Sunday, December 25, 2022

Wholly Holy

By Edd Sterchi


    Toward the end of his first epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul had these words for his Christian friends, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).

    Interestingly, we have contained within this verse the whole makeup of every human in the description “spirit, soul, and body”. Let’s look at them in reverse order. We are a composite of...

...physical nature - The Greek word translated “body” is “soma” and is

defined as, “a body; the body of both men and animals” (Thayer’s

Greek-English Lexicon).

...emotional/intellectual nature - The Greek word translated “soul” is

“psuche” and is defined as “the seat of the feelings, desires, affections,

aversions” (Thayer’s).

...spiritual nature - The Greek word translated “spirit” is “pneuma” and

is defined as “the soul” (Thayer’s).

    It is God’s desire that we keep every aspect of our being pure and whole. We are to be wholly holy. God has promised to help us with this.

    But we must be actively seeking holiness in our lives. I believe that the list Paul gives in the previous seven verses are some things we can do along that line:

* Think about things that bring heavenly joy (v.16)

* Stay close to God through prayer (v.17)

* Be thankful for all that God has given us (v.18)

* Give God access to all of our lives (v.19)

* Read and love God’s Word (v.20)

* Keep good things in our life (v.21)

* Stay away from sin (v.22)

    If we do these and stay faithful to God, He will be faithful in keeping us wholly holy and blameless. “He who called you is faithful, who will also do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).

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

Faith Developing

By Joe Chesser


    In Mark 9 there is a story about a man’s son who was brutally afflicted by an evil spirit.  The man had taken his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they couldn’t do anything to help the boy.  So the father pleaded with Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”  It seems as if Jesus was somewhat shocked by this statement when he responded, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.” The man’s reaction is what I want us to consider for a few minutes.  He said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”

    Not all faith is the same.  Not everyone who believes has the same degree of faith. Some have strong faith (like Abraham); some have weak faith (like this man). Some have faith that never grows; some have faith that ever grows. Some have active faith; some have dead faith.  The man in the story above realized that, though he did believe, his faith wasn’t perfected. There was still some unbelief that had to be overcome. We all know that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). This verse goes on to say that more than just belief in the existence of God is necessary to please him; the faith that pleases God must also develop to the point of believing that God rewards those who earnestly seek him.  Abraham, the father of the faithful, serves as an illustration of this.

    In Hebrews 11:8 we are told that Abraham had sufficient faith to begin his journey with God. When God called him to pack up and move to some unknown place, he “obeyed and went.”  We say, “Wow! What great faith!” And we are right.  To just pack up and go wherever God led him was an awesome demonstration of the kind of faith we need to have.  Like Abraham, it takes great faith just to begin our journey with Jesus, to take up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23).  But obedient faith is just the beginning of our walk with God.

    In Hebrews 11:9-10 we learn that Abraham also developed a long-term faith in God based on promises, not commands. It’s one thing to have faith to obey a command; it’s another thing to have faith that waits patiently on God to fulfill his promises, never knowing when (or even if they will be fulfilled in your lifetime.  If “obeying” faith doesn’t develop into “staying” faith, our walk with God will be a constant struggle.

    And then in Hebrews 11:17-19 we see evidence of an even deeper faith, a faith willing to sacrifice everything for God, a faith that will hold nothing back, even his one and only son.  Now we can truly say, “WOW!!”  Right before our eyes we witness faith developing from obeying a command to patiently waiting on the promise to a willingness to sacrifice the most important thing in life.

    It’s great to have enough faith to obey God’s commands.  It’s greater to develop a faith that trusts God to fulfill his future promises when he chooses.  But it’s the greatest faith of all to be willing to sacrifice everything you have because you trust God so much.

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

God At Work

By Joe Slater


    Road signs used to urge is to reduce our speed in construction zones: “Slow! Men At Work!” Political correctness forbids such gender-specific signs nowadays, but using “slow” to describe the men instead of our driving (several men leaning on their shovels while one actually works) still brings a smile to our face.

    Usually, we can perceive when men are working. But what about God? Yes, God works! He worked in the six creation days, though no human was there to observe it (Genesis 1). He works in sustaining His creation (Hebrews 1:3). Our five senses don’t perceive that either.

    God works when a sinner obeys the gospel, being “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:13). That’s a spiritual operation not seen by eyes of flesh.

    Does God continue to work in lives after we become Christians? “It is God who works in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Once again, His working may not be outwardly obvious.

    Sometimes we might think God is slow in His work. Job suffered at great length before God delivered him. Joseph spent many years as a slave and a prisoner before God exalted him as governor of Egypt. But be assured, God knows exactly what He is doing, and His timing is always impeccable. He always acts in our best interest! “The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall

strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

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

The Challenge of Christian Growth

By Jeff Arnette


    One of the things I learned to enjoy in my life is my quiet time. During this time, usually the first hour of my day, I read scripture, pray, and write in a journal. My goal for this is simply to write down how I’m feeling about life, faith, and struggles, reflecting on my actions and feelings. I will write down verbatim the prayers for the Lord’s help in the areas I am struggling. I shouldn’t be but often I am surprised that during that quiet time, I find comfort and wisdom for the very things that are hurting me. I’ve come to accept that the Lord uses this time to help me reflect on His will and Word and how that should be used during the struggles.

    I shouldn’t be surprised that the Lord would encourage growth in every aspect of life. Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. What that means is that he grew physically, emotionally, and most important “in favor with God and man.” God in the flesh was willing to endure struggles and even the need for growth. He grew up and often it was the struggles that made him stronger.

    Consider Matthew 4:1-11. In this passage, Jesus Christ was led into the wilderness by the Spirit for 40 days of temptations and trials by Satan himself. In addition to that, Hebrews 5:8 says he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.

    Have you ever considered why God would allow Jesus to endure the very same temptations, struggles, and hardships that we endure? Hebrews 2:18 says he suffered so that he could help those who suffer, those who are being tempted. Hebrews 4:15 says that he is our great high priest and able to sympathize with our hurts and pain because he endured the same things. The answer to the question is simple: Jesus was allowed to grow in this life so that he could help us through it, understand us, and empower us to live in victory.

    Struggle always makes us stronger! It was true for Jesus, and it is true for you. James 1:2-4 says that struggles and hardships is meant to make you stronger. Don’t be ashamed that you struggle. Don’t be ashamed that you need to mature and grow in areas of your life. Jesus grew, learned, and struggled through this life but he didn’t allow them to define him. His faith and connection to the Father defined him and his purpose in life. He was able to see beyond the current struggles, hurts, and pain to its greater purpose and we should strive to do the same.

    The need to grow in our faith and our personal lives is often pushed aside with our desire to have easy lives. Nothing worth having ever comes easy. You are worth it and its yours for the taking. The Lord wants to bless you, open the windows of heaven, and pour out blessings until there is no more need (Malachi 3:10), and fuel our growth. All we have to do to enjoy this is put our faith and trust in the Lord, be open to the potential for God’s blessings, and walk in it.

    The Lord expects us to desire more, to grow, to long for the spiritual milk that will help us grow (1 Peter 2:2). Don’t let Satan rob you of the growth and blessings that you need for success in this life. He is a thief and a robber, and he will rob you blind if you allow it.  Be open to growth, humble enough to face life and struggle with the desire and faith for growth.

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

When Jesus Comes

By Seth Myers


    Popular doctrine claims that the Lord will return “secretly” to take away the saints. As seen on TV, a certain number of people will simply vanish from the earth! While “the Rapture” may be exciting, it is simply not scriptural.

    Here is what “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) says will happen “when the Son of Man comes” (Matt. 25:31):


1. When the Lord returns, the entire world will know (Matt. 25:31,32a; 1 Thess. 4:16).

2. “All” the angels and faithful dead will be with Him (Matt. 25:31; 2 Thess. 1:7; 1 Thess. 4:14b).

3. The bodies of the dead will be raised [to be reunited with their spirits] (Jn. 5:28,29a; 1 Thess. 4:16b; 1 Cor. 15:52; cf. Jas. 2:26a).

4. The faithful then living will join the Lord and His saints “in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17).

5. “Earthly” bodies will be “changed” from mortal to immortal (1 Cor. 15:51,52).

6. Every human being since the beginning of time will stand before God in judgment (Matt. 25:31,32; 2 Cor. 5:10a; cf. John 5:27; Rom. 14:10; Heb. 9:27).

7. The entire physical Creation will be utterly and permanently destroyed (2 Pet. 3:10-12).

8. Jesus will “deliver the kingdom,” which He had received and established after His resurrection/ascension, over to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24; cf. Acts 2:30,31a; Dan. 2:44).

9. Each person will be consigned to one of two eternal destinations—chosen for themselves while “in the body” (Matt. 25:33,41,46; John 5:29; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; cf. 2 Cor. 5:10b).

10. This is called “the last day” (John 5:39,40,44,54; 12:48) and “the end” (1 Cor. 15:24a).

- Seth Myers preaches for the Highway Church of Christ in Sullivan, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Still Much for Which to Be Thankful

By David R. Ferguson


    David wrote in Psalm 8:1, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the Earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens.”

    We are fast approaching our national holiday called Thanksgiving, and even though we are finding ourselves living in a time in which rampant evil seems to run amok, a time similar to that of the Prophet Isaiah who quotes the Lord as saying in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter,” we still have much for which we can give thanks.

    We still have our Lord! We still have a loving Father Who was willing to send His one and only begotten Son to die in our place for our sins.

    We still have Jesus Christ, the very Living Word of God, Who submitted Himself to do His Father’s will in all things and He suffered Himself to die in our place. And it wasn’t just any death, it was a terribly painful and humiliating death in which He was found nailed to a Cross as if He was a common criminal, suspended between Heaven and Earth, with a robber at each side.

    We should never let circumstances dictate whether or not we will be joyful and give thanks to the Lord. Our Lord is faithful. And He will keep the promises He has given to us, promises that only belong to those who are one of His own. Only those who are in Christ, putting on His robes at baptism (Galatians 3:27), are given the promise of the complete forgiveness of our sins. Only those who have surrendered their own wills to those of the Father above will be granted eternal life. Only those who come to the Lord in obedient, saving faith will get to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord”

(Matthew 25:21). Only those who are of His fold are given the privilege of using the term of endearment, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15), and only they are allowed to approach the

throne of grace boldly (Hebrews 4:16). For all these blessings, as well as for countless more, those of us covered in the blood of Jesus Christ can shout out a resoundingly loud praise of love and thanksgiving to the One Who has made it all possible for us to live with Him forevermore! Glory and majesty are His, and He alone is worthy of our worship.

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: or

Give Thanks

By Clifton Angel


    Solomon wrote, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). He then proceeded to illustrate this statement with very practical and common occurrences that are cyclical in the life of every human being (see Eccl. 3:2–8). As he poetically notes that there is “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” and so on, NEVER does he say: “A time to be unthankful.” In fact ingratitude can be found at the heart of every sin and certainly is one of man’s greatest problems.

    Long ago, a man wrote about the ingratitude of people in his past. These were not people that he knew personally, but ones that lived long before him. It is interesting that we can read about the results of ingratitude on mankind thousands of years ago and take note of the ever-applicable consequences that remain even today. He wrote:

When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

    These are the words of Paul at Romans 1:21–32. If any of these apply to us, our conclusion must be that we need to reassess our gratitude toward God. Ingratitude ignored leads to immoral societies and iniquitous souls. Let us conclude with the words of Paul to the church at Thessalonica:

In everything, give thanks” (1Thessalonians 5:18).

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

A Child Is Born

By Al Behel


    “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

    So, what is so different about this child?  Countless children are born around the world each day.   Why is this child unique?  Why do millions of people bow before Him?  Why does the world pause to remember His birth?

    Because, this child is different.   He is no ordinary infant and His birth was no ordinary birth.  He is different because God determined that His birth would be so profoundly different from all other births that he announced it more than 700 years in advance.  It was different because His mother was still a virgin, and His father was God Himself.   God entrusted His infant Son to a young woman’s womb with the confidence that she would faithfully honor this sacred trust.  

    Born in a stable, among ordinary farm animals, this child’s birth was announced by angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, Peace, goodwill among men.”  That is why He came.  That is what He was about.  And that is still His mission for glorify God in the highest, and bring peace and goodwill to men.   

 His path was not to a stable, but to a cross.   The ultimate goal was to die for a lost world.  His ultimate victory was to be raised from death and return to the Father who sent Him.   By doing so, He brought life to all who would follow Him to the cross.    After more than two thousand years, that cross still stands as the center piece of human history…the pivotal point of eternity.  No wonder they called Him, “Everlasting Father”, for He truly is the Father of Eternity.  Let us bow before Him and honor His birth by accepting His cross.   

- 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 -

A New Start

By Ron Thomas


    As one enters a marriage, both parties begin a new life. In John 2, the marriage in Cana was exactly that, a new life for the male and female becoming a husband and wife, family, a home. A problem arose, however, that generated in Mary quickly turning and looking to her Son for relief. It was customary for the wedding host to provide for their guests. If there was a failing in this area, not only was there a social embarrassment, but, according to some, legal action could have been taken. Imagine Mary’s concern over this. Turning to her Son, she enlists His help.

    Jesus’ initial response was not a reluctance or denial on His part, but a teaching point to His mother. Perhaps, at His age of 30, He wanted her to understand that He now must focus on His mission of teaching; He will help but let her be reminded about that which she already knew. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:32-33, ASV).

    With Jesus’ turning water into wine, He turned a festive marriage occasion from a sorrowful beginning to a fresh start. There is a great lesson in this: When people marry, as a family unit, they start anew. The grow together in maturity and in the size of the family. As they do this, they should also give attention to their destiny. Where is the family going, and how will it get there? Those who turn from the Lord think they know where they are going. When they arrive, they quickly realize what they thought was not their desire.

    On the other hand, those who start with Jesus, know where they are going, how to get there, and are sure of their desired destination. Their marriage and family is long lasting. When the years come and go, when the body with its tight skin and no blemishes begins to be less tight and with a few more scars, even beyond the grey hairs, wrinkly skin, and bent-over postures with time, those who started with Jesus always have a fresh and new start. 

-- Ron Thomas, beginning in January 2023, Ron will be preaching for the Church of Christ at Rio Grande in Bidwell, OH. He may be contacted at

Black Friday

By Bill Brandstatter


    I have been seeing ads recently for “Black Friday.” This used to be the day after Thanksgiving when retailers lure customers with all kinds of special incentives. Now “Black Friday” comes earlier and lasts longer. People line up to get the special “door buster” savings. They will flock to stores and spend large amounts of money just to take part in the euphoria of “Black Friday.”

    A long time ago there was a “Black Friday” that was even more significant. In Mark’s gospel account we read: “Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” (Mk. 15:33) For three hours, the earth was dark. This was a dark day because Jesus was being crucified. We know it was Friday because Mark adds “Now when evening had come because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath...” (Mk. 15:42) Since the Sabbath fell on Saturday, we know this dark day was on a Friday.

    What made this “Black Friday” so special? It was special because of the price that was paid. Jesus paid the price for the sins of all mankind. Peter described it this way: “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sin, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24) There was another special purchase made on this day. Paul told the elders at Ephesus about this purchase. He said, “Shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28) Our salvation and the church of our Lord are worth more than all of Solomon’s riches.

    It was special too, because of the people who were there. The crowd of people who wanted Him crucified was there. (Mk. 15:13) Simon the Cyrenian was there. (Mk. 15:21) The soldiers who led Him away to the cross were standing there mocking Him. (Mk. 15:16) The chief priests were mocking Him also. (Mk. 15:31) The reason Jesus died was for those that were there and for those who were not there. Jesus stated in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” He was willing to forgive them while they were crucifying Him.

    Have you participated in the events of the “Black Friday” of Jesus’ life? Are you saved by His blood? (Matt. 26:28; Rev. 1:5) Have you put Him on in baptism and taken part in all that His death purchased? (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27) What did or does that “Black Friday” mean to you?

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

Sunday, December 11, 2022

A Lamp unto My Feet

By David R. Ferguson


    David wrote in Psalm 119:105-112, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep Thy righteous judgments. I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto Thy word. Accept, I beseech Thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Thy judgments. My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget Thy law. The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from Thy precepts. Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined mine heart to perform Thy statutes alway, even unto the end.” You probably know the following verse well, but read it aloud as though you were hearing it for the first time. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (verse 105). What lessons can we learn from that statement?

    The world is dark. It’s in a constant state of moral and intellectual darkness. We have more education today and less wisdom, much as Paul was writing about the state of Corinth in the first chapter of his first epistle to them. People make foolish decisions. The world is also dark spiritually. Satan has numbed people's minds. They don't want to see the light of the glory of God in Jesus Christ, Who is the light of the world (John 8:12) and the Word of God incarnate in the flesh (John 1:8).

    The way is definite. How do we make it through this dark world? God has marked out a definite path for each one of us, and we don't have to be afraid of where it leads. It’s a path of life, blessing and righteousness.

    Our walk is deliberate. As we take each step, we see more of what God has for us. Sometimes I would like to have a spotlight that shines for miles down the road. But God says, "You're going to learn to walk by faith. You're going to learn to walk by patience, by My promise.“

    The word is dependable. That lamp of the word will not go out, and it will not lead us astray. When you read your Bible and let its truth shine on your path, God will show you what He wants you to do. Because your walk is by faith, you can see ahead only a step at a time. Be encouraged that the way is definite and deliberate, and that God’s word is dependable, for Jesus Christ is the way (John 14:6). He will lead you!

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: or

Why Does God Allow Trials?

By Joe Slater


    Trials, especially severe ones, tempt us to doubt God. “If God exists, and if He really is good, then why does He permit pain and suffering?” But does God’s goodness require that our lives be a bed of rose petals?

    Through Moses the Lord told His people Israel, “You shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).

    The Israelites needed to suffer hunger to know the source of their blessings and to learn that satisfying one’s physical hunger isn’t the main purpose of life! Living by God’s word surpasses filling the stomach with food. What kind of parents would just give their children everything they want with no conditions or expectations?

    Such children would become soft, flabby, lazy, self-centered, and entitled. (Just look around! We’re reaping a bitter harvest!) Children need to be tested, challenged, and made to endure difficulty so they mature into responsible, realistic adults.

    It’s no different with God’s children. Though we may not enjoy it, we benefit from experiencing trials. Think of Joseph in Egypt; think of Daniel and his friends in Babylon. Most of all, think Jesus, “the captain of (our) salvation,” who was made “perfect (complete) through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10).

    Let us learn to see God’s hand in trials!

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

Hungering for God

By Joe Chesser


    Probably when you read the title of this article you thought of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5.6). Maybe you also thought of the psalm, “As a deer pants for the flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42.1-2). Both of these verses describe someone desperate for food and water. Even if you have never been frantic for food or water, you can still understand what this means.

    It is so easy, so common to get caught up in the things of life that have little or nothing to do with our personal hunger for God, and especially panting for God: things like jobs, sports, politics, health, housework, vacations, etc. Even as a preacher it is very easy to get so focused on lesson preparation to teach others, or spending time on church activities, or spending time with my family that I fail to remember to feed my own soul.

    There are some very telling signs of a lack of hungering for God:

    PRAYER. Mike Ireland wrote: “Perhaps the reason we are not better with prayer is not because we are too busy or we don’t know what to say. Rather, it is that we do not hunger for God, we do not long for Him as He longs for us. What is on God’s heart is not on ours; what matters to Him is not so important to us ... Prayer is a reflection of what we value ... Prayer is a reflection of who we are.”  (Living in His Grace, page 305).

    SIN. It doesn’t matter what the sin is (lust, lying, jealousy etc.), struggling with sin indicates a failure at hungering for a closeness with God. David recognized that his sin with Bathsheba separated him from God, and it tore his heart apart. He wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51.10-11). Hungering for the righteousness of God will help us resist sin like nothing else will.

    FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD’S PEOPLE. Worshiping God together is God’s idea (Hebrews 10.25). Communing together is God’s idea, and failing to do so makes us spiritually weak (1 Corinthians 11.21-34).  Singing to one another is God’s idea to encourage each other as well as to draw is closer to Him (Ephesians 5.19). Praying together, working together, studying together, they all help us satisfy our hunger for God. It is much more difficult to do this all by yourself. Panting for God creates a thirst to be with Him (Psalm 42.1-2), and it also creates a longing for the people of God (1 Thessalonians 3.6). That’s God’s idea to help us be more like Him.

    BIBLE STUDY. There is a direct correlation between hungering for God and a hunger for more knowledge of God. A hungry body craves to be fed. A dying body loses it desire for food. Peter said the same thing is true spiritually (1 Peter 2.2). Not having a desire to study the Scriptures is an indication of a dying soul.

    What did you think about yourself as you read these words?

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

“Never Say Never!”

By Jeff Arnette


    How many times have you heard that sentiment? I have often tried to follow those wise words but often I have caught myself saying those dreaded words. It never fails that eventually I will carelessly say it and it never fails, I almost immediately regret it. I have often wondered why we use such ideas and why we inevitably regret doing so. Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that “never” carries such huge implications.

    To use the word “never” you have to be positive about what you know and positive about every circumstance under consideration. This requires a level of knowledge we simply can’t possess. We are not omniscient and there will always be factors we hadn’t considered or anticipated. Some things that are simply beyond our ability to know. When I consider the phrase “Never say never” I can’t help but think of the apostle Peter. Three times he uses the word “never” and all three times he was proven wrong.

    The first time happens in Matt. 16:21-23. In this section, Jesus is telling the disciples that he is going to Jerusalem, will suffer many things, be killed, and raised again on the third day. Peter, like the others, is shocked and confused by this revelation. In response, he pulls Jesus aside and expresses his disapproval. Then comes the always dangerous words, “this will never happen to you Lord.” Peter is in essence saying, “it can’t happen to you” while also saying “I won’t let it happen.”

    The second time is found in John 13:8, where Jesus is washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus intends to teach them a lesson about humility and service to others, but Peter doesn’t understand this yet. When Jesus gets to Peter, he refuses to allow Jesus, his Lord and teacher, to wash his feet. For Peter, Jesus is far too important to allow him to wash his dirty, stinky feet. That’s the lowly work of servants not the Messiah. He literally says, “you shall never wash my feet!”

    The third time is found in Matt. 26:33. Here Jesus is telling them, on the night of his betrayal, that they would all fall away from him on this night. Peter again says those dreaded words, “I will never fall away!”

    In each instance Peter didn’t know everything he assumed he knew, and the words of Jesus proved to be true. What can we learn from this? First, we learn to Never use the words “never.” Second, and more important, we should learn that Jesus is always right. Even when it seems to go against everything we think and feel, Jesus is always right. Third, we should learn that Jesus is the only one who can use the word “never” and it be correct. In Heb. 13:5 Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

    This is a promise you can depend on because Jesus said so! He will never you or forsake you.

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

Did Jesus Call Her a Dog?

By Clifton Angel


    Matthew and Mark recorded the details of an interesting encounter Jesus had with a Gentile woman (cf. Matthew 15:21–28; Mark 7:24–30). Mark tells us this Syrian woman from Phoenicia approached Jesus while He was attempting to have a private meeting with His disciples. She "fell at his feet" (Mark 7:25) and "besought him that he would cast forth the demon out of her daughter” (Mark 7:26).

    Matthew informs us that Jesus' initial response toward the woman was that of silence (Matthew 15:23). Silence is a tremendous test of our faith! We no longer need the audible voice of God to live upon the earth (cf. Hebrews 1:1–3); yet, that does not stop us from longing for it. We pray to Him, fervently seek Him, and grow in His Word, and still, we long to audibly hear Him. But, we trust Him. We believe Him. In reality, He is not being silent. He continues to broadcast His Word through His servants. He continues to advertise His power through His creation. He continues to speak to our hearts through His providence and His timely answers to the prayers that are according to His will (cf. 1 John 5:14; 1 Peter 3:12; Romans 8:26–27, 34). The Gentile woman did not stop seeking the help of Jesus, even in the midst of the silence. Neither should we.

    She continued, "saying, Lord, help me" (Matthew 15:25). We are then given Jesus' second response, which might be perceived as a simple illustration or as an insult. It is a simple illustration that we do not take food from our children (preventing their adequate nourishment) and give it to the dogs. The dogs must wait until the children have been adequately fed. However, there may be a hint of irony with the illustration. Jesus' primary mission was to the Jews. The same gospel would be delivered to the Gentiles at a later time.

    In the eyes of the Jews, they were God’s “children” and the Gentiles were “dogs.” Whether it was an illustration of waiting or an insult with irony, Jesus' second response was another test of the Gentile's woman's faith.

    More than a test of faith, it is a revelation of her faith to Jesus' disciples. She did not argue with Jesus. She seemingly did not become upset with Jesus. She did not turn away from Him in disappointment. Rather, she replied, "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table" (Matthew 15:27). What a tremendous faith! She in essence said that she would be satisfied being a "dog" as long as she got to eat the crumbs from the table of Jesus. His third response was that of strength. "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt" (Matthew 15:28).

    Jesus knew of this woman's great faith before she revealed it. But, His disciples didn't. And, we didn't. Now, we do. Will we learn from her example? Will we emulate her faith? Will we continue like spoiled children to come to Him with entitlement? Or will we humble ourselves like dogs, and come to him with loyalty for even the crumbs from His table?

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

Monday, December 5, 2022

A Prayer for Growth (Eph. 3:14-19)

By Jeff Arnette


    I am certain that you, like myself, are praying for the growth of the Lord’s church here and throughout the world. Regularly, I am praying for growth especially in the ways that the Lord wants us to grow but what is that. True growth is so much more than simply metrics like attendance numbers or contribution amounts. Real growth is growing in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). It is growing in our understanding of and imitation of Jesus (Eph. 4:15-16) in our daily lives.

    We tend to think that growth is something the preacher does for the church but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The preacher can be a catalyst, but real church growth begins in you and then extends to the whole church.

    In Ephesians 3:14-19, the apostle Paul prayed for the growth of the Ephesian Christians. His prayer reveals much about true Christian growth. I want to challenge you to adopt Paul’s view on true growth and to pray every day for the growth of this church. Notice that Paul prays for growth in four primary areas.

    First in verse 16, he prays for them to be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit in their soul. This power is the power of the Holy Spirit living and working within each one of us and enabling with a power that is like dynamite inside us. We need to learn to depend on and trust in this power of God that is at our disposal.

    Secondly in verse 17, I want you to notice that he prayed that Christ would dwell in their hearts. Paul knew that the Ephesians needed to not only know that Christ was within them but also being guided by it. He was praying that Christ would be their center, that he would be the focus of all that they did in this life. We too need to learn to focus on Christ and let him be the center of our life, the focal point of all that we do.

    Third in verses 18-19, Paul prayed that they would be able to comprehend the truest expression of Christ love for them. He said that he needed them to be able to understand what that really looked like, what it felt like to be loved by Jesus. To understand the love of Christ for ourselves and others will, or at least it should change your life. It was what changed Paul and he knew that it would do the same for us (Acts 9). We to need to focus on and learn to comprehend the truest expression of Christ love for us and others.

    Lastly in verse 19, Paul prayed that they would be filled with the fullness of God. He knew that if they were filled up with God and the things of God true growth would happen. Church, the same is true for us too. If we will fill our lives, minds, and hearts with the things of God we will grow in amazing and powerful ways.

    Once we grow as individual Christians and embody what it means to radiate the life and love of Jesus, shining as lights in this world (Matt. 5:14-16), then growth will happen. Will you join me in committing to praying for this church? Praying for personal, spiritual growth in each person?

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

Our Greatest Privilege

By Al Behel


Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)

    The disciples of Jesus had listened to his sermons, but never asked, “Teach us to preach.” They had observed his powerful miracles, but never said, “Lord, teach us to do miracles.” The one thing they asked for Him to teach them was how to pray. Knowing how to pray effectively is far more desirable than knowing how to preach a powerful sermon. Moving heaven is much greater than moving men on earth.

    Of course, there are many desirable gifts or privileges, but none surpasses the privilege of prayer. We can train men to preach moving sermons, but powerful praying can only come out of hearts that have been touched by the Master. More is accomplished through prayer than through sermons for without prayer sermons are empty and ineffective.

    Obviously, the disciples had witnessed Jesus on His knees. They had seen the hand of God moved through His prayers. No one had prayed like Him. No one had talked with the Father the way Jesus did. They stood in awe as they listened to Him pray and they wanted to pray like Jesus prayed. Only Jesus could teach them to pray like that.

    I’ve heard many moving prayers. Some were very short but powerful. A little boy in New York prayed, “God, I thank you for making me a human being and not a dog!” Some of the old saints knew how to pray. The key? They knew they were really talking to God and that God was listening.

    Prayer is every believer’s privilege. Not everyone is called to become preachers, or elders, or teachers, but everyone is called to pray. Later, Jesus would say, “Men ought always to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Praying opens the doors of heaven and moves the hand of God.

    Unfortunately, many Christians do not avail themselves of this privilege. Instead, there is an expectation that life moves on its own, most days are reasonably comfortable, and we maintain good health. We forget that prayer is not solely about us. It is primary about communing with our heavenly Father. It is about advancing His kingdom in a world of darkness.

    We are instructed to pray for others, to pray for laborers to go into the fields to reap the harvest, and for the spread of the gospel. If prayer is really power, how foolish is it for us to rely on ourselves when we have little control over anything. We have access to our God, the “Almighty” One, who is never tired or weary. Who is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask of think, according to the power at work in us”. (Ephesians 3:20).

- 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 -

Up from the Miry Clay

By David Sargent


    Keith Wishum reports: Tuesday, October 26, 1999 was no day at the beach for 28 year-old Kenny Beach of Brunswick, Georgia. Beach, whose house overlooks a marsh, went out in a small boat to search for missing parts of his floating dock. When he stepped from the boat to retrieve an errant piece, he sank immediately up to his waist in the muck.

    Beach quickly discovered that struggling to free himself only made matters worse as he was sucked deeper into the soft mud. Soon, he was buried up to his chest. The tide was coming in.

    Deciding to be still and call for help, Beach began to shout. He continued to sink deeper. The tide continued to rise. The sun disappeared and darkness settled, leaving Beach cold, alone, and afraid as the cold dark water rose, first to his neck, then to his face. Continuing to call for help, Beach panicked, knowing that he would soon drown.

    As the murky water finally closed over Beach's nose, fire department rescuers James Williams and Craig Renshaw heard a gurgle. Swinging their rowboat toward the sound, they spotted Beach and quickly began to pull him from the muck which would have claimed his life.

    Kenny Beach’s plight while stuck in the mire resembles our condition in our sins…  we are separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and destined for death (Romans 6:23).  We cannot free ourselves from the mire of sin (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We are totally dependent upon someone else to come to our rescue.

    God, because of His great love for us, sent His Son Jesus to our rescue (Romans 5:8).  He came to this world as a Man to identify with us and to die for us – the perfect Sacrifice to pay the debt for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

    Jesus will lift from the mire of sin those who accept His offer of salvation and eternal life by placing their faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Then those who continue to cling to Him through their trusting obedience will continually be cleansed by His blood (1 John 1:7).

    In a song entitled “Deeper and Deeper,” Oswald J. Smith ponders the salvation that Christ offers:


Into the heart of Jesus

Deeper and deeper I go,

Seeking to know the reason

Why He should love me so,

Why He should stoop to lift me

Up from the miry clay,

Saving my soul, making me whole,

Though I had wandered away.


The reason that God desires to lift us up from the miry clay is because He loves us.

    The reason why we should accept His offer on His terms is because Jesus is our only Hope!

    Won't YOU trust and obey Him?

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


* Source: Keith Wishum, “When You're Going Under,” in A Word from Williams Road, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus, GA.

The Fortune of Family

By Edd Sterchi


    One of the most valuable things that God has given us is the concept of the family. Think about it – before God brought forth the societal governmental system, He gave the family. Before God established His church on the earth, He consecrated the family.

    After creating the heavens and the earth, God placed a family there (Gen.

1:27-28; 2:21-25). After God cleansed the earth through the global flood, He began anew with a family (Gen. 6:17-18.). It is through a family that God gave His promise of a Savior and through whom all families on earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-5).

    The family as God would have it is the moral structure of any successful society. The family is the golden thread that binds a particular group of people to their past, present, and future. The family is where hurts are best healed, victories are best shared, and forgiveness is easiest displayed. The family is the place where love is most at home. Without a doubt, God knew what He was doing when He created the family.

    When Paul through inspiration wanted to show Christ’s love for the church and her relationship to Him, he did in family type language (Eph. 5:22-33). And after that, Paul naturally transitioned into a discussion of parents and children and their responsibilities to one another as a family (Eph. 6:1-4).

    After looking at all of this Biblical information, we can only come to one conclusion: family is important. Why else would God have connected such vital aspects of His will to the family? Because the family (following the will of God) is the core unit of success and happiness.

    Knowing this, it behooves each of us to make our family relationships the best that they can be. We each need to do our part to make our families better and stronger. Only good things will come from this effort.

    One last thing – regardless of our earthly family situation, we can be a part of the best family on earth, which is the church. Members of the church are “members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19), and are a part of “the whole family in heaven and earth” (Eph. 3:14-15). Are you a part of God’s family?

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

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

By Gerald Cowan


    You’ve heard that old riddle, haven’t you? How do you answer it? Now here is another question for you: Which comes first, faith, fact, or feeling? There is a logical order which makes faith practical and relevant. To disregard this order will reduce faith to foolishness. The logical order is fact, faith, and feeling. Fact must come first. Faith is knowledge and acceptance of the facts. Feeling follows faith. Feeling is the effect or result of faith in the facts.

    It is easy to get it turned wrong, and many do. Some put feelings first. Their faith and the whole order of their lives are pinned to their feelings. “If it feels right it must be right.” Consequently they are at the mercy of their own feelings. When they feel low, depressed, and discouraged it puts their faith in a tailspin. Nagging doubts sweep over them, doubts about God, their own souls, and their chances for salvation. But when they are elated, happy, and in good spirits the doubts disappear and they think that they really believe – faith is riding high! That ought to be proof enough that you cannot depend on your own feelings. Your feelings about God and His Christ may change, but God himself does not change (Mal. 3:6). Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever Heb. 13:8).  Don’t believe your feelings. Believe God! Trust Him to bring to pass what He has said (Ps. 37:5).

    Some put faith first. But how can you have faith without an object of faith, something to believe or trust in? You cannot just have faith in faith. Can you believe in believing, trust in trusting, have confidence in confidence? All of that is nonsense. Faith must rest upon something or someone. The trustworthiness of faith depends on the trustworthiness of its object. You cannot make a thing true just by believing in it. That is delusion. If a thing is not true, faith will not change it into truth. If a thing is true, lack of faith will not change it to untruth. See Rom.3:3-4).

    The only dependable approach is to put the facts first. Find the truth and pin your faith to it (John 8:31). Find what is dependable, trustworthy and true, then accept it because it is all these things. Faith is nothing more that accepting and applying the truth, and it comes only by investigation of the facts. The Christian knows that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17, John 17:17). Faith is centered in the fact of Jesus Christ, that One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Once you align your faith with the facts you can be assured that the proper feelings will follow (read carefully Col. 1:3-6). What feelings? Well, what feelings would you expect to come if you knew you had found and accepted truth, and that your faith and hope were founded upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ?

    Postscript: Still wondering about the chicken and egg? Here’s the answer: Logically two chickens came first – necessarily male and female – who were able to reproduce by means of a fertilized egg. If the egg came first, all it could produce is a helpless chick that would not survive or be able to reproduce itself. God’s word makes it clear that this is what happened – not only with chickens but with all living things. The adult forms were created whole, male and female, with everything needed for reproducing themselves (Genesis, chapters one and two).

- 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