Sunday, November 20, 2022

Salvation Matters

By Edd Sterchi


Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” (2 John 8)

    In 2 John 8, the “full reward” of salvation forevermore is referenced. It is a beautiful concept in that when we receive our heavenly reward, nothing will be held back! It will be full and perfect. But in this great text, it is very important for us to note four important points concerning this salvation:

    “Look to yourselves...” – This is a great reminder that salvation is an individual matter. None of us will be saved based upon what another does or does not do (excepting Jesus Christ, of course). We must make sure that we have followed God’s will for our lives. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Cor. 13:5, see also Rom. 14:12).

    “...that we do not lose those things...” – It is important to also remember that salvation can be forfeited. If we turn our backs on Christ after being converted to Him, then we will be just as lost as if we had never met Him. “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:4, see also Heb. 2:1).

    “...we worked for...” –Another thing about attaining salvation is that salvation takes activity on our part. Of course, we could never earn our salvation, but we still must meet the gospel conditions set forth. And that does take obedience on our part. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not a sin my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” (Phil. 2:12, see also Matt. 25:21).

    “...but that we may receive a full reward.” – Finally, let’s note this: salvation must be accepted. God has offered salvation to all through the sacrifice of His Son. But we must still receive it and take it into our hearts and lives. “Receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:9, see also Jas. 1:21).

    Do you have assurance of the “full reward” offered by God? I can guarantee you, you will not want to miss out on any of it.

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

When God Feels Distant

By Jeff Arnette


    We’ve all been there at some point in our journey. One day everything is great and the next, we find ourselves feeling lost and distant from God. There can be many reasons for feeling like this but most often, it is a result of some struggle we are facing in life. Sometimes it isn`t that God has moved away from us but that we’ve moved away from Him and sometimes it is simply a matter of how we’re feeling in the midst of the struggle. No matter the reason or if the distance is real we should all want to be closer to the Lord. Feeling closer to the Lord gives us comfort when life gets crazy, when we`re struggling with some sin in our life, or when we simply need more strength.

    Asaph, in Psalm 77, gives us some insight into prayer and needing to be closer to the Lord. He cries out to the Lord and He listens to him. Asaph knew that the only way to get through the trouble he was dealing with was to get closer to the Lord.

    First, we learn from Asaph that when God feels distant we should remember all the good things God has done for us. We need to consider all the things God had done for us and for His people. By remembering God’s gracious acts it gets us to stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing on Him.

    Secondly, we learn from Asaph the importance of spending time in God’s house with the people of God. He knew that the best way to feel closer to the Lord was to get closer to the people of God.

    Time spent in worship and assembling with His people will draw us closer to each other and to our God. It is in the services of the church that we learn, remember his gracious acts, and grow through study with others. If you are feeling distant from the Lord just remember that he will always be near his people and his people will always be together especially on Sundays & Wednesdays. Make sure you’re there every time the doors are open and it will be a great blessings for you and for the church.

    Relationships require effort and God is no exception. Even before you feel like doing it, just keep doing it, and eventually you will feel like being there. Here is a truth that is often hard for us to learn: feelings follow actions, not the other way around. In the same way that you exercise even before you feel like doing it, spending time with the Lord and His people will eventually feel good if you keep doing it. Just because you don’t feel like doing something doesn’t mean you will not.

    So, if you’re feeling distant from the Lord, just keep going, keep focusing on his great works, keep praying, and make sure you keep going to the church services. Eventually, with persistence, you will reap the benefits that He has in store for you.

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

The Picture-Perfect Bride

By Ron Bartanen

    INTRODUCTION: Recently read an article by a lady who had been paralyzed by an accident but was to be married. At the church friends were helping her into her wedding gown, readying her for the ceremony. As she wrote about it, “They heaved and shifted my paralyzed body this way and that, trying to fit me into my wedding gown, but when I sat back in my wheelchair I groaned. In the mirror I looked like a float in the Rose Parade.” As wheeled out, the bouquet fell from her lap. Then she saw that the hem of her gown had a greasy tire mark. staining it. Her chair: “A big clunky thing with belts and ball bearings. “I was not the picture-perfect bride.” Then she saw her husband-to-be craning his neck, looking for her. She wrote, “My face grew hot, and my heart began to pound. “Suddenly my wheelchair and clumpy dress with its smudges didn’t matter. I couldn’t wait to get to the front to be with him. I may have looked unlovely, but the love on Ken’s face washed it away. I was the pure and picture-perfect bride.”
    When I read her description of her situation as she was about to be married, I thought this to be a good modern-day “parable” of the church, the bride of Christ. This lady was not, at first, a “picture-perfect bride,” by her own acknowledgement when she looked into the mirror. She was paralyzed, unable to help herself, and dressed in a stained wedding gown, which she considered to be not a pretty site to see. But then she sees her husband-to-be craning his head to see her as she’s being pushed in her chair down the aisle, and, seeing his face, realizes the love she sees on his face despite her appearance. It is then that she realizes that by his love, her “unlovely” appearance has been washed away, and she had become the “picture-perfect” bride.” What a contrast between the time prior to her seeing the bridegroom before and when she sees him. It is when she sees Ken that all that was “unlovely” was “washed away” and she is now a “picture-perfect bride”.
   Let us look first into the “mirror” of the word of God to how we are in the flesh. All are soiled with the stain and corruption of the world. The word affirms that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) Paul certainly did not exclude himself from this fact, even stating, “I know that in my flesh dwelleth no good thing, for to will is ever present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:19). Even the holiest of God’s saints come short of perfect alliance with the will of God. Our best efforts still fall short. Our own personal “righteousnesses” are declared by His word to be as “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). The bride of Christ, the church, will not enter the eternal kingdom of God and the “marriage supper of the Lamb” with “filthy rags.” In fact, “flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
   But those composing the church, His bride, at the resurrection will be in His eyes the picture-perfect bride. How will that be? I believe Paul explains that in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53: “Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep (the sleep of death of the body) but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, this corruptible (body) must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality." Spiritually those who are saved have been redeemed (1 Peter 1:19), but the redemption of our bodies awaits the return of Christ (Romans 8:23), at which time we will be seen of Him as His pure, “picture-perfect bride.” Revelation describes this bride, saying, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. Then He said to me, Write, for these are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9.”At the return of Christ our bodies will no longer be as our bodies are now, but changed to be worthy to enter God’s presence. Paul makes it clear concerning our righteousness at that time will be through Christ, the truly righteous One, who will impart righteousness to us through His sacrifice of Himself on His bride’s behalf, saying, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Christ, our righteousness, was sacrificed for us.
    As Jesus prepared His disciples for His crucifixion and departure to heaven, He spoke as a Jew would understand Him. At that time a potential bridegroom would pay a dowry to the potential bride’s father for permission to marry his daughter—in a sense, purchasing her. They would go through the procedure of betrothal, at which time the bridegroom would tell his bride that he would leave her for a time in order to prepare a place for them to live after they were formally married. The disciples, as Jews, would probably recognize this as Jesus said to them, In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-4). As His hope-filled bride, we are to be readying ourselves for His return for us, every day ready for His coming. A betrothed bride would anxiously await the return of her beloved husband, not knowing the day nor hour he would return. She would be faithful to their commitment. She would probably keep herself and her clothing clean, ready to depart as soon as he would appear. Each day, especially as the days lengthened into weeks, months or even a year or so, she would not lose faith in his promise, but would keep herself daily, prepared to be taken to her future dwelling, finally united with her husband. As the bride of Christ, are we looking more for the undertaker who will put us under the ground, or the uppertaker who will take us to His heavenly mansion? As conditions on earth worsen and get farther and farther from God, our hope is not to die, but to be rescued from a fallen world by our heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. It is depressing to look to dying, but a matter of joy to anticipate what lies beyond this life for the bride of Christ. We will truly then be the “picture-perfect bride.” 1 John 3:3 reminds us, “Everyone who has this hope purifies himself even as he is pure.” He shares His purity with us. As believers, we seek J maintain purity as we follow Him. John wrote, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). With this assurance, we can pray in the words of John as he concluded the book of Revelation, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Until that day, “the Spirit and the bride say, Come. Let him that heareth say, Come. And let him who is athirst come and take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22;17). With faith in Christ all are invited to repent of sin and identify with Christ in His death, and resurrection, “Being buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was” raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” Romans 6:4). Be awake and ready. “The Bridegroom cometh.” (Matthew 25:6)

- 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:

Paul Trains a Preacher

By Kevin Rutherford


    The apostle Paul personally trained Timothy to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 16:1-5). He chose Timothy because of what he saw in the character of Timothy. Not everyone should be trained to be a preacher of the Word of God. Only those with the right character need to be prepared for preaching. Timothy had a good reputation among Christians before Paul trained him to be a preacher. The Bible says Timothy was “well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:2).” Paul also knew Timothy to be a man of “genuine faith (2 Timothy 1:5).” Not every man should be encouraged to preach. In fact, some should be discouraged from doing so.

    Once Timothy’s apprenticeship and training with the apostle Paul was completed, Paul sent him out to work. Yet even then Paul wrote letters to continue to educate, edify, and encourage Timothy. Paul puts it this way, “I write to you so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).” Looking to those letters helps us to understand what Gospel preaching really is about. Sadly, too many members of the Lord’s church have not studied the word of God enough to know what preaching is about, including some who are preachers.

    Timothy has been told by Paul to stay in Ephesus and work with the church there for a while. This is a church with an eldership (Acts 20), and yet it is a church that still needs a strong preacher to work with them and strengthen them (1 Timothy 1:3). Let’s see what we can learn about preaching from what Paul said.

1. Paul tells Timothy he needs to do is “charge some that they teach no other doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-11).”

 a. The truth must be preached.

 b. The truth must be preached and practiced from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith.

2. Paul shows Timothy the importance of being grateful and giving glory to God (1 Timothy 1:12-17).

 a. Paul was thankful for the blessings of salvation and preaching.

b. Paul understood the grace of God was exceedingly abundant toward him.

 c. Paul gave God all of the glory for this.

3. Paul tells Timothy to go to war (1 Timothy 1:18-20).

 a. He is to wage the good warfare, which is the spiritual war waged with Word of God as the Sword of the Spirit.

 b. He must fight the spiritual war with faith and a good conscience.

4. Paul encourages Timothy to pray (1 Timothy 2:1-7).

 a. Preachers must be men of prayer who think in terms of praying for all people.

 b. Preachers work and pray for all people with the understanding God desires all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

5. Paul instructs Timothy in the qualifications of elders and deacons (1Timothy 3:1-13).

 a. Preachers must preach these qualifications and encourage the application of them.

 b. Unqualified elders and deacons will hinder the preacher’s work and hold back the church as whole.

6. Paul encourages Timothy instruct the brethren concerning those who depart from the faith having given head to the deceptive doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1-11).

 a. Some speak these lies with hypocrisy and sear their consciences.

 b. Preachers must avoid doing this, but they must also warn the brethren about such if they are to be a good minister.

7. Timothy is told by Paul how to conduct himself so that is not looked down upon for his youth (1 Timothy 4:12-16).

 a. Preachers must be examples in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith and purity.

 b. Preachers must give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine.

 c. Preachers must take heed to themselves.

8. Paul tells Timothy how to treat the members appropriately (1 Timothy 5:1-25).

 a. Exhort older men as fathers, and younger men as brothers.

 b. Exhort older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters.

 c. Honor widows that are widows indeed.

 d. Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.

 e. Rebuke elders who are sinning.

9. Paul warns Timothy of those who preach the wrong things and who preach for the wrong reasons (1 Timothy 6).

 a. Run from covetousness and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.

 b. Guard what is committed to your trust. 

- 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:

No Regrets

By David A. Sargent


    Keith Smith was my college roommate for my junior and senior years at Faulkner University.  Even though we don’t see each other very often, I still consider him a very close friend and brother in Christ.  He was one of the two “best men” in my wedding.

    Keith was and is one of the greatest guys you’d ever want to meet.  He is very kind, fairly quiet, a prince of a guy.  He is passionate about a couple of things: living for Christ and Foley High School football.

    I remember going home to Foley, AL with Keith one weekend during football season.  He spoke to his old football team before the game.  Many of the football players came out of the fieldhouse with tears in their eyes.

     “What did you say to them, Keith?”

    He didn’t expound on his speech, but he said, “Basically, I told them to play with no regrets.”

    That’s a great philosophy of life: Live with No Regrets.

    You will never regret…

·       Seeking to mend broken relationships.  Jesus taught us to make reconciliation with others an urgent priority (see Matthew 5:23-24).  The Apostle Paul also instructed: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

·       Being kind.  You will likely regret being mean and ugly to someone.  But you won’t regret being kind.  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  “But what if the kindness is spurned, not appreciated, not returned?  What if my kindness is viewed negatively?”  Then you will always know that you tried to do the right thing, in the right way.  You won’t regret it.

·       Doing your best.  Whether it is on the field of competition, in the classroom, at work, or even at home, you will never regret putting forth your best effort.  Minimal or half-hearted efforts will be regretted.  A great guiding principle is “whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).  Even if you “come up short,” you will always have the satisfaction of knowing that you gave it your best.

·       Accepting God’s forgiveness.  The burden of guilt for past sins is a heavy burden (cf. Psalm 32:1-5).  The Good News – the Gospel – is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we might have forgiveness and receive the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 1:7).  God has promised to forgive those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts16:30-31), turn from their sin 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; Galatians 3:26-27).  Accept God’s forgiveness on His terms.  You won’t regret it.

·       Living for Jesus.  It’s not always going to be easy.  Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.”  But then He added: “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  It won’t always be easy to follow Jesus, but it will be worth it.  On one occasion, Peter said to Jesus, “See, we have left all and followed You.”  Jesus replied, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:28-30).  Jesus was saying, “It’s worth it!”

    Live with no regrets.  Accept God’s forgiveness on His terms.  Live for Jesus by following His Word.

    Won't you?

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

Monday, November 14, 2022

“The Judge”

By Lance Cordle


    For the past several weeks, Major League Baseball fans, and in particular, New York Yankees’ fans have been very excited because of the approaching eclipse of a long-held home run record. The record was held by Roger Maris and consisted of him hitting sixty-one home runs (one more than the previous record, held by George Herman “Babe” Ruth) in a single, regular season. This time, a young man named Aaron Judge was moving toward the long-held mark. Finally, on Sunday, October 4, 2022, Aaron hit the home run that gave him the single-season American League record of sixty-two. His accomplishment was proclaimed far and wide and even the son of Roger Maris celebrated his moment of glory.

    Throughout Aaron Judge’s career, reporters have used his name in interesting ways— “holding court,” “giving the verdict,” etc. After he hit “#62,” I read where he was referred to simply as “The Judge.” Of course, this was a way for the reporter to have a catchy headline and to point out Aaron Judge’s unique place in Major League Baseball. However, the minute I read, “The Judge,” it made me think of the one, true judge of all mankind, God Almighty.

    The Bible affirms that we are moving toward a final day, a day we refer to as the “day of judgment” (Matthew 11:24). It is a sobering thought to realize that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10), and that “each of us will give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). In fact, it is my conviction that this impending judgement is the primary reason that some people ignore the evidence and refuse to believe in God.

    As we contemplate that great day and event, it is helpful to keep in mind the main trait of our judge: He is righteous (2 Timothy 4:8). In the life of Abraham, as he struggled with the overwhelming sense of doom for Sodom and Gomorrah, asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”. When everything (and I mean, everything) is taken into consideration, God will do what is right in regard to every person. Human judges are imperfect, are sometimes biased, and sometimes, “bought”. But, God does not have those flaws. When we stand before him (Revelation 20:12), we can be sure that all the facts will be considered and the verdict will be just. What’s more, Christians can rest in the fact that “The Judge” is a loving and merciful God (Ephesians 2:4, 5).

    So, (as we often sing) “there’s a great day coming...”

    “Are you ready for the judgment day?”

- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

There Will Always Be Some Who Test God’s Rules

By Joe Chesser



    After being freed from Egyptian bondage, the Israelites’ first major challenge to their faith and trust in God came at the Red Sea.  After witnessing the awesome power of God by making a dry path through the sea with a wall of water on each side of them, and after seeing how God destroyed the pursuing Egyptian army by releasing those walls of water, the “people feared the Lord and put their trust in him” (Ex. 14:31).  But it wasn’t very long until their trust in God began to fade and fail them.  When they got thirsty and hungry, they leapfrogged their God (and the dead Egyptian army in the Red Sea) and wished for Egypt again (Ex. 16:3).

    Yet, as always, God was patient.  He gave them sweet water to drink (Ex. 15:35) and quail and manna to eat (Ex. 16:11-12).  All they had to do was go pick it up.  Simple.  Sufficient.  Satisfying.  Anyone could do that.  There were only two conditions regarding the manna.  First, gather only enough for each person for that day (about 2 quarts).  Second, on Friday, gather twice as much (about 4 quarts) so that there would be food on the Sabbath.  So for 40 years, every day except the Sabbath day God provided manna.

    But we know in every group of people there will always be some who will test the rules, even when they are simple and clear.  Israel was no different.  Some of the Israelites paid no attention to what God said through Moses (Ex. 16:20).  They decided to keep some of the manna overnight.  Big mistake.  The next day their manna was filled with maggots (yuck!) and began to stink up the tent (Ex. 16:20).  What’s more, on the 7th day when they were supposed to stay home and eat what had been prepared the day before, some of the people went out to gather manna.  Not only was there no manna, but they had angered God: “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?” (Ex. 16:28).  As simple and clear as God’s instructions were regarding manna, there were always some who wanted to press the issue and do it their own way.

    It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now.  Just ask Cain (Gen. 4:1-5; Heb. 11:4) or Nadab and Abihu (Num. 3:4) or Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) or the Pharisees (Matt. 15:1-9).  It didn’t work for them either.  Placing your ways above God’s ways is always a bad idea.

    There will always be some who will want to challenge God by pushing the issue or seeking to “improve” His word.  There will always be some who are not satisfied with what the Bible teaches about worship or salvation or Christian living and will want to explore more modern and innovative ways to “serve” God.  While being open to new ways of applying God’s word can be very good, being open to new ways that alter or replace God’s word is always wrong.  The very last warning in scripture concerns adding to or taking away from the word of God (Rev. 22:18-19). Nonetheless, there will always be some who will test God’s rules.  Let’s just make sure we are not them!

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

Faithful in Parenting

By Brian Mitchell


    Allow me to begin with a short poem by Michael Hodgin. “Child-raising theories did abound, before my children were around. Then one day I had my own, now all those theories I disown. Energy was once my friend, now I am at my strength’s end. Fortune gone, the fridge is clean, my child has now become a teen!” So many of us have “been there, done that.”

    I don’t have to tell you that raising children is a challenge. Certainly, it is difficult to raise kids in today’s world, but it has been difficult to raise them since the very beginning...just ask Adam and try raising Cain! One mother was considering her plight in life. She said to herself, “I guess if it was going to be easy, it would not have started with something called ‘labor’.”

    I saw a cartoon that shows a young mother asking the reference librarian where to find a book. The librarian is pointing as she answers, “If you are looking for the book on how to have perfect children, it is in the fiction section.” In this week’s lesson we are going to talk about being faithful in parenting. None of us are perfect parents, and we will never be perfect, but we can make it our goal to be faithful. Some of us are really struggling with this task of parenting, while others are having a much easier time of it.

    How difficult or easy a time we have in parenting is dependent upon a myriad of things; some we have control over and some we do not. Someone has said that raising children is like cooking. If you want something to come out well, you have to follow the recipe and you must not skimp on the ingredients. I wish it were that simple and straightforward. We all appreciate the fact that if you have a great cake recipe, and are careful to use the same ingredients and follow the same directions, the cake will come out equally well every time.

    That is not the case with raising children. Every child is unique, having their own temperaments and we parents are never exactly the same parents – from day to day and year to year. Therefore, we are always amazed at how kids can grow up in the same home, with the same parents, and yet they turn out so differently and uniquely. If you would have told anyone including—myself, my parents, my siblings, my close and not so close friends—when I was a kid, that I would one day be a preacher of the gospel. Everyone mentioned would have told you that you were crazy.

    Nevertheless, even though parenting is not exactly like cooking, there are some similarities. We do need a good and tested recipe to follow. We do need to try to be consistent as we follow the directions. And where do the best directions for raising kids come from, from God himself.

- Brian Mitchell serves as a minister with the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at

Love Beyond Expectation

By Al Behel


    On January 17, 1985 Ronald Cotton was sentenced to life in prison for raping a 22 year old college student by the name of Jennifer Thompson. When Thompson picked Cotton out of police photos and later a line-up, there was no doubt in her mind that this was the man who had assaulted her with a knife to her throat. She would never forget his threatening words, “Shut up or I’ll cut you!”

    Two years after his imprisonment Cotton won a second trial when a fellow prisoner, Bobby Poole, was overheard bragging that Cotton was serving time for two rapes that he himself had committed. Again Jennifer Thompson was convincing. he was unwavering in her testimony that she had never seen Poole, but that Cotton was her rapist. He was again sentenced to life in prison.

    Eleven years after the attack the detective who had assisted in prosecuting Cotton knocked on Jennifer Thompson’s door. Standing in her kitchen he struggled to reak the news. "Jennifer," he said. "You were wrong. Ronald Cotton didn't rape you. It was Bobby Poole.” New DNA evidence showed that it could not have been Cotton, but that Poole was indeed her rapist. Thompson was stunned beyond belief. How could it be? How could she have been so sure? How could she send an innocent man to prison for 11 years? What could she do with all the hate and anger that had dominated every waking minute?

    Thompson’s guilt was overwhelming. How could Cotton ever forgive her for such a horrible mistake? Eventually she decided she had to meet the man whose 11 years she had taken. The meeting was arranged at a church in the town where the rape occurred. Asking the minister and her husband to wait outside, she faced Cotton alone. How would he react to her? What would she say? "I'm sorry," she said. "If I spent every day for the rest of my life telling you how sorry I am, it wouldn't come close to what I feel." Ronald Cotton was calm and quiet. Finally, he spoke. “I am not mad at you….I just want you to have a good life.”

    For two hours they sat and talked about what had happened. Instead of hate, Cotton extended forgiveness and healing to the woman who had taken 11 years of his life. They embraced and cried together. Instead of being enemies, they have become good friends. Today, they talk regularly and have written a book together, entitled “Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption.” It is a testimony of the power of forgiveness.

    I often wonder how Jesus could forgive me. He was innocent, but I am guilty. I deserved to die, but He deserved to live. I sentenced Him to the cross. Still, He loves me and forgives me. He even calls me His “friend” (John 15:13-15). I come into His presence with a broken heart and contrite spirit, He lifts me up. He embraces me with compassion. And I am free. I am forgiven.

- 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 Paraclete

By David A. Sargent


    Godfrey Cuotto, a 21-year-old student in Hamilton, Ontario, had eaten at a downtown restaurant and boarded a bus to get home.  When he got on the bus, a man sitting near the front reached out to shake his hand.  Cuotto was taken aback initially, but then politely took the man’s hand.

    But the man, who had special needs and appeared to be agitated for some reason, wouldn’t let go of Cuotto’s hand.  So Cuotto sat beside him, seeking to console the troubled man.

    "He kept holding my hand," Cuotto told the Huffington Post Canada.  "I thought I was getting pranked at first, but he just needed comfort."

    Cuotto rode the bus beside the man for 30 minutes until his final stop.  During that time, the man continued to hold his hand, lean on him, and even hugged him out of gratitude.  A photograph was taken of the pair and posted to a Facebook page.  The photo shows the man leaning on Cuotto, and holding his hand.  He appears to be at peace.  The photo went viral, shared by thousands of people who appreciated Cuotto’s small but endearing act of kindness.

    "I just allowed it, like what am I going to do?" Cuotto said.  "Sometimes you just have to be selfless and put someone else's needs above yours."

    Later, some of the man’s family members contacted Cuotto on Facebook and thanked him for comforting their uncle, Robert.  They also informed him that Robert suffers from cerebral palsy and is deaf.

    Cuotto was interviewed by a Toronto radio station.  When asked about his kind nature, he attributed it to his mother.  “I was raised by a queen,” he said.

    He had a great mother!

    What a wonderful display of kindness and compassion!  What an excellent example of being a “paraclete.”

    Paraclete is a Greek word that appears 5 times in the Scriptures.  Four times, it is used as a title for the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7); one time it is used as a title for Jesus (1 John 2:1).  A paraclete is literally, one called alongside (to help).  The word is a fitting description of what Cuotto did for Robert, and it provides a “picture” of what Jesus wants to do for you and for me.

    We are lost because of our sins, and when we recognize that, we become agitated and fearful.  But God loves us so much that He sent Jesus “to our side” to rescue us (John 3:16).  Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we can be saved and receive the gift of eternal life (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 6:23).

    God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sin 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).  Then, Jesus will continue to be a Paraclete for those who have trusted and obeyed Him: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [a Paraclete] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).  As we continue to strive to follow Jesus faithfully, He will continue to intercede for us (see also Hebrews 7:25), and through the blood that He shed on the cross, continue to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

    Godfrey Cuotto was a comforting paraclete to a troubled man.  Jesus Christ is THE Paraclete who can save us from sin and give us eternal peace, knowing that He is always near (through His Spirit) and that He is always interceding to the Father on our behalf.

    Won’t YOU entrust your life to the Paraclete through your trusting obedience?

- 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:

* From “Photo of young man comforting disabled man on bus goes viral.”

Monday, November 7, 2022


By Clifton Angel
    My son is now six years old. Consider this excerpt from when he was two:
My 2-year-old son knows the word ‘obey’ and somewhat understands it. However, what motivates him to practice it can vary. For example, one of his favorite things right now is a large floor puzzle that's in the shape of a barn, and it has farm animals standing in front of the barn. He's really impressed us with his ability to put the majority of it together by himself. He takes it apart and puts it together over and over; however, he likes to place it right in the path where we walk through the house. So, one night recently, before bath time, I told him we needed to clean up the puzzle. He proceeded to put the puzzle together, despite my saying it again a little firmer. Shortly after, my wife chimed in and said, ‘If you want dessert, you need to clean up your puzzle.’ He immediately began putting the pieces in the box. Sometimes, punishment/discipline motivates him to obey. Sometimes, rewards motivate him to obey. And, it is my hope that one day he will obey because of his love for us as his parents.
    What motivates us to obey God?
    Some are motivated to obey God in view of punishment. It is reasonable, logical, and Scriptural to obey God for fear of punishment. For, "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
    Some are motivated to obey God in view of reward. It is reasonable, logical, and Scriptural to obey God for desire of reward. The same passage states, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
    But, how many are motivated to obey God out of true love of Him? Jesus said to His apostles, "If you love me, ye will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). We often use this passage to note that showing our love to Christ requires keeping His commandments—and that is true. But, perhaps Jesus' statement was more about love than obedience. For, He knows obedience will be automatic, once we have grown to true love for Him. Yes, we have to continue to obey Him and build our relationship with Him in order to grow in our love for Him.
    Many obey for fear of punishment, and that is okay. Many obey for hope of reward, and that is okay. How many obey because of love? When someone is speaking, we are much more attentive to the words being spoken, when we love and respect the one who is speaking. This certainly applies to our love for Christ.
"We love (him) because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
    God loves you; do you love Him? Have you obeyed Him? Are you obeying Him?

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

Faith Check

By Edd Sterchi
    It is always good for a person to do regular checkups on themselves and their lives. We know the importance of this physically, mentally, and even financially. But too often we neglect to do this spiritually – and this is the most important area of all.
    In Micah’s day, there were questions of how best to demonstrate one’s faith in God. Was it simply just going through the motions of required sacrifices and offerings? No. Their faith was to be more than an outward ritual – it was to be proper outward actions based upon the proper inward attitude. The prophet summed it up with these words: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). In this verse are three areas that each of us must check up on regularly in regard to our faith.
  * Christian, Check Your Righteousness. The first check point was “to do justly.” Being just is being right with God and His will. It is living right, living morally, and living properly in our daily walk. It is always conducting oneself in an upright and upstanding manner. The internal attitude that creates this is a passion to please God. So, Christian, check your life – is it one that is admirable according to God’s standard?
  * Christian, Check Your Respect for Others. The second bit of advice from Micah 6:8 was “to love mercy.” Properly respecting others is treating them as God treats us – with kindness, love, and forgiveness. It is selflessly giving to others what is needed in their lives. The internal attitude that brings this forth is a joy of the mercy and salvation that God has given us. So, Christian, check your life – is it one filled with eagerly helping others?
  * Christian, Check Your Relationship With God. The final part of our faith checkup is mentioned as “to walk humbly with your God.” Walking with God implies harmony and fellowship. This is attained through reading and studying the Scriptures, regular and fervent prayer, and heartfelt, proper worship. The internal attitude that strengthens this is a desire to grow closer to God. So, Christian, check your life – is it one that honors and involves God in every way?

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

Faithful in Prayer

By Brian Mitchell
    Prayer is something that develops within each of us as we grow in our faith and understanding. The stronger our belief in God and the more we come to understand Him and His Word the more prayerful we will become. There are some childlike elements to prayer that we must never lose, and yet there are some childish and immature aspects of prayer that we certainly want to outgrow.
    Listen to some of these prayers of children and see what insights you can gain from them. Debbie, age 7 writes: Dear God: Please send a new baby for mommy. The new baby you sent last week cries too much. Dear God: Who did you make smarter? Boys or girls? My sister and I want to know. Jimmy, age 6. Dear God: How many angels are there in heaven? I would like to be the first kid in my class to know the answer. Norma, age 8.
    Dear God: Thank you for the nice day today. You even fooled the weather man. Hank, age 7. Lois, age 9: Dear God: Please help me in school. I need help in spelling, adding, writing, history, and geography. I don’t need help in anything else. Natalie, age 7: Dear God: Do you have any helpers in heaven? I would like to be one of your helpers in heaven when I have summer vacation. Diane, age 8: Dear God: I am saying my prayers for me and my brother, Billy, because Billy is six months old and he can’t do anything but sleep and wet his diapers.
    There is a childish misunderstanding of prayer represented here but they get so much right about God that we sometimes forget about. So much could be said and should be said about prayer, but for our purposes today I want to say three things: Prayer is EXPECTED, should not be EXHAUSTED because it is EFFECTIVE.
    If you are like me, then you don’t need to be convinced of the place and power of prayer. But what I do need to be reminded of often is to make prayer a priority. I need to be careful to carve out time for prayer and to guard that time for all of its worth. In order to be more faithful in prayer, I want to suggest three things to do. First, set a time and a place for prayer. Prayer must be intentional. Second, remove the things that interfere with prayer. Third, pray with faith, persistence, and the right motive. And then see what happens!!!

- Brian Mitchell serves as a minister with the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at

Love Rejoices In The Truth

By Joe Slater
    Immediately after saying that love doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, Paul wrote that it does rejoice in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). This shouldn’t surprise us since our God is “a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
    Paul himself exemplified the love that rejoices in the truth. Though under house arrest in Rome, he continued proclaiming the gospel even to his captors, and he knew other brethren were evangelizing also. Some had corrupt motives, but “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). Christ’s gospel is truth, and Paul rejoiced in it being preached.
    John the apostle also rejoiced in the truth. He told the “elect lady,” “I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father” (2 John 4). Along the same line he wrote to Gaius, “I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth” (3 John 3-4). Christian parents rejoice when children in their earthly families walk in the truth (i.e. obey the gospel and serve God faithfully). Let’s rejoice when others we’ve led to Christ are walking in the truth or, for that matter, any time we see anyone walking in the truth.
    The ungodly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). That is, they hold it back, hindering it from advancing. We must promote the truth vigorously and constantly, rejoicing in its progress.

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

An Introduction to the Book of James

By Jeff Arnette
    This little book was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus and a leader in the church at Jerusalem. Despite its connection to Jesus and the early church, James has never enjoyed the devotion and praise of books like Romans or Galatians. Yet its impact and place in Scripture cannot be denied. While Hebrews was written to discourage Christians from returning to Judaism, James was written to correct bad attitudes and actions that had arose during life’s difficult struggles.
    According to Henry Thiessen1, James was written because of outward experiences, a bad spiritual state, and doctrinal errors of the Jewish Christians. They were being inundated by various trials and struggles, some of which were from their own people. Because of this, their spiritual state had deteriorated, and it was beginning to show in their actions and treatment of others.
    This is why James is so practical and focused on doing good works. It also explains why the book has been looked upon as inferior and works focused. Even Martin Luther called it “a right strawy epistle.” He never felt comfortable with its emphasis on works especially when compared to other books in the New Testament. Honestly, this is probably why modern Christians have trouble with it.
    According to James, faith is so much more than simply saying “I believe in Jesus.” Faith is action that treats others right and seeks to help those in need. Personally, I find James to be practical and desperately needed in today’s church and world. His “Sermon on the Mount” and Proverbs like approach makes it feel immanently practical. For James, faith must be relevant to life and elevate our everyday actions to Christlikeness in every way. Church, we need more of this in today’s church and in our communities. Instead of being inward focused the church must be outward focused and passionate about doing good works (James 2).
    Interestingly, James contains features that make it unique in the New Testament. Eight times James quotes Leviticus 19, which deals with life and treatment of others.
1.    James 2:1    Lev. 19:15
2.    James 2:8    Lev. 19:18
3.    James 2:9    Lev. 19:15
4.    James 4:11    Lev. 19:16
5.    James 5:4    Lev. 19:13
6.    James 5:9    Lev. 19:18
7.    James 5:12    Lev. 19:12
8.    James 5:20    Lev. 19:17
Another interesting thing about James is that he seems to include ideas from at least 2 apocryphal books. These were books that were widely read by Jews in the first century but not considered Scripture. He includes ideas from a book called “Ecclesiasticus” (180 BC), also called Sirach, and a book called “The Wisdom of Solomon” (30 BC). This proves that James read these books and by inspiration included some of their teachings. James was clearly a widely read individual which makes this little book even more relevant for the church.
    Overall, James is an amazing little book full of practical wisdom which is meant to be lived. Let me encourage you to consider reading it again and putting its lessons into daily life.
1 Introduction to the New Testament, Henry C. Thiessen, pg. 276.

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