Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Right Thing

By Greg Tidwell

“As American Express Loses Its President, His Kids Gain a Dad,” noted a November 22 (1996) headline in Wall Street Journal.

At 49, Jeffery E. Stiefler had everything the corporate fast-track could offer; power, a salary of more than $4 million and commensurate benefits. Stiefler, however, stunned the business world by walking away from corporate success to spend time with his family.

Stiefler explained his new focus as “growing up.” Gaining maturity, he found life was more than money or power. This change of perspective highlights real value in life, not short-term priorities of corporate success.

“I tended to approach life as a series of two-minute drills,” Stiefler explained, “but I came to realize that approach doesn’t work if you plan to play for the whole game.”

From this dramatic transformation, three points challenge our own assessment of life.

Values Set Agendas. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21). What makes life worth living; who and what do you truly love? The answers to these questions set the slate for any understanding of life’s direction and meaning.

Priorities Control Time. “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). How we use our time speaks volumes about our basic priorities. Scheduling problems are often problems of the heart.

Action is Essential. While the business world was not surprised that Stiefler felt conflict between his work and his family, many were shocked that he did something about the situation. “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).

Each of us could benefit by candidly looking at our time, commitments, understanding our priorities and embracing concrete action to bring our lives more fully into alignment with the will of God.

- Greg Tidwell; 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:

The Empty Nest

By Cecil May III

A robin built a nest and laid some eggs in our willow tree. Her nest was low to the ground which made it very convenient for us to observe. In fact, we made a picture every day of the progress of the hatching and growth of her chicks. We started with pictures of eggs. We documented the birds hatching. We saw them grow from ugly, naked, pink creatures into fullfeathered birds that filled up the nest.

This morning I went out to take my bird picture of the day. All I found was an empty nest. Although I knew this day was coming, somehow I was surprised when it actually occurred. I was also sad, an emotion that I had not anticipated at all.

Drs. Cloud and Townsend have a chapter on parenting in their book, God Will Make a Way: What to do when you don’t know what to do. They note that the parent/child relationship is unique in that every other relationship (marriage, friends, etc.) the goal is to deepen the relationship connection, while in this one relationship the goal is separation. This is the God-ordained path for the parent/child relationship. Genesis 1:26 presents the “leave and cleave” law of the parental experience.

Hear Drs. Cloud and Townsend on the subject:

Some parents have a very hard time with this, because they do not want to experience the pain of their child’s leaving them and they unknowingly resist helping their kids grow up so that they will always be dependent and nearby. Some parents blame their child, causing him or her to feel guilty and conflicted about leaving the nest. Others withdraw emotionally, so as not to feel the pain, which then communicates to the child that he or she is hurting them by following God’s path. We hope that you can accept the reality of your children’s goals and destiny, feel all the love and sadness you have for each one, and help each one leave successfully and well, with all your support and help.

I felt sorrow when I discovered that empty nest this morning. I looked around for young birds on the ground and saw nothing. I guess they are flying high somewhere, exploring the sky and the tops of the trees.

- Cecil May III; via The Family Friend, a monthly newsletter published by the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY. It is an excellent resource for articles relating to the family. To learn more consult the congregation's website:

Ten Things To Do With Your Nose When You're Bored ...

10. Look down it at somebody (Pride)
9. Poke it into someone else’s business (Strife/Dissension)
8. Snoop around with it (Nosey/Gossip)
7. Get it out of joint (Anger)\
6. Cut it off to spite your face (Bitterness)
5. Pay through it (Materialism)
4. Find something right under it (Love/Salvation)
3. See past it (Eternity/Hope)
2. Keep it clean (Humility/Obedience)
1. Get it stuck in a book (The Bible)

-Cleve Bishop, 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:

Challenges Facing A Retired Couple

By Norman and Ann Gipson

If things proceed as currently planned, we will both be completely retired within the next two months. Ann spent more than forty years as a nurse before health problems sent her into retirement. Norman just celebrated his 73rd birthday and within the next few weeks will complete 51 continuous years of service on ministerial staffs of several churches in various capacities.

Are we looking forward to it? Yes and no. We are faced with new challenges, new opportunities, and new fears. For us, it means a change of residence, a change of schedule, and a long walk into the unknown. In this article, we want to identify some of the challenges we face. Perhaps some of our readers have faced some of the same challenges and met them successfully. If so, we will appreciate you input. As we see it now, our challenges include:

Learning how to live on less income. When Norman went into partial retirement a few years ago, he received a note from our friend, Dale Smith. Dale said, "Retirement is great if you don't starve." Many retired people are trying to make it on social security alone, which was never intended to supply all of our economic needs. According to the US Census Bureau 12.3% of the population lives below the poverty level. While we don't expect to live below the poverty level, we can expect our wallets to be thinner.

Boredom. An internet blogger wrote, "There are 3 things you can't escape in life: 1) death 2) taxes 3) boredom in marriage." The temptation to settle into long established routines increases with retirement. While one can find books, and internet suggestions with titles like "Keeping Marriage Alive After Fifty" we're still looking for the one titled "Keeping Marriage Alive After Seventy." It's tempting to think there are no new challenges, no new goals, no new adventures to be experienced. When individuals stop growing, so do their relationships. Instead of being the golden years, they become frustrating years.

Life Changes. Joanne Austin of Washington State University Cooperative Extension noted, "Never before have so many couples been married long enough to experience such a variety of life-changes that occur in the later stages of marriage." Amazingly, people seem to be the most resistant to change at this age. Why do we need Blackberries? No, we're not talking about the fruit that grows on a prickly vine? We think we can survive just fine without learning how to text. Why do we keep thinking that everything new is better? We reluctantly gave up the car we've driven for the last seven years (after somebody ran into it). Now we've got a rougher riding, less comfortable automobile. Don't tell us that all change is good. But it also makes us wonder just when will we have to give up driving. We're already faced with giving up home ownership, and living in smaller quarters. It's not that we have a right to all these things, but these changes require adjustments, and it's a challenge. We've also got to figure out how we adjust to the change of spending a lot more time together.

Health Concerns. In our case it means changing physicians, health care providers and supplementary insurance. All that's going to cost more even as income goes down. On top of that our bodies continually remind us that we are in a state of slow physical decline. We tire easily, and things like respiratory infections seem to have a lengthier recovery time.

Changes in Our Physical Features. Long ago we learned an old folks' song that includes the following lyrics:

My face is a well-written page, Maggie,
As spray by the white breakers flung,
But to me, you're as fair as you were, Maggie
When you and I were young.

That's somewhere between a lie and self-delusion. One pundit put it this way, "At my age, a mirror is a lethal weapon." I (Norman) am not the man that Ann married. While I never was a candidate for a leading role in movies, there was a time when I had smoother skin, more hair, and fewer pounds. I (Ann) am not the woman Norman married. I was a lot thinner, no gray hair and have the need for a lot more Mary Kay creams to keep my skin smooth and not wrinkled. (In my case, that is called vanity). I keep telling myself that I just want to stay attractive for the wonderful man I married. Our challenge is to learn how to accept and even admire these changing physical characteristics.

Maintaining our Spiritual Growth. It's easy to become smug, and think you've gained all the spiritual knowledge and achieved all the spiritual formation you can reasonably accept to accomplish in this life. Our challenge is to remain in a growth mode until our eyes close in death. As long as we're together we have the opportunity to reinforce our mutual growth as God's children. As Paul said, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16).

We're not sure how we're going to adjust to these challenges. We can't anticipate what they'll all be. Perhaps we'll build bridges that we never have to cross. Perhaps we'll need someone to throw us a lifeline when the bridges collapse. We don't know. What we do know is that we have each other and this moment in time, and we're going to hold on to each other. If we'll just be willing to let God work, things will turn out well for us in the end. You might want to check back with us in a few years, if we're still kicking, to see how well we're doing.

- Norman and Ann Gipson; via The Family Friend, a monthly newsletter published by the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY. It is an excellent resource for articles relating to the family. To learn more consult the congregation's website:

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Old Paths

By Rick Woodall

While traveling back to West Virginia , I was filled with emotion and devotion to spend my Thursday afternoon and Friday morning with a full schedule. The fall foliage was beautiful. When one is growing up there is a lot that you take for granted. I cannot begin to tell you how beautiful the Appalachian Plato is. Once again on my 55th birthday I traveled the back roads that were once just a way to get somewhere. As many of you know, I also enjoy the back roads here in Indiana. When one takes the time to get off the beaten path you discover the old paths. On these old paths are many blessings. It might be that you find yourself stepping inside an old stone Iron furnace constructed at the turn of the century. You just might run into an old fishing hole under a beautiful arched railroad crossing that looks like something out of a story book. It could be that the mountain splendor takes your mind away to a time when life was not as nerve-racking. Of all the music that I have ever listened to, there is nothing better than hearing the crystal clear water rolling over the rocks in a mountain stream. I stood there and closed my eyes and listened.

Since I had such a busy schedule the next 3 days, it was good to take a moment to reflect back and see first hand that time rolls on while many things stay the same. There were some changes. The things that were the same made the moment worthwhile.

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” –Jeremiah 6:16.

Some say you can’t go back. In a sense you can’t. In another way you can. In the same way that I traveled the old paths that brought me back to my humble roots, we need to remember where we came from spiritually.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God: once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10).

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one bodey to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:13-17).

Could it be that it’s time to come home to Jesus? He is on the old path.

- Rick Woodall is the minister for the Yorktown Road church of Christ in Logansport Indiana. His weekly devotional message, Life Thoughts, can be found through this address:

What Does the Bible Alone Produce?

By David Ray Fanning I

If you had the Bible, but added the Catholic tradition, what would you produce?
– A Catholic. If you had the Bible, but added John Calvin’s tradition, what would you produce?
– A Presbyterian. If you had the Bible, but added the Hiscox’s Baptist Manual, what would you produce?
– A Baptist. If you had the Bible, but added the Methodist Book of Discipline, what would you produce?
– A Methodist.

HOWEVER, if you had the Bible and did not add any tradition of men to it, what would you produce?
– A Christian/saved believer (Acts 2:38, 41, 44-47; I Peter 4:16).

The Bible teaches that the tradition of men:
1.) Makes your worship vain/empty/useless;
2.) lays aside the commandment of God;
3.) rejects the commandment of God;
4.) makes the word of God of no effect and
5.) is not according to Christ, but instead takes you away from Christ (Mark 7:5-13; Gal 1:13-14; Colossians 2:8). The only tradition to which you are to cling is that which has been handed down through the word of God, namely, the doctrine of Christ, contained in the New Testament (I Corinthians 11:2; II Thessalonians 2:15; II John 9-11).

The word of God (no additional tradition, creed, doctrine, revelation, catechism, etc.) is sufficient to save you and add you to the one true church for which Christ shed His blood and established (Romans 1:16;
II Timothy 3:15-17; James 1:21; Matthew 16:18-19; Acts 20:28). I plead with you to become a Christian only and an added member of the body/church of Christ. You will not be able to obtain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” until you reject all traditions/Churches of men (Romans 16:16; Ephesians 4:1-6; 1:22-23)!

Take courage!

- David Fanning preaches for the Petersburg church of Christ in Petersburg, TN and, along with Kevin Pendergrass edit the website Defending the Faith, at David may be contacted at

I Hope You Are Drinking From Your Saucer Too

I've never made a fortune, and it's probably too late now.
But I don't worry about that much-I'm happy anyhow.
And as I go along life's way, I'm reaping better than I sowed.
I'm drinking from my saucer, 'cause my cup has overflowed.

Haven't got a lot of riches, and sometimes the going gets tough,
But I've got loving ones all around me, and that makes me rich enough.
I thank God for his blessings, and the mercies He's bestowed.
I'm drinking from my saucer, 'cause my cup has overflowed.

I remember times when things went wrong,
My faith wore somewhat thin,
But all at once the dark clouds broke,
And the sun peeped through again.

So, Lord, help me not to gripe
About the tough rows I have hoed.
I'm drinking from my saucer,
'Cause my cup has overflowed.

If God gives me strength and courage
When the way grows steep and rough,
I'll not ask for other blessings,
I'm already blest enough.

And may I never be too busy
To help others bear their loads.
Then I'll keep drinking from my saucer
'Cause my cup has overflowed.

- From the Internet; 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:

Why Are We Doing This?

By Phil Sanders

In Chicago there is an Oldsmobile dealership which had the practice every Monday morning of gathering all its employees in the shop area at 7 A.M. More than sixty employees worked there, and they would form a semi-circle. As part of the emphasis of the week's work, the owner would walk around the circle and ask each person two questions: "Who do you know who needs a car?" and "How can we sell more Oldsmobiles?" Each employee had to come up with two answers, regardless of how ridiculous the answer may have sounded. The owner did this to get his employees to focus on the business of the dealership.

Our business is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in fulfillment of the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). We might ask the questions, "Who do you know who needs the gospel?" and "How can we tell more people about Jesus Christ?" Why should we do that?

First, because people matter to God. God so loved the world, every man and woman, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. If people matter to God, they also matter to us. The life of Jesus shouts that every person matters. He ate with sinners and with Pharisees. He talked to Samaritans and had time for a thief on the cross. He took time for children, blind men, lepers, and tax collectors. He realized every person was made in the image of God. He knew what the world was like but loved us anyway (Tit. 3:3-7).

Second, because God matters to us. When we consider how much God loves us, we cannot ever be apathetic about the Father or the Son. The world may live as if God doesn’t matter (Mt. 24:37-39), but the love of Christ constrains us to live for Him (2 Cor. 5:14-15). Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all. We are crucified with Christ, and He lives in us by faith (Gal. 2:20).

Third, because people are lost in sin. Those who do not believe and those who do not obey the gospel will be lost (John 8:24; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). We do not wish anyone to be lost, but that everyone love and believe in the Lord Jesus. We want everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Every person has sinned (Rom. 3:23) and needs to recognize their sin.

Fourth, because people need Jesus Christ. People need the love, the moral example, the forgiving spirit, the honesty, and the courage of Jesus Christ. They need his comfort (Mt. 11:28-30), their Savior (Jn. 1:29), and their Lord (Acts 3:22-23). People have a hole in their hearts and souls that only Christ can fill. He is the great source of faith, hope and love.

Why are we preaching Christ? Because people matter to God, God matters to us, people are lost in sin, and people desperately need Christ. Please help us to continue taking this message to America and the world.

- Phil Sanders, along with Mac Lyons, speaks on the popular and long-running television ministry, In Search of the Lord's Way. Phil may be contacted at

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nobodys Going Tell Me What To Do

By Jimmie Z. Gribble

There’s a song out that has the phrase “Nobody’s going tell me what to do.” This is a sentiment that many people have. It used to be that bosses could tell their employees what to do, but now, many employees use the above phrase.

There are many people so inclined when it comes to the word of God. They say, “nobody’s going to tell them what to do.” Yet, God does tell people what to do, but they are not forced to do what God tells them; they have a choice. When we look at God’s word we see both those that did what God said and those that had the idea that “nobody’s going to tell them what to do.” Naaman did both, 2 Kings 5.

At first, Naaman had the idea that what the man of God told him to do to be healed of leprosy wasn’t good enough, so he was not going to have some one tell him what to do that he did like. But then, having a change of heart and mind, he did what the man of God told him and he was healed. The Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day had the idea that “nobody’s going to tell them what to do.” They rejected Jesus and His word again and again. The Jews of Paul’s day, some of them at least, had this same thought, causing Paul on one occasion to say that he would go to some one else and preach the word. Luke, the beloved physician, wrote, “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:45-47).

Beloved, let us be as James wrote. He wrote, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (James 1:21-25).

Beloved, listen to all of God's word, God will do thee good!

- Jimmie Z. Gribble; 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:

An Important Question

By Jim Faughn

The most important question that any person can ask himself or herself can actually be worded in a number of ways. Among those ways are:
Am I truly a Christian?
Am I saved?
Am I certain that I will spend eternity in heaven?

Absolutely nothing is more important than for each individual to be able to give a positive response to life’s most important question(s).

However, recent events in my life have caused me to wonder if there is another question that, while not the most important question, sure has become important to me. Maybe it will give you some “food for thought” as well.

The question has nothing to do with popularity, achievements, wealth, or any number of other things that are considered to be important by so many people. When you reach a point in your life when none of those things matter and none of them can help you, you may ask yourself (as I have done), “Have I made a difference?”

Interestingly, our Lord never told His followers, “Spend a lot of effort and come up with some exciting way to make sure you add spice to life.” Instead, He simply said, “You are the salt of the earth…” (Matt. 5:13). In our society, we take salt for granted, but we would miss it if it were not available. Would anybody miss you if you were not around? Neither did our Lord say, “The only way you can make a difference is to light up the sky with fireworks and neon signs.” Rather, He compared each of His followers to one single lamp or candle (cf. Matt. 5:15) that quietly and steadily does what it is designed to do. Its sphere of influence may not be huge, but it illuminates its immediate environment. I may not be able to do much to affect things on a global scale, but I can, as the old saying goes, “brighten the corner where I am.”

Many of us know, or know about, people who seemingly set out to make a huge difference and/or make a name for themselves. It is often the case that they make more of a mess than a difference.

The bottom line is that each true follower of God can do two things. He or she can give a positive answer to life’s most important question(s). He or she can also rest in this wonderful promise: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them” (Rev. 14:13).

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

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

Extra Quotes

Efficiency means getting the job done right.

Effectiveness means getting the right job done.

Excellence means getting the right job done right.

- via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL. You may visit their website at

“Let Us have faith that right makes might: and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” (Abraham Lincoln)

“God is the silent partner in all great enterprises.” (Abraham Lincoln)

HAPPINESS doesn’t depend on what happens outside of you, but what happens inside of you; it is measured by the spirit in which you meet the problems of life.” --Trib-Bits, Decatur Tribune

Remember the good old day when there were no deductions from man’s pay until he got home?

As Will Rogers wisely said: “Ignorance ain’t our problem. It’s what we ‘know’ that ain’t true.”

What you do not start you will not have to stop.

If you don’t strike the match, you won’t have to put out the fire. If you don’t commit the sin, you won’t have to suffer the consequences.

“All of the flowers of all of the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”

- 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:

“The best way to cheer yourself is to cheer someone else up.” Mark Twain

- via The Mathis Messenger, the weekly bulletin of the Mathis church of Christ, Mathis, TX; website: e-mail:

When Sin Traps You

By John Telgren

A few years ago, we had a garden in the back yard that served as some little critter's personal buffet. He couldn't just take one whole tomato or ear of corn or some other vegetable or fruit for himself and leave the rest alone. No, he had to take a bite out of everything. In frustration, we went down and got a trap and left it in the garden. We discovered that it was partners in crime had done the deed. Over the next couple days, we caught both a groundhog and a possum. The traps were humane traps that were impossible for them to get out of. There was no hope. Once they went into the trap and the door closed, they were stuck. Their only hope was for someone to free them. We took them across the river away from town and freed them there. Stacey wanted to make sure it was at a place where they could live comfortably.

This is how it is with sin. Once we sin, there is no way humanly possible to escape it. It is like a trap. Once it has you, you are trapped. Notice what Jesus said.

"Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin' " (Jn 8:34).

Sin is like a trap. Once it has you, you become a sinner and there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot "un-sin." You become tainted, trapped, enslaved. It simply is not humanly possible yourself from slavery to sin. However, it is divinely possible for you to be freed from sin. Notice what Jesus also says,

"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (Jn 8:36).

The only way to be free indeed, or truly free, is for Jesus himself to free you. Jesus died on the cross for your sins offering forgiveness (Eph 1:7). In dying on the cross, he opened the door so that you can escape and be free from sin.

How do you go through the open door to be free? Keeping in mind that Jesus is the door (Jn 10:9), here is what we do. We accept and confess our faith in Jesus as our risen Lord (Rom 10:9), and we repent and are baptized for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). When we are baptized into the water, we are baptized into the death of Christ and have been raised with him to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-5). The Bible says that when this happens, "our old self was crucified with Him in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin" (Rom 6:6).

So, when we submit ourselves to Christ as our Lord and master, we go through the door he opened for us at the cross. We become free from sin and now belong to him.

"But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life" (Rom 6:22).

- John Telgren preachers for the Leavenworth church of Christ in Leavenworth, KS. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

“It’s Later Than It’s Ever Been Before!”

By Joe Chesser

Do you have one of those clocks that chimes a tune at the top of every hour? Does it also count the hours? I heard about a couple that had an old grandfather clock that did both. One night as the couple slept, the clock malfunctioned and instead of striking twelve times at midnight, it struck thirteen times. In his subconscious sleep, the husband still heard the thirteen “bongs.” He immediately sat up and, with panic on his face, said to his wife, “Honey, wake up! It’s later that it’s ever been before!”

The fact is, each tick of the clock takes us closer to the Lord’s return than ever before. Despite all the hubbub recently about the world coming to an end on a specific date, and despite the fact that no one knows but God when that day or hour may be (Matthew 24:36), the truth is that it could be at any time. As Jack Graham recently wrote, “THE END IS NEAR isn’t just a sign hanging on someone’s neck, but it’s a present reality for all of us living in the last days. There is no sign that awaits fulfillment. There is no prophetic message that has yet been untold and unfulfilled before the return of Christ. It could happen any time!”

Christians in the first century lived with that expectation. Properly understood, it affected the way they lived and gave them hope. To Titus Paul wrote that God’s grace taught people to say “NO” to ungodly living and “YES” to righteous living in this present age, “while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). There is no need for Christians to live in panic. There is need, though, for godly living every day and for a healthy expectation of the Lord’s second coming and the end of time. It helps us keep our value system focused on God and not on this world (Colossians 3:1-17). Knowing the Lord could come at any moment should motivate us to work faithfully in His vineyard, bearing fruit for His glory (Matthew 25:14-30). It should motivate us to be drawn closer to Him day by day and to be prepared for His return no matter when that happens (Matthew 25:1-13). It should create within us a deep appreciation for God’s mercy, allowing us time to be prepared (2 Peter 3:8-11). Like the Christians in the first century, we should develop a longing for His quick return (Revelation 22:20).

Does the thought of the second coming of Jesus fill you with hope or with fear? Does it cause you to worry or to smile? Would you rather it happen right now or wait until later? Do you try to ignore it or do you think about it often?

Whether we have a grandfather clock or not, we should awake every morning knowing that it’s later than it’s ever been before. There’s no need for panic, but there is need for preparation and joyful expectation.

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

The Doctrine of Chance

By Col. Arial Bragg (1772-1855)

Why fancy this, so strange a world,
That all by chance is round us hurl'd;
No argument man can advance,
Can ever prove all came by chance.

The forest trees that tower high,
And lo the star, the spangled sky;
The spendid sun all glorious shine,
Declare all nature's work divine!

The order of the universe,
Directs all nature in its course;
She guides the stars that round us burn,
The moon that changes in her turn.

Nothing takes place without a cause,
And all moves on by nature's laws;
The elements that strive and rend,
In blackness all their fury spend.

In anger man may raise his sword,
In anger shed his neighbor's blood;
Hindo's in poison dip their lance,
Can never prove all came by chance.

The sun, nor moon for ages past,
Have never varied from thier place;
From lofty mountains rivers flow,
Winding their way to plains below.

The ebb and flowing of the tide.
By man can never be denied;
The bounding of the seas and flood,
Declares there is all nature's God.

All flesh as grass before him stand,
All nature moves at his command
Whose presence fills immensity,
To whom all mortals bend the knee.

- Memoirs of Col. Arial Bragg, Written by Himself, George W. Stacy Printers, 1846, p. 54, 55.

The Lure of the Perfect

By Leslie G. Thomas

One of the most beautiful and perfect things in the world is a red rose. Yet that rose was perfected from the wild rose that grows by our roadside. Some lover of flowers had a vision, an ideal and our American Beauty rose is the result. In a little book on the growing of roses a horticulturist says, “Before you can have beautiful roses on your lawn or in your greenhouse, you must have beautiful roses in your mind.” Exactly! And that is true of other things, hence Christ said: “Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48).

It is profoundly true, as Phillips Brooks says, that “we are haunted by an ideal life. It is in our blood and never will be still.” Each person has an ideal, a vision splendid, and he also has an intended development to which he can add or subtract according to his desires. The controlling power of life comes from within. It is within the citadel of our own being that we find the powers that make our happiness and usefulness.

But to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is one of the thoughts we shy away from. We think it is one of those transcendent calls of Christ which are really too far above ordinary people. The word “perfect” frightens us, and we feel that we are not capable of translating it into our life and conduct. Maybe at no point will we ever fully attain and be satisfied with our efforts. Our reach is nearly always greater than our grasp. There is continually fresh light flowing from the life of Christ to inspire us and make us dissatisfied with our efforts in our upward reach toward the more perfect life. But Christ never demanded the impossible from anyone.

In what respect are we commanded to aim at the perfection of our God? It isn’t in power or knowledge. The range of His omnipotence and His omniscience must forever be beyond our comprehension. It is, then, the character of God which Jesus commands us to emulate. God is perfect as a Father, perfect in His patient, merciful love. He will accept failures which a human master would only reject for He knows when a man’s best efforts have been put into them. Jesus said it is possible for us to be like this.

It requires no effort or sacrifice on our part to love those who love us. But Jesus asks, by God’s help, for us to seek that love by which we will love, not only those who have no love for us, but those who actually hate us. He asks this and expects it from us. This will be possible for us if we open our whole being to the light of God’s word as a rose opens itself to the warm rays of the golden sun.

I saw the roses one by one
Unfold their petals to the sun:
I asked what made their tints so bright.
They answered, “Looking toward the light.”

When we win this wide gracious love, then in this respect we have won perfection. The change and transforma-tion in our life will be just as great and just as noticeable as the difference between a wild rose and our American Beauty, which is fit for the palace of a king. We can do no more , we can reach no higher, for in this we are “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.”

-Mrs. Leslie G. Thomas, 161 Church, Centralia , IL; 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:

No Labor’s Lost

By J. Randal Matheny © 2011

No labor’s lost when Kingdom work is done,
Ere comes the night, to finish what He’d begun.
What joy to know that naught will come to waste!
Such light gives purpose to a servant’s haste.
Though at the end a work of straw be burned,
At judgment day no earnest worker’s spurned.
To hands, then, to hands! with faith and zeal,
God’s promise give your courage steel.

[This poem hearkens back to an olde style, with terms like “ere” and “naught,” especially, as well as the the double use of the subjunctive in lines 5 and 8, and the standard pentameter and close rhyme.
The truths keep God’s worker at the task, otherwise, what a useless drudgery would be the mission of the Realm.]

- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He
may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this
material, please include the following:
Copyright (c) 2010 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or

Things Learned From a Snowman

By Alan Smith

I found the following list at (author unknown):
It's over 90 degrees here in NC today, but I felt cooler just reading this list!

~ It's okay if you're a little bottom heavy.

~ Hold your ground, even when the heat is on.

~ Wearing white is always appropriate.

~ Winter is the best of the four seasons.

~ It takes a few extra rolls to make a good midsection.

~ There's nothing better than a foul weather friend.

~ The key to life is to be a jolly, happy soul.

~ We're all made up of mostly water.

~ You know you've made it when they write a song about you.

~ Accessorize! Accessorize! Accessorize!

~ Don't get too much sun.

~ It's embarrassing when you can't look down and see your feet.

~ It's fun to hang out in your front yard.

~ Always put your best foot forward.

~ There's no stopping you once you're on a roll.

There's actually a few good pieces of advice in there, from a biblical standpoint. I especially like the second item on the list: "Hold your ground, even when the heat is on."

That could be used as a summary statement for Peter's first epistle, which was written to Christians who were suffering persecution as a result of their faith. Here is some of what Peter wrote to encourage them:

"Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter....Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator." (I Peter 4:16,19).

I urge you today to commit yourself to doing good no matter what the opposition may be. And next time you see a snowman, be reminded of this truth: "Hold your ground, even when the heat is on."

- 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