Sunday, January 29, 2023

Lone Wolf Christianity

By Jeff Arnette

 

    Talk about an oxymoron. The epitome of isolation and loneliness connected with what should be the epitome of family, purpose, and belonging. You may disagree with my choice of titles, but chances are, you were taught to be a “lone wolf” just like me. From childhood most of us were taught that all we needed to succeed in life was hard work and determination. We were conditioned to believe that we don’t need anything or anyone to attain our goals in life. We were raised to be lone wolves in life, in work, and perhaps most importantly, in our faith.

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe that our parents did the best they could with the information and training they had. How could they have known that they were creating a generation of people who would cast off all personal connections and go it alone? We live in a time when connections to friends and family are all but non-existent. A time when connections to faith and church have eroded to the point that the average person doesn’t attend church services. I was shocked to learn that 75% of our entire population doesn’t attend church services.

    The problem with all this is that it is anti-Christian and destined to fail. Reality dictates that the lone wolf can survive along as everything goes his way (which is a rarity), but, as soon as winter comes, and life gets hard, he will starve to death. The pack survives and thrives while the lone wolf flounders in the anguish of starvation and loneliness.

    I honestly believe this is Satan’s plan to destroy us. You cannot destroy a people until you separate them from each other. The lone wolf cannot survive the hard times of life. Alone they become more susceptible to sin and distractions. With no God, no faith, no family, no friends, no accountability, or authority in life; we will fail. It is inevitable.

    God never intended for us to be alone. He gave us a church and family to ensure we are never alone through the winter of life.

    God never intended for us to learn about faith and our gifts without the guidance of other men and women of God. Without the church, we never learn the fullness of faith and what it can be; so, we settle for whatever we have and wonder why we are unhappy.

    God never intended for us to be the sole source of authority in our lives. We need the church; preachers, elders, and fellow church members to help keep us in line. He gave us a Bible and other men and women to help attain true faith and Christianity. Without the church, we settle for something that looks like the real thing but is a cheap imitation destined to fail.

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


Repent

By Clifton Angel

 

    Let us consider seven reasons repentance is necessary for every accountable soul.

    1. The Command of God. “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30, ASV). God commands repentance of every person in every place.

    2. The Cost of Sin. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, KJV).

    3. The Cutoff of Sin. “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1–2). Sin separates us from our God.

    4. The Connection to God. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). But if we repent and walk in the light, we have fellowship with him (cf. 1 John 1:7). That is tremendous motivation for repentance.

    5. The Conclusion in Salvation. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). It is rewarding to study the prepositions concerning the requirements for salvation. Hearing the gospel leads unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Believing Jesus leads unto righteousness (Romans 10:10). Confession with the mouth is unto salvation (Romans 10:10). And as we have read from 2 Corinthians 7:10, repentance leads to salvation. But it is not until one is baptized that he is in Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:10–12), has his sins washed away (cf. Acts 22:16), has his sins forgiven (cf. Acts 2:38), is saved (cf. Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

    6. The Cancellation of Sins. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). As was aforementioned, cancellation of sins does not occur until baptism, but repentance is required in order to get to that point. Immersion without repentance is merely a physical bath.

    7. The Occasion from God. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If you are reading this article in the flesh, God is still displaying his long-suffering to us. The Lord has promised to return (cf. John 14:1–3), but he has not yet because He is “willing ... that all should come to repentance.”

    Have you obeyed this command of God? Will you avoid the cost and cutoff of sins with the cancellation of sins? Are you connected to God? Will your life conclude in salvation? Have you taken advantage of the occasion God has provided you? If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, we urge you to repent.

- 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/


God’s Solid Foundation Stands Firm

By Joe Chesser

 

    Among the last words written by the beloved Apostle Paul are found in 2 Timothy 2.19: “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’”

    Our world is unstable. The economy is always in a state of flux. Our national confidence could crumble at any time. Job security is a thing of the past. Health? Morality? Friendships? Even our family relations are at risk.

    But regardless of what is happening in the world around us, one thing has always remained constant ... and it always will: “God’s solid foundation stands firm!”

    The context of Paul’s statement to Timothy is reassuring even for us 2000 years later. The point here is not to establish the trustworthiness of God. That is firmly established in other Scriptures (Heb. 13.6,8; Isa. 41.10; Prov. 30.5; 1 Thess. 5.24; Deut. 7.9, 32.4; Psalm 111.7). The point is that because God is so solid and sure, we can trust that what God began cannot be destroyed no matter what happens in the world around us, or even among ourselves in the church! Jesus built the church, and not even Satan can destroy it (Matt. 16.18)! Godless chatter and false teachings can spread like gangrene, causing some to wander away from the truth (2 Tim. 2.16-18). Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm! That’s why each of us needs to do our very best to be approved by God by handling accurately His word of truth (2 Tim. 2.15). God and His truth will never change, but we certainly may.

    Wrong ideas about God, His truth, and His church are circulating all around us. They always have. They always will. That’s why it is so important to consistently trust the source of truth instead of what others say about it. “The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Tim. 2.19). People are confused about who are Christians and who aren’t, but God is not! If we study accurately what God says about how to be saved, we don’t have to be confused either. The same principle is true about the church Jesus built, about how to live as God’s people, about how to worship, about marriage and family, about ethics ... about everything pertaining to life and godliness: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1.3 emphasis mine). That was written in the 1st century, and is just as true in the 21st century as it was the day it was written. God has made sure we have all we need to become His children and to live like His children. Where there are doubts, God and His words are a solid, unchanging foundation to discover and on which to rely. People with slick tongues and great sounding arguments will try to lure you away from God and His truth (2 Tim. 4.1-4). Don’t fall for it. Examine things yourself by examining truth (2 Cor. 13.5).

    The Lord knows who belongs to Him. He knows who we are, where we are and what we need. Why trust anyone or anything other than Him and His truth?

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


Holiday Compassion

By Joe Slater

 

    I hope you have the happiest holiday in history! (How’s that for alliteration?) Seriously, I want nothing, including this article, to detract from your genuine enjoyment of the whole holiday season.

    That being said, please show compassion toward the many for whom holidays are, to say the least, difficult. The anniversary of a loved one’s death may come at holiday time. Even if they passed away at some other date, unwelcome feelings of loss and loneliness may flood aching hearts during holidays.

    That doesn’t mean you should feel guilty for enjoying family, food, and fun. Make those precious memories! As you do so, remember those who feel empty. A loving look, a sympathetic smile, a hug or pat on the arm may accomplish more than you realize.

    An understanding word of encouragement could be helpful. That definitely excludes tacky remarks like “get over it!” or “just move on!” Such cruel comments show the opposite of a Christ-like spirit!

    Sometimes no words are needed. Your mere presence tells the person you are there for them. Think of Job’s three friends when they came to visit him in his profound suffering; the best thing they did was remain silent an entire week. Then they started talking and things went downhill from there!

    In no less than a dozen places the Gospels specify that Jesus either showed compassion or taught His disciples to do so. May God help us to be like Jesus not only during this holiday season, but every day!

- 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


Spending a December Day With Jesus

By Bill Brandstatter

 

    There is abundant evidence that Jesus was not born in the month of December; however, did you know that an event in the month of December is mentioned in the Bible? Specifically, we read of Jesus attending a feast in the month of December. In John 10:22, 23 we read “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter and Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” (NKJV) I find this passage very interesting and feel that a couple of points need to be made.

    First, what is the Feast of Dedication and why was Jesus there? Let us first understand that the Hebrews had a bunch of celebrations. Some were based on traditions. It was difficult for them to give some of these up after they became Christians. Paul alludes to this in Rom. 14:5: “One esteems one day over another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” The need to celebrate the old Jewish feast days was no longer necessary, however. Paul wrote to the brethren in Colossae: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.” (Col. 2:16) Others were based on religious, natural or agricultural events. The Feast of Dedication, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, began on December 25th and was held for eight days. (Orr, James “Feast of Dedication,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia) Burton Coffman notes about this feast: “The Feast of Dedication was begun by Judas Maccabeus B.C. 164 to commemorate the cleansing and rededication of the temple after the defilement through pagan worship. It was not one of the great feasts handed down from Moses; but it was popular among the people who called it: the feast of lights. It was held at the winter solstice (Christmas) ... and was called `The Feast of the New Age." (Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 10", "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament", Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999). This feast was instituted by men, not by God. This feast is also known as the “Feast of Lights” because of the lights that were used to celebrate it. It is also known as “Hanukkah.” The Jews continue its celebration today.

    Second, Jesus no doubt spoke at this time because there was a crowd present (John 10:23-25). Any feast day was likely to draw a crowd of Jews. So, on or around December 25th Jesus began a discourse that dealt with Himself. Those in the crowd accused Him of blasphemy. The speech on that day was one about His identity. He stated, “The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me” (John 10:25). Jesus further spoke of His relationship to the Father and said, “I and My Father are One.” (John 10:30) The Jews then sought to stone Jesus.

    We should take any day possible to speak about Christ to others. Christmas, like the Feast of Dedication, is instituted by man; yet, we should speak of Christ to others since Christ is on the minds of so many. As Christ took a man-made celebration to tell of Himself, let us also do the same this holiday season.

Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Sunday, January 22, 2023

That These Shall Not Have Fought in Vain

By Ron Bartanen

 

     Tomorrow we, as a nation, observe Veterans Day, It is a day appropriately set aside to give honor to the veterans—to those who have faced the possibility of death in defense of our freedoms.  Theirs has been the greatest sacrifice of which man is capable.   They have left parents, wives and husbands, and children to serve their country with the realization that they might never again see their loved ones. The greatest of honors are due toward those who were willing to make the greatest of sacrifices.  Let us therefore remind ourselves of the value of that for which they were willing to give their all.  They esteemed our liberty as a nation to be valued even above their lives.

     How great will be the disgrace and shame of our nation if this for which they were willing to shed their blood is cast aside.  Following the Civil War, President Lincoln gave the famous Gettysburg Address, remembering those who had fallen in battle.  In the closing words of his speech he said, “It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”   On Memorial Day we gave special honor to the deceased veterans, but on Veterans Day we recognize also those who survived.  We could make one change in Lincoln ’s speech to say, “…that these shall not have fought in vain.”  As Lincoln saw that “under God” we had been granted freedom, he also recognized the “great task” ahead for the survivors of war—that of a continued defense of freedom.  He called the nation to “increased devotion to that cause….”  Liberty, once achieved, is nevertheless seen as an “unfinished work,” dependent upon that devotion.  Otherwise, tyranny would triumph, and our free republic would “perish from the earth.”

     Sadly, our generation is witnessing a loss of that devotion, and with it the dissembling of what was once recognized as a “Christian nation.”  Our nation was blessed from its beginning with founders and defenders who had a high regard for the Bible and the Christian faith.   Congress even provided Bibles for schools and homes that the next generation would continue its Christian heritage and with it the liberties of a free people.  The discarding of this foundation can only result in catastrophic ruin.  We can politically justify killing babies in the wombs of their mothers, kick God and His word out of schools and all public sites, and redefine marriage to give honor to what God calls an abomination, but only at the expense of inviting God’s wrath.  The God who does not change could say to us as He said Israel through David, “Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you…These (evil) things you have done, and I kept silent: You thought that I was altogether like you: But I will rebuke you… Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver” (Psalms 50:17, 21-22).  Let it never be said in future generations that through our godlessness we lost our nation, and our veterans “have fought in vain.”

- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. After the passing of his beloved wife, Doris, Ron has relocated from Illinois to Florida where he is near family. He may be contacted at: ron33dor@yahoo.com


Peace In Your Personal Life

By Brian Mitchell

 

    The following story was run a number of years ago in the Fort Worth, Texas Star Telegram. “The man who spotted targets for American bombers over Hiroshima in August 1945 has been laid to rest in Texas soil after searching the last 33 years for some peace in his life. Claude Robert Earthley was a 24 Year Air Force pilot who picked out Hiroshima through a hole in the clouds and radioed the Enola Gay to bomb her primary targets. He died this past Saturday from cancer in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Houston.

    He had been discharged from the service in 1947 following numerous psychiatric tests that indicated severe neurosis and guilt complex. Doctors said that he told him that he felt personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Japanese. In 1960, after a series of small time burglaries, the Van Alstyne, Texas, native told reporters that he had not had any sleep in 15 years. There is no peace, he said.”

    One of the primary definitions for the word peace was an “inner calm or tranquility.” Inner peace is something that all men search for, and yet for various reasons, few ever really find it. There are many people in the world and some in the Lord’s Church as well that struggle, as Mr. Earthley did, with their own personal demons and thus they never really enjoy the peace the God intends for all of our lives—Jn.14:1-3, Jn.14:27, Jn.16:33.

    If God intended for us to have peace in our lives and Jesus says repeatedly that it is peace that we have in Him; why do so many people live lives characterized by anything but peace? Some people don’t have peace in their lives because they have never come to the only real source of peace in our lives and that is God. In fact, there is no peace in life a part from God, and if you are here today and have never obeyed the Gospel you should not have peace in your life.

    The real question though is this; why do so many Christians live lives without peace? How about you?

- 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