Sunday, June 26, 2022

Love is...

By Ron Thomas

 

    Love is an action, less an emotion (though not necessarily unconnected). Love always seeks that which is best for the other person, even if the other person does not see it or want it. What is best for the other person can be drawn from two sources. This which originates in a person or that which originates in God. If the former, look and see where this has gotten us. We live in a society full of moral and emotional corruption. Those who criticize the latter fail to see what love truly is and refuse to see that the love of Gods is not the problem, only that people in their selfishness have corrupted God's love for their own ends.

    Love is frequently seen as an emotion that allows the other person to be who they are, and while this may be an aspect of love, it is not love. Would you allow a person to be who they are if they are destructive to self, or others? Neither is love is an emotion that seeks to satisfy self in earthly pleasures, though it is frequently used in that context. That is nothing but hedonism, selfishness.

    When you say, "I love you" - what is it you mean? Perhaps you may have difficulty giving clarity to this. With the Lord, there is no difficulty. What did He mean? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). 

- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. www.sunrushchurchofchrist.org


Not Worth A Plugged Nickel

By Joe Slater

 

    In early America some coins were made with a small silver disc in the center to give them value. A plugged nickel was one with the silver disc removed and replaced with a less valuable metal – thus to this day an item of little or no value is “not worth a plugged nickel.”

    King David wrote long ago, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold” (Psalm 19:9b-10a). Another psalmist agreed: “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver” (119:72).

    Tragically, subsequent generations in Israel distorted God’s word with human traditions. At the time Jesus walked this earth, the religious elite viewed those traditions as equal to Scripture or even above it! They sharply criticized Jesus and His disciples for disregarding “the tradition of the elders” (i.e. the ancestors). But Jesus turned the tables on them! “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). Those traditions weren’t worth a plugged nickel! Jesus laid it on the line, applying Isaiah 29:13 to them: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips. But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9).

    Members of Christ’s body in the 21st century are not immune from the temptation to elevate human tradition as being equal to God’s word or even above it. Let us be ever vigilant to view Holy Scripture as of supreme value! “Have it your way” (the Burger King slogan) must never be our approach to spiritual matters. Compared to the precious word of God, nothing else is worth a plugged nickel!
- 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


It’s Not Wrong to Wonder Why, Just Don’t Forget Who

By Edd Sterchi


    “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to

You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save...For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous...” Twenty-six hundred years ago the prophet Habakkuk opened his book with these words, but they could have very well been written this past week. Violence abounds and we wonder why.

    Actually the why is easily answered – it is because of sin. Sin has ruined the world and death, disease, and violence abound because of it. But there is another “why” that often enters our minds when violence rears its ugly head. Habakkuk wondered it too – why would God allow such violence to happen? It’s not wrong to wonder such things.

    In the end, Habakkuk realized that God will make things right at the proper time. He learned to continue to trust God and realized that his praise for God should also continue regardless of the circumstances (read Habakkuk 3). He knew that he could always draw strength from God – even in uncertain times. We can (and should) too.

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


Who Made God?

By Gerald Cowan

 

    Where did God come from?

    This is a common question, usually from atheists and skeptics, but sometimes from children too. All of us, even children, seem to know intuitively that everything which happens or exists had to have a cause, something or someone, that produced it or made it happen. If that is true, then God must also need a cause. God is something, so God must have been produced by some cause outside himself. If we say God is an exception to the rule can there be other exceptions too? The conclusion the atheist or unbelieving skeptic seeks to arrive at is that there is no God, that the claim for the existence of God is illogical. Therefore the existence of God is impossible – He does not and cannot really exist. Here’s the logic: if what we call God had to have a beginning and a cause that produced Him, then there would have to be an endless regression of causes for the caused. Who caused the cause that caused God to exist, and who caused the cause that caused the cause that caused God to exist, etc ad infinitum. It would be illogical, an exercise in futile nonsense. Anything that needs a cause cannot be called God. So, if God needed a cause then God is not God, and if God is not God there is nothing that can be called God – therefore, there is no God. However, there is a simple but profound answer to this. We tell our children, “Nobody made God. God has always been. God has no beginning and no end – God is eternal; God is forever.”  That usually satisfies a child. But maturing thought and reason ask more. To be acceptable and satisfying our answer must be logical and complete. At least it must be immune to logical contradiction.

    It is important to insist on two major dicta. First: something cannot come from nothing, and there can be no exception. If nothing at all exists then nothing at all can come from it and nothing at all will ever exist. Nothing makes or produces itself. Second: for every existing thing there must have been a prior sufficient cause that produced it. In this case it is a logical philosophical necessity that there be one, but only one, exception to the rule. There must be one and only one uncaused cause, one who is eternal and absolutely perfect in every conceivable attribute who could then cause everything else to become and be. Only such a perfect being could be called God. How can we prove this? Remember, as we know and must admit, nothing has come or can come from nothing. If there were ever a time when there was absolutely nothing in existence, then nothing would have ever come into existence. But things do exist. Therefore, since there could never have been absolutely nothing, something had always to have been in existence. That ever-existing thing is what we call God. God is the uncaused Being who caused everything else to come into existence. God is the uncreated Creator who created all existing things, the universe and everything in it. An existing God is a logical, philosophical, and ontological necessity.

    We have shown His existence to be a logical or philosophical necessity. But what do we mean by ontological necessity? This too is a matter of philosophy, but it is stated either directly or by necessary inference in the Bible. It applies more to the attributes of the existing God than to His necessary existence. Do not forget the essential point: nothing makes or creates itself; nothing brings itself into existence. The existence of any created thing ultimately requires an original uncreated creator. But what about the attributes of the Uncaused Cause?  What kind of being is it? Here is where ontology is the determining factor. Ontology is sometimes defined as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” But that is an awkward easily misconstrued statement that ends up being meaningless. Simply stated, it is an argument from perfection. For every manifestation or attribute it is necessary to assume that the perfect form of the attribute exists. Notice how this applies to what can be called the essential attributes of God.  With regard to essential being, God is eternal, as we have already noted. Scripture makes the claim often. His very name JEHOVAH means the everlasting One who was and is and will be, the Eternal. A necessary corollary to eternality is immutability. Material things are subject to change and decay, but the eternal One is unchanging, not subject to change. “Behold, I am the Lord (God); I change not” (Mal. 3:6). He is non-material Spirit – unchanging and non-material, the perfect form of being. (John 4:24). He is perfect in knowledge – omniscient, all-knowing. There is nothing past, present, or future that is hidden from Him, nothing that He does not know – including what you think and intend at any time (Heb. 4:12-13). He is perfect in power, omnipotent, almighty, all powerful (Rev. 19:6). He is not limited in presence. He is everywhere all the time, omnipresent and therefore able to know all things at all times (Psalm 139:7-12). The sum of all this is that God is perfect in all aspects of His being. So there you have it: God is perfect, the eternal, unchanging, all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere-present Spirit. We can also apply the principle of ontology to the relative attributes of God, such as love, truth, law and the many sub-sets in each of them. Nobody can find a flaw or imperfection in anything about God. His love is perfect, and it is impossible for Him to lie, impossible for Him to do or want to do anything that is wrong. The God who necessarily exists is necessarily perfect, in His essential being and in all His attributes.

    One last thing: perfection requires oneness, a unit and not a union or a multiplicity. So there is ONE GOD, one and only one, now, forever, and eternally (Ex. 20:1-2, Deut. 6:4, 1 Cor. 8:4-6). Fractions are by nature incomplete, imperfect. A composite whole is imperfect too, unless the parts are integral, having no separate identity or existence apart from the whole. So there are not many Gods, and the One True God is not a composite of several separate Gods. Of course, that brings up the doctrine of “Trinity” – the concept of “one God in three persons” but still only one God?  Is that a Union of three – a multiple God – or somehow a true singularity?  The question requires much more space and will be treated separately at another time.
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com


I’d Like to Think They Knew

By Adam Faughn

 

    A few weeks ago, our family was looking for a quick devotional idea. It had been a busy evening, but we wanted to have a family devo. So, we had this idea: we simply asked the kids if there were any songs they could think of that we sing in worship that they did not understand.

    After thinking for a few moments, our son mentioned the song "Let the Lower Lights be Burning." I think the way he worded his question was, "what's that all about?" We rehearsed the lyrics and then talked about how it shares the responsibility we all have of bringing people to the safe "harbor" of Jesus.

    Last Sunday night, we sang that song in worship. As soon as it showed up on the PowerPoint screen, I had to look over toward our kids to see if it "clicked" that we had just talked about this song a few days earlier. Well, they are teenagers, so they did not look back our way, but I would like to think that it was in their mind. Far more than that, however, I would like to think that now, when they sing that song, they understand the beautiful imagery of it and the responsibility it reminds us that we each have in our service of Jesus.

    All this had me thinking: do we think about what we sing? Do we even understand some of the lyrics that we sing?

    Now, to be fair, some songs are more difficult than others lyrically. Some are older and use words (or word pictures) that may seem a bit outdated to us, especially to younger people. Others may have to "force" words a bit to make the lyrics fit within the parameters of a poem. Additionally, since we are dealing with poetry, there are some lyrics that are so image-driven that the message can almost get lost if we are not truly thinking about what we are singing.

    It just causes me to wonder: is our mind truly engaged when we sing, or do we just go through the words with little-to-no thought? A number of years ago, I had a man who was probably in his early 50s and had been "in the church" since he was a boy come up to me and ask me about the song, "Bringing in the Sheaves." He admitted that he had sung that song his whole life and had no idea what "sheaves" were, so he did not really know what he had been singing for all those decades!

    I am not suggesting that we have to "get" every lyric the first time we read it. What I am suggesting is that we need to think about what we sing. Are there lyrics you have sung for years and years but do not really know what they mean? Are there some words that are a bit archaic, and you are not totally sure of how they fit with the message of the song? If so, don't you think it is time to take a few moments to consider words that you are offering to God in worship?

    From "Night with ebon pinion brooded o'er the vale" to singing about the "panoply of God," there are some lyrics that may be confusing to us. It would be a wonderful way to spend a few moments to truly think through the lyrics of those songs, focus on the meaning of them, and let them help build your faith once you have a greater understanding of them.

    It simply does not make sense to worship God with words that we do not understand. After all, worship is meant to combine our heart and our mind, so we need to do our best to understand what we are offering to Him (see 1 Corinthians 14:15). Will you take the time to study and consider what you are offering to Him through the words that come from your lips? (Hebrews 13:15)
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.


Monday, June 20, 2022

The Most Important Book

By David Sargent

     Toward the end of 2008 what was billed as the world’s most expensive new book went on display at the New York Public Library. There are more expensive old books, but this is a new book produced by the Italian publisher Marilena Ferrari. It’s cost: over $100,000!
     The book depicts the life and work of Michelangelo, including photographs of his drawings and sculptures, creations from the Sistine Chapel, and his personal poetry.
It weighs 62 lbs, has a front cover of white marble, and is covered with red silk velvet. Its paper is from one of Italy’s oldest paper mills – the mill where Picasso bought his art paper.
     Each book takes six months to make and comes with a 500-year warranty!  As of December 2008, more than 20 of the books had been sold to buyers around the world.
     These books are valuable because of the craft, quality of materials, and time that goes into their production.  After all, the books don’t contain Michelangelo’s actual art, just photos of it! *
     But there is ANOTHER book that is much more valuable…
     The most important book ever printed – and the most valuable book – is the BIBLE, God’s Word.  What makes the Bible so valuable is the content of its message: the very words of God.  It is a priceless treasure!
     Christians at Thessalonica understood the value of this Book.  Paul commended them, saying: “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” – 1 Thess 2:13
     Consider the words of an unknown author as he gave tribute to the Word of God:
     This Book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.
     Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions immutable.
     READ it to be wise, BELIEVE it to be safe, and PRACTICE it to be holy!
     The Word of God reveals the state of man: we are sinners, and unless our situation is remedied, we are doomed to destruction (Rom 3:23; 6:23; Matt 7:13-14).
     The Word of God reveals the Way of salvation: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  Jesus is the Way of salvation (John 14:6), for He paid the price for our sins by dying on the cross on our behalf (Eph 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
     To access the Way of Salvation... the Word of God teaches us that we must place our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance  (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, as we walk in the light as He is in the light, then the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
     God’s Word is THE most important Book!  Read it to be wise, believe and obey it to be saved, and practice it to be holy.
     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

* Reference: www.dailymail.co.uk 11-26-08 as cited www.illustrationsforsermons.com


What Do You Think?

By Ron Thomas

 

    When you think of the church of Christ, what comes to mind? A building? Perhaps the people, maybe some bad experiences that you would like to forget. Maybe all of these.  What does the Lord think when He thinks of the church of Christ?

    You may know the various passages within the New Testament to give a quick answer, and I suspect your use of those passages would be handled plenty fine. Yet, there might be more to say on the matter than you might realize. The Lord’s apostle wrote, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).

    Notice three terms. Since the church of our Lord consists of people, the first term to notice is living stones. Do stones live? No, they don’t. What does the Lord mean then? It’s a figurative term at two levels. First, stones are not living, so it’s figurative.

    Second, people are not rocks, so that, too, is figurative. Stones and rocks convey something solid, and even though there is no life in them, with the Lord, those that are part of His household have life and they have it more abundantly. In a community where people are dead in sin, the head of the corner (Cornerstone) will have those who are part of the church of Christ on solid ground very much alive.

    A second term we want to consider is spiritual house offering up spiritual sacrifices. How can this be? Are we not physical people walking into a material building, singing with the heart the Lord gave at creation? We are but we are more than that which is called material, we have been created in such a way that there are three parts to us. Paul said we are body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23). Note that only one of the three is physical, material, the other two non-material, non-physical.

    Some find it hard to distinguish between soul and spirit, but I suggest the separation fits well along this line: soul would be the life given to us from God; spirit would be the same, but it will go back to the Lord to be judged; the material is that which decays.

    While we may have difficulty making a distinction between soul and spirit, we have no difficulty in understanding the nature of worship between the material and spiritual.

    The third term we will think on is a holy priesthood. The priest in the Old Testament was a go-between, a mediator between the one who worships and the Almighty. That go-between is eliminated; you now have direct access to the Lord. Don’t fail to notice the word holy. This word means you have separated yourself from the ways of the world and choose to serve Him who called you. Because of your decision, the Lord set you apart for His service.

    What does the Lord think when He thinks of the church of Christ? It’s the church that belongs to Christ, made up of those saved from their sins, called to be living stones, built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).

  The life you live, is that a life acceptable to God? 

- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. www.sunrushchurchofchrist.org