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Monday, June 28, 2021

Bubba Knows Everybody

By Larry Pasley

    Bubba was bragging to his boss one day, “You know, I know everyone there is to know.  Just name someone, anyone, and I know him.” 
    Tired of Bubba’s boasting, his boss called his bluff, “OK, Bubba, how about the famous film actor Tom Cruise?”  “Sure, yes, Tom and I are old friends, and I can prove it.”
    So Bubba and his boss fly out to Hollywood and knock on Tom Cruise’s door, and sure enough, Tom Cruise, shouts, “Bubba! Great to see you! You and your friend come right in and join me for lunch!” 
    Although impressed, Bubba’s boss is still skeptical.  After they leave Cruise’s house, he tells Bubba that he thinks Bubba’s knowing Cruise was just lucky.  “No, no, just name anyone else,” Bubba says. “President ,” his boss quickly retorts.  “Yes”, Bubba says, “I know him, let’s fly to Washington.”  And off they go. At the White House, Trump spots Bubba on the tour and motions him and his boss over, saying, “Bubba, what a surprise to see you! I was just on my way to a meeting, but you and your friend come in and let’s have a cup of coffee first and catch-up.” 
    Well, the boss is very shaken by now, but still not totally convinced.  After they leave the White-House grounds, he expresses his doubts to Bubba, who again implores him to name anyone else.  “The Pope,” his boss replies.  “Sure!” says Bubba.  “My parents are from Poland, and I’ve known the Pope for a long time.” So off they fly, to Rome.
    Bubba and his boss are assembled with the masses in Vatican Square when Bubba says, “This will never work. I can’t catch the Pope’s eye, among all these people.  Tell you what; I know all the guards here, so let me just go upstairs and I’ll come out on the balcony with the Pope.”  And he disappears into the crowd headed toward the Vatican.  Sure enough, half an hour later, Bubba emerges on the balcony with the Pope.  But by the time Bubba returns, he finds that his boss has had a heart attack and is surrounded by paramedical personnel.  Working his way to his boss’ side, Bubba asks him, “What happened?”  His boss looks up and says, “I was doing fine until you and the Pope came out on the balcony and the man next to me said, “Who’s that on the balcony with Bubba?”

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    It’s good to know a lot of people and to be known by a lot of people but it is all meaningless if we don’t know Jesus and God and They don’t know us. Many scriptures show this importance.
    John 1:10  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
    John 10:14  I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.
    Philippians 3:8-11  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11  if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
    2 Thessalonians 1:8-9  in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
    Titus 1:16  They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
    1 John 2:3-4  Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4  He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
    1 John 4:8  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
    Matthew 7:21-23  "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22  Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
    May we all make it our aim to know God and Jesus and to be known by them.
- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.JacksonStAlex.com

The Aroma Of Christ

By Al Behel

For we are the aroma of Christ to God” (2 Corinthians 2:15)
    For many years as I pulled into my parking place at my office and stepped from my car I inhaled what seemed to be a strong cup of black coffee. Across a wooded area was JFG Coffee Company. The EPA had not required filters and the aroma was one of the most welcomed orders I could have experienced so early in the morning.
    In contrast to that pleasing aroma, I had a friend whom I could have picked out of 500 women. Her perfume was distinctly identifiable and I had developed an allergy to certain fragrances. She was one of the most delightful individuals I have known and I dared not suggest she change her “aroma.”
    The apostle Paul tells us that we should have a distinct, but very pleasing aroma. He calls it the “aroma of Christ.” When people encounter us they should know we have been with Jesus. That aroma rises to God who is very pleased with the odor that arises from our lives. We are like “living sacrifices” whose fragrance penetrates the air around us.
    I think of a man whose effect on others was so profound that a member of his community said of him, “That man never crosses my pathway without me being better for it.” We leave a lasting impression for God when we have the aroma of Jesus.
    Paul says that this fragrance impacts those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the saved it is a fragrance “from life to life” and to those who Chriare perishing it is a fragrance “from death to death.” The aroma of Christ is convicting, challenging, and revealing of the character of those around us. It warms the hearts and encourages those who are following Christ, but it provides a deep contrast to those who are walking in darkness.
    God wants us to be like Jesus, look like Jesus, and “smell” like Jesus. He want others to know He lives in us.
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/

What To Preach!

By Ron Thomas

    I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables (2 Timothy 4:1-4, ASV)
    What is a preacher to preach? Since there are least 52 sermons a year (one sermon each Lord’s day), that means he is given much opportunity to say a lot. Consider the passage above. From 4 verses we learn some things he is to preach, such as: (1) God will judge the living and the dead. While we live on this earth, His word is a constant message of warning to those who live contrary to His will, but also a constant message of hope and reassurance to those who love Him.
    The Lord will judge the hearts of all those who hear His message of hope and salvation, and (2) the Lord Jesus will appear a 2nd time. As He appeared the first time, those who watched Him ascend to the glories of heaven were told that He will descend in like manner (Acts 1:9-11). When He descends from the glory of heaven, He will call all the dead in Christ up, then those living. This all takes place in a moment of time, ...having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and unjust (Acts 24:15).
    (3) Jesus has a kingdom. The word “kingdom” is a broad word that encompasses all that is within the realm (reign) of God’s creation. There is a special kingdom of the saved, called the church, the body of Christ. ... the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body...But as the church is subject to Christ ... Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it (Eph. 5:23-25).
    (4) Everything the Lord taught is worthy of study and teaching (cf. John 12:48). Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
    (5) Because people do not want to hear the Word of God, all the more reason for a preacher to be urgent in season and out of season, which means, in practical terms, preach it when they don’t want to hear it and when they do.
    (6) Not every preacher is worthy of his vocation. There are many preachers who do not know the word of God as they promote themselves. Paul calls them teachers after their own lusts, that is, they preach what sounds good (cf. Isaiah 30:10), but in doing so, they do not have the blessings of the Lord in that which they preach/teach. Because of this, the brethren need to be warned, lest they follow the path of those preachers toward destruction.
    Perhaps more can be gleaned from the above passage. A preacher has a lot to preach just in the points above; he will always have a message, but if he struggles to generate a message, then maybe the Message of God has not penetrated the preacher. 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

What Can One Person Do?

By Joe Slater

    7.9 Billion people now inhabit this planet! What difference can one person (you) make? Oh, sure, the President of the United States is only one person, but he can make a huge difference. A multi-millionaire can make a noticeable difference. But ordinary folks like you or me – do we really matter?
    In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Our Lord was talking to men whom the world would classify as nobodies. They weren’t rich, famous, or highly educated. They were ordinary working-class people. But did they ever make a difference! And so can you and I!
    A little salt can go a long way. Just a sprinkle on bland food makes it palatable. But the salt must not remain in the shaker – it must contact the food to produce the desired result.
    Just a small light gives guidance in an otherwise pitch-dark room. The psalmist said God’s word was a lamp to his feet and a light to his path (Psalm 119:105). As our behavior models God’s word and as we share His word with others, we illuminate a world darkened by ignorance and sin.
    Be not dismayed; you are salt and light!
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com

An Introduction to 1 Corinthians

By Jeff Arnette

    First Corinthians is an especially important book for the church because today’s church struggles with so much of the issues and problems of this church. No doubt, this church was one of the most challenging churches Paul started and continued to work with. Just the fact that he wrote more letters to this church than the rest says a lot about the difficulties of working with them. First Corinthians reminds us that no matter how bad it gets in the church it could always get worse and there is always hope.
    Did you know that Paul wrote at least four letters to the church in Corinth? Within the first and second Corinthian letters, Paul alludes to at least two other letters he wrote to the church. A first letter is referenced in chapter five of first Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9). Then, sometime between first and second Corinthians, there is a letter that caused them grief and moved them to repentance (2 Cor. 7:8). Thus, you have the first letter (letter A), the letter called First Corinthians (letter B), the letter that caused grief (letter C), and then Second Corinthians (letter D).
    Paul started this church on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-17). Following his brief stay in Athens, he traveled on to the City of Corinth. He stayed in Corinth for about 18 months and during that time, worked with Priscilla and Aquila. During this time, Paul preached, Christians were converted, and the church in Corinth was set up.
    Corinth was a very wealthy and wicked city. It was a port city and as a result of the influx of people traveling and working in the city, it became a very wicked city. In fact, people have likened it to the Las Vegas of that part of the world. It was so bad that “to be a Corinthian” was equated with being the worst society had to offer. As a result of this wicked environment and culture, Corinth struggled with many problems.
    They struggled with division, sexual immorality, incest, gluttony, drunkenness, meats sacrificed to idols, and false teachings. There were people within the Corinthian church advocating that the resurrection from the dead was symbolic. There were people within the church corrupting the Lord’s Supper and reducing it to nothing more than a common drunken meal. One of the worst problems in Corinth was their propensity to value some people and Spiritual gifts above the rest.
    An important and interesting part of first Corinthians is the section where Paul responds to their questions, in what we would call a Q&A session. Starting in 1 Cor. 7:1, Paul begins to answer the questions they had written to him about. The questions are not explicitly stated but we can deduce from the answers given what those questions were.
    Let me encourage you to read this difficult and insightful letter from Paul. Within its pages, we learn so much about what it means to struggle with sin and how to treat each other in the process. It challenges us with the need to confront sin in our midst and the responsibility of valuing the consciences of each other. Since AD 54 or 55, when Paul wrote this challenging letter, it has been a favorite of many in the church and I hope it will be for you as well.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Day of Judgment

By Bill Brandstatter
 
      The thought of judgment is not a subject many like to talk about today. People will, however, talk about how some are being judgmental. The thought of a final judgment for all humans is however, a biblical subject. There is a certainty to it. There will come a day.
    In Acts 17:30, 31 Luke writes, “The time of this ignorance, God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.” (NKJV) The world we live in is forever changing. Even as I write this article something is changing; but two things which will never change are death and the judgment (Heb. 9:27). Everyone is going to die. Everyone is going to be judged.
    Our judgment will be universal but it will also be personal. The text we are looking at states that God will judge the world in righteousness. That righteousness is revealed to us in the gospel. (Rom 1:16, 17) Each individual will be judged on a personal basis (2 Cor. 5:10). Paul wrote that each of us must give an account of ourselves before God (Rom. 14:12). So, I will be alone at the judgment, but I will not be alone.
    There is a day coming in the future when all mankind will face the judgment. The word “day” in our text does not mean a literal 24 hr. day. It is a common method employed in scripture. It is a word that stands for some indefinite point in the future. When that day will come no one knows. Peter says, “…the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Pet. 3:10). 
    Jesus used the word “hour” to describe this future time of judgment. He stated, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matt. 24:44 NKJV) On that judgment day a number of events will happen almost simultaneously.
    First, the Lord shall descend from heaven. He won’t go any further than the clouds, however (1 Th. 4:16).
    Next, the dead and the living that are faithful will be raised to meet him in the air (Jn. 5:28, 29; 1 Th. 4:17).
    The books will then be opened. (Rev. 20:12-14).
    The Great Judge will gather all nations before Him. (Mt. 25:32) You and I will be there (2 Cor. 5:10). Sodom and Gomorrah will be there (Mt. 10:15). The people of Nineveh will be there (Mt. 12:41).  The queen of Sheba will be there (Mt. 12:42). All races from all nations will be there. What a gathering of people that will be! Then the Great Judge shall separate them one from another (Mt. 25:32.).
    The righteous will be welcomed into heaven (Mt. 25:32); but the wicked shall be condemned into everlasting punishment (Mt. 25:41).
    Don’t you want to be ready for that day? It could happen at any minute. If you haven’t done so already, prepare yourself today. It will come. We need to be ready.
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Choose Your Partner

By Adam Faughn

    Batman & Robin. Mario & Luigi. Macaroni & Cheese. Peanut Butter & Jelly. Romeo & Juliet. Venus & Serena. Tom & Jerry. Mickey & Minnie. Bert & Ernie. Beauty & the Beast. Jordan & Pippen. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.
    Some of these duos were created for fiction. Some of them are food pairs. Others are sports partnerships. Fiction or not, these are some of the most famous partnerships ever assembled.
    Let’s face it: humans were meant to collaborate with others. Remember at the beginning of time, when Adam was the only person created, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone;I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). Animals had already been created, but “there was not found a helper comparable to (Adam),” according to verse 20. After causing a deep sleep to fall on Adam, God took one of Adam’s ribs and formed a woman. Note the conclusion that was drawn from this event in verse 24: “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
    “Joining together” speaks to partnership, collaboration, and relationship. There are various types of relationships: marriage relationships, dating relationships, business relationships, etc. For the partnership to be successful, all involved need to be “on the same page.” Unfortunately, famous married couples often cite irreconcilable differences when they file for divorce, implying that they are no longer aligned in the marriage relationship, nor do they think adjustments can be made to become more aligned in an effort to save the relationship. Likewise, if a business relation-ship dissolves, sometimes the culprit is a lack of chemistry, synergy, and shared beliefs.
    Sharing a set of core beliefs is always useful in any type of relationship. There are certainly risks involved in being partnered with someone who does not share your same values, especially in a religious sense. Paul addresses this in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.
14Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?15Andwhat accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
In this section of Scripture, Paul catalogs multiple sets of opposites: righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, believers and unbelievers, and the temple of God and idols. Rhetorically, Paul continually asks how these sets of opposites can ever be engaged in an aligned, useful, and productive partnership when their basic nature automatically puts them at discord.
    I do not think it is ironic that in this same context as 2 Corinthians 6 begins in verse 1, Paul tells the Christians they are “workers together with (Christ).” Verse one comes before verses 14-16, right? In other words, Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that they first are in a relationship with Christ. Later, he wants them to consider if they can be true to that relationship while simultaneously being yoked with unbelievers. Life is already difficult as it is, even when under-girded with a relationship with Christ. Why pile on relationship baggage that could threaten to pull you away from the life Christ wants you to lead?
    I also understand the importance of evangelism and outreach to the unfaithful (Luke 19:10). After all, Jesus Himself was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11). Jesus’ response? ”I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (v. 13). Recognize that Jesus’ association with sinners was aimed toward helping them to realize their unrighteousness and their need for repentance. In effect, Jesus was working for God by being around these sinners.
    Can we say the same? We interact with people on a weekly basis who lack a connection to God and, therefore, are lost in sin (i.e., coworkers, neighbors, friends at the gym, grocery store workers, etc.). They need to be pointed toward God, as Jesus did during his temporary time on earth. Are we trying to show the lost the way to God, or are we letting them influence us?
    There is a natural tension that arises when a believer partners with an unbeliever. As a Christian, our relationship with God is characterized by light and truth, while an unbeliever’s relationship with God does not even exist. Some Christians may opine that they can manage a relationship with God while still being chummy with unbelievers. Absolutely, it may seem like a workable partnership for a time, but will a relationship with an unbeliever be able to withstand the storms of differences and disputes that will eventually happen? Surely, no one would disagree that darkness and light cannot coexist.
    God wants us to evangelize and interact with unbelievers to an extent (Matthew 9:37-38). God does not want us to withdraw from the world completely (Mark 16:15-16). However, that does not mean we enter into a close and intimate partnership with the world that could threaten our healthy relationship with God.
    So, the choice is yours. Who do you choose to be your partner: God or the world?
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.


Does Him Good

By Travis Robertson

"She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life.” – Proverbs 31:12
    In the Disney movie The Incredibles there is a funny dialogue between the superhero Frozone and his wife:
    Frozone: Where is my super suit?
    Frozone's Wife: What?
    Frozone: WHERE. IS. MY. SUPER. SUIT?
    Frozone's Wife: Why do you need to know?
    Frozone: I NEED IT!
    Frozone's Wife: Uh-huh.
    Frozone: THE PUBLIC IS IN DANGER! YOU TELL ME WHERE MY SUIT IS, WOMAN! WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE GREATER GOOD!
    Frozone's Wife: "Greater good?" I am your wife! I am the GREATEST GOOD you are EVER gonna get!
    While this is a funny argument between two characters in a movie, it helps illustrate the point in Proverbs 31:12. We see that one of the attributes of an excellent wife is that she does good to her husband. In Genesis chapter two when God expresses that it is not good for man to be alone, He created woman to be that companion. The person that would walk alongside man and spend all their days together. There is a great list in Proverbs 31 that details all the good this excellent wife does.
    Men, we do better when we are together with a wonderful woman, that is the way God designed it. To all the women in our lives, thank you for all the good you have done and continue to do!
- Travis Robertson preachers for the Lake Norman Church of Christ in Huntersville, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://lakenormancoc.org/


Seeing God

By Al Behel

    No one has ever seen God face to face. We have seen the evidence of His presence through countless demonstrations of His creative and sustaining power. Human eyes are limited only by the depth of human faith. Some see Him easily, while others struggle and still do not see. Some astronauts have returned with a sense of awe at His universe, while others have returned, saying, “I didn’t see God out there.”
    Well, He’s out there, all right. He is everywhere anything exists. Human eyes cannot look beyond Him, and human understanding cannot comprehend Him. But seeing Him doesn’t depend on our ability to understand Him. It depends, rather, on our willingness to experience Him. It depends on our openness to perceive His presence and rejoice in His handiwork. Our God is a marvelous God Who cares for the smallest sparrow, and for every part of His creation.
    I have seen God in the beauty of sunsets, the power of mighty storms, and in the quietness of the morning glory as it opens its petals to receive the warmth of the morning sun. I have seen Him in the eyes of little children, and in grandmothers who hold sweet memories in their hearts. I see Him in the outstretched hands of a suffering Savior, and in the open tomb that could not hold Him. I see Him in the holiness of His church, called out of a world which was under the curse of death into the glorious light of His salvation.
    Perhaps the clearest vision I have of God is in the real meaning of love. I see Him when I see a heart open to share compassion with others who hurt, or in the smiles of understanding when two hearts connect in intimate embrace. I see God in the tender moments of forgiveness and restoration for those who have fallen prey to selfish pride.
    Seeing God in all of life is very important. But equally important is the fact that we are seen by Him. He sees our actions before they occur. He understands our thoughts before they are formed. He sees our future as clearly as He sees our past. He knows our needs even before we ask.
    Like friends whose eyes meet in a crowd, we rush toward our Father’s outstretched arms to receive His warm, accepting embrace, and to experience the reassurance of His divine presence in our lives. 
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/


Introduction to the Book of Romans

By Jeff Arnette

   Outside of the Church of Christ, Romans is one of the most popular books in the New Testament. I have never been sure, but it seemed like we were not sure what to do with it. After much study and effort, I have concluded that it the hardest and richest book of the entire Bible.
    Romans is complicated on many levels. Probably because it deals with subjects like the universality of sin, our accountability to God, His plan to save by faith, and how that was His plan from the beginning (even Abraham was saved by faith). He deals with subjects like redemption, justification, imputation, and even God’s plan for Israel.
    Some have said that Romans could be considered the greatest Christian manifesto of freedom in Christ ever written. Yet, at its heart Romans is highly pragmatic. On various levels, Paul brings the many sides of Christian theology to bear on our lives in ways that are simply masterful. He elevates the position of all people who were considered secondary in Jewish, Greek, and Roman societies by building a powerful case that we are all equal in God’s eyes. No single person or group holds a privileged place in God’s eyes. That position belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone.
    Paul sets forth his authorship at the very beginning and modern scholarship still has not tried to dispute it. It was written somewhere around 55-58 AD. Just remember that dating these letters is highly speculative and even scholars have different opinions about when it was written.
    The purpose of the book of Romans is to present the gospel as God’s power for salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). That salvation is offered by the power and grace of God to believers (all peoples, Jews, and Gentiles alike), and that by faith in Jesus’ act of redemption we are saved. In God’s eyes, no one is too bad, too good, or too far removed from Him to need saving or to be reached. If they accept by faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by faith in Him they can be saved, that is enough.
    Martin Luther, while studying Romans, came to the realization that righteousness can only be achieved through God’s grace; not by works and not by penance. Before this, he did everything he could to find righteousness in his works and eventually reached the point of absolute frustration till all that remained was a hatred for God. He described in heartbreaking detail how he never felt good enough, never able to reach a place where he felt at ease with his salvation, until he studied the book of Romans.
    Let me encourage you to read this great and complicated book as often as you can. The more time you spend with it, the more freedom you will enjoy. Romans, along with Galatians, has drastically changed my life and faith. If you let God’s word always be true and everyone else liars (Rom. 3:4), then it can for you as well. It is my prayer that you will find the freedom Jesus died to secure for you and fully embrace, like Abraham, a righteousness that God offers freely (Rom. 10:1-4). God bless.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


Monday, June 14, 2021

Some Things to Know About Suffering (from Revelation 2:10)

By Edd Sterchi

    “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer” - We have nothing to worry about when suffering comes. When we let fear, panic, and negativism rule, our suffering is always made worse. Suffering happens to everyone. Just stay calm.
    “Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested” - God allows suffering in our lives as a test of our faith. Through everything, stay faithful.
    “and you will have tribulation ten days” - God is in control of the situation. He regulates the time period of our suffering. He will not allow more to happen or a longer length of time to occur than what we can handle with His help.
    “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” - God blesses us when we endure the suffering. So hang in there. There is not only a light at the end of the tunnel, there are blessings there, as well.
- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.broadwaychurchofchrist.net/


The Power of God

By Ron Thomas

    The power of God protects us (1 Peter 1:5), but how does it work to protect us? The gospel is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). There is no wall built by man, no hindrance given by Satan that can’t be penetrated by the power of the Gospel message. If this were the case, then there is something more power than God and His message of redemption, and that is not possible!
    If God’s message is so powerful, then why do people fall away? Consider 1 Peter 1:3-5; the Christian is begotten unto a living hope according to the Lord’s mercy; this inheritance the Lord gives is reserved in heaven for those who love and obey His will (cf. Acts 5:32). Notice, also, that by “...the power of God [we] are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
    The gospel of Christ is an effective shield against all forces of evil when one continues to respond to God in faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. This means faith in God, which is trust, reliance, obedience to His will is the avenue God uses to protect those who love Him. Think about the word conviction; conviction assumes grounded knowledge exists upon which one builds his house (so to speak). The house built is strong enough to withstand the forces of evil that thrusts itself against it. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the words of Christ (Rom. 10.17). Thus, when Christians walk by faith, he and she walks by the will of God (2 Cor. 5.7). They live by faith. Living by faith meaning living by the will of God. Living by the will of God means God’s protective shield is around you, teaching you not only the ways of righteousness, but making you aware of the schemes of the devil (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:11). 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


unstable

By Clifton Angel

    There are at least two words (and there may be others) that are unique to James in the Greek New Testament. The two I have in mind both can be found in James 1:8. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." The Greek word translated "double-minded" is only found in this verse and in James 4:8 in the New Testament. The Greek word translated “unstable” is only found in this verse and in James 3:8 in the New Testament. Who wants to be unstable "in all his ways"? To avoid such, we must first understand what it is and its origin.
    First, we can see that the unstable man is double-minded. This literally means "two-minded" or "split-spirited." I get the image in my head of the extreme tension and stress placed on a rope in a game of tug-of-war. The double-minded is the person who prays to God, but doesn't really believe God will answer. He is the person who assembles with the church, but he doesn't make application of the sermons. He is a "Sunday saint" and a "weekday sinner." James 4:8 indicates it is a heart problem.
    Second, we can see that the unstable man is driven. He is "like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed." On a recent trip to the ocean, I was reminded of the unpredictability of the waves. Some waves seemed large yet would be calm once they reached the shore. Some others that seemed small could travel further inland and surprise the beach visitors. Furthermore, a twenty-four hour span could amount to a drastic change in the ocean’s waves, wind, current, tide, and characteristics. James’ use of the waves of the sea is a vivid illustration of the unstable man.
    Third, we can see that the unstable man is doubtful. Incidentally, this is where it all starts. This is what causes him to be like a wave that is driven with the wind and tossed. This is what causes him to be double-minded. This is what leads to him being unstable "in all his ways." It is a heart problem. It is a heart that lacks faith in God's nature as a giver of good things (James 1:5, 17). It is a heart that lacks faith in God's willingness to answer our prayers (James 1:5). It is a heart that lacks faith in God's faithfulness to bring us through trials, stronger than before (James 1:2–4).
    Who wants to be unstable "in all his ways"? In the words of authors Vep Ellis & W.F. Lakey, "Where is your heart, O pilgrim? What does your light reveal? Who hears your call for comfort, When naught but sorrows you feel? Do you know my Jesus? Do you know my Friend? Have you heard He loves you, and that He will abide 'til the end?”
- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/


What Will It Profit?

By Joe Slater

Whoever desires to follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37).
    We usually look at profit in terms of money or other material wealth. Jesus indicates that we need to look far beyond that! Everything material, including our fleshly body, is temporary. You can accumulate vast earthly wealth, but you can’t keep it. Don’t believe me? Stick around a hundred years and see!
    Of infinitely surpassing importance and value is that spiritual part of you called your soul. Jesus teaches three things relative to it:
    First, each and every person has a soul. Sometimes “soul” refers to the entire person, body and spirit. But Jesus uses the term specifically of the inner spiritual person. “Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matthew 10:28).
    Second, that soul can become lost. Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son illustrate this sad fact.
    Finally, even if you amass every bit of the world’s wealth, but you exchange it for your soul, you have made a horrible, disastrous bargain. Surely the account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) highlights this.
    Business people like to make a profit. Christians should too! “Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com


An Introduction to the Book of Acts

By Jeff Arnette

    The book of Acts is a favorite of many in the church. It is perhaps the most widely taught and read book in the churches of Christ. So much of our doctrine and practice come directly from this 28-chapter history in narrative form. Truth is that Acts is a remarkable story of promises and fulfillment.
    This wonderful narrative was written by Luke, the physician, and addressed to the most excellent Theophilus. Most scholars will agree that Acts is a continuation of the Gospel according to Luke, a part two if you will. It begins where Luke’s gospel ends, with the ascension of Jesus Christ. Most do not know that Acts is one of the longest books of the New Testament. With 1003 verses, only Luke and Matthew’s gospels are longer.
    The name is the book is sort of misnomer since the majority of the Apostles are not even mentioned. In reality, Acts is the account of Peter (chapters 1-8) and Paul (chapters 9-28) that traces the spread of the Lord’s church from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).
    It is a wonderful account of the church that Jesus promised (Matt. 16:18). In dramatic fashion, we get to follow the disciples, with the powerful guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, as they take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We get to experience their struggles with the Jews, their failures, and their victories. We get to walk along with them as Peter takes the gospel to the Gentiles and Paul takes it all the way to Rome. As they stand up to political and religious powers who wanted nothing more than to stop them. Yet, God was with the church and they continued to move forward by His power.
    Darrell Bock, a New Testament scholar at Dallas theological seminary, makes this observation. He says the key character in Acts is God. His activity and his plan. The apostles are not the important characters of Acts. Rather, God’s activity stands at the center of the account. Acts narrate God’s work in setting up the church through Jesus’ activity. It tells us how the Holy Spirit worked through the disciples a new community for the people of God. Both Jews and Gentiles make up this new community. So, Acts is a sociological, historical, and theological work explaining the roots of this new community of Jesus followers.
    An interesting aspect of Acts is that one third, if not half of the book, is made up of sermons and speeches. This includes eight addresses by Peter and by Stephen (Acts 7). There are sermons and speeches by people like James, Paul, and the Jerusalem elders (Acts 15). It also includes addresses by people like Gamaliel, the Pharisees, Demetrius the silversmith, Festus, Tertullus, and Felix.
    Let me encourage you to read Acts again. Read like you would read any story. Observe the structure, the movement of the story, and the larger than life characters that it describes. I am sure you will see the hand of God as he moves them along, sometimes even against their will. Read it like a divinely inspired treatise of our origins and the struggles faced by these great men and women, to bring to you pure New Testament Christianity.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


Sunday, June 6, 2021

Trust is a Must

By Edd Sterchi

When the world goes bust
          Trust is a must     
When dreams become dust
          Trust is a must     
When plans combust
          Trust is a must     
When conditions are unjust
          Trust is a must     
When people disgust
          Trust is a must     
When you need to adjust
          Trust is a must     
Here is the thrust:
          We just must trust 
- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.broadwaychurchofchrist.net/


Gridlock

By Bill Brandstatter

    A term that has entered our vocabulary in recent years is the word “gridlock.” Today it has a political connotation to it. When neither Republicans nor Democrats will budge on an issue, “gridlock” occurs. Gridlock results when neither part will budge for the good of the country. Politics is not the only place where there is “gridlock.” It is also in the church and in the home.
    In the church gridlock occurs when there are divisions between the members of a particular congregation (1 Cor. 1:10). This may be over matters of personality, indifference, or opinion; yet it results in neither side yielding to the other. Some will eventually leave if they don’t get their way. The way to stop “gridlock” is with humility. When brethren fuss and fight, someone has to give or the church will suffer. We need to have the attitude expressed by Paul to the Christians at Philippi. He told them: “Doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of your also to the things of others” (Phil. 2:3,4 ASV). With this kind of attitude, brethren will grow closer together. Unfortunately, many are busy trying to maneuver into a position of authority in the church. They want the pre-eminence like Diotrophes in 3 John 9. Some who want control will be surprised if they get it. Let us always remember Christianity involves a group. When we are looking only to benefit ourselves, we are in the same camp as some of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.
    There is also “gridlock” in marriages. Both husband and wife want to go in opposite directions. This can occur in everything from where to live to how to raise the children, and all points in between. Husband and wife are to work together. When the Bible says “the two shall become one flesh” (Eph. 5:31), it denotes unity. There are going to be disagreements. No two people under the same roof will agree on all issues 100% of the time. The key is how to handle the disagreements. Wives are to submit to their own husbands (Eph. 5:22). Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25). If there is gridlock and neither is willing to yield to the other, the marriage will eventually wind up in trouble; and, if there are children, they will suffer greatly.
    In all the above areas “gridlock” will not be overcome by a stubborn, unyielding attitude. Someone is going to have to take a step to solve the problem and benefit the country, church or the home. Gridlock can be overcome with love.
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Chosen and Foreknowledge

By Ron Thomas

    The foreknowledge of God is a difficult teaching of Scripture for one to have an accurate understanding. The meaning of the word is not difficult to understand, but how can God have foreknowledge, and, at the same time, people have free will? Does not the foreknowledge of God guarantee a person a certain thing if the Lord sees him do in the future?
    I appreciate the difficulty some people have with this, but I guess I never struggled with the same difficulty. In 1 Peter 1:1-2, the Lord’s will makes clear those chosen to salvation are in relation to the foreknowledge of God. How does this work?
    God sees as far in the future as man will have existence; He sees as far in the past as man had existence. However, God is not constrained by time; humanity measures many things by time, thus the clock on our walls and the days / weeks of the month. God is always in the present; that is why in Exodus 3 and John 8, the Lord was able to identify Himself as “I am,” not “I was” or “I will be.”
    Foreknowledge with God is a perspective we have as we seek to understand His comprehensive knowledge with respect to all human history, behind and before us. Foreknowledge does not apply to God; with the Lord, He is already there. In the year 2525, if man is still alive, God is there now.
    Even before one reads of the fall in Genesis 3, the Lord looked down through the history of man and saw how each and every person would respond to His will, including His invitation to respond to the Lord Jesus. He saw that you freely chose to obey His will when the Lord Jesus gave His invitation (as in Matthew 11:28-30). As the Lord looked and saw the choice you made, it can be properly said that He chose you for salvation (cf. Rom. 8:29). 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Corrupt Communication

By R.W. McAlister

     Are you as tired of hearing it as I am? It fills television shows, it’s heard at the grocery store, the ballgame, restaurants, the workplace, it’s found in movies and in novels – it’s seemingly everywhere! What am I talking about? Profanity!
     We hear it—not just from sailors (“cuss like a sailor”), or from the French (“pardon my ‘French’”)—but from all segments of society. It used to be the case that a gentleman would never use profanity in the presence of a lady, and deep down, he probably knew he shouldn’t use it in front of anyone. These days, I occasionally hear (or hear about) women who can swear as fluently as anyone. Even small children now can “cuss a blue streak.” It almost seems as if some of the first words they learn are “four-letter” words.
     A recent study by the Parents Television Council found the use of profanity during the so-called “family hour” (8:00 to 9:00 Eastern time) is up fifty-eight percent from two years ago, and the nature of the language (sexual explicitness) is getting worse.
     I was surprised just a couple of evenings ago when my wife was checking out a movie on the Internet (to see if it’s something we could watch), and she mentioned the words of foul language that were in it. The article continued by saying those words (I won’t repeat them here) “weren’t serious.” We’re like Israel of old – we’ve become so desensitized to profanity, we don’t even blush! (cf. Jer. 6:15).
     The Bible is not silent concerning the manner in which we speak. Paul wrote: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
     The term rendered “corrupt” is the Greek sapros, meaning, “rotten; putrefied.” It references that which provides no good service. Our words in the presence of others ought to be such as build men up, rather than degrading them (Job 4:4).
     Again, the inspired apostle wrote: “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). The term signifies that which is base; “foul or filthy” language.
     It used to be that if a child used foul language, he (or she) had their mouth “washed out” with soap. I think it’s time to get back to that, and not only for children! Let us dispense with corrupt communication, and use only speech which is “good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/


An Introduction to John’s Gospel

By Jeff Arnette

    For weeks, I have struggled to write this introduction. Most of my adult life, I did not really appreciate the gospel of John but with age and experience, things change. That is why I have struggled to write this introduction. It is almost impossible to write something brief enough to be a short article and do justice to the magnitude of this great book. The gospel of John soars to the highest peaks in the teachings of the New Testament. From antiquity, it was known as “the spiritual gospel” because of its focus.
    Written by the apostle John, the beloved disciple, at the culmination of a life of growth and ministry for Jesus. Being so close to Jesus, John is able to penetrate the depths of Jesus’ personality, identity, and teachings like no other gospel could. From his great prologue to the exciting epilogue; John’s words have been considered and contemplated by the best minds this world has to offer.
    John’s gospel is organized into two principal sections and is framed by the prologue (John 1:1-18) and the epilogue (John 21:1-25). The prologue introduces the incarnation of the preexistent Word and sets the stage for all that follows. The epilogue wraps up some loose ends concerning John and Peter and helps us see that no matter what path we walk, our only obligation is to follow Jesus.
     The first section is called “The Book of Signs” (John 1:19-12:50) and describes how Jesus appears within Judaism and ultimately replaced its most cherished institutions (the temple, the priests, and the festivals). The second section is called “The Book of Glory” (John 13:1-20:31) because Jesus takes aside his followers, washes their feet, and repeatedly explains to them who he is and what will happen in Jerusalem. Yet, John emphasizes that this is no accident or tragedy but a time when his glory will shine brightly for all to see.
    The idea of “faith” has featured prominently throughout the gospel. From John, the Baptist’s statement that Jesus is the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sins of the world, to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in chapter 3, verse 16; believing in Jesus has been put forth as the most important purpose for the book. John wanted every person who read this great book to come to saving faith in Jesus. Even the purpose statement of John 20:30-31, which wraps up nicely John’s stated purpose, is meant to instill faith in his readers.
    One other purpose stands out clearly from the gospel of John and that is the people of God. Those who believe in Jesus and follow him are recipients of Jesus’ gifts and have been made into a new community that has stepped out of the darkness of the world into a refuge for all who trust in Jesus. In this new community, Jesus is the Great Shepherd (John 10) and we are his flock. He is “Vine” and we are his branches (John 15). This community is a place of love, mercy, obedience, faithfulness, and worship. A community where love is the greatest command (John 13:34-35) and everyone is considered your neighbor.
    The gospel of John is a magnificent book that cannot be read too often or learned too deeply. The more you plumb its depths, the greater your love for Jesus, the Father, and your fellow man will grow. Let me encourage you to read it and read it often.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/