Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Visit From the Preacher

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, suddenly stopped coming to church. After a few weeks, the preacher decided to visit. He found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.

Guessing the reason for the preacher’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited. The preacher made himself at home, but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs.

After some minutes, the preacher arose from his chair, took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it on one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire we no more. Soon it was cold and lifeless.

The preacher glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the preacher reached the door to leave, his host said, with a tear running down his cheek, “Thank you so much for your visit, and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.”

We live in a world today which tries to say too much with too little. Consequently, few listen. Sometimes the best sermons are the ones left unspoken. What silent message would God have you share with someone today?

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

- Cybersalt Digest; 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

Is the Bible a Dead Book?

By Gerald Cowan

A non-scientific, unofficial, random street poll several years ago asked these five questions of persons who declared themselves to be under the age of 30 years.
- Do you believe in the literal God of the Bible? 90% said NO.
- Do you believe the Bible is literally true and relevant for modern man? 90% said NO.
- Do you believe that man has an immortal spirit and will live forever? 90% said NO.
- Do you believe in a literal heaven and hell, as taught in the Bible? 90% said NO.
- Do you consider yourself to be a Christian? Most said NO, but – here is something very significant – many who said NO to the first four questions said YES to this last one!

This reveals something of the unhealthy attitude toward the Bible, even among professing Christians, and the predictable effects it has on the practice of the Christian religion. Modern man seems to go through a predictable cycle: A period of intense interest in religion and a zeal to know God is followed by a "cooling" and eventually reverses to a period of intense anti-religious feeling which focuses instead on personal freedom and rejection of div ine authority. We seem to be in the anti-religious, freedom-seeking phase in our country today.

At least in religion ours seems to be a "wayward and unfocused generation – an untoward generation" (Acts 2:40) – without direction or realizable goals. It is a "lost generation." Even overtly religious people seek freedom to "do it my own way." They want to worship the God of their choice in the way of their choice, and specify the results of their choice.

Who is to blame for the current situation, that is, for the aimless selfish wandering of the current generation? The outgoing generation (sometimes still called "the establishment") must certainly share the blame. They have not shown the upcoming generation that the God of the Bible is real and believable, and that all are truly accountable to Him. They have not demonstrated a faith that can be lived by – they have not been faithful to what they claim to believe. They are "worldly" – they have not rejected the world. They have not shared the gospel – perhaps they are convinced of its importance. They haven't been concerned enough about the lost. The current generation is suffering the effects of the attitudes and actions of past generations. But the present generation also shares in the guilt because evidence of God is available to all, and the believability of God is demonstrated for all. One who accepts20less than the truth will be held individually responsible by God (2 Thess. 2:11-12, Rom. 1:18-20).

What is the lesson for us now? We must not be victims of the past if we are able to improve the situation now. We cannot change the past, but we can change what we are doing in the present. If we understand the impact our attitudes and actions upon the next generation, surely we will make the needed changes.

– (NOTE: written as a sermon introduction); Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola church of Christ in Dongola, IL. He may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trials of Abraham’s Faith

By George W. DeHoff (Deceased)

Abraham is one of the greatest men who ever lived on earth. His life is discussed more completely and more fully than any other character in the Bible except the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He was born in the Ur of the Chaldees near the north end of the Persian Gulf. It seems he was born when his father was 130 years old (Gen. 11:26, 32; 12:4; Acts 7:2-4). At the age of 75, he was called to leave his home and to go out to a new land. He was about 80 when he rescued Lot and met Melchizedek. He was 86 when Ishmael was born, 99 when Sodom was destroyed, and 100 when Isaac was born. When Abraham was 137 years old Sarah died. He was 160 when Jacob was born and he died at the age of 175—115 years before Jacob’s migration into Egypt.

When God called Abraham, He did not give him a reason for leaving his home—He did make certain promises to Abraham. He promised him that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan, that they should become a great nation and that through them all nations of the world would be blessed. This promise (Gen. 12:2-3; 22:18) is the foundation of the Scheme of Redemption. God first called Abraham in Ur (Acts 7:2-4; Gen. 11:31). He called him again when Abraham was in Haran (12:1-4). He called him again in Shechem (12:7) and in Bethel (13:14-17), twice in Hebron (15:5, 18; 17:1-8). This promise was repeated to Isaac (26:3-4) and also to Jacob (28:13-14; 35:11-12; 46:3-4).

Abraham was a believer in one God. He lived in a world of idolatry. His countrymen were idolaters. His father was an idolater (Jos. 24:2). From a youth, he believed in one God. God trusted in Abraham. He selected Abraham to be the founder of a new nation of people who would worship the true God and from whom the Christ would come. Haran was about 600 miles northwest of Ur and nearly 400 miles northeast of Canaan. This was Abraham’s first stopping place. He set out from Ur in search of a land where he could build a free nation. He did not know where he was going; God was leading him (Gen. 12:4-9; Heb. 11:8). Haran was already a well-settled region with roads to Babylon, Syria, Egypt, etc., along which caravans and armies constantly marched. After the death of Terah, his father, Abraham, under the call of God, moved on. Shechem was his first stopping place in Canaan. This is the center of the land in a lovely vale between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Soon he located at Bethel, 20 miles south of Shechem and 10 miles north of Jerusalem. This is one of the highest points in Canaan and gives a magnificent view in every direction. Abraham spent some time in Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20).

After returning to the land, he magnanimously gave Lot his choice of all the Land. Lot foolishly chose to pitch his tent toward Sodom. Abraham chose Hebron in the hill country of Palestine (Gen. 13).

Abraham, with 318 men of his own and some help by neighbors, made a midnight surprise attack on four famous Babylonian kings. He defeated their small armies (Gen. 14). One of these kings “Amraphael” is commonly identified as Hammurabi, the most famous of early Babylonian kings.

Abraham met Melchizedek (14:18-20) who was the king and priest of Salem (Jerusalem). Melchizedek, so far as his priesthood was concerned, was without father or mother, beginning of days or end of time. He was a type of Christ (Psa. 110; Heb. 5-7). God renewed His promises to Abraham in Genesis chapters 15, 16, and 17. Abraham is called the “friend of God” and “the father of the faithful.” All Christians are of the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:26-29).

Abraham’s faith was tested by:
(1) Separation. God called him to go to a new home (Gen. 12:1-9; Acts 7:1-4).
(2) Famine (Gen. 12:1-20).
(3) Riches (Gen. 13).
(4) Power (Gen. 14).
(5) Delay. Waited many years for the birth of Isaac and the fulfillment of the promise which God had made to him.

Through all of these tests, Abraham was faithful to God. God blessed him. He reached the end of the journey looking forward to the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. The trials of Abraham’s faith are the very same trials which most Christians have today.

- George W. DeHoff (Deceased); via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC. Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website:

Until Shiloh Come (Gen. 49:10)

By Gene Rowe, Jr.

Near the end of his life Jacob called his twelve sons together for the purpose of blessing them, and informing them of their future in life. (Gen. 49:1-2) The most significant of all blessings was bestowed upon Judah in the fact that "the sceptre would not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until SHILOH come." (Gen. 49:10)

The word "Shiloh" means tranquil, Messiah, peacemaker, and "the one to whom it belongs." Isaiah prophesied Christ's role as Messiah in Isaiah 61:1-3, which was fulfilled in Luke 4:16-19. Isaiah also prophesied concerning Christ being the "prince of peace," in Isaiah 9:6, which was fulfilled at the birth of Christ in Luke 2:14, also him being described as "our peace," in Ephesians 2:13-14.

Christ's kingship and dominion is also prophesied in Daniel 7:13-14, Ezekiel 21:25-27, and Zechariah 6:12-13, which was fulfilled after the resurrection of Christ, and the beginning of his kingdom in Matthew 28:18, Acts 2:36, and Ephesians 1:19-23.

One fact that remains undeniable is that Christ came from the tribe of Judah as told in Hebrews 7:14, and Revelation 5:5. The sceptre and the staff as mentioned by Jacob represented authority and royal power. In Jewish culture, the staff was placed between the feet of dignitairies to symbalize their power, and the sceptre carried by a king was an emblem of authority.

Jesus Christ is the only one who can provide true peace, and he is the only one qualified to be the lawgiver. Christ also is the only one that can gather all nations of individuals together. (Matt. 11:28-30; John 10:16 ; Ephesians 1:11-16; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 4:10-12)

Recognize and acknowledge his authority and power, and OBEY HIM! (Hebrews 5:8-9)

- Gene Rowe, Jr. is the minister of the church of Christ (Westward Ave.), Texas City, Texas. He may be contacted at

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Final Authority

QUESTION: Who or what should be the final authority regarding the most important issues of life?

ANSWER: This is an excellent question. To answer it one must first seek to identify the important issues of life. The Bible gives us a knowledge of the existence of God, creation, Jesus Christ, salvation, heaven and hell. It gives us a knowledge of God's will for us (Eph. 5:17). The Word of God frees us from sin and all its evil consequences which reach out to grab and destroy us. It frees us from the power of sin (Col. 1:13-14). It frees us from the pollution of sin, that is, guilt and fear (2 Tim. 1:7). It frees us from the pleasure of sin (Heb. 10:25). It frees us from the old man of sin (Rom. 6:3-4). It offers us heaven where we will be free from the presence of all sin. The Bible tells man of his origin, his purpose of existence, and his destiny (Gen. 1:1; Eccl. 12:13-14; 2 Cor. 5:10). The Bible is the only book that deals sufficiently with the subject of death (Gen. 2:17; Gen. 3:1-6, 19; Rom. 5:12; 6:23).

The same book which answers these significant questions also teaches that God pleased when men seek authority only from Him in His word with reference to salvation, Christianity and religion. This is the case since, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God is displeased when men either add to or subtract from His word (see Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:5-6 & Rev. 22:18-19). Men must not tamper with God's written revelation from Heaven. In every age since the beginning of the world, God has required men to recognize His authority. To those who lived under the Law of Moses, it is written, "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:29). In the New Testament Age in which we now live, God's inspired word commands, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Col. 3:17). Therefore, men today must have a book, chapter and verse from the New Testament of Christ for whatever they teach or practice with regard to salvation. We are to abide in the doctrine of Christ if we expect to have a saving relationship with God the Father (2 John 9). In view of this fact, someone who respected Bible authority once stated, "Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent." Another correctly stated, "In the Bible there are facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed, and promises to be enjoyed." These statements are in harmony with the teaching of Colossians 3:17.

Accepting God's standard of truth by which we live and seek eternity with God, we must reject the false standards which men seek to impose upon us today. Some of these faulty, unauthorized standards are: feelings, human wisdom, conscience only, dreams, personal experiences, false traditions, and false "gospels." In place of giving priority to feelings, study (2 Tim. 2:15); in place of human wisdom, get God's wisdom (I Cor. 1:18-25); in place of the conscience only, educate your conscience by the word of God (Acts 9:1-2; 23:1; John 8:31-32); in place of so-called modern-day miraculous dreams, accept only the meaning of the recorded miraculous dreams of certain ones in the first century (Acts 2:17; I Cor. 13:8-10); in place of personal experiences, let us appreciate the testimony of the Lord (Rev. 1:9; 6:9); in place of false gospels, let us accept the one and only gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:6-9).

Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). May we let Christ be the authority in our lives today by hearing, believing and obeying His teaching. In so doing, we may expect Him to receive us at the last day, taking us into heaven where we shall live eternally in joy and peace (read John 14:1-3).

- Gary L. Grizzell, Cookeville, TN; via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC. Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website: http://www.belvederechurchofchrist.org

God Spoke To YOU (Matt. 22:31,32)

By Douglas Hoff

Does God communicate with people today? The answer may surprise some people but it is an emphatic YES! It is not a matter of IF but HOW. Most Bible readers know humans can pray to God. Certainly this is part of the communication process but it is only one half. When God answer prayers there is no verbal message. Answered prayer is not the other half of the communication between God and man.

So, how does God communicate to man today? The writer of Hebrews recorded, "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, {2} has in these last days spoken to us by His Son" (Heb. 1:1,2; NKJV). In the Old Testament period God used prophets to convey His message to mankind. The New Testament message was initially transmitted to man by Jesus teaching in his earthly ministry. We have the words of Christ recorded in the scriptures so God can "speak" His word to us.

There are several examples in the New Testament where the writer affirms that God speaks through His word. Consider Matthew 22:31,32 (NKJV) - "But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, {32} 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?" The words Jesus quoted are written in the Old Testament yet He affirms God spoke through them to the Sadducees of the first century. Another example is found in Hebrews 12:5 - "And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him." In both cases God is pictured as speaking to people through His written word. Remember that the next time you read the Bible.

- Douglas Hoff; via The Lantern, Highway church of Christ, Sullivan, IL Visit their website as

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Be Still and Know!
By Ben Thompson

"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). In our world of secular craziness, we need to read these words and ponder them very carefully.

* When the world just doesn't seem to make any sense, be still and know that Jesus is the truth and He will bring sanity to a sometimes insane existence (John 1:14).

* When it seems that everyone has turned against us, be still and know that the Lord promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6).

* When the storms of life (both physical and emotional) are raging about us, be still and know that God will be our shelter in any storm that the devil can throw at us (Romans 8:35-39).

* When the future looks dark and dim, be still and know that God is already there, and there is nothing that He doesn't know or can't handle (Psalm 139).

What a wonderful God we serve. Brethren, let us try to remember these things when life gets dark and dreary; when the days seem empty and long, when all seems to fail about us: Be still and know!

- Ben Thompson; via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.

Five Truths Taught By Cornelius

By Mark Ray

Cornelius is a rather mysterious character in the Bible. He appears in only one chapter, Acts 10, but his life and actions teach us many spiritual truths. Notice five lessons learned from the story of Cornelius. First, we learn that sincerity is not enough to please God. Cornelius was a devout man who feared God, gave alms to the poor and prayed always, yet he still had to obey the gospel in order to become a Christian (Acts 10:48). God does not desire us to be only a good person, he expects us to be a sanctified person. We must realize that sincere people are lost unless they obey the gospel of Christ.

Second, we learn that we have an obligation to teach others the gospel. Peter was uncomfortable on his rooftop praying, but the Lord had work for him to do. Each of us should be busy doing the Lord’s work. Even if it means going places and doing things that make us personally feel uncomfortable.

Third, all people deserve the gospel. Doubtless, Peter had grown up hearing that only Jews were worthy of being children of God. Yet God worked to change his mind. Notice how God worked on Peter: He shared that the gospel was for all men (Mark 16:15); he himself had said by inspiration in his sermon on Pentecost that the gospel was for all the people of the world (Acts 2:39); he had a series of three visions which taught him that all things created by God were holy and not to be called common (Acts 10:15); he learned that God had even spoken to the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 10:31); and fifth, God filled the Gentiles with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:48).

A fourth lesson we learn from Cornelius is that he desired to hear all things commanded by God (Acts 10:33). In our buffet and convenience culture, many are under the impression that we can take the good and leave behind what we find unacceptable. Yet the Bible teaches us that half-obedience is the same as open rebellion. Naaman (2 Kings 5:12) learned that he had to obey God fully to receive his cleansing. We must obey the entire gospel today if we expect the rewards of Christianity.

The final lesson learned from the story of Cornelius is that we must follow wherever God leads. For Peter, going and eating with Gentiles was far beyond anything that he had probably imagined doing. Yet it was something he did because God commanded him to do it. While God does not speak to us today through visions, he does speak to us through his Word, the Bible, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We must humble ourselves to the will of God and obey the teachings of the Bible. Cornelius is a man who serves as a good example for us today. Let us live in a way where we can share eternity in heaven with him.

- Mark Ray, 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