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Sunday, August 1, 2021

What Do You Expect From God?

By Bill Brandstatter

    I was talking to a Christian once about his commitment to God. He said he didn’t go to worship services much because God had “touched him.” He stated that he takes his granddaughter to services, but he had not been in three weeks. He was raised in the church; however, church wasn’t what he expected? I then asked him what did he expect? What do you expect from God?
    Some expect God to put a stamp of approval on their lifestyle and accept them without any change on their part. Perhaps this group would say everyone is going to heaven, just by different routes. Yet, God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30, 31).
    Some get upset when told what they must do to be saved. Others object if they are asked to prove anything about the religion they profess. Yet, the Bible tells us we should give an answer for what we believe; (1 Pet. 3:15) so, again the question is: What do they expect from God?
    Perhaps some men think too little about God’s perspective and too much about their own. Remember, God doesn’t think like man does (Isa. 55:8, 9). Man lives in a physical world. Often what he expects in the physical, he expects in the spiritual. When excitement, entertainment, and pleasure are the name of the game in the physical, some expect some or all of these in the spiritual realm as well. They may think that any church that doesn’t provide at least one of those is not meeting their expectations.
    Sometimes man thinks God’s ways are unfair (Ezek. 18:25); yet, who is it that sets the standard of fairness? Is it not God? It follows then that whatever God does is fair and just and it is man’s way that is not fair (Ezek. 33:17)!
    Some may expect God to do what man is supposed to do. God cannot save a person who does not want to be saved. God cannot change His law of pardon to save someone who has not obeyed Him. We must obey from the heart the doctrine of God (Rom. 6:17).
    When the rich man was in torment in Luke 16, he wanted someone to go to his brothers on earth. The answer given to him was “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them (Luke 16:30). Those who would be saved had to do what God wanted. They had to following the revealed will of God and written by Moses and the prophets. Anything else was not acceptable. Today, we must follow what Christ says (Jn. 12:48).
    We cannot expect God to do for us that which we must do. We have to work at obtaining the knowledge we need. It takes study on our part (Acts 17:11). We must receive it and make it part of us (James 1:12). We must obey the gospel that God has given us and then heaven will be our home one day. (Rom. 10:16,17; 2 Thess. 1:8) The revealed will of God for salvation has been given to us (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16,17). We can know what God expects of us. Let us strive to do what God expects, and always have a good conscience toward Him (Acts 24:16).
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Owe the Church

 By Ron Thomas


     Does a Christian owe anything to the local church? “No! In fact, the local church owes me. Because I am here (with my family), the church owes me.”
    “What does the church owe you?”
     “They owe me a comfortable environment, teachers for my kids in the classroom, a perfect (or nearly so) environment where there are no disruptions, leaders that are spiritually involved in the lives of each who attend, a leave me alone, let me be as I want to be way of thinking (which means, do not confront me concerning something I have, may be doing, or will soon participate in doing).”
    “Wow! With all that, you still insist you owe nothing to the church?”
     “Yes, and if I am offended in this or something else, there is another church down the road who will take us in, and be glad to hear why we left.”
     This over simplified conversation is not far removed from how some people think in the congregation (that is, any congregation of the Lord’s church in any location).
    From a biblical perspective, does a Christian owe anything to the local church? Yes, a good bit. Consider the following:
     Since the Christian should already Love the Lord, that is, obey His commands, he/she is also to love the church. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it (Eph. 5:25, ASV). If you love as Christ loved, you’ll love the church.
     To love the church, a Christian must also have Understanding about why he or she is to love the church. In the same context, Paul said this about understanding, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (5:27). To not have love and not have understanding allows a spot and wrinkle to exist.
     On the other hand, if you have love and understanding, then you should also have Loyalty to the body of Christ. What does this mean in practical terms? Peter and John knew: But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Your loyalty to the Lord supersedes everyone and everything else. If not, when Judgment Day occurs, how will you answer Him who saw your response to be, “Let us obey a man more than God so we can have peace and tranquility at home.”
     Since your loyalty to the Lord is strong, your Presence will never be doubted. “I am tired of you saying I have to attend church services!” the Holy Spirit said, and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh (Heb. 10:24-25). If you’re tired of the exhortation, then you are tired of the Lord. Before forsaking actually takes place, one begins with finding a reason (such as a pandemic) to miss for the first time.
     Your love, understanding, loyalty and presence is in place, now what do you owe the Lord’s church? Your Support, in two areas. First, the Lord’s body needs workers within the congregation. The building needs attention, the ground needs attention, the Bible class program needs attention, those unable to make services anymore because of health need attention. “I can’t do any of these things!” “Really? You can’t or won’t?”
     Lastly (because of space limitations), the Lord’s church needs an Evangelistic spirit in her members. Do you not have the love of Christ within you? If so, do you want others to know about it? Yes, in both cases. Then put your hand to the plow, look forward, and begin all over again.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

Stand Fast

By Edd Sterchi

    According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, the phrase “stand fast” means, “to be firm or unyielding.” It also reveals that: “This idiom, dating from the early 1600s, originally was applied to an army holding its territory against the enemy.” The phrase “stand fast” occurs in our English Bibles, as well. Actually it is translated from the Greek word “steko” which is defined as, “to stand firm, to persevere, to persist, to keep one’s standing” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon).
    With all this in mind, let’s examine a few of the “stand fast” passages in the New Testament and notice the different ways we are to “stand fast” in holding our territory against our enemy – Satan.
* Stand fast for the Lord. - “...so stand fast in the Lord, beloved” (Phil. 4:1). First and foremost, we must stand for the Lord. If we don’t stand for Jesus, then we stand for the world. Christ must come first in everything in our lives.
* Stand fast in your Christianity. - “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1). Christianity is about maturing and moving forward. Standing fast in this mindset and lifestyle keeps Satan at bay.
* Stand fast with the brethren. - “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ...that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). Standing fast with the brethren in fellowship, worship, and work strengthens our ties and helps all.
* Stand fast on the Bible. - “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). We must be those who stand upon the Bible and stand by its teachings. We must learn them, live them, and defend them. This keeps us safe.
* Stand fast through faith. - “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). It is only through faith and trust in God that we will do any of these. It is only by standing through thick and thin with our faith intact that we will persevere all the way to heaven.
    If we always stand fast in God’s ways, we will be in good standing with Him and He will make sure we stand in heaven forevermore. So Christian – stand up – stand fast – stand your ground – don’t let Satan get any headway.
- 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/


Abundant Living

By Joe Chesser
 
    Abundant living. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Abundant living is something we all crave to one degree or to another. The problem is that we don’t all agree on just what abundant living means.
    For some the “high life” refers to an exciting and luxurious way of living that involves a great deal of extravagance, partying, and thrills. One article on the internet suggested 8 easy ways to step into the high life, including booking a private jet, driving in style, creating your own perfume, designer clothes and sailing the seas. For others, life’s highpoint would be to star in a major film or be a supermodel or a rock singer. Some have simpler ideas, such as having good health and a loving family and a decent income. Others are content just to always be drunk (Miller High Life) or high on drugs. Our ideas of abundant living are not the same.
    So, when Jesus promised in John 10.10 to give Christians an “abundant life” (ESV) or “life to the full” (NIV) or a “rich and satisfying life” (NLT), what does that mean to you? Does he have in mind worldly health, wealth and pleasure? Or perhaps might there be something far better than those. Absolutely there is!
    While Jesus is definitely interested in our physical life on earth, that’s not what John 10.10 has in mind. Instead of pulling that verse out of its context and thinking of it from whatever framework you choose, think of it in the setting in which Jesus spoke it. The context of John 10 describes Jesus as the Good Shepherd taking care of the sheep who belong to him. That involves personally leading and protecting them. Jesus gives his sheep the best possible life a sheep can have, i.e., abundant life, even if the cost is laying down his own life for the sheep (John 10.17).
    So, the context is not describing luxurious homes, massive salaries or exorbitant lifestyles. No, that’s not what abundant living means in John 10. The “life” Jesus speaks of here is spiritual life, not worldly life. Having a “rich and satisfying life” is only through Jesus, and no other way (see John 1.4; 14.6). As a sampling what abundant living is, Jesus calls us to experience love and peace beyond understanding (Ephesians 3.18; Philippians 4.6-7); to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5.18) allowing the Spirit to bear within us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23). Jesus calls us to be transferred from the kingdom of darkness to light (Colossians 1.13-14), from loving the world to loving God (1 John 2.15), … and so much more.
    Abundant living that Jesus provides is the best possible way to live while on earth … and after death there is eternity with God. Now, that’s life to the full!!!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Behold, I Thought; Now I Know

By Joe Slater

    Despite being a leper, Naaman the Syrian army commander retained his pride. Didn’t his status merit a dramatic healing ceremony from Elijah? “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy’” (2 Kings 5:11). Instead, Elijah had sent a servant to instruct Naaman to dip seven times in the Jordan River. How undignified! But when he set aside his prideful anger and obeyed, the cleansed leper’s “Behold, I thought” became “Now I know” (v. 15).
    This wasn’t the first time someone’s think-so turned out to be wrong. When Abraham and Sarah journeyed to the Philistine city of Gerar, Abraham told King Abimelech that Sarah was his sister (just as he had done in Egypt many years earlier). Abimelech promptly took Sarah into his harem, but the Lord just as promptly ordered him to return her to her husband. The indignant king demanded an answer from Abraham: “Why have you done this thing?” Abraham’s excuse was, “I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place, and they will kill me on account of my wife” (Genesis 20:1-11). Yes, he thought – but was dreadfully wrong.
    Looking back at the time he had been a Jesus-hating abuser of Christians, Paul said, “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). Like Abraham and Naaman, Paul had to come to grips with how utterly wrong he had been.
    What a difference between “Behold, I thought” and “Now I know”! The line of demarcation: Learning and obeying God’s will.
- 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


Monday, July 26, 2021

"Not's" in the Devil's Tale

By Clifton Angel

    Satan is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44). His first deception recorded for us is found at Genesis 3:1. Satan said, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every  tree  of  the  garden?"  In  other  words,  "Did  God  really  say  you  are forbidden to eat of every tree of the garden?" God said, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it" (Genesis 2:16–17).
    His second lie recorded for us is found at Genesis 3:4. Satan said, "Ye shall not surely die." God said, "for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). In both occasions, Satan added only one word: "NOT." So, let us note 6 "not"s in the Devil's Tale.
    Jesus  said,  "He  that  believeth  and  is  baptized  shall  be  saved"  (Mark  16:16). Satan says, "He that believeth and is NOT baptized shall be saved."
    Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). Satan says, "Seek NOT first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." Satan  wants  us  to  put  the  things  of  this  world—our  jobs,  our  hobbies,  our sports, our passions, our talents, our families, etc.—above the church, which is the kingdom of God.
    Jesus  said,  "If  ye  love  me,  ye  will  keep  my  commandments"  (John  14:15). Satan  says,  "If  you  love  Jesus,  you  will  NOT  keep  His  commandments." Besides, Jesus' love on the cross covers all sins, so just stop trying to avoid sin, right? That's a lie of the devil.
    Jesus prayed to the Father, "That they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:22). It is Satan's endeavor, "That they may NOT be one." And how vastly is the religious world listening to Satan. How many different denominations are there today? Why don't we just go back to the Bible and be a part of Jesus' ONE church?
    Jesus  said,  "The  wicked  shall  go  away  into  eternal  punishment"  (Matthew 25:46). Satan says, "The wicked shall NOT go away into eternal punishment." How  many  do  you  know  that  when  someone  dies  they  say  that  person  is automatically  going  to  heaven.  It  does  not  matter  if  they  were  ungodly, adulterers, drunkards, fornicators, etc., they are going to heaven.
    God said, "Ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). Satan says, "Ye may NOT know that ye  have  eternal  life." How many  Christians  do we know that understand the Bible's teaching that we CAN fall from grace, yet they live their lives on eggshells as if we fall in and out of it all day long. We need to remember 1 John 1:7 and strive to walk in the light, so that, we can "know that we have eternal life."
    Satan is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44). Have you fallen prey to his lies? 
- 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/


The Powerful Word of God

By Ron Thomas

    In Jeremiah 23, the Lord is very displeased with the shepherds of Israel because they have no heart for His word and way; instead, they desired, strongly, their own ways. Who are the shepherds? The context must determine who are they and the context speaks against the prophets and priests. As a class, the lord condemned them (23:11); as a class, they failed to honor the Lord and hold true to His revelation (there were exception, such as Jeremiah). It is not unlikely they had significant income and a respected status, not wanting to lose either. How were the common folk going to please the Lord with such shepherds? They couldn’t – if they listened and followed the examples set for them by those bad leaders (23:32).
    On the other hand, if they heard and obeyed the Lord’s word, as spoken by Jeremiah, the power of the Lord’s message would penetrate their heart so effectively it would have changed them. Even if someone has such a calloused heart, could they ever have turned back to the Lord? The Lord knew they could if they desired to do so, that is why He had Jeremiah preach to them, calling on them to repent (cf. 22:4-5; 32:33).
    This gets to a significant point: there is no hardness of man, no power of Satan that can prevent the Lord’s word from penetrating a heart that wants to hear the Lord’s message of hope. The Gospel message is God’s power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). To the saints in Colossae, the Lord’s apostle knew just how hardened they were in their evil ways of thinking before the Gospel came to them (1:21). When he brought the message to them, the hardness of heart with some melted away (1:3-7). They heard the word of truth, they understood it, and they desired to learn more of it. In John 6:44-45, the Lord knew what would draw people to Him. Whatever might be said about the miraculous signs that Jesus did, it was the message of God that educated and changed minds.
    This would have been the same in Jeremiah’s day if those who heard the Lord’s word would have desired to change; they had it within themselves to move in the direction of God and His message. How do I know this? Because the Lord said they could (18:7-8). As it was, they chose not too! Therefore, the Lord was able to hold them accountable for rejecting His word (cf. Acts 13:46); it’s a very bitter thing to forsake the Lord, rejecting His holy will for the person and the nation (2:19).
    Just as the word of God is a lamp unto the feet of those who walk on the Lord’s path (Psa. 119:105), it is, also, Is not my word like fire? saith Jehovah; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces (23.29)? 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/