Monday, January 27, 2014

"Heart-felt" Religion

By George Arthur Jackson

    There is no such expression in the Bible as "heart-felt" religion, but the idea of a religion of the heart is found there.
    The religion of Christ is, basically and preeminently, a religion of the heart, Christ rules and controls the heart of the believer and thus controls his conduct.
    Man is a dual being. He has both a physical and a spiritual nature. There is both an “outward” and an “inward” man. (2 Cor.4:16).
    Man has a physical heart, but this is not the heart, which the Bible almost always refers. If so, how was if that Nabal’s “heart died within him” and yet it was about ten days later when “The LORD smote Nabal, so that he died?” (2 Samuel 15:6). And how can a man be on earth and his heart in heaven? (Matt. 6:19-19). And how can five thousand people have only one heart? (Acts 4:4,32).
    The heart affected by Christ is the inner man, that part of man that thinks, feels and wills. With the heart man thinks: “Wherefore think ye evil in your heart?” (Matt. 9:4); Reasons: “Why reason ye these things in your heart?” (Mark 2:8); understands (Romans 10:10); loves (Matt. 23:37); hates (Leviticus 19:17); purposes Daniel 1:9); resolves (Judges 5:15); and obeys (Roman 6:17-18).
    Man can control his heart. God once destroyed the world because “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”(Gen. 6:1-8) Man can “wash” his heart (Jer. 4:14) “harden” his heart (Heb. 3:8) “keep” his heart (Prov. 4:23); or he can allow Satan to fill his heart with wickedness (Acts 5:3). The change of heart is very important, and yet many do not understand what it is. They think the change of heart is a feeling located in the physical heart. This is not true, but is a change which takes place in the inner man - a change of the intellect, the emotions, and the will. In this revolutionary process one’s thinking is changed from unconcern and open hostility to faith and love for God; and one’s will is changed from stubborn impenitence to penitence. This change is accomplished by the Spirit through the Word of God.
    When this change of the inner man has taken place , the outer man (the body) is ready to yield in obedience to Christ.

 - 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:

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

By Clarence DeLoach

“The God of Heaven will prosper us" (Nehemiah 2:20)
    When trouble and opposition came to the builders, Nehemiah went on the offensive. He developed a powerful and positive strategy for battle against discouragement, danger, derision, discord, distraction, defamation and dismay. The antagonists were overcome and the builders succeeded because they applied five powerful principles that need to be implemented by the builders of the Kingdom today.
    1. They prayed. The battles we fight must be bathed in the prayers of the saints. Satan levels the arsenal of hell against the builders of truth and righteousness. Prayer releases the power of God in our struggles. We cannot win alone! (Phil. 4:6; I Pet. 4:7; Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2; James 4:2)
    2. They were alert. Prayer must always be coupled with watchfulness. We must be aware of the enemy - his deception and cunning. His devices are clever and manipulative. (I Pet. 5:8; II Cor. 2:11) As builders, we cannot afford the luxury of apathy or indifference. (Matt. 26:41)
    3. They were prepared. As they worked, they were prepared for battle. Nehemiah put a sword in one hand and a tool to build in the other. (Neh. 4:16-20) Build and battle at the same time. As builders, we must be suited up in our armor at all times. Put on the "whole armor of God" (Eph. 6:10-18). Satan is always looking for an opportunity to infiltrate. By keeping "all" the armor on at "all" times we'll be ready when the attack comes.
    4. They were united. They worked with organization, cooperation and coordination. The phrase "and next to him" is repeated about 30 times in Nehemiah chapter three and suggests that the builders were a close-knit team. So, the body of Christ is "joined and knit together" which results in edification and growth. (Eph. 4:16)
    5. They were determined. They would not be sidetracked or distracted by intimidation from without, or dismay from within. They had "a mind to work." With a focused, determined leader in Nehemiah, the builders persevered and in 52 days the walls were completed.
    Read Nehemiah chapter 4 and note these five principles. The church will stand strong against the enemy when we apply these steadfast principles. Remember, a good offense is the best defense!

- 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:

Adorning the Doctrine

By James Burns

    Titus was to exhort servants to adorn the doctrine of God (Titus 2:9-10).  They were to do this by living faithful lives.  There was nothing they could do, nor is there anything we can do, to improve on the doctrine of God, but there are things that can draw more favorable attention to it.
    We can adorn the doctrine of God by knowing the doctrine.  Peter tells us to “always be ready to give a defense” for our hope (1 Pe3ter 1:15).  Knowing what we believe and why we believe it can help leave a favorable impression on an inquirer.
    We can adorn the doctrine by good works.  Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
    We can adorn the doctrine by content-ed lives.  When one can face the crises of life with faith and hope, others will want to know the source of such power.  Paul said he had learned how to be content under varying circumstances of life (Philippians 4:11-13).  Certainly, Paul’s life adorned the doctrine of God.
    We can adorn the doctrine by letting people see that the church is important to us.  People know when we attend its services and support its works.
    We can adorn the doctrine of God by “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).  Jesus prayed that those who believe on him might be one, that the world might believe on him (John 17:20-21).  He also said that by our loving one another, others can see that we are his disciples (John 13:35).  The Jerusalem church was “of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:12).  Let us in these ways and in all other ways “adorn the doctrine of God.”

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

No Sweat Discipleship?

By Dave Ridenour

    Advertisements abound today that claim to bring instant results without any effort or hard work on your part.  “Just take a pill and lose weight, there’s no need to exercise and burn off that fat.”  “You want to look like Charles Atlas, just hop onto this machine 10 minutes twice a week and you don’t have to even work up a sweat.”
     Now, those false advertisements don’t bother me that much, because I know better than to believe them.  But that “no sweat” mentality is sometimes seen in some of the members of the Lord’s church.  Too many are trying to make the Christian life as easy and painless as possible.  Religious bookstores are filled  with quick-fix theology books that claim to unlock the secret to a mature faith, without much effort on your part.  That’s not what the Lord said!  Notice what true discipleship really involves:
     1. True Discipleship Involves Seeking.  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).  To “seek” here means to give all of your effort.  It implies dedicated, determined activity.  Paul says in Rom. 2:6-7 that God “will render to each one according to his deeds eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.”  Seeking the kingdom is not easy, nor is it painless, but it is certainly necessary.
     2. True Discipleship Involves Suffering.  “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:12-13).  Suffering is frequently connected with the Christian life.  Jesus never preached “good health” and “lots of wealth” if you become a Christian, like you hear so  much today.  In fact, at one time He told His followers that they would be hated for His name’s sake (Matt. 10:22).   Paul also noted, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  Suffering is never easy, but suffering is sometimes necessary - especially in the area of Christian growth.
     3. True Discipleship Involves Striving.  “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Lule 13:24).  The Greek word translated “strive” is where we get our word “agonize!”  This means that we are to be diligently using every effort and the maximum expenditure of resources and concentration.   This involves a continual effort, as Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
     Discipleship is costly - it involves crosses, denial, struggle, and sometimes even suffering.  But the rewards are always greater then the efforts we put forth.  And it will always remain a fact that you won’t be a disciple without some sweat!

- 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:

Arguments I Used For the Use of Instrumental Music

(When I was a Preacher for the Christian Church)
By Dan Goddard

    Men have long been prone to go beyond the limitations of God's word in their zeal to serve Jehovah. Zeal for God is commendable when it is coupled with a knowledge of God's will; but when one allows his zeal to drive him beyond the confines of Bible teaching, it is catastrophic. As He delivered His law to the Israelites, God said, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32). For the Israelites to keep the commandments of Jehovah was for them to observe His word without addition or subtraction. Any other course was to invite the Father's displeasure. That the same principle holds true today is shown in the following instances:
1. Paul's instruction to "learn not to go beyond the things written" (1 Corinthians 4:6).
2. Peter's admonition to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).
3. John's warning that those who go onward and abide not in the teachings of Christ "hath not God" (2 John 9).
4. The closing words of the Revelation letter is cited against those who would "add to" or "take away from" the words contained in "the book of prophecy" (Revelation 22:18).
In view of such perspicuous statements, it would seem that men would see the folly of going beyond God's written word. That they do not is evident in prevalent religious practices.
    A case in point is the use of instruments of music in worship. Here is a common practice, yet one for which there is not a vestige of scriptural basis. It's existence depends upon going beyond God's commands.
    Many advocates of instrumental music, both seeing and readily admitting there is no Bible authority for their practice, seek to justify instrumental music from other viewpoints. Let us notice some of the arguments I used to justify this unscriptural practice.
    Argument: It is true that musical instruments in Christian worship are not mentioned in the Bible, but neither are church buildings, pews, lights, and many other things - things which we all readily accept.
    Answer: Here is a failure to distinguish between worship and the place of worship. God has specified acts of worship, but not the place; yet a place of worship is essential in keeping God's command to assemble. Whether it is under an oak tree or in a building equipped with pews, lights, baptistry, etc., the place of worship is authorized in the commandment to assemble (Matthew 18:20; Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25). Authority for a church house can also be found in other scriptures, but there is no such scriptures covering instrumental music in worship.
    Argument: But you have Sunday School. The Bible does not mention this. How can you accept this, but condemn instrumental music in worship?
    Answer: Christ said teach, but He did not specify how (Matthew 28:19; John 4:45). Methods of teaching are left to human judgment. Sunday School or Bible Class (as we prefer to call it) is only a means of teaching. Instrumental music is not a method of doing anything God has commanded. Surely, no one will say it is a means of singing.
    Argument: You do not object to the piano in the home. How can you use it at home, but not in the church?
    Answer: If one is worshiping, it is just as wrong for him to use the instrument at home in private as it is in the assembly. Anything that is morally right is permissible for the home, but only that which is commanded by God can be used in worship.
    Argument: But all Christian life is worship. When you use the instrument at home, you are actually worshiping. When you refuse to use it in the assembly, you are being inconsistent.
    Answer: All Christian life is service, but not all Christian life is worship. Everything that one does is to be in harmony with God's will, but not every act is an act of worship. God's word is comprehensive, governing both our every day activities and our activities in worship. The use of "worship" in the Bible indicates that it has reference to special acts of homage. The Apostle John fell down before the angel of God in a definite act "to worship". The angel reproved him and instructed him to "worship God" (Revelation 22:8,9). This act should have been directed to God, not the angel. One is hard pressed indeed when he bases his case on such obvious assumptions.
    Argument: We use the instrument of as an aid to singing.
    Answer: Instrumental music is more than an aid. It is an addition to God's plan. Illustration: God's specified gopher wood as the material out of which the ark was to be made. Suppose Noah had used cedar or pine. Such would have been a violation of God's plan. Now if God had commanded the ark to be made of wood, there would have been no violation. But He specified gopher wood. This excluded all other kinds. God has specified the kind of music to be used in worship. Instrumental music is another kind. To use it is to despise the plan of God.
    Argument: I see no harm in it and I am going to use instruments of music regardless of what the Bible says or does not say.
    Answer: You may not see any harm in it, but this does not mean God does not see harm in it. Remember, our worship is to please God, not ourselves (Colossians 3:17).
    Let us sing, making melody with our hearts to the Lord, as God commands (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Let us refuse to go beyond that which is written.

- 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:

The Church of Your Choice

By Stephen R. Bradd

    Dear Christian friends, this lesson is designed to stimulate thought on an individual and congregational level. After you consider the following thoughts personally, I encourage you to share them locally with your brothers and sisters in Christ whom you worship the Lord with and labor with in His kingdom.
    What do you want this church to be like? How do you want us to be thought of in the community? What impression do you want our visitors to leave with after coming our way? Most importantly, what does God think of us, and how will our congregation be judged eternally? As you think about your answers, let your imagination soar for a moment--friendliest church, most inspiring worship assembly, best evangelistic emphasis, most compassionate benevolence program, most peaceful church, best taught Bible school, strongest visitation program, most loving fellowship, best youth program, most generous, etc. Brethren, do you realize that the choice is yours?
    Of course, I'm not talking about what doctrine we will believe, practice, or teach. That's already been decided for us by Christ. If we want to be the Lord's church, then obviously we must do what the Lord said, or we are not His church. There is no getting around that truth, no matter what our tolerant post-modern society may say. What I am talking about is how we apply the teachings of the New Testament. That's what really determines what this congregation will be like, and that decision is up to the membership. Allow me to elaborate.
    Who decides what the attendance will be at any given assembly? The members decide! Who decides how much will be spent on evangelism? Someone might state, "Well, the elders decide that." Wrong! The elders may decide where the money will go, but the members decide how much will be spent, because the elders can't spend what the members won't give. What about the atmosphere of our assemblies, who decides what it will be? Why, the members, of course!
    You can't have a friendly church without friendly members. You can't have a loving church without loving members. You can't have enthusiastic worship in spirit and truth without zealous and dedicated members. You can't have peace in the Lord's church, unless you have brethren who are humble peacemakers.
    So, who decides whether we are a growing, stagnant, or dying church? You know the answer: it's the members! Oh yes, leadership plays a major role. The Bible teaches (as well as common sense) that the church cannot outgrow its leadership. In other words, you can't have a growing church with a stagnant or dead leadership. Generally speaking, the members will not go where their leaders will not lead. Many churches are stagnant, dying, or dead, because their leaders offer little or no example of real leadership for the members to follow.
    Ultimately, though, it falls on the membership to decide whether the church grows, dies, or maintains the status quo (which is really just a nice way of saying "remains stagnant"). In the case of stagnant leadership, faithful members will kindly exhort and encourage the leaders to boldly dream, challenge, and lead by example. In the case of dynamic, on-fire leadership, though, if they don't have zealous members who are willing to follow their lead by involving themselves in the work, then the battle is lost. The simple truth is that it takes great leaders and great followers to build a great church!
    To a great degree the success or failure of the local congregation is in your hands. The local congregation, to a large extent, will be what you choose it to be. You must decide how much visiting will be done, how many home Bible studies will be taught, how many folks will be invited to attend our services, how much the gospel will be shared in private conversations, and what kind of influence the church will have in the community by your own personal demeanor and example. You decide how much money will be spent on world evangelism, how uplifting and joyful our worship will be, and whether or not we have peace or war in the local fellowship.

- via the Lake Hills Letter, weekly bulletin of the Lake Hills Church of Christ in Chattanooga, TN.  Shane Robinson preaches for the congregation, and he may be contacted through their website at

Monday, January 13, 2014


By Hugo McCord

    Every man, as Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul, can live a chaste, holy life and stay single if he so chooses: "No trial has taken hold of you except what is common to humanity.  God is trustworthy, and he will not allow you to be tried beyond your ability. With the trial he will provide an escape, so that you can bear up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13, FHV). "But, said the Lord, It is not good for Adam to be alone  (Genesis 2:18, FHV)." The companionship of a dog or a cat or a parakeet, though deeply satisfying, still lacks something.  Consequently, for Adam no suitable helper was found (Genesis 2:20, FHV).
    Around this first solitary figure stretched the greenery of the forest and at his feet the wild flowers burst into bloom.  But in the midst of such natural loveliness, it is said that the man himself was lonely in his solitude. He heard the glad call of the birds to their mates, and saw them build their homes with joy of natural things.  But for him there was no song, because there was no one to hear his singing, no one who could understand his dreams, share his joys, or sympathize in his sorrows.
    But God saw that it was not good for him to be alone and created for him a helpmeet.  With her fragile loveliness and grace more beautiful than his strength, her intellect swifter to understand, and a heart tenderer to be touched, she brought to him those lovelier graces for which his nature yearned.
    And so this first home came into being as the perfect fulfillment of a vital human need, the completion of two natures that alone were incomplete.  This is the beauty and significance of every home.  For here alone is found the consummation of earthly happiness, a security derived from perfect loyalty, a contentment based on mutual understanding, and a joy born of perfect love (“Wedding Ceremony” composed by James O. Baird and used at the marriages of his children).
    It is noticeable that the all-wise God did not create for Adam as a companion a Robert (Genesis 2:22).
    It is noticeable that the all-wise God did not create woman from man’s head, that she should be his ruler; nor from his feet, that he should walk on her; but from near to his heart that he should love and cherish her (John Wesley and Genesis 2:21).
    It is noticeable how pleased and even thrilled Adam was when he first laid eyes on Eve: "This is the time!  Bone from my bones!  Flesh from my flesh!  She shall be called ishsha (“woman”), for from ish (“man”), she was taken.  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother, and be glued to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:23-24, FHV).
    A Sunday School teacher was trying to impress her class with the mind-boggling concept of the omnipresence of God, that there is no place that God is not.  She was shocked when a girl said, “God is not at our house--God would not be in a house where a man talks as mean as daddy does to my mother.”
    Oh!  How that husband needs to repent, to apologize, to pray, and to read his Bible!  He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind (Proverbs 11:29).  Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife (Proverbs 17:1).
    One who loves covers a transgression, but he who keeps talking about a matter separated close friends  (Proverbs 17:9).  Unavoidly disagreements will arise, but lovers will quickly find a solution--yes, before sundown (Ephesians 4:26, FHV).  An old man told me, “Every night in bed, before we go to sleep, I give her a love pat, a reassurance that all is well between us.”
    Husbands are included in the admonition to all Christians to be kind one to        another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
    If a husband wants to be liked and appreciated he will cultivate a fruit of the Spirit called “kindness” (Proverbs 19:22).
    Then the apostle couples with kindness another fruit of the Spirit called “gentleness:” "I, Paul myself, am begging you by the gentleness and kindness of Christ" (Galatians 5:23; 2 Corinthians 10:1, FHV).  No husband, if he considers himself a gentleman, would say,  “Paul was not talking to me,” for the very word “gentleman” says a man is gentle.
    Can a husband be called a “gentleman” if he is gentle with his boss and with his neighbors, but he is not gentle with his wife and children?  To be gentle, says the dictionary, is to be “mild; moderate; not violent, harsh, or rough.”  The wise man said,  A gentle tongue melts anger, but  harsh words stir up             anger  (Proverbs 15:1, FHV).  What husband  is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show by honorable behavior his works in gentleness of wisdom”  (James 3:13).
    In some homes a worthwhile placard adorns a wall:
    Christ is the head of this house, an unseen guest at every meal, a silent listener to every conversation.
    No wife can ever appreciate her husband as she would like to if he is cheerful and smiling away from home, but at home is a sourpuss and grumpy.  An irritable husband cheats himself: "Every day is bad to the afflicted, but the cheerful of heart have a continual feast" (Proverbs 15:15, FHV). "A cheerful heart is a good medicine, while a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 27:22, FHV).
     Who is the greatest husband?  Jesus is the “bridegroom,” and his “bride” is “the church” (John 3:29; Ephesians 5:25).  How much did he love his wife?  He “gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), and "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church" (Ephesians 5:28-29, NIV).
    Likewise, in the same way,  each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:33, NIV).  The wife of Hugo McCord has often said that she will never have any trouble in being subject to him as long as he loves her as much as he loves himself.
    Paul’s personification of love is beautiful and meaningful:
    Love is patient.  Love is kind and not jealous.  Love does not boast, and is not puffed up.  Love does not behave improperly.  Love is unselfish.  Love keeps calm.  Love holds no grudges.  Love rejoices not in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  Love covers with silence the faults of others.  Love trusts and hopes and endures all things.  Love never ceases(1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
    Peter tells how the prayers of husbands will be heard: "Likewise, husbands, live understandingly with your wives, as with those who are more delicate; and bestow honor on them, as being      fellow-heirs of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).
    Everybody’s wholesome comedian of another generation, the late Will Rogers, received an invitation from a rich Hollywood hostess to a party.  He went, and was the life of the evening.  On his return home, he sent a bill for $1000.00 to the hostess for “services rendered.” She was shocked! She telephoned, “I invited you as a guest, not as an entertainer.”  He replied,  “When Mrs. Rogers’ name is not on the invitation to a party, I go to work.  You  will please mail me the $1000.00.”  She did, and he gave the money to charity.  Will Rogers was not a New Testament Christian, but he believed in giving honor to his wife.
    Every wife knows soon   after marriage if her husband is a prize, a surprise, or a consolation prize.

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

Warring the Good Warfare

    Throughout the epistles of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus there is a very prominent theme of soldiers fighting for Christ and opposing Satan and his angels.
    Paul charged the young preacher, Timothy, to "war a good warfare" (1 Tim. 1:18), to "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Tim. 6:16), and encourages him to be a "good soldier of Christ" (2 Tim. 2:3). Paul, in his farewell address, declared, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7). Clearly, fighting for the  cause of Christ should be the desire of every faithful Christian.
    Interestingly, though, in 2 Timothy 2:23-24, Paul tells Timothy not to gender strife - but to be gentle. Is it possible for us to fight for Christ, and yet, not gender strife and be gentle? I believe we can and must, and briefly, I would like to suggest something for us to think about as we go about to accomplish this vitally important task.
    I believe there are two types of fighting in which men find themselves involved. There are those, on the one hand, who fight with reckless abandon, who jump into a situation without thinking, having no regard for the innocent parties involved. Their job is to accomplish the task no matter what. Then there are those who keep a cool head while in the midst of fighting, those who are aware of the innocent parties involved and try to keep them from being hurt. This is the type of person who will not drop an atomic bomb when a hand grenade (or even a pea-shooter) would have easily done the job.
    I believe when Paul says, "fight" and then later says "don't strive, but be gentle," he was pointing out that when one fights for the Lord he must have the proper attitude, purpose, and method. We do not want to have the attitude of some, it seems, whose attitude declares, "Let me at that false teacher so I can rip his eye balls out!" Is this person's motive or purpose what it should be?
    We are to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3) - we are to fight the good fight of faith" (1 Tim. 1:18), but at the same time we are to do so with the purpose of saving souls. "Seek and destroy missions" have no place in Christianity, but we are to "seek and save that which was lost" (Lk. 19:10). We must "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). "If any among you err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins" (Jam. 5:19-20).

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

The Unchanging Christ

By W. Terry Varner

    The world is temporal. Life on this earth is in constant change. We are told “the world passeth away” (1 John 2:17) and “the earth and the works therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Peter reminds us that our “flesh is as grass” (1 Peter 1:24). Solomon says, “The dust shall return to the earth” (Eccl. 12:7). It is in the midst and reality of constant change that man longs for something permanent. The answer to our dilemma is--THE UNCHANGING CHRIST.
    CHRIST’S SALVATION HAS NOT CHANGED. Salvation is deliverance from sin. The salvation brought by Jesus Christ has not changed in either its content or conditions. The “great salvation” was “first spoken through the Lord” (Heb. 2:3). Peter stated of Christ, “thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). None can go to heaven except [if and only if] through Christ. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Christ still calls men by faith (Heb. 11:6), repentance (Luke 13:3), confession (Acts 8:37), baptism (John 3:3, 5), and a life of putting first things first (Matt. 6:33).
    CHRIST’S KINGDOM HAS NOT CHANGED. Paul writes that Christ’s kingdom “cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28). This harmonizes with Daniel’s prophecy of the eternal nature of the kingdom as, “the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed... and It shall stand for ever” (Dan. 2:44). The words “kingdom” and “church” describe different aspects of the same thing. “Kingdom” describes the rule and spiritual sovereignty of God. “Church” describes the members [Christians] who compose the kingdom and are under God’s rule (Col. 1:18). The “kingdom” while in the world has been “translated out of the power of darkness” (Col. 1:13). In the kingdom/church men have (1) redemption by the blood of Christ (Col. 1:14) and (2) forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14).
    CHRIST’S PROMISES SHALL NOT CHANGE. Added to the unchanging salvation and kingdom, the unchanging Christ has promises to His faithful that shall not change. All spiritual blessings shall always remain in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Christ’s role as High Priest extends help of mercy and grace to those who hold fast shall always remain (Heb. 4:14-16). The promise of judgment (2 Cor. 5:10) and the determination of the eternal destiny of all men (Matt. 25:46) shall always remain. Truly, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

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

Monday, January 6, 2014

Know My Habits; Know My Heart

By Jim Bullington

    Know my habits; know my heart! This proverb was never more evident than it was in the life of Jesus when He returned to His hometown of Nazareth. “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read” (Luke 4:16-17).
    I recently heard a nationally renowned speaker say that he could discern the values that any person holds dear if he had access to only two documents. And, what are these two documents that hold the secrets of a man’s heart? According to the speaker, they are his checkbook and his daily planner. From these two sources, he could determine how a person spends his time and how he spends his money. In that sense, I concluded that the speaker was correct! Everything that is truly important to me is reflected in my checkbook and my planner.
    Jesus had habits just like everyone else. By carefully noting the text cited above, we gain insight into the values that Jesus held dear. Note that He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath days “as His custom was.” The obvious import of this passage is that Jesus had, over a long process of time, developed the habit of going into the synagogue for the express purpose of worship on the Sabbath. His custom was one developed of His own volition and not by force of another. In the synagogue He could associate with others who respected God’s laws and shared His view of their importance. He could read from the inspired Scriptures, God’s Divine source of wisdom. He could discuss how the Scriptures applied to His own life and to the lives of those about Him. The fact that Jesus habitually visited the synagogue on a weekly basis reveals much about the character of Jesus.
    I have heard people argue, “I can be a Christian without going to church every Sunday!” Usually I have heard this line in defense of one’s habit of not attending church services. With Jesus’ custom of attending the synagogue in view, I wonder if an informed person would make this argument to Jesus? I hardly think so! Why not? Because everyone knows - “Know my habits; Know my heart!”

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

Can We Put Too Much Emphasis On Baptism If It Is In The Scriptures?

By Johnny Oxendine

    Some times we find ourselves having to just go back to the scriptures to show people that what we preach and teach is what the Bible says, not what we want it to say. This comes up with numerous issues, but today we just want to look at a very simple, but sometimes misunderstood topic: baptism.
    Why would a topic like baptism (for the remission of sins) be so controversial for many in the world and denominations today? Perhaps it is because in the church we often hear that we are legalists, or that we put too much importance on “minor” things like baptism in relation to salvation. In view of what the Bible teaches, I do not see how this could be possible. There are five very clearly written passages in the New Testament that mention both baptism and salvation in the same verse. Here is the list -- see for yourself: Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4; Acts 22:16 and I Peter 3:21. In every one of these passages, water baptism precedes salvation, the remission of sins or walking in the newness of life. Do you know of a single exception?
    Just read this verse, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). This passage clearly contains the conditions for salvation: faith and baptism. It also contains the conditions for damnation: a lack of faith. If anyone wants to know what to do to go to hell, have them read Mark 16:16 -- all that is necessary is a lack of faith. If they want to know what to do for the salvation of their soul, have them read the same verse -- it tells them to believe and be baptized.
    We can also read in Acts 2:38 that Peter told a group of believers to "repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." Our denominational friends (mostly Baptists) often focus on the word "for" in this passage and insist it means "because of," even though it is never translated that way in the Bible. We have to remind them that if baptism is "because of" the remission of sins, then so is repentance. Baptism and repentance are joined by the little conjunction "and." Which means that whatever baptism is "for," repentance is "for" also. After one is buried with Christ in baptism, they are raised to walk in a newness of life (Romans 6:1-4). This new life comes after baptism. Many denominationalists obviously want to "bury" the "new man," since they claim the newness of life comes before our "burial."
    Remember that three days after the Lord appeared to Saul of Tarsus, Ananias told him to "arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16). Some people today claim Saul was saved three days before Ananias met him. Well, Ananias must not have known it, for he told Saul how to "wash away" his sins. If Saul had been saved on the road as some groups claim, he must have been the most miserable saved man in the Bible. Saul was blind and spent three days praying and fasting until Ananias arrived.
    In I Peter 3:21 the Bible plainly states baptism "now saves us." I realize that baptism alone is not the only thing necessary for salvation. Other requirements must be met, like faith, love and repentance. I do not know of anything "alone" that will save a sinner, not even faith (James 2:24). So, as always, we want to speak where the scriptures speak (without additions)

- 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:

The Spiritually Elite

By Jay Lockhart

    Paul gave some sage advice, yes a divine commandment, when he said, “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think” (see Romans 12:3).
    There are two things to keep in mind here: (1) one should not think more lowly of himself than he should—this is a false humility that overlooks one’s strengths and abilities; and (2) neither should one think more highly of himself than he should—this is pride that causes one to look down on others and alienates from God (see James 5:5).
    The proud are the spiritually elite who exalt themselves in their own eyes. They are those who have the attitude, “If you only knew as much as I know, you would think and feel as I do.”
    This attitude, causes one to look down on others and to pity them for being unspiritual. This attitude is divisive because it pushes its agenda slipshod over the less spiritual. This attitude is hypocritical because while it claims to be spiritually mature it is often harsh and unloving with those who disagree with it. This attitude is selfish because it insists upon its own way. This attitude is often rude and hurtful to those it considers to be less mature. This attitude believes it knows how to grow a church whether it has grown one or not. This attitude thinks it doesn’t need to be governed by scripture and places its own thought above the revealed will of God.
     Here’s the question: which of the above mentioned things express the attitude of Christ? The answer, of course, is none of them. We all are to be growing into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). We are to learn to think, speak, and act like Christ. When we fail we may display attitudes that are far from the imitation of Christ.
    We may only think we are spiritual people unless we are acknowledging what is written as the commandments of the Lord (see I Corinthians 14:37) and allow God’s word to guide our thoughts, our attitudes, and our lives.

- 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: