Warren W. Wiersbe once wrote about the entertainer and humorist, Will Rogers: “Will Rogers was known for his laughter, but he also knew how to weep. One day he was entertaining at the Milton H. Berry Institute in Los Angeles, a hospital that specialized in rehabilitating polio victims and people with broken backs and other extreme physical handicaps. Of course, Rogers had everybody laughing, even patients in really bad condition; but then he suddenly left the platform and went to the rest room. Milton Berry followed him to give him a towel; and when he opened the door, he saw Will Rogers leaning against the wall, sobbing like a child. He closed the door, and in a few minutes, Rogers appeared back on the platform, as jovial as before.”
Reflecting on the humor and compassion of Rogers, Wiersbe wrote: “If you want to learn what a person is really like, ask three questions: What makes him laugh? What makes him angry? What makes him weep? These are fairly good tests of character…
What we need today is not anger but anguish, the kind of anguish that Moses displayed when he broke the two tablets of the law and then climbed the mountain to intercede for his people, or that Jesus displayed when He cleansed the temple and then wept over the city. The difference between anger and anguish is a broken heart. It's easy to get angry, especially at somebody else's sins; but it's not easy to look at sin, our own included, and weep over it.” *
We all have reasons to experience anguish, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When our hearts are broken over our own sins (cf. Psalm 51:1-4), then this godly sorrow should lead us to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) and to the Savior (Matthew 11:28-30).
In anguish, Christ suffered and died on the cross for our sins. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV). His anguish was an expression of His love for us: a love that was willing to suffer and die so that we can be saved and receive the gift of eternal life (Romans 5:6-10).
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). He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to strive to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).Wiersbe is right: “What we need today is not anger but anguish”: anguish over sin the world, beginning with our own; anguish that will move us to bow in humble submission to the Savior; and anguish that will motivate us to share the Good News of Jesus to all of the broken people in the world.
- 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
* Warren W. Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991, pp. 75-76 as quoted in www.sermonillustrations.com.
Sunday, April 23, 2023
God has never required trusting obedience without evidence. Biblical faith is not blind faith. Throughout the ages He has shown Himself to be infinitely worthy of our confidence.
In ancient times He used signs (miracles) to confirm His word. Jesus utilized abundant signs during His ministry. Despite such clear proof, His enemies taunted, “We want to see a sign from You” (Matthew 12:38). But Jesus, knowing their corrupt hearts, rejected their ploy. He would give them no sign except His resurrection!
God has blessed us today with His completely revealed, confirmed, and recorded word. His inspired apostles worked innumerable signs to verify it. That task being complete, no further proof is needed. Supernatural gifts, therefore, have ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
Nevertheless, many even today clamor for a sign! A difficult decision confronts us – “Give me a sign, Lord!” We want to know what the future holds – “Lord, send me a sign!”
More often than not, modern sign-seekers assume their subjective feelings are signs from God. “This decision gives me peace, so it must be God’s will.” Such reasoning is backward! We ought to be at peace because we know our decision is according to God’s written will, not just assume it is God’s will because we feel at peace.
It all goes back to “facts, faith, and feelings.” God’s word establishes the facts. Upon God’s word we base our faith. Knowing that we have trusted and obeyed God’s word should make us feel good. Many, however, have reversed this order: “I feel like this is right; therefore, that’s what I believe; therefore, it must be God’s will.”We have God’s confirmed will. We need no signs!
As we begin our new year at Central Haywood we need to think about what we can do to help the church grow. Each of us is important to the overall growth of this church.
1 Corinthians 12:14–16 “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.” (ESV)
No one can think that the church does not need them. You possess talents/gifts and relationships that the rest of church does not have. God has given you these gifts and He expects you to be a good steward of them.
Ephesians 4:15–16 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (ESV)
So what can you do to help the church grow?
First I ask you to pray for the church. Prayer is a powerful tool that we must use if God is ever going to bless us with growth. Pray that God will bless the leadership and membership with a heart for God, a heart for Jesus, and a heart for His Church. If we make the growth of the Lord’s church our hearts desire and priority, then the Lord will surely bless us with growth. Pray that as the leaders of this church we will lead the way in all these things. The sheep can only go where their shepherds lead them and the sheep will only follow if they sheep know their shepherds.
Secondly, I ask you to look at the different ministries we are doing here and get involved in one or more of them. Each of us needs to be involved in something at church. I ask you to find you place within the body of Christ and use you gifts to do that work. If you don’t know what your talents are, pray about it. If you’re still unsure let us know and we will help you find you role in the church.
The successes of these ministries depend on your involvement. It doesn’t matter how much the preacher or the elders wants to see these succeed if you don’t get involved in them they will not grow. Remember you are the church and it will only grow if you grow. It (the church) cannot minister beyond what you are willing to do. If you don’t do it or will not do it, then it will not happen.
Acts 2:47 “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (ESV)
God in His wisdom added you to His church. Don’t think for a moment that you were added for filler or fluff. You were added because God knows that you have something great to give to Him and His church. You were added because of His great love for you and for the church. Why would you want to look God in the face and say, “I didn’t think I was good enough?” He knows you are good enough and you should too.
You are the key to growth for this church.
A miser who had worn the same hat for fifteen years decided with a heavy heart that is was time to buy a new one. Going into the only hat shop in the neighborhood, he said to the clerk, “Well, here I am again.” Decisions, decisions! We have to make them all the time. We will make a lot of choices in life and with each decision we make, let us remember this: Life has many choices – but eternity has only two.
Think about it. Every choice we make either helps or hinders us concerning getting to heaven. Now, some decisions we make seemingly do not affect eternity, like whether to purchase a different car or not. But it still affects us in many ways: our financial condition affects much of our lifestyle which affects our lives which affects our spirituality. So, in a way, every decision potentially affects our eternity.
Jesus talked about this when He said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” (Matt. 12:30). If we make decisions that do not involve Jesus and His will, then we make decisions that are against Him. We need to make every choice as if our eternal destiny was held in the balance – for it may very well be.
Some people try to have it both ways or “straddle the fence” and think the decisions they make really don’t make that much of a difference one way or the other. But, in reality, that’s not possible. It’s always either one or the other. Jesus also said in Matt. 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” With every important decision we make, we are either serving God or Satan.
So make every decision very carefully – your eternity may very well depend upon it. Yes, life has many choices, but eternity has only two. Keep that in mind the next time you have a decision to make.“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)
By Ron Thomas
There are many who say they love God, but when asked how one can show love to God, they come up short – that is, they are uncertain how to answer or even what the correct answer is. They might say something like “Well, I know my own heart and I know there is a God, and
there is no chance I’ll deny Him – so I know I love God!” This sound commendable, but is it accurate? Perhaps someone will say “Since God is love and He loves everyone, it seems to me that is good, so I’ll return the response.” This sounds less commendable, but it may reflect some who express their love for God.
Do you remember the song that was a hit back in the mid-1980s, “I want to know what love is”? How many would sing that song and be able to relate with it perfectly? However, many there may be, knowing what love is, is as simple as knowing the Lord. In truth, knowing the Lord and His definition of love is better than anything that comes from the mind of man, don’t you think? I do!
Those who say they love God but do not obey Him simply do not know what love is. They will tell you they do and, I suppose, in a limited sense, they do. Their standard, however, is not that which belongs to the Lord; thus, they are confused about the application of what love is. With this confusion, there is an influence extended to others and they, too, become confused (parents to children, for instance).
In effect, they have no love for God at all!
How can this be? It is this way because the privilege of saying “I love God” and it being accepted by the Lord does not belong to the one saying it! Knowledge is the foundation upon which one’s personal philosophy of life is lived. If there is no knowledge of what love is, then it’s not possible for one to exhibit what is unknown. Some understand this and seek to gain what they don’t have. Others, care not at all. They want to live as they choose, substantive knowledge is of little value to them. For others, there is a pretension of knowledge, but this knowledge is not based on what the Scripture teaches, only what they think or want to think.
Because of this, they both arrive at the same destination, which is at the cliff’s edge. Sadly, the momentum is such that they can’t stop and off they go! They made a choice to walk their own paths, believing, perhaps, the adage, “many roads lead to heaven, choose the one best or you.”So, how can one know accurately whether he loves God or not? In 1 John 5, there are two answers. First, one needs to come to God and believe what He says (Heb. 11:6). To not come to God and obey is, in effect, to call God a liar. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son (1 John 5:10, ASV). Second, when one follows the biblical pattern of believe, this necessarily translates into obedience of heart and actions. Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (5:2-3).
- Ron Thomas preaches for the Church of Christ at Rio Grande in Bidwell, OH. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, April 16, 2023
By Brian Mitchell
As one studies the book of Hebrews one of the things he will be impressed with is the superiority of Jesus. Specifically, we see the superiority of Jesus over one of the most influential individuals in the OT, that being Moses. Moses was the: author of the first five books of the Bible—The Torah. He was the deliverer of God’s people from Egyptian bondage and the giver of God’s law to the people. Yet, in spite of all these great accomplishments, the Hebrew writer’s intention was to demonstrate that Jesus was greater and thus worthy of more loyalty and obedience.
Why is Jesus greater or better than Moses? He is greater, not just because he was more faithful in His service to God, but because of who He was and what He did. Jesus is greater, because He is the builder of a greater house (the Church) and as such He is head over the house. Moses, however, was a servant in the house and the things he did were in preparation for the coming of Jesus. Jesus is greater because He is the giver of a greater rest. Moses was to lead the people of God to the Promised Land where they would receive rest, but it was an earthly rest. It was Jesus that made possible through His death on the cross, a heavenly and eternal rest.
That brings us to the second warning in the Book of Hebrews—a warning against departing from the living God through unbelief. In Heb.3:6, we find that we are the house of Christ, which is the Church of which Christ is the Head. Those in Christ are now members of the Household of God and together with the faithful saints of old (including Moses) we are now fellow-citizens in the spiritual house or commonwealth of Israel. However, our status as members of the house is conditional, to remain in the house we must “hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope to the end.”
Thus, the need for the constant warnings or admonitions found throughout the book. The first showed the danger or drifting and now we shall consider the danger departing. To warn against the danger of departing from God and the consequences that would come with such a departure the Hebrew writer appeals to an example from the past in Heb.3:7-19. These stories of the past recorded in the OT are not just there for our reading entertainment, they are there because they teach us lessons that we need to learn.
In this case they teach us the very real danger of falling away from God through unbelief, so that we might avoid a similar fate that was realized by the Israelites in the wilderness. In “our efforts” to remain steadfast we must then encourage one another to remain strong in our faith and obedience. Trusting in God until the end of our lives and then receiving the reward of faithfulness.
- 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
By Jeff Arenette
With today being Christmas day, I want us to reflect on the true message of Jesus, the gospel, and Christmas. Some might be wondering what I am thinking but bear with me and hopefully it will make sense. I have heard the phrase “Keep Christ in Christmas” more times than I care to mention and yet is this really the purpose of Christmas or Christ.
The birth of Jesus is definitely a time to rejoice. The angels, the wise men, the shepherds, and the whole host of heaven rejoiced at the birth of Jesus (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 2:13-14). God had finally sent the Messiah the world needed into the world and that is good news. Yet, it misses the entirety of what the gospel is about. It is a wonderful, joyful, and praise worthy event that Jesus is born but an infant in a manger cannot save us. In order for us to understand the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must get past this single event to the see the whole of Jesus’ life and message.
Isaiah 53 tells us that the promised Messiah would indeed be born but He would also die. The Messiah would be an innocent lamb taken to be slaughtered for our sins. He would be killed for us, taking our sins upon Himself, and face the punishment of God in our place. The Good News is that we don’t have to die for our sins! Jesus died for us and yet that is not the whole of the gospel message.
The gospels reveal to us the gospel message that Jesus died, being crucified on a cross on a hill called “The place of the skull.” They tell us that Jesus died and was buried in a borrowed tomb (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; John 19:38) owned by a disciple named Joseph of Arimathea. If the story of Jesus ended in the cradle or the grave it would not be a good story much less “Gospel” to live by. Even the disciples of Jesus were taken back by the death of Jesus and didn’t seem to be sure what to do now. Peter had already gone back to fishing (John 21:1-3) and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were distraught, not sure what to think about Jesus (Luke 24:13-34). They knew that if the story ended in the grave it wasn’t very comforting.
The greatness of the story of Jesus is found in the empty tomb.
Romans 1:4 - “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,”
The greatness of Jesus, the “Gospel” message is more than a birth and a death. It is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and resurrected on the third day according the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Now that my friends is something to get excited about. That is truly good news.
Jesus is the Christ, our Savior, and Redeemer because he arose from the grave giving us the hope of eternal life in heaven with him.
By Joe Slater
Dozens of times in both testaments Scripture affirms God’s love. The same is true of His wrath. Even Jesus, who perfectly embodied love, became angry. If you don’t believe it, just ask the thieving money changers in the temple! (See John 2:14-15.)
Skeptics claim that love and wrath are incompatible, so the Bible contradicts itself or portrays a God who doesn’t exist or isn’t worth serving. Do they have a valid point?
No indeed! People who pit one attribute of God against another invariably end up with egg on their face. Mercy or justice? Love or wrath? It isn’t “either/or”; it’s “both/and”!
The very idea that love and wrath are mutually exclusive flies in the face of common sense and betrays a bogus definition of love. A “love” that cannot become angry amounts to nothing more than sickeningly-sweet, syrupy sentimentalism! The skeptics themselves don’t practice it, nor should they. Ask them, “Do you love your children?” Of course they do! “Have you ever been angry with them?” The honest answer would have to be, “Yes!” “Have you ever chastened them?” Some might say, “Oh, no, I love them too much to do that!” But hear the Spirit-inspired words of the wisest king who ruled Israel: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).
God’s wrath is an expression of His righteousness and holiness. Those attributes are every bit as excellent as His love and mercy. If sin didn’t offend God’s very nature, He wouldn’t be righteous or holy. Now that would make Him a god (not God) who wasn’t worth serving!
By Adam Faughn
Today, we are planning to enjoy a period of fellowship after our morning worship services with a potluck lunch. However, to also encourage us to be present for the "evening" worship service, we are going to go ahead and meet after the potluck, so our evening service will be at 1:30 pm. We hope this encourages more people to stay for both the meal and the worship service. We especially hope it encourages those of you who travel a good distance to worship each Sunday since you can just make one trip and then participate in the entire day.
I still remember the first time I heard a Sunday like this described as "church, eat, church." Now, of course, it has caught on, and that phrase is used quite often. In fact, in several places where I have spoken for Gospel Meetings over the last few years, it has been the norm. But as common as the phrase "church, eat, church" has become, it still sounds a little funny. It's catchy, and we know what it means, but it is still a little weird.
That said, not long ago, I heard the phrase "church, eat, church" somewhere, and it just hit me in a different way. Certainly, I knew what was being talked about, but my mind went in a totally different direction: the church doesn't need to "eat" the church.
Sometimes, we get frustrated with a fellow Christian. There might be a time when we disagree with a decision made by the elders (maybe even to have church, eat, church!). There could be a brother or sister in Christ who we feel has slighted us in the past, and we struggle to get along. Those things happen simply because we are people, and, as such, we are not always going to get things right.
When those things happen, however, I do not have the right to "eat" the church. In other words, I do not have the right to run down the Lord's Church before other people so as to weaken it.
We use this word picture in many other areas of life. For example, in a basketball game, one player drives toward the basket and makes a move that causes the defender to just look silly. You might hear the TV analyst say, "He just ate him up." What does that announcer mean by that word picture? The player making the move toward the basket embarrassed the opponent (and was proud to do so).
There should never be a time when any of that word picture is true of the Church. For one thing, we are not opponents! Even in times when we may disagree or be working through a problem, we are still God's family and need to remember that we are on the same team.
More to our point, though, we need to always remember there is just not an appropriate time to intentionally embarrass ("eat up") a fellow Christian. The only thing that should cause shame from one Christian to another is in the process of withdrawal of fellowship, and that should be exceedingly rare and for a very specific purpose. When we are dealing with regular slights or mistakes, there is never a time to embarrass our brother or sister in Christ. By the way, that is especially true when we consider that there is a "crowd" around us--a world that would love nothing more than to see the Church implode.
The New Testament regularly gives instruction about such topics as living in patience, being forgiving, and dealing one another in kindness. In a huge number of these places, the relationship under discussion is that of fellow Christians. We can safely say that God does not want the church eating the church! The question is, will I be careful to avoid doing just that? Will you?
"But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another." (Galatians 5:15)
By Bill Brandstatter
Suppose someone were to tell you that if you cut off your little finger, you could have everything you could possibly want or need? If you need a new car, you could have it. If you need a new house, pick one, there is no price limit. Whatever you want in this world could be yours, if you just cut off your right finger. Would you do it? Suppose the offer was extended to include your right arm, your eyes and your ears, would you still do it? Many would say “no” at some point, yet there are many people that are giving up something more valuable for a whole lot less. Jesus poses this question: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26 NKJV)
Our soul is the most valuable item we possess. There is no price tag attached to it. It is valuable because it goes on beyond the grave. We cannot take our material possessions with us. (1 Tim. 6:7) We will take our souls with us. So, the value of it is far greater than anything this world has to offer. To lose our soul would be worse than losing our material possessions in a fire, earthquake, or storm.
Our soul is valuable because of its source. Man has given us many things; God has given us our soul. Ezekiel, acting as a spokesman for God stated, “Behold all souls are mine.” (Eze. 18:4) Our material possessions belong to us. Our souls belong to God. Paul adds to this by stating, “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:20) God breathed life into man, and man became a living soul. (Gen. 1:27) Since that time every soul belongs to God.
Our soul is valuable because each of us are of the same value. Material possessions differ with the individual, but each of us has a soul. The value of each soul is the same. The value is not determined by gender, education, or ethnicity. Where we live makes no difference. In Christ, the soul of each person has the same value. (Gal. 3:26-29)
Let us consider how valuable we are to God, not man. Man’s value is based on looks, money, prestige, and class status. God’s value is placed on our soul’s relationship with Him. Let us make sure we have the right relationship with God, and the soul’s value will be clearly seen when Heaven is our home.
Sunday, April 9, 2023
By Jeff Arnette
Today we will wrap up our introduction to the last book of the New Testament. Over the past couple of years, we have covered every book of the Bible and hopefully it has been a blessing to you. Last week, we dealt with the introductory topics like authorship, dating, history, and purpose. Today we’re going to look at the 4 major themes of the book.
The Return of Christ.
The first advent of Christ was marked with humility. He was born of a virgin in the village of Bethlehem and placed in a feed trough for a crib. His Second Coming will be very different and will demonstrate his power, glory, and judgment of sin. Revelation 19:11-19 describes beautifully as we see Jesus descending from heaven riding a white with an army of angels to wage war on his enemies and set all things right.
The defeat of evil.
In Revelation John saw visions of horrible and terrifying creatures. A prostitute who opposed God and his people a great dragon who is Satan himself. He wages war against Jesus and when he sees that he cannot stop his coming, he turns toward the church and all those who trust in Jesus (Rev. 12). In the end, all of God’s enemies are defeated and judged for their sins. This reminds us that while evil seems powerful, even overwhelming at times, God is still in God and seated on his throne. He will be victorious.
God’s final judgment.
Revelation teaches us that God is not slack in his judgment of sin or evil people. While it may seem like things never change, everything is happening exactly as God planned. Judgment day is coming and no one is going to escape it. He will judge and punish those who refuse to trust in Jesus (Rev. 20:11-15).
Revelation teaches us that believers are constantly being challenged to remain faithful in the face of persecution. He also shares that God will gloriously reveal the overcomers as his own children. Just as the evil will have to face God’s judgment, his followers will experience peace and eternal rest in his presence. God promises to give the victorious the right to the tree of life that stands in God’s paradise (Rev. 2:7).
By Bill Brandstatter
After the events at Michigan State University, many may be asking one question: WHY?
We live in a country where blame is the name of the game. We want to blame someone or something for the problems of our world. Some may blame guns. Some may be looking for blame in other places. One thing I do know, God is not to blame.
God does not eliminate problems in our lives. He helps us in the midst of our troubles. Remember, Paul told Timothy that the godly would suffer persecution in 2 Tim. 3:12. There were many people in Bible times who experienced troubles. The apostle Paul had his share. He details some of them by stating: “I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of my own countrymen.” (2 Cor. 11:26) Paul had a lot of bad things happen to him at the hands of bad men. Was it God’s fault? Later, as he was put in prison by the hands of evil men, Paul wrote: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13) He stated before this: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Phil. 4:11) In his last imprisonment, about a month before His death, he wrote; “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me so that the message might be preached fully through me.” (2 Tim. 4:17 NKJV)
It is interesting that Paul did not look to blame anybody. Paul looked to the Lord instead. We too must realize we live in a world of sin. Satan is active and is seeking to cause man to suffer in all kinds of ways. (1 Pet. 5:8) God made man with the power of choice. Throughout history, many have suffered because of evil choices made by many. Jesus suffered on the cross because of the choice of the many who said, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him”; (Mark 15:14) and yet Jesus asked the Father to forgive them. (Luke 23:34)
There is an effort to eliminate God from our society. Students can’t pray publicly in schools. Certain religious functions can’t take place on government-owned properties. We don’t need to eliminate God; we need to increase our emphasis on Him and include Him more.
“God is a very present help in time of trouble.” (Ps. 46:1) He knows what we need. Let us pray to Him for solutions to problems we can’t solve. Let us turn to Him for questions we cannot answer. Let us turn to Him for help in difficult times (Phil. 4:6, 7).
By Joe Slater
A popular cliché says, “There’s nothing in a name.” That’s an overstatement, to say the least. Would you name your daughter Jezebel?
Names in Scripture often have significance. My name is Joseph, the name Rachel gave to her firstborn son (Genesis 30:24). The name means “add,” in keeping with her hope that “the Lord shall add to me another son.”
Sometimes a name reflected the person’s character. Jacob’s name means supplant or deceive. Sure enough, in his early years Jacob took undue advantage of his brother and hoodwinked his father. God later changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning strive or wrestle with God (Genesis 32:28). Jacob had wrestled with a physical manifestation of God as he sought His blessing. No longer would he obtain what he desired by underhanded methods. The change in names coincided with a change in character.
People didn’t always live up to their name, however. While the prophet Micaiah (“who is like Yahweh?”) behaved consistently with that honorable name (1 Kings 22:14), his nemesis Zedekiah didn’t. Zedekiah means “Yahweh is righteous,” which is certainly true. But Zedekiah was anything but righteous and didn’t really respect the Lord righteousness or His righteous word (1 King 22:24).
If you are in Christ, you are a Christian, the name the disciples were called in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Luke used a peculiar word for “called” which indicates that the Lord Himself gave that name (see Isaiah 62:2 where a new name was prophesied). It means one who belongs to Christ, one who follows Christ. It differs little, if at all, from a disciple (learner-follower). Let each one of us strive to live up to the noble name “Christian”!
By Edd Sterchi
Luke’s magnificent account of the storm at sea in Acts 27 is possibly intended to be more than just a thrilling chapter of Paul’s life. In verses 23 and 25 we see some interesting words Paul uses that show his relationship with God and his purpose for being a Christian. Here’s the relevant portions of the text: “...God to whom I belong and whom I serve...for I believe God...” Now, notice the three important words:
* Paul belonged to God (v.23). This means that Paul was a Christian. He had been baptized for the remission of sins (cf. Acts 22:16) and that put him in a relationship with God. He was a child of God and belonged to God’s family.
* Paul believed God (v.25). If God told him something directly, through an angel, or through His written word, Paul believed it. He never questioned it, he simply trusted in it. If God said he would go to Rome, then he knew that he would make it to Rome, no matter what earthly calamity came. Paul trusted in and relied upon God’s promises.
* Paul served God (v.23). Paul was totally dedicated to God and, as a result, served Him faithfully. Paul worshiped God. Paul prayed to God. Paul showed his love for God by active service to others.
The People’s New Testament Commentary states of v.23, “This short sentence is a sermon. It is the key-note of all Paul’s ministry.” Paul’s whole life was centered around God – believing, honoring, and serving Him.
We would do well to follow Paul’s example. We need to examine our minds, hearts, and lives and see if we truly belong to God, truly believe in His word, and are truly serving in His name. We need to check and make sure that we are fully dedicated to Him and have an active relationship with Him. Living like Paul expresses here will help us make it through whatever storms of life hit.
“Therefore I urge you, imitate me.” (Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:16)
By Ron Bartanen
In some things we may take risks. We may take risks in the stock market, but the only thing we stand to lose is money. However, if we take risks with salvation, we stand to lose our souls, and Jesus said, “What is a man profited if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). We cannot afford to take foolish chances about eternal salvation. We are urged, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
To be safe, not sorry, build your life on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house: and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24-25). To do otherwise is soul-destruction.
Look only to God’s word for assurance that you are on the right path in life. Don’t depend on how you feel, for “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). Safe guidance does not come from within us, but from the Bible. It is His word that will judge us (John 12:48).
- 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
Sunday, April 2, 2023
By Jeff Arnette
The book of Revelation has always been one of my favorite books in the entire Bible. I have often been asked why and perhaps the reason lies in its focus. Revelation was written near the end of the first century in a time when Christians were being persecuted and dying for their faith in Jesus. To encourage and challenge them to greater faithfulness, Jesus gives John this series of visions to explain our suffering and more importantly remind us of our ultimate victory. Throughout the book the message is always the same: No matter what happens in this life, in the end faithful Christians will stand victorious with Jesus. True to that purpose, this book has always given me hope and courage to keep serving Jesus and His people.
By the time the letter was written to the Seven Churches, Christians in most parts of the Roman Empire are being persecuted and dying for their faith. John is given a series of visions and told to write it down and send it to the church (Rev. 1:4, 9). Almost without exception, early Christian writers affirmed the Apostle John as its writer.
The setting of the visions is the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9) that served as a penal colony for the Roman Empire in the Aegean Sea. Tradition says that John survived his time here and was released. He moves to Ephesus and remains there until his death. I do believe, for practical reasons, that John would have waited until he was in Ephesus to write the letters since he would have more access to writing materials.
The book of Revelation, probably more than any other book in the Scripture, has produced a wider variety of theories, interpretations, and sadly more arguments. As such, I believe something needs to be said here. We need to show grace and understanding with other believer’s when they differ with us on how to understand this book. We must always show Christ-likeness in our treatment of all people but especially other believers who are sincerely trying to understand this difficult book.Above all else, Revelation teaches us that faithfulness to Jesus will one day result in our triumph over all the trouble and trials of this life. When Jesus returns to take us home and judge the lost, He will set all things right and we will reside with Him forever.
By Joe Slater
Unscrupulous characters in many walks of life, including religion, seek to control other people’s minds. Their tactics include manipulation, brainwashing, and coercion. We ought to reject any and all efforts by other people to control our minds.
God’s word teaches that we control our own minds. The fact that He tells us to renew our minds and set our minds on specific things shows that not even God Himself overrides our free will.
Why would we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (as per Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:23)? Why would Colossians 3:1-2 exhort us to set our minds on things that are above? God’s word provides the answer from several angles.
Before we knew Jesus, we were “alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works” (Colossians 1:21). Hostility toward God begins in the mind! Only by renewal of the mind can we be reconciled to Him.
When people reject knowing God, the Lord “(gives) them over to a debased (unapproved) mind” (Romans 1:28). Because they don’t approve Him, He doesn’t approve them! The mind must be renewed before God will accept them.
Enemies of God, not wishing to know Him, naturally have “corrupt minds” (1 Timothy 6:5). Titus 1:5 makes the same point speaking of both mind and conscience being “defiled.” Such minds focus not on things above, but earthly, carnal matters. Unless the mind is renewed and refocused, eternal destruction surely awaits!Who controls your mind? Do you need to renew your mind?
By Bill Brandstatter
The two words above are confusing to many people. I can love someone but not like certain practices. I can love someone because of the soul which God put in them; but, I may not like their life style or habits. God is a God of love; (1 John 4:18) but God doesn’t like all of man’s behaviors and practices.
He loved Adam and Eve. They were God’s first human creations. God loved them so much that He gave them a paradise home. Because He loved them, He gave them some commandments to guide them in their paradise. They chose not to follow those commands. As a result, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden and death came on the human race. He didn’t like what they did, but He loved them.
He loved people in Noah’s day. People became more and more wicked. (Gen. 6:5) God was sorry He made man and was grieved in His heart. (Gen. 6:6) God still loved mankind, but was sorrowful about the behavior and lifestyle of those created after His image. So, God caused a great flood to come upon the earth. Everything was destroyed. The only survivors were Noah, his wife, his sons & their wives and the animals in the ark. God didn’t do this because He hated man. He did it because He didn’t like what they were doing, and they were creating problems for themselves.
He loves people today. He wants all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4) God is in the soul business. Man is in the flesh business. Man wants to justify self. God wants to save man from sin. So, when man reads the Bible, he thinks in different terms than God does. (Isa. 55:8, 9) Sometimes that which God condemns, man approves. That which man approves God often condemns. (Isa. 10:30)What man loves, God does not always like or approve. (Isa. 5:20) Man loves pleasure and sinful activity. God loves man, but hates every evil way. God does not hate the person, but He often does hate their behavior. Jesus said the gate many would go through is broad and wide and the gate to heaven is narrow and difficult. (Matt. 7:13, 14) Man must make choices. If we know the word of God, we can better make the choices God wants us to make. He gave us the Bible because He loves us, yet He doesn’t always like the things that we do. He demonstrates His love for us “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
By Edd Sterchi
Philippians 2:5-11 is a wonderful treatise on Jesus Christ. He came from heaven as God, but lived upon the earth as human. He lived a sinless life so that He could be our perfect sin offering. Verses 8 and 9 reveal something that we often miss concerning all of this: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name” (emphasis mine).
Since Jesus was our perfect example (Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 2:21), it is important that we note this formula: Humility comes before exaltation. If we want God to exalt us, we must first humble ourselves before Him. To humble ourselves means to put God above every aspect of our lives, be obedient to His will, and fully trust in Him – just as Jesus did. If we do this, we are guaranteed exaltation.
“And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6)
By Ron Thomas
No one who has ever lived is better known than Jesus, the man from Nazareth, also called God’s Son. God’s Son? Does God have a son? This is the message of Jesus, God’s Son who came to this earth to teach and save people from their sins. In Luke 19:10, the Scripture reads, For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost (ASV).
The word “sin” is a word that many people have heard much about, but many of those same people really don’t the meaning of that word, though they do have some idea. The word “sin” comes from a Greek word (hamartia) that means to “miss the mark.” In other words, man has a bulls eye in front of him (so to speak); he aims at a target of doing that which is right. Doing that which is right is associated with morality, a way of thinking that corresponds to what he/she thinks is right and wrong. It is a moral compass given to him by God. Since the time of creation man has aimed at doing that which is right. God has given man the freedom to chose, and since that time he has done so. But in the choices he made man has gone his own way, trying to establish his own wisdom as the moral compass by which he is led. This way of thinking he has put in place has encouraged him to think he can choose his own preferred way without regard to the way the Lord desires man to choose. In this choice made, he hopes God will accept his chosen path. This is similar to the way of (mistaken) thinking, “There are many paths to God, my son. I hope yours is not too difficult.”
This way of thinking has been humanity’s disastrous path upon which he is currently walking. The Lord said, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). When people choose to go their own way, the way of God becomes blocked in his line of sight. The choices of man have blocked the purity of God’s path, and his desire to walk God’s path becomes corrupt, diluted and overgrown with weeds. He simply cannot find his way back to God apart from God. Thus, Jesus came to point for man “the bright and shining way.” From the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible, we read, Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
How can Jesus help me with my struggle since He never struggled with the same things I do? A long time ago, Solomon, the king over the nation Israel, appealed to the Lord God for the struggle that each person has. He said this, what prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, who shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house (1 Kings 8:38, ASV). Note the word “plague,” a word that is a strong enough to convey a great deal of heartache and struggle. The people long ago are not at all different than people today. One can easily say the only difference would be in relation to advancements in technology. They struggled with similar problems.
Is your struggle alcohol? Is your struggle sex? Is your struggle related to drugs? Is your struggle personal relationship? Is your struggle getting and keeping a job? Is your struggle a sharp tongue? It may be that I can’t relate precisely with what you struggle, but neither can you relate precisely with what I struggle. Nevertheless, there is a similarity in that we both struggle, just as there was in the days of Solomon.
Each one of those struggles are in relation to behavior. It is the mind’s desire to succumb to this or that. The Lord teaches a new way of thinking, a way of thinking that is a retraining of the mind. Does the mind control, or is the mind controlled? Notice what Paul said in his letter to the church in Philippi, Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14).
Who controlled Paul’s mind at the time when he wrote those words? It was Paul who controlled his own mind, but he willingly allowed the Lord Jesus to be of such great influence that he could easily say (and he did), I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me (Gal. 2:20).This is the message of the Lord Jesus, a message He wants each of us to embrace.
- Ron Thomas preaches for the Church of Christ at Rio Grande in Bidwell, OH. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org