By Jeff Arnette
Talk about an oxymoron. The epitome of isolation and loneliness connected with what should be the epitome of family, purpose, and belonging. You may disagree with my choice of titles, but chances are, you were taught to be a “lone wolf” just like me. From childhood most of us were taught that all we needed to succeed in life was hard work and determination. We were conditioned to believe that we don’t need anything or anyone to attain our goals in life. We were raised to be lone wolves in life, in work, and perhaps most importantly, in our faith.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that our parents did the best they could with the information and training they had. How could they have known that they were creating a generation of people who would cast off all personal connections and go it alone? We live in a time when connections to friends and family are all but non-existent. A time when connections to faith and church have eroded to the point that the average person doesn’t attend church services. I was shocked to learn that 75% of our entire population doesn’t attend church services.
The problem with all this is that it is anti-Christian and destined to fail. Reality dictates that the lone wolf can survive along as everything goes his way (which is a rarity), but, as soon as winter comes, and life gets hard, he will starve to death. The pack survives and thrives while the lone wolf flounders in the anguish of starvation and loneliness.
I honestly believe this is Satan’s plan to destroy us. You cannot destroy a people until you separate them from each other. The lone wolf cannot survive the hard times of life. Alone they become more susceptible to sin and distractions. With no God, no faith, no family, no friends, no accountability, or authority in life; we will fail. It is inevitable.
God never intended for us to be alone. He gave us a church and family to ensure we are never alone through the winter of life.
God never intended for us to learn about faith and our gifts without the guidance of other men and women of God. Without the church, we never learn the fullness of faith and what it can be; so, we settle for whatever we have and wonder why we are unhappy.
God never intended for us to be the sole source of authority in our lives. We need the church; preachers, elders, and fellow church members to help keep us in line. He gave us a Bible and other men and women to help attain true faith and Christianity. Without the church, we settle for something that looks like the real thing but is a cheap imitation destined to fail.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/
Sunday, January 29, 2023
By Clifton Angel
Let us consider seven reasons repentance is necessary for every accountable soul.
1. The Command of God. “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30, ASV). God commands repentance of every person in every place.
2. The Cost of Sin. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, KJV).
3. The Cutoff of Sin. “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1–2). Sin separates us from our God.
4. The Connection to God. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). But if we repent and walk in the light, we have fellowship with him (cf. 1 John 1:7). That is tremendous motivation for repentance.
5. The Conclusion in Salvation. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). It is rewarding to study the prepositions concerning the requirements for salvation. Hearing the gospel leads unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Believing Jesus leads unto righteousness (Romans 10:10). Confession with the mouth is unto salvation (Romans 10:10). And as we have read from 2 Corinthians 7:10, repentance leads to salvation. But it is not until one is baptized that he is in Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:10–12), has his sins washed away (cf. Acts 22:16), has his sins forgiven (cf. Acts 2:38), is saved (cf. Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
6. The Cancellation of Sins. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). As was aforementioned, cancellation of sins does not occur until baptism, but repentance is required in order to get to that point. Immersion without repentance is merely a physical bath.
7. The Occasion from God. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If you are reading this article in the flesh, God is still displaying his long-suffering to us. The Lord has promised to return (cf. John 14:1–3), but he has not yet because He is “willing ... that all should come to repentance.”
Have you obeyed this command of God? Will you avoid the cost and cutoff of sins with the cancellation of sins? Are you connected to God? Will your life conclude in salvation? Have you taken advantage of the occasion God has provided you? If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, we urge you to repent.
By Joe Chesser
Among the last words written by the beloved Apostle Paul are found in 2 Timothy 2.19: “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’”
Our world is unstable. The economy is always in a state of flux. Our national confidence could crumble at any time. Job security is a thing of the past. Health? Morality? Friendships? Even our family relations are at risk.
But regardless of what is happening in the world around us, one thing has always remained constant ... and it always will: “God’s solid foundation stands firm!”
The context of Paul’s statement to Timothy is reassuring even for us 2000 years later. The point here is not to establish the trustworthiness of God. That is firmly established in other Scriptures (Heb. 13.6,8; Isa. 41.10; Prov. 30.5; 1 Thess. 5.24; Deut. 7.9, 32.4; Psalm 111.7). The point is that because God is so solid and sure, we can trust that what God began cannot be destroyed no matter what happens in the world around us, or even among ourselves in the church! Jesus built the church, and not even Satan can destroy it (Matt. 16.18)! Godless chatter and false teachings can spread like gangrene, causing some to wander away from the truth (2 Tim. 2.16-18). Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm! That’s why each of us needs to do our very best to be approved by God by handling accurately His word of truth (2 Tim. 2.15). God and His truth will never change, but we certainly may.
Wrong ideas about God, His truth, and His church are circulating all around us. They always have. They always will. That’s why it is so important to consistently trust the source of truth instead of what others say about it. “The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Tim. 2.19). People are confused about who are Christians and who aren’t, but God is not! If we study accurately what God says about how to be saved, we don’t have to be confused either. The same principle is true about the church Jesus built, about how to live as God’s people, about how to worship, about marriage and family, about ethics ... about everything pertaining to life and godliness: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1.3 emphasis mine). That was written in the 1st century, and is just as true in the 21st century as it was the day it was written. God has made sure we have all we need to become His children and to live like His children. Where there are doubts, God and His words are a solid, unchanging foundation to discover and on which to rely. People with slick tongues and great sounding arguments will try to lure you away from God and His truth (2 Tim. 4.1-4). Don’t fall for it. Examine things yourself by examining truth (2 Cor. 13.5).The Lord knows who belongs to Him. He knows who we are, where we are and what we need. Why trust anyone or anything other than Him and His truth?
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Joe Slater
I hope you have the happiest holiday in history! (How’s that for alliteration?) Seriously, I want nothing, including this article, to detract from your genuine enjoyment of the whole holiday season.
That being said, please show compassion toward the many for whom holidays are, to say the least, difficult. The anniversary of a loved one’s death may come at holiday time. Even if they passed away at some other date, unwelcome feelings of loss and loneliness may flood aching hearts during holidays.
That doesn’t mean you should feel guilty for enjoying family, food, and fun. Make those precious memories! As you do so, remember those who feel empty. A loving look, a sympathetic smile, a hug or pat on the arm may accomplish more than you realize.
An understanding word of encouragement could be helpful. That definitely excludes tacky remarks like “get over it!” or “just move on!” Such cruel comments show the opposite of a Christ-like spirit!
Sometimes no words are needed. Your mere presence tells the person you are there for them. Think of Job’s three friends when they came to visit him in his profound suffering; the best thing they did was remain silent an entire week. Then they started talking and things went downhill from there!
In no less than a dozen places the Gospels specify that Jesus either showed compassion or taught His disciples to do so. May God help us to be like Jesus not only during this holiday season, but every day!
There is abundant evidence that Jesus was not born in the month of December; however, did you know that an event in the month of December is mentioned in the Bible? Specifically, we read of Jesus attending a feast in the month of December. In John 10:22, 23 we read “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter and Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” (NKJV) I find this passage very interesting and feel that a couple of points need to be made.
First, what is the Feast of Dedication and why was Jesus there? Let us first understand that the Hebrews had a bunch of celebrations. Some were based on traditions. It was difficult for them to give some of these up after they became Christians. Paul alludes to this in Rom. 14:5: “One esteems one day over another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” The need to celebrate the old Jewish feast days was no longer necessary, however. Paul wrote to the brethren in Colossae: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.” (Col. 2:16) Others were based on religious, natural or agricultural events. The Feast of Dedication, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, began on December 25th and was held for eight days. (Orr, James “Feast of Dedication,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia) Burton Coffman notes about this feast: “The Feast of Dedication was begun by Judas Maccabeus B.C. 164 to commemorate the cleansing and rededication of the temple after the defilement through pagan worship. It was not one of the great feasts handed down from Moses; but it was popular among the people who called it: the feast of lights. It was held at the winter solstice (Christmas) ... and was called `The Feast of the New Age." (Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 10", "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament", Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999). This feast was instituted by men, not by God. This feast is also known as the “Feast of Lights” because of the lights that were used to celebrate it. It is also known as “Hanukkah.” The Jews continue its celebration today.
Second, Jesus no doubt spoke at this time because there was a crowd present (John 10:23-25). Any feast day was likely to draw a crowd of Jews. So, on or around December 25th Jesus began a discourse that dealt with Himself. Those in the crowd accused Him of blasphemy. The speech on that day was one about His identity. He stated, “The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me” (John 10:25). Jesus further spoke of His relationship to the Father and said, “I and My Father are One.” (John 10:30) The Jews then sought to stone Jesus.
We should take any day possible to speak about Christ to others. Christmas, like the Feast of Dedication, is instituted by man; yet, we should speak of Christ to others since Christ is on the minds of so many. As Christ took a man-made celebration to tell of Himself, let us also do the same this holiday season.
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/
Sunday, January 22, 2023
By Ron Bartanen
Tomorrow we, as a nation, observe Veterans Day, It is a day appropriately set aside to give honor to the veterans—to those who have faced the possibility of death in defense of our freedoms. Theirs has been the greatest sacrifice of which man is capable. They have left parents, wives and husbands, and children to serve their country with the realization that they might never again see their loved ones. The greatest of honors are due toward those who were willing to make the greatest of sacrifices. Let us therefore remind ourselves of the value of that for which they were willing to give their all. They esteemed our liberty as a nation to be valued even above their lives.
How great will be the disgrace and shame of our nation if this for which they were willing to shed their blood is cast aside. Following the Civil War, President Lincoln gave the famous Gettysburg Address, remembering those who had fallen in battle. In the closing words of his speech he said, “It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” On Memorial Day we gave special honor to the deceased veterans, but on Veterans Day we recognize also those who survived. We could make one change in Lincoln ’s speech to say, “…that these shall not have fought in vain.” As Lincoln saw that “under God” we had been granted freedom, he also recognized the “great task” ahead for the survivors of war—that of a continued defense of freedom. He called the nation to “increased devotion to that cause….” Liberty, once achieved, is nevertheless seen as an “unfinished work,” dependent upon that devotion. Otherwise, tyranny would triumph, and our free republic would “perish from the earth.”Sadly, our generation is witnessing a loss of that devotion, and with it the dissembling of what was once recognized as a “Christian nation.” Our nation was blessed from its beginning with founders and defenders who had a high regard for the Bible and the Christian faith. Congress even provided Bibles for schools and homes that the next generation would continue its Christian heritage and with it the liberties of a free people. The discarding of this foundation can only result in catastrophic ruin. We can politically justify killing babies in the wombs of their mothers, kick God and His word out of schools and all public sites, and redefine marriage to give honor to what God calls an abomination, but only at the expense of inviting God’s wrath. The God who does not change could say to us as He said Israel through David, “Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you…These (evil) things you have done, and I kept silent: You thought that I was altogether like you: But I will rebuke you… Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver” (Psalms 50:17, 21-22). Let it never be said in future generations that through our godlessness we lost our nation, and our veterans “have fought in vain.”
- 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: email@example.com
By Brian Mitchell
The following story was run a number of years ago in the Fort Worth, Texas Star Telegram. “The man who spotted targets for American bombers over Hiroshima in August 1945 has been laid to rest in Texas soil after searching the last 33 years for some peace in his life. Claude Robert Earthley was a 24 Year Air Force pilot who picked out Hiroshima through a hole in the clouds and radioed the Enola Gay to bomb her primary targets. He died this past Saturday from cancer in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Houston.
He had been discharged from the service in 1947 following numerous psychiatric tests that indicated severe neurosis and guilt complex. Doctors said that he told him that he felt personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Japanese. In 1960, after a series of small time burglaries, the Van Alstyne, Texas, native told reporters that he had not had any sleep in 15 years. There is no peace, he said.”
One of the primary definitions for the word peace was an “inner calm or tranquility.” Inner peace is something that all men search for, and yet for various reasons, few ever really find it. There are many people in the world and some in the Lord’s Church as well that struggle, as Mr. Earthley did, with their own personal demons and thus they never really enjoy the peace the God intends for all of our lives—Jn.14:1-3, Jn.14:27, Jn.16:33.
If God intended for us to have peace in our lives and Jesus says repeatedly that it is peace that we have in Him; why do so many people live lives characterized by anything but peace? Some people don’t have peace in their lives because they have never come to the only real source of peace in our lives and that is God. In fact, there is no peace in life a part from God, and if you are here today and have never obeyed the Gospel you should not have peace in your life.The real question though is this; why do so many Christians live lives without peace? How about you?
- 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 https://www.jacksonchurchofchrist.net
Before you criticize Jonah too severely, put yourself in his place. God commanded him to preach to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. Assyria was a fierce and dreaded enemy of Israel. I could make you nauseous with details of the Assyrians’ cruelty to their enemies. The worse the pain they could inflict and the longer they could make it last, the better they liked it. No doubt Jonah would have been happy for God to wipe them from the face of the earth. Good riddance!
How would you react if God told you to go preach to Pyongyang (North Korea, ruled by Kim Jong-un)? Or to Kabul (Afghanistan, ruled by the Taliban)? Or to ISIS in parts of Syria? Jonah’s assignment had much in common with those.
Jonah was wrong to disobey God. Let there be no doubt about that! Jonah’s nationalism kept him from understanding God’s love for even the worst of sinners. God’s nature doesn’t change. Today He isn’t willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9); that was true in Jonah’s day too. The sheer ignorance of the Assyrians didn’t excuse their hideous abuses, but it did result in the Lord being longsuffering with them even as He was with Israel and still is with us.
Can you love people who hate you and would be all too happy to kill you if they could? Jesus prayed for the very people who were mocking and murdering Him. A few weeks later His blood cleansed some of them from their sins!
God loves the good and the evil, the just and the unjust, His love is perfect (complete, mature, Matthew 5:43-48). It’s nothing special to love those who love you (v. 46). But loving your enemies makes you like God.
What if you could live in a nation whose foundation was built upon God? What if you could live in a nation whose primary leader was completely submissive to God? What if you could live in a nation whose laws were always truly good and right? What if you could live in a nation whose justice system was entirely upright? What if you could live in a nation whose good citizens always looked to God? A nation whose education system relied on the Bible? A nation where life was sacred? A nation where the leaders truly sought the best for the citizens? A nation that cared most about things Biblical, instead of things political? As much as this may seem like a fantasy, it is actually a reality.
Peter wrote these words to members of the body of Christ:
"Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy
nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the
praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his
marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
Figuratively, the Lord's church is a nation, which must shine as a light to all physical nations. Paul said,
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye
may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without
rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among
whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:14–15).
The Psalmist proclaimed,
"Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah, The people
whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance" (Psalm 33:12,
In his first epistle, Peter said it this way, concerning the church,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us
again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled,
and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1:3–4).
If you are in Christ's kingdom (Acts 2:37–47; Colossians 1:13)—an holy nation—you are in: (1) A nation whose foundation is built upon God! (2) A nation whose primary leader is completely submissive to God (Jesus)! (3) A nation whose laws are always truly good and right! (4) A nation whose justice system is entirely upright! (5) A nation whose good citizens always look to God! (6) A nation whose education system relies on the Bible! (7) A nation where life is sacred! (8) A nation where the leaders truly seek the best for the citizens! (9) A nation that cares most about things Biblical, instead of things political!
Are you in the church that belongs to Christ—the one nation that is willingly under God?
Our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Savior,
the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).
By Jeff Arnette
We live in a world where it is an unforgivable sin is to be intolerant of others. What is often shocking is that those same people who are quick to point out that someone is being “intolerant” are themselves incredibly intolerant of others. They seem to be tolerant of almost anything except Christian values or someone who disagrees with them. As soon as someone disagrees with their opinions or says they are a Christian they’re instantly labeled as intolerant, bigoted, racist, or legalistic.
I think we need to define this word tolerance. The worldly definition of tolerance seems to be “accepting all views as true.”[i] Whereas, Oxford’s dictionary says “showing tolerance (of a plant, animal, or machine), able to endure specified conditions or treatment.”[ii] Webster’s defines tolerance as “tolerating or being tolerant, especially of the beliefs and customs of others, even though these are not like your own.” Therefore, to tolerate means to allow, permit, or recognize and respect others’ beliefs and customs without sharing them.[iii]
Is tolerance really about just accepting all viewpoints as correct? Does God really expect me to just accept someone’s view as true, just because they believe it to be true? Honestly, I can hold to all kinds of ideas about all kinds of things, but just because they are my views does not make them right. Obviously if I hold a certain view, I believe it to be right but am I really, correct?
I think this gets to the real problem most have with tolerance. We live in a world that does not want anyone to tell them they are wrong. Friends, the Bible I read says that I cannot just accept everything as true. God expects His followers to question all things (1 Thess. 5:21) and hold to the good. The very words good and bad or right and wrong imply that some things are right and others wrong.
To make matters worse, the way most people throw around the accusation of intolerance violates a simple principle of logic. The principle states that if you are presented with two contradictory statements there can only be three logical options. One is right and the other is wrong or both statements are wrong. We cannot accept that all contradictory views are correct. We can speculate all day about what we think or even what we want to be true but there is only one truth. For example, if Jesus is not the only way to heaven (John 14:6) then what is the right way?
So, are you intolerant of other’s beliefs simply because they differ from yours? I don’t think so. Excuse me but I thought we lived in a country where having an opinion was ok or even desirable. I’m afraid we’re inching closer and closer to a society where the majority rules and if you disagree you will be censored, silenced, or discredited until no one listens to you any longer.
For the Christian, the Bible is very clear on this. I must differentiate between what is good and what is bad. But in the process, I cannot forget that the same Bible tells me to treat people fairly, to love them, and to try to help them find the truth about God and salvation. True tolerance does not require you to be ignorant and blind to the truth.
[i] Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen, Paul Copan, J.P. Moreland and Doug Powell, The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007). 1882.
[ii] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
[iii] Hindson, E., & Caner, E. (2008). The popular encyclopedia of apologetics: surveying the evidence for the truth of christianity. Harvest House Publishers.
Sunday, January 15, 2023
By Jeff Arnette
At just 219 words, 3 John is the shortest book in the entire Bible. The size and them of 3 John is like 2 John. Both letters were written by the apostle John who is called “the elder” (v. 3). The sense of appreciation for their “children walking in truth” (vv. 3-4) also resonates in both letters. And, of course, both letters include warnings against church leaders who would deceive and abuse the church members.
Just like 2 John, this letter has all the attributes of a typical letter of its time. It is very personal in its tone and feel, yet it challenges its readers to stand up for the truth and follow the example of those who are exemplifying Christlikeness. The problem the church is dealing with was leaders who are using the church to gain power and control over others.
The purpose of 3 John is clearly to advise a dear friend and fellow Christian leader about how to deal with a troublemaker named “Diotrephes.” He was trying to gain and retrain power over the church by limiting their expose to other preachers and teachers.
3 John was written to man named “Gaius” and dealt with the specific problems in the church. The date for the letter seems to be like 2 John which is around AD 90. At its heart, 3 John gives us a contrast between two church leaders and their hearts. The first is “Gaius” (vv. 1-8), who is the main recipient of the letter. In 3 John, John elevates the leadership and ministry of Gaius as faithful. He even said that Gaius was deserving of a good reputation in the church.
The other leader “Diotrephes”, who longed for first place in the church, was standing against him and his ministry. Instead of welcoming traveling preachers and supporting them in their work he wanted to isolate the church members from anyone who would teach them something else. He worked against Gaius but also anyone in the church who tried to do what was right. John insinuated that he would deal with Diotrephes personally if and when he came to visit them.
Two themes stand out in 3 John. First is the lesson on practicing hospitality to those doing the Lord’s word. The two men stand in contrast here set an example of what to do and what to avoid. Gaius made it a habit of welcoming these people and meeting theirs needs. Diotrephes, on the other hand, worked against them and anyone who wanted to support and encourage them. In his misguided attempts to gain power and influence, John rebukes his actions and warns him of coming judgment.
Second, John points out the example of Gaius as a true leader worthy of being followed while Diotrephes was to be avoided. Interestingly, John praises both men for their service in the church. This echoes the lessons Jesus taught about true greatness was found in humility and service to others.
Let me encourage you to read this great little book again and consider for yourself how it applies to your life.
By David A. Sargent
I have known and respected Neal Pollard since we were classmates at Faulkner University in the 1980s. I did not know until recently of what he calls his “second chance.” Here is part of his story:
We were living in Cairo, Georgia, and I was in the third grade. It was during a game of kickball on the playground and I was the "pitcher." A kid kicked it hard and I caught it. As the ball hit me in the gut, I felt a sharp pain. Something wasn't right. My parents took me that week to see the local doctor. He thought it might be a hernia. Exploratory surgery in Thomasville instead revealed a tumor on my liver. My parents and I flew to Atlanta, Georgia, where I was checked into Egleston Children's Hospital. Extensive testing there and in Emory Hospital, the general campus for Egleston, led my team of doctors to the same conclusion: it was cancerous. They tried to prepare my parents for how slim my chance of survival was. Even if their diagnosis was wrong, surgery and attending blood loss may well be more than I could stand. My parents maintained great faith, and my dad solicited prayers from congregations all over the place. [After the surgery], Dr. Gerald Zwiren, who led a team of highly-skilled doctors, brought the news to my parents that I survived the surgery and later shared the oncology report that my tumor was benign. That was close to 40 years ago and to this point I have never had further complications. I certainly received a second chance.
Periodically, I ponder at length what I have done with that second chance. The scar I bear from that surgery has long since become invisible to my daily view. I suffer no lingering consequences. That event is certainly not why I chose to become a preacher, as if to try and pay a debt to God for saving me. Sadly, despite His mercy in sparing me, I have sinned in ways great and small that reveal, in addition to all else, a failure to appreciate that blessing. Spiritually, whether as a preacher, husband, father, or Christian, I am saddled with the realization of how far I have to go. With the help of His Word, His providence, and His strength, I continue to try to make the most of this extra time He gave me back in 1979. *
Consider a similarity from Neal’s experience to our own condition…
Because of our sins, we find ourselves lost and doomed to destruction. As Neal writes, “By all human calculations and efforts, nothing could be done to save us.”
But God loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die for us so that we might have the forgiveness of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).
Although we are lost due to our sins, God gives us “a second chance.”
God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). The redeeming blood that Jesus shed on the cross will continue to cleanse those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
God is the God of second chances. Take Neal’s words to heart: “You may have messed things up badly in your life. You may feel that it is impossible for God to love and forgive you. [But] God is the God of the second chance! His diagnosis is perfect, and His is the only one that counts! Trust in the Great Physician. He has never lost a patient who followed His prescription!”
Won’t YOU trust and obey the Great Physician and make the most of the “second chance” that He provides in Christ?
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org
* Neal Pollard, “What Do We Make Of God's Second
Chances?” in Daily Bread (7/22/15), an e-mail ministry of the Bear Valley
church of Christ in Denver, CO, where Neal serves as a Gospel preacher.
“With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). However, there is at least one thing that Scripture points out is impossible with God (Note: This is no contradiction; Jesus’ statement must be considered contextually). “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Yes, the impossibility here falls on the burden of the human being. Grammatically, we can change it to say: “It is impossible for God to be pleased with one who is without faith.”
Why do I need faith? First, it’s impossible to please God without it. Second, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
How do I obtain faith? “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Does this mean in order to have Biblical faith, all I have to do is audibly acknowledge God’s Word? Does it mean that I do not have to actually do anything? James says, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20, 26). “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). But Paul said all I have to do is hear God’s Word? Yes. Is this a contradiction? No.
We can see that it is not a contradiction by properly understanding what it means to hear. When a mother says to her daughter: “Go clean your room.” The daughter stays put. And her mom asks, “Did you hear me?” Can the daughter then just say, “Yes, I heard you,” and rightfully continuing doing something other than cleaning her room? Or would her mother discipline her for not really listening? The fact is, we know that “hearing” in that context also requires action. And the same is required in the Romans 10:17 instruction.
Therefore, believing Biblically is not merely a mental acknowledge of something but acting upon it according to God’s standards. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Some have asked, “Why Jesus did not say, ‘he that believeth not and is baptized not shall be condemned’?” The answer is found in the definition of belief that we have just discussed. If one does not believe, there is no need for the actions that emanate from belief. A grammatical consideration of Mark 16:16 solidifies its meaning and denies all contradictions. Consider: “He that eats and digests his food will live; he that eats not will die.” If one does not eat, there is no need for digestion. If one does not believe, there is no need for baptism. However, if one believes Jesus, then he will know that he cannot be saved before baptism.The need to believe is apparent. Do you believe?
“What do you want for Christmas?” I already have my two front teeth, so my stock reply is, “I don’t know” (shrug). That frustrates the ones asking, but it’s true! I have no pressing needs. Even my wish list is pretty much empty.
Each passing year makes it clearer that the things I really need and want can’t be purchased with money! As our Savior so aptly put it, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). I want the presence of (not presents from) my family. I want their health and safety, and above all their close walk with God.
I don’t need more belongings, but I definitely need a sense of belonging. God Himself said it isn’t good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Family fills that need for belonging in marvelous ways! For that very reason, Satan relentlessly attacks the nuclear family. As early as Eden he pitted Adam and Eve against each other. Today his agents seek to redefine what a family is. Destruction of the family opens the door to finding that sense of belonging in unwholesome places.
As precious as earthly families are, I also need to belong to God’s spiritual family. The love, fellowship, and support of brothers and sisters in Christ surpass anything money can buy. By myself I won’t survive, but as we mutually strive to serve God our Father and Jesus our Elder Brother, we will enjoy certain victory! Satan throws roadblocks the church’s way just as he does with earthly families, tempting us to find our sense of belonging in worldly organizations or even false religious groups. Let us remain steadfast!
I hope you get just what you want and need for Christmas: not mere belongings, but belonging.
By Dan C. Bailey
All of us have been assisted by friends in some way and somewhere along the road of life. With gratitude in our hearts we reflect upon that assistance and we usually express it with our lips by saying, "Thank you." Jesus has done so much for us, yet so few thank him by surrendering their lives to His service and submitting to His blessed will. It is good for us to take the time to think about what Jesus has done for us.
Jesus came down from heaven and left the glory that He had with the Father for our sakes. "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5).
Jesus was rich but He became poor for us. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (II Corinthians 8:9).
Jesus became flesh in order that He might die for all of mankind. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9).
Jesus had no sins but He was reviled and beaten in order that we might be healed. "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (I Peter 2:22-24).
Jesus was wounded for our transgressions. "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
Jesus was oppressed and afflicted in order to obey the Father and to die for our sins. "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7). "And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39). "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Galatians 1:4).
Jesus was despised and rejected of men in order that we might be acceptable to God. "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3). "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7). "And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Ephesians 2:16). "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:11-12).
These are just a few of the things that Jesus has done for us. We need to ask ourselves, "What have we done for Jesus?"
- Dan C. Bailey serves as a minister with the State Street Church of Christ in Bristol, VA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at https://www.thelordsway.com/statestreetchurchofchrist/framedindex.asp?Group=Home
Sunday, January 8, 2023
All four gospels describe John as a fisherman from Galilee, son of Zebedee and brother of the apostle James. The book of Acts also tells us that he is a leader of the church in Jerusalem.
In 1 John, the apostle dealt with the threat of false teachers troubling a church he loved. He was concerned that some of them might be pulled away from the faith by these slick false teachers. In 2 John, he again writes against the problems caused by some traveling false teachers.
Some have referred to 2 John as more of a “postcard” or “gospel tract” because it contains only 245 words in the Greek. While it does carry the distinction of being the shortest book of the New Testament don’t let that discourage you from studying it. It is full of powerful lessons about love, life, and the truth.
The letter is addressed to an unknown individual called the “elect lady and her children.” While it does could refer to a literal person, it seems like John uses the term as a metaphor for a church and its members. Whichever you chose, his message is clear: love each other, love others well, and hold to the truth of God’s word.
3 themes stand out in 2 John: truth, love, and walking in the faith. Unlike the false teachers real Christians love each other, love others, and love the words of Christ. They take that love into their lives and put it into practice every day.
“… this is love that we walk according to his commandments…” (2 John 6).
Truth: John mentions the truth 4 times in the first 3 verses of the letter. He also expresses gratitude that the lady’s children (members of that church) were walking in the truth. With these false teachers trying to sow seeds of doubt about Jesus and the gospel, surrounding themselves with the truth was their greatest weapon against them.
Walking: The Christian faith is not a spectator sport. 3 times in verses 4-6, John refers to walking. The first was walking in the truth and the other two deal with walking in love. From a New Testament perspective, walking refers to your everyday life. So, for the Christian, faith should have a clear effect on everything we do.
Love: Clearly on of John’s favorite topics through all his writings, love plays a significant role in 2 John. Contrary to the false teachers, Christians live to love. They love each other and those outside the church. This is the clearest evidence of a genuine faith and relationship with Jesus.
By Clifton Angel
A couple decades before Christ was born, Horace penned "Carpe Diem," which in English means, "Seize the Day." More recently, some have said, "Life is short. Live it up." Even more recently, we've developed the acronym Y.O.L.O.—"You Only Live Once". There is a true principle in each of these. Unfortunately, they are often used with reference to worldly endeavors and sinful practices. Rather, we need to use the fact that we only live once to motivate us to live for God.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth,
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for
us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we
look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which
are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but
the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17–
If only everyone would think this way. Even Christians are tempted to focus on things seen, and not the eternal things invisible (not seen).
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were
dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with
hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly
desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from
heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found
naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being
burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed
upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life" (2
Remember, Paul is writing to Christians, not just anyone. Not everyone has reserved their home in heaven. Unfortunately, many will be found spiritually naked when the Lord returns.
"Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God,
who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are
at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we
walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing
rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the
Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:5–8).
What a mindset! What an encouragement for Christians! What a challenge for us to think on things eternal, and not things temporary!
Finally, we will consider these words of Paul,
"Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we
may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the
judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things
done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it
be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:9–10).
By David R. Ferguson
If you have ever found yourself feeling as if the weight of the world was thrust upon your shoulders, then you are certainly in good company, for assuredly that great man of God, Moses, felt this way oftentimes while leading the Israelite people in their Wilderness Wanderings. On one of these occasions, he even despaired to the point where he pleaded with God to take his life. Moses said to the Lord, “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness” (Numbers 11:13-15 [NAS]). God heard His servant Moses and He relieved his burden by giving him seventy elders to help him with the people.
Moses didn’t have to feel or be miserable to the point of death. The Israelites had not rejected or despised him, but the Lord. The Lord didn’t expect Moses to do everything, to feel invincible, or to be error-free. Calling in sick, taking a break, or sleeping in late bothered Moses more than it bothered God. Moses didn’t have to be perfect; just to be patient. God didn’t demand Moses to be a saint, but to be a servant.
A servant, by definition, is not his own boss. The Lord is ultimately responsible for all decisions, actions, and troubles. Any complaint or displeasure against His faithful servants is an affront to Him.
Rejecting the Lord is one of the most serious charges the Lord can bring against His people. This was the first time the Lord was accusing Israel of such a serious charge. Later God would accuse them of despising the land (Numbers 14:31). Three times, the Israelites were charged with rejecting the Lord – when they rejected Moses in this passage, when they later rejected Samuel as judge (1 Samuel 8:7), and, ultimately, when they were deported to Assyria for rejecting God’s decrees and for following worthless idols (2 Kings 17:6, 15). The consequence of rejecting the Lord is ruin.
Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me. For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29). God is your Father, too, and He longs to help relieve you of your burdens (Matthew 11:28-30). Turn them over to God today! You will find that the Lord will never let you down. He will be with you every step of the way, lending you His Strength.
Read on. It’s probably not about what you think it is. Joy to the World is a world-famous Christmas song. But I’m not writing about the song; nor am I writing about Christmas. Well, maybe I am – kind of!
What I am writing about in this article is the joy that was felt when Jesus came to this world, but not from the perspective we usually think. Although Jesus’ coming to this world does produce a joy in us that is indescribable (Luke 2:10; 2 Cor. 9:15), I’d like for us to consider that when Jesus came to earth, it was joyous to God before it was to us!
In fact, just the thought of Jesus becoming the Redeemer of mankind brought pleasure to God even before the world was created (Eph. 1:5, 9). Read carefully all of Ephesians 1:3-10 (I don’t have room to include it all in the article). Such rich and thought provoking verses! If these verses don’t encourage and excite you, I can’t imagine what it would take. Among other things, these verses tell us that …
… if we are in Christ, we have access to every spiritual blessing vs.3
… if we are in Christ, we were included among the chosen vs. 4
… if we are in Christ, God sees us as holy and blameless vs. 4
… in Christ we have redemption vs. 7
… through the blood of Jesus we will be forgiven vs. 7
… grace, wisdom and understanding are lavished on us in Christ vs. 8
… through Christ we have insight into the mystery of God’s will vs.9
… we will eventually join with the heavenly hosts under Christ as Head vs. 10
Just anticipating all these awesome blessings brought pleasure to God. It may be compared (in a much lesser way, of course) with the joy we experience when we buy Christmas gifts for our kids and joyfully anticipate the day when they can experience the joy of receiving the gifts.
But when Jesus did become flesh, when He was actually born into this world, the joy and pleasure God had anticipated became tangible for us. To God, it was a pleasure to send His joy to the world. It was a pleasure to make His kingdom available to us (Luke 12:32). It was His pleasure to offer the gospel to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21). God was pleased to have all of His fullness dwell in Jesus (Col. 1:19) so that when we see Jesus, we see God (John 14:9, 1:14).
Since Jesus said “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), I suspect that the joy that we as Christians feel at being saved is nothing compared to the joy God feels at saving us! (Read Luke 15:7, 10).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shadows can be scary things for small children. And there were always lots of shadows on the farm. One’s imagination could create anything with the shadows, from huge monsters to angels standing guard. Lights were limited and darkness was abundant.
A lot of people live in the shadows. They see some light but are surrounded by dark images and have no clarity of vision. They look at life differently. They see but don’t connect at the heart level. They are distant observers who just watch as others struggle and feel no sense of involvement.
Such was the case on June 19, 2008 when Esmin Green, 49 years of age, lay helpless on the floor of city-owned Kings County Hospital in New York for an hour as visitors, medical staff, nurses, and even a doctor walked away from her without rendering aid. She had collapsed on the floor with a blood clot after sitting in the hospital waiting room for almost 24 hours awaiting treatment.
And there is the case of a man in Massachusetts who was walking along a dock when he tripped over a rope and fell into the deep, cold water of the bay. Unable to swim he cried out for help. Only a few yards away was a young man, sprawled on a deck chair sunbathing. The drowning man kept shouting, “Help! I can’t swim!” But the young sunbather, who was an excellent swimmer, just turned his head and watched as the man floundered in the water, then disappeared forever. A lawsuit against the young man elicited a ruling from the court that he had the legal right to mind his own business and not become involved. This court would have vindicated Cain who asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
When people live sub-human lives they walk in darkness and never see the beauty of God’s light. Self-centered, ego-centric, and indifferent to the cries of struggling and lost humanity, they find themselves also lost in the shadows. If we live as children of the Light we cannot bear to turn a deaf or insensitive ear to those who hurt, or to those who are lost. Jesus declared that He is the “Light of the world” (John 8:12), and the apostle John tells us that the darkness of the world could not extinguish the Light (John 1). And Jesus designated us as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and commissioned us to bring Light into the darkness. The responsibility for the lost in our world is on our shoulders. We cannot sit in the shadows.
- 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 - https://gsmchurchofchrist.com/
Sunday, January 1, 2023
By Jeff Arnette
Five of the books of the New Testament have traditionally been attributed to the apostle John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James. The gospel of John; 1, 2, 3 John; and Revelation. Most of the early church fathers claimed these books as written by John and the earliest copies have John listed in the title.
The works of John are connected by common themes and vocabulary. For example, there is a common emphasis on love, remaining in Christ, and the Light. Some have suggested that as much as 80 percent of the verses in 1 John reflect themes and ideas found in the gospel of John. There are also connections between 2 and 3 John. Take for instance the word “antichrist” found in these two books. The Greek word used for “antichrist” is only in these two books of the New Testament. Beyond that they also have similarities in structure, content, and the vocabulary used.
1 John was written by a man who had followed Jesus most of his adult life. As a young and brash man, he wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a whole town for rejecting Jesus (Luke 9:54) but with time and experience, he learned to live and love like Jesus. Now an old man, John being led by the Holy Spirit, writes these powerful letters (1, 2, and 3 John) helping us learn how to live for and love like Jesus.
This letter was written for a group of Christians who are troubled by false teachers whose behavior clearly showed them to be false disciples. John demonstrates for us how concern for correct doctrine, Christlike behavior, and love for God and others creates an environment where genuine fellowship can exist. He also shows us the importance of testing everything taught to us by comparing it to the revealed word of God. Apparently, these false teachers were denying that Jesus had come in the flesh (1 John 2:22; 4:1-2). They were boasting about being without sin (1 John 1:8, 10) and knew God even though their behavior proved otherwise (1 John 4:20).Four themes stand out in 1 John: sin, false teachings, remaining in Christ, and eternal life. Each one teaches us powerful lessons about what it means to be a Christian and follow Jesus. Believes have been freed from sin through the work of Christ on the cross (1 John 5:1-4). We can reveal the truth about false teachers and their teachings by comparing it to God’s word (1 John 4:1-4). Those who remain in Christ are assured of their victory in Christ and show it through a sincere love for the Lord, their brothers and sisters, and their treatment of others. Eternal life with Jesus is the prize for all true believers and the one who has the Son has life (1 John 5:12).