Monday, January 31, 2022

A Wonderful Reunion

By David A. Sargent


    It was 38 years ago. She was only 3 months old when the accident occurred. She was lying on a couch with a steam vaporizer on the floor beside her when she rolled off onto the boiling machine. The steam and the melted mentholated ointment scalded and burned her skin. Baby Amanda Scarpinati was rushed to the hospital.

    The burns would require many reconstructive surgeries over the years. The pain of the burns and surgeries was intensified by the responses of some her peers as a child. "Growing up as a child, disfigured by the burns, I was bullied and picked on, tormented," Amanda reflected.

    But there was a constant source of solace and encouragement in her life. It was a collection of pictures of her in the pediatric recovery room of Albany Medical Center after one of her initial surgeries. The pictures show baby Amanda with her head wrapped in thick gauze being carried by a seemingly pleasant and caring young nurse. The photos appeared in Albany (NY) Medical Center's 1977 annual report. The names of baby Amanda and her nurse were not included with the photos. Amanda said, "I'd look at those pictures and talk to her, even though I didn't know who she was. I took comfort looking at this woman who seemed so sincere caring for me."

    Amanda still treasures those photos and the nameless nurse that provided loving care to her as an infant. At the urging of a friend, Amanda posted the photos on Facebook to try to find out the identity of the nurse. "Within 12 hours, it had gone viral with 5,000 shares across the country," Amanda reported. "It was on the local TV news the next morning. I was blown away."

    Angela Leary, a former nurse at Albany Medical Center, saw the photos and recognized the nurse. She sent a message to Amanda and identified the nurse as Susan Berger. Leary said of Berger, "She was as sweet and caring as she looks in this picture."

    A local television reporter tracked down Berger. She now oversees the health center at Cazenovia College in New York. Amanda and her nurse were soon reunited in a phone conversation.

    "It was amazing," Amanda commented. "She just has such a gentle, caring voice, just like I imagined she'd have."

    Berger remembered Amanda as her patient. She is also honored that Amanda has fondly thought of her all this time. "I don't know how many nurses would be lucky enough to have something like this happen, to have someone remember you all that time. I feel privileged to be the one to represent all the nurses who cared for her over the years."

    When we were in dire condition due to our sins, the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, came to our rescue. In order to save us, He had to die for us. He gave His life on the cross so that we might live (1 Thessalonians 5:10). He died almost 2,000 years ago, but you and I can still be the recipients of His grace-full, loving care.

    He will save US from our sins when we place our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38). Then, as we continue to walk in the light, the blood of Jesus will continue to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7).

    And one day, we will be reunited with Him! When He returns, we will "see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2) and be able to thank Him personally for saving us and giving us eternal life!

    Won't YOU allow the Great Physician to "heal" your sinful condition so that you can live forever with Him?
- 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:
* Information gleaned from "Woman burned as a baby tracks down nurse who cared for her" by the Associated Press as reported in

Grace and Truth

By Joe Chesser


    Grace and Truth. Like the old song said, “You can’t have one without the other!” More importantly, it’s what the Apostle John said about Jesus: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1.14 ESV – emphasis mine).

    For some reason, Christianity seems to be divided over the combination of these two terms. On the one side are those who are all in when it comes to grace. They love to quote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2.8 ESV). And that’s certainly what grace is, the extension of God’s love to a totally undeserving world. Without grace none of us have a hope of being saved. According to John 1.14, because Jesus was born into this world we all can have hope; we are given in him a vision of the fullness of God’s grace. Praise God for His gift of grace!!

    But on the other side are those who are all in when it comes to truth. They love to quote “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” and “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 8.32; 17.17 ESV). The emphasis on this side is for all of us to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2.15 ESV). Praise God for his word of truth!!

    What did people see in Jesus when he lived among them? What did he reveal about God the Father? John 1.14 says he revealed both the fullness of grace and truth! Not one or the other. Grace and truth are compatible in Jesus. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1.17). He didn’t come to polarize his followers like what we see so much of today. Instead, he prayed for unity among his followers, and through this unity to proclaim the balance of grace (God’s gift) and truth (God’s word) to the world, so they could also see and experience the love of Jesus and the Father (John 17.20-23). What we see in Jesus is that both grace and truth are necessary to draw us into the heart and presence of God.  We are instructed by God through the writings of Paul to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all ...” (Ephesians 4.3-6 ESV).

    Grace and truth are not enemies unless we take our eyes off of Jesus. Jesus became flesh so that we would see in him the fullness of grace and truth!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at

What Does the Future of the Church Look Like?

By Bill Brandstatter


    Many are concerned about the future of the church. In saying that some are referring to all groups that profess to be part of the church our Lord built. The future can be determined by the past. If all sought to be the church of the New Testament, the future would be bright and would have the right leadership. The New Testament church had spiritual leadership that was organized and easy to follow.

    The church was organized with elders in every church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). There was no universal bishop or pope in New Testament times. Men did not and would not wear ecclesiastical titles. Jesus stated, “Do not call anyone on earth your father.” (Matt. 23:9 NKJV) The spiritual leadership of the New Testament church wore no official titles.

    The church was governed by “overseers” (Acts 20:28). These were the elders. Each congregation had a group of men who were the elders. They were appointed based on the God-given qualifications of 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Their official duty was to oversee, shepherd, and feed the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:20). These elders were in each congregation. They were called “bishops” in 1 Tim. 3:1; and, also “pastors” in Eph. 4:11. Deacons were also appointed based on the qualifications in 1 Tim. 3:8-13. There were also evangelists and teachers. (Eph. 4:11) This is the way the church was organized in the New Testament. No one man had any say over another congregation. No one person was in charge of a group of congregations. When congregations in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch needed elders, they were appointed. They apparently were functioning without them for a while; but when the time was right, elders were selected (Acts 14:21-23). Men called “deacons” also served in a capacity in the early church. The Bible gives qualifications for these men as well (1 Tim. 3:8:13). Only those men qualified can serve as elders and deacons in the church, then and today.

    The church had Christ as its head. The Bible tells us that Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18). By saying Christ is the head means that He has the final say in matters of authority, doctrine, and practice. There was not any one man on earth who was the head of the church in New Testament times. Jesus stated, “There is no other name under heaven given among man whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). He gave Himself for the church (Acts 20:28). He is the Savior of the church (Eph. 5:23). He nourishes and cherishes the church (Eph. 5:29). Let’s always let Christ be the head. We are subject to Him (Eph. 5:24).

    Let us just follow the simple pattern of the New Testament. Let us be people of the Bible. If we just do it the Bible way, God will bless us richly. God’s way is always the right way.

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

One Bucket at a Time?

By Ron Thomas

    “I only have to attend one service each week to be pleasing to God!”
    Have you heard this before? Perhaps not in these words, but the sentiment is certainly expressed on occasion, whatever words are used. Is it true? Not with the attitude that is seemingly conveyed with the remark (as written above). It has all indications of “Don’t bug me! Is it not good that I am coming at least once?” This is not a question they are asking, but a firm declaration to “drop it.”
    When I obeyed the Gospel in 1983, it was not long before some started calling me a “Jesus freak” or something similar. It did not matter to me; once I found what I didn’t know I was looking for, I went headlong into a new approach to life. The ripples of which were not always pleasant in the normal experiences of life. Nevertheless, I stayed the course.
    Since that time, I have heard many sermons that have not been all that beneficial to me, that is, they were boring or had no real application I could make. Still, when “the doors were open” I (then my family) came; it was important to me, then it became important to us. There were occasions when other things I preferred to do could have been done, but when “the doors were open”, I preferred to enter the doors of the church house instead of going through the doors of another route. We wanted to be present, and we all knew we should be.
    Each Sunday morning, our attention is turned to the Lord in worship. We sing praises to His name and honor Him with the life we live. On Sunday evening, we do the same. Do you have a hard time picking up the Bible and reading it because you have no time? If so, that is even more reason you need to be present with the brethren when “the doors are open.”
    The evil being thrown against you is having more powerful of an impact than you know. Should you not at least give yourself opportunity to hear the Lord’s message more than one hour weekly? Can you imagine trying to put out a fire that consumes your home with one bucket of water at a time? Our approach to the Lord is not one hour at a time, but a matter of the heart’s attitude. When you think about giving yourself an opportunity to strengthen your faith in the Lord, is it only one hour at a time? Charles Williams' translation of the New Testament reads in 2 Peter 3:18, but instead, you must continue to grow in the spiritual strength and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Are you? 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.

I Don’t Know and I Don’t Care!

By Edd Sterchi


    Have you ever had anyone sarcastically say those words to you? Usually you are trying to pass on some information to them or are asking them to respond to a question, and they sharply retort, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

    Sad to say, but this is what many people do concerning their religion.  They may be in a religious organization that is not truly or totally following God’s will. By serving and worshiping at such a place, they are proclaiming concerning the truth of God’s Word, “I don’t know it and/or I don’t care what it says.” They are either ignorant of the Bible’s teachings (and don’t care to learn it) or they know what it says, but choose to ignore it or simply explain it away.

    Many are like the ones Paul lamented for in Rom. 10:2-3, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”.  As a result of this type of thinking and practice, they are lost (see Rom. 10:1).

    Many others know what the Scriptures teach, they simply choose not to follow them.  They, as Peter describes in his second epistle, “willingly are ignorant” (2 Pet. 3:5, KJV).  Or they “twist” the teachings of the Bible to fit their own desires, but it is “to their destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16).

    Pertaining to religious matters, how arrogant (and foolish) is the phrase “I don’t know and I don’t care!”  How tragic it is to see so many who will be destroyed for their lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). How sad it is to see so many thumb their nose at God’s plan of salvation, pattern for worship, purpose of church work, etc. How “excuseless” will those be who knew God’s will and chose to disregard it.

    Let each of us endeavor to be people who want to know and always care about what the Bible says!

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them…” (Eph. 4:17-18)

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Monday, January 24, 2022

Chasing After “New” Things

By Bill Brandstatter


    Every year something “new” comes out. The past year had its share of new things and 2022 will also. We look at the rising crime rates and the lowering of morals and we know there has to be a better way. We look at the skyrocketing rate of divorce and the worldly concepts of marriage and we say: “There has to be a better way.” We view many other “ills” of the modern world and are forced to see that everything modern is not good. We long for the time again when we didn’t have to lock our doors and a man’s word was his bond.

    Some “old-fashioned” things can still be good. Jer. 6:16. states: “Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk in it” (NKJV). Luke records, “For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” (Ac. 17:21) Let us look at some old things that are really “new” in a society that chases after new things.

    AN OLD-FASHIONED FAITH. Some would claim that faith is “better caught than taught.” Others would say that faith is “better felt than told.” The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom.10:17) The reality and

validity of an old-fashioned faith is not found in a person’s think so, but in God’s say so. This faith comes from the “engrafted” or “implanted” word. (James 1:21)

    AN OLD-FASHIONED OBEDIENCE. An old-fashioned faith will naturally lead to an old-fashioned obedience. Jesus stated, “Not everyone that says to be ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21) When a person really believes what God says, he or she will submit to it. The faith that saves is the faith that obeys.

    AN OLD-FASHIONED RIGHTEOUSNESS. In an age when people without moral anchors are crying, “What’s in it for me?” or “I’ve got to look out for myself”; we need emphasis on the righteousness which God reveals. Our purpose in life is clearly stated in Eccl. 12:13. There Solomon wrote, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” Why do right? Because that is my purpose in life. Instead of expecting something back for doing right, we ought to do right because it is right.

    AN OLD-FASHIONED CHURCH. Man, today has an obsession to be “up to date.” Two thousand years ago those that obeyed the word were baptized and added to the church, according to Acts 2:38, 47. The church met on the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7). The worship of the early church was simple. They didn’t have a jazz band or a dance team. They sang (Eph. 5:19). We need old-fashioned preaching. (1 Pet. 4:11) In the early church, men had a leadership role. (1 Tim. 2:12) The church of Christ has nothing new to offer except what is old. That which is old is actually new in our world.

    AN OLD-FASHIONED STANDARD OF AUTHORITY. God’s way is the right way. There has to be a standard that guides us in all that we do. Man often wants to be that authority (Judges 21:25). People want it their way. As stated in Rom. 1:28: “Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge...” Some folks just don’t like being told what to do. Jesus has all authority today in heaven and one earth. (Matt. 28:18)

    AN OLD-FASHIONED SALVATION. It was not just saying a prayer. It was not just faith (Jas. 2:26). It was obedience (Rom. 6:17). It involved the blood of Jesus (Rev. 1:5); belief (John 3:16); confession (Rom. 10: 9,10); repentance (Acts 17:30); and baptism (Mark. 16:16). Let us do things God’s way and we will always be right.

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

Faith As Defined by Hebrews 11

By Joe Chesser


    As Christians, we are expected to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5.7). If left to humans, walking by faith could mean just about anything. So, we need to ask, “What is God’s definition of faith? What words are used by the Holy Spirit to describe what faith is? Upon what is faith based? What does faith look like? What is the ultimate blessing of faith?” The answers to these and many other questions are found in Hebrews 11.

    Hebrews 11.1 begins with God’s definition of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (ESV/NASB). Other translations use words like “being sure/certain” (NIV); “substance/evidence” (KJV/NKJV); “confidence /assurance” (NLT). These words tell us that faith is defined as how we understand, how we feel about, and how we respond to the evidence we are given.  “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (11.3). Faith gives us assurance and confidence that this is true, and that feels good. Uncertainty, or having no faith, doesn’t feel good.

    But Hebrews 11 does not limit faith to only a feeling or understanding, as good as those are. The chapter doesn’t end with verse 3. The Holy Spirit guided the writer of Hebrews to demonstrate time and again that God expects a response from our faith. What did people do who believed what God said? By faith Abel offered (11.4), Noah constructed (11.7), Abraham obeyed, went, lived, looked, and offered (11.8-10, 17), Isaac invoked (11.20), Jacob blessed (11.21), Moses chose, left, and kept (11.25-28), Israel crossed (11.29), Rahab welcomed (11.31), and a host of others conquered, enforced, obtained, stopped, quenched, escaped, were made strong, became mighty, defeated armies, suffered, and were tortured, destitute, afflicted, mistreated and killed (11.32-34). Faith gave these men and women the confidence and assurance to do these things and/or to endure these things. From Hebrews 11 faith is never motionless, apathetic or academic. The faith described in this chapter is living and active – or it’s dead (James 2.21-26). Because of our confidence in the evidence God provides, we do what He says, if it is our goal to please God. “For without faith it is impossible to please him” (11.6a).

    However, Hebrews 11 makes it clear that there is a reward for such faith. God is not a tyrant who expects us to sacrifice for Him without receiving something in return. No, our faith not only allows us to please Him (if that were not enough), but also to draw near to Him and be rewarded by Him (11.6). The thought of a greater reward inspired the ancients (11.13-16, 24-26, 39-40). It should inspire us too!!

    If thoughts of an eternal reward in the presence of God (John 14.1-3) fills you with hope like it did the ancients, then you need to take to heart the message of Hebrews 11. Having the kind of faith described there will give you confidence and assurance!

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

A Better Idea

By Joe Slater


    Over half a century ago (1968 to be exact) Ford Motor Company began a new advertising campaign using the slogan “Ford has a better idea.” It featured the image of a glowing light bulb and urged listeners and viewers to “see the light!” No doubt Ford’s engineers had some good ideas. Others, not so much. The snarky side of me has gotten quite a bit of mileage mocking the “better idea” of things I found sub-par in the Ford vehicles I’ve owned. In those cases, I obviously think my own ideas are better than Ford’s! You might or might not agree.

    Neither you nor I will ever have better ideas than God has. King Saul thought he had a better idea of what to do with the king and livestock of Amalek. God told Saul to utterly destroy them. Saul brought back the king and the best of the livestock, supposedly to sacrifice the animals to the Lord. Wouldn’t just destroying them all be a waste? Wouldn’t sacrificing them be a better idea? The prophet Samuel answered: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).

    God has graciously provided a way for sinners to be saved. When a lost person puts his confident trust in Jesus as the Son of God, repents of sin, and is immersed in water for the remission of sins, God washes that person’s sins away in the blood of Christ. The book of Acts is replete with examples. According to some, however, there is a better way: Pray the “sinner’s prayer” and invite Jesus into your heart! (Don’t bother looking for Scripture that teaches it!)

    Then there’s that thorny subject of baptism. The very word means “immersion,” but people have decided sprinkling and pouring are better ideas.

    You can think of other examples. But far and away the best idea is to trust and obey the Lord!

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Once Saved, Always Saved?

By Edd Sterchi


    The “once saved, always saved” belief is very prevalent in the religious world today. It carries the idea that once one receives salvation they can never lose it no matter what they do or don’t do. But is it truly a Scriptural concept? Let’s go to the Bible and note what some inspired writers had to say on the subject. What do they know about “once saved, always saved”?

    If we are always saved no matter what, Paul did not know it. In Gal. 5:4, he reminded those who were mixing in elements of the Old Law with Christianity that they had fallen out of God’s grace.

    If we are always saved no matter what, the Hebrew writer did not know it. In chapter 2 and verse 1, he reminded Christians that if they do not pay attention to their lifestyle, they could drift away. He adds in verse 3 of the same chapter that if we neglect our salvation, we will not escape God’s judgment.

    If we are always saved no matter what, James did not know it. He clearly indicated that Christians can wander from the truth, and in that state they are spiritually dead (Jas. 5:19-20).

    If we are always saved no matter what, Peter did not know it. He dramatically penned as a warning what would happen to Christians who went back to the world after obeying the gospel – it would be worse for them that if they had never believed in the first place (2 Pet. 2:20-22).

    If we are always saved no matter what, John did not know it. 2 John 9 declares that it is possible for a Christian to stop abiding in the doctrine of Christ, and in that state has transgressed and no longer has God in his life.

    Where did they all get this concept that we can fall away from Christ and be lost? They got it from Christ Himself. In John 15:5-6, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit...If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (Note: the phrase “does not abide” in the Greek indicates “does not continue to abide”).

    Christian, we must ever make sure that we are continually abiding in Christ, and if we find ourselves separated, that we confess our sins, repent of them, pray for forgiveness, and come back to Him (cf. Acts 8:22, 1 John 1:9). Now, once we are in heaven in our eternally saved state, we will always be there (1 Thess. 4:17), but while on the earth, we can forfeit our salvation – the inspired experts say so.
- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

You Thought I Was Like You

    How do you view God? Do you regard Him as the Creator of Heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1)? Do you picture Him as the “Heavenly Grandfather,” who simply smiles and shakes His head at sinful man, as a grandparent might when his or her grandchild does something wrong? Do you think of God as someone with whom you might drink a beer with, as a country song suggests? (Society’s moral downward spiral continues…)
     I believe that God may be tired of our profane perceptions of Him, just as He was with Israel in the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 50:21 says, “These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” In other words, God is saying, “You thought I was just like you; I will reprove you and set things in order before your eyes.”
     In Acts 17:23, Paul preached the “unknown God” to the men there, and I daresay that God may be as unknown in our culture today as He was to these people 2000 years ago – even among professed Christians! The way some TV preachers speak to God and about God today is embarrassing and humiliating not only to God, but also to many of us.
     We must remember that God is not a man, and whatever He is, He is that to perfection. When the Bible says in I John 4:8 that “God is love,” it means that God is love perfected.
     When we say God is all-knowing, we mean He has an absolute knowledge of everything. He doesn’t know more or less now that He once did, neither is He more or less loving that He once was. I pray that we never forget about God’s goodness or His severity (Rom. 11:22).
     Man needs to have a proper, balanced view of the God of Heaven, for Paul writes in Romans 14:11-12, “… we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”
     Do you view God as the Heavenly Father to whom you will someday give account for the deeds of your life? Are you ready to do that? If not, make whatever changes you need to make, and do so today. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little while, then vanisheth away” (Jas. 4:14).
- R.W. McAlister served as a minister to the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL until his death in October 2021.This was his own home congregation in which he grew up. R.W. was a beloved member of his community and a popular teacher in the agriculture department at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. To visit the congregation's website go to:

Monday, January 17, 2022

Need for a Formal Invitation

By Gerald Cowan


    A certain preacher was charged with not being a “gospel preacher” and some wanted to fire him because he did not always issue a “formal invitation” at the close of each sermon, Bible class period, or devotional exercise. An invitation to or for what? An invitation complete with a review of the various points (the “five steps” so called) in the “plan of salvation,” just in case anybody needed to be baptized. Of course it must also emphasize the need to be faithful in living and serving the Lord, in case anybody needed to be “restored.” Apparently a formal recitation of “the plan of salvation” is an expected part – some might say a required part of our identity as “the church of Christ.”

    Questions: Is it formal, form, or mere formality?  Is it a convenience or a convention? Is it a tradition?  Is there a scripture command, example, or inference to justify or necessitate such a formal “invitation” or “appeal” at any or every assembly?  Is it a necessity or an identifying ritual? Does adding a formal invitation make it “a gospel sermon”? Is it the ritual and the words that save, or is it obedience from the heart by one who has been properly taught what to do and why he should do it? (Rom. 6:17).

    Not all ritual acts are true necessities and many have no Biblical foundation. Like “crossing oneself” or “making the sign of the cross.” Like holding up a hand over the head of a baptismal candidate and saying, “By the authority invested in me as a minister...” Who gave ministers any authority? If one does not say, “Upon your confession that Jesus is the Son of God I now baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for the remission of your sins,” or other words to that effect, is the person not properly baptized? There are some “sacred traditions” that many are not willing to question – certainly not to abandon. The “formal invitation” to “obey the gospel” may be one of them.

- 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

Will There Really Be A Judgment Day?

By R.W. McAlister

    In Heb. 9:27 the Bible says, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the
judgment:” In Rom. 14:11-12, the Lord says, “… every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” That’s a reference to final judgment. In II Cor. 5:10, the Bible says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” The Bible is very clear about the reality of a final judgment. I think the real question is, “What happens to us before Judgment?” II Peter 2:9 addresses this, and it reads, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:” The Greek text suggests the idea of keeping the unrighteous “under punishment (present tense— continual punishment) unto (looking towards) the day of judgment.” The phrase “under punishment” reveals that the penalty was already being inflicted at the time the apostle is writing.
    The punishment begins at the point of death, in somewhat the same way an individual
apprehended in the commission of a crime is jailed until his trial. In that case, he is being
punished before actual judgment has been passed.
    In Luke 16, we find the story of the rich man and Lazarus, who begged at the rich man’s gate. We don’t have time to read all of it, but beginning in v. 22, the Bible says, And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
    It’s important to understand that both Lazarus and the rich man are in a place called,
“Hades.” The Hadean realm is divided into two parts, separated by a great gulf (Luke 16:26): “Abraham’s Bosom” (also called Paradise – Luke 23:43), and “torment” or, “Tartarus.” Hades, consisting of Paradise and Torment, could be viewed as “Eternity’s Waiting Room,” where all departed souls await final judgment, which is guaranteed to come, as we’ve already noted from Heb. 9:27, Rom. 14:12, and II Cor. 5:10. It is on the Day of Judgment that souls who are in Paradise will be ushered into Heaven, and those souls found in Torment will be consigned to Gehenna Hell, the final and eternal abode of those who die apart from God.
    In short, if I die as a faithful Christian, my soul will await final Judgment in the Paradise half of Hades, but if I die outside the body of Christ, or as a once-faithful Christian who has turned his back on God and never repented, I will, upon my death, await final Judgment with the rich man of Luke 16, in Tartarus, being tormented in fire. None of us wants that to be our ultimate fate, so I urge us all to seek out God’s plan of salvation in the Scriptures and obey it.
- R.W. McAlister served as a minister to the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL until his death in October 2021.This was his own home congregation in which he grew up. R.W. was a beloved member of his community and a popular teacher in the agriculture department at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. To visit the congregation's website go to:

On Being Visionary

By Joe Chesser


    You’ve probably heard the proverb many times, especially around the new year.  You know, the one that says, “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).  This verse has been used (and abused) by dreamers and goal setters for decades (or even centuries) to encourage people to make plans for the new year and beyond. It’s been used to urge churches to set goals for growth and involvement.  If we don’t, they say, we are doomed to apathy, failure and frustration.

    While I personally believe it is very important to have goals and dreams towards which to work, I do not believe having goals is the message of the above proverb – at least, not the primary message.

    By taking a closer look at the verse, especially by comparing the KJV translation of it to other versions, a different meaning will emerge.  God’s Word translation (GW) says, “Without prophetic vision people run wild.”  The NIV puts it this way: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” The primary message of this verse, then, is that without guidance from God through His revelation to prophets (i.e., in visions), people will not know how to act properly, and thus will run wild, cast off restraint and perish.  It’s about hearing God and following His rules for righteous living. In addition, consider the latter part of the verse: “But happy is he who keeps the law” (NKJV). You see, keeping the law of God connects the reader to the need for visions from God, so the people can be blessed.

    However, the proverb is not totally unrelated to having the vision to set goals for what you want to accomplish or become in the future.  The difference is that it’s not your vision, but God’s vision that this proverb says is important to have.  Through hearing God’s revelation we all are to become visionaries, or perish.  We have to hear from God (through His messengers) what we can become, how we can do it, and where we can spend eternity. Then we set our sights on those “visions” and work toward achieving them.

    Jesus came to give us a “vision” of the Father and to provide the way and means for us to become like Him and live with Him forever (John 1:14; 14:5-9).  It’s up to us not only to catch this vision ourselves, but to help others also catch it.  A part of being a visionary is to help others become visionaries also.  Without this “vision” of Jesus we will certainly perish. No one goes to the Father except by seeing Jesus (John 14.6).

    As a church, let’s be a collection of visionaries in 2022.  Let’s encourage each other to not only have the vision of Christ before us at all times, but also to see through the eyes of Jesus how to impact the world around us.  Let’s talk about it; let’s hope for it; let’s reach for it.  Without this kind of vision, people will perish.

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

Pleasing Everyone

By Ron Adams


   There is an old Spanish parable about a man, a boy and a donkey. They were all three walking down a dusty road on a hot summer day. They overheard some passer-by say, "Look at those foolish people walking when they could be riding." So they both climbed on the donkey.

   They had ridden only a short distance when another passer-by exclaimed, "Look at that poor donkey carrying those two people. Aren't they heartless?" Whereupon the son climbed down from the donkey and walked beside the father on the donkey.

   Then some said, "Look at that inconsiderate man making that poor little boy walk while he rides." Upon hearing this the father and boy exchanged places and still they had not satisfied the passer-by, who then said, "Look at that young man riding and that poor old man walking in the heat of the day."

   So the boy climbed down. They tied the feet of the donkey to a pole and proceeded to carry the donkey. Everyone exclaimed, "Look at those foolish people."


  The lesson is obvious, isn't it? We spend a lot of time worrying about people being pleased about us. We are continually perplexed because we can never please everybody. Don't try! (Borrowed from Unknown Source)

   We should strive to please God and do unto others as we would have them do unto us and not worry about someone thinking us foolish. There is a lesson here for all of us. We will be happier if we learn it.


The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: "But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord."

1     1 Corinthians 4:3-4

- 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 Be thoughtful and kind. All rights reserved. © 2021

Pharaoh’s Hardened Heart

By Ron Thomas


    In Exodus 9:16, the Scripture teaches the Lord “raised up” Pharaoh for His purposes. What were those purposes? From the context of Exodus, it was to remove Israel from Egyptian bondage. How it unfolded was in the contest between the Lord’s will and the will of Egypt’s Pharaoh (king), who thought of himself as a god.

    Interestingly, in 9:12, for the first time we read the Lord hardened the king’s heart. In 4:21, the Lord promised He would do this, but in Exodus 9, at the time of the 6th plague, the Lord brought it about. Up till this time, Pharaoh did his own hardening (cf. 7:14, 22; 8:15, 19, 29; 9:2, 17).

    For a good many Bible students, this has been a troubling matter. If the Lord hardened the king’s heart, how can he be responsible for what he did, for the Lord caused him to do it? No one can resist the Lord, right? To say it differently, how can one be responsible for what the Lord forced him to do? In a court of law, if one points a gun at your head and makes (forces) you commit a crime, are you guilty?

    This is not what happened with regard to Pharaoh.

    What happened? In reading Exodus, the Lord clearly placed at the foot of Egypt’s king the opportunity to let the children of Israel go out from bondage into the wilderness to worship. These opportunities granted to the king could have been accepted and implemented, but the king refused. Between these two powerful entities, Pharaoh and the Lord, it was a contest of wills and a contest of authority/power. Stubborn as he was, Pharaoh was doing what he could to give no ground to the Lord (remember 5:2?).

    Because of his stubbornness, in Exodus 9:12, we arrive at a different time in the way the Lord responds to the king. Notice what the Scripture said about Pharaoh’s response: “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn” ( 7:14, NASB), “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them” (7:22 ), “If you refuse to let them go” (8:2; 9:2), “when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them” (8:15, cf. v. 19) , “Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also” (8:32), “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let them go” (9:7).

    Notice the heart’s response Pharaoh gave to the Lord invitation, demand, and command. He may have buckled a time or two, but it ultimately resulted in his rejection of the Lord’s will.

    Now, the Lord responds in His own way, as seen in 10:20, 27, and 14:8. Interestingly, notice Moses gave Pharaoh no room for unaccountability in his response to the Lord’s demand: “Still you exalt yourself” (9:17), “I have sinned” (9:27, 34; 10:16), Moses said to him, “I know that you do not yet fear the Lord” (9:30), “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” (10:3, cf. vv. 10-11), “Beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die” (10:28).

    In all of this, Pharaoh acted on his own, but he reached a point where the Lord acted in conjunction with the king’s response by hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Yet, as one man said, divine hardening does not stop the possibility of self-hardening (Hamilton). The Lord created humanity with the freedom of will to choose his or her course in life. Once rebellion sets in, the Lord acts in a way none of us understand, but we know that He does it because the Scriptures declare it so. Notice the words of Paul, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:9-12 ESV). Lesson: when the Lord calls for repentance, don’t play with the Lord, it’s a battle that can’t be won!
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Why God Created Eve

By Larry Pasley

10. God worried that Adam would always be lost in the garden because he would hate to ask for directions.
 9. God knew that Adam would one day need someone to hand him the TV remote.
 8. God knew that Adam would never buy a new fig leaf when his wore out and would therefore need Eve to get one for him.
 7. God knew that Adam would never make a doctor's appointment for himself.
 6. God knew that Adam would never remember which night was garbage night.
 5. God knew that if the world was to be populated, men would never be able to handle childbearing.
 4. As "Keeper of the Garden," Adam would never remember where he put his tools.
 3. The scripture account of creation indicates Adam needed someone to blame his troubles on when God caught him hiding in the garden.
 2. As the Bible says, "It is not good for man to be alone!"
 1. When God finished the creation of Adam, He stepped back, scratched His head and said, "I can do better than that."


    The above statements were meant as a joke but there is a kernel of truth in all of them.
    Genesis 2:18 states, “And the LORD God said, ’It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’"
    It was not good for man to be alone, he needed someone to help him. Most of the statements point out ways that wives help their husbands.
    Men and women are typically different in many ways. The most obvious differences are physical. God made women to be able to bear children. But there are other differences also. Women typically have a different emotional makeup than men. They tend to be more tender and compassionate than men. They even think differently as Psychology Today and others report. {NOTE}
    All of these differences are neither good nor bad in themselves. Men are not superior to women in any way nor vise versa. God made us different so we would complete or complement each other in marriage. Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Jesus comments on this in the New Testament, Matthew 19:6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate."
    May we learn to appreciate the differences and realize that God made us different for our benefit.
- 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

Seasons and Eternal Day

By Gerald Cowan


My spring of youth has come and gone.

It will not come again.

The strength of summer did not last.

‘Twas short and sweet, but then

It went away like dew on flow’rs

Warmed by the rising sun,

Or like the light of day will go

When evening has begun.


A renewed urgency I feel      

Since autumn came to call.

Unless I find new energy,

Autumn may be my fall.

My blood is thin. Can I withstand

The stress of winter’s cold

When stumbling ways give evidence

That one is growing old?


Accept each season, like each stage

Of life, when it arrives.

The heav’n of God is yet to be,

In that our hope survives.

My spring will never come again.

My summer went away.        

When fall and winter too have passed

Comes God’s eternal day.

- 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

More Than You Think


By Adam Faughn


    Have you ever tried to calculate how many different people you interact with during a

typical day? I would venture to say that most of us would underestimate that number

unless we really started thinking carefully. We would probably only remember fairly

significant conversations or maybe people we rode in a vehicle with, plus possibly a

couple of others.

    But, on a day when you are just going through your regular routine, you likely interact with a fairly significant number of people. Did you email someone today? There is one you might not have counted. Did you go to the store and say hello to the cashier? There is another. Did you make a phone call to pay a bill or set up an appointment? There is yet another. They really start adding up when you walk through a normal day for many of us.

    The point of this little exercise is not to just cause us to start counting our interactions (although that could be interesting also). It is to challenge us to make our interactions count! Is it not possible that we regularly speak of the need to be good examples before others, but then we do not live that out in these "small" or "quick" interactions?

• When the service at the restaurant is a little (or a lot) slower than you have come to expect, do you make a scene and act with anger, or do you try to encourage the one who is doing the best he or she can?

• When you have waited in line at the store for a long time and finally get to the register, do you still greet the cashier with a smile and kind word, or do you become just another complaining customer?

• When you type something on social media, is it something that glorifies God or just something that builds up your own ego?

• When you send an email or make a phone call, do you check to be sure your tone is one that is gracious and kind or do you just "fire off" a message because the person cannot see you face-to-face?

These may seem like very small things, but they are not. How do I know that? Deep

down, we all know this is true because we have been on the other side, have we not?

    You have been the one who was complained to through no fault of your own. You have

been the one who received the angry email. You have been the one who was talked down

to even when you were doing the best you could.

    So far, this may not seem like a "church bulletin" article. So far, this may read like something from the "Self Help" section of a local bookstore. I assure you, though, there is a spiritual component to this.

    What is it? When you were treated in a way that was mean, rude, short, or such like, was your first thought, "That person must be a follower of Jesus"? I dare say that it was not. In fact, I dare say that was far down your list of reactions!

    Why, then, would we think we can act in ways that are rude and unbecoming and it be okay when we are supposed to be reflecting the light of God in all the world? That smile to a stressed-out wait staff member might be the only pleasant thing that happens on the entire shift. Your kind word to a cashier might be the only nice thing said to him or her for hours. The email--even one that is written to point out something that needs to be worked on or corrected--that is filled with reminders of the motivation being love and not spite is more likely to touch someone's heart.

    Then, when there is a moment when someone thanks you or returns a word of kindness,

will you take the extra step of giving the credit and glory to the God you serve? Will you

point that person to your faith, even with just a quick word ("Oh, I'm just trying to be who

Jesus wants me to be.")?

    As you do, what you may notice is that you interact with more people in a given day than you ever realized. If that is so, then just consider the number of people you have an opportunity to impact--even in what may seem like small ways--for eternity. Let us resolve not to waste a single one of those opportunities.
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.

The Fear Factor

By Bill Brandstatter

    We are all afraid of something. Some are afraid of snakes. Others are afraid of spiders. The Greek word is phobia. We know about claustrophobia and hydrophobia. Have you ever heard of phobia phobia? It is the fear of being afraid. Many today have this. As we look at our nation and the lives and deaths of neighbors, friends and family, fear seems to be part of our lives on a regular basis. There were Bible characters that may have been afraid. Being afraid is not the problem. The problem comes when we let fear control our lives and consume our thoughts and actions.
    “God did not give us the Spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7). Perhaps the young preacher Timothy had some fears as he ministered in the city of Ephesus. I can identify with some fears young preachers might have. As an older preacher, I still have some. In the text above Paul mentions love and a sound mind. This simply means God wants us to think correctly. Fear often warps and changes our thinking.
    God wants us to fear but not be fearful. There is a right and healthy fear. Solomon wrote: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13,14). The fear of God includes reverence and respect. It also includes the justice of God upon those who disobey (Matt. 10:28). We should have fear of evil and what it can do to us if we are overtaken by it.
    God wants us to not be afraid of other people. The writer of Hebrews states, “So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Heb. 11:6). Do we fear men? Sometimes we may fear those in positions of high authority. We might fear a boss, a governor, or a president. We might fear someone who is aggressive and threatening. The Bible says not to fear them.
    God wants us to place our trust in Him. We need to pray to Him and He will take care of us (Phil. 4:6). We need not be fearful but faithful.
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Miraculous Book-Ends

By Ron Thomas

"We must do the works of Him that sent me" (John 9:3-4).
    I am not sure if other Bible students noticed this, but if you look at John 9:3-4, you will see “book-ends” to the miraculous or the days of miracles.
    In John 9:4, rather than beginning the verse with “I”, most modern translations read “we.” Who is the “we”? This refers to Jesus and His apostles. “We must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day.”
    The works that He is speaking about is not general good works that people do, but the miraculous signs He had been doing up to this point, including the one that He was about to do. The words “day” and “night” refers to “when one is alive” and then “when one has died.”
    While it is “day”, Jesus said, “we” (Jesus and apostles) must do those things that were being done, pointing people to Jesus as the Lord’s anointed, Christ, messiah.
    If the works are the miraculous signs done by Jesus (and His apostles), the night comes when no one can do these any longer because they will have ceased to be operative (Jesus, His apostles, and a select few having the capability to bring about these miraculous signs). This has to be the correct interpretation because if the “we” can refer to others (more than Jesus and His apostles), then others (even 21st century Christians) can do what He did, which is not possible based on 1 Corinthians 13:10.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.