Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Story of God’s Faithfulness

By Brian Mitchell

 

    We need to develop a deeper appreciation for the faithfulness of the God we serve. The Bible declares that God is characterized by faithfulness. In Exodus 34:6, God says of himself, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Scripture also reveals the fact that God is faithful to his promises. Joshua told the people of Israel, “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled...” (Josh. 23:14).

    God’s faithfulness can be clearly seen in the book of Ruth. The story of Ruth is told in a small, four chapter book, sandwiched between Judges and 1 Samuel in the OT. I want to begin by drawing our attention to a striking phrase in our Scripture reading from the book of Ruth - "The Lord came to the aid of his people" (1:6). The King James Version puts it: "The Lord has visited his people."

    I think that it is fair to say that all of us have known the problems of life - and they come at all stages in life’s journey. During those times, have you ever been tempted to ask, "Where is God?" When faced daily by more deadly news from the Ukraine or the death toll and destruction from the coronavirus or monkey pox, we sometimes wonder – Where is God? The matter becomes even more pressing when we are faced with our own suffering and losses in life?

    There’s nothing like a story to bring to life the issues of this tension between God’s way and the way of the world, of searching for the pathway of faith in times when evil seems rampant and life seems unmanageable. A practical example of God in action can be of enormous benefit in sustaining the believer and enabling him or her to cope with the uncertainties and apparent meaninglessness of much of what we experience. I trust that each of us will be able to identify with the Bible story of Naomi and Ruth in some personal and practical way.

    Whatever our circumstances, I believe that all of us can benefit from our own experience with a faithful God. The book of Ruth has been called "the most beautiful short story in the world." In many respects, it deals with ordinary people and unimportant matters. Yet it deals with them in such a way as to show that God is active in the affairs of human beings. God works his purposes out and blesses those that put their trust in him.

    If its message had to be summarized in one word, it could be the word "faithfulness", in the sense that God is there - God cares, God rules and God provides. But faith in such a God is the common factor to all the incidents in the book. As we look at the experience of Naomi, we will be able to trace the work of God’s faithful care. The story occurs during the time of the judges of Israel, when the cycle of disobedience, defeat, and deliverance happened over and over again. God is faithful.
- Brian Mitchell serves as a minister with the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at https://www.jacksonchurchofchrist.net


Sparrows

By Joe Slater

 

“Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6, NASB).

    I’m not an avid bird watcher. I do enjoy seeing the Robins return in the spring along with the gorgeous red Cardinals. And we keep a hummingbird feeder in the back yard and laugh at the antics of the few who drink there as they dive bomb one another. But I don’t even notice the sparrows. They’re drab; they’re dirty; they don’t sing. I can’t imagine they’d be any good to eat, though I suppose that’s what Jesus had in mind when He mentioned people paying a pittance to purchase them.

    I simply don’t care about sparrows. But God does! They are a part of His creation (day five, Genesis 1:20). He notices if even one of them falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29). That being the case, Jesus assures us that God is also keenly aware of us. “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7), animal rights extremists to the contrary notwithstanding.

    I’m glad God cares for sparrows. I’m even more glad that He cares for me even though I’m not much to look at and there is plenty about me that is undesirable. Can you relate?

    I need to check my attitude toward other people, especially those whose behavior I find obnoxious. God cares about them even as he does about you and me. They need Jesus just like we do. Our Lord “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). My job is not to despise them, but to lovingly share the gospel with them.

    Can you relate?

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com


The ekklesia of Christ

By Clifton Angel

 

    The word ekklesia is first found in the New Testament first in Matthew 16:18. It is most often translated as "church," "assembly," or "congregation." It is used to refer to variety of assemblies (even Israel in the wilderness, cf. Acts 7:38); however, when it is referring to the church that Jesus built, it becomes much more specific. If you will, read Matthew 16:13–19, and let us consider some details revealed.

    The ekklesia (church) of Christ belongs to Jesus. He said, "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). A man in Coldwater once asked me, "Why do you call yourselves the church of Christ?" In short, I noted we belong to Christ. Our name shows His possession of us. We are His church. This is how Jesus would have it.

    The ekklesia of Christ is built upon Jesus. He had asked His apostles, "Whom say ye that I am?" Peter responded, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:15–16). Jesus noted that Peter's knowledge of this was revealed by God, not man. He continued by giving Peter his most popular name: Peter. His name was actually Simon from birth, but Jesus gave him this name that means "small stone." Jesus followed this with, "Upon this rock, I will build my church." (Matthew 16:18). Many say that "this rock" points back to Peter's new name. Rather, it points back to Peter's confession of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. The word Jesus used for "this rock" is a very large rock, a bedrock, a foundation. This also coincides with the fact that He is the chief cornerstone, which gives the pattern and foundation for every other stone of the building (1 Peter 2:5–7; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11).

    The ekklesia of Christ is built by Jesus. He said, "I will build" (Matthew 16:18). He builds His church by adding to it those who are saved (Acts 2:47). Those who are saved are those who believe and obey (Mark 16:16; Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 11:6). Those who make up the church are "small stones" (e.g., Peter, Matthew 16:18) compared to Jesus, yet "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5) because of Jesus.

    Are you a "living stone" following the pattern of the "chief cornerstone," Jesus? Has He added you to His church because you believe and obey?
- 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/


Who are the Called of God?

By Gerald Cowan

 

    It is easy enough to establish the fact that God is the one who calls people, to himself through Jesus Christ, by means of the gospel (1 Thess. 2:12-14, 2 Thess. 2:13-17). Much is said about accepting and following the calling of God, by conforming to His will (Rom. 12:1-2). “(God) saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:9). “Holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1). “Press on toward the goal of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14. One might think it is easy to identify “the called, the called of God” (Rom. 8:28, 1 Cor. 1:24, Rom. 1:6-7). But Jesus’ statement that “many are called, but few chosen” in Mt. 20:16 and 22:14 makes it clear that the term called is used in more ways than one. We will find that those who are  “the called” belong to a very small and select group.

 

EQUIVALENT TERMS IN SEVERAL CATEGORIES.

    Some common religious words indicate specific action on God's part, usually related to something done by the persons involved..

•    “CALLED OUT” (EKKLESIA).  Mt. 16:18 Implies “called together.”

•     SANCTIFIED.  2 Thess. 2:13, cf Rom. 1:6-7 “called (to be) saints” – designated as saints of God in Christ.

•    CHOSEN.  2 Th. 2:13, cf Eph. 1:4, Mt. 20:16 “few are chosen.” Only those who respond properly to the calling are chosen,

•    ELECT.  1 Thess. 1:4

•    ADOPTED. Eph. 1:5

•    ACCEPTED. Eph. 1:6

 

    Some words and expressions indicate results in the person’s condition.

•    FORGIVEN.  Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14

•    REDEEMED.  Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14

•    SAVED.  Acts 2:47

•    In FELLOWSHIP with God and Christ.  1 John 1:3

•    CITIZENSHIP in the heavenly kingdom.  Phil. 3:20

•    WORTHY of the kingdom. 2 Th. 1:5, cf 1 Th. 2:12, Eph. 4:1, Col. 1:10, Rev. 3:4

•    RIGHTEOUS.  Phil. 3:9, Rom. 10:3-4, Rom. 4:22-25

•    BLAMELESS.  Phil. 2:15; have been corrected and forgiven, are no longer blamed for uncorrected and unforgiven sins.

•    “Partakers of the DIVINE NATURE.”  2 Peter 1:4

 

SOME COMMON ERRORS MADE IN IDENTIFYING  "THE CALLED."

    The term “member of the church” is not necessarily equivalent to “called” – at least not in the sense of right standing with God and valid hope of eternal salvation.

•    What of members who  from grace”?  Gal. 5:4

•     What of those who fail to obey apostolic doctrines? 2 Th. 3:6, 14

•    What of the trouble makers and false teachers? Rom. 16:17

•    What of those who are wilfully ignorant and not growing in faith and application of faith?  2 Peter 3:5, 14-18, Heb. 5:11-14

•    What of those who are negligent in service?  Heb. 2:1-4

•    Is selective obedience (same principle as selective disobedience) sufficient for salvation?  John 15:14,  Mt. 28:18-20, James 4:17

    A common error:  assuming that anything done “in the name of the Lord” or “to the glory of the Lord” is acceptable to Him.

•    “In the name of the Lord” is certainly a required factor.  Col. 3:17, Eph. 5:20

•     But “in the name of the Lord” means “as commanded, taught or authorized by the Lord.”  Mt. 28:18-20, Mt. 7:21-29

•    Everything one does should be “to the glory of God.”  1 Cor.

    10:31, Mt. 5:16

•     Falsely claiming the Lord’s authority and approval and doing things contrary to His will do not bring glory to Him, and may cause others to blaspheme God. cf Rom. 2:24

    The claimed authority to legislate for God or interpret His word in keeping with changing moral and social or political contexts is the fallacy which has produced the spectacle of a divided and divisive religion parading itself as “Christianity” or “Christendom,” with the different kinds of churches, all claiming to be part of the church of Christ.

 

THE KEY TO IDENTIFYING “THE CALLED” IS  “CONTINUED FAITHFUL OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST.”

    One becomes part of “the called” only by obeying the gospel of Christ.  2 Thess. 2:13-15, cf Heb. 5:9, Rom.6:17; cf also 2 Thess. 1:8

    The Lord calls us to abide in His word – to receive the truth and not depart from it.  John 8:24, 31-32 and 15:6-7; cf 1 John 1:7 and 2:5, 1 John 3:4, Mt. 7:13-14

    Faithfulness is a continuing and ongoing responsibility.

•    Faithfulness includes all that is meant by such words as obedience, patience, righteousness, perfection, etc.

•    Faithfulness cannot be a part-time attitude or activity. That contradicts faithfulness.

•    Faithfulness is a full-time attitude and activity – regular, consistent, dependable, etc. It means continually doing from the heart what one knows to be the doctrine and will of God – what the Lord calls “good” (Rom. 6:17, James 4:15 and 17, 1 John 5:14). It means being blameless.  Let no fault that is found remain uncorrected, no conflict unresolved, at least to the extent that it is possible, or to the extent that it depends upon the person. 1 John 1:7-9, Acts 8:22;  Romans 12:18

 

CONCLUSION:

    Those who do not know the gospel are still “called” by it and accountable to it, even though they never hear it. Those who hear but do not respond appropriately are not “the called” of the Lord.

    Those who are not faithful to the calling of the Lord, even though they once embraced and followed faithfully for a time, are not “the called” of the Lord. Church members who are not functioning parts of the body are not “the called” of the Lord. Those who are doing things not authorized by the Lord may think they are glorifying and pleasing the Lord or lifting up His name and church to others but are not among “the called.” “The called” are only those who respond properly and faithfully to the calling of God.
- 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 Geraldcowan1931@aol.com


The Ladder

By David A. Sargent

 

    Usually Arizona is associated with dry, desert regions.  But recent monsoon rains have caused flashfloods in the area creating some emergency situations.

    Twenty-five people including three children and an infant were found stranded at what was normally a low water crossing in Bear Canyon outside Tucson.  Authorities determined that a ladder rescue was the best option, so Ladder 7 of the Tucson Fire Department was called out.  The ladder was lowered across the flooded creek and served as a bridge for crew members to escort the stranded people to safety. *

    Our sins leave us stranded with no hope and in deadly peril (Romans 6:23).  Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and we are lost unless someone comes to our rescue.

    God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).  So God sent His one and only Son to rescue us (John 3:16).  In order to save us and to give us eternal life, Jesus had to give His life for our sins (1 Peter 2:24).

    Jesus is the Bridge to bring us to God and to all of the spiritual blessings that He wants to give to us.

    “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18 NIV).

    Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

    To access the Bridge to God, we must place our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Then as we continue to walk in the light of His Word, the blood that Jesus shed in His death continues to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7-9).

    The Son of God who descended from heaven became the Bridge to bring us to God.  You can be saved and have eternal life in heaven if you will access the Bridge through your trusting obedience.

- 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

 

* Information gleaned from “Arizona firefighters rescue 25 people, including infant, during flooding in Bear Canyon” by Stephen Sorace, www.foxnews.com.


Sunday, September 18, 2022

God IS Faithful to His Promises

By Brian Mitchell

 

    Here’s an interesting story for you: A man named Russell Edward Herman left trillions of dollars to thousands of people he’d never met. What was the catch? Russell Edward Herman didn’t have trillions of dollars, he was just a simple, poor carpenter. While the wild, wild will of the late Russell Herman never paid off for his “beneficiaries,” it certainly enlivened conversations. Take the tiny Ohio River town of Cave-In-Rock, for example, Herman bequeathed $2.41 billion to them. Cave-In-Rock’s mayor, Albert Kaegi had this to say, “It’s an odd thing to happen, isn’t it?”

    While the will would never pay off, the mayor had no trouble imagining uses for the willed imaginary monies. Russell Edward Herman had great intentions, but he lacked the resources needed to make them a reality. The greatness of God, however, stands in sharp contrast. God not only has made great and precious promises, He has the ability to follow through on every single one of them, AND HE WILL!!!

    If you were here last week, then you will remember that we have begun a new sermon series titled: “God’s Faithfulness and Ours.” Last week we spent our time celebrating just how faithful our God is. We discussed the fact that the Bible not only declares that God is faithful, it reveals the history of His faithfulness. Today, I want us to be reminded of the fact that God is faithful to his promises.

    I really like what Peter wrote about the promises of God “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

    Just how many of these great and precious promises do you think are in the Bible? 100? 1,000? 10,000? It might surprise you to know that according to a man named Dr. Reginald Dunlap there are approximately 30,000 promises in the Bible! Peter calls these “PRECIOUS” promises and it seemed that he liked that word. He used it at least 5 times in his two books: Precious Faith (1 Peter 1:7, 2 Peter 1:1), Precious blood (1 Peter 1:19), Precious stone (1 Peter 2:4-6), Precious Lord (1 Peter 2:7) and Precious promises (2 Peter 1:4).

    What is it that makes them so great and precious? Because, they come from a great God who can do the impossible and because they lead to an abundant life. Listen to some verses that declare that God is faithful to His promises. Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” 1 Kings 8:56, “Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” Joshua 21:45, “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled.”

    God wants us to lean on his promises. He wants us to stand on them. And count on them. Here’s a wonderful thought and reality: Peter declares that claiming these precious promises makes us “partakers” with Christ. A “partaker” is a participant, partner, or sharer. Thus, we claim these precious promises as our own when we become a Christian. But this new nature is not automatic. We must flee, “escape” the corruption that is in the world by evil desires. But when we do, we can know that God’s is Faithful to His Promises.

- Brian Mitchell serves as a minister with the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at https://www.jacksonchurchofchrist.net


Preparing To See The King

By Joe Slater

 

    Persian king Ahasuerus banished his queen and sought a new one (see the book of Esther). I hope none of us would approve of what he did or how he did it. How degrading to demand that Vashti flaunt her beauty before the king’s drunken nobles! Then he selected his new wife based almost entirely on her physical attractiveness. But why would we expect anything else? The king was a pagan and behaved in typical pagan fashion. Despite all of this, God worked through those events to deliver His people.

    Hadassah (Esther), a young Jewish girl, went through a solid year of beauty preparations before her interview with the king (Esther 2:12). Please don’t think ill of her! She didn’t make the rules. She made the best of a less-than-ideal situation.

    We serve a King infinitely superior to Ahasuerus. Esther diligently prepared to see her king. Let us take a cue from her by preparing to see King Jesus!

    This has nothing to do with physical attractiveness or lack thereof! Nor am I concerned here with wearing a coat and tie to the assembly. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to inspire the apostles to emphasize inner spiritual beauty. “Rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quite spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). In contrast to flashy, costly garments, Paul urges being clothed “with good works” (1 Timothy 2:10).

    Revelation 7:13-14 pictures faithful Christians as dressed in robes they had washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. They had gone through fiery trials without yielding. They were inwardly beautiful!

    Does inner beauty qualify you to meet your King? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com