Sunday, September 24, 2023

Cleaning Up the Debris

By Joe Chesser

    A fierce wind storm came through the Salzburg area last night.  It wasn’t like the tornadoes that swept through Arkansas and Missouri a few weeks back destroying houses, flipping cars, ripping off roofs and uprooting huge oak trees, but it did leave in its wake a lot of debris. This morning when Areva and I went out for a walk I saw lots of Austrian folks cleaning up their yards and property. They wasted no time by putting it off ‘till later. They didn’t wait for someone else to do it for them. Even though most of them were elderly, they were “up and at ‘em” early this morning. Nor did they need chain saws and heavy  equipment like in Little Rock, AR and Marble Hill, MO this spring. What I saw of the debris from last night’s storm was mostly leaves, small branches and some small apples. All they needed was a broom and a rake and some willpower. Their yards and driveways were neat and clean again before lunchtime.
    You might be thinking, “So what? A few leaves and small branches are not much to worry about. That is nothing like what happens after a tornado!!” And you are right. Relatively speaking the clean-up this morning was nothing like the clean-up following a tornado. I was in Little Rock last week and I saw many roofs still covered with blue tarps, and other kinds of damage that still needs attention from the tornado that hit there last March.
    However, cleaning up debris is not about the size of the storm. Rather, it is that any time there is debris lying around following a storm, most of us are quick to clean up the debris in our yards and move on with life. And that’s awesome. That’s the way it should be. And most of us gladly accept help from others when the job is bigger than we can handle alone. It is truly amazing how many neighbors and organizations are just waiting for the opportunity to help individuals and communities when they have had storm damage and need help.
    Here’s where I am going with all of this.  How awesome it would be if every one of us would be as quick to clean up our spiritual debris and let God restore our lives following the spiritual storms (sinful situations) that inevitably blow through us! And it doesn’t matter how great or small the spiritual storm (sin) may be, when damage is done it needs to be cleaned up, and the sooner the better. If the spiritual storm was small, contained within your own heart, a personal sin, it may be cleaned up simply by repenting and asking God to forgive you (Luk 18.13). Some spiritual storms involve others and therefore they need to be involved in the clean-up process (Matthew 5.23-24). And then there are the larger storms that require you to seek the help of others to clean-up (James 5.16).
    Unfortunately, not all people have the desire or the willpower to clean up their sinful messes right away, if at all. Some are just too apathetic to do it (Revelation 3.15). Some feel it’s just too difficult and refuse to try (John 6.60, 66). Some are procrastinators (Acts 24.25). Some may want to clean up their lives, they may realize they need help, but don’t know how to do it or where to go for help (Acts 2.37). 
    This is one reason why the Lord wants us to open our eyes and look around to see who needs our help in cleaning up after their storms (John 4.35). Teach the lost (Matthew 28.19-20). Encourage the weak and fainthearted (1 Thessalonians 5.14-18). Correct the misguided with the truth (Galatians 6.1; 2 Timothy 3.16-17; 4.1-4). Welcome back with open arms those who repent and return (Luke 15). But most importantly, keep a watch on yourselves to make sure you are not leaving your own life cluttered with sinful debris (2 Corinthians 13.5; Galatians 6.1). And be sure to allow others to help you when they see you need it.
    God gives us every tool we need to clean up after the storms that litter our lives. He also gives us abilities and opportunities to help those around us clean up the sinful debris in their lives.
    What He doesn’t supply is the willpower. Only you can supply that.

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

Love of the Truth

By Ron Bartanen
“(T)hey did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.  And for this reason God will send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie, that they all could be condemned who did not believe the truth and had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10a-12).
    Truth is a precious commodity.  Proverbs 23:23 urges us, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.”   At the heart of saving faith is “the love of the truth”.  Since the fall of man in the beginning, two spirits have been at work in the world.  The apostle John identified them as the “spirit of truth” and “the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6).  In v. 3b he referred to the spirit of error as “the spirit of the Antichrist which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”  This spirit denies that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (v. 3a), a heresy of Gnosticism being promoted by false teachers, a doctrine contrary to the apostolic gospel of Christ.  The world prefers a satanic system that would encourage them to take “pleasure in unrighteousness”.  Or, as John phrases it, “They are of the world.  Therefore they speak as of the world and the world hears them” (v. 5).   He had earlier reminded them of the error of the world, saying, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world” (2:16).
    The ”spirit of truth,” however, is identified by John as the Holy Spirit who abides in the true believers, assuring them that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4b).  He made it plain to his readers that “He who knows God hears us (the apostles): he who knows not God does not hear us.  By this ye know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (4:6). Prior to His ascension, Jesus gave promise to His apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit to inspire and empower them, which He fulfilled on Pentecost Sunday, as recorded in in Acts 2.   He said, “When he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13a).  Their writings are, for this reason, accepted as all other scriptures as the inspired word of God—the truth of God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).  Because of the Spirit of truth inspiring the apostles, Jesus could tell them, “He who hears you, hears Me, he who rejects you, rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him that sent Me” (Luke 10:16).  Jesus made known to His disciples that He was more than just another prophet with a message of truth, but the embodiment of truth, saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  He, like the Father, “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), in contrast to Satan, the spirit of error, who “does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
    While we do not audibly hear God speak to us, we hear Him speak to us through His word—the Old and New Testaments—He does not remain silent.  Hebrews 1:1-2 encompassed all of Scriptures when it reminds us that  “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…”   The writers of the Bible were not expressing their opinions, but spoke and wrote the truth by divine inspiration.  They were—and still remain—God’s spokesmen.  We should not be surprised, then, when people who may not even believe Satan exists become, unwittingly, his spokesmen.  We are warned that “The Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).  Note that this is not just warning us of a world deceived by satanic rebellion, but of , at least, nominal Christianity, departing “from the faith.”   Prominent denominations that once at least sought to make the Bible the sole authority in the faith have, with the passing of time, abandoned the Scriptures and conformed more and more with the world.  It is common now to know of churches approving abortion, sexual perversion, the “woke” ideology, etc.  Jesus is seen in such churches as just a man—a sinner like the rest of us, but not the virgin-born Son of God and Savior.  Truth, to such, is nothing more than what the denomination declares to be truth.
    The apostle Paul, describing those “whose foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21), listed numerous sins such as sexual perversion, envy, murder, etc.—sins that characterize our world today.  He summarizes the list by warning of the consequences: “To those that are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation, and wrath, tribulation and anguish on the soul of man who does evil….” (1:21-32).  As I view this, I believe one of the primary devices of Satan is to change “the truth of God into a lie” (v. 25).  Can we see that happening today? While God has said when creating humankind, “male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27, defining two genders, now we’re led to believe there are innumerable genders.  I recently wrote that some were claiming there to be 57, but I heard recently that the number has gone up to 107.  I surely don’t know how they can define gender!  Satan’s newly devised “ruth” of transgenderism is spreading like wildfire.  God, at creation, defined gender as male and female, and it was defined by how we were made, with man providing the seed, and the woman the egg, from which a child of one of the two genders will be born, but now teachers in schools tell their captive audiences that they can have hormones and bodily mutilations to change genders.  And if you dare to not bow the knee before Satan by recognizing and honoring this change, you’ll pay the consequences. Marriage, as defined in Scripture as being a commitment of a male and female, but now needs not to be limited to the opposite sexes.    Same sex “marriage” is the new “truth” about marriage, and if you openly disagree, you may be subject to a lawsuit or loss of a job.     On all of the current issues, God’s truth is discarded as the world’s ears are attuned to Satan’s lies.
    Satan, who is described in Scripture as “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 5:4) who has blinded the minds of unbelievers to the gospel (2 Corinthians 4;4), Spiritual blindness comes from substituting “my truth” for God’s truth.  As Christians, we cannot bend the knee to the demonic gods of this world.  We must not only hold sacred truth in our minds, but also defend God’s truth by our words and conduct.  God has not called us to silence, fading our testimony into the world’s darkness, but to be the light of the world.   The ultimate light of the world is Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:24).  Because He would return to the Father, He appointed His apostles to be His light-bearers, saying, “Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14).  But it was not to be limited to them, as the apostle Paul made clear when he encouraged Christians to “be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).  Then he adds that in addition to being blameless, harmless and without rebuke, he adds in v. 16, “holding for the word of life….”  We, as believers, are not to cower in fear before the world, nor adopt the world’s standards, but to shamelessly present the light of truth, God’s word, as the life-giving message.  The world should never have to wonder where the children of light are standing in regard to false “truths” promoted by the powers of darkness.  We must never cease to stand up and speak up for the truth.  When Christians collectively let the light of Christ shine, the church lives up to its divine calling, as expressed by Paul, writing to the young evangelist, Timothy, defining the spiritual body of Christ as “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15b).
    Salvation is not available apart from divine truth.  Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).  Paul declared that we are “chosen through “sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13b).  Paul said to the Thessalonians, “when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe’ (1 Thess. 2:13b).   One who commits his/her life to Christ in faith and obedience to God’s truth, has reason to “rejoice not in iniquity, but rejoice in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

- 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:

There Was No Plan B

By Joe Slater
    We cannot fully comprehend the horror Jesus faced that night in Gethsemane. A merciless scourging awaited Him, followed by nails being driven through His hands and feet. For six endless hours searing pain would wrack His battered body as He struggled for every breath.
    But that scarcely begins to describe our Savior’s woe. Who can fathom the agony of taking the whole world’s sins and bearing them in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24)? No wonder He cried out, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39a). Yet even as He pleaded, He knew there was no Plan B. Unless He stayed the course all the way to the cross, no sinner could be saved. Therefore, He continued, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (26:39b).
    Jesus had no Plan B when He sent His apostles to preach His gospel to the world. Not that long ago they had scattered like a covey of quail when Judas brought the Roman soldiers and temple police to arrest Him. Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus, much less that he was His disciple. Would you entrust those men with the most powerful and desperately needed message the world will ever know? Jesus did! And ten days after He commissioned them, they demonstrated that His confidence in them was fully justified. About 3000 souls believed and obeyed the glad tidings that the apostles proclaimed boldly. From that point on, the church grew by leaps and bounds.
    You and I are still part of Jesus’ Plan A. He is still the one and only way anyone can come to the Father (John 14:6), and His gospel is still God’s power to save (Romans 1:16). He has no Plan B, so don’t bother looking! Just follow Plan A, the plan “ordained from the foundation of the world!” (1 Peter 1:20).

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

Fruit Production in the Lord’s Vineyard

By Edd Sterchi
    I was reading John 15 the other day when I noticed a progression of the description of fruit-bearing the follower of Christ is to have. See if you notice it, too (I have condensed the text and emphasized portions for ease of detection): “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser...every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit...I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit...” (John 15:1-5).
    Did you notice that not only are we expected to...
...bear fruit...
...but also to bear more fruit...
...and even to bear much fruit!!!
    Bearing fruit is something that is expected of Christians. And the secret to bearing fruit, bearing more fruit, and even bearing much more fruit is abiding in Christ (v.4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10). It is vital that we are fully attached to Christ and receiving all the nutrients He provides through His word and His people. It is important to be spending much time in prayerful study of the Scriptures. It is also important to be living, defending, and proclaiming the true will of God. Furthermore, it is very important to be associating and working with the saints of God on a regular basis to gain the fellowship, harmony, and encouragement necessary to be productive in the Lord’s vineyard. This will put us in a position where the heavenly vinedresser will “prune” our lives so that we may become even more mature and productive for Him.
    Christian, how much fruit are you bearing? What could you be doing to bear more fruit for the Lord? What would it take for you to bear even much more fruit that you ever thought? The Lord will help you get there if you will let Him.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (Psa. 92:13-14).

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

Nothing Less

By David A. Sargent
    Several years ago, Peter Michelmore wrote about some harrowing experiences that Walter Wyatt, Jr. endured:
    Normally the flight from Nassau to Miami took Walter Wyatt, Jr., only sixty-five minutes. But on December 5, 1986, he attempted it after thieves had looted the navigational equipment in his Beechcraft. With only a compass and a hand-held radio, Walter flew into skies blackened by storm clouds.
    When his compass began to gyrate, Walter concluded he was headed in the wrong direction. He flew his plane below the clouds, hoping to spot something, but soon he knew he was lost. He put out a mayday call, which brought a Coast Guard Falcon search plane to lead him to an emergency landing strip only six miles away. Suddenly Wyatt's right engine coughed its last and died. The fuel tank had run dry. Around 8 p.m. Wyatt could do little more than glide the plane into the water.
    Wyatt survived the crash, but his plane disappeared quickly, leaving him bobbing on the water in a leaky life vest. With blood on his forehead, Wyatt floated on his back. Suddenly he felt a hard bump against his body. A shark had found him. Wyatt kicked the intruder and wondered if he would survive the night. He managed to stay afloat for the next ten hours. In the morning, Wyatt saw no airplanes, but in the water a dorsal fin was headed for him. Twisting, he felt the hide of a shark brush against him. In a moment, two more bull sharks sliced through the water toward him. Again he kicked the sharks, and they veered away, but he was nearing exhaustion. Then he heard the sound of a distant aircraft. When it was within a half mile, he waved his orange vest. The pilot radioed the Cape York, which was twelve minutes away: "Get moving, cutter! There's a shark targeting this guy!" As the Cape York pulled alongside Wyatt, a Jacob's ladder was dropped over the side. Wyatt climbed wearily out of the water and onto the ship, where he fell to his knees and kissed the deck. He'd been saved. He didn't need encouragement or better techniques. Nothing less than outside intervention could have rescued him from sure death. How much we are like Walter Wyatt. *
    Because of our sins, our condition is much like that of Walter Wyatt: lost and dying, unless someone comes to save us (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
    God loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to rescue us (Galatians 1:4).  In order to save us from sin, Jesus had to give us life for us to pay the price for our redemption (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
    We must be willing to “take hold” (accept) the salvation that Jesus offers through our trusting obedience.  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 walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
    Nothing less than outside intervention can save us from our sin.  Thanks be to God that He has already responded to our desperate situation.  He’s awaiting each of us to accept His salvation by clinging to His Son in trusting obedience.

- 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:

* Information gleaned from an article by Peter Michelmore, Reader's Digest, October, 1987 as it appears in

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Identify: Called Out

By Clifton Angel
    One who has been baptized into Christ is one who is risen with Christ and has been added to His church by Him (cf. Acts 2:37–47; Colossians 1:13). To belong to Christ’s church, is to belong to the “called out” (literal meaning of the Greek term translated “church” or “assembly”). Far too many of my brethren ignorantly say, "I'm Church of Christ." While we certainly are His church and should be identified as such, the statement is often made the very same way a member of a denomination would label himself as a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, et al. Seeing ourselves as just another denomination, or a different road to the same heaven, is an "identity crisis." One who seeks to be among the church that Jesus built, must believe the inspired words concerning her.
    Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus that God... “...hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:22–23). The church of Christ is referred to as Christ's body, and He is the head. "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the ... Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23).
    Incidentally, anyone who is outside of the body of Christ is not saved by Him. Again, to the church at Colossae, Paul wrote, "He is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18). At Ephesians 4:4, we learn "There is one body." In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free" (1 Corinthians 12:12–13).
    Church, do we know who we are? Christians, are we suffering from an "identity crisis"? Have we forgotten Who made us? Have we forgotten Who saved us? Have we forgotten Who raised us? Have we forgotten Who placed us? Let us return to His Word, where we learn that we are created in His image, we are risen with Christ, and we are the church of Christ.

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

Identify: Raised

By Clifton Angel
    In defense of Christ, Paul wrote to the church at Colossae:
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us
meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints
in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of
darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom
of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption
through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn
of every creature: For by him were all things created,
that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and
invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or
principalities, or powers: all things were created by
him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by
him all things consist. And he is the head of the
body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-
born from the dead; that in all things he might have
the preeminence (Colossians 1:12–18).
Later in the same letter, Paul wrote:
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all
principality and power ... Buried with him in bap-
tism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the
faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him
from the dead (2:10, 12).
Christ could not be raised without first being buried.
    We cannot be raised from our sins without first being buried in baptism. But, having been raised from the waters of baptism, let us continue in Paul's Colossians letter:
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things
which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right
hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not
on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life
is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our
life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him
in glory (3:1–4).
    Being risen with Christ means He is now our life. For this reason, Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not
I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now
live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).
And to the church at Philippi, he penned:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil 1:21).
    As we think about who we are and what defines us, do we consistently think of Jesus Christ? Christians, HE is our identity! Friends, is He your identity?

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