Monday, December 5, 2022

A Prayer for Growth (Eph. 3:14-19)

By Jeff Arnette

 

    I am certain that you, like myself, are praying for the growth of the Lord’s church here and throughout the world. Regularly, I am praying for growth especially in the ways that the Lord wants us to grow but what is that. True growth is so much more than simply metrics like attendance numbers or contribution amounts. Real growth is growing in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). It is growing in our understanding of and imitation of Jesus (Eph. 4:15-16) in our daily lives.

    We tend to think that growth is something the preacher does for the church but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The preacher can be a catalyst, but real church growth begins in you and then extends to the whole church.

    In Ephesians 3:14-19, the apostle Paul prayed for the growth of the Ephesian Christians. His prayer reveals much about true Christian growth. I want to challenge you to adopt Paul’s view on true growth and to pray every day for the growth of this church. Notice that Paul prays for growth in four primary areas.

    First in verse 16, he prays for them to be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit in their soul. This power is the power of the Holy Spirit living and working within each one of us and enabling with a power that is like dynamite inside us. We need to learn to depend on and trust in this power of God that is at our disposal.

    Secondly in verse 17, I want you to notice that he prayed that Christ would dwell in their hearts. Paul knew that the Ephesians needed to not only know that Christ was within them but also being guided by it. He was praying that Christ would be their center, that he would be the focus of all that they did in this life. We too need to learn to focus on Christ and let him be the center of our life, the focal point of all that we do.

    Third in verses 18-19, Paul prayed that they would be able to comprehend the truest expression of Christ love for them. He said that he needed them to be able to understand what that really looked like, what it felt like to be loved by Jesus. To understand the love of Christ for ourselves and others will, or at least it should change your life. It was what changed Paul and he knew that it would do the same for us (Acts 9). We to need to focus on and learn to comprehend the truest expression of Christ love for us and others.

    Lastly in verse 19, Paul prayed that they would be filled with the fullness of God. He knew that if they were filled up with God and the things of God true growth would happen. Church, the same is true for us too. If we will fill our lives, minds, and hearts with the things of God we will grow in amazing and powerful ways.

    Once we grow as individual Christians and embody what it means to radiate the life and love of Jesus, shining as lights in this world (Matt. 5:14-16), then growth will happen. Will you join me in committing to praying for this church? Praying for personal, spiritual growth in each person?

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


Our Greatest Privilege

By Al Behel

 

Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)

    The disciples of Jesus had listened to his sermons, but never asked, “Teach us to preach.” They had observed his powerful miracles, but never said, “Lord, teach us to do miracles.” The one thing they asked for Him to teach them was how to pray. Knowing how to pray effectively is far more desirable than knowing how to preach a powerful sermon. Moving heaven is much greater than moving men on earth.

    Of course, there are many desirable gifts or privileges, but none surpasses the privilege of prayer. We can train men to preach moving sermons, but powerful praying can only come out of hearts that have been touched by the Master. More is accomplished through prayer than through sermons for without prayer sermons are empty and ineffective.

    Obviously, the disciples had witnessed Jesus on His knees. They had seen the hand of God moved through His prayers. No one had prayed like Him. No one had talked with the Father the way Jesus did. They stood in awe as they listened to Him pray and they wanted to pray like Jesus prayed. Only Jesus could teach them to pray like that.

    I’ve heard many moving prayers. Some were very short but powerful. A little boy in New York prayed, “God, I thank you for making me a human being and not a dog!” Some of the old saints knew how to pray. The key? They knew they were really talking to God and that God was listening.

    Prayer is every believer’s privilege. Not everyone is called to become preachers, or elders, or teachers, but everyone is called to pray. Later, Jesus would say, “Men ought always to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Praying opens the doors of heaven and moves the hand of God.

    Unfortunately, many Christians do not avail themselves of this privilege. Instead, there is an expectation that life moves on its own, most days are reasonably comfortable, and we maintain good health. We forget that prayer is not solely about us. It is primary about communing with our heavenly Father. It is about advancing His kingdom in a world of darkness.

    We are instructed to pray for others, to pray for laborers to go into the fields to reap the harvest, and for the spread of the gospel. If prayer is really power, how foolish is it for us to rely on ourselves when we have little control over anything. We have access to our God, the “Almighty” One, who is never tired or weary. Who is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask of think, according to the power at work in us”. (Ephesians 3:20).

- Al Behel served the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN, for many years prior to this death in April 2022. The congregation may be contacted through their website - https://gsmchurchofchrist.com/


Up from the Miry Clay

By David Sargent

 

    Keith Wishum reports: Tuesday, October 26, 1999 was no day at the beach for 28 year-old Kenny Beach of Brunswick, Georgia. Beach, whose house overlooks a marsh, went out in a small boat to search for missing parts of his floating dock. When he stepped from the boat to retrieve an errant piece, he sank immediately up to his waist in the muck.

    Beach quickly discovered that struggling to free himself only made matters worse as he was sucked deeper into the soft mud. Soon, he was buried up to his chest. The tide was coming in.

    Deciding to be still and call for help, Beach began to shout. He continued to sink deeper. The tide continued to rise. The sun disappeared and darkness settled, leaving Beach cold, alone, and afraid as the cold dark water rose, first to his neck, then to his face. Continuing to call for help, Beach panicked, knowing that he would soon drown.

    As the murky water finally closed over Beach's nose, fire department rescuers James Williams and Craig Renshaw heard a gurgle. Swinging their rowboat toward the sound, they spotted Beach and quickly began to pull him from the muck which would have claimed his life.

    Kenny Beach’s plight while stuck in the mire resembles our condition in our sins…  we are separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and destined for death (Romans 6:23).  We cannot free ourselves from the mire of sin (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We are totally dependent upon someone else to come to our rescue.

    God, because of His great love for us, sent His Son Jesus to our rescue (Romans 5:8).  He came to this world as a Man to identify with us and to die for us – the perfect Sacrifice to pay the debt for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

    Jesus will lift from the mire of sin those who accept His offer of salvation and eternal life by placing their faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Then those who continue to cling to Him through their trusting obedience will continually be cleansed by His blood (1 John 1:7).

    In a song entitled “Deeper and Deeper,” Oswald J. Smith ponders the salvation that Christ offers:

 

Into the heart of Jesus

Deeper and deeper I go,

Seeking to know the reason

Why He should love me so,

Why He should stoop to lift me

Up from the miry clay,

Saving my soul, making me whole,

Though I had wandered away.

 

The reason that God desires to lift us up from the miry clay is because He loves us.

    The reason why we should accept His offer on His terms is because Jesus is our only Hope!

    Won't YOU trust and obey Him?

- 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

 

* Source: Keith Wishum, “When You're Going Under,” in A Word from Williams Road, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus, GA.  www.williamsroadcoc.org


The Fortune of Family

By Edd Sterchi

 

    One of the most valuable things that God has given us is the concept of the family. Think about it – before God brought forth the societal governmental system, He gave the family. Before God established His church on the earth, He consecrated the family.

    After creating the heavens and the earth, God placed a family there (Gen.

1:27-28; 2:21-25). After God cleansed the earth through the global flood, He began anew with a family (Gen. 6:17-18.). It is through a family that God gave His promise of a Savior and through whom all families on earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-5).

    The family as God would have it is the moral structure of any successful society. The family is the golden thread that binds a particular group of people to their past, present, and future. The family is where hurts are best healed, victories are best shared, and forgiveness is easiest displayed. The family is the place where love is most at home. Without a doubt, God knew what He was doing when He created the family.

    When Paul through inspiration wanted to show Christ’s love for the church and her relationship to Him, he did in family type language (Eph. 5:22-33). And after that, Paul naturally transitioned into a discussion of parents and children and their responsibilities to one another as a family (Eph. 6:1-4).

    After looking at all of this Biblical information, we can only come to one conclusion: family is important. Why else would God have connected such vital aspects of His will to the family? Because the family (following the will of God) is the core unit of success and happiness.

    Knowing this, it behooves each of us to make our family relationships the best that they can be. We each need to do our part to make our families better and stronger. Only good things will come from this effort.

    One last thing – regardless of our earthly family situation, we can be a part of the best family on earth, which is the church. Members of the church are “members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19), and are a part of “the whole family in heaven and earth” (Eph. 3:14-15). Are you a part of God’s family?

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.broadwaychurchofchrist.net/


Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

By Gerald Cowan

 

    You’ve heard that old riddle, haven’t you? How do you answer it? Now here is another question for you: Which comes first, faith, fact, or feeling? There is a logical order which makes faith practical and relevant. To disregard this order will reduce faith to foolishness. The logical order is fact, faith, and feeling. Fact must come first. Faith is knowledge and acceptance of the facts. Feeling follows faith. Feeling is the effect or result of faith in the facts.

    It is easy to get it turned wrong, and many do. Some put feelings first. Their faith and the whole order of their lives are pinned to their feelings. “If it feels right it must be right.” Consequently they are at the mercy of their own feelings. When they feel low, depressed, and discouraged it puts their faith in a tailspin. Nagging doubts sweep over them, doubts about God, their own souls, and their chances for salvation. But when they are elated, happy, and in good spirits the doubts disappear and they think that they really believe – faith is riding high! That ought to be proof enough that you cannot depend on your own feelings. Your feelings about God and His Christ may change, but God himself does not change (Mal. 3:6). Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever Heb. 13:8).  Don’t believe your feelings. Believe God! Trust Him to bring to pass what He has said (Ps. 37:5).

    Some put faith first. But how can you have faith without an object of faith, something to believe or trust in? You cannot just have faith in faith. Can you believe in believing, trust in trusting, have confidence in confidence? All of that is nonsense. Faith must rest upon something or someone. The trustworthiness of faith depends on the trustworthiness of its object. You cannot make a thing true just by believing in it. That is delusion. If a thing is not true, faith will not change it into truth. If a thing is true, lack of faith will not change it to untruth. See Rom.3:3-4).

    The only dependable approach is to put the facts first. Find the truth and pin your faith to it (John 8:31). Find what is dependable, trustworthy and true, then accept it because it is all these things. Faith is nothing more that accepting and applying the truth, and it comes only by investigation of the facts. The Christian knows that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17, John 17:17). Faith is centered in the fact of Jesus Christ, that One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Once you align your faith with the facts you can be assured that the proper feelings will follow (read carefully Col. 1:3-6). What feelings? Well, what feelings would you expect to come if you knew you had found and accepted truth, and that your faith and hope were founded upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ?

    Postscript: Still wondering about the chicken and egg? Here’s the answer: Logically two chickens came first – necessarily male and female – who were able to reproduce by means of a fertilized egg. If the egg came first, all it could produce is a helpless chick that would not survive or be able to reproduce itself. God’s word makes it clear that this is what happened – not only with chickens but with all living things. The adult forms were created whole, male and female, with everything needed for reproducing themselves (Genesis, chapters one and two).

- 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


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Salvation Matters

By Edd Sterchi

 

Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” (2 John 8)

    In 2 John 8, the “full reward” of salvation forevermore is referenced. It is a beautiful concept in that when we receive our heavenly reward, nothing will be held back! It will be full and perfect. But in this great text, it is very important for us to note four important points concerning this salvation:

    “Look to yourselves...” – This is a great reminder that salvation is an individual matter. None of us will be saved based upon what another does or does not do (excepting Jesus Christ, of course). We must make sure that we have followed God’s will for our lives. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Cor. 13:5, see also Rom. 14:12).

    “...that we do not lose those things...” – It is important to also remember that salvation can be forfeited. If we turn our backs on Christ after being converted to Him, then we will be just as lost as if we had never met Him. “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:4, see also Heb. 2:1).

    “...we worked for...” –Another thing about attaining salvation is that salvation takes activity on our part. Of course, we could never earn our salvation, but we still must meet the gospel conditions set forth. And that does take obedience on our part. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not a sin my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” (Phil. 2:12, see also Matt. 25:21).

    “...but that we may receive a full reward.” – Finally, let’s note this: salvation must be accepted. God has offered salvation to all through the sacrifice of His Son. But we must still receive it and take it into our hearts and lives. “Receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:9, see also Jas. 1:21).

    Do you have assurance of the “full reward” offered by God? I can guarantee you, you will not want to miss out on any of it.

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.broadwaychurchofchrist.net/


When God Feels Distant

By Jeff Arnette

 

    We’ve all been there at some point in our journey. One day everything is great and the next, we find ourselves feeling lost and distant from God. There can be many reasons for feeling like this but most often, it is a result of some struggle we are facing in life. Sometimes it isn`t that God has moved away from us but that we’ve moved away from Him and sometimes it is simply a matter of how we’re feeling in the midst of the struggle. No matter the reason or if the distance is real we should all want to be closer to the Lord. Feeling closer to the Lord gives us comfort when life gets crazy, when we`re struggling with some sin in our life, or when we simply need more strength.

    Asaph, in Psalm 77, gives us some insight into prayer and needing to be closer to the Lord. He cries out to the Lord and He listens to him. Asaph knew that the only way to get through the trouble he was dealing with was to get closer to the Lord.

    First, we learn from Asaph that when God feels distant we should remember all the good things God has done for us. We need to consider all the things God had done for us and for His people. By remembering God’s gracious acts it gets us to stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing on Him.

    Secondly, we learn from Asaph the importance of spending time in God’s house with the people of God. He knew that the best way to feel closer to the Lord was to get closer to the people of God.

    Time spent in worship and assembling with His people will draw us closer to each other and to our God. It is in the services of the church that we learn, remember his gracious acts, and grow through study with others. If you are feeling distant from the Lord just remember that he will always be near his people and his people will always be together especially on Sundays & Wednesdays. Make sure you’re there every time the doors are open and it will be a great blessings for you and for the church.

    Relationships require effort and God is no exception. Even before you feel like doing it, just keep doing it, and eventually you will feel like being there. Here is a truth that is often hard for us to learn: feelings follow actions, not the other way around. In the same way that you exercise even before you feel like doing it, spending time with the Lord and His people will eventually feel good if you keep doing it. Just because you don’t feel like doing something doesn’t mean you will not.

    So, if you’re feeling distant from the Lord, just keep going, keep focusing on his great works, keep praying, and make sure you keep going to the church services. Eventually, with persistence, you will reap the benefits that He has in store for you.

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/