’t be won!
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Why God Created Eve

By Larry Pasley

10. God worried that Adam would always be lost in the garden because he would hate to ask for directions.
 9. God knew that Adam would one day need someone to hand him the TV remote.
 8. God knew that Adam would never buy a new fig leaf when his wore out and would therefore need Eve to get one for him.
 7. God knew that Adam would never make a doctor's appointment for himself.
 6. God knew that Adam would never remember which night was garbage night.
 5. God knew that if the world was to be populated, men would never be able to handle childbearing.
 4. As "Keeper of the Garden," Adam would never remember where he put his tools.
 3. The scripture account of creation indicates Adam needed someone to blame his troubles on when God caught him hiding in the garden.
 2. As the Bible says, "It is not good for man to be alone!"
 1. When God finished the creation of Adam, He stepped back, scratched His head and said, "I can do better than that."


    The above statements were meant as a joke but there is a kernel of truth in all of them.
    Genesis 2:18 states, “And the LORD God said, ’It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’"
    It was not good for man to be alone, he needed someone to help him. Most of the statements point out ways that wives help their husbands.
    Men and women are typically different in many ways. The most obvious differences are physical. God made women to be able to bear children. But there are other differences also. Women typically have a different emotional makeup than men. They tend to be more tender and compassionate than men. They even think differently as Psychology Today and others report. {NOTE}
    All of these differences are neither good nor bad in themselves. Men are not superior to women in any way nor vise versa. God made us different so we would complete or complement each other in marriage. Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Jesus comments on this in the New Testament, Matthew 19:6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate."
    May we learn to appreciate the differences and realize that God made us different for our benefit.
- 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

Seasons and Eternal Day

By Gerald Cowan


My spring of youth has come and gone.

It will not come again.

The strength of summer did not last.

‘Twas short and sweet, but then

It went away like dew on flow’rs

Warmed by the rising sun,

Or like the light of day will go

When evening has begun.


A renewed urgency I feel      

Since autumn came to call.

Unless I find new energy,

Autumn may be my fall.

My blood is thin. Can I withstand

The stress of winter’s cold

When stumbling ways give evidence

That one is growing old?


Accept each season, like each stage

Of life, when it arrives.

The heav’n of God is yet to be,

In that our hope survives.

My spring will never come again.

My summer went away.        

When fall and winter too have passed

Comes God’s eternal day.

- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at