Join us on Facebook

Join Us on ...

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Rejecting the Light

By Ron Bartanen

 

   “This is the condemnation that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

   Ignorance is a universal malady.  It is not that while some are smart, everyone else is ignorant.  The fact is that we are all ignorant—just about different things.  It is no disgrace to be ignorant.  The disgrace comes when we prefer ignorance over understanding—to stay ignorant when we should and could be enlightened.

   The most dangerous and deplorable ignorance is our ignorance of God.  To some degree God has revealed Himself to all men, so that we are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).  Even beyond His revelation through nature, the light of God is seen in Jesus Christ.  A willful rejection of that Light is especially inexcusable.   Because “their deeds are evil,” they do not wish to be answerable for their poor choices to One who is greater than themselves.  Job 24:13 speaks of those that “rebel against the light.”  While not wanting to walk in the light of Christ and His word, these also blind their own minds to the fact that Judgment is coming.  These will often deny God as Creator, choosing evolution as an alternative.  These will reject the moral standards of His word, choosing alternate lifestyles.  These will deny that God once destroyed the world by a great flood and are “willingly ignorant” also of the coming “day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:5-7).

   Have you renounced Satan’s kingdom of darkness and embraced the King of light, Jesus Christ? Have you accepted Him as God’s Son and your Lord and Savior, repenting of sins and being baptized (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16)? If so, are you continuing to “walk in the light,” thus being constantly cleansed in the blood of Christ? (1 John 1:7).  Be warned: Jesus said, “If your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matthew 6:23).

- 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


To Abolish or Not to Abolish?

By Joe Slater

 

    Making the right distinction between the Old and New Testaments challenged the early Christians, and it still challenges us. Jesus said He did not come “to destroy the Law or the Prophets” (Matthew 5:17). Many have mistakenly concluded that this means the Old Testament is still in force. Their confusion is only increased by the faulty reading of the New International, New American Standard, and English Standard versions, all of which replace “destroy” with “abolish.”

    Jesus did, indeed, abolish the Old Law. Paul said that Jesus “abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Ephesians 2:15). Of course Paul was not contradicting Jesus. The Lord did not come to destroy the Law, but He did come to abolish it. The two words have different meanings. Destroy means to demolish, overthrow, or subvert. Abolish, on the other hand, means to annul, cause to cease, or render inoperative.

    Picture a maniac seizing control of the government and summarily tossing out the Bill of Rights. That would be destroying a law. Now think of a Constitutional Convention drawing up a new Constitution to replace the current one. While not a perfect parallel, this comes much closer to what Jesus did relative to the Law. He did not high-handedly overturn the Law of Moses, nor did He subvert it in any way. Rather, He fulfilled it totally, just as He said He would (Matthew 5:17). And, having fulfilled it, “He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). As a result, Jesus is the “Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).

    While the Old Testament is not our standard for serving God today, it is still profitable as inspired Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Its historical record remains true, and it forms a crucial background for the New Testament. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we, through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

    The Old Testament contains multitudes of examples that “were written for our admonition (warning)” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Encouraging Christians to walk by faith, the Hebrews writer (chapter 11) cites numerous Old Testament examples of great people who trusted and obeyed God, sometimes under extremely adverse circumstances. The specifics of our obedience to God under the New Covenant may not be identical to theirs under the Old. Nevertheless, they exemplify the timeless principle of what it means to walk by faith.

    Let us recognize the value of the Old Testament, while still realizing that we live today under the New Testament.

- 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


PROCEED SLOWLY

By Ron Adams

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to
hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not
achieve the righteousness of God.
James 1:19-20

The often quoted saying, “Fools rush in where angels fear to
tread,” is from AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM by Alexander Pope in 1709. And
there are several verses in the Book of Proverbs that point out the
foolishness of being in a hurry without due regard for inevitable
consequences.

He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is
quick-tempered exalts folly.
Proverbs 14:29

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger
calms a dispute.
Proverbs 15:18

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his
spirit, than he who captures a city.
Proverbs 16:32

A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to
overlook a transgression.
Proverbs 19:11

BE LIKE HIM
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and
abounding in lovingkindness.
Psalm 103:8
- Ron Adams publishes F.Y.C., a monthly publication. Bible references are from the NASB except where another translation is referenced. Back issues are archived at http://ra10ar.com Be thoughtful and kind. All rights reserved. © 2021

There, Their, and They're

By J. Randal Matheny

 

It's all the same difference to me,

It's easy to say what we see.

But to write what we say,

I might cry foul play,

My spell checker passes all three!

 

[A friend sent me a limerick today on "Homophones," and he inspired me to bop out this one. (http://is.gd/homophones)

- 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.

How Far Will You Go?

By Joe Chesser

 

    I was reading about Jesus the other day and was impressed again how far he was willing to go so that I could be saved from my sins and live with him in heaven forever.

            *  He left heaven so that we could go to heaven

            *  He gave up equality with God so that we could become like God

            *  He was born in a stable so that we could be born again

            *  He was focused on serving God at age 12 showing us it’s never too early to start

            *  He was obedient to his parents even though he created them

            *  He was baptized to fulfill God’s will even though he had no sin

            *  He had no home so he could be free to fulfill his ministry

            *  He loved people, treating them with kindness regardless of how they treated him

            *  He fed the hungry, healed the afflicted, was compassionate toward the hurting

            *  He always told the truth regardless of his audience

            *  He corrected those in error with love and hope

            *  He obeyed the Father always, even when it was difficult or seemed unreasonable

            *  He never reviled those who reviled him; when he suffered, he never threatened

            *  He offered the peace of God to a world that resisted God

            *  He prayed, “not my will, but your will be done”

            *  He allowed the mob to arrest him under the cover of darkness

            *  He willingly endured humiliation and torture when he had the power to stop it

            *  He asked God to forgive his enemies as he was dying on the cross

            *  He saved a thief who was being crucified by his side

            *  He provided for his mother’s care as life was slipping away

            *  He finished everything he came to do

            *  He commended his spirit to God as he breathed his last

    This is by no means a comprehensive list, but when I reflect on things like these, when I consider how far Jesus was willing to go for me, I am challenged to ask myself how far I am willing to go for him. Oh sure, we know that Jesus teaches us to give up everything for him, to put him above all else (Matthew 6.33; Luke 9.23, 14.33; Mark 12.28-31; etc.), but don’t you find yourself at times trying to water down these “all or nothing” expectations? Are we sometimes like the Pharisees who had convinced themselves that they were obeying God, when instead they were living by a plan they had devised themselves (Matthew 15.1-9)?  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am not as honest with myself as I think I am about how far I would go to serve the Lord. A question I need to repeatedly ask myself is this, “Who is really ruling my life ... Jesus or me?”

    When I consider how far Jesus went for me, it challenges me to take a deep look at my heart and commit to dying to myself and living for Jesus. I hope you think about it too.

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Monday, December 20, 2021

None Other Name

By Ron Bartanen

 

   “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

   The name referred to by which we are saved is “the name of Jesus Christ” (4:20z0.  His is “the name which is above every name…the name before which every knee shall bow” (Philippians 2:8-10.  The name signifies one’s power and authority.  Jesus commissioned His apostles to preach “repentance and remission of sins…in His name…” (Luke 24:47).  The power to become sons of God is given “to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12).  The convicted multitude at Pentecost were commanded to “Repent and be baptized… in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).  Christians are admonished, “Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).

    Faith, repentance, baptism and Christian worship and service are all in the name of Jesus Christ, not in the name of religious leaders or churches.  Why, then, do some wear human names in religion? To paraphrase Paul, who opposed the wearing of his name: “Is Christ divided? Was (your denomination or preacher) crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of (your denomination or preacher)?”  (1 Corinthians 1:13).  Human, denominational names give honor to others than to Christ, and divide those who claim faith in Christ.  We urge all to honor Christ alone in faith and obedience.

- 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


Keeping it Clear

By Jeff Arnette

 

    I read a story about a young girl who loved playing skeet-ball at the local arcade. The story talks about how the little girl loved the arcade and an exciting trip to the arcade. Once they arrived, the little girl asked her dad for some money. Not having anything smaller, dad hands her a twenty-dollar bill with instructions to get change in the amount of two fives and a ten. It wasn’t long before dad went searching for her, and as you can imagine, found her playing the skeet-ball game and having the time of her life.

    Dad, wondering where his change was at, says, “Where’s my change? Tell me you didn’t put that twenty-dollar bill in the machine.” “No, daddy,” said the little girl, “I put in two fives and a ten just like you said.” Then, as dad started to get upset, mom reminded him that he didn’t tell her to bring the money back.

    The problem in this story is amusing and reminds us of an important lesson. Far too often, we are not clear in our expectations or instructions to others. Yet, somehow, we expect them to just know what we intended to say, even though we didn’t say it.

    Church, this is a lesson we need to learn. We all need to be more transparent with the people in our lives. It might be your loved ones that need us to be more straightforward. Tell them how you feel, what you want, need, and expect. It might be your work colleagues who need you to be more transparent, and it might be your brothers and sisters at church. But unfortunately, clarity is a rare commodity in today’s world.

    It also reminds us that our God is always clear in His Words. He doesn’t try to confuse or mislead us. There are plenty of people who would like to confuse the issues, but God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).

    Just like our Lord is clear with us, He expects us to be clear with the people in our lives. They are not mind readers who simply know what we’re feeling, need, or want. We must tell them lovingly and graciously. So, let’s commit to keeping it clear and verbalizing our feelings and desires with those the Lord has placed in our lives.

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


The Resurrection of Jesus

By Rob Albright

     The resurrection of Jesus is something that was essential for our justification (Rom. 4:25). Not only that but His resurrection was essential for proving Him to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:4) and equal with the heavenly Father (John 1:1).
     Jesus was called a blasphemer and crucified because He claimed to be the Savior of the world and the Son of God. If His claims were not true, then we have no hope (1 Cor. 15:17) But, we can believe in the resurrection of the dead today because God raised Jesus from the dead so many years ago. If we hope to be saved from our sins, then we must come to have faith in God raising Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10:9).
     If God has the power to raise Jesus from the dead, He can raise all of us from the dead. We should celebrate each week the Lord’s resurrection and the eternal hope we have.
- 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/


What Are You Doing in the New Year?

By Bill Brandstatter

      Now that 2020 is here, we are looking at “new” items. The Bible uses the word “new” in a number of very important ways.

A New Name -- Isa. 62:2 indicates that God’s people would be called by “a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall name.”  This new name obviously is not Jew since that was an old name. Rather the new name is Christian (Acts 11:26). Isaiah also says God’s servants would be called by “another name.” So no longer is the Old Testament name authorized. Spiritual Israel today is the church (Gal. 6:16).

A New Covenant -- God gave us a new covenant. The Hebrews writer indicates that in using the word “new” to describe his covenant, the first covenant (Old Testament) was ready to vanish away. (Heb. 8:13). We are, therefore, not subject to the Old Testament and its ordinances since they were nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14).             

A New Birth -- Jesus spoke in John 3:3, 5 of the “new birth.”  This new birth is a spiritual one, not a physical birth. This new birth is required for a person to be identified with Christ.  Jesus mentions two elements of the new birth, spirit and water.  Many commentators agree the “water” here includes the water of baptism.            

A New Way -- The old way to God included a priest who made sacrifices once a year for the people. (Heb. 9:7) Now individuals can approach the Father directly in prayer. (Matt. 6:9)   Christianity, therefore, is a new way of approaching God as compared to the old way of Judaism.        

With all the new events that are taking place this year, don’t forget the new ways of God. Remember to read and study the Bible, attend worship services, and obey God as the Bible directs.   
Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Resolutions for the New Year

By Johnny Hester

 

    Stress and pressure are building. The year 2021 will soon be history. My wife, Linda, still hasn’t told me what my New Year’s Resolutions are. But I’m not going to worry about it.

    It momentarily occurred to me that perhaps I should resolve to give up all my annoying habits for 2019. Then I remembered my high school coach years ago telling me: “No one respects a quitter.” An obvious dilemma, but I’m not going to worry.

    For multitudes of people, deciding to develop a healthier lifestyle is a common resolution with which to begin the New Year. However, to my pleasant surprise my annual yearend physical indicates that my weight is perfect. However, it seems that in height I am approximately 9 inches too short. My carefully considered response is, in the words of one of my all-time favorite philosophers, Alfred E. Neuman: “What—Me Worry?” After all, years ago I memorized the New King James Version of Jesus’ question in Matthew 6:27, “Which of you, by worrying, can add one cubit to his stature?” So, worrying would be a waste of time.

     Now—if you hear a grinding noise, it’s my brain trying to switch gears. On a more serious level it should be observed that there is a difference between profitless anxiety and legitimate concern. Worrying about things over which we have no control brings frustration to the mind and negativity to the spirit. On the other hand, legitimate concern—if rightly directed—can produce noble resolutions and significant improvements in the life one lives.

    In Proverbs chapter six God warns us about the folly of indolence, discourages procrastination and commends to us the wisdom of acting with resolve and energy in our own best interest.

          Go to the ant, you sluggard!

           Consider her ways and be wise,

          Which, having no captain,

           Overseer or ruler,

          Provides her supplies in the summer,

           And gathers her food in the harvest.

          How long will you slumber, O sluggard?

           When will you rise from your sleep?

          A little sleep, a little slumber,

           A little folding of the hands to sleep —

          So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,

           And your need like an armed man.

    The Lord willing, this Sunday morning I plan to share some worthwhile information from the Word of God that will help us to develop a proper perspective regarding the future. Linda and I are thankful for you all—our spiritual family at Matthews—and as always, we joyfully anticipate being with you for Bible study and worship.

- Johnny Hester preaches for the Matthews Church of Christ in Matthews, MO. He may be contacted at johnnyhester@yahoo.com


Monday, December 13, 2021

By Faith Alone?

By Rob Albright

    A few years back, I entered a men’s baking contest. It was all desserts. I found a recipe that I liked so I started putting all the ingredients together. I also took into account how long I was to cook. It was all spelled out in the recipe. I thought I made a good cake – at least some people could eat it.
    In the matter of salvation there are different ingredients. The Bible teaches us we are saved “by grace, through faith” (Eph. 2:8); by “works” (James 2:24; by “calling on the name of the Lord” (Rom. 10:13; Acts 22:16); by “obedience” (Heb.5:8-9) by “baptism” (Mk. 16:16) by “belief” (Acts 16:31); and other things as well.
    Here is my point: Just as the ingredients of the recipe must be combined to make a cake, so must the ingredients of salvation be combined. You do not have salvation by faith alone. Just like you cannot take just one ingredient and claim to make a cake, you cannot just pick one ingredient and have salvation. The ingredients must be combined to get the desired results. You cannot produce a cake on flour alone and you cannot have salvation by faith alone.
- 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/


The Good, Great, Glorious God

By Edd Sterchi

 

When I think on God

All the things I should,

I readily see

That God is good.

 

When I speak of God.

And His awesome state,

I am proclaiming

That God is great.

 

When I dwell with God.

Fulfilling Christ’s story,

My life of joy shows

That God is glory.

- 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/


THANKGIVING

By Ron Thomas

 

    Are there is reasons for you to be grateful to the Lord? There are many reasons for each of us to be grateful to the Lord. Let us be reminded of some of them. First, that we are reading this, we can be grateful to the Lord that we have our eyesight. Perhaps it’s not very good (for varied reasons), but we at least have it. We can be grateful to the Lord because we can read and understand what it is that we are reading. Perhaps we did not finish high school and our reading comprehension is not very good, but we can read and even improve on our reading capability if we desire. We can be grateful for the life we are living. “You have no earthly idea how hard my life has been! How can I be grateful for that?” The fact is, you have your life; think about the many who have lost a loved one and the life they once had seems to be so empty. You can get up and go to work, you can stop by a store and purchase something to eat, you can sit out in a lawn chair and enjoy the birds flying and tweeting in and around the trees, you can watch the boys play backyard football at a neighbors house, you can mow the lawn, weed the garden, harvest the garden, build a snowman—you have life, and for that you need to be grateful to the Lord.

    You can be grateful you’re surrounded by people you love, even those not of your physical family. Are your parents still alive? Be grateful for that. Are you children healthy and happy? Be grateful for that. Do you have employment that can provide for your needs? Be grateful for that. Have you been deathly sick? Perhaps it’s hard to be grateful for that, but maybe in this terrible sickness, you’ve had opportunity to reflect in a way you never have before; be grateful to the Lord He has given you an opportunity to observe and experience things in a new way.

    Are you a Christian? If you had nothing else for which to be grateful, you can be grateful for that. Think about this for a moment. Without the Lord, your hope is in what?

    Without the Lord your purpose for living ends when your life is over with no promise of the eternal rest He gave to each who love and obey Him. Without the Lord you have no real message of hope to give to any other. Without the Lord your understanding of love is incomplete and physically oriented, not eternally so.

Psa 146:1 Praise ye Jehovah. Praise Jehovah, O my soul....

Psa 146:2 While I live will I praise Jehovah: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being....

Psa 146:3 Put not your trust in princes, Nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help....

Psa 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish....

Psa 146:5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in Jehovah his God:...

Psa 146:6 Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that in them is; Who keepeth truth for ever;...

Psa 146:7 Who executeth justice for the oppressed; Who giveth food to the hungry. Jehovah looseth the prisoners;...

Psa 146:8 Jehovah openeth the eyes of the blind; Jehovah raiseth up them that are bowed down; Jehovah loveth the righteous;...

Psa 146:9 Jehovah preserveth the sojourners; He upholdeth the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked he turneth upside down....

Psa 146:10 Jehovah will reign for ever, Thy God, O Zion, unto all generations.

    Praise ye Jehovah. It is good to be reminded of such things. 

- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. www.sunrushchurchofchrist.org


“The Prince of Peace”

By Bill Brandstatter

 

    Jesus was referred to in the Bible as the “Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6) What does the word “peace” mean, biblically? Was Jesus the person to end all wars and stop all conflicts? When I look at peace, I also think about the current situation in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Will there ever be peace in that area? Of course, religiously, I think about Jesus, the great Prince of Peace, who brought division into the religious world of His day. (Matt. 10:34) Let us look at some things that must be done in any area for peace to be achieved. These items could apply to peace in the home, country, heart, or any place where peace is desired.

    First, there must be the right disposition. A person who doesn’t want peace is not going to agree to anything that will promote it. Christians should surely have a disposition toward peace. Paul admonished: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom. 12:18) A person who is always concerned about his way will never feel real peace.

    Second, there must be the right desire. Obviously, this point is forever connected to the first. Christians ought to not only desire peace but to seek it and pursue it. (1 Pet. 3:11) We must pursue the avenues of peace whenever possible. (Rom. 12:18)

    Third, there must be the proper design. The word “design” is used here to mean purpose. If a person just makes a show of peace to please someone, that peace will not last. The kind of peace Jesus can give is nothing like the peace the world may offer. (John 14:27) Some may seek certain avenues such as drugs, alcohol, or other illicit means in order to get peace; yet those are all the wrong avenues. A husband who stops drinking or running around just to shut up his nagging wife is doing so for the wrong reason. Peace must be for the right reason, and from the right motive.

    The peace that God gives passes our understanding; (Phil. 4:7) but, in order to have this peace that passes understanding, I must be faithful to God. I must understand that my purpose in life is to glorify God. (1 Cor. 6:19, 20) God did not put me here just to enjoy life and to be comfortable. I am to serve Him. (Rom. 12:1) In doing this I can enjoy a peace that the world does not know, but that all Christians know and enjoy. (Rev. 14:13)

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


Greetings

By Joe Chesser

    It’s that time of year again when holiday greetings arrive in the mail and are shared just about everywhere we go. We see greetings extended on marquees and billboards, in front yards, and in all kinds of businesses. From just before Thanksgiving through Christmas to just after the new year, these six weeks or so are the “greetingest” time of the year. Unless you are a true grinch or a scrooge (a grumpy person who is mean-spirited and unfriendly), you just have to love this time of the year.

    Christians should never be like a grinch or a scrooge ... no matter what time of year it may be. In fact, Christians should be the “greetingest” people on earth all year long.

    Just glance at Romans 16. The word “greet” is used 17 times in this chapter alone. If I counted correctly, 35 specific people either received or sent greetings, and several others are mentioned as associated with these people. In addition, in his letters Paul sent his greetings to people in the churches at Corinth, Philippi, Colosse and Thessalonica, plus in writing to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.  The Hebrew writer sent greetings to all of God’s people, as did James; Peter said to greet one another, and John sent greetings from himself and others (Hebrews 13.24; James 1.1; 1 Peter 5.14; 2 John 13; 3 John 14).

    All of these greetings indicated a loving and personal connection with fellow believers in other places. The greetings were genuinely given simply because they shared a common connection in Christ. They were brothers and sisters, and that alone made it personal. It didn’t matter that they didn’t know each other’s names. It didn’t matter that they had never met, nor probably ever would. As John wrote, “The friends here send their greetings” (3 John 14), or as the Hebrews writer said, “Those from Italy send you their greetings” (Hebrews 13.24). To Titus Paul wrote, “Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith” (Titus 3.15). Generic? Yes. But even so we clearly sense the love they all shared with Christ ... and with each other because they “love us in the faith.” “All the saints send you greetings” (Philippians 4.22). I wonder if we feel that same camaraderie with Christians in other congregations ... nearby or far away? But, when possible, the Bible also encourages us to greet each other by name (3 John 14). As noted above, it is impressive how many people in Rome alone Paul greeted by name.

    These greetings indicate more than shaking hands when we see each other, more than a mere courtesy. They indicate a sharing of hearts, a friendship, a brotherhood. Perhaps that’s why the New Testament letters repeatedly encourage the church to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16.16; 1 Corinthians 16.20; 2 Corinthians 13.12; 1 Thessalonians 5.26; 1 Peter 5.14). Cultural expression or not, a holy kiss represents the importance of greeting each other with hearts that are united in Christ.

    How we greet each other says a lot about how we feel toward each other. Once again, our hearts are involved in our actions. Greet one another with the love of Christ.

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Monday, December 6, 2021

“BLACK FRIDAY”

By Bill Brandstatter

    “Black Friday” has come and gone. This is the day after Thanksgiving when retailers lure customers with all kinds of special incentives. People line up at stores early in the morning to get the special “door buster” savings. People will flock to stores and spend large amounts of money just to take part in the euphoria of “Black Friday.”
    A long time ago there was a “Black Friday” that was even more significant. In Mark’s gospel account we read: “Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” (Mark 15:33) For three hours, the earth was dark. This was a dark day because Jesus was being crucified. We know it was Friday because Mark adds “Now when evening had come because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath...” (15: 42 NKJV) Since the Sabbath fell on Saturday, we know this day was Friday.
    What made this “Black Friday” so special? It was special because of the price that was paid. Jesus paid the price for the sins of all mankind. Peter described it this way: “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24) There was another special purchase made on this day. Paul told the elders at Ephesus about this purchase. He said, “Shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood...” (Acts 20:28) Our salvation and the church of our Lord are worth more than all of Solomon’s riches.
    It was special because of the people that were there. The crowd of people who wanted Him crucified were there. (Mark 15:13) Simon, the Cyrenian, was there. (Mark 15:21) The soldiers who led Him away to the cross were standing there mocking Him. (Mark 15:16) The chief priests were mocking Him also. (Mark 15:31) The reason Jesus died was for those that were there and for those who were not there. Jesus stated, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) He was willing to forgive them while they were crucifying Him.
    It was special because of the people who were not there. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) His blood opened the way to heaven for many. (Eph. 1:7; John 6:54) His blood did away with the Old Testament and brought about a new. (Heb. 9:14,15) His blood enabled people of all generations to be saved through the message of the gospel and through access to His blood that was shed on that “Black Friday” a long time ago. (Gal. 3:28; Rom. 1:16).
    Have you participated in the events of the “Black Friday” of Jesus’ life? Are you saved by His blood? (Matt. 26:28; Rev. 1:5) Have you put Him on in baptism and taken part in all that His death purchased? (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27) What did that “Black Friday” mean to you? Would you stand in line to worship and to hear about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Called to Extravagance

By Joe Chesser
 
    This may shock you, but nowhere in Scripture are we called to be mediocre. In fact, Jesus condemned mediocrity (lukewarmness) in the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3.15-16). Nowhere in Scripture are we called to be drifters. Instead, we are warned of the danger of drifting spiritually (Hebrews 2.1). Nowhere in Scripture are we called to be ordinary, common, or average. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus gave example after example how his followers needed to exceed the lifestyle of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5.20). Going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, loving our enemies and laying up treasures in heaven demonstrate but a few ways we are called to rise above the ordinary to live lives of extravagance.
    And why not? Our God is an extravagant God, and we are called to be like Him! Think of the extent of God’s creation from the galaxies in the universe to the creatures in the sea to the changing of seasons. Extravagance does not adequately describe creation. Yet creation is nothing compared to how He lavishes grace (Ephesians 1.7-8 NIV) and love (John 3.16; 1 John 3.1 NIV) on us. Plus there are His promises of forgiveness (1 John 1.9) and comfort (2 Corinthians 1.3-4) and power (Ephesians 3.20-21) that fills us with strength and hope. And words like gold and pearls and fine jewels can never describe the extravagance of an eternal heaven that awaits His people (1 Corinthians 2.9).
    The most amazing thing of all is that this incredible, extravagant God has chosen to call us to become like Him and to be united with Him forever (Ephesians 1.3-14). This passage uses terms to get us excited about our calling to be in Christ, words like “every spiritual blessing … chosen … holy and blameless … predestined … redemption … grace … forgiveness” and many more. When we accept God’s call for salvation in Christ we are given the opportunity to rise above the common, ordinary world around us. Extravagance for Christians is not defined by excessive wealth, fame, power or position. It’s not about being flashy or noticed. It’s about doing even ordinary things in extraordinary ways.
     As the Apostle Paul urged, we are to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4.1). A part of what that means is for us to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1.16); to forgive as God forgives (Ephesians 4.32); to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5.7); to be a cheerful and generous giver as God is (2 Corinthians 9.6-8); to seek the lost with the passion of God (Matthew 28.19-20); to value others as God does (Mark 12.30-31); to be faithful to God all our lives (Revelation 2.10); to use the gifts God has given us (1 Peter 4.10-11; Matthew 25.14-30); and to worship God regularly in spirit and in truth (John 4.23-24). Extravagance is learning from Jesus how to live above the world.
    Since God is extravagant, and we are called to be like Him, why would we ever be content with being ordinary or lukewarm? God is challenging us to rise above human standards and accept His call to be extravagant!  How are you answering that call?
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Peace of Mind

By Ron Thomas

    Some will look at Proverbs 2 and see the exhortation and admonition, interpreting it exclusively as a warning to males to stay away from females not belonging to them. This certainly is a significant teaching of the chapter, but not an exclusive one.
    The Holy Spirit has more in mind that just that. The wisdom that comes from God permeates all areas of life, both the sensual, emotional, intellectual, and moral. The knowledge of God (2:5) is more that just a sensual warning against stepping out on the wife of one's youth.
    The effectiveness of the Word of God in a person's life is that it educates and reshapes a person to be different than the world around him (and her). It gives a moral and spiritual compass that surpasses anything of this world and it moves the one who "abides in God" beyond this life to the life He prepared for us after the sensual, physical life we live is over.
    As you look at the proverbs, be sure to remember the exhortations from the Lord are more than warnings from delving into sensuality. In them we have a peace of the Lord's mind. 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. www.sunrushchurchofchrist.org


Don’t Block God’s Light

By Adam Faughn

    Descriptions of God that have to do with light are found throughout Scripture. The most direct--which we noticed in last week's sermon--is in 1 John 1:5, where the text simply states, "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." The majesty and holiness of God are clearly in view when we think of the comparison of God as light.
    Taking that picture further, though, we are told to share that light with the world. Jesus stated, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). It might be helpful for us to remember that the light we are to shine before others is really God's light, and we are seeking to "reflect" it to the world.
    At times, however, we fail to do that. In fact, if we are not careful, we can even block God's light by the way we live.
    The story is told of Alexander the Great returning home after conquering a tremendous amount of the known world. He wanted to report the news to his teacher, the philosopher Aristotle. Upon returning home, he was told that Aristotle was taking a bath, but that did not stop Alexander, who went right up to where his teacher was bathing.
    In his excitement, it is said that Alexander said something along these lines to his teacher: "Teacher, I have conquered the world. I am ready to give you anything you would like. What may I give you?" The wise philosopher, who kept right on bathing, is said to have replied, "Right now, I would like you to stop blocking my light."
    Tragically, we can often be like Alexander in that story, so caught up in the things of this world that we forget to stop blocking the light! To be certain we are not blocking God's light from those around us, here are three things we must remove from our lives.
    Sin. This would be the most obvious since sin is so often equated in Scripture with darkness, including in 1 John 1:5. When we are openly doing things that go against the will of God, those around us simply will not see His light shining in our lives. If people see me openly using foul language, being cruel to my spouse, or mocking the Church Jesus died for, how would they ever think that I am striving to reflect God's light into the world?
    Self-Glory. Our world teaches us to "look out for ol' number one," and we are simply to assume that "number one" is myself. So, we spend our time telling our own exploits and all the things we have done. We talk about all we are helping and the great things we are doing. But Who is left out of the picture? When the attention goes to us, but we do not give the praise and credit to God, how can people glorify Him? Instead, they will glorify us, which is the exact opposite of what it means to truly serve and adore God.
    Silence. If people do not hear us praise and honor and give credit to God, are we not blocking His light in the world? Part of shining His light is not being silent concerning what the Lord would have us to do. We dare not be ashamed of His message, and we dare not be ashamed of His way of living. If, however, we are not willing to tell anyone about Him or His ways, we are blocking His light in their life.
    Certainly, there will be times when we fail to share God's light perfectly. As people, we often fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23), and we are not perfectly righteous at all times (Romans 3:10). That said, our aim should always be to draw nearer to Him so that we are more like Him. No matter who we are around, whether we are offline or online, or what our place in life happens to be, we must put forward every possible effort to shine God's light into a very dark world.
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.


A Life Worth Living

By Joe Slater

    In 1978 Waylon Jennings had a hit song about the obscure central Texas town of Luckenbach (current population 13). The opening line of the song was: “The only two things in life that make it worth livin’ . . .” Then it proceeded to name those two things. The first was well-tuned guitars (or, to quote the song, “guitars that’s tuned good”). The second I will omit for reasons that are obvious to those familiar with the song.
    As fine as well-tuned guitars might be, I submit the song’s writer had no idea what brings real value to life! However, I should credit him with at least realizing that happiness doesn’t result from great riches. One of the lines suggested to his wife that they sell her diamond rings, buy some boots and faded jeans, and go away. Another mentioned the failure of their big house with a four-car garage to bring contentment.
    Jesus warned, “Take heed and beware of all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). To illustrate His point, He told the parable of the rich fool (vv. 16-21). That man had so much wealth stored away that he had to build larger facilities to store the current harvest! Does that sound like a problem you’d like to have? If so, think again! The rich fool’s focus on himself brought him nothing but condemnation.
    “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble” (Proverbs 15:16). The next verse follows up: “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.”
    Fear of the Lord and love: Those aren’t the only two things in life that make it worth living, but I’ll put them up against the two in the country song any day!
- 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


Friday, December 3, 2021

God’s Epitaph

By Al Behel

     Three men were asked, "When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning you, what would you like to hear them say about you?" The first guy said, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor and a great family man.” The second guy said, “I would like to hear them say that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” The last guy said, “I would like to hear them say… LOOK! HE’S MOVING!!!!”
     What would you want people to say about you? What would you want written on your tombstone? The answer comes from how we define our purpose in life and the extent to which we consider that we have achieved that purpose. We want others to think that our lives made a difference.
     Several years ago I selected my epitaph, one which I think could be written by the hand of God. It reads simply, “To Be Continued….” A lady heard me deliver a sermon in Alabama in which I reference my epitaph. She “stole” it and placed it on her husband’s headstone. I think my purpose on earth is to prepare to live eternally in the presence of God.
     How do you measure success? Is it by titles or degrees, bank ac[1]counts, or the address on your home? Is it by how many people know you by name, your appearances on television, or in magazines? What you think makes a person successful really defines how satisfied or fulfilled you are in life.
     Is your idea of success centered in God’s idea of success? Is every thought and every action directed toward accomplishing His purpose for you? Or have you gotten side-tracked by lesser causes and goals? Jesus said it clearly, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33).
- 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/



Choose the Original

By Adam Faughn

  An art dealership recently ran a very odd sale. They had one original sketch from pop artist Andy Warhol for sale, which is not that unusual for an art sale or auction. What made this sale unique, however, was that they also put up for sale 999 elaborate forgeries of the sketch, done on paper that was "aged" by a machine, so they looked like the original in virtually every detail.
   The sellers then randomly sold the 1000 pieces, each for $250, letting buyers know that only one was the original but not telling them which one it was. 999 buyers would end up with a forgery (which is essentially worthless), while one would end up with the original sketch, estimated to be worth around $20,000.
   Now, there is a certain oddity to this type of sale that would draw interest, I suppose. That said, it is hard for me to think about spending a significant amount of money knowing that I would only have a one-in-one-thousand chance of receiving a "real" item and a 999-out-of-one-thousand chance of getting what is essentially a fake. It just does not sound like a solid use of money, does it?
   However, when it comes to our spiritual lives, how many people are doing something even more egregious, and many are doing so intentionally? When we read in Scripture about the Lord's Church, it is abundantly clear that we can go back to the original; that is, we can make certain that we are doing things exactly the way Jesus desires and demands them to be done. Yet, so many intentionally choose to risk their eternal soul on what is, spiritually speaking, a forgery.
   For example:

• The New Testament makes it clear that a person must be immersed in water--baptized--in order to be saved (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-3; Galatians 3:27; et al.). That is the "original." So many, though, choose to do something else in order to try to find salvation, things that are conspicuously absent from the New Testament. Why would they think, then, that they are choosing something other than a forgery?
• The New Testament is straightforward in saying that those who lead a congregation as elders and those who serve as deacons must be men who are married and have children (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 2:5-9). That is the "original." However, in the name of political correctness or "modernity," many choose to ignore those teachings and have women lead or serve in those capacities. Why would anyone intentionally choose this forgery?
• The New Testament is clear that Christians are to sing, but also that singing is to be the extent of that avenue of worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 13:15). That is the "original." A tremendous number, though, choose to add to that command by having choirs or praise teams or mechanical instruments of music. Why would someone choose such a forgery?

   The examples could go on, but these should suffice. I chose the story of the art sale, in part, because "all" that was for sale was a sketch. While I certainly could not create such a thing, in terms of pure art, it is not all that impressive. Still, though, the original is the original, and nothing else is! That is what gives it such immense value.
   When people look at the "original" of the New Testament church, they may also see something that can seem a bit outdated, boring, or out-of-step with society. However, it is the original, and nothing can replace it. To replace it or seek to alter it in any way is to destroy something of eternal value because it was given to us by Jesus Himself. As such, we must protect it and seek to make sure we search always for the original in all that we do, never settling for a forgery.
 
"...contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints"
- 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.