Sunday, October 30, 2022

Think Unity

By Bill Brandstatter

     A former President’s wife once told a group of graduates to “think unity.” I don’t know the whole context of her speech, but I do agree with those two words. We should “think unity” regarding Christianity.
    Jesus said, “Think unity.” He prayed that “they may all be one.” This is definitely not the status of the world of professed believers today. There are so many differing views it is hard for a person to decide which group to follow. The unity for which Jesus was praying was centered on Him and His message. He said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Some groups today have swallowed the idea of “unity in diversity” or “agree to disagree.” Jesus didn’t know anything about that. He wanted all to be one.
    Paul wanted us to “think unity.” Paul is the writer of the great chapter that presents the seven ones of Christianity. In Ephesians 4, Paul wrote about, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all, through all, and in you all.” When Paul preached, his message was the same everywhere he went. He told the church at Corinth, “so I ordained in every church.” (1 Cor. 4:17) Today, there are conflicting views regarding: salvation, the church, the kingdom, the second coming, etc. Paul just preached unity. He stated in 1 Cor. 1:10; “that there be no division among you.” Today, many would say there needs to be a lot of division. The world tells us to attend the church of our choice.
    Peter wants us to “think unity.” Peter was there when Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to the apostles (John 16:13). Jesus promised the Comforter would guide them into “all truth.” Later, Peter wrote that we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (2 Pet. 1:3) If we have all we need, nothing more is needed.
    Unity is not just agreeing to disagree. Neither is it just tolerating the mistakes of others. Unity has a centerpiece or a standard by which two or more are in agreement. That standard is Christ. We must be united around His message. It is His words that will judge us (Jn. 12:48). He is the only one that can save us (Acts 4:12). If we do what He says, we will get what He promised (Heb 5:8,9).
Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

The Risk Of Riches

By Joe Slater

    Contrary to popular belief, money is not the root of all evil. The “love” of it is “a” root of “all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Think about this: You don’t have to be rich to love money; and those who are rich don’t necessarily love money.
    Three questions help to determine whether wealth endangers your soul: 1) How did you get it? 2) How do you use it? 3) What is your attitude toward it?
    Wealth may be earned, inherited, or freely given to you. It may also be obtained through theft, fraud, or other dishonorable means. Both Old and New Testaments condemn those dishonest practices while commending work, inheritances, and giving.
    Wealth may be used for good or evil. One reason for working is to “have something to give to him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). The rich fool in Jesus’ parable (Luke 12) used his wealth only selfishly. Paul praised the brethren who gave cheerfully and generously to help the poor and support the preaching of the gospel.
    How you obtain wealth and how you use it may be affected by your attitude toward it. As seen earlier, it’s not money itself but the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil. Greed (covetousness) motivates people to acquire it dishonestly and use it selfishly. Material wealth becomes a virtual god. The righteous patriarch Job said, “If I have made gold my hope, or said to fine gold, ‘You are my confidence’; if I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because my hand had gathered much . . . this also would be an iniquity deserving of judgment, for I would have denied God who is above” (Job 31:24-28).
    Riches carry risk. You can successfully manage that risk by obtaining wealth legitimately, putting it to godly use, and viewing it as the temporary tool that it is. 
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Trust God With a Stone in Your Hand

By Edd Sterchi

    I hope that title got your attention. Let me explain what I mean by it. David was a man who trusted God. He wrote in Psalm 62:7-8, “In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times...” God was his rock, and he had a rock-solid trust in Him. This is the way David lived his life – even from his youth. Let’s look at one such example from David’s younger days. 
    In 1 Samuel 17, Israel was at war with the vicious and war-hardened Philistines. They were at a standoff in the Valley of Elah with Israel on the mountains on one side and the Philistines on the mountains on the other. The Philistines made a proposal. They would send their best warrior, a giant named Goliath, and he would battle any Israelite. The winner would seal victory for his army. Day after day, he came out waiting for a challenger. Day after day, the Israelites cowered in fear. This went on for 40 days. 
    Then young David entered into the picture. He was too young to be in the army, but his three oldest brothers were. Occasionally he would bring food to his brothers, and this was one time when he was doing just that. When he witnessed Goliath’s challenge and the Israelites’ fearful response, he volunteered to battle the giant. He knew that God wanted victory for His people, and he knew that God would provide a way. His words in v.37 confirm this: “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 
    With the permission of king Saul and with a complete trust in God, he went forth to the battle. But first he put a stone in his hand. In fact, he picked up five stones (v.40, likely this was because Goliath had four brothers and he thought he might have to fight them also). When the confrontation ensued, David said to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand” (v.45-46). In essence, David said, “You have formidable weapons indeed, but my weapon is God!” David then took one of the stones in his hand, placed it in a sling and felled the giant with one blow (v.49). 
    Now, here’s my point. David fully trusted in God, but he still put a stone in his hand and did his part. That is what true trust is – relying upon God, but still doing what you are supposed to do. As the old saying states, “Do your best and trust God for the rest.” Do you trust God with a stone in your hand? 
- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Under Construction

By Clifton Angel

    We are accustomed to driving through construction zones. We know that we are to slow down in these areas. We know that we are to be more cautious in these areas. With this illustration in mind, what if we approached every human being (especially our brothers and sisters in Christ) with the understanding and assumption that they are "under construction."
    There's a spiritual song I had not heard until we obtained a particular CD for our children to listen to in the car. The chorus to the song goes as follows: "He's still working on me, To make me what I need to be; It took him just a week to make the moon and stars, The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars; How loving and patient He must be, 'Cause He's still workin' on me." In the midst of the repeated chorus can be found two stanzas which contain the following: "There really ought to be a sign upon my heart, Don't judge him yet, there's an unfinished part; But I'll be better just according to His plan, Fashioned by the Master's loving hands;" and "In the mirror of His word, Reflections that I see, Makes me wonder why He never gave up on me; But He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray; Remember He's the potter, I'm the clay."
    Isaiah proclaimed on behalf of Israel, "But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand" (Isaiah 64:8.). True Christians are under continual construction by the Word of God. Consider Paul's words, which principles apply to Christians even today:
"Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:9–21).
    Are we allowing God's Word to mold us? Are we allowing His Hands to work through His providence and our practice? Every human being is "under construction;" however, not every person is allowing God to be His crew leader, supervisor, or foreman.
- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

Skilled at...Lack of Substance

By Adam Faughn

    We have competitions and championships for almost everything. Read enough news, and you will come across some very weird competitions at times. Just recently, one of the strangest I have ever heard of returned after a two-year covid absence, and it is a world's championship.
    People had flown to Finland to take part in the world championships of Air Guitar. Seriously. There was a competition of people from around the world to see not who could play a guitar the best (or play a certain style of guitar the best), but who could strum...nothing (and do that better than anyone else).
    To be fair, when you read the press releases, the competitors want to win, but they also do not take themselves too seriously. They know this is fun, and they treat it as such. Still, to think that there is actually a champion of, well, basically doing nothing is a bit weird.
    However, those who are in this championship are not doing nothing; they are simply pretending to do something. They are not actually playing the guitar (it is possible, if not probable, that some do not even know how to play a guitar); rather, they are pretending to do so, but they are putting on a great show while pretending.
    It is that concept that made me do some thinking 
when I came across information about that competition. I may or may not have done air guitar in my day, but that is just a fun thing, and we can laugh it off. When it comes to far more serious things, though, many people are basically striving to "air guitar" their way through, and it is not funny in the least.
    Is it not possible for even our Christian lives to basically be like that competition? Sadly, many people put on a show of Christianity, but there is no real substance to it. 
They do not put in the hard work of studying the Bible to deepen their faith. They do 
not apply Scripture to every aspect of their lives. They may say some of the right things or have the "look" of a Christian on Sundays, but there is no real depth to what they are doing for the Lord.
    Scripture simply does not give us the option of half-doing our faith. We are not given the choice--if we want to be faithful--of being partially "in" when it comes to following God. We either love God with our all, or we do not. We are either a living sacrifice, or we are not.
    Further, we are not given the option of stagnating in our faith. The Bible simply will not let us stay immature in our faith and not seek to grow. We are either growing in grace and knowledge, or we are not. We are either taking every thought captive for Christ, or we are not. We are either shining our light before others, or we are not.
    We may fool others by putting on a show of Christianity. It is possible that we may even fool ourselves by telling ourselves that we are better than someone else or by holding to some standard that we have decided on, instead of the fullness of Scripture.
    But we will not fool the Lord. He not only sees what we do, He sees our intentions and desires. He knows if we are fully on board with being faithful and seeking to grow in our faith. He knows why we are doing what we are doing. And He knows if we are just putting on a show before others with no real substance behind it.
    Let us always make certain that we are striving to be humble when we sin and also that we are striving to be faithful to all that God would have us to be. Let us deepen our faith and be people of substance...not "air guitar" Christians.
"You are My friends if you do what I command you." (John 15:14) 
- 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.

Monday, October 24, 2022


By Ron Bartanen

    “Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them: for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again” (Luke 8:37).
    Jesus Christ will not impose Himself upon anyone. He won’t stay where he’s unwanted.  The Gadarenes were so upset with Jesus when He cast a legion of demons from a man and sent them into nearby hogs. To them, the hogs were of more value than the man, so they “besought him to depart from them.”  In our world today there is an increasing animosity towards Jesus as He seemingly intrudes into men’s comfort-zones.  Even the mention of His name in prayer is not considered appropriate in schools, the military, etc.  His word is considered out-of-date and irrelevant. 
    Some would purposely exclude Him from their lives.  These would tell us there should be no positive mention of Him in school or public activities.  He is even being written out of school history books.
    Some would exclude Him in their choice of life-style.  Evil so fills their hearts and lives, it is impossible for Christ to take up residence in them.  He is excluded from their lives.
    Some would crowd Him out—not purposely, but simply by filling their lives with material things.  Such find no time for Christ, Bible reading or church.  Other things clamor for their attention.
    What about you? Would you be among those to send Him away? Or would you welcome Him into your life? 
- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. After the passing of his beloved wife, Doris, Ron has relocated from Illinois to Florida where he is near family. He may be contacted at:

What is Blasphemy Against the Spirit?

By Gerald Cowan       


Texts: Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-30, Luke 12:8-10


    Because the text seems to equate “blasphemy” with “speak against the Holy Spirit” some fear they have committed “the unpardonable sin.” Of course, if they can never be pardoned for it there is no need to become a Christian or try to live a righteous and godly life. Actually, the sin against the Holy Spirit is more than just words – irreverent, ignorant, or deliberate words. In context, the particular error of those to whom Jesus spoke here was attributing to Satan that which was accomplished by the Spirit of God. That same error, in reverse, can be made by attributing to the Spirit of God what is actually done by Satan (2 Thess. 2:9-12) – as in thanking God for some supposed spiritual gift, such as speaking in tongues, or for sanctioning a corrupt and unholy lifestyle (such as homosexual activity. but you can put any one of several current examples there). Attributing to God or His Spirit anything which is not actually from Him is blasphemy, and the same penalty applies.  It is essential that we understand this and several other factors that are related to the problem. Some honestly fear they have committed “the unpardonable sin” but have probably not done so. No matter what they have said or done, it is probably still forgivable if forgiveness is sought according to God’s instructions and requirements, including true repentance. 

    There are six factors to be considered in assessing the blasphemy against God’s Holy Spirit which Jesus said will never be forgiven.

    1.   It is a sin against knowledge.  It often takes the form of deliberate rejection of available knowledge (Hos. 4:6, 2 Peter 3:5a and 16-17). Notice, the blasphemy which is from ignorance can be forgiven (1 Tim. 1:12-13).

    2.    It is a sin of attitude, a matter of the heart and disposition, often seen as prejudice or hostility and hardness of heart. Note the context: the mouth speaks what is in the heart or mind, whether it is good or bad (Mt. 12:34, compare also Heb. 3:4-7 “harden not your heart”). The attitude is wrong and blasphemous, whether or not any words are spoken (Mt. 12:25).

    3.    It is a sin of the will, resisting and rejecting the Holy Spirit and His teaching or leading (Acts 7:51-52, Rom. 8:1ff).

    4.    It is a sin of action. It is willful disobedience, whether or not anything is said, any words spoken (Eph. 2:1-2, compare Rom. 8:14-17).

    5.    It is a continuing sin – unrepented and uncorrected (Heb. 6:1-8).

    6.    It is a sin of speech when it is knowingly and deliberately done, when it comes from an evil heart, a heart of disbelief – which is not the same as ignorance, unless it is willful ignorance.

    Why is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit said to be unforgivable, when similar sins or blasphemies against man and the Son of man (Christ) are said to be forgivable? Doesn’t a sin against God or Christ amount to a sin against the Holy Spirit? Of course, it does, in a way of speaking. But Jesus makes it very clear that there is a distinction, and we must be careful to notice and maintain the distinction (Mt. 12:31, Mark.3 :28-29, and Luke 12:10).

    Men against whom one might blaspheme would include prophets sent by God and apostles sent by Christ. This would also be a rejection of God. “The Son of man” (Jesus the Christ) was sent by God, and a sin against him would also be a sin or blasphemy against God and the Holy Spirit, as seen in a special dispensation (following the sending of Christ who himself followed the prophets). This dispensation of the Spirit is the final effort and offer of God for man’s salvation. There is no other offer to be made, no future addition or alternative to what has now been given through the Holy Spirit. To refuse the Spirit – and in doing so to refuse the prophets, the Christ, and the God who sent them all – would be to cut oneself off from all hope and help from God, and to be unforgivable. To accept and have the Holy Spirit is to have Christ and God the Father as well, and so to be built upon the foundation laid by the prophets and apostles (Eph. 2:20-22).  To fail to have the Spirit is to have neither Christ nor God the Father (Rom. 8:8-11; read also in John 13:20, 14:16-17, and 15:7-16:3).

    Every sin is in some way a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (in attitude, will, speech, or action). If it is repented and corrected it can be forgiven. Any sin and every sin which is unrepented – uncorrected and persisted in – is unforgivable. There will be no further offer of grace, and no other remedy – not in the present world of time and space, or under any covenant made by God. One’s own lifetime is the only opportunity one has for salvation – there will be no chance to remedy one’s situation or obey the gospel after one’s death. There will be no forgiveness in the spirit world of eternity to which all are going. Unrepented and unforgiven sins have eternal consequences (Mt. 12:30, Mark 3:29b).

- 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

Loshon hora

By Al Behel

    “Loshon hora” is a Hebrew phrase for negative or cruel speech. The Bible forbids hurtful and negative talk. There are some people who were born in the “objective” case and “kickative” mood. Whenever ideas are presented they find something wrong with them. They speak harsh and critical words to others. 
    What makes people negative and hurtful? Why do some people always seem to look for the worst in everything? Why do children (and some adults) whine when they don’t get their way or are not given special attention? Why do they explode into tears or angry outbursts? Why do some use intimidation and threats?
    It has been said that rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength. Those who use put-downs and hurtful words show their own weakness and insecurities. Furthermore, they fail to reflect the spirit of Christ. They lack love and respect for others. 
    Cruel speech might include damaging remarks about another person. When we say demeaning things about that person we injure him in the minds of those who hear. Gossip and slanderous remarks violates the law of love. Scripture tells us. “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:9-10). Love is the antidote to gossip and all sins of speech.
Lord, guard our tongues so what we say
Won't hurt and carelessly offend;
Give us the gracious speech of love,
With words that soothe and heal and mend. —Sper
    Before saying something to or about another, ask yourself three questions: Is it true?, is it necessary?, and, is it kind? If the answer to all three questions is “yes”, then freely speak what is on your heart. If your words build and encourage, they are like sweet music to the heart. But, if they are loshon hora, they will sting and hurt and destroy.
- Al Behel served the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN, for many years prior to this death in April 2022. The congregation may be contacted through their website -

The Sinner’s Prayer?

By Clifton Angel

    A common unbiblical teaching is the idea of praying to become a Christian. In the denominational world, it might be called "The Sinner’s Prayer," or “Asking Jesus into your Heart,” et. al. While it is unbiblical, many use faulty reasoning to disprove it.
    Some say the sinner’s prayer is unbiblical because you cannot find the words “the sinner’s prayer” in the Bible. While the claim is true, the reasoning is flawed. There are many Biblical principles or terms that simply cannot be found explicitly in the Bible. For example, you cannot even find the English word “Bible” in the Bible. Furthermore, you cannot find the explicit words “opening prayer” or “closing prayer,” but that does not make those terms unbiblical. Rather, they are acceptable manmade terms used to put a handle on concepts we seek to communicate.
    Some say the sinner’s prayer is unbiblical because you cannot find the explicit words contained in the sinner’s prayer in the Bible. This is not the best argument, either. For example, we pray prayers all the time that are not explicitly found in the Scriptures; however, if they be in accordance with the principles we find in Scripture, they are biblical prayers.
    Rather, the sinner’s prayer is unbiblical because nowhere has God commanded it, nor authorized it. Explicit examples of individuals converting to Christ are some of the best ways to learn how a person can become a Christian today.
    Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus, who was traveling to Damascus inflict more harm on Christ's church. Informed of his error, Saul was sent to Damascus to wait for further instructions. Once there, he prayed and fasted for three days. Truly, Saul believed in Jesus at this point. I believe his fasting and praying are also fruits of his godly sorrow and repentance (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10). However, his fasting and praying could not be the means whereby he was saved. Saul’s own account records that Ananias came to him and said, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Saul was not saved before his sins were washed away. Many say “calling on the name of the Lord” refers to prayer. Saul and Ananias said “calling on the name of the Lord” refers to obeying God’s authority.
    Cornelius of Caesarea was a devout Gentile man who prayed to God and God heard his prayers (Acts 10:1–6); however, his prayers did not make him a Christian. In Peter's later recounting of the event, he noted, “And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:13–14). If Cornelius' prayer alone could make him a Christian, why did he need to meet with Peter and be told how to be saved? Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household, and his conclusion was this: “He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:48).
- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

An Introduction to Philemon

By Jeff Arnette


    Paul’s letter to Philemon has often been overlooked. Some people even wonder why it is even included in the Bible. Truthfully, it’s a short letter comprised of only 25 verses but it’s a letter filled with heart and message of Jesus. From beginning to end, it’s concerned with showing love, second chances, and mercy to those who need it most.

    Apparently, Onesimus had run away from his Philemon, ended up in prison for it, and probably stolen things from him (Philemon 18). Yet, God in his wonderful providence and grace, had brought him to the precipice of a new and better life. While in prison he met a man named Paul who preached Jesus to him and then spent time mentoring and teaching the runaway. As it turns out, Paul knew Philemon and strongly felt that reconciliation was in order.

    Throughout this short letter four themes stand out for us to learn.

    First, is the message of reconciliation. As I mentioned earlier, reconciliation is a main part of the gospel message. By faith and obedience Onesimus has been reconciled to God and now another reconciliation had to take place. To live his new faith in Jesus, it was necessary for him to return to Philemon.

    Second, true Christian love stands out for us. Instead of demanding he accept Onesimus back or even release him to work with Paul, he appeals to Philemon reminding him of his love for Jesus and Paul. Then he recommends that he extend that same level of love to his new brother.

    Third, the importance of repentance is seen clearly. Repentance plays an important role in Philemon. True repentance always rights wrongs, seeks to correct the sins of the past, and to generally improve our lives by living by Jesus’ standards. Onesimus had wronged Philemon and as much as Paul valued and wanted to keep him close, he knew that this was necessary for true repentance.

    Fourth, we see the power of the gospel to change eternities and lives. Before his obedience to the gospel, Onesimus was useless but now in Christ he is useful. Before he was a runaway slave but now, he is a beloved brother. Like Onesimus this was all of us at some point. Desperately needing acceptance and change and the gospel gives that to us. This is a truth that we must accept for ourselves and for others. Change is possible.

    Let me encourage you to read this letter again and as you do, take note of the way the fruit of the Spirit stands out so beautifully.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2022

An Introduction to Hebrews

By Jeff Arnette

    Most people have favorites when it comes to the Bible. For me personally, Hebrew’s has always been near the top. Perhaps it is because the book helped me conceptualize the end of the old Covenant and the start of the New.
    A key word or idea that stands out through the book is the word “better”. The author is presenting the case that Christianity is better than Judaism. These believers are facing hardships some of which have to do with turning away from the faith of their families and community. As such they are outcasts, the outcasts who have turned to a new way of life. A part of me can totally relate to this and that is another reason the book resonates so deeply for me.
    One thing to note is the book is anonymous meaning it does not tell us who wrote the letter. A lot of potential people are proposed but for me, personally, it feels and sounds very Pauline.
    The early church was also convinced it was Paul. Several testimonies as early as 180 AD attribute it to Paul, with Luke writing it in Greek. While that is not absolute it does help us decide authorship. The most convincing for me is the argument’s used in Hebrew’s is typical of Paul. Take for example, Heb. 1:2 and compare that to Colossians 1:16. It is the same basic point. I could give you more but let me challenge you to read it and get a feel for the book yourself.
    Hebrew’s is also a riddle when it comes to deciding the form or genre of the letter. It ends (Heb. 13:22-25) like a letter, but it does not have the typical Introduction and greetings of a letter.
    Another part of this riddle is that the letter feels like a sermon especially considering some of the quotes he uses. At Hebrew’s 2:6 he even says, “it has been testified somewhere…” which sounds just like a preacher who cannot remember exactly where the quote came from. In fact, in Hebrew’s 11:32 he uses two phases that sound even more compelling, “what more can I say?” and “time would fail me.”
    In every page of the letter, Pauls’ point is clearly, Jesus is better. He is our prophet, better than the angels, better than Moses, and his covenant is better.
    Do not give up your faith and do not let go of Jesus. He is always worth it! 

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

Spiritual Surgery

By Edd Sterchi

    Countless people undergo cosmetic surgery every year. Mostly it is designed to make them look better. But rather than focus on outward appearance, the true Christian should be concerned about the inward person (cf. 1 Pet. 3:3-4). That having been said, there is some spiritual cosmetic surgery that some Christians need to undergo:
    Some Christians need a face lift. They go around with a constant gloom and doom look. They look like it is painful to be a Christian. What they need is to remember and express the joy that we have in Christ (Phil. 4:4).
    Some Christians need a nose job. They have bent it out of shape from unnecessarily sticking it in other people’s business. Their noses can be made straight again by working hard and improving their own lives first (1 Thess. 4:11-12).
    Some Christians need an overbite corrected. Their jaws has become out of line through gossip, filthy language, lying, and/or harmful words. The cure is easily obtained by having better habits (Col. 3:8-10).
    Some Christians need wrinkles removed. They worry over every little thing, are anxious about everything. For smooth, supple spiritual skin, they need to seek the salve of the Great Physician. Trusting in Him will reduce those worry wrinkles (Matt. 6:31-34).
    Some Christians need a jowl reduction. They have the excess fat of unrepented sin in their lives. This can be corrected, but it will take radical treatment -- the removal of it from their lives (Heb. 12:1-2).
    Take a good look in the mirror of God’s Word (Jas. 1:21-27). Are there any of these areas that need attention in your life? By the way, a proper heart transplant and blood transfusion will cure any or all of these (Heb. 10:19-22). 

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

Love Doesn’t Rejoice In Unrighteousness

By Joe Slater

    Why would Paul write those words in 1 Corinthians 13:6? Rejoicing in unrighteousness -- what a horrible thought! Does anyone actually do that? I wish I could answer, “No, of course not!” But that wouldn’t be true.
    The Sanhedrin rejoiced when Judas agreed to betray Jesus (Mark 14:11). What could be more unrighteous?
    Jesus told His disciples that when He was killed, they would weep and lament, but the world would rejoice (John 16:20). Is anything more unrighteous than murdering God’s Son?
    Paul warned the Philippians about enemies of the cross “whose god is their belly and whose glory (same word as rejoicing) is in their shame” (Philippians 3:19). Yes, they were rejoicing in unrighteousness!
    Current American culture calls us all sorts of names if we refuse to rejoice in unrighteousness. Rather than being ashamed for murdering innocent, helpless babies, the pro-abortionists say, “Shout Your Abortion!” That is, be proud of it. When we speak the truth about abortion, we are vilified as “the Christian Taliban”!
    Secular progressives insist we must congratulate and commend those in same sex “marriages” (so called). If you dare to affirm Biblical marriage, you are written off as unloving and intolerant.
    The same crowd demands not just tolerance but approval of the “transgenderism” myth. When you decline to refer to William as “Wilma,” you are maligned as a mean-spirited extremist and a bigot.
    God is love (1 John 4:8), and God is righteous (Daniel 9:14). Since God is righteous, He cannot rejoice in unrighteousness, but that does not make Him unloving! Neither is it unloving when His people decline to rejoice in unrighteousness.

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

Whom Do You Trust?

By Bill Brandstatter

    There are times in our lives when we must trust other people. As a small child, I trusted my parents to provide for my needs. When I started working, I trusted my employer to give me a paycheck. When I have medical needs, I trust a health care professional. Sometimes, I may question a decision that is made. I might decide not to take a recommended procedure. I might decide to refuse treatment; but,
ultimately, I have to put my trust in someone else.
    What about our spirituality? I must trust what God says. I might not like what He says. l may decide not to do what He says; but, ultimately, we will all stand before Him (2 Cor. 5:10). We will be judged by what we knew and what we obeyed (John 12:48). Many people trust themselves for spirituality. They make up their own rules and ideas about what it means to be spiritual. Often those ideas are far from God’s. The apostle Paul described some who “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21). He also mentioned that they did not like to retain God in their knowledge (Rom. 1:28).
    I must trust God for any information about heaven. God is the source of all information about Himself, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Christianity, Heaven, and Hell. God says not everyone is going to heaven (Matt. 7:21-24). God says just professing Him won’t get a person to heaven (Matt. 7:21). God indicates that just prayer won’t save (John 9:21; Isa. 59:1,2). God tells us that baptism is a must to be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21). God tells us that baptism is a burial (Rom. 6:3). In whom do you place your trust regarding these matters? 

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

Once Saved, Always Saved?

By Clifton Angel

    False. This false teaching can be traced at least back to Augustine, who lived from 354–430. It likely precedes Augustine as well, as it appears the Gnostics of the apostle John's day may have held to similar concepts (cf. 1 John 1:5–2:5). John Calvin adopted the same as Augustine and "once saved, always saved" was perhaps most popularized by John Calvin's teachings being handed down through denominations over the last several hundred years. Unfortunately, the teachings of the Gnostics, Augustine, and John Calvin stand in direct contrast with the Scriptures. Robert R. Taylor, Jr. indicates there are over 2,500 places in Scripture where the possibility of losing our salvation (apostasy) is taught.
    In an article contending for "once saved, always saved," Johnathan Newman ( says: "the Bible is very clear on this." He then proceeds to quote Augustine over and over. The only time he quotes the Bible is in the closing line of his article. Interestingly, the Scripture he cites actually contradicts his teaching of "once saved, always saved.”
    It reads: ”My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one." (John 10:28–30). There are at least 2 conditions Jesus places upon those who are followers of Him: (1) They hear His voice, and (2) They follow Him. No one ELSE can pluck you out of the hand of Jesus.
    No other person can make the decision for you to be saved or lost; you have to make that decision.
    Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia who wanted to go back to following the law of Moses: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). The Hebrews writer, also writing to Christians, urged his readers: "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Hebrews 4:11). The Scriptures teach that it is possible for a Christian to lose his salvation, to fall from grace, and to become unbelieving, although he once believed.
    At 2 Peter 1, we find Peter teaching what we call the "Christian graces:” Faith, Virtue, Knowledge, Temperance, Patience, Godliness, Brotherly kindness, Love. And he goes on to say, "Wherefore ... brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). Finally, notice the verse before this one: "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." 

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

Monday, October 10, 2022

A God Who Is Near

By Joe Chesser
    You just have to feel sorry for the people whose god is made of wood and stone.  Perhaps even more sympathy can be felt for the people whose god is themselves (selfishness) or money (their possessions).  Think about it.  What kind of real-life help can you get if your god is chiseled out of a rock or can disappear in the stock market?  What kind of relationship can you have with a piece of gold or a certificate of deposit?  Sure, they are nice to have, but they make a mighty poor god.
    In contrast, for the Christian, God is a God who is always nearby.  He wants to be close to us, and he wants us to be close to him (James 4:8).  Sometimes called the doctrine of the sanctuary, the theology of the nearness of God is at the heart of the biblical story. 
    The tragedy of sin is that it separates us from the presence and nearness of God.  Of all the consequences of Eve’s introducing sin into the world (loss of the garden paradise, weeds and thistles, pain in childbirth, etc.), the greatest result of sin was separation from the nearness of God.  Aware of their sin, Adam and Eve tried at first to hide themselves from God, and then God made the physical separation permanent.  The greatest tragedy of life is to live a life separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), and the greatest punishment of hell is to exist for eternity shut out from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9).  Apart from God there is darkness and hopelessness.  There can be nothing worse.
    That’s why the incarnation gives us such hope – light had returned to the world (John 1:4)!  God had demonstrated in as visible a way as possible his desire for us to be restored to his presence.  That’s why Jesus was also called Immanuel.  That’s why Jesus taught us, in words and actions, how to live like God.  That’s why he was willing to give his life on the cross, that through his blood our sins could be washed away and that we would once again be fit for his Spirit to live with us (Acts 2:38).  That’s why Jesus has returned to heaven, to prepare rooms in the Father’s house for us, and then sometime in the future, he will return for us to “take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).  In the meantime, he has left us his Spirit to live in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19).
    Hallelujah!  We have a God who wants us to draw in close to him (Ephesians 2:13).  “But as for me, it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:28).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at

Focus On What It Says

By Adam Faughn

    There is a principle of Bible study that is foundational. That principle is to make certain we seek to first grasp what a text said to the original readers before we seek to make application to our lives today.
    There is another principle, though, that is just as elementary, but, as with the first, we easily forget it. That is this: we need to grasp what a text actually says before we try to make applications from what it does not say.
    For an example of this, consider 1 Timothy 6:6-10. In that passage, Paul wrote,
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
So many times, when we get to the opening line of verse 10, we read it, but then we nearly immediately begin to say what it does not teach. (Trust me, I've done this more times than I care to think about.)
    What do I mean? Someone in a Bible class will read the phrase, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil," and will immediately be met with the comment, "Now, it does not say money is evil." That is true; the text does not say that.
    However, if we are not careful, we can exhaust our thinking with that one observation and fail to make the effort to truly take into our hearts what the actually does say. No, money is not inherently evil. However, Paul made a straightforward declaration that we do not need to lose sight of: loving money gives root to many types of sins. Period. Full stop.
    In fact, to make certain we get the point, the remainder of verse 10 is meant to emphasize the same concept. "This craving"--that is, the love of money--has caused some to wander "away from the faith" and some to be "pierced...with many pangs (i.e., consuming griefs)."
    Additionally, lest we think that falling into this temptation is something that is extremely difficult to do, consider that Paul uses a form of "love" in this verse that is not a form of the word "agape." Rather, it is from the root term "phileo," which is a friendship love. In other words, this does not have to be some deep love (agape) to cause me to be sorrowful for how I feel about money. If I simply begin to love money like a friend (phileo) and rely on it like a friend--which is very easy to do--I am giving many forms of evil the type of soil they needs to find root.
    Money is a necessary part of life. Some form of exchange--whether it is currency or bartering--is a good thing because it allows human interaction, it motivates a good work ethic, and it gives us a way to bless God by blessing others. However, when I begin to see that good thing as a friend instead of as a tool to be used for God's glory, I am in serious trouble.
    Now, return to our initial observation. If I spend my thinking only considering that "money is not evil," I can too easy fall into the temptation to begin to find a type of "friend" in money, and, when that happens, I am going down the dangerous road that this verse is clearly stating is the case. And all because I did not simply take what the text says at face value.
    Let us always be very careful when we read and study Scripture, not forgetting elementary principles like these in our consideration of God's Word. Then, once we have carefully considered (1) what the text actually says and (2) what it meant to the original readers, we are prepared to make proper application to our lives, including from what a text does not state. 
- 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 Lord Judges the Mind and the Heart

By Kevin Rutherford


    During the time of Noah the population of the earth reached a degree of wickedness from which they would not return. This level of evil resulted in a world full of violence. The Bible records, “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuously (Genesis 6:5.)” Clearly God must have been able to see directly into the hearts and minds of the people to know that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was evil.

    When Samuel went to anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be the replacement for King Saul, Samuel focused on the outward appearance, but God was looking into the hearts. The Bible says, “So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him!’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:6-7).’”

    As King David was giving instructions to his son and successor he said, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intents of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever (1 Chronicles 28:9).”

    David wrote in the Psalms, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).” David also wrote, “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me. Try mind and my heart (Psalm 26:2).” Both of these passages show us God can see into the hearts of people.

    The book of Proverbs contains many warnings that prove God is able to look into the hearts of men and women and judge their hearts. We are told, “Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord and “everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 11:20; 16:5).” Proverbs 20:7 specifically tells us God can search all the inner depths of the heart of man.

    Jeremiah said, the LORD judges the mind and the hear righteously (Jeremiah 11:20). He also wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings (Jeremiah 17:9-10).” Jeremiah also told Israel God is able to “see the mind and the heart (Jeremiah 20:12).” We cannot hide anything from God. He can see directly into our heart and He will judge by what he sees in our hearts.

    John wrote about the importance of love our brothers and sisters with a love that is seen in our actions toward one another (1 John 3:16-22). When we have this kind of love for one another we know we are of the truth and we know our hearts are assure before God. That is, God will know what is in our hearts and can tell whether brotherly love exists within our hearts. If not, then our hearts condemn us. God sees into the heart and mind of every one lost in the world, but He also sees into the heart and mind of every Christian.

    How should we apply this knowledge of the fact that God can see directly into or hearts? We should work to purify our hearts, Only those who are pure in heart will see God and be with Him in eternity (Psalm 24:3-4; Matthew 5:8; 1 John 3:1-3). Paul told Timothy “The end of the commandment is love from a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5).” We purify our hearts so that we can love and serve God with the full dedication of heart and mind (Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:13; 1 Samuel 12:24; Mark 12:30). God knows if our hearts and minds are pure. God knows if our hearts and minds are focused on loving and serving Him. God judges our hearts and minds.

- Kevin V. Rutherford, formerly of Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC (Currently an instructor at Memphis School of Preaching in Memphis, TN). The congregation may be contacted through their website:

What Christians Owe and What Each One Must Pay (Titus 3:3-8 )

By Gerald Cowan
     We tend to be a bit myopic – short sighted – about personal responsibility. We often have telescopic and microscopic vision about the errors, omissions, and debts of others, but we have narrow blurred vision about how we can and should meet the needs of others, what we owe others.
    We can usually acknowledge what we owe to Christ. We often sing, “He paid a debt he did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay.” Of course it is a reference to our personal salvation. It’s a good song and it’s a valid concept. Not a one of us Christians could have saved ourselves by personal righteousness, good works, or anything else (Titus 3:3-5). There is not a person in the world who is righteous and never sins in anything (Rom. 3:10, 23). Our sins deserved death – a debt we could not pay and survive (Rom. 6:23). It required the death of Christ to save any one soul and all souls. We can certainly say, as Paul did, “He loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Would you feel a debt of gratitude for one who saved your life? Then why wouldn’t you feel a debt to one who saved your eternal soul? We do indeed owe Christ, and it too is a debt that will never be paid off. It is to be a living sacrifice, as long as we live (Rom. 12:1-2).
    It may not be so easy to acknowledge what we owe others. Paul felt that he owed it to Christ to carry on his work by preaching the gospel as Christ directed, “making disciples in all nations” (Mt. 28:18-20). So he said, “I am a debtor to all men... ready to preach the gospel” everywhere, to Jews and Gentiles, even in the capital city of the godless world, Rome (Rom. 1:14-17). As Christians you and I should be ready – prepared and willing – to say to all non-Christians what Christ would say to them, to let Christ speak through us to them: “Be reconciled to God” through the One God appointed to be Lord and Christ, and Savior (Acts 2:36, Rom. 10:9-12). That debt too is a lifelong obligation.
    There is another aspect to our debt that must be addressed, and this is the one I want to give most attention: what we owe each other as Christians.  This debt too is lifelong. It consists of  four parts. 
(1)  We owe love to each other. (Rom. 13:10, Gal. 5:22). We are the body of Christ, “many members but only one body” (1 Cor. 12:20). Members of Christ are identified by the fact that they “have love (like his love) for one another.” John 13:34-35
(2) We owe it to each other to meet each other’s needs.  (Eph. 4:11-16). It is impractical if not impossible for Christians to be separatists and isolationists (Rom. 14:7-8). We need to “reach out and touch somebody” (as a Telephone Company used to say – they practiced it too: they reached and put the touch on us regularly). We also need to be touched, to be reachable and touchable. If we keep people at a distance, never close enough to touch, we make it impossible either to help them or be helped by them. 
(3) We owe service to each other. This grows out of and is vitally related to the first two points.
It grows out of love (Gal. 5:13). This means more than just doing what is needed at any given time. It means doing for others what you would like to have done for yourself, regardless of need or personal circumstances. This fulfills the royal law about loving others as you love yourself (Gal. 5:14). This grows out of our appreciation of each other as being in Christ together. That leads us to the fourth matter...
(4) We owe harmonious and united fellowship to each other. The Lord does not want his body the church to be divided or fragmented, but rather to “think the same thing, and be of the same mind and judgment” with him and his people in everything (1 Cor. 1:10-13).  In everything we should be “one another” persons in the Lord. We cannot really be attractive to the outsiders unless we show ourselves to be showing true fellowship with each other in Christ. 
- 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

He Came into Enemy Territory

By Al Behel
“...while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God” (Romans 5:10) 
   It was shortly before Christmas during World War I. The fighting was fierce between German troops and American soldiers. Finally, a German soldier emerged from his trench and advanced toward the American line only to be hit and severely wounded by American fire. He tried to crawl back to safety but was caught in barbed wire. As his moaning pierced the air, an American soldier climbed out of his trench and inched his way across the open space toward the injured man.
    When both commanders saw what was happening they ordered their troops to cease fire. There was an eerie silence as the American solder freed the German, picked him up and carried him to the waiting arms of his comrades. Both sides held fire until he returned to the American lines.
    In a real sense our Savior came into enemy territory to rescue us from the ravages of war. We were prisoners to the greatest enemy on earth. We were entrapped and could not free ourselves. We faced certain death. At the right time, He left the safety of heaven and came to us. He knew we were doomed without help. He picked us up and carried us to the waiting arms of our Heavenly Father.
    When the forces of darkness seemed to cut him down there was no silence. The earth shook, the earth was dark for three hours, and tombs were opened. For three days the commander of enemy forces seemed to have won, but God lifted him up. His mission was complete. And we are set free. Therefore, we celebrate in praise to our Deliver.

- Al Behel served the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN, for many years prior to this death in April 2022. The congregation may be contacted through their website -

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Victim Or Victor?

By Joe Slater


    Crime victims want justice. We should understand. They don’t always get it. That’s a sad reality. People in this sinful world seldom behave fairly, especially in matters that don’t rise to the level of criminality. Even God’s own people sometimes fail to treat each other equitably.

    How should you handle unfair treatment? Some play up their status as a victim, wallowing in self-pity and feeding on the sympathy of any who will listen to their tale of woe. Others seek revenge despite the fact that vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19).

    Joseph chose a different approach, that of a victor. Victimized by his envious brothers, then by Potiphar’s designing wife, and once more by the Pharaoh’s forgetful chief butler, Joseph maintained confidence in God and made the best of his less-than-ideal situation. We find not the first hint of self-pity or personal vengeance in him. Long before Peter wrote 1 Peter 5:6, Joseph embodied what the apostle said: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”

    Who has been victimized more than Jesus? The Sanhedrin, the Roman authorities, and even one of His chosen disciples made Jesus the victim of all victims! Yet He gained the ultimate victory in spite of everything. Far from seeking vengeance, Jesus prayed for the very ones murdering Him and “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (Luke 23:34; 1 Peter 2:23).

    Choose to be a victor, not a victim!

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