Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Life Lessons

• Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
• Your job won’t take care of you when you’re sick. Your friends and parents will, so stay in touch.
• Make peace with your past, so it won’t mess up the present.
• If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
• Burn the candles; use the nice sheets; eat off the good china. Today is special and you are not promised tomorrow.
• No one is in charge of your happiness but you, always choose life.
• Your children only get one childhood.
• No matter how you feel...get up, get dressed, and show up.
• Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.


Attending church services regularly is like making a path through the forest ~ the more often you use it, the less obstruction you find in the way.

- via The Central Message, the weekly bulletin of the Central church of Christ in Paducah KY. Jim Faughn serves as an elder and preacher for the congregation. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at:

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus” - Seeing Jesus in His Eyes

By Bryan McAlister

With each passing week, more and more faces become familiar, more names come with familiar recognition, and the routines and activities become, well...familiar. Through our experiences we learn vital life lessons, both positive and negative. Some of the lessons have served as reminders of what not to do. Most of the lessons learned have come from the school of life experiences, which prayerfully, if applied properly, will help cultivate wisdom. Please do not misunderstand, these words do not adopt the notion that all has been learned, but rather merely reflect a scratching of the surface.

Familiar, that is a pleasant thought to begin to come to one’s life, when everything has been new. Familiar, that is one aspect of Christian living, to which we all need to aspire. Paul spoke of familiarity in these terms, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that Day” (II Timothy 1:12). With Peter, his familiarity, was with the knowledge of seeing Jesus, “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy, inexpressible and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8). To the Hebrew writer, the familiarity of Jesus was seen in his awareness of a High Priest who can sympathize (Heb 4:14).

Familiarity is not always expressed in words, but also in terms of actions and lifestyle. There were “certain Greeks” who came for the Passover Feast in John 12. During this time, the message and news of one name Lazarus being brought back to life, was circulating through the multitudes. These Greeks wanted to meet Jesus, the one responsible for this miracle. Thus, they sought out those who were familiar with Jesus to ask, “We wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21). When by our actions and lives, people can identify that we know Jesus, we have shown the impact of a relationship with the Savior. By our lifestyle as Christians, others should see the familiar look of the Savior in us.

We have been so richly blessed. We have the identity of our Savior clearly described for us, in order that we might imitate Him (I Cor 11:1). We have the presence of the church that we might find encouragement and support from those of “like precious faith” (II Peter 1:1). We have a sympathizing High Priest (Heb 4:14), we have a “house not made with hands” (II Cor 5:1), we have a Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9). We have, we have, and we have. Of all that we possess, do we possess the familiarity of these blessings and promises in our lives? Do we trust their presence, their promise, and their power for us? In trusting these promises, and possessing all these blessings, are you living the familiar life of one redeemed by the blood of the lamb? Has seeing Jesus been a daily pursuit, or a casual glance? When you consider the opportunities to seek Jesus or seek fulfillment in the world, which one wins most often? In living your life for the sake of Jesus, others will see what His influence can do for you. Jesus gives the assurance, “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (John 12:26). But friend, take this note of caution and encouragement, do not wait or even insist that people ask you first about Jesus, before you tell them. If they do ask, consider it a blessing, for you have lived as you should live, it is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1). But do not insist they ask you about Jesus. Be the first to tell them, be the first to show them, be the first to make Jesus a familiar, and found for the sake of their soul!

- Bryan McAlister preaches for the Centerville church of Christ, in Centerville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:


By Patrick Hogan

The arrival of the first snow fall of the season (though it was only a little snow mixed with sleet) has produced a variety of reactions I folks. To some, snow produces negative thoughts. To some it brings very excited and positive thoughts (“No school!!).

A fairly heavy snow, pure and white, can hide an otherwise unsightly landscape, lending beauty to the less than lovely. Looking at a freshly fallen snow, I find it hard to imagine anything that might be whiter.

When we have the privilege of seeing a new snow we should be reminded of two passages of scripture. Psalm 51:7 records David’s request as he repented of his sin, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Isaiah 1:18 records God’s invitation and promise: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Thought your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.”

Regardless of how bad our sins may be, through Jesus we can experience forgiveness. We can “be whiter than snow.”

The next time you see a blanket of snow covering everything, let it be a reminder of this glorious thought.

- Patrick Hogan serves as a minister and elder of the Shady Acres church of Christ, in Sikeston, MO. He may be contacted through the church's website at

Monday, December 20, 2010


A single point: The Message depends on messengers.

I believe in writers and books and other such forms of communication but very few people come to God in Jesus Christ apart from actual contact with an actual person or persons in whom the message is embodied. Certainly that’s how it was in the early days when faith in Jesus raced through Palestine and out into the regions beyond (see Acts 11:19-20). It’s true that it was the Message about Jesus that people gladly and often gallantly embraced, being baptized into his name, but the Message didn’t come to them in letters—it came to them in messengers, in actual people; it was a people-embodied Message.

A fine man with no gospel to tell is sub-Christian. A fine man with merely moral advice and right values is sub-Christian. The gospel that raced through Palestine wasn’t just a lot of nice people saying nice things, you understand; it was nice people with a Message about Jesus!

The ancient Jewish council members had moral values as real as Peter’s and they could quote the Old Testament texts as well as the Galileans, but it was when Peter and John stood up, proclaiming an astonishing Message about the recently crucified, but now very much alive, Jesus of Nazareth, that the fire broke outl There they stood, formerly fear-filled and now defying the Supreme Court of the Israelite people. Two months earlier the apostolic group had scattered to save their lives, and now they thanked God for the privilege of suffering for the name of Jesus and telling the distressed jurists (Acts 4:19-20), “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!” --Tydings, Kemp church bulletin

- 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:

Do Yourself No Harm!

By Barry C. Poyner

More people in the US die from suicide than homicide. Approximately 30,000 people each year commit suicide compared to 16,000 that are murdered. You should be more afraid of yourself than an unnamed killer! Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24, especially young white males where suicide is seen as a solution to stress, confusion, and depression. In the last 20 years the largest increase in suicide rates occurred among Americans 65 and older, especially those divorced or widowed, with men accounting for 84% of all suicides in this category. We may be living longer, but not necessarily better. It takes a man, it takes a woman—and I’m persuaded God’s man and God’s woman—to be faithful until death, to trust God’s timing.

The Philippian jailer (Acts 16:23-34) could have ended his life, but was stopped by the Apostle Paul. “Do yourself no harm, we are all here.” And that’s true today, we’re here to help you. The Roman penalty for letting capital offense prisoners escape was death. The keeper was ready to take his life. Asleep earlier when Paul and Silas were singing and preaching, he asked what to do, and followed through. God can forgive you from attempting suicide and from other destructive sin patterns in your life.

Sadly many people are more afraid of living than they are dying! Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). He gave us the church as a support group and family to help us. He does not spare us from persecution, troubles, illnesses. He does give us a perspective that looks beyond the physical realm and a way to cope that the ungodly do not have.

There are 5 cases of suicide in the Bible. Each case is sad. King Saul at one time had everything, but he spared King Agag and left God’s plan. God determined to remove him as king. Rather than accepting his punishment, Saul clung to power. His vain attempts to retain power made him paranoid (distressed spirit), make rash promises, turn to attempted murder, and even to witchcraft. In the end, badly-wounded Saul asked his armor bearer to assist him in death. The armor bearer declined, so Saul fell on a sword, and the armor bearer died similarly (1 Chron. 10). He died without God and without hope.

Ahithophel was a counselor of King David, but sided with Absalom’s rebellion. He counseled Absalom to violate David’s concubines and demonstrate his power in a despicable act (2 Samuel 16:21-23). Ahithophel further advised an immediate pursuit of David. When he saw the strategic maneuver to capture David had been forfeited, he resigned himself to ultimate defeat. He calmly put his house in order and hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23). Suicide, like rebellion, is a selfish act. Ahithophel was a pragmatist, concerned only with his own career, and not God’s plans.

The kings of north Israel were ruthless idol worshipers. Zimri illustrates that those that live by the sword die by the sword. He had killed Elah the son of Baasha. Then as soon as he could, killed all the descendents of Baasha. Zimri was to rule North Israel for one week! His rule was rejected by the people, and Omri was authorized to apprehend him. When Zimri saw his doom was in sight, he burned his palace and himself (1 Kings 16: 15-20). He died without God and committed suicide to escape the judgment of man.

Judas is the 5th case of suicide. One of the 12 apostles, Judas served as treasurer. He was critical of ointment poured on Jesus, and his love for money led him to steal (John 12:4-6). This same love for money led him to betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16). Greed was his downfall. When he saw that Jesus was condemned, he became remorseful, recognized his money as blood money, threw it at the Jewish leaders, then hanged himself (Matt. 27:1-9; Acts 1:17-18). Judas had remorse, but it was a worldly despair. He was sorry for his betrayal, but did not turn back to God. Godly sorrow turns to repentance, not despair (2 Cor. 7:8-11).

The word “suicide” does not appear in the Bible. God’s value on life makes it unthinkable. It is forbidden under the commandment not to murder. Is it unforgivable? In these cases, it does seem so. One may have moments to repent after the act, and illness may impair judgment that God will overlook. But why take a risk and forfeit life to come? As Jesus resisted the temptation to hurl himself from the temple pinnacle, he answered, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matt. 4:5-7).

Some argue that Samson committed suicide in Judges 16:29-30. However, suicide is a selfish act. Samson died as a military hero having destroyed more in the end and is listed among the faithful (Heb. 11:32). Others have even suggested that Jesus committed suicide by knowingly going to the cross. Such is a misunderstanding. He heroically gave his life—willingly and sacrificially.

People may legitimately long for death and not be suicidal. Those to be punished may long for it (Rev. 9:6; Jer. 8:3). Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), Job (Job 3), and Jonah (4:8) longed for death when in dire situations. Simeon felt his life was complete and thought he could now die (Luke 2:29). Paul knew that to die was to gain (Phil. 1:20-23). But none of these godly people sought to end life.

Circumstances can put us in tailspins, and we may be tempted to sin by ending life. The jailer could have ended his life, but he heeded God’s word. Allow your sorrow to turn to repentance. Participate in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection to gain the ultimate victory. Do yourself no harm!

- Barry C. Poyner serves as an elder for the Church of Christ in Kirksville, MO. He may be contacted through their website,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

No Ordinary Shepherds

According to Alfred Edersheim, these men tended a special flock of sheep at ...

"Migdal Eder, the watch tower of the flock. For here was the station where shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrifices in the Temple...It seems of deepest significance, almost like the fulfillment of type, that those shepherds who first heard tidings of the Savior's birth, who listened to angels' praises, were watching flocks destined to be offered as sacrifice in the Temple...

"We can understand the wonderful impression made on those in the courts of the Temple, as, while they selected their sacrifices, the shepherds told the devout of the speedy fulfillment of all these types in what they had themselves seen...Thus the shepherds would be the most effectual heralds of the Messiah in the Temple, and both Simeon and Anna be prepared for the time when the infant Savior would be presented in the sanctuary" ( Sketches of Jewish Social Life, pgs. 80-81).

Along with the shepherds, another group of men brings the news of Jesus' birth, but in this instance, to the courts of Judea. These men, known as the Magi, are high-level dignitaries from another land.

Imagine the anticipation, not just of a birth, but eternity coming down into the world! (Our thanks to whoever sent this to me. I try to give credit, but the source got lost in the transfer by "copy and paste.")

- 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:

Holiday Temptation

The following was e-mailed to me from friends in Indiana. While it is humorous, as we face the temptation to overindulge over the holidays we should let it remind us that "your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6:19). As Christians, let us respect and care for these temples.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and populated the earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives. Then using God's great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Krispy Crème Donuts. And Satan said, "You want chocolate with that?" And Man said, "Yes!" and Woman said, "and as long as you're at it, add some sprinkles." And they gained ten pounds. And Satan smiled.

And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat and sugar from the cane and combined them. And woman went from size 6 to size 14. And God said, "Try my fresh green salad," and Satan presented Thousand-island Dressing, buttery croutons and garlic toast on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said, "I have sent you heart healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them." And Satan brought forth deep fried fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.

God then created a light, fluffy white cake, named it "Angel Food Cake," and said, "It is good." Satan then created chocolate cake and named it "Devil's Food."

God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald's and its 99-cent double cheeseburger, and then said, "You want fries with that?" And man replied, "Yes! and super-size them!" And Satan said, "It is good." And Man went into cardiac arrest.

God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. Then Satan created HMOs.

- 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:

Monday, December 6, 2010


By Joe Chesser

Practice makes perfect! That’s why professional sports teams have their training camps. That’s why gymnasts and ice skaters work on their routines over and over and over again. That’s why training seminars have role playing. That’s why musicians practice hours each day. To be the best you can be at any given endeavor requires lots and lots of practice. This also includes Christian living.

God expects us to practice our faith. There is no short cut or any other way to grow to Christian maturity. The danger of not putting into practice what we learn from Jesus is that we will not develop beyond the baby stage. That’s what the writer of Hebrews was concerned about (Hebrews 5:12-14). These people had been Christians long enough (some up to 30 years) for them to be teaching others. But instead, they still needed to be fed milk. The mature, he tells them, are capable of eating solid food and are constantly putting into practice what they are learning. Food and exercise. It’s not complicated, but it is necessary for becoming the best you can be as a Christian. Living for Christ should become the customary, routine, way of life. When you see a Christian who is weak or sickly, you can count on the source of their problem being connected somehow to what they are feeding on and/or how they are using what they have learned. So, it’s critical to routinely feed on the word of God and to routinely practice what you learn.

But don’t let the routine become the goal. That’s what the Pharisees did. They studied the word of God thoroughly. They knew it backwards and forwards. And they were extremely concerned about applying the word of God so precisely that their routines became their faith. How they developed, defined and defended their faith became, for them, more important that what God actually said (see Matthew 15:3-9). It got so bad that their routines, their traditions, boxed them in. They couldn’t do what God wanted them to do because their routines became their goal in life. What should have been a means to an end actually became the end itself. Because of that they actually ceased walking with God. Jesus called them hypocrites, blind guides, whitewashed tombs, snakes and vipers (Matthew 23)!! They had, over time, allowed the applications of the principles of God to supersede the word itself. They were no longer open to spiritual growth for themselves or for anyone else. Since they had it figured out, anyone who differed with them about their routines was wrong.

So, on the one hand we need to routinely put into practice what we learn from the word of God. Growing to spiritual maturity demands that. But on the other hand, we cannot allow how we practice God’s word to become more important than the word itself.

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Failed Resolutions

By Alan Smith

At the beginning of a New Year, a high school principal decided to post his teachers' New Year's resolutions on the bulletin board. As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining. "Why weren't my resolutions posted?" She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions. Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk.

As he read her resolutions he was astounded. This teacher's first resolution was not to let little things upset her in the New Year.

It has been said that "nothing is certain but death and taxes." Perhaps we should add one more thing to that list of certainties -- the breaking of New Year's resolutions! Looking back on 2008, you may be one of the fortunate ones who accomplished exactly what you hoped to accomplish during the year. But, if you're like most of us, you didn't read all the way through the Bible like you intended to, you quit smoking but only for a while then picked up the habit again, or you lost a few pounds only to put them back on again when your diet failed. After experiencing this failure year after year, a person tends to say to himself, "What's the use? Why even bother to try to make these changes?"

As an old Chinese proverb puts it, though, "Failure is not falling down. Failure is not getting back up." Or as the Japanese put it, "Fall down seven times, get up eight." If there are areas of your life that you've tried to improve and failed, let this this be the month that you try again. And if you fail this month, get up and try again next month. Learn from your mistakes and become stronger. God does not turn his back on the Christian who fails (if you question that, you need only look at the story of Peter's denial of Christ). However, He cannot help the Christian who refuses to try any longer.

"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hearts, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded....Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." (James 4:7-8,10)

If you have made a resolution to develop a habit that will bring you closer to God or a resolution to get rid of a habit that is pulling you away from God, may God bless you with the strength to accomplish your goal. And, if you should stumble on your journey, may He pick you up and dust you off so that you can continue on the long journey of becoming like Christ.

Have a great day!

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the White House church of Christ in White House, TN, may be contacted at