Monday, July 29, 2013

The Lord Needs You

By J. Randal Matheny

     As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying that colt?" They replied, "The Lord needs it. " (Luke 19:33,34).  Jesus had sent two disciples into Bethany to get the colt for what we call today the triumphal entry. He told them where to find it and what to say to the owners: "The Lord needs it."
    In one sense, the Lord needs nothing of ours nor of us. To an Israel addicted to formal religion he declared: "I do not need to take a bull from your household or goats from your sheepfolds. For every wild animal in the forest belongs to me, as well as the cattle that graze on a thousand hills. I keep track of every bird in the hills, and the insects of the field are mine. Even if I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all it contains belong to me" (Psalm 50:9-12).  He wanted sincere worship from Israel, not because He needed it, but as adoration of the heart on the worshipers' part.
    There is nothing I can do for God. He has no personal need that I can fulfill.  As God He is self-sufficient and complete.  In another sense, however, the Lord has seen fit to use our lives and acts for His kingdom. Jesus told the Twelve: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you" (John 15:16).  What Jesus says to the Twelve here is also true of every Christian. By His graciousness, He has made man a part of His work to save others.
    In this sense, then, it is appropriate to say, as Jesus did of the colt, that He needs us.
    So when a mother is discouraged about her children, the Lord needs you to cheer her.  When a child is frustrated or sad or hungry in this world, the Lord needs you to care for him. When you meet someone who has yet to obey the divine commandment, the Lord needs you to teach that person.
    When false teachings creep into the church, the Lord needs you to stand up and speak the truth clearly and lovingly.  When funds are in short supply to do the work, the Lord needs you to be generous.
    When tempers flare and harsh words begin to fly, the Lord needs you to act as a peacemaker.  In the family, the Lord needs you to fulfill your role.  In society, He needs you to be salt and light. In the church, He needs you to be a pillar for truth and platform for peace.
    To be coworkers with God, as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:1, is a humbling and glorious thought.  To have been chosen by Him to go and bear fruit in this world as a part of His great mission leaves our heart in great awe, gives speed to our feet, and strength to our hands when we hear Him say, "The Lord needs you."

- 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) 2012 J. Randal Matheny
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Whose Book Is It?

By Ty Nichol
    One general perception of the Bible is that the Bible is merely useful for moral guidelines and for minimizing emotional and ethical damage in life.  That perception is similar to that of an auto manual.  “If we want to keep the car running, we’ll eventually need to refer to the operation and maintenance actions.”  This kind of perception continues to be perpetuated.
     While there are different kinds and models of automobiles, they all possess a brake, a gas pedal, a steering wheel, etc.  Biblical truths have been reduced to commonalities also.  While there are many different convictions, styles and practices of worship, generally all Bible believing people profess a belief in Jesus.  The differing, though, is so pervasive it defines the culture we live in.  Differing is the norm.
     One community of believers makes a certain profession: “We baptize by immersion (as opposed to sprinkling or pouring) because we believe it most closely fulfills the biblical form.  The term ‘baptize’ literally means to immerse or plunge.”  This community of believers grasps the concept of what the word baptize means.  They understand that to baptize a person, that person must undergo an immersion or plunge in order to fulfill the biblical form (which they refer to as a burial, found in Romans 6:1-4).  They insist that they will not perform baptism in a different way.  This group also claims that “while the immersion mode best illustrates the work of Christ, the Bible does not mandate how much water should be used.”  Perhaps if they listened to what they just explained as biblical practice, they would know that the Bible provided an answer to the question of “how much water should be used?”  How much water is necessary to immerse?  They also mention, “We will not argue with those who believe they have a valid baptism in another form.”  While this statement might convey a non-confrontational spirit, it also denies the biblical authority and belief they just attempted to establish.  They insist that the Bible teaches one way, but will accept “other forms.”
     Continuing to stress the importance of baptism and the necessity of being baptized as soon as possible, this community decides that there will only be two dates per year available for people wanting to enter the water.
     It is apparent that the group referred to above recognizes that people have differing views of the Bible and that they anticipate people joining their worship community with a diversity of beliefs.  The question then needs to be asked, why make any profession of beliefs at all? If certain biblical beliefs can be compromised, why convey a firm stance regarding any? Why purpose to teach one way while expected to accept many ways? Maybe the vacillating is part of the reason some reduce the Bible to being merely a set of morals and a chicken-soup-for-the-soul.
     The Bible states that God is not an author of confusion.  The Bible is God’s book…or is that a matter of concession also?                                                                                           

- 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:


By Brad Green

     The Bible teaches that “every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). This is a clear declaration that each individual bears a responsibility in regard to his salvation. Ezekiel proclaimed, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Eze. 18:20). No one will give an account to God for someone else. Since God demands accountability, it is only logical to understand that God has given us the Law to which we will be accountable. Jesus says, “he that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). All men, therefore, shall be responsible for obeying the Truth that is the New Testament of Christ. Paul states that the Gospel of Christ is the only power that can save man and that the plan to make man righteous is found in that Gospel (Rom. 1:16-17). Thus, no man can be saved without the Bible. The Bible teaches how one can become righteous in God’s sight – hear (Rom. 10:17), believe (Heb. 11:6), repent of past sins (Luke 13:3), confess that Jesus is the Christ (Rom. 10:9-10), and be immersed in water to have those past sins washed away (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5).
     The Bible also teaches that once an individual has obeyed God’s plan to save, he has the responsibility to remain faithful. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
     Each individual with the capacity and ability to give account for his actions will do so on the Day of Judgment. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Isn’t it wonderful to know that if we simply obey God’s plan of salvation and remain faithful to Him, when He opens the book of our deeds on the Last Great Day, our sins will be covered by the blood of Christ, “blotted out” (Acts 3:19), as if wiped clean from the pages of history. Have you had your sins washed away? “Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

- 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: 

Monday, July 15, 2013

What the Church Offers

By Bill Brandstatter

     Too many folks look upon church attendance as being secondary to anything else on their schedule. They are not opposed to religion. They may even look upon it as a vital part of life. But they have no conscience against neglecting it. Perhaps the attitude is: “I’ll go to church if nothing comes up, or if I am not too tired.” But to stay away because we have so many other engagements or because we have so little strength left is like staying away from the dinner table because we are to weak from hunger to go to the table.
     The Bible tells us that this was not uncommon in the first century. The writer of Hebrews notes ”Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some” (Heb. 10:25)..
     What then does the church have to offer that a person cannot get anywhere else? One man said, “I do not go to church anymore because I can get what the church has to offer in better form elsewhere.”
     When the church gets into the business of offering the world what the world already has, it is in the wrong business, and is not the church of the New Testament.
     The mission of God’s church is to save souls. God’s power for saving souls is in the gospel of Christ. It is the mission of the church to preach the gospel.
     The church offers a family atmosphere to believers not found elsewhere. The early church was said to be “together and had all things common.” (Acts 2:42).
     Each member of the church is important. The church offers assistance to the believer in need (1 John 3:17).
     The church is where the saved are .(Acts 2:47). Their names are enrolled in heaven (Heb. 12:23). Where else can men have fellowship, communion with God and associations that they have in the church? In what other institution can we find the same assurance? Where else is offered the hope of everlasting life?

– Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Stumbling Block-Heads

By Howard Justice

     Few realize the horrendous danger in the nature of a stumbling block.  Many years ago, as a youth in both age and service to the Lord, I witnessed the effects of such when a dear friend’s father came forward as the invitation hymn was sung one Sunday morning.  After a few moments, the preacher arose and said, “Mister Smith has come forward to confess his faith in Christ and be baptized for the remission of his sins.  But, before he does so, he wants to address the audience.”
    Slowly, the 50+ year old man rose up and explained, “Most of you know who I am.  I’m Mrs. Smith’s husband and I’ve been coming here with her for over 15 years.  I’m not a Christian and I’m sure that many of you thought that I was.  Why I haven’t been baptized into Christ before now is what I want to explain.  About that long ago, a member from here had some work done at my lawn mower shop down the street.  After the work was done, he didn’t want to pay for it.  There arose a serious disagreement between us and he did not treat me like a Christian should have.  I thought to myself, ‘If that’s what a Christian does, then I didn’t want to be one.’  So, I was determined not to be a member of the Lord’s church.  It has taken me all this long to realize that I was also wrong.  Finally, I have realized that I could not afford to wait any longer to obey the Lord.  I was wrong.”  He began to weep, even sobbing incessantly through his confession.
    There wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation.  Several more were given the courage that day to make that step as well.  Brother Smith was faithful until his death.  His son and I were the best of friends and used to play upstairs at his house on rainy days.  I often look back at that event and have never forgotten that lesson.  This man had had a stone of stumbling placed in his pathway by a sinful and uncaring brother.  It almost cost him his eternal destiny.
    Therefore, may the Lord help us all to see how easy it is to cause a person to reject salvation and how easy it is to lose our promised inheritance because of the thoughtless actions or comments of others.  Remember that God sent His only begotten Son to save our souls simply because He loved us (John 3:16).  That love must be reciprocated in our obedience to Him.  And, it must be continually shown to our other brothers and sisters in the Lord, and to all men, if we ever hope to enter Heaven’s portals on that day (1 Peter 1:22; Philippians 4:5).  May God help us all to care enough.

Consider Your Ways

By Jeremy Spouse
     After 70 years of captivity, God graciously allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. In Ezra 3:10, the work began with great joy. Soon afterwards however, the Israelites let adversaries stop the work, and the Temple of God remained barren and desolate. The message God sent through Haggai was: “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5).
     They were saying the time wasn’t right to build God’s house (Haggai 1:2), but they were building their houses. They were not just building bare bones shelter either; they were building paneled houses - elaborate, decorated houses (Haggai 1:4). They were willing to put in the effort for themselves, but not for God. They needed to consider their ways.
    Are we like the Israelites? Where are our priorities? Are we spending more time on our houses, lawns, and/or cars than we spend on God’s work? Jesus made it known upfront we cannot be His disciples unless we make Him first in our lives (Luke14:25-35). Often we are baptized with great rejoicing and are on fire for God. Soon, however, the worries of life and the desire for our comfort cause that fire to dwindle to nothingness.
     It is important we are not just good starters, but good finishers. We need to consider our ways.

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Only in the Dictionary

By Adam Faughn
     "Work" is a word that many people do not like to see. We like to think that we can get certain results without work, but such is not the case.
     Only in the dictionary ...
Does "love" come before "work."
Does "trust" come before "work."
Does "growth" come before "work."
Does "heaven" come before "work."
     These are just four examples of things people want to achieve without really working for them. Obviously, love is is an emotion, but real love takes a lot of work to build and maintain. We only gain trust from others when we put forth the work necessary to build that trust (which usually takes some significant time, too). A relationship, business, effort, or congregation will not grow unless there is a great deal of work involved.
     But, what about heaven? Can we go to heaven without working? When we preach that one must be baptized in order to be saved (cf. Acts 2:38), we are often told that we are preaching a "works salvation." It is said that we are preaching that one can earn his or her way into heaven.
     Nothing could be further from the truth! God's grace saves, but He still requires us to do certain things (cf. Philippians 2:12). Most of those who state we preach works salvation will teach that one must believe in order to be saved, and some will teach that one must repent of sins. Are these not works, too? They may not be quite so obvious outwardly, but they are just as much a work as is baptism.
     And, when we think about it, baptism is really passive compared to the others. I believe. I repent. I confess. But, I am baptized. Someone must baptize me!
     The Bible also makes it clear that we must continue to work for the Lord throughout our life if we want to be found faithful in the Day of Judgment (cf. Revelation 2:10). We cannot "pile up" enough good works to ear heaven, but we must humbly submit to the commands of God to be found faithful. "Heaven" only comes before "work" int he dictionary!

- Adam Faughn serves as the pulpit minister for the Lebanon Road Church of Christ in Nashville, TN.  He may be contacted through the congregation’s website at: 

Most Valuable Discovery

By Alan Eldridge  & David A. Sawyer

    In 1847 Sir James Simpson of Edinburgh discovered the use of chloroform as an anesthetic in surgery.  Some have claimed that this was the most significant discovery of modern medicine.
    In his later years, Sir James was lecturing at Edinburgh University and a student asked, “What do you consider to be the most valuable discovery of your lifetime?”
    Sir James answered quickly, “My most valuable discovery was when I discovered myself a sinner and that Jesus Christ was my Savior.”
    Similarly, at age 82, near death, almost blind, and with fading memory, John Newton, author of the timeless song, “Amazing Grace”, wrote these words: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: I’m a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.”
    The book of Romans makes clear these significant truths that Simpson and Newton articulated.
    The problem is sin (Romans 3:10, 23).  The penalty for sin is death (6:23).  The power of God unto salvation is the Gospel (1:16).  The provision for sin is Christ’s death (5:8).  The price paid for sin is His blood (5:9).  The process by which we contact that blood? By placing our faith and trust in Jesus (5:1), confessing Christ (10:9-10), turning from our sins in repentance (2:4), and being buried with Christ in baptism (6:1-4).  Then we are to dedicate the rest of our lives in service to Him (6:12-18; 12:1).
    The most valuable discovery that YOU can make is your Savior too!  -

-Alan Eldridge & David A. Sawyer, House to House/Heart to Heart; 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:

Warning Signs

By Bart Warren
     Some time ago I read about a man who was traveling down a path that he knew well. He had traversed it many times before. One day, there was a sign on the road that read:
The man read the sign. He understood each word. Nevertheless, he continued on the road anyway.
     It wasn’t long before he came across a tree that had fallen at a point at which the road was extremely narrow. It took him several minutes to finally get turned around and headed out. When he got back to the sign that had warned him of the problems ahead, he noticed that the back part of it had a message as well: TOLD YOU SO!
     Why did he ignore the warning? Maybe because he thought he knew better. Maybe he had been there enough times before that he felt too comfortable. Maybe he felt as though he could overcome any challenge. Maybe he didn’t believe the sign.
     This situation reminds me of the way many people treat spiritual warning signs. In spite of Biblical warnings, many act as if they know better than God. They get too comfortable with this life—as if this life is all that there is to our existence. They become prideful and feel as though they can handle any situation on their own—without the aid of anyone else. There are even those who choose not to believe the message contained in God’s Holy Word.
     Let us all heed the warning:
     Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.
     It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake. (Mark 13:33-37)
     Don’t ignore the plain warning signs our God has left us for our own benefit and well-being. He wants us to arrive at our destination (heaven) safely!

- 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:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Do We Love The Lord More?

By Bob Winton
     “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). This is a good question for us to ask ourselves.
     Do we love the Lord more than we love our relatives? If we do, we will not let them hinder us from obeying the Lord or worshipping Him. The Lord taught: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32).
     Do we love the Lord more than we love our money? If so, we will cheerfully and liberally support the Lord’s work. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:6-7).
     Do we love the Lord more than we love entertainment and pleasure? Indulging in pleasure at the expense of Christian living and serving God is sinful for these things have taken over God’s rightful place (cf. Luke 12:15-21). Sinful pleasure is always wrong. “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6). “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter” (James 5:5).
     Do we love the Lord more than the praise of men? If so, we will be willing to obey God even if it means we must incur the rejection of men. Some Jewish leaders believed on Christ but would not confess him because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).
     The Lord must be the supreme object of our affection. We must be able to sing with meaning, “O How I Love Jesus!”

- 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:

Secular Humanism

By Brad Harrub

    We live in a time dominated by secular humanism.  Religion is dismissed as being of little value and only useful for the weak-minded of society.  In the mind of someone who has no sense of humility before a Higher Power, self is king, and the pursuit of personal desires is all that such a person has to occupy his time.  So many people seem to believe that the key to a happy life is to choose success as defined by the secular humanist culture.  We, as Christians, know that a life built on that foundation will never lead to true joy.  We know it, but do we believe it?
    The only true joy to be found in this life comes from full self-denial.  When we bring our lives under submission to what the Lord wants for us, we can remove the fear and stress that plague so many in this day and age. Brethren, we must keep this in mind when we prioritize our lives.  Do we allow entertainment, work, sports, education or any other personal activities to take first place in our lives over discipleship? We can see all throughout the Bible, and especially in Luke’s Gospel (9:57-62; 18:18-22) that God doesn’t ask us to follow Him part-time.
    One of the biggest problems evident in the church today is the fact that we have become distracted.  We must each examine ourselves to see where we have allowed our own comfort to come between us and God.  If we truly want to be happy we will put Christ first in our lives and spread His love to all those around before concerning ourselves with selfish priorities first.  It’s time to remove the distractions and focus on the purpose for which we’ve been called.

- 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:

“I Hope You Know”

By Bryan McAlister
     What has it cost you?  Her world is defined by room numbers, meal times, therapy, events and activities all of which are scheduled for her by nurses, coordinators, and therapists. Her job is to live, to come and to go. Her purpose, some might say in the cynics view, has passed from this place. The Lord's Day came, and she was there with the others gathered. It was time to "lay by in store" as her soul had prospered. Her sacrifice, not of legal tender to settle all debts public or private, but of paper "money" (you might call it Monopoly Money), used to "purchase" things in her defined world. It meant one less thing to her, but was worth it for Him. That's what it cost.
     What has it cost you? She was always good with music and children. She taught them melodies and techniques, theory and style, pitch and harmony.  But one day she decided her occupation would expand. She would still teach above all, but she would also become a nurse, an executive, a counselor and confidant. She mastered art and sciences, and could always find the best places to hide and never be found. She would still do all these things and more for children, but only two, her two; our two. It meant one less accolade from the world, one less paycheck for the home, one less recognition of prestige. But it meant two more souls for Him.  That's what it cost.
     What has it cost you? His vision is dimmed and his hearing has dulled. His smile is still bright and his handshake still bold. The therapy takes so much energy and strength, irony of the aide to battle the illness. He continues to work, to pray, to push, to press, to place his feet at his post, the corner, you know the corner, in the foyer, by the doors.  His was the first hand I ever shook, probably you could say the same too. It means one less moment to rest, one less hour to sleep, one more day to push, just to shake your hand; your son's hand, who when he hears the words "Mr. Al is sick" instantly says, "He's the one who shakes my hand." That's what it cost.
     Can you find another meaning for sacrifice?  Maybe there is one that does not become so personal, is not so pervasive and will not be so pricey. Sacrifice has become so invasive, so insistent, and so inconvenient. Surely service without sacrifice is more appropriate in a modern world. At the heart of the word sacrifice you find the formula, "ifi" more appropriately, "if-i." If I surrender what would supply my soul for the moment, just so I could sacrifice that moment for Him...If I share my talent exclusively for others, just so I could sacrifice that talent for Him...If I stay my course here, no matter the pain or the pressure, the distress or the discomfort; just to sacrifice myself for Him, what has it cost? One less possession, one less paycheck, one less passing nap? What has it cost? I hope you know.

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

Are You Listening?

By A. C. Quinn

     “Are you listening?” was the trademark of brother V. E. Howard, one of the great radio-evangelists of the church in the last half of the twentieth century. When brother Howard made a point that he wanted his listeners to pay particular attention to, he would drive that point home with this question: “Are you listening?”
     Most preachers who stand before the church week after week expounding upon the words of life often wonder if their audiences are listening. It is obvious that some (many) are not listening as is evidenced by some who are clipping fingernails, others who are asleep, and still others who make frequent trips to the restroom at critical times in the lesson.
     Faithful elders of the church who are charged with overseeing the flock of God (Acts 20:28), as Paul by the Spirit instructs them to do, no doubt often wonder if the flock is listening. It is obvious to them, too, that many in the flock are not listening because they do not heed the call to faithful attendance (Heb. 10:25), nor do they heed the call to godly living (Titus 2:11-12). In spite of the pleas to flee worldliness, many continue in sin (2Cor. 6:17; I Cor. 6:9-11).
     Listening, simply defined, is the mentally processing of what one is hearing--as he is hearing it. It is a most important process because “…faith cometh by hearing….” (Rom. 10:17). Jesus said to his disciples, “If any man hath an ear to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23). He further warned them to “…take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:24)
     It is significant that God gave this imperative to his people in the Old Testament numerous times “…Hear the word of the Lord.”
To each of the seven churches of Asia, Jesus gave this imperative: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith to the churches” (Rev. 2 - 3).

- A. C. Quinn preaches for the West Main Church of Christ in Wolfe City, Texas. He may be contacted at