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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 Geraldcowan1931@aol.com


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: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/


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 joeandareva@yahoo.com


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 http://ra10ar.com 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. www.sunrushchurchofchrist.org


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 http://www.JacksonStAlex.com


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 Geraldcowan1931@aol.com


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: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org 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: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


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. www.sunrushchurchofchrist.org


Monday, January 3, 2022

Are You Willing To Pay The Price?

By Al Behel

 

    Following a concert a lady approached the great pianist, Padereswski, and said, “I would give my life to play like that.” Paderewski answered, “I did.”

    On an average, it takes 50,000 hours to make a concert pianist. That’s 19 years, 113 days, at 8 hours a day. Some are willing to pay the price; others are not. In other words, one must give his or her life to be a great pianist.

    I can’t help wondering what it takes to become a real disciple of Jesus. Our religious world makes it easy. No major sacrifice of time or energy. No serious study of Scripture. No exercising of one’s mental and spiritual muscles to achieve maturity in Christ. Just sign up and attend a few church services and give a little money. That’s all that is required.

    Is that really true? Is discipleship easy? When I read the words of Jesus there seems to be a lot more involved. He speaks of denying oneself and taking up a cross to follow Him. He speaks of persecution and suffering, of selling all that we have. He says we must seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. He even goes so far as to say we must love others the way He loves

us. He offers no salvation without baptism and a cross (Matthew 28:18-20). A cross is a place to die. Are you willing to pay the price?

    Discipling others requires much time and effort, too. Some active personal evangelism leaders have estimated that it may take more than 50 hours to lead an interested individual to become a true follower of Christ. Are you willing to make yourself an instrument through whom the Lord can reach the hearts of those around you. Are you willing to pay the price?

    He said, “No one comes to the Father but by me.” There is no other way, no other option. He is the only way, and truth, and life (John 16:6) And there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12). Are you willing to pay the price of being His disciple?
- 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/


Love Endures

By Clifton Angel

 

    According to Joseph Stowell, “The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit” (Fan the Flame, 32). Such an accomplishment would require more time, greater tact, and different talent.

    This runner would have to have endurance. Christians also are running a race of endurance: 

    Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset  us,  and  let  us  run  with  patience  the  race  that  is  set  before  us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2).

    Paul tells us via his letter to the Corinthian church that love “endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). The word Paul used to speak of the endurance of godly love is the same word used to describe Jesus’ endurance of the cross (Hebrews 12:2) and the Christian’s endurance in the faithful race (Hebrews 12:1).  Therefore, we may conclude that a person who loves like Christ (which is this love of which we speak) can endure like Christ. No matter the persecution, the tribulation, the temptation, or the situation, we can endure it if we have this kind of love. When the one you thought was a friend does something unfriendly, endure. When the love of your life ruins your night, endure.  When your co-workers don’t work and rather complain, endure. When the nation crashes down town by town, … endure. When your faith brings strife and even requires your life, endure. That’s love. I will conclude with words shared by a friend:

  • Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length,
  • Pressed so intensely it seems beyond strength. 
  • Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul. 
  • Pressed in the mind until the dark surges roll.
  • Pressed by foes and pressed by friends, 
  • Pressure upon pressure till life nearly ends. 
  • Pressed into loving the staff and the rod. 
  • Pressed into knowing no helper but God. 
  • Pressed into liberty where nothing clings. 
  • Pressed into faith for impossible things. 
  • Pressed into living a life in the Lord. 
  • Pressed until a Christ-like life is outpoured.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/


The Best Things in Life Are Not Things

By Ron Adams

 

And He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

Luke 12:15

 

Things are items to be possessed and used. All of which will be left behind when life is over. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.

1 Timothy 6:7

 

What really is important in life? Relationships!

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

who share our interests, aims and woes.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.

Proverbs 27:9

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

 

BRETHREN

who share a common faith, calling and hope.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!

Psalms 133:1

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.

Romans 12:10

Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:11

 

LORD JESUS

who we serve in this life in order to be with Him hereafter.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Colossians 3:23-24

~~~~~~~

Remember: all relationships require maintenance on our part. Effort must be expended to sustain them: be friendly, love the brethren, serve the Lord.

Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

2 Peter 1:10-12

- 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


“Smallest Church on Earth”

By Adam Faughn

 

    That was the way a local news report from the state of Alabama promoted a fairly interesting story. A man from near the community of Semmes, Alabama constructed a church building--complete with a steeple--that measures just 4 feet wide, 5 feet deep, and 19 feet tall (including the steeple). He built the tiny chapel on his farm and said that several couples enjoy having weddings on his farm and look forward to taking some of their wedding pictures in or around the small structure.

    I do not think I would want to be one to try it out, but he claims it can "comfortably" accommodate three people. The reason he built this very odd structure is that he has a lifelong dream of holding a world record, and he hopes to get this building certified as the record-holder for the smallest church of all time.

    As a person with long legs, sitting in a building that small does not appeal to me. Besides the "comfort factor," though, the story itself had my mind thinking about the church itself. Certainly, I am not thinking of the building since the church is not a brick-and-mortar structure, but about the people, since they comprise this wonderful institution.

    We often speak of the need to evangelize. To be sure, there are many reasons we should be doing that great work. One reason, simply stated, is that we are commanded to (Mark 16:15-16). Beyond that, however, we should desire to teach others about the saving work of Jesus Christ and about how He came to save each individual.

    When people are saved, Scripture makes it clear that God adds them to the church (Acts 2:47). That being true, should it not be the case that we want the church to grow? Again, that is not saying that we want to build a larger building; it is saying that we want more people to be saved!

    But...do we really want that? And do our actions back up that claim? It is quite easy to become comfortable with things the way they are. It is even easier to be comfortable with only teaching and welcoming people who look more and more like me, instead of being welcoming and encouraging to every person--since every person needs Jesus.

    When I begin to only be welcoming to people like me, though, that "circle" becomes a lot smaller. If I only want to teach and welcome people who I feel comfortable around, that can become a very small circle. In fact, that tiny chapel in Alabama might be large enough!

    Instead, I need to realize that, so long as we are holding fast to Scripture, there will always be personality quirks and differences of opinion, and I must be willing to look past those things and see a soul that needs saving. People will not be saved because they look like me or because they like the same things I like or because we share a common hobby. They will only be saved if I love them enough to take them to the Bible and show them what Jesus says about salvation.

    I pray that I never get to the place where I would be okay with fewer people in the church just because it makes me comfortable. Instead, may we all pray that, despite quirks, personality differences, and times of disagreement, we all desire for every person to be saved so that more people are in the church and, ultimately, in heaven together.

 

"...Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"

(1 Timothy 2:4)

- 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

Overdue

By David A. Sargent

 

    When I first read the title of the article, I thought to myself, “I’d sure hate to pay that fine.” The title of the article is: “Library book returned after 110 years in Idaho.”

    110 years overdue.  How much was the fine?  When the book – the “New Chronicles of Rebecca” by Kate Douglas Wiggin – was last checked out of the public library in 1911, in Boise, Idaho, the fine for overdue books was 2 cents per day.  “With a fine of two cents per day for 110 years, whoever checked out this book would owe $803,” reported Boise’s Carnegie Public Library in a social media announcement.  The report continued: “Thank goodness the Boise Public Libraries are now fine free!”

    The book by Wiggin was a sequel to her first fictional novel “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.”  Both books were published in the early 20th century (1903 and 1907) and followed the life of Rebecca Rowena Randall, who grows up in rural Maine.

    The person who returned the book has not yet identified himself or herself.  But the library is overjoyed to have received the old book. *

    Our sins put us in debt to God (cf. Matthew 6:12).  The “fine” (penalty) for our sins is overdue: “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

    Our “fine” cannot just be dismissed.  The penalty must be paid; justice demands it.

    God loves us and desires to save us.  But the “fine” must be paid.  None of us has the resources to pay the fine for our sins.  So, God paid the fine for us.  That is grace – glorious grace.

    “For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we [you and me] might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

            He paid a debt He did not owe

            I owed a debt I could not pay

            I needed someone to wash my sins away;

            And now I sing a brand new song, “Amazing Grace”

            Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”

    God will pay the debt of sin and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  The blood that Jesus shed for our sins will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).

    My sin has incurred an incredible debt before God.  I can’t afford to pay it.  Thank God, I don’t have to.  Jesus paid the debt for my sin with His own blood.  He will pay yours, too, if you will only submit your life to Him.

    Won’t YOU?

- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org