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Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Prophet Zechariah Raised His Eyes

By J. Randal Matheny

The prophet Zechariah raised his eyes,
And saw a flying scroll, to his surprise.
The scroll said every thief would be expelled,
The other side, all liars would soon be felled.
"But in our age is God not love and grace?"
The anger of God at sin does time erase?
Did God lift Satan to sit at his right hand?
"But human we are: we're weak against sin to stand."
To choose Sodom above the Lord is weak?
Is weakness to love Gomorrah's filth, to seek
Out sin for pleasure, to cheaply sell the soul?
I soon expect to see that flying scroll!


— ‹‹ @@ ›› —

     This poem, at first, seems harsh and negative. So what's it doing in a motivational site? In the darkness, light stands out starkly.
     Your greatest opportunity to shine is where the darkness is strongest.
     When others are making excuses for bad and sinful behavior, your sterling conduct stands out.
     When others give in easily to temptation and go with the flow of the crowd, your stance for truth sounds
far and wide.
     We thank Ed Boggess for his Just-A-Minute meditation today that served as inspiration for this poem and whose language provided much of the actual text. http://is.gd/eJKHzy
     Let's stand with Ed and with Zechariah to be the true people of God in a world where "Christian" has little meaning left. We can show what the word truly means.
- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He
may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this
material, please include the following: 
Copyright (c) 2021 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.


The Greatest People

By David A. Sargent

    Ilion Jones writes that “On the great biographer Ida M. Tarbell's 80th birthday, someone asked her to name the greatest persons she had ever met. She responded, ‘the greatest persons I have ever met are those nobody knows anything about.’”
    “Once the New York Times was asked to help a group of club women decide on the twelve greatest women in the United States. After due consideration, the editors replied, ‘the twelve greatest women in the United States are women who have never been heard of outside of their own homes.’”
    Jones concludes, “I ask you, who was greater, Thomas A. Edison or his mother? When he was a young lad his teacher sent him home with a note which said, ‘Your child is dumb. We can't do anything for him.’ Mrs. Edison wrote back, ‘You do not understand my boy. I will teach him myself.’ And she did, with results that are well known. *
    For many, the greatest influences for good in their lives are from those who are not well-known to the masses but loved and appreciated deeply by those who have benefited from their wisdom and example.
    The greatest person in your life – well-known or not – is that person who has taught you about Jesus, by his or her words and actions.
    For many, that person has been a godly mother or grandmother.
    A little boy forgot his lines in a Sunday school presentation. His mother was in the front row to prompt him. She gestured and formed the words silently with her lips, but it did not help. Her son's memory was blank. Finally, she leaned forward and whispered the cue, “I am the light of the world.” The child beamed and with great feeling and a loud clear voice said, “My mother is the light of the world!” **
    Actually, Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12). But we should consider to be GREAT those – like godly mothers – who have enlightened us to that great truth.
    Scripture records these words about John the Baptist: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:6-9).
    Therefore, John and all who are like him, are the greatest persons we could ever know, for they bear witness to the Light (Jesus) that we might develop our own faith and ultimately follow that Light all the way to heaven!
    Jesus, the Light of the world, is the Way out of the darkness and doom of sin (John 14:6). Jesus will save those who place their faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess His name 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).
    Great are those who lead us to follow Jesus, the Light of the World.
    Won’t YOU follow Him, too?
- 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
* Morning Glory, January 8, 1994, in illustrations from www.bible.org;
** Bits and Pieces, August, 1989


You're Asking For It! (Romans 2:4-11)

By Gerald Cowan

    There are many ways of asking for things. You do not always have to express yourself in words. Attitudes and actions can also be effective ways to ask for things. We do not always get what we want, and we do not always want what we get. But much of what comes to us we get because, in one way  or another, we have been asking for it.
    Let me offer some examples which prove the point. Driving recklessly or too fast is asking for a ticket, or an accident. Eating too much is asking for indigestion, or a weight problem. Dressing immodestly or indecently is asking for an insult, or an assault. Prying too closely into the affairs of others may be asking for trouble. Do you get the point now? The results or consequences may be “built in” to certain attitudes, actions, and words.
    Sometimes we do not know what we are asking for because we have not taken time to see that certain attitudes and actions have predictable and sometimes inevitable consequences. Some people are severely critical of others, always “giving them a good tongue lashing” or “giving them a piece of my mind” (too often done by people who can’t really spare it). They are jealous and suspicious of everyone. They may not know it, but they are asking to be left alone, to be isolated and avoided by others. Some are generous and kind, thoughtful and unselfish. They may not be consciously seeking friends, but their way of life is asking for love, friendship, acceptance, approval, and appreciation. They are asking for fellowship and companionship, and get it.
    Have you ever thought that some are asking for heaven and others are asking for hell? In the case of those who are asking for hell it is probably not conscious or deliberate. They may be unaware of it. They may even be asking for heaven with their mouths. But their way of life asks for hell, and that is what they will get. Those who are asking for heaven do so consciously and deliberately. They are trying to arrange their lives so that their words, attitudes, and actions all ask for the same thing – the hope held out to us by Jesus. Read 1 John 2:28-3:2, especially 3:2. “Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself in the same way that the Lord is pure.” The pure ones shall receive heaven, not because they hope and not just because they speak words of desire, but because they do what is needed to receive the hoped-for thing that is promised. We are admonished to live a life that is worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27, Eph. 4:1, Col. 3:2-4) – seeking to take our place with Jesus Christ, spiritually and potentially at present, but literally and eternally later.
    What are you asking for in life? Random living holds no hope of eternal good. Do not drift aimlessly along, hoping that somehow everything will turn out right and good. Some day God will say, “Here’s what you’ve been asking for, and now you’re going to get it – eternally. You must decide what you really want, then take aim, and arrange your life in such a way as to get it. Make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:1-10).
- 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


Rejoice in the Lord

By Ronald Bartanen
 
    Have you had much cause for rejoicing lately? Maybe you’ve recently lost a loved one or a dear friend, and the days since have been filled with grief?  Or perhaps you or a family-member has been diagnosed with some dreaded disease?  Or have you lost your employment, and don’t know where to look for another job? If these unwelcome situations have invaded your life, you likely will find it difficult to even “put on a happy face” for a few minutes.  If you are facing none of these tragedies, you may still find life frustrating and disappointing.  Life may be good, but we always seem to anticipate a situation where it could be better.  We may go to great efforts to make it better, only to find that satisfaction with life is always elusive..
    It reminds me of a “ Nancy ” cartoon of several years ago, where we find Nancy seated at her school-desk.  She says, “If I were out on the playground right now, I’d be happy.”  In the next caption we find her on the playground, thinking, “If I were playing on the swings, I’d be happy.”  When on a swing, she says, “Where is everybody? If a bunch of us had a baseball game going, I’d be happy.”  When she gets on the ball field, she says, “If somebody would hit a ball over here, I’d be happy.”  When a ball does bounce toward her, she says, “If I were sitting in a nice, cool classroom, I’d be happy.”  In the last caption she is again seated in her classroom, thinking, “If I were out on the playground right now, “I’d be happy.”  The cartoonist thus pointed out a common failing—true joy in life is not so dependent upon where we are or what we are doing as it is upon the state of one’s heart.
    Happiness, by its definition, depends upon what happens.  Good circumstances give us times of wellbeing, even elation.  Bad circumstances drag us down emotionally.  Better words for the Christian are words such as “joy” and “rejoice.”  True joy is possible even in the most adverse circumstances of life.  When Christ’s apostles were persecuted, being beaten and told to cease preaching in His name, we find them “rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41).   It was while Paul was in prison that he wrote the Christians at Philippi , “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).   Some might object that it is not natural to rejoice in times of trouble, and they’re right.  Rejoicing of this nature is only “in the Lord.”  It is second only to love in the list of the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22.   He enables us to focus. not on the circumstances we face in a fallen world, but on the unseen, as we “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).      Whether situations in life are esteemed good or bad, we can take assurance in Jesus’ admonition to His followers: “Rejoice, for your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).  After his acceptance of Christ in baptism, the Ethiopian of Acts 8 was able to go “on his way rejoicing” (v. 39).  The psalmist, David, prayed, "Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You” (Psa. 5:11).  Whatever else happens in our world or in our individual lives, we have cause for much rejoicing in Christ and His promises.
- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. He may be contacted at: ron33dor@yahoo.com


No Life 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,” becausecertain 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/


Monday, August 23, 2021

Would He be Ashamed to be Called Our God?

By Gerald Cowan

     The writer of the book of Hebrews pays a thought-provoking compliment to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He tells us that they trusted God and died without losing their faith, even though they had not received certain promises. They considered themselves to be strangers in the present world and citizens of heaven – pilgrims here, longing to be “at home over there” with God. And then he tells us that because of their faith and faithfulness God was not ashamed to be called their God (Hebrews 11:16). God was willing to be identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). Not because they were perfect me. Not because they never made mistakes or never did anything wrong – that was not true of any of them. But rather because they tried to please God and walk with Him in the way He directed.
    God does not pay that same compliment to all people. He is not willing to be called the God of those who are not trying to be faithful to Him. To the unfaithful people of Israel God said, “You are not my people and I am not your God" (Hosea 1:9). The reason is clear: God cannot accept those whose way of life is contrary to His will. He has no fellowship with evil, no communion with darkness, no concord with the devil, no agreement with unbelievers, nothing in common with idols (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). When Israel refused to separate themselves from unclean things they could not expect God to claim them as His people. They had no right to claim Him as their God. Not because they were imperfect people, but because they were not trying to please God or to walk in the ways He directed.
    This question occurs to me: would God be ashamed to be called our God, the God of our nation and country?  It is true that God has no chosen nation  –  no country can claim to be the  equivalent of the  Old  Testament nation of Israel. Not even modern Israel can make that claim legitimately. Though they do make the claim and many others in the world acknowledge them as God’s chosen people, God’s chosen nation, the claim is not valid. Even if God had a chosen nation, it would probably not be us. Consider this: true Christianity is hard to find, pseudo-Christianity is found everywhere in denominations and cults, anti-Christianity is proliferating in society and in government, false religions are protected and privileged and Christians who oppose them are subject to immense pressure and labeled as bigots, racists, and un-American – sometimes even called domestic terrorists. How can non-Christians and anti-Christians expect to claim the God of the Bible as their God? And if they do, will He acknowledge it? Will He allow himself to be called “their God?” Things biblically and historically wrong have become accepted and approved in our society and government – when immoral things become legal they do not become moral; they are still immoral. Would God be pleased or ashamed of the image of Him reflected by the nation?
    The way any person lives is always a reflection upon the standard he claims to live by, and also upon the one who set the standard. The failure of professing Christians to live up to the standard set by God is a reflection upon the standard (the New Testament of the Bible), and upon the God who gave it. I suppose God might have a right to be ashamed of some of us at times. All of us have at times brought discredit and disgrace upon His holy name – the name of God may be blasphemed because of our sins and our example (see Romans 2:24). We have sometimes been ashamed to tell others about our connection with the Lord and may even have denied Him at times.  If so, He will be ashamed of us and will deny any connection with us (Mark 8:38, Matthew 10:32-33). We are not perfect, and we seem incapable of becoming perfect – all have sinned; there is not one person other than Jesus Christ who has not sinned in some way at some time, and there are many who persist in sin even when they know better and when they claim to be righteous (Romans 3:10, 23). God would be perfectly just if He disowned us and cast us off, repudiating any association with us and refusing to be called our God.
    But, wonder of wonders, our Lord is willing to forgive all the sins and ugliness of our past lives, to accept us as His people, and allow us to call Him our God. It is only what you are now that counts with God, not what you used to be. I know that if I continue to be faithful to Christ, someday I will stand in the presence of the Lord himself, and....
        Then will He own my worthless name
        Before His Father’s face,
        And, in the New Jerusalem
        Appoint for me a place.  (Isaac Watts)
What about you?
- 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


Go Ahead and Do It - On Purpose

By Mike Glenn

    The importance of a goal and a plan: Have you ever noticed that things can float downstream without even trying, but must give considerable effort to go upstream any distance? A car can coast downhill, but must use gasoline to power itself uphill. If we are not careful, Christians and congregations will live their spiritual life by simply drifting downstream letting chance and circumstances take us where they will. But, to press to higher ground, to gain new spiritual heights every day, to take ourselves to the next level (Phil. 3:14; 1 Tim. 3:13), we must do it on purpose.
    In spiritual life, it is completely true that if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. God did not decide to save the world on a whim. He purposed it from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). The church was part of His eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11). Even the Old Law and its tabernacle and worship showed the purposeful planning of God as it was the shadow of the real image of New Testament law and worship. And, God did not leave the preaching of the gospel to chance. He gave the tools of inspiration, tongues and other miraculous gifts to assure His work was carried out. He gave the plan of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Boaz purposed to do good toward another and he called it “handfuls of purpose” (Ruth 2:16). Daniel determined not to violate the law of God. In Daniel 1:8 we are told, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank…”. The psalmist purposed his words carefully according to Psalm 17:3 “...I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.” Job purposed not to lust, “I made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I think upon a maid (Job 31:1). We are to give as we have purposed in our heart (2 Corinthians 9:7)
    Truthfully, there is no part of the Christian life that does not demand purposeful planning. From obeying the plan of salvation to raising our children in the Lord to gaining control of our fleshly desires, reaching toward heaven — it all will only be accomplished on purpose (goal) and with a plan or series of plans.
    There are four parts to this process of reaching the next level of spirituality.
    (1)We must remember as we make plans to ask the counsel of the LORD. “If the Lord wills,” should be both our speech and our practice (James 4:15). The preacher of old warns us in Proverbs 15:22, “Without counsel, purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors, they are established.” We must ask advice of the elderly that are strong in the LORD. We must “Remember the Gibeonites”. In Joshua 9, this group of people fooled Joshua into breaking one of the commands of GOD to not make a league with the inhabitants of the land. If Joshua and the other leaders had asked counsel of God they would not have been fooled.
    (2)Clearly define the goal. From “Go, make disciples,” to “be of the same mind and the same judgment” to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” we must have the goals clearly defined and understood.
   (3)For each of the goals mentioned in point 2 above, God gave us a plan, method, and resources. The scriptures are full of planners. God was the greatest planner. Let’s walk in His footsteps. For any congregation of the LORD’S church to grow we must make purposeful plans. Personal or congregational purity does not happen by accident. Evangelism does not happen by accident. Spiritual wisdom does not come by accident. What size will our congregation be in 20 years? How are the kids being trained for the eldership or preaching or other service in the kingdom? What verses of scripture will the kids in Bible class have memorized when they turn 18? What Bible material will they have covered? In what way are we purposely solidifying the marriages in our congregation? How well trained are the teachers who are guiding young minds? What sins will you overcome this year? How much of the Bible will you read? What lessons will you study with your children at home? How many souls will you try to save this month? Plan, plan, plan!
    (4)We must follow through. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Goals without plans are empty. Plans without follow through are fruitless.
    Brothers and sisters, like God, let’s become planners and workers of our plans. Have a purposeful life. 
- Mike Glenn directs North Carolina School of Biblical Studies (http://ncsbs.net/) NCSBS is overseen by the elders of the Warners Chapel church of Christ where Mike also serves as one of their ministers. He may be contacted through the school's website: ncsbs.net


No Beauty That We Should Desire Him

By Al Behel


There is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2)
     As a child I was introduced to pictures of Jesus. Salesmen would go from house to house selling wall-paintings showing Jesus holding a lamb or a small child in His arms. Bible class material carried color pictures showing Him dressed in a white robe with long flowing hair and a beard. Little did I know that these were just an artist conception of Jesus which had been painted just a few years before I was born.
     I have often wondered why we have no physical description of the most important figure in human history. We have sketches of many of the ancient world leaders and military giants but none of God’s beloved Son. Was He tall or short? Did He have the appearance of a huge football player, or did He look like He was under-nourished and emaciated? After all, He was born a peasant with no claim to wealth or fame.
     The Bible is strangely silent about Jesus’ physical appearance because that is not what draws us to Him. Isaiah tells us that when we look at Him there is no physical beauty that would make us desire to be with Him (Isaiah 53:2). He lived in an ordinary human body. He would not have been selected as a model for some fashion magazine.
     Yet, He has drawn men to Him as no other person has ever done. Throughout history men and women have followed Him with a loyalty that led them into lion’s dens, dungeon cells, and amphitheaters where they were torn apart before roaring crowds. Millions have denied themselves and taken up their crosses to become His disciples. Without having seen Him, we love Him, and we long for the day we can look upon His face.
     Someday we will behold Him in all His glory and look upon His face. We will have no difficulty recognizing Him. The beauty of His grace will draw us home.
- 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/


If You Can ...

By Larry Pasley

If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can get going without pep pills,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment
If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

..Then You Are Probably The Family Dog!

 <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

    There are other ways to be at peace and sleep well.
    Dependence on God brings peace and sleep. Psalm 4:8  I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
    Sound wisdom and discretion will bring sweet sleep. Proverbs 3:21-24  My son, let them not depart from your eyes-- Keep sound wisdom and discretion; 22  So they will be life to your soul And grace to your neck. 23  Then you will walk safely in your way, And your foot will not stumble. 24  When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.
    Hard work brings sweet sleep. Ecclesiastes 5:12  The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, Whether he eats little or much; But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.
    Everything goes better with God.
    Even when things go wrong, it all works out with God. Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
    May we always look to God for help and keep our lives right with Him so we can be at peace and have sweet sleep.
- 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 Power and Hour of Death

By J. Randal Matheny

Who are we to pray for another’s death,
When God it is who gives us life and breath?
Worse still when such a prayer’s upon the tongue
Of clergy, claiming religion’s higher rung,
Inciting his flock to follow his harsh command.
The power and hour of death is in God’s hand.
- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He
may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this
material, please include the following: 
Copyright (c) 2021 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.


Monday, August 16, 2021

Oh, Holy Monday

By J. Randal Matheny

Oh, holy Monday, come to me,
From worlds of waste to time redeemed!
Of you the slackers seek to be free,
First day of labor ill esteemed;
In you, renewed solemnity
To realize the dreams I've dreamed.
- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He
may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this
material, please include the following: 
Copyright (c) 2021 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.

Every Litter Bit Hurts

By Joe Slater

    “Keep America Beautiful!” So exhorted a public service ad several decades ago (I’m reverting to my childhood again). Along with it came another slogan: “Every litter bit hurts.” I presume that was in contrast to the more positive cliché, “Every little bit helps.”
    Yes, every litter bit really does hurt. Our oceans are full of plastic, and work crews pick up trash along the highways. Is it really that difficult to stash the trash until we can dispose of it properly? Evidently so, at least in the minds of some careless souls.
    But this article really isn’t about tossing fast food containers out of your car window. Instead, let’s think of sin as litter. We tend to minimize sin unless it’s an outrageous act like murder or adultery. Just as a litter bug might rationalize, “it’s only a scrap of paper,” we shrug off the one vulgar word, the single neglected duty, the solitary bad habit nobody else knows about. As long as we avoid “the big stuff,” we let the rest slide.
    But every one of those “litter bits” hurts us. They numb the conscience, making us less and less sensitive to sin. They diminish our appreciation for the holiness of God, in whose image we are made.
    I’m all for “Keeping America Beautiful.” But I’m more concerned about keeping our souls beautiful. In both cases, “every litter bit hurts!”
- 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


My Soul Magnifies the Lord

By Clifton Angel

   According to Luke's account, Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and informed of the child she would conceive by the Holy Spirit — a miraculous conception which would lead to the virgin birth of the Messiah. Furthermore, she was informed of her cousin Elizabeth conceiving her first child in her old age and being about 6 months along. Mary immediately went to visit
Elizabeth, and upon Mary's entrance, Elizabeth's child (John the baptizer) leaped in her womb, and she was inspired by the Holy Spirit to prophesy of the child within Mary. Mary's response was to immediately sing a song which has sometimes been called "Magnificat" (Read Luke 1:46–55). Her words begin: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46–47). In many other words, Mary goes on to praise God essentially for allowing her to be His servant. Do others see and hear the same attitude in us?
    The definition of the word translated "magnify" (Greek megaluno) is "to enlarge, boast, grow." Generally, we use a magnifying glass or magnifying lens to make something appear larger so we can view it or read it. Just last month, I was trying to read very small print on an automotive electrical connector, and I could not because I did not have a magnifying glass.
    Considering what it means to magnify something or someone, let's ask ourselves some important questions. Are we magnifying Christ in our lives, so that others do not need a magnifying glass to see Him? Are we magnifying Him in our speech? Are we magnifying Him in our social interactions (at work, at play, at school, online)? Are we magnifying Him in our spirits (attitudes)? Are we magnifying Him in our service? Are we magnifying Him in our steps (our continual walk through life)?
    Or, is He so small that it would take a spiritual magnifying glass to find Him in us? We WILL magnify something or someone in our lives. Far too often it is ourselves, our selfish ambitions, our careers, our hobbies, our opinions, and the list could continue. May others see and hear the words of Mary in our lives: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46–47).
- 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/


Open Your Eyes and Heart, and You Will See

By Edd Sterchi

    There is a theory among some Christians that maybe God created the world and the things in it through the organic evolutionary process. This is an obvious attempt to combine macro evolution (being taught in our public schools) and the Bible. But if we read the Bible carefully, we see that this cannot be true.
    One verse as a case in point would be Romans 1:20: “For 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 Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” I have a question for those who believe that God created all things through the process of the current theory of organic evolution: “If God’s power has been clearly seen since the creation of the world, whom has it been seen by?” The evolutionary theory claims that man is a latecomer in the grand scheme of things (coming over 4 billion years after the earth). Then who has seen the creation since the world began? It is obvious that it is man, since the Bible states that man was created on day 6 of the creation week (Gen. 1).
    This verse states that all we have to do is open our eyes and heart, and we will not only see that “God did it”, but that God did it the way He says He did.
- 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/


Salvation

By Rob Albright
 
    In the matter of salvation, why would we think we can be saved anyway we want, instead of being saved the way God says to be saved? Could it be that we become so selfish and just want what we want?
    Jesus is the one who calls us – invites us to come to Him and learn from Him to be saved (Matthew 11:28-29; John 14:6; John 8:30-36). So, we can be free of sins domination (Romans 6:12) if we will just listen to the author of eternal salvation. Notice that coming to Jesus and answering His call means a willingness on our part to obey Jesus – follow Jesus.
    Jesus is the One who shed His blood so we could have the forgiveness of our sins and only in Jesus is there salvation (Acts 4:12). We have a choice to make. Will we accept the salvation Jesus offers or will we reject Him? Jesus is not asking us to be saved any way we want. Jesus is offering salvation on His terms. Matthew 16:24-25
- Rob Albright serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/

Monday, August 9, 2021

Learning to Obey

By Joe Chesser
 
    Obeying is not natural for any of us. Think about it. We are born concerned only for ourselves. We cry if we are not fed when we’re hungry, or when our diaper needs changing, or when things don’t go our way. We resist for a while being taught to eat at certain times and to be potty trained. Why? Because obeying seems counterproductive to us. It means giving up our own will and surrendering to someone bigger and stronger and smarter. Obeying is giving up our independence and challenging our pride. Unfortunately, resisting obedience doesn’t stop when we become adults, especially in a society that promotes “my rights”. The outcome of such an attitude is predictable: chaos in families, in communities and nations, and even in churches. For many believers, obedience has become a dirty word, a harsh and ugly concept to be avoided. Words like love and grace and mercy are much more palatable.
    However, if we truly want to be like Jesus we cannot overlook the importance of learning obedience. In Hebrews 5.8 it says of Jesus, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Not the only place, but the most obvious place where Jesus learned obedience was at the time of his death. The night before his death he prayed that God would find some way for him to avoid the suffering of the cross: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26.39). Since there was no other way, Jesus obeyed the will of the Father by willingly enduring the cruel suffering of the cross. Even though he was the Son of God, he had to learn obedience from what he suffered.
    The next verse, Hebrews 5.9, then calls on us to also learn to obey. “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Because Jesus perfectly obeyed the will of the Father by going to the cross, he not only gave us a perfect example of obedience, he also became the only source of eternal salvation for any of us (John 14.6), and the only way to access that source is by, like Jesus, learning to obey. Again, this points out that obedience is not natural for any of us. It is something that must be learned. But if we will put out the effort to learn obedience, the promised result is eternal life. Jesus put it simply, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14.15 NIV). Paul later wrote that those who will be shut out from the presence of God forever are those who do not know God and those who “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1.8-9). Just before Jesus left the earth, he instructed his apostles that those who are baptized are also to be taught “to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28.20). Obedience is something to be taught and learned.
    It will not come naturally or easily. It takes effort and commitment. But as John wrote, “this is love; that we walk in obedience to his commands” (2 John 1.6).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com'

Ruth: A Real Overcomer

By Jeff Arnette

    I just recently read the book of Ruth and wanted to share some things I learned from it. The more I read this book the more I appreciate the heartache and struggle of this great little book.
    Ruth is the story of a Moabite woman who lived during the time of the judges. Just think for a moment about the significance of this fact. Not only is Ruth’s story one of only two books in the entire Bible named after a woman. It is also about a woman who was not even Jewish. Esther (the other one) is about a Jewish woman who married a Gentile and rose to prominence to save the people of God. Ruth is a story of a Gentile woman who married a Jew to rise to prominence and become the ancestor of the greatest Jew who ever lived.
    The story begins with a famine in the land and a man of Bethlehem travels to the country of Moab. His small family leaves the land of his family and moves to an area where there is a better chance of success. Overcoming is woven into every aspect of the book.
    Before tragedy strikes and overcoming is necessary again. Naomi’s husband dies and within a short while her two sons die leaving her a widow with two daughters-in-law’s. I can understand why Naomi would no longer say her name is “Naomi” which means “pleasant” but “Mara” meaning “bitter.” It would be hard to face that much heartache and loss and not be a little bitter.
    It becomes apparent to Naomi that she cannot provide for her daughters-in-law’s and tries to send these girls home to their families. Orpah leaves amid tears and sorrow and returns home but not Ruth. Her name means “friendship” and she proved to be a great friend for Naomi, refusing to leave her alone.
    Perhaps the most powerful words of love and friendship are expressed by Ruth to her mother-in-law. She says, “where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge, your people will be my people, your God my God, where you die I will die and there I will be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17, ESV).
    These two great overcomers move back to Bethlehem and before long Ruth is working hard to provide for them both. By the providence of God, she meets Boaz who is her kinsman-redeemer, and he helps her overcome again. She goes from gleaning in someone else’s field to owning that very field.
     Ruth is a powerful story of a great woman who overcomes hardship, sorrow, and loss. Someone who went from nothing to become a significant person in the life of God’s people. What began with a funeral ends with a wedding. What began with sorrow and loss ends with great joy and the birth of a son.
     She began this journey as an outsider, a Moabite, and it ends with her being the great grandmother of the greatest king of Israel and a descendant of Jesus Christ himself. Ruth is a story of just how much God can do with someone who is willing to trust Him and overcome. What could He do in your life? Why not determine today to be an overcomer like Ruth?
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


What Is Your Soul Worth?

By Al Behel

    Recently, a man commented to me, "I have made more money this year than in any other year of my life and all I have to show for it is a broken marriage."  He would have given everything he acquired to have had a stable, loving marriage.  Another woman who had left her husband for another man to only be quickly left by him, took her own life in a hotel room.  She left a note which said,  “don’t cry for me, I’m not even human anymore.”
    Strangely, when we look back at our accomplishments, mistakes, and losses, we must realize that none of those really define us.  When God made us in His image He separated us from all other parts of His creation.  Evolution has robed many of their sense of being in God's image.  Instead, they think we are nothing more than animals since we just evolved from lower forms of animal life.  When God created us in His image He placed a living soul inside us, a soul that would live eternally.  Like God, we can never cease to exist.  He placed intellect and will inside us.  He gave us choices.  As His image barriers, we are separated from the animals around us who will cease to live at their death.  Yet, we will not cease when our souls depart our bodies. 
    Since we have eternal souls within us that will live eternally, either in heaven with God, or with Satan in hell, what is that soul worth.  Jesus asked the poignant question, "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?" Clearly the human soul is worth more than all the wealth our world can afford.  That prompts a thoughtful question for us, "What is the priority of my life?"  Or, "Am I willing to sacrifice my soul for anything?"  Your soul has a divine origin and is worth the life of God's own Son.  You were made in His image and your call is to walk in that image and portray it to the world around 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/


Teaching and Admonishing

By Adam Faughn

    Have you considered the importance of our singing in worship? I would suppose that, for many people, singing is their "favorite" part of the service because music has a way of touching our minds and hearts that very few other things can.
    That said, we do not sing just because it "feels good" to us, or simply because we enjoy it. Our enjoyment (or lack thereof) is never to be the determining factor in whether or not we engage in an avenue of worship. Scripture alone is to be our guide, and the New Testament, in multiple places, makes it clear that we are to sing as we worship the Lord (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; cf. Hebrews 13:15).
    To what end, though? Are we just to sing in order to fulfill that command, or is there something more? While the Bible gives multiple reasons we are to sing, let us take a moment to briefly examine two that are found in one passage. In Colossians 3:16, Paul, by inspiration, wrote,
 
 Let the word of Christ dwell in you
 richly, teaching and admonishing one
 another in all wisdom, singing psalms
 and hymns and spiritual songs, with
 thankfulness in your hearts to God.
 
    While there are myriad lessons to be found in that singular verse, just take note of the phrase "teaching and admonishing" and consider how they relate to our singing.
 
Teaching

    We learn so much from singing! If you do not believe me, the next time I ask in a sermon for you to turn to Galatians or Philemon, how many people are "humming" the books of the New Testament in their minds? (The preacher may even be doing that sometimes!) Even more elementary, we learn our ABCs and other basic foundational principles through singing. In Pew Packers, we are planning on learning some Bible facts very soon that come through song.
    As we grow and mature, however, we still teach so much through the lyrics of songs. For example, take the time to read the lyrics to a hymn like "The Church's One Foundation." You could examine each line – individually – of that hymn and develop a Bible lesson from each lyric!
    For some people, they know a Biblical principle better – or with more depth—because of a song that has helped cement that truth in their mind. While we must always be certain that what we are singing is the truth, if it is, then a well-written song can help us put that truth in our minds in a memorable and helpful way.
    But we also teach others, not just ourselves, when we sing. When you are singing a timeless truth from God's Word, you are helping to cement that truth in the mind of a brother or sister in Christ, one who might even be struggling to grasp that truth! So, while you may not preach a 30-minute sermon each week, you are teaching dozens of truths with the lyrics about faith that you sing.
 
Admonishing

    This is an interesting concept because it is an interesting term. It has a somewhat wide range of meaning. The original word comes from two roots that, when you put them together, literally mean "to put to mind." As it was used in the First Century, it basically could be used of building someone up with something or to warn someone of something.
    So, we sometimes sing to build up or to encourage. So many of our songs do just that through lyrics that cause us to be more joyful and peaceful due to our faith in God. How many of us have been lifted up from grief or even just gotten a little "spring in our step" simply by the words of a great hymn sung by faithful children of God? I know I have many times, and I have no doubt you likely have, as well.
    Did you notice, though, that the word "admonish" can also mean "to warn?" There are some songs that warn us of not following the ways of God and of the punishment to come if we fail to repent. "There's a sad day coming" begins a verse that clearly is meant to warn. While it may be somewhat more rare that we sing lyrics like that, we need to heed those warnings when they are sung because it is clearly a Biblical concept. Look carefully at the lyrics of many of our "invitation songs," and you will see warnings from time-to-time.
    Tied to that, however, we also need to remember that "I" am included in that "one another," so I should be encouraging and encouraged, and I should be admonishing and admonished! Singing, as it pertains to a congregation, is a two-way street, and we should be grateful to have the opportunity to be doing both the teaching and the learning when we sing.
    So, with every lyric we sing, examine to make sure it is the truth. If it is, fulfill your duty in full faith by teaching and admonishing and be thankful that the Lord has given you this duty and this tremendous privilege.
    And now, let us sing...
- 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.