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Monday, July 26, 2021

"Not's" in the Devil's Tale

By Clifton Angel

    Satan is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44). His first deception recorded for us is found at Genesis 3:1. Satan said, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every  tree  of  the  garden?"  In  other  words,  "Did  God  really  say  you  are forbidden to eat of every tree of the garden?" God said, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it" (Genesis 2:16–17).
    His second lie recorded for us is found at Genesis 3:4. Satan said, "Ye shall not surely die." God said, "for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). In both occasions, Satan added only one word: "NOT." So, let us note 6 "not"s in the Devil's Tale.
    Jesus  said,  "He  that  believeth  and  is  baptized  shall  be  saved"  (Mark  16:16). Satan says, "He that believeth and is NOT baptized shall be saved."
    Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). Satan says, "Seek NOT first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." Satan  wants  us  to  put  the  things  of  this  world—our  jobs,  our  hobbies,  our sports, our passions, our talents, our families, etc.—above the church, which is the kingdom of God.
    Jesus  said,  "If  ye  love  me,  ye  will  keep  my  commandments"  (John  14:15). Satan  says,  "If  you  love  Jesus,  you  will  NOT  keep  His  commandments." Besides, Jesus' love on the cross covers all sins, so just stop trying to avoid sin, right? That's a lie of the devil.
    Jesus prayed to the Father, "That they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:22). It is Satan's endeavor, "That they may NOT be one." And how vastly is the religious world listening to Satan. How many different denominations are there today? Why don't we just go back to the Bible and be a part of Jesus' ONE church?
    Jesus  said,  "The  wicked  shall  go  away  into  eternal  punishment"  (Matthew 25:46). Satan says, "The wicked shall NOT go away into eternal punishment." How  many  do  you  know  that  when  someone  dies  they  say  that  person  is automatically  going  to  heaven.  It  does  not  matter  if  they  were  ungodly, adulterers, drunkards, fornicators, etc., they are going to heaven.
    God said, "Ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). Satan says, "Ye may NOT know that ye  have  eternal  life." How many  Christians  do we know that understand the Bible's teaching that we CAN fall from grace, yet they live their lives on eggshells as if we fall in and out of it all day long. We need to remember 1 John 1:7 and strive to walk in the light, so that, we can "know that we have eternal life."
    Satan is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44). Have you fallen prey to his lies? 
- 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/


The Powerful Word of God

By Ron Thomas

    In Jeremiah 23, the Lord is very displeased with the shepherds of Israel because they have no heart for His word and way; instead, they desired, strongly, their own ways. Who are the shepherds? The context must determine who are they and the context speaks against the prophets and priests. As a class, the lord condemned them (23:11); as a class, they failed to honor the Lord and hold true to His revelation (there were exception, such as Jeremiah). It is not unlikely they had significant income and a respected status, not wanting to lose either. How were the common folk going to please the Lord with such shepherds? They couldn’t – if they listened and followed the examples set for them by those bad leaders (23:32).
    On the other hand, if they heard and obeyed the Lord’s word, as spoken by Jeremiah, the power of the Lord’s message would penetrate their heart so effectively it would have changed them. Even if someone has such a calloused heart, could they ever have turned back to the Lord? The Lord knew they could if they desired to do so, that is why He had Jeremiah preach to them, calling on them to repent (cf. 22:4-5; 32:33).
    This gets to a significant point: there is no hardness of man, no power of Satan that can prevent the Lord’s word from penetrating a heart that wants to hear the Lord’s message of hope. The Gospel message is God’s power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). To the saints in Colossae, the Lord’s apostle knew just how hardened they were in their evil ways of thinking before the Gospel came to them (1:21). When he brought the message to them, the hardness of heart with some melted away (1:3-7). They heard the word of truth, they understood it, and they desired to learn more of it. In John 6:44-45, the Lord knew what would draw people to Him. Whatever might be said about the miraculous signs that Jesus did, it was the message of God that educated and changed minds.
    This would have been the same in Jeremiah’s day if those who heard the Lord’s word would have desired to change; they had it within themselves to move in the direction of God and His message. How do I know this? Because the Lord said they could (18:7-8). As it was, they chose not too! Therefore, the Lord was able to hold them accountable for rejecting His word (cf. Acts 13:46); it’s a very bitter thing to forsake the Lord, rejecting His holy will for the person and the nation (2:19).
    Just as the word of God is a lamp unto the feet of those who walk on the Lord’s path (Psa. 119:105), it is, also, Is not my word like fire? saith Jehovah; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces (23.29)? 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Christ Wants Us!

By Edd Sterchi

    In Philippians 4, we see three things that Christ wants of us:
    * Christ wants us to be what we ought to be. Phil. 4:11, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Jesus wants us to be content and satisfied with life. And as long as we have Him in our lives, we need nothing else. In Him we can and should be content.
    * Christ wants us to do what we ought to do. Phil. 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We can do anything that is within God’s will for our life. There are many things we ought to do that involve praising Him and promoting His cause. In Him we should have the motivation to love and serve Him.
    * Christ wants us to have what we ought to have. Phil. 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” If we be what we ought to be and do what we ought to do, then Christ will make sure that we have what we ought to have. If we fully trust Him, He will save us and sustain us. What more do we need? Whatever it is, Christ will be sure to provide that also.
    Christ wants us to be what we ought to be, to do what we ought to do, and to have what we ought to have. Christ wants us. Does He have you – all of you?
- 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/


I Just Can’t Understand The Bible!

By Joe Slater

    Yes. You. Can!
    Will it be easy peasy lemon squeezy? Not likely. Will you understand everything completely the first time you read it? Of course not, but you could say that about practically anything.
    One major religion teaches that the “laity” (as opposed to the “clergy”) cannot understand the Bible, so that group’s hierarchy must interpret it and tell the people what it means. Paul the apostle disagrees! “By revelation He (the Lord) made known to me the mystery(as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:3-4).
    Now that same apostle wrote “some things hard to understand.” So said another apostle (2 Peter 3:16). But he didn’t say “impossible to understand,” nor did he suggest not even trying to understand.
    The blessed man’s “delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Yes, understanding the Bible takes study (not mere reading) and serious thought. “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
    Take full advantage of every opportunity to understand the Bible. Study in private. Study with others in Bible classes. While going about your daily tasks, think about what you have read from the Scriptures. Difficult passages will become clearer as you study and learn texts that are more obvious. And remember, understanding is not an end in itself. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).
- 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


The Speech Test

By Al Behel

    James speaks of the power of the tongue. He says we can use the same tongue to praise God and curse other people. We have heard such speech. May I suggest that all speech should pass three acid tests before being uttered toward another.
    1) First, is it true? In Exodus 20:16 God said, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” An untrue statement about another can destroy that person for good.
    2) Second, is it needed? The Bible says, “...he who repeats a matter alienates a friend. Whatever we say about another should serve a worthy and noble cause. Otherwise, we should not say it.
    3) Third, is it kind? “The words of a talebearer are as wounds” (Proverbs 18:8). Nothing cuts more deeply or does more harm than the thoughtless words of a gossiper. It grows bigger the more times it is repeated. We should always strive for kindness in all that we say. 
- 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/


Sunday, July 18, 2021

An Introduction to Ephesians

By Jeff Arnette

     Paul first arrived in Ephesus on his second missionary journey (Acts 18). He visited a second time during his third missionary trip (Acts 19) which proved to be a tumultuous time for the church. People were baptized, silversmiths were infuriated, and a riot even broke out. Paul’s relationship to Ephesus was interesting, to say the least.
     He wrote the letter to the Ephesians in the early 60’s while in a Roman prison. Three other letters were written at this time which includes Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Based on evidence within Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Tychicus was the person who hand-delivered the letters.
     It is typically easy to determine a reason for the letter, but Ephesians is a little more challenging. From the topics discussed, it is clear that the church was dealing with false teachers which were something Paul had already warned the elders at Ephesus about (Acts 20:28-32). Despite these clear problems, Ephesians boldly declares and promotes the idea of reconciliation and unity of all things in Jesus Christ.
     Ephesians is a unique summation of Paul’s teachings on Christ, salvation, and the glorious role of the church in God’s plan for all mankind. It was the favorite letter of John Calvin and as one commentator claimed, only Romans has exercised more influence on Christian thought (Brown 1997).
     It continues to encourage Christians to glorify God for His magnificent work of reconciliation in Jesus and challenges us to share in supporting it through the unity the Holy Spirit has produced. Clearly, this is why William Barclay called it the “Queen of the Epistles,” because its main message is the glory of the church.
     The Letter to the Ephesians makes multiple important contributions to our understanding of Christianity, salvation, Jesus’ deity, and God’s plan.
     First, Ephesians speaks clearly on the subjection of all things to Jesus.
     Second, only Colossians can compare to the important emphasis on Jesus’ victory and the victory (salvation included) we enjoy because of Him.
     Third, Ephesians holds the most developed vision and purpose for the Lord’s church which stands as a herald of Christ’s victory and reconciliation.
     Fourth, Ephesians has a deeper understanding of the Spiritual warfare that every Christian becomes a reluctant but armored and prepared participant.
     As a clear result of these great blessings, we are encouraged to strive for unity, to walk as children of light, and embody all that it means to be God’s children.
     Twice in this short letter, Paul records his prayer for the church (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21). In Eph. 1:15-23, Paul prays for the Holy Spirit to empower with wisdom, revelation, and knowledge so that they can understand their blessed position in Christ and enormity of His love.
     In Eph. 3:14-21, Paul prays for the Spirit to strengthen them with power in their inner being, again which was to empower them to understand Jesus’ love which surpasses understanding. Let me encourage to spend time reading this powerful letter and let it change your heart and faith. If you only read the two prayers, it will make an impact on your heart and faith. Have a blessed day and enjoy this great letter which was meant to strengthen and empower you.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/

Bibliography.
Brown, R.E. An introduction to the New Testament. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1997.
 

Why a Church Bulletin?

By Ron Thomas

    What is the purpose of a local church bulletin? It has two primary purposes. First, it is an additional avenue of teaching. While the articles within are short, there can be much within the article, or anecdotal remarks, that have a powerful teaching capability. Just as the articles can teach, sometimes they are encouraging and give reassurance to some. We don’t always know what goes on in the heart of a person, so an article, quaint saying, anecdote may have an impact on one, but not another.
   A second reason for a local church bulletin is information pertaining to the local congregation and events in the area. The prayer list is a very important list. There are people who are in a struggle with health or some other matter, and very much desire the prayers of the saints. This is why it is important to keep the list updated. The announcements section gives updates with regard to the local congregation, especially news from the elders as required. It’s always good to promote area events if we can; that way we can support the works of sister congregations, as we ask them to support us. You know the old saying, what goes around, comes around.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

No Lie is of the Truth (1 John 2:21)

By Kevin Rutherford

    Jesus gave us warning concerning those who would teach lies (Matthew 7:15-20). These are “false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Paul used the illustration of wolves also when he gave warning to the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:28-31). Paul said “savage wolves” would come among them, who would not spare the flock, but speak perverse things to draw disciples away. Paul also wrote to the Galatian Christians about those who pervert the Gospel of Christ and are accursed for so doing (Galatians 1:6-9).
    It is so important that the pure Gospel is preached that bold measures are commanded of the church in addressing any perversions of the Gospel. There are those who serve themselves rather than God and who deceive others through smooth words and flattering speech (Romans 16:18). They are such that cause divisions and offenses contrary to the true doctrine and should be noted (marked) avoided (Romans 16:17) Elders must hold fast to the faithful Word of God so that they are able, by sound doctrine, to exhort and convict those who contradict the truth (Titus 1:9).
    The book of Jude gives us an excellent example of an inspired approach to dealing with those had corrupted the Gospel. Jude calls for Christians to “contend earnestly for the faith,” because certain men who had already been marked had been allowed to sneak in among them (Jude 3, 4). Jude follows up this exhortation with a refutation and condemnation of the false teachers troubling the church (Jude 5-19). but Jude also lets us know compassion should be involved in the efforts to contend earnestly for the faith because some of those caught up in the false doctrine could be helped (Jude 22:23).
    Peter spoke of false prophets and false teachers who would bring in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1-2). He told the early Christians, “by covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words (2 Peter 2:3). Peter then described the behaviors of the false teachers and warned of the danger of allowing them to lead one astray (2 Peter 2:4-22). Once Peter was very clear in describing the dangers of following these false teachers, he then specifically addressed and refuted their false doctrine (2 Peter 3).
    1 John is also another tremendous example of how to handle false doctrines and perverted gospels. John begins by laying down the foundation of truth that undermines the various false doctrines of the “antichrists” (1 John 1:1-2:17). John then becomes more specific in addressing the errors of the antichrists, by identifying the errors, refuting the errors, and warning of the dangers of such errors (1 John 2:18-4:16). John then wraps it all up with confident and bold teaching concerning the truth on the matters in question (1 John 4-5).
    All of these passages give evidence that support John’s statement in 1 John 2:21. John says, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” John is telling us that truth can be known and that anything that conflicts with the truth is a lie. These examples in which Paul, Jude, John, and Peter warned of false doctrine, and then refuted error prove the truth can be known so well, and with such conviction that it can be defended. These facts also lead to the conclusion that truth is not relative, and that one cannot just teach and practice anything he wants and still please God. The only way to please God is to know, preach, and practice the truth.
- Kevin V. Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/

Hate His Father? (Luke 14:26)

By Travis Robertson

    When you were a child, did you ever blurt out the words, “I hate you?” I can remember using those words toward a sibling or at times my own father. Usually, those words came out because things were not going my way and someone else was making me do something I did not want to do. I really didn’t mean it. I was just expressing my own helplessness and frustration in the moment.
    However, Jesus tells us in the gospel of Luke to hate our own father. If we simply pull this verse out by itself, it looks like Jesus is trying to destroy families. That is not his purpose nor his desire. His point is, ‘if you are truly going to be disciples of Mine, I must be number one in your life.’ We cherish our family relationships and will do most anything for our parents or children. But if our earthly father will tear us away from Jesus, we need stand firm with Christ.
    The best outcome, of course, would be for father and child to live in harmony with both living faithfully to Jesus.  Fathers, lead your family in a way that encourages everyone to be together in Christ!
- 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/

Certainties Found in an Uncertain World

By Gerald Cowan

       Most things in our world are subject to change and are therefore not to be depended upon. The value of money and its availability are very unstable.  Physical health and life expectancy are subject to change. Machinery wears out or is made obsolete by advancing technology. Science tells us to disregard today many things it assured us were true yesterday. Communications, news, advertising media, and reporters cannot be depended upon to tell the truth, to “tell it as it (really) is.” We are often given biased or slanted views, even outright lies, designed to change our minds, to persuade us to feel, believe, accept and act in certain ways, or to buy whatever product is being peddled. We sometimes reach a point where we want to cry out, “Is there anything in  this world upon which one can safely depend?” Yes, there is, but it is often necessary to cut through and scrape away the prejudice, pretense, perfidy, prevarication and fabrications of man and his illusions of permanence before we are able to find and accept that alone which is permanent, dependable and sure.

    WITHOUT DOUBT GOD IS TRUSTWORTHY.  YOU CAN TRUST GOD. 

      A moment’s thought shows how much better it is to trust in God than in things, persons or possessions, circumstances or conditions. Things pass quickly and never return. People also pass away and do not return – their perceptions, pleasures, positions, and promises can change in the blink of an eye. But the Lord God does not change but is immutable, always the same. I am the Lord. I do not change (Malachi 3:6). He abides forever, and so do those who abide in Him and do His will.  Jesus Christ (the incarnate Son of God) is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The world is passing away ... but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17). God is all that He claims to be: source, creator and sustainer of life (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17). The Lord is author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).  God can and will do all that He has promised: receive, save, bless and preserve us (Hebrews 7:25, Ephesians 1:3, 1 Peter 1:5). One who comes to Him will not be cast aside (John 6:37).

    THE WORD OF GOD IS TRUSTWORTHY, TRUE AND RELIABLE.

      It was written down by men who had reason to know it was true, adequate for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17), all-sufficient, containing everything pertaining to life and godliness (Psalm 19:7-11, Psalm 111:7-8, 2 Peter 1:2-4).. The message was not fictional, not cleverly contrived fables or myths, not the fruits of one’s own imagination or interpretation, not a fabricated compendium or a group-think of disciples of Christ, not words of some mystic guru interpreted and applied by other mystics — it was  given by direct input from the Holy Spirit of God  (2 Peter 1:16-21). No one who has lived by God’s words has ever had cause to be disappointed by it.  Whoever believes it ... shall not be put to shame (Romans 10:11).  The word of the cross may appear to be foolishness to unbelievers who perish, but to us who believe it is the wisdom of God and the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
    God’s word is true.  Not because it is pragmatic, achieving its stated purpose, though it does do that consistently. God promises that His word which He sends out will not return to him void, without accomplishing what He sent it to do (Isaiah 55:11). We would probably reject it if it did not “work” the way He intends and promises. It is not true just because we want it to be true, though we love every word of it (Psalm 119:97), and meditate – not just listen to it or read it – we think carefully and deeply about it. It is not true because we believe it, though we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  It is not untrue just because some do not believe it.  Some simply do not want it to be true. They do not like what it says one must do or must avoid doing (the Lord’s commandments are not always easy — they are seldom if ever designed to make us feel good, but rather to enable us to achieve rightness, righteousness according to His standard rather than our own or society’s or culture’s. The dishonest person may reject it because it doesn’t say what he wants it to say – it doesn’t agree with him and he refuses to believe and agree with it. God’s word has been investigated, tried, tested and proved wherever possible since it was first written down. That should always be the case. Be as noble as the Bereans who verified preachers and teachers by testing them by the contents of the acknowledged scripture (Acts 17:11). Do not be afraid to question and prove God’s word. It has nothing to fear from an honest investigation. God’s word is true because God himself is true (Psalm 119:105, Romans 3:3-4).          

    JESUS CHRIST, GOD’S GIFT TO US, IS TRUSTWORTHY AND UNFAILING. 

      God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).  God did not give Jesus to and for the created world, the material universe. He gave Jesus to and for the world of mankind, the only creatures in the material world who could understand and believe in him, who could make a rational choice to receive him, believe him, submissively and obediently follow him, perfectly righteous and holy, perfectly submissive and obedient to God  – not by constraint or divine fiat but by personal choice – to be a sinless sacrifice able to redeem everyone in the world.  He proved himself to be of and from God , the one and only suitable savior. The words about him and from him recorded in scripture are true and provable.  Those in the religious world – self-identifying as Christianity – too often follow their chosen icons and idols but fail to obey God and His Christ (Matthew 7:21-23). They will fail to receive God’s gift . To be effective His gift must be received and validated by the designated recipient. One who rejects him, disbelieves and disobeys him is inexcusable and unforgivable (Acts 4:12). The true words of the True God cannot be disproved though they are widely rejected and neglected even by those who claim to be saved by them.    

    THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD IS OUR INFALLIBLE GUIDE.

      Jesus promised that after his resurrection from death and his ascension to God the Father in heaven he and God would send the Holy Spirit as comforter, helper and continuing guide for his people (read John, chapters 14-16).  A part of the Spirit’s work was in the production of the unimpeachable scripture as God’s infallible instruction for all the time yet to come before Christ’s return to raise the dead, judge the world and usher in the eternal afterlife, heaven and hell, to which all who have ever lived on earth will be consigned, as is made appropriate in their own lifetime.

          YOU CAN DEPEND ON THE POWER AND RESULTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

      Goodness  does make one a saint, an outcast from the world. The world may not want you, but God does. In God’s view the saints stand out as lights in the darkness of the world (Philippians 2:15-16). Even the honest part of the unbelieving world admits that the glory of God is reflected in His people (Matthew 5:14-16).  Unrighteousness only makes one popular with other ungoldly people outcast from God (Galatians 5:19-21). It may be appropriate to suggest at this point that the results of both righteousness and unrighteous are predictable, if not in the present at least in the ultimate future. The sowing and reaping principle applies (Galatians 6:7-8). The seed determines the harvest. The ultimate fruit of righteousness is eternal life (Romans 8:14-16). The ultimate fruit of unrighteousness is eternal spiritual death (Romans 6:23).

    HOPE IS THE ANSWER OF THE SOUL’S QUESTIONS AND NEEDS, AN ANCHOR BOTH STEADFAST AND SURE. 

      Our hope is built on nothing less that Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Not upon youth, age, friends, family, society, church, or self.  Here is the only basis for dependable hope. The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal: The Lord knows them who are His and let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19). Furthermore: God, desiring to show the immutability of His counsel, interposed with an oath, in order that by two things (the oath and the promise) in which it was impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement ... to lay hold of the hope that is set before us.  Which hope we have, as a n anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast.

    CONCLUSION: You will notice that the Word of God, the righteousness and the hope of man are all anchored to and dependent upon God Himself. It is difficult but always possible and right to rely completely upon God as one should. But if we do not we shall perish and pass away.  God’s offer reads like this: Everyone who believes and is baptized into Christ is saved (Mark 16:16) and puts on Christ (Galatians 3:27). There is no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ (Romans 8:1). No one who comes to him will be turned away (John 6:37). Whosoever will, let him come. He is invited (Revelation 22:17). Remember, the Lord knows all those who are his (2 Timothy 2:19).
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com

Monday, July 12, 2021

“Listen” to the Sky

By Edd Sterchi

Each and every shining star
Testifies from vast afar
All the planets do agree
The moon joins in with unity
The marching clouds e’er proclaim
As does the sun with heat and flame
The brilliant sky and all beyond
Shouts “it’s through God that we spawned”

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
(Psalm 19:1, ESV)
- 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/


What Kind Of Fool?

By Joe Slater

     I was seven years old when Perry Como wistfully sang, “What kind of fool am I?” It seems romantic love escaped him (according to the song, anyway). I can’t solve his problem, but I’ll borrow his question!
     Scripture speaks of several kinds of fools. For now, let’s consider three. First is the fool who denies God’s very existence. David wrote, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). That absurd remark fits both facets of the Biblical word “fool.” First, it shows a total lack of understanding of the abundant evidence for God’s existence. “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Deity, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). But the Bible also uses fool to describe one who behaves immorally. In candid moments, some have admitted that they reject God’s existence because they want complete sexual freedom.
     A materialistic fool may “believe” in God, but his
behavior doesn’t show it. The rich fool (Luke 12:16-21) stored up wealth for himself but was “not rich toward God.” He lived with this earthly life as his only concern. Another rich man in Luke 16 behaved similarly and ended up in torment when he died. A fool indeed!
     Rather than being a materialist fool or a fool who denies God, let me encourage you to be “fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Corinthians 4:10). Unbelievers, and even marginal believers, look upon dedicated Christians as fools. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). But take heart! “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (v. 20). Trust Christ! Obey Christ! Be a “fool” for the sake of Christ!
- 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


O Lord Divine in Heaven

By Gerald Cowan
We give our lives to You
    In trust that You will make our lives complete.
Grant us courage, Father, as we face adversity.
    We are so often weak.
Give us something of Your all-sufficient strength.
    We lose our hope too easily.
Help us then to persevere.
    Teach us patience, for we find it difficult to wait.
Set our feet in safety on our Lord, the Rock;
    May we never waver or be moved from Him.
Let meekness dissipate our self-important airs.
    In true submission may we find true liberty.
Teach us charity and kind forbearance,
    For we are too often uncooperative and selfish.
Undo pride and our self-seeking will
    That we might be more tolerant of others.
Enable us to bear life’s burdens for ourselves and others.
    But share the burden with us, Lord,
And never let the weight of trial overcome us.
May we find knowledge in Your word
    For we would not be ignorant of You.
Grant us wisdom so that knowledge is not used improperly.
    Comfort us in sadness.
Ease the ache in hearts now filled with sorrow.
    Grant that we might not be anxious slaves to stress,
But set the peace of Christ within our hearts.
And most of all — above all else,
    Sustain our souls in spiritual communion with Yourself,
For we can never live by bread and water alone,
    But only with the food of Your word and the water of life
For our spirits as provided for us in Christ.
    Be our Rock and Refuge, our Help and Hope, our Strength and Stay.
Keep us on the pathway to life and heaven
    Marked out clearly for us in Your Son, our Lord Jesus.
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com

Devouring Yourselves

By Joe Chesser
 
    Have you ever done something pretty dumb and thought to yourself that you are glad no one had a camera to record your stupidity?  Well, I remember some time ago Brenda Dufour, a good friend who lives in Louisiana, sent me several pictures of some very ridiculous things caught by a camera.  Things like a man hosing his car in a downpour, a purse and a bag of groceries on top of a car going down the street, a plastic coffee thermos melted on top of a gas burner, a truck headfirst in the water on a boat ramp with the boat hooked behind it still on shore, and a lineman working on top of a telephone pole with a tornado in plain view right behind him.
    But the one that most caught my attention was a picture of a snake coiled around swallowing his own tail!  There must have been 4-5 inches already down his throat!  Devouring yourself alive is about as dumb as it gets.  Yet, that’s what people all around us are doing to each other all the time.  And worse yet is when we do it to each other!
    Paul warned us about this in Galatians 5.  In the context of urging the church to live differently from the rest of the world, to live by the Spirit and not by the desires of the flesh, he said: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).  The picture of the snake is clear evidence of just how foolish it is to try to destroy each other by destructive words and actions.  It’s certainly not the way of the Spirit!
    Paul reminded the Galatians that God expects Christians to practice the law of love towards each other. To “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14) is the summation of the entire law in a single command.  This means to treat others as God would treat them, with kind words and deeds that build them up.  Anyone can curse and swear and criticize and complain.  Anyone can rip other people apart.  That comes naturally because we all are born with the sinful nature.  But for those who want to rise above that, for those who are born of the Spirit, practicing the law of love becomes their new nature.  Instead of living immorally and filled with hatred and selfish ambition, those born of the Spirit allow the Spirit to fill them with something far better – love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:19-24). There is no place in the fruit of the Spirit for words and actions that bite and devour each other.
    It may be natural for snakes to swallow themselves.  I really don’t know much about that.  But I do know it’s not natural for Christians to destroy each other.  I’ve seen far too much of that in my lifetime.  I’ve even participated in it, to my shame.  However, it’s time for us all to put that behind us and from now on to treat each other with love! 
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


An Introduction to Galatians

By Jeff Arnette

    The book of Galatians is a challenging and powerful book. Written by the apostle Paul early in his ministry (around 49-50 AD), it reveals one of the first serious doctrinal struggles in the church. The main issue at stake was legalism vs. grace.
    This letter is surprisingly relevant to the church and its struggles today. Some of the greatest misunderstandings are connected to how and when a person is saved from their sins. Everyone seems to believe they can live and act however they want and still be saved. Paul makes it clear that salvation is only found in trusting in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:6-10). Trusting in anything else will not work and might make things worse.
    The problem in Galatia was false teachers who had infiltrated the church and begun to convince them that Paul was not really an apostle and the gospel he preached was not good enough. They insisted that all Gentile Christians had to come under the Law of Moses and submit to keeping the rules like circumcision. This push to return to a faith of keeping the rules called into question the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Paul had nothing but strong words for these false teachers and any Galatian Christian who would agree to return to legalism. He called it “desertion” (Gal. 1:6) and turning to a “different gospel”. In Galatians 2:4, he said that returning to a law system and agreeing to circumcision would be no different than agreeing to being enslaved. It would mean that you are “severed” from Christ (Gal. 5:4) and have “fallen away from grace.” Making the point even stronger, he pronounced a “curse” (Gr. anathema, Gal. 1:9) on anyone who would trust in or teach a gospel that was different.
    For this reason, Galatians is a foundational letter in the New Testament that has radically affect all who seriously study it with humility and a desire to learn. It was a favorite of Martin Luther who called it “his dear epistle… and his wife” and credited it with his own salvation.
    Throughout the letter, Paul draws our attention to the contrast between the two modes of salvation. It is important that you know about these contrasts because they help us understand his theology in Galatians.
    He contrasts flesh versus Spirit; works of the law versus faith and promise; the curse versus the inheritance; slavery versus freedom; Hagar versus Sarah (slave versus free); the old Jerusalem and Mt. Sinai versus the new Jerusalem from above; Ishmael versus Isaac; being under the law versus being led by the Spirit; and lastly, the works of the flesh versus the fruits of the Spirit.
    So, what can we learn from this great book?
    First, it is foolish to turn away from faith in Jesus to try to be good enough, to keep the rules, and depend upon our own effort before God.
    Second, faith is more important than rule-keeping! Abraham was counted righteous before the law, before the need to be good enough, and that is what we want and need. Circumcision, also representative of the law of Moses, was not even an issue for Abraham when God called him righteous (Rom. 4:3-4).
    Lastly, this book teaches us that faith in Jesus gives us new life, a new faith, and a new and better way to be saved before God.
 - 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, July 5, 2021

Can We Do More?

By Bill Brandstatter

    Often some Christians feel bad because they are not able to do more for the church. Certainly, there are times when, as individuals, we need to do more. That may include inviting others, encouraging others, attending Bible classes and worship, praying more for others. Sometimes phone calls, visits, or notes are great ways to help others to live better, be more faithful, and be encouraged. Others sometimes see the church in decline, or they notice more needs to be done. Sometimes we ask, “Can we do more?” The answer is YES; but to what extent is this possible?
    Everybody is not the same. Paul indicates in Romans 12:4 that every person in the body has a different function. God expects us to do what our function is to do. Paul told Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist.” Timothy had work to do. I am not expected by God to do what others are more capable of doing. God expects me to do what I can with the ability I have (1 Pet. 4:11).
    Everybody can do something. In Mark chapter 14, a woman with an alabaster box did something. She was criticized for not doing more. Jesus said, “She has done what she could do.” (vs. 8) Notice Jesus did not expect her to do what the critics mentioned. Mark records, “They criticized her sharply.” (vs. 5) We don't know the reason that she couldn't do more; but, Jesus accepted what she did and praised her for it. Sometimes people don't do anything because of criticism. Like the woman in our text, others will look at the work that ought to be done and criticize. Perhaps some think that their work is to criticize others. Because of criticism or the possibility of it, some people won't do what they ought to be doing (John 12:42, 43). Let us not be criticizers, but encouragers and exhorters.
    Everybody has reasons they can't do more. Sometimes time constraints prevent a person from doing more. A mother with children is constrained by time. God expects a mother to take care of the home, her husband and her children. (If she can do more that is great.) Many women do, but not all are able to. When Paul stated that a woman would be saved in her childbearing, he simply meant that a mother has a place that is important to God. (1 Tim. 2:15)
    In our day, there may be times a person can't do more because of health, transportation, or situations. They can only do a certain amount. We should not be critical of those who can't do more, but rather encourage them in whatever area they are serving.
    Everybody has a responsibility to do something for the Lord. Perhaps all I can do is make a phone call. Others may be able to send a card. The Lord only expects me to do what I can. Certainly not everyone can preach or teach a Bible class. Some can't lead singing. Others can't teach a children's class. Everybody can do something, however. We need to find our niche in the local congregation and then do it to the best of our ability. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. Christianity and service both involve growth, however. (2 Pet. 3:18)
    Everybody needs to try to do more. In Heb. 5:12, there is mentioned individuals that should have grown in their Christianity. They should have been teachers; but they had never gotten to that point. The writer indicates they needed to be taught again the first principles. The implication here is that they should have grown more than they did. We can try to do more. We can talk to more people about the salvation found only in Christ. We can send a card or make a phone call. We can say an encouraging word. We often put ourselves in a comfort zone and never leave. All of us need to look within and ask ourselves if we have grown. If we can do more, we should. If we are at the same place we were when we became a Christian, we need to grow. Everybody can do something.
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


I Can’t Hear You!

By Jim Faughn

    We’ve all seen it. Some of us have done it. It seems that some of us are still doing it.
    When a small child is doing it, those of us who are older seem to have two reactions. On the one hand, we “chalk it up” to immaturity. At the same time, we hope that, with proper discipline (including instruction, training, and appropriate punishment), the behavior will become a thing of the past.
    For some, the exact behavior may, indeed, become a thing of the past. Unfortunately, for others, the attitude that the behavior represents is never outgrown. Many seem to exhibit the same attitude throughout their entire lives.
    What is the “it” that I’m thinking about?
    “It” is that child with fingers firmly placed in each ear and yelling loudly. What he/she may be yelling may merely be noise –any noise –or it may actually be verbalized. Whether or not the message is verbalized, it is clear. That (ok, I’m going to say it) spoiled brat is sending the message loudly and clearly, “I can’t hear you!”
    The truth is a little different from that. In actuality, that child does not want to hear anything from anybody else. That is especially true if they know that what they are shutting out is anything with which they would disagree or (horrors of horrors) which would correct them.
    As I suggested earlier, it seems to me that some of us never totally outgrow this. While it would look a little ridiculous for an adult to walk around with fingers stuck in our ears and yelling, we may be guilty of doing things that have the same results.
    A somewhat modern term comes to mind. That term is “echo chamber.” An older term that means somewhat the same thing is “clique.”
    The idea is that people associate exclusively, or at least primarily, with people who meet their standards, have the same interests, and who are usually about the same age. There is one more criterion that is of utmost importance. All of these people absolutely must agree on everything.
    The people in the “echo chamber” rely on the same sources for news (and opinions about that news). They are members of the same groups. Those groups may be “in real life” or some sort of “virtual group” on social media. Their conversations are not really conversations during which an exchange of ideas takes place. Instead, they more closely resemble a piece of music in which the same message is “sung” in different “parts.” The ones who are responsible for the music may congratulate themselves on the beautiful harmony and may even express a desire that everybody could experience the joy and unity they feel as they “sing their way through life.”
    What if somebody tries? What if somebody outside the group actually wishes to join in? What if they are slightly off key? What if one of the members of the original group actually begins to sing his or her own tune by having an idea, a viewpoint, a technique, etc. that may differ slightly (or more than slightly) with the other people in the echo chamber? What if somebody “on the outside” actually has the nerve to suggest that the mutually held idea(s) within the echo chamber could be wrong?
    I’m guessing that, at that point, figurative fingers will go into figurative ears. It may even be that figurative eyes could be closed. After all, isn’t that also one of the techniques used by those kids who “don’t want to hear it?” Don’t they want to shut out everything that is unpleasant and hear their own voices?
    If I choose to only be around people who think just like me, I may be setting myself up for some real heartache. The number of voices in the echo chamber may start to diminish. It may be that, when I open my eyes, I will discover that I am all alone and that everybody I know has chosen not to hear me!
- Jim Faughn, a retired preacher, serves as an elder for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org  From A Legacy of Faith blog


The Mission

By David A. Sargent

    David Urey was desperate.  He, his wife, and their son were involved in an automobile accident in West Virginia.  Urey suffered only minor injuries but his son suffered a concussion and his wife had a broken back and a severe scalp injury.  Mrs. Urey was also in her fifth month of pregnancy.
     A surgeon at Grant Memorial Hospital in Petersburg, WV, told Urey he could perform basic surgery to keep his wife alive, but she needed to see a neurosurgeon as soon as possible.  The closest one was 150 miles away at Georgetown Hospital, and Urey’s wife would probably not survive if transported by ambulance, the doctor said.
     Searching for a helicopter to airlift his wife to D.C., in desperation Urey called the White House.  He was able to explain his situation to Gen. James Hughes, President Richard Nixon’s military aide.  Gen. Hughes called Lt. Col. Abe Wolson to see if the President’s helicopter could make the round trip to WV and back to Georgetown Hospital so Urey’s wife could have the life-saving neurosurgery.  Lt. Col. Wolson said that the flight was possible so the order was given.
     The rescue mission was successfully completed.  “The outcome was that Brian, their son, fully recovered from his head injury in a few weeks.  Mrs. Urey gave birth to a normal baby boy and she eventually recovered,” Wolson said proudly. *
     Because of our sins, we were in a fatal condition, unable to save ourselves, and desperately in need of rescue (Romans 6:23).
     Although our sins are an offense to Him, God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to rescue us.  This divine rescue mission would demand that Jesus give His life to pay the price for our redemption from sin (1 Peter 1:18-19).  Jesus willingly laid down His life for our salvation, so that we might live (John 10:17-18).
     God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn away from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
     The Apostle Paul extolled the glory of this rescue mission as he opened a letter to Christians in Galatia: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Galatians 1:3-5).
     Jesus came to rescue YOU.  He will save you, if you will only accept His offer on His terms.
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org

* Information gleaned from “Abe Wolson recalls one mission worth 20 years of service” by Don Moore in www.donmooreswartales.com.


Too Deep

By Clifton Angel

    It is very frightening to be too deep. I may desire to go deep-sea fishing, but I do not desire to go deep-sea swimming. It is too deep. I may desire to go on a guided tour in a cave, but I do not desire to enter a cave alone and unguided. It is too deep. I love to observe the beauty of deep outer space (e.g., the stars), but I would never want to be in deep outer space. It is too deep. Depth or deepness causes fear for us in many situations in our lives, but I want us to see five things that are too deep, which actually bring assurance instead of anxiety; comfort instead of concern; fulfillment instead of fear.
    The first four come from Romans 11:33. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" From this passage, we are reminded of the vast depths of God’s wisdom (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:19–21; James 3:17; James 1:5–7), God’s knowledge (cf. Psalm 139:1–6), God’s judgments (Psalm 119:7, 13, 20, 30, 39, 43, 52, 62, 66, 75, 84, 102, 106, 108, 120–121, 137, 149, 156, 160, 164, 175), and God’s ways (Psalm 25:4; 119:3, 15; 128:1; 145:17). Truly these aspects of God are too deep for us to fully comprehend, yet these should bring comfort instead of fear. Furthermore, we seek to grow in them and closer to Him.
    The fifth item that is too deep for us to fully comprehend is God's Love. This fact comes from Ephesians 3:18–19. Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians "May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Paul prayed that they would be able to comprehend and know God's Love through Jesus, yet he says it is a love that surpasses all knowledge.
    Truly, God's Wisdom, Knowledge, Judgments, Ways, and Love are too deep for our complete understanding. Yet, these have been revealed by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). And, they are reachable through Christ (Ephesians 3:11–12). Some may say: "I'm afraid of betraying my family for Christ — I'm just in too deep;" or, "I'm afraid to leave the church I'm attending, even though I know what they are doing is contrary to the Bible — I'm just in too deep;" or, "I'm afraid God could never forgive me for all the sins I've committed — I'm in too deep." The good news is, if we will trust God and obey God, none of these are too deep for Him.
    Have you obeyed His plan for you?
- 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/


Introduction to 2 Corinthians

By Jeff Arnette

    As we pointed out in our introduction to 1 Corinthians, the Corinthian church would have been a challenging church. Of all the churches he started this one gave him the most grief and heartbreak.
    You see this culminating in Paul’s admonition in… 2 Cor. 13:5 - “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (ESV)
    No doubt, Paul is beginning to question their salvation and connection to Jesus.
    This is a church that continually struggled with moral and doctrinal issues. The influence of false teachers, misunderstanding about doctrine, culture, and pagan religions seemed to plague them at every turn. Like some Christians and churches today, despite their great advantage of having great teachers and leaders, they never get it together spiritually.
    So, in this last epistle to Corinth, you will see a side of Paul that was not evident in 1 Corinthians. On one hand, it is more personal (due to the strained relationship) but on the other hand, it is stricter and harsher (due to the false teachers and the church’s clear tolerance of them).
    In chapters 1-10, we find Paul trying to be encouraging and expressing his joy for their spiritual progress. Paul was always looking for the positive and good in the church. We should learn from him and always think the best of each other.
    In chapters 11-13, the tone of the letter changes. He expresses his dismay over the influence of the false teachers and will get as pointed as he has been in any letter.
    While we cannot be certain of the identity of the false teachers in Corinth, they have gotten a foothold in the church and as a result, are using that connection to discredit Paul and his mission in Corinth.
    Several facts about the false teachers stand out.
    First, they claimed a connection to Jesus Christ and an apostolic authority that was superior to Paul. This tends to show up in letters of recommendation to the church.
    Second, they were boasting of their Jewish heritage, eloquence, boldness, missionary accomplishments, ecstatic experiences, miracles, and special knowledge gleaned from visions.
    Third, they are criticizing Paul as being weak, having poor speaking skills, and subjection to suffering hardships. This was construed as God’s lack of approval and protection of Paul. On the other hand, they were claiming that since they had not suffered, God was with them and protecting them. Never mind the testimony of Jesus’ life that stood in stark opposition to this point. The Corinthians were agreeing with it.
    A powerful and important lesson for us all: for false teachers to get a foothold in the church, they must first separate you from the teachers and authority that the Lord has given you.
    As such, 2 Corinthians is a powerful and challenging read. Let me encourage you to read it afresh and let the truths of God’s word, influence how you interact with your leaders and how submissive you are to His words.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/