Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Wrong Conclusions

By Joe Chesser


    Despite the clear evidence, they all came to the wrong conclusions.  The story in 1 Samuel 4-5 would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.  The Philistines had been warring against the Israelites, and winning.  So, the Israelites got the bright idea that if they took the Ark of the Covenant to the battle sight, God would give them victory.


Wrong Conclusion #1


    They had reduced the Ark of the Covenant down to nothing more than an idol, thinking that the mere physical presence of the Ark would give them victory.  That was no better than thinking that being in a church building will automatically result in worship.

    As the story continues, the Israelites lost the battle. In the battle 30,000 Israelite soldiers were slain. Sometimes the numbers of the slain become just a number to us. But these men were real people: sons, husbands, brothers, fathers. The loss was a genuine tragedy.

    The Philistines also captured the Ark of the Covenant, placing it in the temple next to their god, Dagon.  The next morning, Dagon had fallen face down in front of the Ark of the Covenant (wonder how that happened).  Since Dagon was only a man-made statue, the people had to pick him up and place him next to the Ark again. (Aren’t you glad our God doesn’t need us to do something like that?)  But the next morning, not only was Dagon again on his face on the floor in front of the Ark, his head and hands had broken off and were lying on the threshold.


Wrong Conclusion #2


    Instead of seeing that the God of the Israelites is greater than Dagon, the priests and all the people who entered Dagon’s temple at Ashdod concluded that they should never again step on the threshold of the temple.  Why? Because that’s where Dagon’s head and arms landed when they had broken off!  Even when the Lord’s hand was heavy against the Philistines, they never came to any other conclusion than to send the Ark back to Israel ... and to never again step on the threshold of the temple.  It never seemed to occur to them to conclude that the Lord was God and that they should serve Him instead of Dagon. God has placed before us clear evidence that He is God and what He expects of us as people who believe in Him.  And yet, much like the people in this story, we, too, sometimes choose to reduce God down to something we can see and feel, and to content ourselves with silly superstitions and empty traditions.  It seems the natural thing to do. It’s what everybody around us does.  It’s what we’ve always done.  It takes no courage.  You don’t even have to think about it.

    But God has called us to rise above the world (Psalm 20:7-8), to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and to think outside of the box of worldly restrictions (Romans 8:5-8).  Christians aren’t allowed to conform (Romans 12:2) or to drift (Hebrews 2:1).  Christians are called to see with the eyes of faith the extraordinary, the unconventional, even the impossible. Through faith we can turn loose of those gods of ours that we have to mold and repair (like Dagon), and can allow the Lord God Almighty to mold and repair us into His own likeness (like the men and women of Hebrews 11).

   The facts are before us.  Making wrong conclusions will lead to superstitions and restrictions.  But the right conclusions will open us up to the possibilities of God.

- Joe Chesser worked for years with the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. Now retired from full time preaching, he may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com

Life is Too Short

By Bill Brandstatter


    In 2022, there were a lot of celebrities who died. The number seemed greater than in

previous years. The ages range from the young to those in their nineties. However old they were, life is still short. The Biblical teaching is that the importance of life is not so much the quantity of years as it is the quality. The Psalmist wrote, “We spend our lives as a tale that is told” (Psa. 90:9 KJV). What kind of tale is your life telling? In thinking about the quality of our lives, emphasis is placed on making the most of the time we have.

    We should pay attention and make the most of our lives on earth. The Psalmist wrote, "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12 (NKJV). This is a similar thought Paul expressed when he wrote, “…redeeming the time because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).

    We should make the most of our lives because we don’t have long here compared to eternity. Peter described our lives as grass that eventually withers and falls away (1 Pet. 1:24). In the Bible life is compared to: a sigh (Ps. 90:9), sleep (Ps. 90:5), a shadow (Eccl. 6:12), a moment (2 Co. 4:17), and a weaver’s shuttle (Job 7:6).

    How are we spending our lives? Do we pay more attention to the physical comforts of life than we do the spiritual? Jesus said, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Let us be more diligent in our spiritual lives in case death comes too early for us and our lives end too soon.

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

Searching for Truth?

By Ronald Bartanen


    The wise man Solomon advised, “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23).  In the marketplace of ideas one must be careful to distinguish the true from the counterfeit. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).  How will we know the truth when we see it?

   Some seek truth in their own hearts, though the Bible warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).   How much religious error do we subject ourselves to when we follow the path of simply doing what “seems right”, or “what I’ve always believed.”

    Some seek truth from preachers and church councils, accepting what they are told without question, though Paul warned, “Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things” (Acts 20:30).  Men are fallible, subject to error.  Preachers and religious-leaders may be ever so sincere in their beliefs, and still be misled.   We who endeavor to preach the truth of God should do so with fear and trembling.  We dare not seek what is regarded as popular in our religious circles.  While this may seem to be the way to go, it opens the door to error.

    Ultimate truth is found in Jesus, who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).  Truth is found in His word, the Scriptures, of which Paul wrote, “All scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  How many supposed “truths” do we defend even when we have accepted such “truths” on their popularity.  We should follow the example of the noble Bereans who, upon hearing the apostle Paul’s proclamation of the gospel, “searched the scriptures (to see) whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

    The search for truth doesn’t end when one becomes a Christiaan.  Actually, that was just the beginning of the search.  The apostle Paul, addressing those who had earlier been converted to Christ, and had also been milk-fed with basic truths by him, but had grown lax in maturity sufficient to move on to the meat of the word of God, saying, “The Bible is God’s gift of a textbook for guidance.  “All scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God should be complete, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Within its sacred pages we have revealed to us the account of God’s dealing with mankind, past, present and future, none of which should be casually ignored.  Will we understand everything revealed therein? Assuredly not.  I confess that I still have much to learn, and don’t expect a full enlightenment until I’m with the Lord, and He can explain some things to me! But that doesn’t excuse me from seeking a better understanding of what God wants me to know.  God wants us to be well-fed, and we do not do well in spurning what He sets before us.   We do not have to await the coming of another new year before we make a resolution to spend more time in reading the Bible and prayerfully seeking a better understanding of God’s truths.

- 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: ron33dor@yahoo.com

When Jesus Shaved His Head

By David A. Sargent


    Mike Benson reports: "Nine-year-old Kamryn Renfroe was recently kicked out of her Colorado elementary school. She was told she couldn't come back to class — at least until she either put on a wig, or her hair grew back. Kamryn had shaved her head, and so the administration disciplined her.

    It was an obvious dress code infraction. She had blatantly broken the rules of Caprock Academy. The school's dress code requires uniformity and that all students adorn themselves in a non-distracting fashion. And what could be more distracting than a bald-headed little girl in class?” This little bald-headed girl had a friend who had lost the hair on her head due to chemotherapy treatments.

    Benson continues: "You see, Kamryn didn't shave her head to create a scene or contravene the rules. Hers was not an act of violation, but compassion. She shaved her head to become like her friend, Delaney.

    Eleven-year-old Delaney Clements suffers from neuroblastoma — a deadly form of childhood cancer. Kamryn saw that her friend had [a] bald head…, so she decided to support and encourage her lonely, hurting friend by essentially becoming just like her.

    Delaney loved it! She said, ‘It made me feel very special and that I'm not alone.’"

    What a beautiful expression of friendship! It points to Someone who gave an even greater expression of love and friendship for you and for me…

Benson explains: "Man suffered from the deadly form of "soul cancer" (i.e., sin) with no hope of survival (Romans 3:10, 23). And instead of just watching him suffer in silence, Jesus ‘shaved his head’ metaphorically speaking, by taking on flesh and manifesting Himself in human form. He became one of us. He identified himself with us." *


"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:14a). "God was manifested in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16a). "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh"

(1 John 4:2b).


"Therefore, in ALL things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus was the "propitiation" for the sins of man in that He paid the price for man’s redemption by dying on the cross for our sins (Ephesians 1:7).


"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus gave His life for you and for me. His desire is that we accept His offer of salvation and eternal life that has been made available through His loving sacrifice.


Jesus will save those who place their faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized   (immersed) into Him for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). His blood will continue to wash away the sins of those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

    Thankfully, Caprock Academy’s school board took up the matter and voted 3-1 in favor of letting Kamryn return to the public charter school in Grand Junction, CO.

    Jesus also desires that each of us will CHOOSE to accept His offer of salvation and life by submitting to His will (cf. John 15:13-14).

    Won’t YOU?

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


* "When Jesus Shaved His Head" by Mike Benson in Forthright Magazine (4/4/14) -- http://forthright.net/2014/04/04/when-jesus-shaved-his-head/

It Works!

By Joe Slater


    God’s word makes it clear that He views success quite differently than we do. We set a goal, plan a strategy, and carry out the plan. If it works, we claim success. Someone asks, “What is the problem with this?” Simply put, God’s will has been left out of the equation!

    During King Asa’s reign over Judah, King Baasha of Israel invaded. Asa paid the Syrians to attack Israel’s homeland, forcing Baasha to go back home to defend his own land. Asa then re-captured the territory Baasha had taken (see 1 Kings 15:16-21).

    Pretty good strategy, wouldn’t you say? And it definitely worked! God, however, sent His prophet, Hanani, to rebuke Asa (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). The king had put his trust in his pagan neighbors rather than in the Lord. Yes, it “worked,” but it dishonored God.

    Moses also “succeeded” in a task, but sinned in the process. God told him to provide water for Israel by speaking to a rock (Numbers 20:8). Instead of obeying, Moses, being furious with his people, gave the rock a double-whack with his rod (20:9-11). Water miraculously gushed forth in great abundance. It worked! But Moses and Aaron forfeited the blessing of going across Jordan into the promised land (20:12).

    Worldly philosophy says that the end justifies the means. Since Asa gained relief from his enemies, his method doesn’t matter. Since Moses acquired water for his people, it makes no difference how he did it. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that people offend God by reaching the right goals using the wrong means.

    Church growth, for example, is an eminently Scriptural goal. God wants His church to grow; if you don’t want the church to grow, you need to repent! And God’s church will grow when Christians are serving as they ought. Some, however, in misguided zeal, seek to produce church growth by using methods that are outside of God’s will. Watering down the gospel, exchanging worship for entertainment, and otherwise appealing to people’s carnal side, might attract large crowds; but it doesn’t glorify God!

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

Which Soil Describes Your Heart?

By Joe Slater


    In His parable of the sower (Luke 8) Jesus described God’s word as seed planted into four types of soil (human hearts). The seed’s fruitfulness, or lack thereof, depended on the condition of the soil (heart).

    First was the “wayside,” literally the path or road surrounding the field (Luke 8:5). As seed cannot germinate and grow on hardpacked ground, God’s word cannot grow in a hard heart. Satan easily removes the word from the resistant soul.

    Next came the rock (v. 6). This doesn’t mean stony ground, but a thin layer of earth atop bedrock. Seed might sprout on such shallow soil, but the tender shoot would wither and die, having no deep root to reach water. Just so, a person with shallow faith might joyfully receive the word of God at first, but would fall away in times of trial.

    Third, Jesus spoke of ground infested with thorns (v. 7). Seed could begin to grow under such conditions, but the thorns would eventually choke out the good plants, rendering them fruitless. Thorns represent distractions – worldly cares, riches, and pleasures (v. 14). God’s word produces no harvest in a distracted heart.

    Finally, the good ground produced an abundant crop (v. 8). The good, noble heart isn’t hard, has a deep and abiding faith, and steers clear of the world’s distractions. Such a person not only believes God’s word, but keeps it (i.e. obeys it, v. 15).

    Which of these four soil types best describes your heart? Are you resisting God’s word with a hard heart? Is your faith shallow, fading away when trials appear? Are you distracted with the deceitful world’s cares, riches, and pleasures? Or do you have a deep, abiding faith that keeps God’s word?

    You control the condition of your heart!

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


By David R. Ferguson


    I am all for doing whatever is necessary to improve our lives, but I am a strong believer that we should always remember to do what our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, said in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” We should never fail to put God and His will first in our lives in everything we do.

    The word of God is all about new beginnings: We have the Book of Genesis itself, whose very name means “beginning,” and within its pages God shares with us the creation story and how with just His word the whole universe sprang into existence. We also see how sin first arrived in that perfect world, and how quick was God to offer a remedy for that sin by stating the very first prophecy of redemption regarding the Messiah in Genesis 3:15. A few chapters later we see the underpinning of the nation of Israel laid as God promises Abraham that from him would come peoples and nations and most importantly, the Promised Seed from Whom all the world would be blessed. At the conclusion of the Book of Genesis, we see the foundation of God’s chosen people being created as Joseph protects his family from the famine that had ravaged the land, his family who were direct descendants of Abraham, in the land of Egypt.

    In the Book of Exodus, we see the beginning of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, come to fruition as God calls them out of bondage in Egypt as the Lord formed His covenant with them at Mt. Sinai. But shortly thereafter, we witness the beginning of the long history of Israel’s rebellion against Jehovah. But He is steadfastly loving and patient and kind in His longsuffering, always maintaining a remnant for Himself. In 1 Samuel, we find the beginning of the monarchy created as God has Samuel anoint Saul as its first earthly king, once again resulting from the people rejecting their true King, Jehovah. It’s in 2 Samuel we find the beginning of the Davidic line to the throne established, the line from which came Israel’s and our King and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon His arrival, the Old Covenant gave way to the new, which is why the Hebrews writer tells us in Hebrews 8:13 just before the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, “And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

    Jesus Christ is all about new beginnings. Through Him we have forgiveness of sins

(Colossians 1:13-14). Through Him we can have a new birth (John 3:3), and it’s through this new birth that our old man dies and we are resurrected to be a new creation (Romans 6:3-5), and no longer at enmity with God (James 4:4). May you begin the new year right by resolving to live your life in step with Christ!

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://mentorchurchofchrist.com/ or davidferguson61@yahoo.com

A Story of Faith

By Ron Bartanen


    Jesus “said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up and stand forth in the midst.  And he arose and stood forth. …He said to the man, stretch forth your hand.  And he did so, and his hand was restored whole as the other” (Luke 6:8, 10).

    The account recorded in Luke 6:6-10 of Jesus healing a man with a “withered” (paralyzed) hand is a powerful example of the power of Jesus Christ in confronting our hopelessness.  In every physical healing performed by our Lord we are reminded not only of Jesus’ power over our physical maladies, but also, and more importantly, His power over our spiritual needs.  Our “withered hand” may be a destructive habit, chains of lust, or greed.  Or it could be bitterness in our hearts due to unforgiving spirit.  The most important lesson applicable today is that the same Jesus who has power over our physical infirmities has just as much power over our spiritual deficiencies.

    It is interesting to note that Jesus asked the man to “stand forth” in public view, and to stretch forth his deformed hand, and when he complied with Jesus’ word, his hand was “restored whole as the other.” Such is the power of Christ when we yield our infirmities to Him in faith, submitting to His will for our lives.  His request of us is to humbly and unashamedly confess Him, being obedient to His word in obedient faith.  For those who have never yet done so, His request of them would be no different than it was in the early church, as the penitent believers submitted to being “baptized (immersed) in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:36-38).  Such arise with Christ into “newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).  As “new creatures,” in Christ, “old things are passed away, and all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  For those who earlier had thus obeyed the gospel, but have fallen away from Christ and His church, let them seek again to “walk in the light,” confessing their sins, and realize that “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7-9).   As we live our lives in submission to His will, our spiritual needs will be met by the power of Him who is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).  Are you willing to “stand forth,” submitting your spiritual deficiencies to Him in faith and obedience to His will for your life?

- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. After the passing of his beloved wife, Doris, Ron has relocated from Illinois to Florida where he is near family. He may be contacted at: ron33dor@yahoo.com

The Truth About The Birth of Christ

By Wes Garland


    Today, a lot of people in the world are celebrating the day called “Christmas”. The real question that I have is are these people correct in celebrating such a religious holiday? Is this something that a Christian can take part in and be pleasing in the sight of God? Is everything in the “Christmas story” correct? In this article, I will address these questions that need our attention.

    Let’s begin with the questions about people being correct in observing this also can a Christian take part in the observance of this Christmas “RELIGIOUS” holiday? The first thing that I want to look at is the concept that if the majority of the world is observing it, does it make it right or wrong? The answer is simply NO. The Bible is very clear to the point that the majority of individuals are going down the road that is the broad and wide road that is leading to destruction (Mat. 7:13-14). So with that being said, the majority does not determine right and wrong. But what about a Christian observing this day as a RELIGIOUS holiday? As Christians, we are told that we are to have authority for everything we do in religion (Col. 3:17). It is looking to Jesus, our Head, King, and Master for guidance in what we should and should not be involved in. When you look into the scriptures, we see that there is no command, nor mentioning of “Christmas” or observing a day celebrating the birth of Christ. For this very reason, we CANNOT SAY that we have scriptural authority to celebrate this day regarding the birth of Christ. If God wanted us to observe such a day, He would have stated it, which He did not.

    Now, let’s take a look at that question, “is everything in the “Christmas story” correct”. Usually, you read about the “nativity” and you will hear that Jesus was born on December 25 and that there were 3 wise men that came bringing gifts to the manger of Christ. What if I told you that none of this is true? Did you know that we can have a general idea of when Jesus was born and it all revolves around Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father? We know that John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, was 6 months older than Jesus (Lk. 1:26). We also know that Zacharias was a priest who served during the division of Abijah (Lk. 1:5-8). Now the priests served on a circuit or rotation according to their division and his was according to the division of Abijah. With this knowledge, we also know that they served twice a year and so if you take the circuit and see when Abijah was in place, and then add 6 months after that, you will notice that this would place the birth of Christ either in early spring or early fall. But we know from other things, like the shepherds living out in the field with their sheep (Lk. 2:8), that this was not in the dead of winter. So it is very clear that we are NOT talking about December 25th.

    Another thing that we need to look at is the wise men at the birth of Christ. What if I was to tell you that the wise men were never at the manger of Christ? And exactly how many wise men were there? We see in Matthew 2, the account of the wise men and see when they came to Jesus THEY CAME INTO THE HOUSE (Mat. 2:11). When you are talking about the timing of their coming, Herod killed all the baby boys from the AGE OF 2 and under ACCORDING TO THE TIME WHICH HE HAD DETERMINED FROM THE WISE MEN (Mat. 2:16). It is seen that Jesus was PROBABLY ABOUT 2 YEARS OLD when the wise men came and offered their gifts. And the Bible NEVER MENTIONS that there were 3 wise men. It only states that 3 gifts were brought, but the world wants to say that there were 3 wise men. We don’t know exactly how many there were.

    So what is a Christian’s response needing to be concerning celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday? We have no authority! But WE CAN observe this day as a secular holiday to be with family and to exchange gifts, just like any other secular “non-religious” holiday. We just have to be careful that we don’t do things that are against the will of Christ and do those things that we have no authority for.

- Wesley Garland preaches for Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/

How Much Does it Cost?

By Jeff Arnette


    This is a question that we often ask. We ask it whenever we are shopping for something we want. I did this just the other day while at Goodwill. I was looking at the dress pants and found several nice pairs of dress pants. After looking at the pants and deciding that I would like to have them. I asked that all too familiar question, “How much does it cost?”

    In life and in Christianity, this is an important question to ask. In Matthew 16:24-28, Jesus reminds us of the cost of following him. Giving up on our desires and taking up the cause of Christ is a price we must be willing to pay. Jesus even took this so far as to say we must be willing to give up our lives for him.

    Most of us would agree that at Goodwill we are not paying much for the items there. Luckily for me those pants were only $3.75 a pair. We spend great amounts of time trying to find the best bargain we can. However, I am afraid that we are doing this to Christianity as well.

    Most of us like the idea of being a Christian but we don’t want to spend much of our time, effort, or money to do it. We are so concerned that it might take more than we are willing to give that we often shortchange being Christians.

    Jesus understood that this would be the case with people and ask the question, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Or “What shall a man give in return for his soul?” Jesus has promised that it would be worth the cost saying that each person will be repaid for what they have put into the Christian life. Not to mention that we gain our souls for eternity by following him.

    How much does it cost is a great question to ask. Perhaps this is the question that we should ask next time we consider doing something we know is sinful. Is it really worth what it will cost me?

- 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, February 5, 2023

Be Immersed

By Clifton Angel


    Baptism: an immersion or submersion of an object or person. It is likened to a burial, in which one is completely covered in dirt/rock (Romans 6:3–4). However, the burial or immersion of interest for this study is in water. In the words of a friend, “What is so special about being dunked in water?” I kindly submit to you that baptism is important because God said so—not me. Let’s consider some Scriptural reasons for the need to be baptized.

    1. Baptism stands between the sinner and salvation. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Jesus’ words are simple and “unget-around-able.” We should be able to end this article here, but for emphasis we will continue. Peter reemphasized this teaching at 1 Peter 3:21: “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (NKJV).

    2. Baptism stands between the sinner and forgiveness of his sins. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

    3. Baptism stands between the sinner and having his sins washed away. “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

    4. Baptism stands between the sinner and the cleansing blood of Jesus. “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). Coupling the truth of this verse with that of Acts 22:16 leads us to the conclusion that the point at which one contacts Jesus’ blood is baptism.

    5. Baptism stands between the sinner and addition to the Lord’s church. Reading Acts 2:37–47 is a clear foundation to seeing that those who are baptized are those who Jesus adds to His church. Why is this important? Because His church is the only body of the saved (see Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 1:22–23; Colossians 1:18).

    The list could go on. For, baptism stands between the sinner and being in Christ (Galatians 3:27), which leads to a host of other things the sinner lacks if he does not submit to baptism: All spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3), Absence of condemnation (Romans 8:1), A real reason to rejoice (Philippians 4:4), just to name a few.

    We have noticed the need to hear, believe, repent, and confess. Yet, if all of these be accomplished and one lacks obedience to God’s command of baptism, he remains a sinner without salvation. On the other hand, if one has been immersed in water without faith, repentance, and confession, he has only gotten wet. Do you see the need to be baptized?

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

Look Up!

By Lance Cordle


    Recently, my wife and I set up a bird feeder in a different part of the yard from the section we had used previously. A cold front was on its way and we set the feeder up before its arrival. Following the placement of the feeder, we watched to see if the birds would find it in time to take advantage of it during the frigid temperatures. As I watched some of the birds gathering in the vicinity of the feeder, I kept saying to myself (because the birds could not hear or understand me), “Look up!” I knew the source of their nourishment and strength was within their reach, and that they needed to see it and fly up to it.

    It seems to me that there is a similar situation when it comes to people and their spiritual strength. The Psalmist confidently affirmed, “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). However, not everyone feels the same way, and not everyone takes advantage of the strength available, even if they know about it.

    Followers of God would do well to remember the main point of one of the most famous incidents/stories in the Bible. As young David arrived at the scene of an impending battle, he was surprised and dismayed to know that the army of Israel, and in turn, the God of Israel were being defied by their enemy. It is interesting to notice that the English word “defy” or a form of it is used at least four times in the seventeenth chapter of 1 Samuel, (English Standard Version) and is in reference to the actions of the giant Goliath. When David heard of the taunts of the enemy, he was quick to defend the LORD and assert that a victory over Goliath could and would come through God Almighty. Before he killed Goliath, David made it clear where his faith was placed and delivered a detailed summary of what he was sure would happen to the Philistine, when he concluded, “For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand” (1 Samuel 17:47).

    When we are tempted to be discouraged and sure of defeat, we must remember to look up—to the same God who delivered David and others from physical and spiritual peril. The Lord has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). In a masterfully worded rhetorical question, the divinely inspired apostle Paul asked, “If God be for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31). Who, indeed?

    Our obstacles are real: discouragement, lust, anger, jealousy, unbelief, to name a few. They can be overcome—but we must look up!

     “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalms 121:1, 2). 

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

Happy Valentine’s Day

By Joe Slater


    Not even the Roman Catholic Church can decide with certainty which (if any) of three candidates is the real “Saint” Valentine. One popular view is that he was a “bishop” who kept on solemnizing marriages despite Roman emperor Claudius II supposedly banning marriage of soldiers in his army. This Valentine, so the story goes, was arrested and eventually martyred. Historical evidence is lacking; even referring to this as “legend” might be a stretch.

    More likely, “Saint Valentine’s Day” is yet another attempt to “Christianize” a pagan holiday. In this case, it’s the feast of Lupercalia, a fertility festival honoring Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. It was celebrated on February 15. Our calendar puts Valentine’s Day on February 14. Oh well, close enough!

    As with Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, celebrating Valentine’s Day doesn’t make you a pagan. Go ahead, give your sweetheart a box of chocolates! When people’s minds are focused on the birth of Christ, it’s a great opportunity to teach the truth about it. Ditto with the Resurrection. So let’s use this holiday to teach the truth about marriage!

    In American Society Biblical marriage has fallen on hard times. “Currently, 60% of all marriages are preceded by cohabitation” (foryourmarriage.org/cohabitation/). Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Folks, we have much teaching to do! Let us have the backbone to reject political correctness, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

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

The Greatest Gift

By David R. Ferguson


    William Sydney Porter, better known as the short story author O. Henry, said, “The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents.” Although I enjoy the stories with their clever plot twists from the pen of O. Henry, in this instance I disagree with the conclusion of Mr. Porter. It wasn’t the wise men who invented the giving of “Christmas” presents, it was God Himself. He did so when He gave us His only begotten Son. This was the best “Christmas” gift ever. The wise men merely continued the tradition.

    In Jesus, this supreme offering from the Father, we see the glory of God on display. But what is that glory? Did it come with a lot of pomp and circumstance, as Paul saw demonstrated as he declared his defense and the gospel of Jesus Christ before King Agrippa, Bernice and Festus? Did it come with fanfare? No. God’s glory is demonstrated through His humility. In Jesus Christ we see Someone Who was willing to put aside all the trappings of what it means to be God, the Creator of the universe, in order to reach out to us. And it’s this humility that makes the conception, birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ such glorious events indeed. As Paul wrote so eloquently summing up the life and purpose of Jesus Christ, “Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the Cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). In Jesus Christ we see God coming to Earth and being born in a lowly manger. The God of Heaven, even through the lowly birth He chose, demonstrated how He intended to live a life of service. As Jesus later would declare, “Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

    In Jesus, God showed up as one of us. Even one of His names, Immanuel, means “God With Us”. The One Who made it all, the One Who holds it all together, the One Whom we call the Creator showed up humbly, served His entire life meekly, and gave His life freely, and all that you and I might lay claim to eternal life through His shed blood. There is something amazing about being created in the image of God, being created to be in a relationship with God, and to be someone that God finds value. You do have great worth, indeed, for God saw fit to give you His one and only begotten Son! Never forget that.

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://mentorchurchofchrist.com/ or davidferguson61@yahoo.com

The Ruined Loincloth

By Jeff Arnette


    In Jeremiah 13 there is a strange and yet, intriguing story about a loincloth. The Lord instructs the prophet to buy a new loincloth, put it on, and wear it without washing it in water. After some time, the Lord tells him to bury it in the rocks near the Euphrates River. Again, after some time has passed, he is told to dig up that old loincloth. Once Jeremiah digs it up, he describes it as “good for nothing.” After all that time buried in the dirt it was spoiled and now unfit for its intended purpose.

    In a time when money was tight and new clothing hard to acquire the Lord’s instructions for Jeremiah seem odd at best. It seems like such a waste of time, money, and energy to buy this new loincloth and just bury it. When I spend money on something I want it to last. I want it to be a smart purchase, and just as importantly, I want to know it was a good deal. Why buy something if you’re not going to value it, use it, and take care of it?

    The Lord often used object lessons like this to teach the prophet who in turn had to teach the people what God is saying by such demonstrations. Ezekiel was told to write on two sticks (Ezek. 37:15-28). Isaiah was told to walk around naked for 3 years (Isa. 20:1-6). Hosea was told to marry a prostitute and give his kids weird names. Even Ezekiel was told to lay on his left side for 390 days (Ezek. 4).

    The lesson of the loincloth was a hard lesson for Israel. They had been bought for a purpose, brought close by the Lord, and through pride & sin had become good for nothing. Being close to the Lord had come with blessings but they had become proud and thought nothing could touch them and that is going to change. The Lord is going to spoil their pride by allowing them to be conquered by Babylon, who came from the Euphrates River area.

    In their defeat they would learn the lesson of the loincloth. With sin and rebellion comes defeat. Faithfulness to the Lord always equals success but unfaithfulness will always defeat us. What about us? How will we learn this lesson? Will it take total defeat, or will we learn to trust in the Lord?

    We too have been bought (1 Cor. 6:19-20: Acts 20:28) for a price. Where are we focusing our lives? Was His purchase and actions for nothing? Instead of a life wrapped up in our own desires lets cling to the Lord and His purpose for us. Then we will be good for something; a people for his own possession, a people who will follow and praise him.

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