By Gerald Cowan
How does God respond to us when we pray for someone who is having health issues and other issues? How are they blessed? Will God always answer our prayers for others?
We are taught to pray for one another when we have health issues, including spiritual health as well as physical health (James 5:13, 16). The promise of spiritual healing seems firm, assuming that both the praying one and the one prayed for act in penitent faith (James 5:16). We do offer prayers and intercessions for others (1 Tim. 2:1-4). We are not told that all our requests for others will be granted, or that prayers for ourselves will invariably be granted. We can be sure that asking is essential. Some things we do not get because we do not ask (James 4:2), but the request itself is not sufficient. Unwavering faith is also essential (James 1:5-6). We are also told that improper motives will prevent any positive answer to our requests (James 4:3). There is still more: the mind and disposition – the faith and inclination toward God – of the person prayed for must be considered too. God will not override the will of the person we pray for. We may pray for changes in the person, not only physical but mental and spiritual as well, that the person himself resists, refuses and does not want.
Our faith is tested in that we pray for good things to happen and sometimes those good things do not happen. We pray for bad things not to happen, or to be taken away, but those things come and do not go away. God answers every prayer of His faithful people, but sometimes the answer is and must be NO. Any prayer answered in the affirmative for the faithful provides strength to endure what cannot be changed or what God does not change (1 Cor. 10:13). But even when we do not understand and when we do not get a yes answer, we keep on praying – we do not faint or give up on God (Gal. 6:9-10).
Sunday, July 31, 2022
One of my favorite passages of Scripture comes from the pen of the Psalmist who declared, “For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation” (Psalm 149:4). What a great statement of love and hope is found within these words!
It’s hard to believe the very Creator of the universe can be moved with such great emotion by us that we are told “He takes pleasure in His people,” but He does! The fact of the matter is, the Bible is chock-full of such wondrous themes of God’s love for mankind, His desire to be close to us, the joy He wishes so desperately to share with us, and the great riches of His boundless grace that He so longingly wants to bestow upon us, that we are really without excuse not to access all of these.
Let’s take a few moments to consider just a handful of these wondrous, uplifting passages of Scripture. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; (Philippians 2:14-15). Did you hear that? We are sons of God! We are to be His lights in a dark, dying and desperately-lost-in-sin world!
But the Apostle Paul tells us God recognizes those who come to Him through His Son in obedient, saving faith as His children! What a great delight that is to know! It’s also worth noting that God expects His children to “do all things without murmurings.” Does that really describe us, or are we individuals who constantly go around looking at other people and things to complain about and criticize?
When Jesus came to the Earth, Light was found in the world again! That Light was coming from a manger in Bethlehem when our Savior, Jesus, was born. He is the Light of the world. He has brought spiritual Light to this very dark, dying world. This spiritual Light must be received to be seen. With an obedient faith we believe, and God saves us and gives us eternal life. The darkness is thick, but the Light of Jesus can penetrate anything. Even your hard heart if need be.
By Edd Sterchi
When trials hit, we can do one of two things concerning our faithfulness to God – give up or continue on. Paul knew what it was like. In fact many times in trials, he felt like he was between a rock and a hard place (2 Cor. 4:8), yet he continued remaining faithful to God. I believe that in v.14-15 in the same chapter he gives us three reasons to endure trials.
He knew that trials, and even death, would not rob him of the crown of life. “knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.” (v.14)
He realized that surviving his hardships were influencing others toward Christ. “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many,” (v.15a)
He was aware that He was glorifying God in enduring adversity. “may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” (v.15b)
Yes, enduring trials can be good for us and others. So when trials hit, hang in there and keep praising God!
By Jeff Arnette
The city of Philippi had a long and interesting history. It was initially colonized by the people of Thasos around 360 BC. It was renamed “Philippi” by Philip of Macedon in 356 BC and was eventually abandoned in the 1 4th century after the Ottoman conquest.
By the time Paul enters the city, it was a Roman colony and enjoyed all the rights and privileges of life in Rome itself. It was situated on “The Via Egnatia” which was the main road that ran all the way from the East to Rome. According to most scholars, it had become an” Urban Political center” (Fee, Philippians, 26) and an important start for Paul’s work there.
In Acts 16, Paul along with Silas and Timothy established the church beginning with Lydia. This made the Philippian church different, primarily Gentile, and avid supporters of Paul. Everett Ferguson suggests that the city was different from most Greek cities and that is what allowed women like Lydia to own businesses (Ferguson, Early Christianity, 70-71).
The letter itself suggests that Paul wrote it from a Roman Prison (Phil. 1:12-13, 17) along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Apparently, the church is facing opposition from Jews emphasizing works over faith (Phil. 3:2,18-19). Overall, it reflects a joyful and uplifting spirit that has endeared it to generations of Christians.
There are three keywords to watch out for as you read Philippians: joy, fellowship, and Jesus. Each reflects a strong message on each subject. Joy and suffering for your faith in Jesus weave their way through the entire letter. Paul even highlights his own joy as a prisoner for Jesus and how that has strengthened his work. Fellowship is joint participation as each of us strives to live our faith in a hostile world and emphasizes the need to work together and encourage each other. Exalting Jesus with your life and choices is a major lesson in Philippians (Phil. 1:27-30). Paul encourages us all to live worthy of Jesus and his sacrifice for our sins. Only then can we stand firm in the faith and be encouraged (Phil. 2:11) and rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3:1; 4:4).
Fee, Gordan D. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.
Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
By Joe Slater
“I have to look out for Number One!” That’s another way of saying I must concern myself first and foremost with my own interests. After all, if I don’t, nobody else will – right?
Far too many Christians have yielded to that worldly philosophy. Paul lamented, “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ” (Philippians 2:21).
What does it mean to seek the things of Christ? The prior two verses tell of Timothy’s genuine care for the welfare of the brethren at Philippi, in sharp contrast to the self-seeking attitude of virtually everyone else. To act in the best interests of Christ’s people is to seek the things of Christ.
Earlier in his letter Paul had exhorted the Philippians, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:4). That’s the very thing Jesus did, as shown in 2:5-8. Leaving heaven in order to give Himself to die on the cross as the supreme atonement offering required extreme humility and the endurance of unspeakable pain. Jesus did it because it was in our best interest.
In Matthew 6:33 Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to “seek first your own interests” (i.e. look out for Number One). Instead, He said to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” How seriously do we take Him when making decisions? Do we think first of what benefits the cause of Christ? Do we consider what impact (for good or for ill) our decision has on other people?
The title of this article asks, “Who’s Number One?” As the statement “I have to look out for Number One” is commonly used, Number One is you. Let’s switch that around and make Jesus “Number One.” Let’s seek the things which are of Christ!
Sunday, July 24, 2022
By Joe Chesser
It was not an unusual event, but it was unexpected at the moment. And it happened so quickly. One evening Jesus had decided to cross the Sea of Galilee. So, when he got in a boat his disciples followed him. As they were crossing the sea, a vicious storm suddenly appeared, so violent that the boat was being swamped by the waves. Even the seasoned fishermen among them were afraid they were about to die. Yet, the storm wasn’t bothering Jesus; not at all. He was asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat (Matthew 8.23-27; Mark 4. 35-41; Luke 8.22-25). As the song I grew up singing so powerfully asks: “Master, the tempest is raging! The billows are tossing high! The sky is o’re-shadowed with blackness, no shelter or help is nigh. Carest Thou not that we perish? How canst Thou lie asleep when each moment so madly is threatening a grave in the angry deep?”
In the midst of tragedy we are so often like these disciples. We see the problem and we are filled with fear at what might happen. Cancer or heart disease threatens our lives. An accident leaves us severely injured. Death of a loved one leaves us devastated. And what’s even worse, we may not think Jesus cares about us during these tragedies that are so frightening to us. “Carest Thou not that we perish? How canst Thou lie asleep?”
It’s so sad that many of us in this type of situation turn completely away from Jesus. We are convinced that He doesn’t care. We may even think that He couldn’t do anything about it if He did care. If He could do something about it why did He let it happen in the first place?
Ah, but the rest the story we began above shows that Jesus does care and that He can turn tragedy into triumph. As the story continues, you have to give the disciples some credit. Even in their deepest despair and their weakened faith they did go to Jesus, wake Him up, and confess to Him their fears and doubts. I’m not sure what they expected Him to do, but they did wake Him up to see. One of the biggest mistakes we can make in times of tragedy is to fail to ask Jesus to help us. We don’t have to know how He will work things out. That really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we go to Him and ask Him for help. Later on Jesus’ brother learned that “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4.2).
When Jesus woke up He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Immediately they obeyed Him; a great calm came on the sea. But the disciples were not so quick to let Jesus calm their spirits. Their faith was at this point weak and struggling. So Jesus asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you no faith?”
I wonder if you hear Jesus asking you these same questions when tragedy strikes your life? If you believe Jesus calmed the sea, walked on water, raised the dead, etc., what is there to fear? Jesus can and does turn tragedy to triumph time and time again. And, of course, the greatest tragedy is sin, and you know what He did for that! “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.57).
By Joe Slater
Who determines where you dwell eternally? Is it up to you, or is up to God? The short answer is: “Yes!”
That salvation from sin and the resulting eternal life are a gift cannot be denied successfully! Romans 6:23 couldn’t be clearer: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We call Jesus “Savior” for a reason – if we could provide for our own deliverance from the guilt and penalty for sin, we wouldn’t need a savior. But obviously we cannot!
Unfortunately, some have erroneously concluded that since we cannot save ourselves by ourselves, we must be totally passive. They believe God unconditionally picked and chose certain individuals to be saved and exercised irresistible grace toward them regardless of any faith or obedience.
Others have bought into the equally mistaken idea that by working really hard we can “almost” save ourselves, and God’s grace just gives us a little nudge over the finish line. Such a notion ignores the fact that good works can’t wash sins away – only Jesus’ blood does that. The bird lady in “Home Lone – Lost In New York” was wrong: a good deed doesn’t erase a bad deed. Not even at Christmas!
The fact is, a gift is given on the terms of the giver. Complying with God’s terms to receive the gift of eternal life isn’t meriting or earning salvation! In no way does it deny the grace of God. And we have the free will to decide whether to comply with God’s terms or to refuse them. God elected (chose) Jesus to be our Savior, and He elected (chose) to save those who trust and obey Jesus.
So, is it up to God or up to you? Yes!
By Kevin Rutherford
Isaiah’s description of the people of Judah in his day shows a corrupt and declining society (Isaiah 59). Isaiah writes, “No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity (Isaiah 59:4).” He also says, “their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways (Isaiah 59:7-8).” Isaiah notes, “we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied (Isaiah 59:11-12).”
These transgressions of the people had caused them to become separated from God (Isaiah59:1-2). Yet, despite the stubborn and arrogant rebellion of the people, God was still willing to give them an opportunity to repent and to be forgiven. God says, “wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow (Isaiah 1:16-17).” The people needed to repent and God showed them how. The reward of forgiveness He promised them if they would repent should have been motivation enough for them to change. “Come now and let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient you shall eat of the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword (Isaiah 1:18-20),”
God was willing to forgive them if they would repent. Just as God was willing to forgive those with multiplied transgressions if they would repent, so God was willing to forgive Saul. Although Saul was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man,” the grace of God was exceedingly abundant in giving him the opportunity to be saved (1 Timothy 1:12-17). Saul/Paul says he obtained mercy so that Jesus Christ could show in him “a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:16).” Saul had stubbornly rebelled against God as he violently tormented Christians, and yet he was willing to repent, and God forgave him when he did.
If God was willing to forgive the people described in Isaiah and if He was willing to forgive Saul, when they repented, then surely He is willing to forgive us if we will repent and turn to Him. Peter says repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Luke also records these words of Peter, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19).” The message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins is one which fills the pages of the Bible and is one which gives great hope and joy to those willing to listen. No matter how wicked a person’s life has been that person is eligible to repent and be forgiven. If one has never become a Christian he needs to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). If one has become a Christian but needs to be forgiven he needs to repent and pray (Acts 8:22). God wants us to change. He wants us to turn away from our transgressions and iniquities so that we can be saved. Consider the long-suffering of God, the depths of God’s love, and the riches of God’s grace if you have separated yourself from Him by sin. Repent and come to Him in humble service and obedience, and He will forgive you. Though your sins are as scarlet you shall be as white as snow.
By Edd Sterchi
For the … But ...
the wages (earned) gift (not earned)
of sin (unholiness) of God (holiness)
is death (separation) is eternal life (everlasting fellowship)
That’s quite a stark contrast, isn’t it? You just can’t get more diametric than those two statements. What makes the difference between them? What is it that divides them into polar opposites? The rest of the verse reveals what puts one on one side or the other: “in Christ Jesus the Lord.” You see, if we are “in” Jesus Christ, then we are given the gift of eternal life from a holy God.
Galatians 3:27 clearly reveals that we “put on Jesus” (i.e. become “in” Him) being baptized into Him. It is then that we reach His soul-cleansing, sin-washing sacrifice (Romans 6:3-5).
Are you “in” Jesus?
His team won the game. But that was not the most important play that involved basketball player, Myles Copeland.
During the game, one of the minor league referees fell to the floor. He was suffering a heart attack. Copeland, who is also a firefighter, sprang into action. He ran across the court and immediately started administering CPR to the referee. He continued for 10 minutes until paramedics arrived.
“The basketball game just didn’t matter anymore, it was about saving his life,” Copeland told “America’s Newsroom” last Monday.
The referee’s wife, a nurse, assisted Copeland in the care of her husband. She thanked Copeland with a hug when their life-saving procedure was completed.
Copeland said the referee was coherent and talking as the paramedics whisked him away on a stretcher. Later, the referee had to undergo triple bypass surgery but is now resting – with great gratitude for his rescuer.
“I’m very thankful I was there, and I’m sure he was thankful that I was there as well,” Copeland said. “It seemed that everyone was in a panic at the time I was there, but from all our training I was cool, calm and collected.”
When we were dying because of our sins, Jesus came to our rescue. He administered “CPR” – “Christ-Powered-Redemption” so that we might live. It was “Christ-Powered” because only the sinless Son of God could provide the means for our redemption. It is “Redemption” because we are “bought back” from the cruel, fatal bondage to sin (John 8:34; Romans 6:23). It required the death of Jesus on the cross of Calvary, for only His blood could pay the price for our redemption.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
The Apostle Peter reminded Christians of the price that was paid for their redemption: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The need for Jesus’ “CPR” is universal, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The Good News is that Jesus’ CPR is available to all who come to Christ for salvation.
God will save 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). He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
Copeland’s timely response with CPR saved a man’s life. Jesus’ CPR - Christ-Powered-Redemption - saves lives for eternity. He will save YOUR life if you will just submit your life to His care.
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org
* Information gleaned from “Hero basketball player
saves referee's life with CPR following heart attack: 'I went into firefighter
mode'” by Amy Nelson of Fox News, www.foxnews.com, published 6/20/2022.
Monday, July 18, 2022
By Ron Bartanen
Dishonesty, drug trafficking, sexual sins, murder, terrorism and a host of assaults against humanity continue to eat away at the foundation of our nation. Can such spiritual erosion ever be checked? The question was asked in Psalms 11:3, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” By “foundations,” reference is obviously made to the principles and values that undergird the nation, and the worthy institutions, such as the homes and churches, that characterize the nation. No nation can be stronger than its guiding principles. We have been fortunate to live in a country blessed by those who came before us with a respect for God and His word, as revealed within the Bible. In the past few decades, this respect has been waning, with the result of increased lawlessness and violence, causing many to question the future of our republic and our freedoms.
When we take our eyes off God’s word, we soon forget who we are—creatures of God’s making, as Genesis 1:27 states it, we are made “in the image of God.” This realization should produce a respect for ourselves, and also for others. Respect for self and respect for others are inseparable twins. Jesus summarized the principles of God’s Law with two commands: (1) “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind;” and (2) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). We cannot truly love God until we learn to love those whom God loves, and for whom Christ died. Nor can we truly love and respect ourselves if, in life, we are trampling others under foot. Dishonesty, thoughtlessness, broken homes, thievery, adultery, murder, rape and a host of other social problems have their roots in the fact that respect for others and a respect for self are missing in the lives of many. It is easier for us to attempt to blame guns for increasing acts of widespread violence, than it is to admit that, as a nation, we have lost respect for God, self and others. When a culture becomes so self-centered that people are used and abused for selfish reasons, that society is in trouble. The commandments commanding the honoring of parents, and forbidding murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness and coveting a neighbor’s wife and possessions (Exodus 20:12-17) are there to teach us respect for others.
How do we know when we love our neighbors as we love ourselves? I believe Jesus gave us the answer to that question in what is popularly known as the “Golden Rule”: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). What a different and better world this would be if all could learn respect for others.
By Joe Chesser
It seems like it was just last week when school let out for the summer. And now, here it is, the first week of September. Where has the time gone? It brings to mind the lyrics of an old song, “... ain’t it funny how time slips away.”
While it may be funny for some to sing about, others see the swift passing of time as somewhat depressing. I’m sure that’s why people have tried for many centuries to fight the aging process. Everything has been tried from searching for the fountain of youth to the invention of miracle wrinkle creams, from hair coloring to hair implants, from exercise & vitamins to plastic surgery. But deep down we all know that there is nothing we can do about the aging process. We can try to lengthen our life-span. We can help our bodies look and feel better longer. But is there anything we can do to overcome the aging process? Yes, and no.
Physically speaking, for every generation since Adam and Eve “there is a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). It’s simply the way God has designed life on earth. It’s all a part of the laws God established after Eden. And while we may manipulate those laws to some extent, the aging process continues to plug along.
This would be very depressing if we were only physical beings. But we’re not. We not only have a body, we also have a soul. And it is this aspect of our existence that gives us hope of overcoming the aging process. Notice how Paul puts it:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we
are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed
day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are
achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them
all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what
is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is
unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
I don’t know about you, but I kind of like the idea of being renewed day by day. I like the idea that what I see in a mirror graying and wrinkling is only temporary at best. I really like the idea that as a Christian, not only am I being renewed spiritually each day, I also have in the future an eternal glory that far exceeds anything this earth can offer, one that overcomes all the troubles and heartaches with which this world so cruelly tries to destroy me. I don’t care that my hair is turning gray and turning loose. I don’t care that I can’t stop the aging process because that would only prolong receiving the eternal glory with God that’s awaiting me!
Trail-Blazers, Path-Finders, Tag-Alongs, Drag-Alongs, Sojourners, Pilgrims, and Faithful Path-Walkers
By Gerald Cowan
Jesus is the only Trail-Blazer, the one true Way. Others – patriarchs and prophets, up to and including John the baptist – only prepared the way for him, but when he came he was and remains The Way, the final and only way to God. John 14:6
Apostles are Path-Finders and Guides on the one true path, the narrow and restricted path which is, since Pentecost, the New Way in the church of the Lord Jesus. There is another kind of path- finder too: the one who searches, studies, compares, and makes personal choices and commitments to the truth he finds in the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15).
Probably from the beginning the church has been burdened with Tag-Alongs – curiosity-seekers, casual and occasional visitors, convenience-minded but never fully committed. They are the “I will go with you if you are going, but I’m not going on my own” group. There’s another group, even less likely to become effectively involved and committed to the church, the drag-alongs.
Drag-Alongs are just what the term implies. They won’t get in the path or stay in it except under duress; they must be forced into compliance. These include mostly children of Christian parents, but they only come until they can break free from parental authority. Spouses of members also fit in this group. They come only in order to have some kind of peace with the mate – most often these are husbands trying to “make nice” with a wife they don’t really want to lose or alienate. Christian parents and spouses usually hope that if they can keep the drag-alongs coming they may actually become knowledgeable and interested and grow into committed members too.
Sojourners are persons who stay in one place temporarily, moving about from place to place, with no fixed long-term residence or commitment. Sojourner is not a bad word. There is a sense in which all Christians are sojourners (1 Peter 1:17). Work and other constraints often keep people on the move in current society. Faithful Christians will attend and be involved with the church wherever they are at any time. But the other kind of sojourners can be a burden to the church. They are church-hoppers, staying only as long as their desires and likes are met, but quick to move on when they aren’t. They are sometimes like sheep, nibbling their way along, changing direction according to the greenness of the grass in one place or another.
Pilgrims – every religion has them. Some of them want to make an occasional visit to some significant place or to the “homeland.” For example, some want to visit “the Holy Land” (that is a serious misnomer, because there is no land truly holy to God now as the land of Israel once was). But there are places and relics of historical interest and meaning because of some biblical person or event. Such places are not relevant to the Biblical religion now except as historical or traditional (more often than not commercial) curiosities. But the proper meaning of Christian pilgrims is this: our true homeland is heaven, to which we have never been and cannot go until we pass through death of the body, resurrection and judgment and eventual reassignment as residents of God’s eternal heaven. That is our homeland (Phil. 3:20-21), the home of the soul to which we are going if we keep faith with God through The Way, Jesus Christ (John 14:1-6).
Path-Walkers is another self-explanatory term. If we walk with the Lord in the light of His word He keeps us clean (1 John 1:7-9). Of course, there is more to it than just continuing to “be a Christian” and attend “services” of the church. Faithfulness in personal worship, service, and stewardship (1 Cor. 4:2), growth in knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18), staying within the bounds that mark the path – all of this and more is expected of one who walks in the pathway of righteousness and duty. Path-walkers are not skin-deep Christians, not even bone-deep. Their relationship with God through Christ is spirit-deep, all the way into the soul.
By Clifton Angel
Have you ever put off doing something you know needed to be done? Yours truly is a "pro" procrastinator, and that's not something of which I am proud. It is a constant struggle, and I know I am not alone in the struggle. There was a time when God sent a prophet to His people because of their procrastination. It was during the days of one named Zerubbabel.
Zerubbabel, whose name means "from Babylon," was called by God to lead His people out "from Babylon." It was there that they had been taken captive for 70 years because of their disobedience toward God, as a nation, and as a people. Those Zerubbabel led back were the faithful remnant. Returning to Judah meant they were returning to a land of ruin that required rebuilding. As seen in the text of the Bible, the people were quick to build themselves homes to have a roof over their heads; however, they were procrastinating in rebuilding the Lord's house, the temple.
Therefore, God sent His prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel and His people. The first message God sent Zerubbabel by Haggai was a message to rouse them from their delay: “This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways ... Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD” (Haggai 1:2–5, 8).
Next, God sent to Zerubbabel by Haggai a message to rally the people into getting them to get to work: “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD...fear ye not” (Haggai 2:3–5).
Then, Haggai was sent to deliver a message to remind His people of the importance of this responsibility—their livelihood depended on their obedience in rebuilding the temple: “Consider now... from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. ... from this day will I bless you” (Haggai 2:18–19).
Finally, Haggai proclaimed God's message of reassurance concerning His power and authority over all (Haggai 2:20–23).
How are we doing in our responsibility toward God? How is our relationship with Him? Is there something we are putting off doing that we know must be done? Let us be roused from our delay. Allow God's Word to rally us into action! May we be reminded of the importance of faithfully serving Him! Let us be reassured that He is in control!
By Edd Sterchi
It’s been a long time since I have been in English class. I sure do wish I had paid better attention then – I honestly believe that it would have greatly improved my Bible reading and study today. One aspect of grammar I do not remember studying much is the adjective (I must have slept through that whole semester!). An adjective is “a word used to describe or modify a noun,” such as “white” in the phrase “a white house.”
Now that our English primer is over, let’s go to the Bible. I wonder sometimes if we pay too much attention to the nouns and too little to the adjectives when we read the Word of God. Contemplating the adjectives can bring the message of the Scriptures into full flavor.
Take for example 1 Peter 2, where we read that each Christian is a stone (v.5), house (v.5), generation (v.9), priest (v.9), nation (v.9), and person (v.9) of God. While these should hold great meaning for us, please don’t skip over the adjectives. Pay attention to what they add to the text. Christians are living stones, spiritual houses, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and His own special people.
Through the sacrifice of Christ, God is the one who can make us alive, immortal, elect, important, blameless, and exceptional. Because of this, it shouldn’t be hard to remind ourselves of another adjective in 1 Peter 2 – that of concerning His “marvelous light” (i.e. salvation), and that should give us reason to “proclaim the praises of Him.” (v.9).
Sunday, July 10, 2022
By Clifton Angel
“Christmas in July” is a thing for some, and giving needs to be a part of our daily lives, and certainly it is a part of our weekly worship on the first day of the week. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Using Acts 20:32–35 (Paul's departure meeting with the Ephesian elders), let’s look closer to obtain a guide for giving.
1. Remember your inheritance. In closing, Paul said to the eldership from Ephesus, "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:32). Peter said of this inheritance that it is "incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4). This description immediately lets us know that the inheritance Christians have awaiting them is far better than anything in this world—we must remember this if we are going to give properly.
2. Resist covetousness. Paul continued, "I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel" (Acts 20:33). Covetousness can be defined as passionately desiring something you do not have. When was the last time someone admitted their sin of covetousness? Dear reader, I claim no perfection in this area, but if we are going to be better givers, we must resist covetousness.
3. Receive of your labors. Paul said, "Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me" (Acts 20:34). Because "it is more blessed to give than to receive" does not negate our need to receive. It is logical and biblical that we must first provide for ourselves if we expect to be able to help another. There are two problems that frequently arise in this: (1) Some labor more for their lusts than their needs, and (2) Some refuse to labor and expect others to provide their needs.
4. Render to the helpless. "I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). There are people truly in need. They would work if they could. Or they may labor but still cannot provide their basic necessities. It is painful to be on the giving side of imposters making a mockery of the helpless and their helpers. Let them not hinder our giving as we labor and seek to "support the weak."
Truthfully, we've all been the imposter. That did not stop God from giving, even when it was painful. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16–17).
By Ron Adams
OBEY FROM THE HEART
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.
THINK ON THESE THINGS
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
WORK WITH HANDS
And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you.
1 Thessalonians 4:11
Quotations from NASB
By Joe Chesser
Everyone knew where Jesus was heading when he was being led through the streets of Jerusalem carrying his own cross. Everyone knew he was heading for Golgotha (the place of the Skull – John 19:17) where criminals were crucified. Carrying a cross for all to see was a part of the cruelty of a crucifixion. It not only was painfully exhausting, it was also an intentional public humiliation. People watched and pointed. People yelled things that were harsh and heartless. Carrying your cross to your crucifixion was never intended to be something done privately. It was out in the open for all to see.
Likewise, Christianity was never intended to be something kept secret. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). To “take up his cross” meant a public execution to those who heard Jesus speak these words. To be crucified with Christ was not intended to be kept within the safe confines of a church building or a friendly church environment. No, to take up your cross and follow Jesus means to openly acknowledge Jesus as your savior and as your life. Jesus also said, “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9).
To acknowledge Jesus before men means much more than our confession of faith before baptism. It certainly includes that, but to acknowledge Jesus means that our lives are lived openly for the public to see our faith. It means we are to let our lives be like a light to the world, not hidden under a bowl, but up high for all to see (Matthew 5:14-16). It doesn’t matter if they point and stare. It doesn’t matter if they do not understand or agree. It doesn’t matter if they speak ruthlessly, or even physically persecute us. It doesn’t matter because we have died to ourselves. We no longer live. Christ is now living in us (Galatians 2:20), openly for all to see. We have taken up our cross and followed Jesus!
When people became Christians in the first century, they didn’t go into hiding; they didn’t retreat into communes or monasteries. They openly took up their own cross and followed Jesus! Jack Graham has said, “While salvation is intensely personal, it is never private; it is always public!” Everyone knew where Jesus was going when he carried his cross. Do people know where you are going when you take up your cross?
By Edd Sterchi
As I was reading Heb. 4:12 the other day, I realized that the Bible was trying to tell me what it is.
For the word of God
The Bible is from God – it is holy, harmonious, and accurate.
The Bible is alive – it is active and life giving.
The Bible is effective – it can change and benefit our lives.
and sharper than any two-edged sword,
The Bible is “cutting” – it separates right from wrong.
piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow,
The Bible is penetrating – it can touch us deep in our soul.
and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Bible is evaluating – it is the standard by which we will be judged.
By Al Behel
Competition for first place has always been a problem for man. We like to win. We like for others to honor us and hold us up. We don’t like second place, let alone being last. The struggle for greatness has toppled nations and destroyed countless people.
The disciples of Jesus were no different. The Passover Feast was before them and they were arguing over who would be greatest in the Kingdom. Sitting on the right or left hand of the King, whom they believed was about to re store the kingdom to Israel, would certainly insure a position of power and hon or. Their desire for greatness blinded them to the mystery of the Savior.
Gathered in the Upper Room the soon-to-be Sacrificial Lamb arose from the table, took a towel and basin of water, and began to wash the disputing disciples’ feet. “What is he doing? Isn’t he the Master? How can he wash our feet?” Peter verbalized it, “Lord, you are NOT going to wash my feet!” “Peter,” he said, “If I don’t wash you then you will have no part or lot with me.” Still not understanding the significance of those words, Peter responded, “Then don’t stop with my feet. Wash my whole body!” (John 13:9).
When I see the Son of God on his knees before that ragged band of followers I am moved to shame. We want a throne, not a towel. We would rather be served than to serve. We don’t like getting our hands dirty...especially not with the dirt from someone else. After all, who really wants to be a servant?
Jesus made his point clear. He shows us a side of God that brings us to our knees. He is the God of the towel. Jesus said, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” (John 13:12-16). Without the towel there is no throne.
Sunday, July 3, 2022
By Joe Chesser
If you look very carefully, I’m sure you can see it. For some it will be more difficult than for others, but anyone who really tries can see it. For example, pick up a flower and look closely at the details. What do you see – petals and stems; intricate design; vivid colors? Sure, but what else do you see? Look closely at the night sky. What do you see – twinkling lights, stars, patterns? Sure, but what else do you see? And look closely into the face of a child. What do you see – innocence, purity, the future? Certainly, but what else do you see?
This world our God has created for us to enjoy is filled with marvelous things to see – gently flowing rivers, white-capped mountains, lush forests, amazing wildlife, and even in its own way, beautiful deserts. After creating what we can see around us, and even much more which we cannot possibly see, God looked at all His creation and said, “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). I’d have to agree, wouldn’t you? Who doesn’t enjoy just looking at sunsets and stars and seas?
As beautiful as these things are in their own right, however, when we learn to see as God sees, the importance of all this natural beauty begins to fade into the background. In the flower you can see more than natural beauty, you can see a God who cares about beauty and delicacy. In the night sky you can see more than innumerable stars, you can see a God who has no limit to His vision and power and control. In a child you can see more than God’s greatest creation, you can see the very likeness of God Himself. In these common, everyday things that most people just take for granted, we can minds can be opened to see “his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20).
The same principle is applicable to spiritual things. When some look at faith, what they see is a “step” in God’s plan of salvation, or one result of reading the Bible (Mark 16:16, Romans 10:17). When some think of baptism, they may only see another “step” in becoming a Christian (Acts 2:38-41). Or some may only see prayer as an “item” of worship or as a means of getting help (Acts 2:42, Matthew 6:11). While all of these are true and beautiful within themselves, when a Christian grows to the point of understanding these things more from the perspective of God, they become much more valuable. No longer are they just a means to an end or a command to be obeyed; now, they are depictions of a lifestyle patterned after God. Faith describes how Christians are to live day by day (2 Cor. 5:7), a life focused on God and dependent on Him for guidance (and not ourselves). Baptism is not only the means of contacting the blood of Jesus for salvation (Rom. 6:3-4), it is also a reminder of a new birth that is committed to a lifetime of dying to self and depending on the blood of Jesus every day (John 3:5, Luke 9:23, 1 John 1:7). And prayer is not just something Christians should do once in a while, but is actually a lifetime of continuous communication with God (1 Thess. 5:17). Seeing as God sees opens our minds to so much more than we can possibly imagine (Ephesians 3.20-21).
By Ron Thomas
By Ron Thomas
How does one keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? When people willingly join themselves together, they do so with good intentions. Each one comes from a place that is not shared by the others in that group. We all have our experiences, perspectives, and we launch into the future with that. Sometimes, we forget that not everyone thinks like I do. When we forget this, we attribute to others “they understand” my intentions (my motives) when, in fact, they may not. A great failing of humanity is this: attributing to another my way of thinking.
In answering the question, the only right answer is under the banner of the Lord’s leadership. We have political perspectives that align, but they do not always align perfectly. We have philosophies of life that align, but they do not always align perfectly. When we address another who is totally different from me, then what? Can we still be unified? Yes, but only under the banner of the Lord’s authority. The Lord molds us into a thinking people that aligns with Him, and not our heritage or perspective.
In this approach to keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace we gain the Lord, and the Lord gains all those who love and obey Him. With love, devotion, and conviction, we live as Paul exhorted us to live, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me...” (cf. Gal. 2:20). With this new approach to life, we operate from the source of love, as revealed in that which God did for us; we seek to show this love to others, regardless of their point of reference and circumstances (cf. Matthew 7:12; 22:34-40). We are kind, gentle, teach the truth, forbearing to those we believe have done us wrong, allow not yesterday to get in front of today. In short, we live as Christ.
How much effort are you putting in to keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace?