Join us on Facebook

Join Us on ...

Monday, January 28, 2013

What Is A Cappella Music?

By Wayne Jackson
     One of our readers recently wrote asking that we explain what is meant when it is stated that churches of Christ use only a cappella music. This is an excellent question and we are happy to respond.
     The phrase a cappella derives from a Latin expression which, by way of Italian, means “in the style of the church,” or “as is done in the church.” It reflects the historical reality that instrumental music in Christian worship was not practiced in the Christian movement for many centuries, and that the rather late introduction of it constitutes an innovation void of New Testament authority.
     Professor Everett Ferguson, one of the premier historians of church history alive today, has noted that the non-use of the instrument in worship was the “majority tradition of Christian history” until “comparatively recent times” (83).
     Between 1708-22, Joseph Bingham, an Anglican cleric, produced his magnificent ten volume work titled, The Antiquities of the Christian Church, a prodigious effort that required 20 years in composition. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church depicts this work as that which “has not been superseded” (Cross, 173). Regarding the use of instrumental music in church worship, the celebrated English scholar wrote:

Music in churches is as ancient as the apostles, but instrumental music not so: for it is now generally agreed by learned men, that the use of organs came into the church since the time of Thomas Aquinas, anno 1250. For he in his Sums has these words, “Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to judaize” (I.315).
He then catalogs considerable testimony from ancient writers of the post-apostolic age to sustain the point.
     There is scarcely any controversy regarding this historical matter. In their massive, twelve-volume Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (1876), John McClintock and James Strong (denominational scholars) noted:
The Greeks as well as the Jews were wont to use instruments as accompaniments in their sacred songs. The converts to Christianity accordingly must have been familiar with this mode of singing; yet it is generally believed that the primitive Christians failed to adopt the use of instrumental music in their religious worship.
These scholars further noted that: “The general introduction of instrumental music can certainly not be assigned to a date earlier than the 5th and 6th centuries [A.D.]” (VI.759). They also observed that the early reformers, e.g., Martin Luther, and also Calvin and Knox (Presbyterians), protested against the use of instruments. The same could be said of Clarke (Methodist) and Spurgeon (Baptist). The men were the leaders of their respective movements.
    In my library I have a volume titled Instrumental Music in Public Worship. It was written by John L. Girardeau, a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian institution). The book was published first in 1888. This little volume of 208 pages was delivered initially as a series of lectures that had been requested by some of the seminary students.
    A dear lady who heard one of Girardeau’s lectures offered to have them published at her expense so that the evidence might stand as a “testimony to the truth.”
    Girardeau argued : “A divine warrant is necessary for every element of doctrine, government and worship in the church; that is, whatsoever in these spheres is not commanded in the Scriptures, either expressly or by good and necessary consequence from their statements is forbidden” (9; emp. original).
     The professor contended that the evidence shows that instrumental music was not commonly used in churches “until the thirteenth century” (156).
     In 1965 James W. McKinnon prepared a dissertation at Columbia University on “The Church Fathers and Musical Instruments.” In this exhaustive document, McKinnon contended that “early Christian music was vocal” and there was a "patristic [the “church fathers”] polemic against instruments" (1-2; quoted in Bales, 351-352).
     The truth is there is no authority in the New Testament for the use of instrumental music in Christian worship — neither command, precedent, nor necessary implication. This is so elementary that it is like rehearsing one’s ABCs all over again.
     In view of this it is both shocking and disheartening that so many who profess an allegiance to Jesus Christ, and his New Testament revelation, have incorporated the use of mechanical instruments into their worship. As Christ once said of his contemporaries: These people honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men (Matthew 15:8-9).

- Wayne Jackson; via the Nile Street Notes, the weekly bulletin of the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL; R. W. McAlister preaches for the congregation and may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/


Three Wooden Crosses

By Tim Childs

   Decades ago there were three large wooden crosses set up along the highway in various locations across the South.  For years now, these have served to remind travellers on their journey of God’s indescribable gift of a Savior so desperately needed to deliver us from our sins, (Matthew 1:21).
   Within three miles of this writer stands three wooden crosses. However, with the passing of time the view has become almost completely obstructed by the overgrowth of trees and bushes. Today very few make eye contact with these crosses and few know where they are located.
   “Out of sight - out of mind” is a familiar saying that carries the idea that something is easily forgotten or dismissed as unimportant if it is not in our direct view. Could God’s redeemed ever forget or dismiss the cross as being unimportant, outdated, or irrelevant in our lives, and for our time?
   So many worldly things compete for our attention and devotion. If we lose sight of the most valuable things (those which are spiritual and pertain to the kingdom of heaven), we will be shut out when Jesus comes. In Luke 14:15-24 Jesus taught and warned of this in his parable of the great supper.  Still today, most people don’t make time for God.  People are still honing their excuse-making skills. Through the centuries Jesus’ words still ring “That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (vs. 24).  Whatever worldly things that crop up to divert our attention from Christ, the cross, and his subsequent demands on our lives must be cleared away. It’s an on-going process.
   In the original language, the word translated “looking” in Hebrews 12:2 is defined by Thayer as “to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something.” In the context it has reference to Christ and his cross. Down the road, the cross, the greatest symbol of love, mercy and grace to ever be bestowed upon mankind is covered over by the symbol of neglect and indifference. Is the cross clearly in view each day as we make our pilgrimage?

- Tim Childs preaches for the Hillcrest Church of Christ in Baldwyn, MS.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.thelordsway.com/hillcrestms



To My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Who Are Grieving . . . and Those Who Love Them

By Lance Cordle
     Another year’s passing has involved the death of people we dearly love. The season recognized by our culture as the “holidays” and a time of joy and laughter will be difficult because of the death of someone we love. I want you to be able to live in this time, as you do in other times of the year—with information that will help you to live a life of meaning and purpose. With that goal in mind, please consider the following words.
     To my brothers and sisters who are grieving:
¨Trust—God has never promised that we would not have pain. We may be angry with him; we may even doubt things about him, but eventually we will have to trust—let that trust be in God (Proverbs 3:5, 6). Talk to him about your feelings — the negative ones (disappointment, sadness, and yes, anger). Also, trust someone who is a proven friend (Proverbs 17:17) and talk to them as well. ¨Grieve—The pain you feel as a result of loss is as inevitable (and as real) as the bruises and lacerations suffered in a bodily injury. You would not quickly recover from a serious bodily injury, nor would we expect you to. Cry when and where you must, without embarrassment. The tears you shed and the sighs you heave are as natural as blood from a physical wound. We would expect changes in you as a result of such an injury, therefore we will not expect you to be the same after a severe wound to your heart. Try to resist the urge to physically medicate — It only puts off the inevitable facing of reality. (By the way, you are NOT going crazy.) ¨Live—Adjustments will have to be made in a life that was once intertwined with another. Time will be needed to make those adjustments, but time itself will not make them, nor will it heal (as so many mistakenly believe and say). When living, do things at your pace, and at the depth of involvement you can stand, not at the expectations of other people. Appreciate the life and love of the person you are mourning, but seek to come to terms with the reality of their death.
     To those who love someone who is grieving:
¨Be Aware—If you are a spouse or best friend of the one grieving, you hold one of the keys to their adjustment—you can (and will) help or hinder. You must be prepared to “walk” beside them (mostly quietly) as they make the journey. Pray to God and seek good information for your task. ¨Be There—Be helpful, but don’t hover; encourage, but don’t force. Your presence can be made known by cards and notes as well. Be ready to listen, but don’t talk too soon or too much (Job 2:13; 16:2).
- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com


Monday, January 21, 2013

Grief WORK!

By Kevin Williams
     Grieving is not an event but a process. Too many times we might like to think that it is a single event in life: we have a loss, we grieve, and we get over it. However, when we experience the loss of one near to us there is much more that is involved. Note this: WE DO NOT GET “OVER” THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE, WE LEARN HOW TO ACCEPT THE LOSS AND LIVE WITHOUT THEM! If each of us could only realize and accept this principle, then we would better handle our grief, we would better help others who grieve, and we would know what to expect when we experience future losses.
     This “process” of grief is, many times, some of the most difficult work that any of us will ever do, and, rightfully so. We have much invested physically, emotionally, and even spiritually with those whom we love. And, that being the case, we ought to expect to “grieve” when we lose them. That grief is a good reflection of the closeness of the relationship we have with them. That being said, what are some simple things that we can do to help in our grief process? Here are a few with one-word reminders that might help us…
1. Eyes—look at pictures. We are all visual people to some extent. Reminiscing and shedding tears while viewing “memories” of those we love can be tremendously effective in helping us learn to live with our loss. (Gen. 50.10) 2. Lips—talk about your loss and your concerns with someone who will listen. Don’t keep things bottled-up, but freely speak the things that are on your mind. It is often helpful to seek out someone who has gone through what we are currently experiencing. Familiarity breeds understanding. We all need a support group. That is what brothers and sisters in Christ are for, access them! (1 Cor. 12.25) 3. Hands—do something constructive. While we do need time to grieve, even on an ongoing basis, we also need to “do” something and busy the mind and body. Be productive, help others, and feel good about it in the process. (Eccl. 9.10) 4. Knees—get on them and pray to the Lord for help. No one can help us like He can! Not only talk to Him, but also listen to Him through the Word He has given us. There are so many helpful texts for those who grieve. God has prepared those for us from days of old. (1 Pet. 3.12) 5. Feet—keep going, keep moving, develop a new routine over time. While we must deal with our loss, and take the time to do it, it is also very beneficial to avoid reclusion by developing a routine for yourself that involves people and things outside your house. (2 Sam. 12.16-20)
     “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace” (Num. 6.24-26).

- Kevin Williams preaches for the Walnut Grove Church of Christ in Benton, KY.  He may be contacted through the church's website: http://walnutgrovechurchofchrist.org/


Joy to the World

By Joe Chesser

    Read on.  It’s probably not about what you think it is. Joy to the World is a world-famous Christmas song.  But I’m not writing about the song; nor am I writing about Christmas.  Well, maybe I am – kind of!
    What I am writing about in this article is the joy that was felt when Jesus came to this world, but not from the perspective we usually think.  Although Jesus’ coming to this world does produce a joy in us that is indescribable (Luke 2:10; 2 Cor. 9:15), I’d like for us to consider that when Jesus came to earth, it was joyous to God before it was to us!
    In fact, just the thought of Jesus becoming the Redeemer of mankind brought pleasure to God even before the world was created (Eph. 1:5, 9).  Read carefully all of Ephesians 1:3-10 (I don’t have room to include it all in the article).  Such rich and thought provoking verses! If these verses don’t encourage and excite you, I can’t imagine what it would take. Among other things, these verses tell us that …
            … if we are in Christ, we have access to every spiritual blessing  vs.3
            … if we are in Christ, we were included among the chosen  vs. 4
            … if we are in Christ, God sees us as holy and blameless   vs. 4
            … in Christ we have redemption   vs. 7
            … through the blood of Jesus we will be forgiven    vs. 7
            … grace, wisdom and understanding are lavished on us in Christ    vs. 8
            … through Christ we have insight into the mystery of God’s will  vs.9
            … we will eventually join with the heavenly hosts under Christ as Head vs. 10
    Just anticipating all these awesome blessings brought pleasure to God.  It may be compared (in a much lesser way, of course) with the joy we experience when we buy Christmas gifts for our kids and joyfully anticipate the day when they can experience the joy of receiving the gifts.
    But when Jesus did become flesh, when He was actually born into this world, the joy and pleasure God had anticipated became tangible for us.  To God, it was a pleasure to send His joy to the world.  It was a pleasure to make His kingdom available to us (Luke 12:32).  It was His pleasure to offer the gospel to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21).  God was pleased to have all of His fullness dwell in Jesus (Col. 1:19) so that when we see Jesus, we see God (John 14:9, 1:14).
    Since Jesus said “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), I suspect that the joy that we as Christians feel at being saved is nothing compared to the joy God feels at saving us!  (Read Luke 15:7, 10).
          
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.cofcfruitland.com/


Tell others About Jesus?

By By Chester Callan
    I received a letter recently from one of the inmates I correspond with in the state penal system.  He asked me a question that has been on my mind ever since I received the letter.  “Why at many times Christians never introduce another person to Christ?”  Now this may not demonstrate the greatest syntax, but it does ask a poignant question.   This was written by a man who is in prison for the rest of his life, no parole.  He has expressed a desire to be baptized, but the prison authorities will not allow it at this time.  He has been studying the Bible and has come to the knowledge that he needs to change his life and become a Christian.  He seems to be asking the question,  “Why have I not heard about this before?”  It reminds me of the song: “You met me day by day and knew I was a-stray, yet never mentioned Him to me.”  (By James Rowe & J.W. Gaines)  Try to imagine what a difference it might have made in this inmate’s life if he had known about Jesus before he committed himself to life in prison.
    John in his story of Jesus has this to say about the apostles:  “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.  The first thing Andrew did was find his brother Simon and tell him ‘We have found the Messiah.’”  (John 1:40-41)  How wonderful it would be if we all had the excitement of Andrew, when he learned about Jesus.
    Of course it comes down to opportunity, ability, and circumstances when I consider how I am going to answer this question.  Can I protest that the subject just never came up, or I just never felt competent enough to answer any question that might arise?   Perhaps I just felt that if I set a good example, went to church every Sunday and help along the way, then they would get the message.  Yes, rationalization can remove stripes from zebras and spots from leopards, but does it remove guilt from our lack of inaction?
    It would appear from the parable of the talents, that we all have different abilities, and as a result God has different expectations of each of us based on our abilities.  We are not all gifted with the ability to lead an in-depth discussion on varied bible subjects, but we all have the ability to tell others of the joy we have found in Christ and His salvation.  We can invite others to our services, distribute bible tracks and lead the way by the life we live in Christ Jesus.  I have no doubt that there is room for improvement in my life in telling others about Christ, what do you think about yourself?

 - C. M.Callan serves as an elder of the Church of Christ in Rotan, TX. He may be contacted at drcall@sbcglobal.net


Monday, January 14, 2013

“Jesus Is Lord”

By Ken Chumbley

     I saw this phrase recently on the bulletin board outside a church building recently.
    There is nothing wrong with the statement, in and of itself for indeed, “Jesus is Lord.” Peter called Jesus Lord: “Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (Matthew 17:4). John also called Jesus Lord: “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea” (John 21:7). The apostle Paul also called Him Lord: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
    Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). Indeed, all Christians should glory only “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    We are also told that there will come a day when every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord: “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). However, for those who will wait until the Judgment to confess “Jesus is Lord,” it will be too late as regards to there eternal salvation.
    However, all need to remember the pointed words of Jesus Christ: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46). Sadly, too many want to use expression “Jesus is Lord” but who “do not the things which I say.” Jesus makes it clear that it is useless to call Him “Lord” while being unwilling to keep His commandments. If one truly recognizes Jesus as Lord, he will show his submission to the Lordship of Christ by their obedience to His will. Note what Paul writes to Timothy: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness” (I Timothy 6:3). How can one “consent not” to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ and His doctrine and still, legitimately, say “Jesus is Lord?” Remember also what our Lord, Himself, stated: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John. 14:15). Do we love the Lord? Is He truly our Lord, if we are do not keep His commandments?
    We rightly point this out with respect to those involved in denominationalism who “teach for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9), particularly as it relates to their teachings regarding how one becomes a Christian. However, there are those in the Lord’s church who are also teaching doctrines that are no more than the commandments of men. The words of Jesus: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46), are equally pertinent to those who teach such doctrines. Each one of us needs to examine ourselves and the doctrine that we teach to ensure that we are teaching the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ that we might legitimately say “Jesus is Lord.”

- Ken Chumbley preaches for the Belvedere Church of Christ, Belvedere, SC.  He may be contacted at their website: http://www.belvederechurchofchrist.org

Elvis Presley's Bible

By David A. Sargent

     A Bible that once belonged to Elvis Presley and contains his handwritten notes and thoughts recently sold for $94,600 at an auction in England, according to Omega Auctions.
     One of the Scriptures emphasized by the acclaimed "King of Rock and Roll" was Luke 9:25: “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?”  This was an “interesting insight from a man who had so much of what this world values,” writes Steve Higginbotham.
     The Bible, given to the singer in 1957 on his first Christmas at his home called Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, was bought by an American man based in Britain.  It was expected by the auction house to bring about $40,000 but actually sold for more than twice that amount.
     The Bible was part of a collection of Elvis memorabilia owned by a single British collector.  The entire collection sold for more than $160,000 dollars at the auction in Cheshire, north England.
     Steve Higginbotham points out that in the case of Elvis’ Bible, the value of his Bible was “determined by the person who owned it.”  In reality, however, it is the Bible that is truly valuable – regardless of who owns it!
     The value of the Bible is incalculable because it is the Word of God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica saying: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
     The Bible is of inestimable value because it reveals our true condition: that we are “bankrupt” due to our sin, completely unable to save ourselves and consequently doomed to destruction (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
     The Bible is priceless because it reveals the incredible love of God Who loves us even though we are sinners.  He loves us so much that He gave His Only Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we might have forgiveness for our sins and eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).
     The Bible is precious because it reveals the Way to forgiveness and life.  That Way is JESUS.  Jesus declared, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  God has promised that those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), and continue to “walk in the light” of His Word (1 John 1:7) will be saved.
     No, it’s not the OWNER of the Bible that makes it valuable.  The Bible is valuable because of what God reveals to us in the pages of Scripture!
     “He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).
     Don’t just own a Bible; read it!  Don’t just read your Bible; heed it!
     THEN you will be truly blessed.
     Won’t YOU?

- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled Living Water."  To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org

* Information gleaned from the New York Daily News (www.nydailynews.com) and Steve Higginbotham’s 9/10/12 MercEmail: “Elvis Presley’s Bible.”  See www.preachinghelp.org

“In Heart and Conscience Free”

By David Anquish

“Our fathers, chained in prisons dark, were still in heart and conscience free; . . .” - Frederick W. Faber
      Singing it with a room full of preachers, elders, and our wives at a recent dinner and again two nights later in a worship service attended by more than 1,100 reminded me how much I like the hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers!” It was in the service that I was especially struck by the first part of verse 2, quoted above.
      Living “in the land of the free,” it’s hard to fathom what it would be like to be “chained in prisons dark” for any reason, especially religious ones. I’ve read accounts of people in such situations – in the Bible (Jeremiah, Paul), early church history (Polycarp), Reformation translators (Wycliffe, Tyndale), the Holocaust (Wiesel, Bonhoeffer), and contemporary missionaries suffering in societies very different from ours.
      The stories never fail to impress and always make me wonder whether I will do the same if called on to do so. In no way can I identify with those sufferers. Their circumstances are just too different from mine.
      What I can say with no hesitation is that their actions reinforce a truth Scripture demonstrates. Political freedom is not necessary for regular worship, holy living, or spreading the good news. In fact, the witness of history teaches that the church has often thrived in times and places where hostility has been the worst. A reason for that is not hard to fathom. Before choosing to begin and stay on a course that may end in execution, one will be very sure of his commitment to it. We are not surprised if the kind of devotion shown in such situations exceeds that found in less threatening settings.
      My point is not to criticize us for being blessed with the providence of freedom. I’m not saying that because we are free, we cannot show crossbearing commitment, or that we cannot take seriously Jesus’ words about the correspondence between great blessings and much responsibility (cf. Luke 12:48). What I am saying is that Jesus’ reign has never been of this world (John 18:36) and thus no way of the world is necessary to see his will be done.
      Understanding that takes us closer to becoming a people who, though “chained in prisons dark,” will be “still in heart and conscience free.”

- David Anquish;
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: Calvert City Church of Christ

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Power of God’s Word

By Bart Warren
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)
     Passages of scripture like these are good reminders of just how powerful the word of God really is. As a new year begins, this is a great time to renew our commitment to knowing and living the will of God as it is revealed in the pages of the Bible.
     Does your life need direction? Do you feel as though you are lost and out of focus? Are you having difficulty making sense out of your present circumstances? Renew your commitment to God’s Word! It has the power to change your life!
     Remember these historical events recorded therein:
Saul of Tarsus—In Acts 9:1-2 we find a man who is bound and determined to destroy the New Testament church. He finds real satisfaction in the persecution of men and women that claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. But then, in verses 3-19, his life is changed forever. Specifically, in verse 6, he is told to go to a certain place and await further instructions—he is to encounter a preacher who will share with him the word of God. His life will be forever changed. He is soon to become the world famous church-planting, inspired-letter-writing, Christimitating, soul-saving apostle! Jews of Acts 2—Likely many of the same people that only weeks before were in the crowd yelling, “Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21; Acts 3:17), were the same ones saying, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) What was the difference? In Acts chapter 2, the people had given the word of God a place in their hearts. In fact, it had cut them to their very soul. The result was dramatically changed lives. Right away they became devoted to the things of God and to one another (Acts 2:41-47). The word of God had changed them.
     What about you and me?
     Will we allow the word of God to change us?
     Will we be open and honest when we hear or read God’s word?
     God is anxious to change our lives. He is ready to give us direction and focus and a sense of purpose.
Are we ready to receive the word that is able to save our souls?

- Bart Warren; 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


The Two Great Dichotomies

By Chester M. Callan
     I remember as a child the excitement and joy of the Christmas holidays.  Not only did we get out of school for two or three weeks, but there was lots of good food, company, laughter and of course “gifts.”  Many of our popular Christmas songs, express the idea of joy, happiness, good times as a part of the expectations of this time of the year.  There are two songs about Christmas that make me feel sad every time I hear them. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas.”  When I hear them, realize that I can’t go back and relive those golden memories.  I am reminded that there are many who cannot go home for Christmas as well as how fleeting those joyous moment were.  Yes, I do enjoy the holiday season, especially the gathering of the family, the laughter, the food and the giving of gifts.  The problem I have is, I no longer view the season through the eyes of a child; my mind had been polluted by the cares of the world.  I now know that there are many who will not have enough to eat on this day or have a gift to give or receive, or even have some one to talk to.  It is no wonder that there is an increase in suicides and depression during the Christmas time.  There in lies a dichotomy (division into two usually contradictory parts), what for some is wonderful and joyous for others is sad and depressive.  Sometimes I just wish that everybody in the world could wake up on Christmas morning and find a present under a “tree” and a turkey on the table.
     There is another side to the Christmas story, the birth of Christ and I believe there is a dichotomy here as well.  No one knows the date that Christ was  born, but all evidence would suggest it was not in December, more likely in the spring of the year.  December the 25th is the date our country and most countries around the world celebrate his birth.  Other than the events recorded about his birth there is no command or example of an observance of his birthday.  Yet, the events of his birth must be important or else why are they recorded in the holy writings?
     Having a special day to remember seems a logical thing for humans to do, but what have we done to this celebration?  It has become all about money and pleasure and there in lies the dichotomy.  The merchants look forward to December because of the increased sales of Christmas presents.  We have increasing emphasis on sporting events, travel, parties and feast.  Is that what the birth of Christ is all about?  I think not!  It now seems to be all about pleasure and self-satisfaction and not about giving.
     I wonder, did God refrain from asking us to celebrate Christ but once a year, because he knew we would mess it up.  Instead he gave us the Lord’s Supper to observe every Sunday (yet, sometimes we even mess that up). It would be wonderful if the world could hear the message of the birth of Christ and turn to him and follow his commandments, but with Christmas like it is today how can they hear the message?
     Yes, I know it is true that many groups have special events to memorialize the events that took place so many years ago.  It is also true that more people are talking about Christ during this time of the year than any other. The shame of it all is we have placed our emphasis on the wrong event.  We need to focus our attention on the resurrection of Christ.  That is the important message the world needs to hear.  The dichotomy is simple, we claim to celebrate the birth of Christ, but instead celebrate our craving for pleasure.  Christ birth was and is an important event in the history of the world, which we claim to celebrate but the truth is we really do not.
     What if we stopped giving each other expensive presents and gave that money to those who are truly in need?  What a glorious tribute that would be to the Christ child that gave so much for mankind.

 - C. M.Callan serves as an elder of the Church of Christ in Rotan, TX. He may be contacted at drcall@sbcglobal.net 




Ski Free

By Steve Higginbotham

     How many of you remember playing the early Windows computer game called “Ski Free?”  Those of you who have been using computers since the early 1990’s and Windows 3.1 probably can remember Ski Free.
     The object of Ski Free was to ski downhill, do jumps and tricks, and avoid obstacles along the way.  However, no matter how good a skier you were, at the end of your run, an abominable snowman would chase you down and eat you.  You couldn’t escape it.  No matter what you did, the abominable snowman would overtake you and gobble you up.
     That fact has caused me to wonder why the game was given such an incongruous name – “Ski Free?”  Are you kidding me?  What’s free about skiing down a mountain if you must forfeit your life at the bottom of the run?
     While I haven’t played “Ski Free” in a long time, there are many people who do on a daily basis.  Oh, I’m not talking about the computer game, I’m talking about playing “life games” that have inevitable costly outcomes.  Want an example?  How about people who go through life playing the games of “bitterness,” “anger,” and “revenge?”  Where does that get them in the end?  At the bottom of the “Ski Free Slopes.”  Listen to the apostle Paul, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Galatians 5:15).  Friends, there’s no winner when one plays the games of “bitterness,” “anger,” and “revenge.”  No matter how good one gets at “putting one in his/her place,” or “getting even,” those “games” always have the same outcome.
     On second thought, “Ski Free” isn’t really free at all; it’s costly and the one who plays it will pay with his life in the end.  Do I need to finish the “Likewise…?”  Give it some thought.

(NOTE – the idea for this article came from Lee Parish, a student at the Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies, from an illustration he made about the computer game Pac-Mac).

- Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.karnschurch.org