Monday, April 28, 2014

Providence—“A Divinity That Shapes Our Ends”

By John Gipson

    The word providence is often on our lips, but we may not have a clear conception of its meaning.
    The idea is forethought. It comes from a combination of words: before and to think. Hence, forethought. The word is inserted into the New Testament by a  certain orator named Tertullus who took the lead in bringing charges against the    apostle Paul. In an effort to praise Governor Felix, Tertullus said, “Since through you we enjoy much peace and since by your provision (forethought, providence), most excellent Felix, reforms are introduced on behalf of this nation, in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude” (Acts 24:2-3). In the eyes of Tertullus, Felix was quite a man. The nation had been blessed by his providence. Felix had looked ahead, planned, and brought to pass needed reforms.
    Whatever the providence of Felix might have been, it is nothing compared to the forethought of God who planned our redemption from the foundation of the world.
    We see God’s providence throughout the realm of nature, in the guidance of the nations, and in the deliverance of Israel from bondage into the promised land.
    Benjamin Franklin said, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of the this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man; and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?
    We see God’s providence in individual lives: In David guarded from so many perils; in Joseph who could review the past and tell his brothers that they weren’t responsible for bringing him to Egypt—it was the forethought and planning of God.
    He who is truly thoughtful finds providence not only in the history of the world, but in his own personal and family history.
    He therefore has confidence in the future. If God sustained the Israelites in the wilderness so that they lacked nothing, can’t He provide for us? We need the same conviction with which Abraham spoke to his son, Isaac when he said, “God will provide . . .”        

- 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:

To Save Others

By David A. Sargent

     Like many students in our nation, Tyler Doohan, a fourth grader at East Rochester Elementary School in New York, was out-of-school on Monday, January 20, due to a holiday.  Because of the time out of class, Tyler spent Sunday night with some extended family at his grandfather’s trailer in Penfield, a suburb of Rochester.
     Perhaps it was the smell of smoke or popping sounds caused by the fire, but Tyler awoke from sleep very early on Monday morning and saw that the trailer was on fire.  This eight-year-old sprang into action awaking 6 other people – including two other children, ages 4 and 6 – enabling them to get out of the trailer safely.
     Tyler’s uncle, Steven Smith, and his grandfather, were still in the burning trailer, so Tyler rushed back in to help them.  His uncle was disabled and used a wheelchair because he’d lost part of a leg.
     Tyler, his uncle, and his grandfather did not make it out of the trailer.  Fire investigators found Tyler’s body just a few feet from his uncle’s bed.
     Chris Ebmeyer, Fire Chief of the Penfield Fire Company, said the casualties would have been much worse had Tyler not reacted so quickly.  "He saved those other six people," Ebmeyer told the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper of Rochester.
     The East Rochester School District sent a letter to all families saying Tyler "bravely and selflessly" gave his own life "to save the lives of six others — and he is truly a hero."
     Tyler Doohan reminds us of the greatest Hero of all…
When we were doomed because of our sins and headed for the “everlasting fire” of punishment, God sent Jesus to our rescue so that we would not perish in the flames (Ephesians 1:7).  Jesus went “into the fire” and suffered the punishment for our sins.  He “endured hell” so that we wouldn’t have to.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree [i.e., the cross], so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).  He gave His life for us so that we might live (1 Thessalonians 5:10).
     Jesus will save and give eternal life to those who accept His offer of salvation on His terms: placing their faith and trust in Jesus (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). He will continue to cleanse those who strive to continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
     Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” – John 15:13
     Tyler demonstrated that kind of love.  His actions provide a glimpse of the great love that Jesus demonstrated for ALL of mankind to offer salvation from the greatest peril: how He bravely and selflessly gave Himself to save ALL who would come to Him in trusting obedience.
     Won’t YOU respond to His great love by accepting His gift of salvation and life on His terms?

* Information gleaned from “NY town mourns brave 8-year-old who died saving six people from trailer fire.” by M. Alex Johnson, Staff Writer, NBC News --

- 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:


Your Influence . . .

By Lance Cordle

• Can, and will be, good or bad.
• Can last for years, through your work and your children.
• Can reach someone for Christ who may not be influenced by any other Christian.
• Can be the most stabilizing factor in the life of your child.
• Can be the  most destabilizing factor in the life of your child.
• Can be the stress-reducer that your mate needs.
• Can be the stress-producer that results in a lifetime of resentment and heartache.
• Can be a “silent” instructor, causing some one to follow Christ.
• Can be felt throughout your neighborhood and community because of your humble acts of kindness.
• Can be a hindrance to the cause of Christ in your neighborhood and community because of your worldly and hypocritical behavior.
• Can be seen every day.
• Can be built and strengthened over many years.
• Can be ruined by one foolish act.
• Can be mingled with the influence of others, for good or bad.
• Can be powerful in the life of someone else without you even knowing it.
• Can be good, even if someone reacts negatively to you or hurts you.
• Can be present after you leave an area (physically), in the form of good memories with those whom you touched.
• Can be seen by the repetition of your words or actions in the lives of those whom you taught.
• Can be controlled by you.
• WILL live on after you are gone from this life. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).

- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Placing Membership

By Lee Moses

      Sometimes questions arise as to whether is is Scripturally necessary, or even Scripturally permissible, to “place membership” with a congregation.  A modern brother or sister may raise the objection:  “I’m a member of the church of Christ, and that’s good enough for me.”  What this person means is:  “I am a member of the universal church of Christ, but I have no interest in serving in a local congregation.”  Others seem to believe that placing membership is a denominational concept, rather than a Scriptural concept.  However, the term simply means to identify oneself with a local congregation. 
     Please consider a few reasons why it is both Scripturally permissible and Scripturally necessary to place membership with a faithful church of Christ after leaving another.
1. In the New Testament, each first century Christian is understood to be a member of a particular congregation.  The New Testament does speak of the universal church of Christ, into which the Lord adds the saved when they are baptized (Matt. 16:18;  Acts 2:47; Eph. 5:23).  However, far and away, the New Testament most often uses “church” to refer to the local congregation (Acts 14:27;  20:17;  Rom. 16:1, 23a).  Paul wrote “saints which are at Ephesus” (Eph. 1:1).  Here it is expressed that he wrote to “saints,” or Christians – but were they not saints who were members of the local church at Ephesus?  He wrote “unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Cor. 1:2).  “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thes. 1:1).  Whether Paul addressed “the saints at [whatever location]” or “the church at [whatever location],” he was addressing the same group.
2. Members are responsible to function within the body (Rom. 12:5;  I Cor. 12;  Eph. 4:16), and the body functions within each local congregation.  There is no larger organizational structure of the church (compare with Phil. 1:1). If we do  not function within a  local church, we do not function within the church at all.
3. Christians have the responsibility to submit to a local eldership…, while each eldership has the responsibility to oversee the flock they are among (Heb. 13:17;  Acts 20:28;  I Pet. 5:2).  If one never submits to an eldership, he never complies with his responsibility to submit to an eldership, and he hinders elders from performing their responsibility to oversee the flock.
4. After Saul was converted and returned to Jerusalem, he knew he had to identify himself with the congregation there.  This is why “he assayed to join himself to the disciples” there (Acts 9:26).  There is no difference between this and what is sometimes called “placing membership.” If Saul saw the need to identify himself with a faithful congregation where he was living, why would we not have the same need?  If one lives in an area where there are no faithful congregations, placing membership is obviously not an option.  In such instances, one should again do what the first century Christians did, and establish congregations in those areas (compare with Acts 8:4ff;  11:19-21).
     Otherwise, placing membership is both Scripturally permissible and Scripturally necessary.                                                

- 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:

Children and Aged Parents

By R.W. McAlister

      What a shame that so many today have a glaring disrespect for the elderly, including parents. Today’s generations need to learn more perfectly the will of the Lord regarding respect for parents. Proverbs 30:11, "There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother." This could be said of many in our time. Paul writes in Eph. 6:2: “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise.”
      The focus of this brief article is, as the title indicates, not the relationship between young children and parents, but grown children and older parents. We must honor our parents, regardless of our - or their - age.
      Included in showing honor is to speak kindly of them, doing things for their well being. “Disobedient to parents" was a mark of the wicked Gentiles (Romans 1:30; II Tim. 3:2).
      Honoring parents includes caring for them in their time of need. Proverbs 23:22, “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” Natural affection, and especially the love of Christ (Jn 13:34-35) would have us care for those who cared for us. Who has cared for us more than mother and father?
      First Timothy 5:8 reads, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel."
      What many seemingly have forgotten is that duty to parents does not end with childhood days at home with mom and dad. Christ rebuked some adults who dishonored their parents when their parents were dependent on them (Matthew 15:1-9). They were giving to God, but neglecting the care and provision of their parents, which was also commanded by God. Christ condemned such inconsistency and accused them of making God’s Word null and void and displacing the commandments of God to follow their own traditions.
      Surely, parents who have devoted much of their lives to the benefit of their children shouldn't be cast aside when they grow old. This smacks more of paganism and heathenism than Christianity. We set aside a command of God to fail to provide care for their needs in their hour of need.
      Honoring parents means to give them respect and special consideration (Ephesians 6:2). Children can bring joy and gladness to their parents, or they can bring reproach, sorrow and despair. How can people so live as to hurt their parents who cared for them when they were small? Sometimes, the excuse is that the parent wasn't a very good one, perhaps showing favoritism, or being manipulative, or one of any number of things. Listen, parents sometimes make bad mistakes - I've made plenty of mistakes with my 3 children, but would God have us to always be unforgiving and "punish" them by being openly rude or cutting off all communication with them? Remember the words of Jesus in Matt. 6:14-15: “…if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
      We must always manifest a forgiving spirit to any who may have wronged us. Parents aren’t always perfect, and will make mistakes – sometimes very serious and damaging ones. Let us manifest the forgiving spirit of Christ, who cried out from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
      Proverbs 23: 24 & 25 "The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice, and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice." If both or either of your parents is still alive, how is your relationship with one or both? Is there a need to improve upon it? The future is uncertain as there is no promise of another day (Jas. 4:13-15). Give it some thought.

 - R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Who Will You Pray for Today?

      A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert-like   island.  The two survivors agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.  However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.
      The first thing they prayed for was food.  The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit.  The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.  After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife.  The next day, there was a woman who swam to his side of the island.  On the other side of the island, there was nothing.  Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes and more food.  The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him.  However, the second man still had nothing. 
     Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island.  In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island.  The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island.  He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.  
      As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”  
      “My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them,” the first man answered.   
      “You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him.  “He had only one prayer which I answered.  He prayed that all of your prayers be answered.” 
      For all we know, our blessings are not the fruits of our prayers alone, but those of another praying for us.  Oftentimes you hear parents telling their children on their wedding day, “We have been praying for this day since before you were born.”  Prayer is powerful because our God is powerful.  Who will you pray for today?  

- Selected and adapted; 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, April 14, 2014

What Do You Expect of God?

By Bill Brandstatter

      A few years ago, I was talking to a Christian about his commitment to God. He said he didn’t go to worship much because God had “touched him.” He stated that he took his granddaughter, but he hadn’t been to worship in three weeks. Church just wasn’t what he expected. So I asked him, just what did he expect?
      What do you expect of God?
Some expect God to put a stamp of approval on their lifestyle and to accept them without any change on their part. These folks might reason that since God is just and kind, He would accept them as they are. Jesus, however preached, “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He also stated, “Except you repent you shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3) We have to change for God to accept us.
      Some may think very little of God‘s perspective and only think about their own. Remember, God doesn’t think like man does. (Is. 55:8, 9) Man lives in a physical world. Often what man expects in the physical, he also expects in the spiritual. When excitement, entertainment, and pleasure are the way of the physical, some expect that in the spiritual as well. Any church that doesn’t provide those is not what they expect.
      Sometimes man may think God’s ways are unfair. Some said so in the past. (Ezek. 18:25) Those living in a sinful relationship might believe it is unfair that God wants them to separate. Someone else in a dead end marriage can’t believe that God wants them to stay together “till death do you part.” Those who are living a sinful lifestyle might consider it unfair that they must leave that lifestyle in order to get to heaven. (Gal. 5:19-21) Yet, who is it that sets the standard of fairness? Who decides right or wrong? God does.
      Some may expect God to do what man is supposed to do. God cannot save a person who does not want to be saved. God cannot save someone who has not met His requirements. (Matt. 7:21) When the rich man was in torment as recorded in Luke chapter 16, he wanted someone to go to his brothers on earth to warn them. The answer was, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” (Luke 16:29) Those who want to be saved must follow God's laws. Anything else is not acceptable.
      We cannot expect God to strike us with a burst of Bible knowledge. It takes study on the part of man to understand the will of God. The Bereans searched the scriptures to see if the preaching they heard was accurate. (Acts 17:11) We must study God’s Word and handle it correctly. (2 Tim. 2:15) Let us pray that we always strive to do what God expects so that we have a good conscience toward Him. (Acts 24:16; 1 Pet. 3:21) God loves us so much that He puts guidelines, rules, and ways in place to help us get through this life and be in heaven one day with Him. If we follow Him, we will achieve that goal.

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

A Desire For Heaven

By Wayne Coats         

      It is the truth that no normal person can live in heaven without having a strong desire to enter therein. It is said of the ancient Hebrews that, “Now they desire a better country...” (Heb. 11:16). The country in which we live is indeed a sorry place from several viewpoints. The law of Jehovah is spurned, rejected, denied and often laughed at. The morals of the country are scarcely above that of rats and rabbits. Political chicanery and dishonesty runs rampant. Faithful children of God often despair and long for better days. It matters not how wicked this old world gets, the Christian must continue to live and walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7).         
      We can have many desires but none can equal the desire for a better country. We can follow the example of these ancient Hebrews who desired a better country. Those faithful people were busy seeking a better country (Heb. 11:14). Almighty God does not force His abode on careless people.
      Hebrews chapter 11 presents a portrait of those who offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice. Consider the great effort which the people expended. It was by faith that “the elders obtained a good report” (Heb. 11:2). God rewards those who, “diligently seek him” (v.6). Abraham desired the city which had foundations whose builder and maker is God (v.10). The walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days (v.30).
      God hath prepared for His people a city which should be desired above all else. The city of God is a heavenly place. It is the “habitation of God.” “The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth” (Psa. 33:13-14). God has provided some better thing for us (Heb. 11:40). Why will people refuse to live and walk by faith, rejecting the better things of God?
      The provision of God holds in store a better resurrection (Heb. 11:35). Such will be a better place.  There will be no pain nor sickness in that better place. Can we not think what it will be, and thus desire to live in heaven?
     The peerless apostle not only wanted to be saved, but he wanted others to reap the reward. He declared, “ heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:1-2).
     The apostle wrote, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5:2-4). We sincerely trust that each reader will earnestly desire to inherit life eternal with the Savior. Think of the alternative.
     The apostle worked and prayed that others might be saved. He declared, “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:11-12).

- 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:

The Care and Feeding of a Newborn

By Jim Faughn

      Phone calls are made;  texts are sent;  pictures are posted on Facebook;  Twitter is filled with tweets.  In short, the news is spread in any way possible.
      What has just happened?
      Isn’t it obvious?
      A new child has made his/her entrance into the world!  Parents, grandparents, other relatives, and friends are all elated.  They are filled with gratitude, pride, joy, and so many other positive emotions.   
     However, it won’t be long until that “new creature” will begin making demands on some of the older and more mature members of the family.  He/she does not intend to do that.  It is just how things are.  Nobody expects a newborn infant to be able to be self sufficient.  It may take a lot of time and loss of sleep; demands may be made on financial resources; it may be very difficult; but no right thinking person would resent getting this infant on his/her way to a healthy, rewarding life.
     The Bible teaches that, when one is baptized into Christ (cf. Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27), that person becomes “a new creature/creation” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17, various translations).   How do the more mature members of the spiritual family respond to that?
     Are we as excited about somebody’s new birth (cf. John 3) as we are about a physical birth?  Do we “spread that news?”  Are we willing to invest the time, energy, and other resources it will take to help a new child of God begin a journey that, hopefully, will lead all of us to heaven?
     It would be beyond ludicrous to expect “the professionals” (doctors, nurses, etc.) to nurture, train, and educate our newborn children until they were mature enough to take care of themselves.  Once we leave the hospital, we do what we can for them (with some “professional guidance” along the way) until they can do things for themselves.
    What would be the sense, then, of expecting only “the professionals” in the church (preachers, elders, etc.) to be the only ones expected to help nurture a new Christian?  Wouldn’t it be better if each of us took some ownership in this?
      How about all of us applying the words of an old song to all of the members of our family --- especially the newborn ones? 
He ain’t heavy. 
He’s my brother.

- 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: