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Monday, March 25, 2013

Lord Give Me a Mountain

By Don Campbell
    John Piper wrote: “Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement.  It means being so satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Christ that we are set free from the cravings that create so much emptiness and uselessness in retirement.  Instead, knowing that we have an infinitely satisfying an everlasting inheritance in God just over the horizon of life makes us zealous in our few remaining years here to spend ourselves in the sacrifices of love, not the accumulation of comforts” (John Piper. Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ. Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois. 2008).
    At an age when many men might have considered backing off and letting the younger generation do the fighting, Caleb was looking for mountains to climb and battles to win.  He said:
And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old.  I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said (Josh 14:10-12, ESV).
    Caleb stands in contrast to the whining children of Joseph to whom Joshua said, in effect, “Stop complaining and go clear some land if you do not have enough (Joshua 17:14-18).
    Not many men—if any—can say these days that they are as strong at 85 as they were at 40, but 85-year-old men are not called on today to go into combat.  But here are just a few people who made their mark late in life:
•    Colonel Sanders began KFC at the age of 65.
•    Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she started the Little House series of books.
•    Golda Meir became the fourth prime minster of Israel at age 70.
•    Ronald Reagan became president 16 days before his 70th birthday.
•    Burton Coffman began writing his verse-by-verse commentaries on the entire Bible when he was 66 and finished them when he was 87.
All of these people looked for mountains to climb when others were willing to coast downhill, toward death.  The famous baseball player, manager, and coach, Yogi Berra, who was still coaching at age 80, once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
    You and I won’t match the accomplishments of these historic figures, but God does not expect us to.  God expects us to bloom where we are planted, but he does expect us to bloom until we go to seed and our bodies are planted in the ground.   You haven’t gone to seed if you are reading this, so I challenge you keep on blooming.  God’s promise to Israel can be ours, if David’s prayer is ours:

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
 Even to you old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you (Isa 46:3-4)

O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come (Psa 71:17-18).

- Don Campbell preaches for the Puryear Church of Christ in Puryear, TN. He may be contacted via the congregation's website: www.wk.net/churchofchrist/


DON’T OVERLOOK THE OBVIOUS

By Larry Pasley
    “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. As they lay down for the night, Holmes said, ‘Watson, look up and tell me what you see.’ Watson said, ‘I see millions and millions of stars.’
     Holmes asked, ‘And what does that tell you?’   Watson replied, ‘Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you Holmes?’   Holmes answered simply, ‘Somebody stole our tent.’”
     People are bad about overlooking the obvious in religion also. The religious world is full of people who have studied the bible all their life and yet missed key points in God’s teachings.
    Almost every book of the New Testament has statements that show that the doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved” is false and yet many in the religious world have overlooked the obvious. Heb. 6:4-6
    The necessity of baptism in becoming a Christian is prevalent throughout the New Testament and yet many still claim that it has nothing to do with salvation. They are overlooking the obvious. Mk. 16:16
    The connection of obedience to our salvation is also dominant in the scriptures but many still hold to the doctrine of “Faith Only”, overlooking the obvious. Jas. 2:24
    Still others teach as doctrine the traditions and teachings of men, never recognizing the difference. They overlook the obvious. Mat. 15:8
    May we not fall into the trap of overlooking the obvious in our desire to live our lives pleasing to God.

- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.JacksonStAlex.com


Is There a “New” Grace?

By John Gipson
    We are saved by grace. I’ve heard it all of my life, and I have preached it over and over. There’s nothing man can do to earn his salvation. It comes as a gift from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.” That’s the gospel truth!
    But much of what I am hearing today indicates that there is nothing for man to do, and nothing he can do, to affect his salvation. And my Bible doesn’t teach that! Think about it. If that kind of grace saves, then God has the sole responsibility for man’s salvation. I can blame God if I’m lost. Furthermore, if He saves you, and doesn’t save me, then He has become a respecter of persons (Something which He is not. “And Peter opened his mouth and said: Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” [Acts 10:34-35] ).
    The scriptures tell us that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Through His grace God warned Noah about the flood which was to destroy the world, and told Noah to build an ark. Grace showed him a way of escape. Noah believed God and was obedient to God’s instructions. “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22). As a result of obedient faith, God’s grace saved Noah. Thus grace provided the blessing; it was accepted by faith; and obtained by the obedience of faith. “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
    A wonderful example of God’s grace is found when “Philip went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:5). “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12) Grace was extended through the gospel; faith accepted the message; and the people became obedient to the faith.

- 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


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ponder Before You Post

By Jim Faughn
    It’s happened again. It happens all too frequently.
    I’ve been online, and I’m wondering if anybody “out there” cares anything at all about basic morality and decency. I’m questioning whether those who say they believe in God really do. I’m wondering if there really is any difference between those who wear the name of Christ and those who deny Him.
    No, I haven’t been spending my time checking out questionable websites. I haven’t been checking out the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I’ve not been investigating somebody widely known as a “religious huckster.” From time to time (maybe way too often), I check out what is being posted on Facebook and the latest “tweets” from some of the people I follow on Twitter. For those who may be unfamiliar with either of these, you need to know a couple of things. When something is posted on Facebook, it is there for the world (even preachers) to see and/or read. Those doing the posting have the choice of allowing people to be their “friends, ” so they should not expect their posts to be private. On Twitter, you know who is “following” you. So, once again, there should be no expectation of privacy.
    Many of my Facebook friends and people I follow on Twitter are my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I worship with some of them every week.
    So, what could they do online that would cause concern? Basically, just telling about their lives and expressing their opinions. I’ve learned that ---

  • Shopping trips are made, errands are run, and a lot of television is watched during times of worship and Bible study.
  • Language is used that is inappropriate anywhere and at any time.
  • Pictures of people in almost no clothing are posted. Years ago, only certain kinds of “celebrities” would have posed for those pictures --- and would have expected to get paid. Now, people I see every week at church have their own pictures taken and posted --- for free --- and for the world to see.
  • People can feel wonderful and have a great time on Saturday, but be apparently at the point of death on Sunday (and on a regular basis, too).
  • Vacations are not planned with worship in mind.
  • A preacher can preach or write about a particular sin and find it being practiced by one or more of the members where he preaches within days --- maybe hours.
  • Recreation is much more important than the Lord.
  • There is no clear understanding of God’s plan of salvation or the distinctiveness of the Lord’s church.
  • Material from every “brand” of religion is posted, tweeted, and lauded.
    There’s more, but that’s enough. At least, it’s all I care to handle right now. As some of you have heard me say before (with more than a touch of sarcasm), “I’ve had about all the fun I can stand.”
    I think you get the point. If I claim to be a Christian, I need to ponder before I post. Do I really want the world to know what I’ve been up to?
    Do I realize that God knows what I’ve been up to; whether I post it or not?

- 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: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org 


"Living Proof"

By Glenn and David Sargent
    Vittorio Vitalone is a medical doctor in Rome, Italy who became a Christian years ago after learning the truth of the Gospel from Charles Moore, a missionary from the U.S., who was preaching there at the time.  Vittorio is now the regular preacher for the Viale Jonio Church of Christ, in addition to continuing his medical practice at a large hospital in Rome.  He recently sent an e-mail message to Charles (now living in Frisco, Texas), telling a thrilling story of the power of the Word of God.
    “A lady came to the door of the auditorium at church and asked, ‘May I come in to worship?’”  Vittorio responded, “Of course!  You are always welcome in the Church of Christ.”  Vittorio continued his account to Charles: “She told me an interesting story that I want to share with you.  She said, ‘In about 1970 I used to come to the services of the church here.  I studied the Bible with Bill Burton and Charles Moore for a long time.  I will never forget those studies.  Carolyn, the wife of Charles, gave me my first Bible.  I still have it and treasure it.  I attended the worship services of the church on Sunday, and Bible study on Wednesday night for a long time and we all became good friends.”  Then the lady, whose name is Ina, showed Vittorio some pictures from those earlier years of several missionaries and their wives whom she had known.
    Then Ina told Vittorio, “Unfortunately, I drifted away from some reason or other.  Almost fifty years have passed, and I am back again.  I want to study the Bible again and worship with you.”
    “I am studying with her now each week and she is attending all the services of the church.  I pray that she will obey the Gospel soon.  It seems like she is picking up where she left off 45 years ago.”
    On February 5, 2013, Charles Moore sent out an e-mail containing “Some Special News from Rome”: “I received an e-mail yesterday from Vittorio Vitaloni in Rome, telling me that the sweet lady named Ina, the lady we contacted about 45 years ago, and studied with for two months, was baptized Sunday at Viale Jonio.  We are so happy.  MAY GOD BE PRAISED.”
    In light of this wonderful news, Charles Moore wrote, “I have lived by faith all these years, believing that ‘good seed planted in good soil will produce good fruit.’  [Ina’s] baptism is "living proof"  that this is true.”
    It IS true!  The Good News – “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) – continues to transform lives.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” – Romans 1:16.
    The BAD NEWS is that sin – of which we are ALL guilty – condemns us to eternal destruction (Romans 3:23; 6:23).  The GOOD NEWS is that God loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that we might have forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16).
    We accept His offer of salvation on His terms by obeying the Gospel: placing our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed)INTO Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, as we continue to walk in the light of His word, the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us from all of our sin (1 John 1:7).
    Even if it takes 45 YEARS to produce fruit, the Gospel STILL works....
when we receive it into good soil (good, honest hearts) and accept it through our trusting obedience.
    And remember... No matter how far you may “drift away” from God, He is always only ONE STEP back!
    Won’t YOU allow the Gospel to change your life, too?

- Glenn and David Sargent; 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


Self-Discipline

By Bob Prichard
    Forbes magazine has an annual poll of America’s most disliked athletes. The 2013 poll is topped by cyclist Lance Armstrong, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’O, and golfer Tiger Woods. In our sportscrazed society, the worship of athletes makes for great disappointment when they are not what they are supposed to be. Their great sports accomplishments are too often accompanied by great personal failings.
    Andy Andrews’ book The Final Summit describes a gathering of great men and women of the past to trying to solve problems of mankind. Among the characters is King David. He explains that his ability to defeat Goliath and other giants in his life came from his self-discipline. He worked untold hours preparing himself for challenges. He admitted that his greatest failing, his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah the Hittite came from his lack of self-discipline.
    Athletic excellence, such as demonstrated by the athletes on the Forbes list, comes from many hours of practice carried out through self-discipline. Paul drew from the realm of athletics to show the necessity of self-discipline:
    Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:24–27).
    It is hard to imagine, isn’t it, that even Paul had to work hard to practice self-discipline? Armstrong inspired millions by conquering cancer and the world’s greatest, but won by taking a drug shortcut instead of practicing self-discipline. What might you accomplish for the Lord with more self-discipline?

- Bob Prichard preaches for Oxford church of Christ in Oxford, AL. Via the weekly bulletin of the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. Clifton Angel preaches for this congregation and may be contacted through their website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/ 


Monday, March 11, 2013

WHERE IS THE GOAL POST?

By Ernest Underwood
    It sounds simple, but the first thing one must learn in order to play football is where the goal post is – the right goal post, that is!
    Occasionally we hear of a dazed player running in the wrong direction and scoring points for the other team.
    In real life, it is alarmingly easy to become confused about our right goal. The Bible says that we are not to love the world or the things in the world. The world is not our goal. The chief aim and goal for human beings, made in the image of God, is heaven. Our purpose on earth is to live godly lives. The Lord say, “Be ye holy for I am holy” – 1 Peter 1:16.
    While football is just a game, life is much, much more. But football and life have this in common – the direction you are headed in makes all the difference.
    Are you headed toward that heavenly goal? Are you sure?


- 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: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org


DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING?

By Alan Smith
    You may have seen the following list of things that people are reported to have said to a travel agent.  The list is bogus, but still humorous!
* A woman called, wanting to go to Capetown. I started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information then she interrupted me with, "I'm not trying to make you look stupid, but Capetown is in Massachusetts." Without trying to make her look like the stupid one, I calmly explained, "Cape Cod is in Massachusetts. Capetown is in Africa." Her response? Click.
* A man called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was wrong with the vacation in Orlando. He said he was expecting an ocean view room. I tried to explain that is not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state. He replied, "Don't lie to me. I looked on the map, and Florida is a very thin state!"
* A woman asked, "Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know whose luggage belongs to whom?" I said, "No, why do you ask?" She replied, "Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said "FAT." I'm overweight and I think that's very rude!" After putting her on hold so I could "look into it" (I was actually laughing), I came back to her and explained the city code for Fresno, CA is "FAT," and that the label was only a destination tag.
* A man inquired about a trip package to Hawaii. After going over all the cost info, he asked, "Would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii?"
* A woman called and said, "I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola, FL. Do I have to get on one of those little computer planes?" I asked her if she meant "fly to Pensacola, FL on a commuter plane"? She said, "Yeah, whatever!"
* A man had a question about the documents he needed in order to fly to China. After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded him he needed a visa. "Oh, no I don't. I've been to China many times and never had one." I double-checked and, sure enough, his stay required a visa. When I told him this he said, "Look, I've been to China four times. Every time they've accepted my American Express!"
* A man called to make reservations. "I want to go from Chicago to Rhino, New York." The agent was at a loss for words. Finally, the agent: "Are you sure that's the name of the town?" "Yes, what flights do you have?" she replied. After some searching, the agent came back with, "I'm sorry, ma'am. I've looked up every airport code in the country and can't find a Rhino anywhere." The lady retorted, "Oh, don't be silly! Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!" The agent pulled out a map of New York state and finally asked, "You don't mean 'Buffalo,' do you?" "That's it! I knew it was a big animal!" (thanks to Dale Jenkins for sharing)
    While the list is bogus, it is true that there are some people in this world who are -- shall we say -- geography-challenged (I won't mention any of my family members' names to keep from embarrassing them).  But it seems to me that it is important when you are taking a trip that you know where you are going.
    The same thing is true spiritually.  Jesus spoke with his disciples in John 14 about his "Father's house".  He said that he was going to "prepare a place" for them, then he said, "You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:4, NIV).  The apostles were all ignorant about this destination, but Thomas was the only one honest enough to speak up and say, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).
    And, when it comes to the topic of heaven, we are all ignorant to a great degree.  We all have our views of what heaven is like.  Some picture it as a palace floating in the clouds.  Others picture in literal terms of a pearly gate and streets of gold.  Others picture a world very much like our own.  But I'm sure that most of the concepts of our destination are as laughable as the examples above.  And if we're ignorant about the destination, how can we ever hope to get there?  Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way..." (John 14:6).
    You see, in the end, it's not all that important that I know where a place is located that I am traveling.  As long as I'm boarding an airplane and its pilot knows where that place is located, I'll arrive safely.  And as long as we remain close to Jesus, we'll arrive at the proper destination!
    Enjoy your travels!

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the Fayetteville Church of Christ in Fayetteville, NC, may be contacted at alansmith.servant@gmail.com

Baptism Now Saves You

By Clifton Angel
     Sin is a person’s greatest problem. Salvation is a person’s greatest need. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Men crucified Him, God raised Him up! Why? So that we might be saved. One of the messages of Peter, according to 1 Peter 3:21, is the message of the above title: “Baptism now saves you.” Peter uses the word “now” in contrast to a previous time. When was that time? “When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20). What relation does baptism and our salvation “now” have to do in relation to “the days of Noah”? He says, “eight souls were saved by water,” and the fact that “baptism doth also now save us” is “the like figure” corresponding to the salvation of Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives.
     Perhaps, you are thinking: “The water did not save Noah’s family! The ark did!” Consider with me how the water saved those eight souls and how being immersed in water “now” saves us. Noah and his family were living in a world where “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Had Noah not “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8), he would have remained in that world of unrighteousness until God destroyed it. Rather, God had a plan of redemption for Noah and his family. God designed the plan, communicated the plan, and Noah and his family obeyed the plan.
     God’s plan was to purge or cleanse the earth of evil in the days of Noah. “Now,” God has designed a plan, He has communicated the plan, and we are to obey the plan if we desire to be cleansed from the evil of this world. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Baptism, immersion in water, is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh” (1 Peter 3:21). Rather, it is the point at which you “wash away thy
sins” (Acts 22:16).
     How important is baptism to you? Peter says, “baptism now saves you.” Have you been immersed in water in order to be cleansed from your sins? To God be the glory!


- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/


AGAINST THE WIND

     Travelers in the North Atlantic Ocean traffic have frequently observed icebergs traveling in one direction in spite of the fact that strong winds are blowing in the opposite way.  The ice-bergs were moving against the wind.  The explanation is that the great icebergs, with seven-eighths of their bulk under water, were caught in the grip of mighty currents that carried them forward, no matter which way the winds raged.
     Spiritually speaking, for the Christian, when the greater part of our being is thrust down into the deep places of God, we can move forward in righteousness, no matter which way the winds of difficulty and temptation blow.  “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33)  This is why the Psalmist said, “How great are Your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep” (Psalms 92:5).
    More than they are amazed by the icebergs, many in the world will be amazed as we move against the powerful winds of this world’s influence, and will desire to understand why and how.  Thus, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).  “Let your light shine before men” (Matt. 5:16) as you thrust yourself deeply into the will of God and forge against the winds of the world.


- via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com


Monday, March 4, 2013

The Importance of Dignity

By Bob Spurlin

    We all envision living a life with dignity and decorum as our daily existence on earth continues. Some are not so blessed as this fundamental gift is often caused by physical, mental, and emotional problems. Webster defines dignity: “The quality of being worthy of esteem or respect; a formality in bearing and appearance.” Dignity is a worthwhile quality and one that we often take for granted in our daily experience. We should remember in our daily prayers to petition the heavenly Father for a life of dignity for our loved ones and ourselves.
     Oh, how often we forget the everyday blessings of waking-up, showering, getting dressed, going to work, and providing for our family a normal life style. Exchanging love for our families while using every opportunity to serve our fellowman in service to God is the purpose of our existence (Ecc. 12:13; Eph. 5:22-29). Then suddenly to be told that you are ill with an unbearable illness like cancer or heart disease can be devastating. The prognosis of such a disease often produces a debilitating existence defying explanation. As the disease begins to work its destructive path inflicting weakness throughout the body it becomes disturbing both physically and mentally. The most difficult challenge to face is the dependence on one’s spouse and other family members for the essential care. May I hasten to say there has never been a particle of indifference from my family to offer the care needed. The responsibility of the family unit is to provide basic care for their loved one, and create a loving atmosphere making our family member as comfortable as possible. Some of the most cherished moments experienced for our family occurred at mealtime. Coming together and eating our meals combined with the stories that were experienced during the day brought great joy. Now, the simplest of tasks are provided including reliance for meals, being dressed, a simple glass of water, and dependence upon others for bathing. From the start having these simple tasks done was humiliating and embarrassing while feeling helpless as an adult.
     Although self-restraint prevented me from saying what truly was on my heart, nonetheless words would come occasionally: “This is not supposed to happen to me, it happens to others and they must bear that burden, not me.” One becomes selfish with the day-by-day confinement to a hospital bed, yet after realization sets in serious consideration was given to manage a bedridden existence.
     May I say to those suffering, or others whom you may know dealing with adverse circumstances, this is a test of our faith. We often call Hebrews Chapter 11 the faith hall of fame. We see repeated illustrations of men and women facing great trials of faith. It is only when we endure such trials that victory will come through humble obedience (Hebrews 5:8-9). In 1995, the doctors diagnosed my condition as MS and the challenge we face is daily and constant. However, faith in God is anchored to the rock of ages, which has provided the drive necessary to cope with this trial. King David often felt despair as he said, “From the end of the earth will I cry to thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalms 61:2). David with all his flaws recognized the heavenly Father was his rock in times of stress and anxiety. We must feel the same way as we place all our faith in our God that reign’s supreme (Col. 1:15-17).
     The loss of dignity often produces frustration and confusion. Many burdened with human suffering feel they are being punished for some unexplained reason. We must look at the overall picture in coming to grip with such trials.
     The doctor informs patients daily of terminal, and incurable diseases bringing one to realize how delicate life can be. This stunning announcement gives one the opportunity of sober reflection about the life he has led. Those facing such troubles without God’s presence, and our loved ones at our side will travel a lonely road. Denial and the blame game will sink us in depression if we fail to reach for the spiritual lifeline bringing us to a place of contentment and comfort (Col. 3:2). We will always see many slips and detours along the way as we travel this difficult road. Blaming God or placing the blame on someone else is a futile exercise.  However, placing culpability on God is not only inappropriate but an act of foolishness.
     Paul, in I Corinthians 14:33, stated: “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” God does not arbitrarily set up a straw man only to knock him down. Our daily existence comes with trials and disappointments of many descriptions. How we manage these difficulties is a challenge to the human spirit requiring resiliency and a deep faith in God. It is only through human suffering that we will learn patience and build a greater faith. James writes “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (trials), knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2-3). Let us all strive for human dignity while offering support for those suffering with the hurt of life’s woes.


- Bob Spurlin, the "horizontal" preacher, has been bedridden with Multiple Sclerosis for a number of years, yet continues to faithfully serve his Lord through a number of avenues, most notably his writing.  Bob can be contacted through his website, http://www.bobspurlin.com  (©2000-2006 BOB SPURLIN).


Crucified With Christ

By Bruce Stulting
    In Galatians 6:14 Paul says, “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.” In this verse, Paul show the proper place of glorying and in focusing on the Christ. He also speaks of two “crucifixions” here: The world is crucified to the child of God and the child of God is crucified unto the world. To be crucified to something means to be dead to it. So, Paul’s meaning here is to be dead or separated from the world.
    In Romans 6:3-5, Paul teaches that baptism is patterned after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul then explains in verse 6: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” This is the idea in Galatians 6:14. The Christian will not now let the world and its appeals, lusts, and enticements attract him. Because Paul had experienced the new birth at baptism, he was able to say:
    I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
    To be crucified with Christ is to turn from sin and the world and live to God. One is crucified with Christ when he is baptized. Only those who have been baptized can say that they have been crucified with Christ. By being crucified with Christ one becomes pleasing to God, so it is desirable.
    However, one can turn from the truth and back into the hardening process of sin. When this happens they are said to be “crucify[ing]…the Son of God afresh” (Heb. 6:6). In order to keep this from happening we must follow the exhortation found in Colossians 3:1-2: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

- Bruce Stulting; via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere Church of Christ, Belvedere, SC.  Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website: http://www.belvederechurchofchrist.orghttp://www.belvederechurchofchrist.org