A Burden or a Privilege?

In the book of Acts we see many times the apostles and/or Christians suffering greatly for the cause of Christ. They were thrown in jail, they were mocked, beaten, yes, even put to death. When various events and circumstances arise that we do not particularly like, one of two things will result. First, these difficulties will be used as a stumbling block, giving us the authority, we think, to belly-ache, or secondly, they will be used as stepping stones to greater heights of spirituality. Consider the attitude the apostles had toward receiving ill treatments when standing faithfully on the Lord's side, "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name" (Acts 5:41). The apostles did not regard standing up for Christ and His truths a burden - but a privilege!!! Should we not have the same attitude?

As I have preached over the years, I have see, and all too often, an attitude that is very troubling to me. The attitude to which I am referring is believing that standing for the truth of the gospel is a burden. I wonder, had the apostles taken this attitude if they would have had the great results that they did? I think not! I often hear people complaining because they are weary of always having to fight the false teacher, constantly having to combat error, continuously having to endure the lackadaisical attitude of so many in the church, and all too often are having to dust themselves off after having been stepped on by their brethren in Christ. From listening to some, you would think that it is a burden being a Christian. Well, bless your heart!

How could anyone who truly loves the Lord consider it a burden to stand opposed to the people and the things which stand opposed to our Savior? Are we not honored to be children of God? Are we not privileged of having the blessed hope of an inheritance that the Father will give to His children? From the looks of many in the church you would think they were weaned on a sour pickle! Nothing in the world should make us happier than being a Christian! And yet, many seem to have just the opposite attitude. Why? I believe that too many are self-centered" instead of being "Christ-centered!" The world tries each day to fill our minds with the philosophy of "looking out for number one." i.e., self. But Christians must realize that "number one" is to be Christ! If we have this attitude, how can we feel standing for what is right is anything but a privilege.

How do you regard your Christian life - as a burden or a privilege? Are you "self-centered" or "Christ-centered?"

— Tommy Moore
The Commanche Counselor, Vol. III, Nr. 42, Pearl Street church of Christ,
500 N. Pearl St., Commanche, TX 79442, March 30, 1997


A Call to Repentance

In Jeremiah 3, God, through the prophet, pleads with Judah to repent. About ninety years earlier, Israel, because of their sinfulness had been defeated and brought into captivity by the Assyrians. Now God's attention was directed toward Judah. Surely Judah would learn from what had happened to Israel! The Biblical examples of the results of disobedience should encourage others to obey God and repent of sins. "Now these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition..." (I Corinthians 10:11). But God's people, even today, have difficulty in accepting such lessons.

In this case, Judah would not heed the warning. "Repent or be destroyed like Israel before." God's spokesman was rejected, abused, and persecuted because he preached the Truth. Those who preach the Truth need to be willing to endure such treatment (II Timothy 2:3, 9-10) for there will be those who "will not endure sound doctrine" (II Timothy 4:3). Jeremiah was given a message from God that needed to be heard and, therefore, had to be preached. He was genuinely concerned for the people and for the Truth. Jeremiah described the message as "fire shut up in my bones" (Jeremiah 20:9) and that message was "from above" (Lamentations 1:13). Such a message must be preached. Sin was the problem in Judah - not military weakness or political alliances. A covenant existed between the descendants of Israel and God. God said, "I am married to you" (Jeremiah 3:14). This was a sacred, enduring covenant. In the New Testament this husband-wife relationship exists between Christ and the church. Paul wrote about this relationship and the faithfulness this requires in Second Corinthians 11:2, "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Because of this marriage, unfaithfulness is considered spiritual adultery. To some this concept may seem harsh and severe, but sin is not to be treated lightly. One sin separates the sinner from God and leads to other sins. In this third chapter of Jeremiah notice God's repeated reference to Judah's sinfulness. "Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers...thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness...yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also...Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord" (verses 1, 2, 8, 20). Departure usually begins with idolatry. Idolatry is not restricted to statues and images (Colossians 3:5). In fact, anything that becomes more important than God becomes an idol. When this priority is changed any act, however wrong, can be justified. Sin unrepented of brings destruction (Romans 6:23).

It is often as difficult to get a sinner to repent as it is to force a goat's nose to the ground. Why? Because they are stiff necked, stubborn, and determined to resist. Stephen described those who were about to kill him because of his preaching, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost as your fathers did, so do ye" (Acts 7:51).

In order for sin to be forgiven it must initially be acknowledged. When Nathan told David that he was a sinner, David reacted by penitently acknowledging his sin. He wrote, "For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, done this evil in thy sight..." (Psalm 51:3-4). Jeremiah implored Judah, "Only acknowledge thine iniquity, and thou has transgressed against the Lord, thy God..." (Jeremiah 3:13). Sinners must be made to realize their guilt because of sin before repentance and forgiveness are possible. As on Pentecost, sinners must always first be "pricked in their heart" (Acts 23:7), convicted of their sinfulness, before they will be willing to follow God's prescription for forgiveness.

Be assured that God desires to forgive the sinner and, therefore, calls them to repentance. Now this call to repentance comes through the preaching of the Gospel (II Thessalonians 2:14). In Jeremiah 3, God, through the prophet, repeatedly calls and declares, "Turn thou unto me...Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly...Return, thou backsliding Israel...Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backsliding (verses 7, 10, 12, 22). It is still true today. God does not want any to be lost, but desires to forgive (II Peter 3:9). The choice is clear: "Repent or be destroyed." Sin separates man from God (Isaiah 50:1-2), but God is willing and able to save.

Today sin is still described as spiritual adultery. James wrote, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). We cannot flirt with and love the world without suffering the consequences (II Thessalonians 1:7-9). Worldliness, being like the world, will still destroy the children of God. We dare not follow "a multitude to do evil" (Exodus 23:2). We cannot afford to ignore the warning. God calls upon us, His children, "Repent...and pray God" (Acts 8:22) or be destroyed. Will we listen?

— Lester Kamp
Matters of the Faith, Vol. 7 Nr. 4, E. Alameda church of Christ,
13605 E. Alameda Ave., Aurora, CO 80012. Apr-Jun 2002


A Caring Cowboy

A family, all nine of them, loaded all their earthly possessions into a covered wagon pulled by a four-horse hitch and set out to join 14 other families leaving Arkansas headed for Texas and the promise of a new land. Rolling through rainstorms, hail, blistering hot days, and fighting off insects at night, the wagons rolled across the plains of what is today Oklahoma.

One afternoon a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon behind the group, and the wagon master halted the column and drew them closer together in a circle. The men reached for their rifles while the women gathered the children together into the center of the wagons. In a few moments it became apparent that the dust was coming from a lone rider carrying a parcel across his saddle.

Slowing his horse to a walking gait, the man called out that he meant no harm. The horse stopped, the man go down, reached for the bundle and unwrapped a small child no more than two years old. A cry of recognition tore from the throat of the baby's mother when she saw her seventh child standing by the strange man. The child had not been missed; but he had fallen from the wagon and the cowboy had found him sitting in the dirt and sifting it through his fingers waiting for someone to come back for him.

How many of us are on life's "wagon train" headed for the promised land and so intent on our journey that we do not miss those of God's children who fall off along the way?

"Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).

— via Coldwater, MS
Bangs church of Christ bulletin, Vol. 16, Is. 38,
5th and Fitzgerald, PO Box 41, Bangs, TX 76823, September 20, 1998


A Case of Foreknowledge

On one occasion when Saul was pursuing David, David asked council of the Lord by the ephod which Abiathar the priest carried. He asked, basically, two questions of the Lord: "Will Saul come to the city of Keilah to get me?" and "Will the men of Keilah deliver me up to Saul?" The Lord answered, "Saul will come" and "the men of Keilah will deliver you up to him." This narrative is found in I Samuel 23.

When David learned this of the Lord, he flew with his men out of the city of Keilah into the wilderness. When Saul heard that David had fled Keilah, he did not go up to Keilah and the men of Keilah did not have to make the decision whether to turn David over to Saul.

Was the Lord wrong in His foreknowledge? No. Saul WAS intending to go up to Keilah; and would have, had David remained there. Confronted with Saul's forces, the men of the city WOULD have turned David over to him, but the situation never got to that point.

Did not the Lord in His foreknowledge know that David would flee, that Saul would not come up to Keilah, and the men of Keilah would not turn him over to Saul? If so, why did He not further inform David of this eventually?

This incident reveals to us something about the foreknowledge of God...

A man will be saved if and when he meets the conditions of the Lord's Gospel, Hebrews 5:9.

— Marvin Rickett
Hurst Street Herald, Vol. XXI, No. 39, September 24, 2000
Church of Christ, 110 Hurst Street, Center, TX 75935


A CONTRAST OF CHARACTERS
(Joshua 2, 6, and 7)

As the children of Israel entered the promised land of God, an interesting contrast of two people cannot be overlooked. Rahab, the harlot, had never been exposed to God as had the children of Israel. She had only heard of the wonderfully powerful things that the "God in heaven above" had wrought. She had not seen the total destruction of the two Amorite kings by the armies of God, but her heart had melted. Rahab stated, "...I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and your terror is fallen upon us..." (Joshua 2:9). Her ears head the evidence of the power of God Almighty, and her faith caused her heart to melt in obedience to God and his soldiers (see Hebrews 11:3). Those around her had the same opportunity. They had heard the same accounts of God's magnificent power, but they were concerned about everything but God.

This brings us to the second person in our study. Achan had grown up in the wilderness witnessing both God's glorious love for His people and His terrible wrath on those disobedient to His will. Although inspiration does not record the age of Achan, we do know he had sons and daughters. It is possible that Achan could have witnessed the crossing of the Red Sea, or at least spoken to many eye witnesses. He had see with his own eyes the destruction of the mighty kings that Rahab only knew through the stories of wayfarers. Achan had eaten of manna that was provided daily by the hand of God, but Achan's heart was hard. Unlike the contrite heart of Rahab, Achan's heart was hardened to a point where he knowingly brought a curse upon not only his own family, but all the children of Israel (Joshua 6:18).

What is the lesson for the Christian today from these markedly different individuals? I marvel at those persons who have grown up in the world, but having heard the truth of God's word, obey and turn completely to him, saving themselves and sometimes their whole family. I also marvel at intentionally weak members of the Lord's church who have been raised on the word of God (modern manna), but have a heart of Achan and willingly sin against God. The sin of Achan was no more serious that any other act of disobedience! When people refuse to be obedient, even in attending the worship and classes appointed by the elders, are they any better than Achan? When they engage in social drinking in the privacy of their home, are they any better than Achan? When they watch things a Christian should never watch, are they not bringing into their hearts unlawful things just as Achan brought unlawful things into his tent? These people destroy not only themselves, but their family and their congregation. The should study the condemnation of Achan and know their end if they continue (Luke 12:47-48, James 3:1).

Gary Hines, “The Better Way
The Record, Westside church of Christ, 1612 W. Kentucky St., Pampa, TX
Vol. 1, Nr. 19, November 15, 1998


A Christian Can Fall

A Christian must hold to the truth. When a Christian has a good conscience, he will do what is right. When a Christian holds to the truth, the standard which he had accepted for right and wrong is the word of God. A Christian must be a good sailor as well as a good soldier. Don't be as some who have made shipwreck of their faith because they did not have a good conscience. They who did not have a good conscience did that which they knew was wrong.

One must practice what he preaches. Religious error will destroy a Christian like cancer destroys the body. False teachers will destroy the faith of those who believe it and will cause them to turn away from the truth. After one has known Christ and obeyed the gospel and he turns back, he has fallen from grace. This will happen when one does not continue in the doctrine and teaching of Jesus Christ. Read what Hebrews 3:12-13 have to say: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Here, in the Hebrew letter, Christians were in danger of forsaking the faith. They needed to give careful attention to this problem. The issues of life begin in the heart of man. An evil heart of unbelief will lead one away from Christ. A Christian can have an evil heart of unbelief and fall away from God. A Christian can fall from grace. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4).

In the Hebrew letter, if Christians left Christianity and went back to Judaism, this would be rejecting Christ. When one rejects Christ, he rejects God. The living God is a term to denote the one true God versus a dead idol. There is only one true and living God.

We who are Christians must stay in the brotherhood of Christianity, of the believers, with a mutual concern for one another. One of the ways Christians help each other is by exhorting one another in the faith. We are to help each other and help the one who has fallen from grace. All sin beings in the heart. When the heart is pure, one's actions will be pure. When the heart is impure, one's actions will be impure.

We must tell the one who has fallen from grace to pray to God for forgiveness. A Christian who sins, does not have to be baptized again when he sins. A Christian who sins, must repent, confess his sin, and pray to God for forgiveness. Many sins are just between an individual and God. Some sins may be between another person and God. Some sins are open and public. The procedure for receiving forgiveness is always the same. If a person has sinned publicly and brought reproach upon Christ and the church, his confession should be before the entire church. Again, most sins are private and semi-private. No one is happier than the one who has sincerely repented of their wrong. Repentance is the decision to turn from selfish desires to God. Repentance is an inward conviction that expresses itself in outward actions. We are told, "Whoever accepts correction is on the way to life, but whoever ignores correction will lead others away from life" (Proverbs 10:17). Yes, a Christian can fall from the grace of God.

— Unknown
Salute, Mountain View. church of Christ,
422 Main St., Mt. View, OK 73062, March 23, 2003


A Couple of Common Problems to Avoid

Paul said that temptations were common, not new, and everyone suffers from them (1 Corinthians 10:13). We are often tempted and tried, and this is according to God's plan for man, to prove man of course, and allow man the opportunity to grow, mature, and prove his love for God (cf., Hebrews 12:11). Now, God does not tempt us, but does allow such to happen for our own good (cf., Job 1:12; 2:2-6; James 1:13). Satan told God that he had been "…going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" (Job 2:2). This is why Peter said, "your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (1 Peter 5:8-10). We must always be ready, on guard, set for the defense, as Paul was, ready to fight, fighting the good fight of faith (Philippians 1:7, 17). If you noticed in Peter's statement, he said we were to be ready to resist the devil "in the faith." That is, we must be ready to fight Satan with the Bible, or God's Word. The word of God establishes our faith, and it is "the faith" that sets us free (cf., Romans 10:17; Jude 3-4; John 8:31-32). We cannot fight against the woes of life without God's Word set in our minds or hearts (Colossians 3:1-17). God has provided all things through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

There are many examples in the Bible of problems that we can learn from and not repeat. 1.) One example is found in the Garden of Eden. God provided a perfect sanctuary for His creation. Man was told to be faithful to God and He alone would continue to provide. Man sinned against God and God revoked His perfect sanctuary. Man did not trust God and as a result man was separated from God by his sin (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 5:11-12). Sin separates us from God and our fellow man. If we desire true fellowship, friendships, and support from God and man, try trusting in God's Word above all else. It will secure your soul and guarantee a life of eternal blessing and hope. Through Christ alone, man can be blessed in such a fashion today (John 14:1-6). Without Christ, we are helpless.

2.) Another example of a common problem of man that prolongs God's blessings is found in Genesis 16. God had promised Abram and Sarah that He would bless them with a child (Genesis 12). As they aged, Sarah growing past the ability to conceive, she and Abram must have grown weary with the God of Creation's promise. So, in order to try and "help" God they decided to have a child of their own through a surrogate female-Hagar-Sarah's handmaid. Folks this is a common problem of man today. By adding to or subtracting from God's will, thinking we can improve or help God, do we forget that God's will is clear? We are simply obliged with fulfilling what God commands, and He will bless us. If He promises us a blessing, we must be faithful to what He commands. If we are faithful, He will bless us. Abraham must have learned this hard lesson, after the fact of Ishmael's birth and consequences thereof, in Genesis 22. When he was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, he fully demonstrated his obedient faith and learned that God indeed will provide a better way (cf., Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-18). In our minds it may not make sense, but we must obey God.

This list could be expanded regarding these common problems we face, but we must remember and learn from these two. The Bible promises us Heaven, but by adding to or subtracting from God's will, God's promise will be negated. Many men will loose Heaven's reward because this rudimentary problem exists. The problem is easily diagnosed-unbelief! This is why Israel lost all in the wilderness. Consider the lesson for us today: "So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19). If we say we believe, we will obey His word and know that He will bless us (read: Luke 6:46-49). Faith is defined by obedience!

— Bryan R. Braswell
Roanoke Reason, Vol. 5, No. 37, May 28, 2006
Roanoke church of Christ, PO Box 737, Roanoke, TX 76262
http://www.roanokechurchofchrist.org/studymaterials/roanokereason/volume5/37.htm


A Debt We Owe

Among the numerous responsibilities in life, one which demands the attention of every Christian is the responsibility to love one another. Jesus commands it (John 13:34). God said it would become an identifying trait of a Christian (John 13:35).

Brother Marshall Keeble used to tell this story:

"I like those new fangled inventions. One I especially like is the puncture-proof tire. If you're driving along on ordinary tires, and you hit a nail and it goes through the tire-whiss-you loose all the air and you got a flat tire. But the new, puncture-proof tire is different. If you run over a nail, some stuff inside the tire runs and around and stops up the hole and the air stays in the tire. An ordinary heart may be filled with love, but when someone does something to puncture that heart, all the love runs out and hatred and hard feelings take its place. But a puncture-proof heart is different; it is filled with the spirit of Christ, and if someone, through his words or actions, punctures that heart, immediately the hole is stopped up tight love stays in."

The resiliency Marshall Keeble describes is important when traveling down the road of life. Paul said love is demonstrated by long-suffering, kindness, a lack of envy or pride, good behavior, unselfishness, and slowness to be provoked to take account of evil. It rejoices in truth, assuming the best until forced to think otherwise (I Corinthians 13:4-7).

Brothers and sisters are forever indebted to one another to treat each other kindly and tenderly (Ephesians 4:31f). Claiming to love God while failing to regularly pay the debt of love we owe to one another is a denial of our commitment to the Author of love . Study I John 3:24; I John 4:7, 11f, 21. diligence is required in brotherly kindness and love to avoid being characterized by blindness and jeopardizing our salvation (II Peter 2:5-10). Mature love is evidence of genuine conversion (I John 3:14). John states the impossibility of loving God while hating a brother (I John 4:20). Let's make sure we do not miss any payments on the debt we owe one another. Good credit, if lost, is difficult to regain!

— Mike Tucker
Hurst Street Herald, Vol. XVIII, Nr. 1, Hurst St. Church of Christ,
110 Hurst St., Center, TX 75935. January 1, 1997


A Difference in Attitude

Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, preached the first gospel sermon (Acts 2) to Jews assembled in Jerusalem. These people were believers in God. It was necessary to convince them that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was the Son of God and the Messiah foretold in the Jewish scriptures. In order to do this, Peter used three lines of evidence. First: The prophets had foretold the resurrection. Second: We (the apostles) are eyewitnesses to the resurrection. Third: The coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Remember that the Spirit could not come until after Jesus ascended to the Father (John 16:7). This necessitated a resurrection. The conclusion to this preaching was that Jesus was both Lord and Christ. The Book of God says, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

The verb translated “pricked” means “primarily to strike or prick violently, to stun, is used of strong emotion” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words). When this group of Jews, from every nation under heaven, heard the gospel of Christ, they were pricked in their heart. They were sinners, guilty of putting the Son of God to death. The effect that this preaching had on their heart is quite impressive. It is evident from the context and question that they knew they were guilty of the charge Peter made. They wanted to know what they could do. Notice the answer: “And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins...” (Acts 2:38).

The Bible records that about three thousand who gladly received the word spoken were baptized that day (Acts 2:41).

As the church began to grow daily, we read of a few of the sermons preached. In Acts 7, we have Stephen's sermon. Stephen was a man of good report, full of the Spirit, and of wisdom, and full of faith (Acts 6:3, 5), and one of the seven chosen to “serve tables.”

Stephen did some debating with various false teachers, “and they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake” (Acts 6:8-10). False witnesses made charges against him. When given an opportunity to speak Stephen briefly traced the history of the Jews and God's dealing with them. We suggest that you read the sermon. Stephen was concluding with the fact that the Jews had rejected and even killed the prophets that foretold the coming of the Christ. He charged that the present generation was no better. “Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth...But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord: and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him” (Acts 7:54; 67-58).

The word translated “cut” in verse 54 is a different one from that used in Acts 2:37. This word “signifies to saw asunder, to divide by a saw, hence, metaphorically, to be rent with vexation, to be cut to the heart” (Vine).

Our contrast in Acts 2 and 7 is not in the preachers, nor in the message preached, but rather in the attitude of the people addressed. One group recognized their sin and sought remission; the other heard the truth, but because of their disposition were angered to the extent that they even took the life of him who preached it.

How is it with you, dear friend? When you hear or read the Word of God, do you inquire earnestly as to how you may obey it, or do you become angry at the messenger? Emulate those of Acts 2 who gladly received the word and obeyed it.

—- Ferrell Jenkins
The Record, Vol. 3, Nr. 11, Westside church of Christ,
1612 W. Kentucky St., Pampa, TX 75935, September 10, 2000


A Double Minded Man

James is a book written in order to instruct us in some very practical ways of living. The truths which are found in this small but powerful book will aid one in living a better life and will help him in his dealings with both his brother and sister in Christ and those folks who live in and for the world. One of the great truths which James wrote was this, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

Let us ask this question and then answer it in this short article. Who is a “double minded man?”

(1) A “double minded man” is one who does not keep his eyes focused in the right direction. Instead of always looking to Jesus when he makes decisions he will sometimes look to others to pull him in their direction. He will allow his friends and even family to cause him to make decisions that are not good for the cause of the Lord.

(2) A “double-minded man” is one who looks to power in making his decisions. He likes to think that he alone has the rule and that all others must do as he says and, if they do not agree with him, then he will devise a plan to bring them down to their knees. He is ruled by his need for power instead of his need to follow Jesus.

(3) A “double minded man” is one who lets money stand in the way of making right decisions. Many times people have been pulled into the wrong direction simply because they lost sight of the Lord and began to look to the riches of this old world and thus they became double minded.

(4) A “double minded man” is one who does not always tell the truth! He is one who is pulled in two or more directions by different things and/or people. His decisions will sometimes be made based upon his love for his family and friends rather than his love for the Lord.

One who finds himself/herself in this sinful condition of being a “double minded man” is said by James to be “unstable in all his ways.” Why is this true? Because the one who is “double minded” is one who cannot be trusted in anything whatsoever. As Luke wrote, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:10-12). If you cannot be trusted to make decisions based upon the Lord and His righteousness, instead of the things of this world such as money, friends, power, and family, then you cannot be entrusted with heavenly things and thus you are called "unstable in all your ways."

May God help us to always say and do the right thing based on our love for God and not our love for man and the things of this world.

— Johnie Scaggs, Jr.
The Phoster, Vol. 16, Nr. 29, Gospel Hill Church of Christ,
1000 St. Rt. K., Pottersville, MO 65790. July 19, 1998


A Letter to God

The following thoughts contained in this letter no doubt express the sentiments of many who are negligent. Do they express your sentiments???

*******

1001 Excuses Avenue
Careless, IN (USA)

Dear God in Heaven,

For several months I have intended to write to you and let you know why we seldom attend worship services.

First, Your Honor, you have chosen for your day one that comes at the end of a hard week when we are all tired out. And it comes just after Saturday night and that is the night we feel we should enjoy ourselves and take in a movie or a ball game or a party, and it is usually after midnight when we get to sleep. You see, Father, you have chosen the very day on which I plan to sleep late.

Then, too, my family demands a big Sunday dinner which must be prepared by twelve noon, and when I get up late, I can't get this prepared and make to the services. Furthermore, John likes to read the Sunday sports page thoroughly and the kids want to read the funnies. You see, this takes time. I mean no disrespect, but it seems to me that you picked the wrong day.

Another reason we don't attend as often as we would like is we don't like the preacher. For instance, the last time we were there, which was several months ago, the sermon was on giving and the preacher had the gall to insist that any time members were absent from worship, the least they could do would be to make up for the Sundays they missed. He said something about the church budge and every member having a responsibility to give liberally. John and I discussed this when we got home and decided we couldn't afford such a thing, for it would take hundreds of dollars to make up for our absence. We told our kids that they should not pay any attention to such preaching.

Another thing. Some of the members are trying to interfere with our freedom of worship. Why just recently the elders confronted us in our failure to attend worship regularly. They even told us that we were endanger o flossing our souls if we didn't repent and return to our duties, and if we did not do this soon, the church would be forced to withdraw fellowship from us. Lord, you know this is ridiculous! Of course they read some scripture and had a prayer, but no doubt misapplied those passages on church discipline.

Dear God I want you to know that we meant to worship last Sunday, but we had company. The Sunday before, we meant to go, but it was raining and we just couldn't afford to expose ourselves to the danger of a cold. I was telling John last night how we just had to get straightened out and get back to church services or people will think we quit. You know, Lord, how people will talk.

Father, I want to tell you all these things so that you will see our view point and know that it is not really our fault that we do not attend services regularly. And please don't think we don't love you, dear God, for we do. We love the church, too, and we have been faithful members for twenty years. We expect to die in the church as faithful members and go home to glory.

Hope you will try to understand our side of the matter.

Faithfully Yours,
Church Member

*******

This would be funny if it didn't describe so many in the Lord's church today. Please do not allow this to be true of you.

— Unknown
The Commanche Counselor, Vol. I, Nr. 42, Pearl Street Church of Christ,
500 N. Pearl St., Commanche, TX 76442, April 2, 1995


A Little Now or a Lot Later

Maintenance on a vehicle is of supreme importance if you want it to perform and last. Let an engine go without a $15 oil change for 30,000 miles and you be replacing a $1500 engine before long. Any mechanic will tell you, “Pay me a little now, or pay me a lot later.” As Christians we must keep ourselves in the way of the Lord or there will be a tremendous price to pay in the end.

We must first keep our minds free from all guile and wickedness. The internal parts of a vehicle are the most important elements. No matter how good the exterior looks, if the engine or transmission is not right, the vehicle is virtually useless. In like manner, our mind is to be guarded from evil in order to prevent the rest of the body from becoming tainted and useless. We must keep our minds and eyes set on our Lord Jesus Christ at all times in order to keep them off the things of the world. Paul said, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). Purity of mind must be maintained if we seek a reward rather than being hit with the high cost of sin. Solomon said, “Keep they heart with all diligence; for out it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

Second, we must keep our actions and speech pure. Sure signs in a car would include loud knocking noises, belching black smoke, and hesitation or missing. Irregular actions and speech are a sure sign of trouble in a person, also. James said that one way to practice pure religion is to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27). We must refrain form the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). and bear the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). James, in the third chapter of his book, also warns us of the power of the tongue and the evils it can possess. Paul said, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). Christians only act in a Christ-like manner. If Jesus would not do it or say it, neither should we.

Third, we must maintain good works. An unreliable car is quickly traded off or junked. Paul told Titus, the preacher, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which that have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8). The church at Laodicea was full of “pew warmers” and failed to maintain good works. This action made the Lord sick, and He said He would spew them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15-16). Jesus asked a provoking question in Luke 6:46, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

A well maintained car will yield years of trouble-free and dependable service to its owner. But, if you neglect your vehicle, you will be burdened with nothing but trouble, sorrow, and the high cost of repair. A well maintained Christian will yield the Lord trouble free service and worship. But, if you neglect your Christian duty, you will be burdened with separation from the Lord (Isaiah 59:1-2) and eternal destruction in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone (Revelation 21:8). Isn't a little maintenance worth it after all? Pay a little now or a lot later.

— Larry DeLong
Hurst Street Herald, Vol. XXI, Nr. 16, Church of Christ,
110 Hurst St., Center, TX 75935, April 16, 2000


A Love For The Truth

The most compelling need of our day is a love for the truth. Unfortunately, there is a deficiency in this regard. As a boy, my father, grandfather, brothers, and I would go to Bentley's Barber Shop in Hartselle, AL, to get a haircut. My grandfather, J.F. Dean, was an elder in the church and was recognized as a walking Bible. Occasionally, at the barber shop, a question would be raised about some Bible related subject. My grandfather would reply, “the Bible says so and so,” and then he would quote the pertinent scripture. As a child my memory was clear regarding how silent that place of business became when he finished his answer. The presentation of truth silenced the questioner and convicted the hearts of those present. Beloved, there was a day when men and women would shudder at the truth and tremble at the spoken word (Hebrews 4:12; Acts 24:25).

How do we show our love for the truth? Initially, we should love hearing the truth or gospel proclaimed (Ephesians 4:15; Acts 2:41). This writer has noticed over the last ten to fifteen years a lack of appreciation for the truth and the majesty of God's written word. One brother told a gospel preacher that he should watch what he said because there were sectarian people in the audience. One even remarked that he should not speak on religious error due to certain people being present. I wonder how Peter or Paul would preach today? Would they simply slap people on the back, shake their hands, and then declare some philosophical jargon? Most Bible students know better. If we truly love the truth the joy will soar in our hearts as the spoken word is preached. A love of the truth will cause us to crave and hunger for it like a fine meat (Matthew 5:6). Solomon said, “Buy the truth and sell it not...” (Proverbs 23:23). A love for the truth will cause us to submit to it (James 4:7-8). Jesus said, “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments” (John 14:15, ASV).

A love for the truth will also cause one to live it to the uttermost. There can be no greater challenge for our love of the truth than living it daily. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain...” (Philippians 1:21). Jesus was the personification or truth and truly exemplified how we should conduct our lives. Luke wrote his second treatise to Theophilus and said, “...concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). Paul said, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27, ASV). Friend, a love for the truth is not only the purpose of our being, but everlasting life will be the result of a faithful life.

— Bob Spurlin
Bulletin Briefs, Vol. 2, Nr. 3, Dunlap Church of Christ,
PO Box 123, Dunlap, TN 37327, March 1999


A MATTER OF BIBLICAL AUTHORITY

Back before Halloween one of our local congregations put up a big sign advertising a “Pumpkin Patch” in which they were selling pumpkins to the public at large. They had what appeared to be thousands of pumpkins, large and small, spread out in front of their building. If my understanding was correct, it was designed to support their youth ministry, or maybe, so that their youth could do a work of some sort. Either way their purpose as a body of Christ was to sell pumpkins as a means of collecting funds for a work of that church.

The idea of bake sales, rummage sales, carnivals, and congregational garage sales to raise money for a church's work is nothing new. The denominations have been doing it for years. It has only been in recent years that some of our congregations have gotten in on the act. Some in the church today simply don't understand why anyone would object to this and reject it as being unscriptural.

Simply put, there is no New Testament authority for raising funds in such a manner in order to do the work of the church. The New Testament explicitly teaches on this subject and tells us that the work of the church is to be funded by the saints laying by in store on the first day of the week (I Corinthians 16:1-2). The Bible is as silent as a mouse on carpet about having pumpkin patch sales, bake sales, or any other kind of sale to fund the work of the church. The silence of the Scriptures is not just a restoration plea. It is a Bible principle that goes back to Old Testament times. In 2 Samuel 7, king David desired to build God a house. After all, David reasoned, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains” (II Samuel 7:2). This was a noble gesture on the part of David, but God told David "NO" in no uncertain terms. Notice how God shows David by the “silence of the Scriptures” principle that he had no authority to build a house for the ark of God. Verse 7 says, "In all the places where I have walked with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, saying, Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?” [Emphasis mine-RW]. God had never asked why a house had not been built because He had been silent about it. It would have been an usurping of God's authority for David to have taken it upon himself to build the house of God. Period! Likewise, it is an usurping of God's authority for the church to add to God's word on this subject. God is silent about such funding, i.e., sales, and He has explicitly told us what He wants in this matter.

Just last week on their marquee, this same congregation told the passer-bys that they would be having a “Baby Dedication” that Sunday. It might be questioned why this would be wrong. After all, this was just the parent's way of saying that they intended to raise their child in service to God. And, since Samuel was dedicated to the service of God (I Samuel 1:11), what is being done today is basically the same.

I would agree that every Christian parent ought to be dedicated to bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and teaching them from the time of their youth (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21; II Timothy 1:5). But that is the parents dedicating themselves. There isn't one word or example in the New Testament that tells us that we are to, or realistically, that it is even possible that we can, dedicate our babies. The New Testament teaches individual responsibility of accountable persons. I would much rather see the parents ask for the prayers and support of the church to dedicate themselves to the Lord's instructions and to bring up their children in His ways and stop calling it “dedicating babies.” There is no authority for these ostentatious displays. This is just one more thing that we, in the church, have borrowed from the denominations for which there is no biblical support. Additionally, there is no comparison of what is being done today to what was done at the birth of Samuel. 1) Are these same people today willing to send their child away, when he is weaned, to live under the tutelage of a man of God? That is what Hannah did. 2) Thus far, I have found that these “dedications” were for males only. If we are going to use the Old Testament as a pattern, we must exclude baby girls. Furthermore, God obviously had special plans for Samuel even before his conception, and then, only by a miracle of God, was Hannah able to bear a son. Samuel's case seems to be in a class by itself. Even the Nazirite vow was not done by the parents. In the case of Samson, it was God himself that consecrated him (Judges 13:5-7). Otherwise, it was an act of free will on the part of the person (Numbers 6:1-2) and not the parents of the baby.

If we can disregard the need for biblical authority on the above discussed matters, we can disregard it for anything we see fit. When God has specified what He wants, we have no authority to do otherwise. Likewise, when God has been silent as to a practice, we must not presume that it will please Him if we do it. Remember God's response to David in 2 Samuel 7:7.

— Royce Williamson
The Communicator, Vol. 7, No. 50, December 17, 2000
N. 5th & Grape church of Christ, 433 Grape Street, Abilene, TX 79601


A MESSAGE TO WRITE ON EVERY
MEMBER'S HEART

If the following seven statements could be written on every member's heart, then each congregation would flourish as a rose alternately kissed by sun and rain.

How to take these thoughts from these pages and attach to them to a soul, I know not. I only know that you who lead God's people will be totally successful if you can influence the congregation to commit these pages to memory.

1. The church must radiate a righteous and wholesome influence in the community. “I” must live the example of a good Christ-like life. “I” must live soberly, righteously, and godly. (Matthew 5:13-16)

2. The church, to be successful, must have faithful and courageous leaders. “I” along with other members can make or break the leadership. Therefore, “I” must pray for the elders. “I” must remember that the leadership is made of mortals like myself, seeking immortality. “I” must help them to be stronger and more efficient. (I Timothy 5:17-18)

3. The church has financial obligations which must be paid at regular intervals. “I” must give my fair share! Though “I” may be away from home on several Lord's days during the year, yet “I” must leave my gift that the program of the local church not be hindered. (I Corinthians 16:1-2)

4. The church, like a delicate flower, cannot thrive in a frigid atmosphere. “I” must bring a warm heart into the assembly. Even as Jesus loved me, “I” must love the brethren. (John 13:34-35)

5. The church must offer to strangers the same warmth and love a mother offers to her children. “I” must seek out visitors, welcoming them, and encouraging them to come again. “I” owe it to Christ to show myself friendly. (John 3:16)

6. The existence of the church depends upon its members. “I” must support 100% the assembly of the saints. “I” will never have it said the church suffered because “I” did not support the times set aside for worship and spiritual training. (Hebrews 10:25)

7. The church must grow! This is God's will!!! “I” must use my ability and talents to win souls for Christ. “I” can only do this by living a good example. “I” must study God's word, and then “I” must go forward to the people and share my experiences and the common salvation which is in Christ. (II Timothy 3:14-17; II Timothy 1:13-14; I Timothy 4:12).

— Author Unknown
The Record, Westside church of Christ, 1612 W. Kentucky St., Pampa, TX
Vol. 1, Nr. 39, April 4, 1999


A Mockery of Marriage!

A recent telecast received nationwide attention. It was a special called, "Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire?" Hundreds of women, believe it or not, submitted their names for consideration, but only fifty were selected to be on the program. The millionaire observed from a small room, hidden from view to the “contestants.” Toward the end of the telecast, he chose one ”to be his bride“ and then a “marriage ceremony” was immediately performed wherein each vowed “until death do we part.” THEY HAD NEVER EVEN MET EACH OTHER up until two or three minutes before the so-called marriage took place. As you can well imagine, the "marriage" scarcely got off the ground when it crashed! It was over with before it commenced! Within three or four days, both parties were on talk shows telling their respective stories of the failure of the whole thing! What, in the name of reason, did they expect? WHAT A SHAM AND FARCE? WHAT A MOCKERY OF MARRIAGE!

No wonder the divorce rate is so high in this country...people have such a shallow concept of marriage! The popular philosophy among millions of young people is “live together without marriage.” But, if a couple should choose to marry, they can try it for awhile and, if they don't like it, they can obtain a divorce, and repeat the process again and again if they want to. Many educators are teaching young people that to experiment with premarital sex is fine, live-in arrangements are fine, and divorce is fine! The result? Our nation is wallowing in a moral abyss of broken homes, children tossed to and fro, and shattered lives by the millions.

How desperately needed it is that we somehow get this country “back on track” by teaching young people right from wrong, and that marriage was designed by the Creator to be a lifelong commitment. But as things are presently going in our society, it is doubtful we can turn things around overnight. It took America a long time to reach this low point of degradation, and it will probably take even longer to work out of the mess we're in. Realistically, we can't expect this Satan deceived world to change from its headlong plunge down the road way that leads to destruction. But one thing we can do IS TEACH OUR OWN YOUNG PEOPLE WHAT IS RIGHT!

#1. — Before marriage, males and females are to keep themselves pure, abstaining from fornication and youthful lusts (II Timothy 2:22; I Corinthians 6:18-20, I Peter 2:11; I Thessalonians 4:3-8).

#2. — Marriage was designed by God for a man and woman to be companions for life (Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:6; Romans 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7:39). Each partner in marriage is to be faithful to his/her mate (Hebrews 13:4).

#3. — Divorce is contrary to the will of God. God “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:3-9). The Lord only gave one cause of divorce! Compare with Matthew 5:32, Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18).

Therefore, to glamorize premarital sex, and to trivialize marriage is WRONG. The church must teach its young people the truth on these matters!

— Maxie B. Boren
Hurst Street Herald, Vol. XXI, Nr. 13, Church of Christ,
110 Hurst St., Center, TX 75935, March 26, 2000


A Modern Parable

Two robins were sitting on a branch high in a tree. One looked down and saw a field full of worms. Turning to the second bird, he said, “We ought to go down there and eat.” “Good idea,” said his friend.

The two of them flew down to the field and ate their fill and then some. When he could eat no more on said to the other, “You know, we ought to stop eating and fly back to our branch.” Rubbing his belly the second responded, “Yep.”

With that, they tried to fly to their branch in the tree, but they had eaten too much to get off the ground. The second one said, “Maybe we should just stay here and relax in the sun.” Before long the two birds slept, basking in the afternoon sun.

As they slept, a cat happened upon the field. Seeing the birds sleeping and oblivious to his presence, the cat pounced. As feather's settled around him, the cat rubbed his belly and said, “There is nothing better than Baskin' Robbins.”

Yes, it is a poor pun, but there is certainly spiritual value. Throughout Israel and Judah's history, they were physically blessed at times. It was during these times that they would often forget God. Amos warns his hearers, “ ‘Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,’ says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts. Woe to you who are at ease in Zion” (Amos 5:27-6:1). The people thought all was good, and they sat back, enjoying the good things in life, forgetting God, and neglecting obedience. We must always remember from whom blessings come, and seek to obey Him.

The birds also forgot about the cat. They forgot to be watchful. Peter warns, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

The lesson of this modern parable is simple. The field is the world with its pleasures. The birds are you and I. The cat is our enemy the devil. When we focus too much on what this world has to offer, we forget to trust in God, and we become easy targets for the devil.

— Tommy Moore
Hurst Street Herald, Vol. XXI, Nr. 7, Hurst St. Church of Christ,
110 Hurst St., Center, TX 75935, February 13, 2000


"A NEW KIND OF CHURCH"

The above quote is found on an ad that appeared in this week's Abilene Reporter News. The ad is for a new Assembly of God church that is being started in the Abilene area. The ad reads:

If hard pews, boring sermons, and rusty hymns have zapped your interest in church, then you've been waiting for New Hope Assembly of God. You'll find electrifying music, sizzling drama, powerful messages, and high voltage programs for everyone. A new kind of church ... shocking, isn't it?

This statement is typical of an attitude that seems to be prevalent in the world today. Many people will serve God and worship Him, if, and only if, they can do it their way. God never asked mankind how he wanted to worship. God simply gave directives and man was OBLIGATED to follow God's will.

Remember Cain and Abel? The story clearly point out that all "worship" is not acceptable. Cain did worship God, but his worship was not in line with God's prescribed word on the subject. Abel, on the other hand, offered worship "by faith." The Hebrew writer clearly shows that Abel worshipped God in the fashion God had authorized (Hebrews 11:4). Romans 10:17 states, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." If Abel worshipped according to faith, and faith comes by hearing God's word, then Abel worshipped in accordance with God's word on the subject of worship.

Now, back to the ad we quoted earlier. Though it was produced by those in denominationalism, the sentiment is similar to that we sometimes hear among the children of God. There is an attitude that is DEMANDING changes in worship and preaching to please the entertainment seeking generation. "Worship" is an action verb. That means that worship is something that WE DO. We do not gather to watch and listen, but to participate in worship. Worship is from OUR HEARTS, and OUR LIPS, and OUR SPIRITS. May God help us seek out the "old paths" where lies the good way and walk therein (Jeremiah 6:16). REMEMBER, "IF IT'S NEW, IT'S NOT TRUE; AND IF IT'S TRUE, IT'S NOT NEW.

— Michael Light
Bangs church of Christ bulletin, Vol. 17 Is. 46, 5th and Fitzgerald
PO Box 41, Bangs, TX 76823, November 21, 1999


A Peculiar People

Paul reminded Titus of Jesus “who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). The King James Version translation of the word “peculiar” is from the Greek word periousios, a word which appears only one time in the entire New Testament.

But what is the significance of the phrase “peculiar people?” The phrase is not used in this particular context to connote something that is strange or odd. Rather this particular phrase is translated in the American Standard Version, “a people for God's own possession.” In fact, the Septuagint uses a form of the same word employed in Titus 2:14 in Deuteronomy 14:2, wherein Moses reminded the Jews that their relationship with God was such that they were “a people for his own possession (ASV).” Hence, the meaning of Titus 2 Is not so much that the people of God are to be peculiar in their manner of living in comparison to the world, but rather that the people of God are a treasured possession of God Almighty. This was true of fleshly Jews under the Old Covenant, and it is true today of Spiritual Israel, the church.

Having said this, we do not wish to leave the impression that God's people are not to be peculiar, i.e., different from the world and its carnal ways. Although such is not the precise meaning of Titus 2:14, there are dozens of passages which show that the people of God are to be different and distinct from the world. Indeed, the world looks at the people of God and considers us to be peculiar, to say the least. And why does the world view God's people as strange and peculiar? There are two major reason: 1) because of what we do, and 2) because of what we don't do.

Because of What We Do

What are some of the things that we do as God's people which cause the world to regard us as strange? In the first place, we “shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). I am reminded of the story of the young Christian man who was growing weary of the steady stream of profanity he was subjected by his fellow employees in the workplace. One day, when it became too much for him to take, he raised his voice above the voices of those cursing and swearing and said, “Praise the Lord for he is wonderful. He is the Creator and Master of the universe and the one who sent His Son to die for the sins of the world.” An eerie silence swept over the workplace and his fellow employees stared at him in amazement. One of them said, “And just what do you think you are doing?” The Christian young man replied, “Well, you all have been speaking so much for the devil that I just decided I would give God equal time.”

Of course, there are many other ways to exhibit the praises of God before men, but we should remember that when we let our lights shine before men (Matthew 5:16), evildoers hate us for so doing (John 3:19-21).

In the second place, the world may think us strange for our willingness to submit ourselves to others. Peter exhorted the recipients of his first epistle, “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (I Peter 2:13-14). Hence, the people of God are a people interested in obeying the laws of the land. While others may joke about getting away with breaking the laws of the land, God's people manifest allegiance and obedience to every law which does not call for disobedience to God's law.

Because of What We Don't Do

It is also the case that the people of God are reckoned to be strange because of what they don't do. The apostle Peter exhorted his brethren: “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, reveling, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” (I Peter 4:3-4).

Please observe that Peter encouraged his fellow Christians not to think it strange that others though them to be strange. The Christian life is so radically different from the worldly life that those living a worldly life will be amazed at the distinction.

In fact, one of the major problems facing the church today is that the formerly clear line of demarcation between the church member and the ways of the world is now blurred. Romans 12:1-2 is still in the Bible and needs to be heeded: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Who are the people of God? They are the people who will not allow the world to shape them into its mold. They are the people who talk differently, dress differently, think differently, recreate and entertain themselves differently. Not all who avoid cursing are the people of God, but all people of God will refrain from swearing. Not everyone who dresses modestly is a child of God, but all faithful children of God will adorn themselves with modest apparel (I Timothy 2:9; I Peter 3:1-4).

The people of God will, as obedient children, not fashion themselves according to their former lusts in ignorance. Rather, they will be holy in all manner of conduct. They will attempt to be holy because they recognize that they have been called by the Holy One (I Peter 1:14-16).

Who are the people of God? They are the people who do not involve themselves in malice, and guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and evil speakings (I Peter 2:1; 3:9-12). They are the people who do not revile or retaliate when they are reviled against (I Peter 2:23). In short, the people of God are those who, "as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (I Peter 2:11).

Not only is it the case that the people of God are thought strange because of immoral acts they don't engage in, it is also the case that the people of God are considered peculiar for what they won't do in the realm of worship and religion. For example, the people of God won't sing spiritual songs with the accompaniment of mechanical instruments of music because there is no New Testament authority for doing so. The religious world may consider this peculiar, and even a bit cranky, but the people of God must refuse to engage in any act of worship for which there is no New Testament authority. Furthermore, the people of God are considered strange for their refusal to fellowship those who teach any doctrine other than the doctrine of Christ. But the people of God must follow the teaching of passages such as Ephesians 5:11; I Timothy 6:3-5, and II John 9-11. Peculiar though it may seem, the people of God must be willing to distinguish themselves from both the secular world and the denominational religious world.

— B.J. Clarke
Matters of the Faith, Vol. 7 Nr. 4, E. Alameda church of Christ,
13605 E. Alameda Ave., Aurora, CO 80012. Apr-Jun 2002


A Poor Trade

The first reports were curious; the latest more curious still. It seems a prisoner from a Pampa, Texas prison escaped from his work detail. While this in not unusual in and of itself, there is a quirky aspect to his flight: he had just three weeks left in his prison term.

All of us who heard the news wondered the same thing - why, with such a short time left on his sentence, would a prisoner risk escaping?

The prisoner was caught and now faces the very real possibility of twenty-five additional years of incarceration.

But the whole matter grows even stranger. Information has just been revealed which may answer the question of why the prisoner escaped.

He was desperate for cigarettes. That's right. According to news reports, he escaped with just three weeks in his prison term, in order to get his hands on some cigarettes.

Curious? No doubt this is an understatement. Why would one trade a quarter century of freedom for a few cigarettes?

And yet what about us? Are we not even more foolish when we trade our very souls, and an eternity of bliss, for a few years of sinful, selfish pleasure? Because of Jesus Christ, because of His precious, cleansing blood, we are close - so very close - to living with God forever. But all can be lost forever in our frenzied desperation to live like the world. The results? A punishment lasting far longer than twenty-five years; a punishment the Bible refers to as "everlasting" (Matthew 16:26).

The words of Jesus are both haunting and true: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26).

Whose trade is really more foolish? The man who exchanges twenty-five years of life for a few cigarettes? Or the individual who exchanges both a soul and an eternity in heaven for a few days of sin?

— Dalton Key (Amarillo, TX)
The Giddings Edifier, Church of Christ, 424 S. Chambers, Giddings, TX 78942
September 29, 1996, 1996


A Sample

A preacher once visited a farmer to talk to him about the church, and to invite him to worship. “Why, I wouldn't come to church up there,” said the farmer, “I know old so-and-so and his wife and they don't live any differently from me. I'm as good as they are.” And everywhere the farmer went, he told about the hypocrites in the church.

The months passed and the preacher went to see the farmer again. “I want to buy a hog,” the preacher said. The farmer showed him all his best hogs. Then, they came upon a runt. “That's the one I want to buy,” the man of God stated. “But ... you don't want to buy a runt, do you?” “Sure I do,” was the reply. So they loaded him into the preacher's truck.

As the preacher left, he said, “Now I'm going to ride all over this area and tell folks that this is the kind of hogs that you are raising here.” “Hey, that's not fair,” said the farmer, ”I have some nice hogs here and you want to show people the runt!” “If its fair for the church, its fair for the hogs,&rdquo answered the preacher.

— Author Unknown
The Commanche Counselor, Vol. III Nr. 51, Pearl St. church of Christ,
500 N. Pearl St., Commanche, TX 765442, June 1, 1997


A Search for a Righteous Man

All of us who study the Bible are familiar with the story of Abraham when he tried to intercede for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham, knowing that his nephew and his family lived in Sodom, tried to speak on his behalf knowing that God had decided to destroy those cities for their wickedness. When Abraham tried to convince God not to destroy those cities, the Lord agreed but only under the stipulation that there be at least ten righteous people living in those cities. I believe that Abraham really thought that there were at least ten righteous people in those cities, but he certainly wasn't surprised to see those cities destroyed by the Lord, since not even one righteous person could be found.

When Ezekiel went in search of one person to “stand in the gap” he could not find one righteous person (Ezekiel 22:30). How often has it been the case that, when a search is made to see how many righteous people there really are among us, none can be found? In Jeremiah 5:1–ff, we again find the same thing happening. The Lord told Jeremiah to go in search of at least one righteous person in the city of Jerusalem and he was unable to find even one.

In the three examples we have given, we see that sometimes it is impossible to find one righteous person, even among those of us whom we call righteous. What chance does the world have of learning about righteous living when even the people of God are not living righteous lives? The Lord told His disciples, as well as all of us who have obeyed the gospel, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. What the Lord meant by this was that all of us who claim to be followers of Christ have a responsibility to show what it means to live a righteous life to all those who are still outside of the Gospel.

When we analyze the case found in Jeremiah 5, the Lord told Jeremiah how he would know when he actually found one who was righteous. The righteous person would be that person who executes judgment and seeks truth. Jeremiah was told to whom to go first and then who should follow. First, Jeremiah went to the poor, thinking that since these people didn't have the things they needed, that they would depend upon God. He found, however, that such was not the case. Yes, there were a lot of poor people in Jerusalem, but being poor did not make any difference, for they had spiritual poverty as well as physical poverty.

Jeremiah then decided to go to the great. This would be to the leaders of Israel who knew better. A person can actually have put 1,000 passages to memory and yet not practiced a single one of those verses which he knows. Just because some are preachers, Bible teachers, or elders of congregations, does not mean a righteous life will follow. Knowledge of God's Word is of utmost importance, but knowledge without practice will save no one.

If God were to give the command He gave to these prophets, to those who preach the Gospel in our congregations today, how many righteous people would He find? Let us strive to lead the kind of lives God has commanded for us to live.

— Al Marcias (via The Southwesterner)
The Communicator, Vol. 10, No. 8, February 23, 2003
N. 5th & Grape church of Christ, 433 Grape Street, Abilene, TX 79601


A Session in Satire

1 Weak Street
Ephesus, Asia


Dear brother Paul:

I have been discriminated against, offended, and harassed, and it looks like I may be withdrawn from. I just want you to know that YOU are the primary reason. You see, Paul, I am a member of the church here in Ephesus, and — well, it is like this: I don't believe in all that name calling, nor do I believe it is necessary for one to always worry about “going to church.”

Why do I blame you? Well, do you remember how you talked to our elders over at Miletus (Acts 20:17ff)? Well, after they got back home they have never been the same. Nowadays, every time I miss worship they are over at my house riding me, pumping me, nosing around my business, and wanting to know why I wasn't there. Paul, I let them know and I am letting you know that it is nobody's business what I do! The very idea! And you talk about freedom in Christ!

Then, too, Timothy told us what you wrote him. You know, Timothy would be a nice boy if you would just leave him alone. In your letter to him you said something about "rebuke, reprove, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (II Timothy 4:2). Well, he has started doing that in sermon after sermon—most of the time I think he is looking straight at me! Also, he mentioned what you said about Hymeneus and about Philetus (II Timothy 2:17-18), and I tell you, Paul, I almost lost my temper! Those two good men are related to me and I know they are not all that bad. Oh, I know they may be a bit mixed up on the resurrection, but Paul, these things are not all that important. I think you are just trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Paul, you hurt my reputation here at Ephesus. You see, Demetrius (Acts 19:23-27) and I belong to the same civic organization, and he told me about the time you came here and hurt his business. I told him that I'm not so fanatical and that I don't always go along with you in everything, but he's still a little cool toward me. It's very evident that if I keep my membership here where they persist on calling names, where they have publicly endorsed your work, even against sin and error; nobody's perfect, you know, I'll never be elected to a higher office. That's important, you know!

Well, at least I've had a chance to get some things off my chest. So I must close in order to get a letter off to Demas (II Timothy 4:10) to express my sympathy to him after the way you embarrassed him.

Yours for this life only,


I.M. Weak


      DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?

— Unknown
The Buna Beacon, Vol. III, Nr. 8, Church of Christ,, P.O. Box 1508, Highway 62,
Buna, TX 77612-9613 , October 18, 1992


A Story With A Moral

Driving in a dense fog, a motorist decided to play it safe and just follow the taillights of the car in front of him. For a full hour he drove without a worry. Suddenly, the taillights disappeared and he plowed into the car ahead. “Hey,” he yelled, “Why didn't you put out your hand when you stopped?” “Why should I?” was the calm reply. “I'm home in my own garage.”

In matters of faith many people are like the above driver. They blindly follow some man. Jesus said, “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).

— Unknown
Bangs church of Christ bulletin, Vol. 16 Is. 6, 5th and Fitzgerald
PO Box 41, Bangs, TX 76823, February 8, 1998


A STONG WOMAN VS A WOMAN OF STRENGTH

A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape,
But a woman of strength looks deep inside to keep her soul in shape.
A strong woman isn't afraid of anything,
But a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of her fear.
A strong woman won't let anyone get the best of her,
But the woman of strength gives the best of herself to everyone!
A strong woman makes mistakes, and avoids the same in the future,
But a woman of strength realizes life's mistakes can also be blessings and
     capitalizes on them.
A strong woman walks sure-footedly,
But a woman of strength knows when to ask for help!
A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face,
But a woman of strength wears grace.
A strong woman has faith, that she is strong enough for the journey,
But a woman of strength has faith that it is in journey
     She will become strong!

— Author Unknown
Ladies Day Program, Fruitvale church of Christ,
April 1, 2006


A Wondrous Work Wrought Within

A need for change is seen in these words "For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge that one died for all, therefore all died" (II Corinthians 5:14). The ideal of Christianity is to persuade mankind to change (II Corinthians 5:14). All have sinned and the wages of sin is death (Romans 5:12; 6:23). Sin separates man from God. This is spiritual death. Jesus died to bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. Those subject to this power were delivered from its bondage (Hebrews 2:14, 15; Ephesians 2:1, 2). The change needed was not with God, but the condition of souls lost to Him by sin. In that we are weak and incapable of saving ourselves Jesus died for the ungodly. Commending God's love toward man, that while sinners, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6-11; I John 2:1, 2).

Being in Christ (Galatians 3:27) brings about a change within a man. Trusting Jesus entirely is knowing God was pleased by His act of propitiation. Propitiation was the means of covering and remitting sins. Jesus sacrificially placed himself between man and the wrath of God (Romans 3:21–30; Galatians 3:13, 14). The wrath of God was vindicated through the provision of this vicarious and expiatory sacrifice of Christ. Thus, God dealt with sin, guilt, and the remission of sins by showing his mercy through Jesus (Ephesians 2:1–9). The saved are a new creation and old things have passed away (Ephesians 2:11–22). The change is so great that “all things become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). Those who believe and are obedient can be delivered from justly deserved wrath and come under the covenant of grace through Jesus (Romans 1:1–5; 16:26).

God was in the world reconciling man to himself in Christ (II Corinthians 5:19). This divine method accomplished the change. In Christ each can meet with God's seeking and forgiveness, being freely justified by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24). Reconciliation by grace is through obedient faith (Romans 5:16). It is never taught that God needed to be reconciled, but rather man needed to be reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:19). Man's faith in the blood is the immediate connection to Jesus' death. That blood which was given in a voluntary manner, connected to faithful obedience, is essential to salvation.

Verification of this change is shown in these words, “He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them” (II Corinthians 5:15). The evidence is a changed attitude toward ourselves and the Lord. Each can say after following the pattern of the first principles, “It is not I, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20–21). The purpose of the new life is to live in the world, but not be of the world (John 17:15; Titus 2:12). We are called to holiness (I Thessalonians 1:7).

Responsible Christians are aware of being representative of the character and purpose of Christ. We have a ministry of reconciliation. As workers together with Him, we live from faith unto faith (Romans 1:16-17). Now as ambassadors for Christ each can beseech mankind to be reconciled to God. We must be committed to this worthy task, so high and noble that it took the best of heaven to bring salvation down to mankind (Philippians 2:1–11). It must, therefore, take the best we can offer to make sure the task is performed well. It is not a hopeless assignment. God did not wait for man to be reconciled to Him. He took the first step and out of our faithfulness we labor and pray that lost souls may be won to Jehovah's Mighty Son. Don't forget the wondrous work wrought within you!

— Don Hatch
Faith & Thought, Vol. II, Nr. 10, Pittsburg Church of Christ,
Box 554, Pittsburgh, TX 75686. March 7, 1999


Abortion: Living For Me

“New blood joins the earth and quickly he's subdued.” So begins the Metallica song which 18–year–old Melissa Drexler requested at her high school prom minutes after tossing her 6–pound, 6–ounce baby boy into a restroom trash bin near the stall where she had just given birth. “She seemed to be enjoying herself,” said a friend about the infamous New Jersey “Prom Mom” dancing after her bathroom delivery.

After his girl friend, Amy Grossberg, gave birth in a Delaware motel room, Brian Peterson put the 6–pound baby boy in a plastic trash bag and threw it in the dumpster.

Some time ago, a just delivered baby was found in a toilet at Disney World, the umbilical cord still wrapped around her delicate little neck.

In Brooklyn, New York, a mother gave birth in her own bedroom, wrapped up her newborn son, and threw him from her fourth floor window.

All of us have listened in shock and horror to the disturbing reports in recent years of helpless infants being left in dumpsters, trash bins, and toilets to die cruel deaths. We wonder how such things could happen. How do seemingly decent people come to view their own precious babies as disposable? What could make a young woman capable of strangling her own child and pitching it into the garbage so she can go out and dance the night away?

Surely there are a number of complex conditions to consider in each instance. A number of factors may have influenced the outcomes of these cases. But, of all the things which have helped to create a society with citizens capable of such atrocities, there is one which stands at the front. It is the Supreme Court of the United States.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court decided in the case Roe v. Wade that a woman had a legal right to dispose of her unborn child. If only Melissa Drexler had rushed to an abortion clinic instead of the bathroom when the pangs of labor struck. She might not have made it back to the dance floor in time to request her favorite song, but she could have taken care of her little inconvenience legally and avoided criminal charges. With the approval of the Supreme Court, Amy and Brian could have an abortionist pull their baby out of the womb piece by piece and put it in a trash bag for them. Waiting until the baby is completely delivered is murder; taking care of it in the womb is “choice.” Given the law of the land, it would seem their crime was not homicide, but only poor timing.

Since the landmark Supreme Court decision twenty-six years ago, an estimated 38 million babies have been slaughtered in the womb in our nation. While the legalization of abortion on demand may not be responsible of itself for turning kinds into killers, the devaluing of human life cannot be denied. Today's abortion culture has fostered an environment in which people feel free to dispose of life if that life is inconvenient.

Legalized abortion on demand is not a matter of concern for women, as pro-abortion advocates would have us believe. It is about pure, unadulterated hedonism. It is about radical individualism - the desire to be free from restrictions in the pursuit of personal pleasure. It is about casting off objective morality for the relativism which enthrones self as god. And, that means the value of life in the womb is an individual choice determined by whether or not it is convenient. Life has no inherent worth. It is of worth only to the extent that it is wanted. A letter from a Denton High School student published in the Denton Record-Chronicle says it all. “I am scared about people trying to make abortion illegal,” she said, adding: “I know myself that if I were to become pregnant right now in my life, I would have an abortion. Because I know that would ruin my plans for the future and right now I live for me.”

Living for self is the basis for the humanist world view which dominates the culture and courts of our land. In the biblical model of reality, the ultimate purpose in life is not to “live for me,” but to live for Him who gave us life (Matthew 16:25). This biblical world view — the very basis for Western civilization — emphasizes the sanctity and intrinsic worth of all human life. All human beings — born or unborn — are precious because they are made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). When the word of God is respected men do not feel at liberty to do as they please because they know God has provided an objective standard of right and wrong to which they will be held accountable.

Roe v. Wade stemmed from a rejection of the biblical world view and has contributed significantly to the erosion of objective morality in our culture. It is perhaps the foremost factor in the lack of respect for human life that has resulted in dead babies in the trash bins of abortion clinics, motels, and high school restroom's of America.

There are a number of things we can do as children of God to try to stem and ultimately stop the terrible tide of legalized abortion, but first and foremost we must uphold and defend the fundamental truth that life in the womb is formed by God in his image (Psalms 139:13-16). And, though the Supreme Court may call it legal, men need to be made to understand that destroying life for the sake of convenience is not merely “exercising choice.” It is practicing wickedness.

— Tyler Young (Cleburne, TX)
Bangs church of Christ bulletin, Vol. 17, Is. 8, 5th and Fitzgerald
PO Box 41, Bangs, TX 76823, February 21, 1998


About Elders

A few years ago I penned some words about my personal feelings for elders in the Lord's church. I have a great love for elders and, for the most part, I think they are the hardest working and least appreciated of any group I know. They are men who have been screened under the exacting standards of I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and have proven themselves over a period of years to those who know them best...brothers and sisters in Christ.

Elders are not perfect. They have faults and weaknesses just like the rest of us, but I am convinced that they have fewer of them than most of us. The ones I know are humble, dedicated men, earnestly striving to do the will of God and praying constantly for wisdom from above. They talk and pray and agonize. Countless hours are spent in conference and consultations, in planning and pleading. And most of it is done without so much as a “thank you.”"

They are the first to be criticized and the last to be praised. When things are going well, elders praise the preacher and the people, and during the decline, they suffer the slings and arrows of the critics in silence. They are called upon daily to make decisions which are difficult and, many times, unpopular to some of the congregation. Actions which often seem mystifying could be readily explained if they were willing to break a confidence and tell it like it is. But rather than see any member suffer, elders frequently take abuse without offering and defense. If any men in the world are deserving of our support and love and appreciation and cooperation, the elders should have it.

— John Gipson
The Communicator, Vol. 10, Nr. 10, N. 5th & Grape church of Christ,
433 Grape Street, Abilene, TX 79601, March 9, 2003


Acceptable Faith

The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Simply stated this means that faith is the foundation of our hope and a conviction in our hearts of things we cannot see. In fact, the words “faith” and “belief” are from the same original root word in the Greek New Testament—pistis, a noun that has to do with being convinced of something.

Hebrews 11:6 teaches that it is impossible to please God without faith, of which there are two types recognized in Scripture: (1) there is intellectual faith (“the devils also believe and tremble,” James 2:19), and then (2) there is functional faith (“Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works,” James 2:18). In other words, acceptable faith is not simply one's assent to revealed truth, but his absolute submission to the guidance and control of that truth, something that starts and ends with bringing “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).

An active, functional faith attitude is that which generates unconditional obedience to the higher authority of the Godhead. Anything less puts one's faith in the category described by James as “dead” (James 2:20). The believing devils spoken of by James did not have an obedient faith, rendering it unacceptable, and Jude 6 teaches that they, through their disobedience to God, “kept not [deserted] their first estate [proper dwelling place],” resulting in their placement “in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” James used those insubordinate devils as an example of what lies in store for those who have faith but have not added works (obedience) to their lives. The concept of an obedient, working faith is soundly supported by Scripture. Paul began and ended the book of Romans with the idea of “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5 & 16:26). The same apostle once spoke of the Thessalonians' great “work of faith” (I Thessalonians 1:3 and II Thessalonians 1:11). Jesus Himself stated that belief (faith) itself is a work: ”This is the work of God, that ye be believe” (John 6:29). The whole purpose of James chapter two is that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17); “and by works was faith made perfect” (2:22); and “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (2:26). Incidentally, all that is meant by “works” is obedience, so one can easily understand this principle by simply substituting the word “works” with the word “obedience.”

Hebrews chapter eleven, sometimes called God's Hall of Faith, lists a number of individuals who perfected their faith through the works of obedience. Moved by conviction in their hearts, each and every one of them worked God's will towards a faith that was validated by their efforts, leaving examples for God's people of all time to follow.

Faith is absolutely necessary for our salvation (Hebrews 11:6). But, it is a comprehensive term which includes many things. Belief is faith assenting; repentance is faith turning; baptism is faith submitting; the Christian life is faith rejoicing. Therefore, faith is inextricably linked to obedience. One cannot have either belief or obedience alone and live a pleasing life before God. Acceptable Faith is the product of belief AND obedience.

— David Hersey
Berryville Bible Beacon, Vol. 6, Issue 15, April 15, 2007
http://www.the-churchofchrist.com/bulletin/2007/BBB_041507.pdf


ACCOUNTABILITY

In the world, accountability should be considered essential. In religious and spiritual matters, accountability is absolutely essential—a given, in fact. The ultimate “accountability test” will be the last. Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the thing done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10). Nothing could be plainer.

Recorded in Matthew chapter twenty-five are two parables of Jesus and an account of His dramatic description of the last judgment that seemingly contains parabolic elements. All three illustrate the necessity of being accountable.

In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, the foolish virgins were held accountable because they failed to take with them extra oil for their lamps while waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom. When he did not appear until midnight, a considerable delay from his expected arrival, the lamps of the foolish virgins were empty. Frantically they asked the wise for some of their oil, but they refused because there was not enough. Instead they told the foolish virgins to go buy for themselves. While they were gone to buy the oil, the bridegroom came and the door was shut. Too late! They were held accountable for their actions, or better, their lack of action. They were denied entrance to the wedding! A sad day for them!

The one talent man was held accountable for his faulty thinking regarding his responsibility to his lord. Rather than investing the talent given to him by his lord and thereby increasing not only his worth, but also the worth of his lord, he chose to follow a course of action that could be described as that of a faithless coward. As a result, he lost even the one talent that had been given him. He, too, was held accountable for his lack of responsibility.

The judgment scene depicted in this chapter demonstrates vividly that all people in all ages will be held accountable for the things done or undone in their life while on this earth. If there was ever a lesson on the importance of living every day for God, this section of scripture illustrates it. Those on the right hand had lived by faith that worked (James 2:14); those on the left hand did not. When referring to those on the left hand, one man observed, “...the failure to serve because they did not recognize the need to serve Christ is perhaps the most devastating criticism that could be levied against the unrighteous...Our service must come from an uncalculating heart seeing only what is best for our fellow man.” They were lost because righteous accountability was not a priority!

My dear brethren, we will be held accountable! Let us stand up and so be! AMEN!

— Stan Harvey via The Handley Herald
via The Communicator, Vol. 8, No. 6, February 11, 2001
Church of Christ, 433 Grape Street, Abilene, TX 79601


“Add Thou Not Unto His Words”

The Bible says, "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:6).. The wise man cautioned against a perennial tendency of mankind to add to God's words. An exposure of the creeds of men sometimes yields statements of denial of their existence from their perhaps unwilling adherents. While some preachers hoist high the catechism or the discipline, other preachers do not open their creed books and read from them before the congregation. They obviously wish to convey that the Bible along is the standard rule of faith and practice. Certainly, the Bible should be just that as II Timothy 3:16-17 and other passages clearly teach, but distinctive doctrines consistently taught which are not found in the Bible suggests a common source. Many times that source is a creed book.

One example recently presented will serve as proof that a prominent Baptist preacher preaches right out of the Standard Baptist Manual and not the Bible. Again, he did not inform the membership that he was; he wanted to convey to them the idea that his material was from the Bible. Here is what Adrian Rogers from the Bellevue Baptist Church wrote: “Baptism isn't necessary for salvation, but it is necessary for obedience“ (“Inspiration's View of Baptism” by Lennie Reagan, The Messenger, July 16, 2000, p. 3).

Now, here is what The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches by Edward T. Hiscox, D.D. says: “Baptism is not essential to salvation, for our churches utterly repudiate the dogma of 'baptismal regeneration;' but it is essential to obedience, since Christ has commanded it” (pp. 20-21). Perhaps placing the abbreviated statements side by side will help to emphasize the point:


Rogers
Baptism isn't necessary
for salvation, but it is necessary
for obedience.

Baptist Manual
Baptism is not essential to
salvation, ...but it is essential to
obedience.

Many have been the times when Baptists argued, “We do not use a manual. I have never heard of The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches.” This example proves that their preachers have heard of it and, in fact, at least on occasion preach right out it. The manual itself states, "Members, on being received to fellowship, are not required to subscribe or pledge conformity to any creed-form, but are expected to yield substantial agreement to that which the church with which they unite has adopted" (p. 56). From where does the name “Baptist” and the particular practices unique to them come if not from the manual or those who know it so well they can recite it without ever acknowledging its existence? The new name that the mouth of the Lord would name is “Christian,” not “Baptist” (Isaiah 62:2; Acts 11:26).

It takes the manual to evade the force of Jesus' teaching on the essentiality of Baptism for both salvation and obedience in Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Belief, number one, plus baptism, number two, yields salvation, number three. Why did Jesus say, “But he that believeth not shall be damned," instead of, "But he that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned?” Because if a person does not believe in Christ, he is “condemned already” (John 3:18). The true believer will be baptized; the unbeliever will not be baptized.

The Bible has a timeless relevance, and all who heed it will be simply and only Christians. The Baptists do not believe this truth because what the manual says on page 22: "It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but ‘one Lord, one faith, and one baptism’ and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense baptism was ‘the door into the church.’ Now, it is different; and while the churches are desirous of receiving members, they are wary and cautious that they do not receive unworthy persons. The churches therefore have candidates come before them, make their statement, give their ‘experience,’ and then their reception is decided by a vote of the members.”

The church does not belong to the members; it belongs to Christ (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28). And, those who repent and are baptized for the remission of their sins are added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:38, 47). Jesus Christ has the ability to search the hearts; men do not (Revelation 2:23).

- Gary McDade
Matters of the Faith, Vol. 7 Nr. 2, church of Christ/Carriage Oaks,
5661 Shed Road, Bossier City, LA 71111. Oct-Dec 2001


Advantages of Obedience

Obedience is subordination of one's will to that of another. Man is dependent upon God and his behavior must be one of obedience towards his creator. The Bible denotes sin as being disobedience. Adam and Even sinned. It was disobedience. In the Patriarchal and Mosaic ages individuals lived worthy lives by virtue of obedience. Obedience is called into question when individuals know what to do, but do it not. Israel displayed disobedience and lack of trust in God (Hebrews 3:5-18). Blessings and cursings were conditional upon obedience (Deuteronomy 28). Faith is of the heart, invisible to man; obedience is its conduct which can be seen. Obeying God gives clear proof for all to see. Persuasion of truth results in faith. Believing comes of being persuaded that a thing is true, yet something does not become true because we believe it. Trust suggests an actual and outward result for an inward persuasion. Rejection of Saul by God as king over Israel was specifically related to his disobedience. “... Behold it is better to obey than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 16:22).

Jesus Christ lived under the law discharging obedience (Philippians 2:8; Galatians 4:1-5). Obedience is not passive, but active, not only in avoiding what is prohibited, but in performing what is commanded (Colossians 3:8,10). Therefore, , to those who will be followers of Christ, their behavior must be consistently obedient (Romans 1:5, 16:26; I Peter 1:22). God can require all to accept His message of salvation (II Thessalonians 1:8; Ephesians 1:3-14). Ethical and religious obedience is equated with faith and disobedience with unfaithfulness. New Testament teaching distinguish between a servile obedience and free will. Free will is from the heart and desires to comply with all divine commands in love (Romans 6:15-18). Christians have a prototype of perfect subordination in Jesus. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal life unto all that obey him” (Hebrews 5:7-8).

Christianity educates mankind to become a moral personality and fits them to use moral freedom in a right manner. Subjection to Christ is seen in the church with Him as her head (Ephesians 1:22-23; I Corinthians 12:12-31). The subjection and obedience of child, woman, servant, and man is due to consideration of what is the will of God. In case of conflict between the requirements of God and society, one must say with Peter, "...whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more that God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 5:19-20). Obedience to God signals development of moral power in an individual. Every kind of social order, discipline, and action ultimately rests on obedience to God. Obedience is vital as it consists of faith in the gospel and enhances holiness through true repentance and compliance to God's demands. It is the practice and exercise of “Christian graces” and duties. Obedience is conformity of our hearts and lives to the law of God seeking to remove any imperfection. Such obligations arise from our relationship with God as his creatures (Psalm 95:6), the law which has been revealed (Psalm 119:2-3; II Peter 1:5-6); providential blessings which we consistently receive (Acts 14:17; Psalm 156); and the love and goodness of God in His grand work of redemption (I Corinthians 6:20).

The advantages of obedience are in adorning the gospel (Titus 2:10); giving evidence of grace (II Corinthians 5:17); making the heart rejoice (III John 2; II Thessalonians 1:19-20); encouraging continuance, reproving lukewarmness (Matthew 5:16); silencing the gainsayers (II Peter 1:11-12); giving peace (Philippians 4:17; Acts 24:16); powerfully recommending Christianity as delightful and practical (Colossians 1:10) and it is the foretaste of eternal glory awaiting the faithfully obedient.

— Don Hatch
Faith & Thought, Vol. II, Nr. 16, Pittsburg church of Christ,
Box 554, Pittsburg, TX 75686, April 18, 1999


All I Need to Know I Learned From Noah's Ark...

***Don't miss the boat!

***Remember... we're all in the same boat.

***Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.

***Stay fit. When you're 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

***Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

***Build your future on high ground.

***For safety's sake, travel in pairs.

***Speed isn't everything. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

***When you're stressed, float awhile.

***Remember...the ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

***No matter the storm, when you're with God, there's always a rainbow waiting.

— Anonymous
Mountain View Salute, Church of Christ,,422 Main,
Mountain View, OK, November 4, 2001


All Things According to the Pattern

This statement must be hurled forth as one of the most significant statements in Hebrews. The church of Christ especially needs to hear it today. This new generation of church members needs teaching and encouragement to do all things according to God's pattern. The reference is made from Exodus 25:40, “and see that thou make them after their pattern, which hath been shewed thee in the mount” (ASV). Here, God warns Moses to follow exactly the pattern that God reveals to him. If it was required of Moses then, it is definitely required of worshipers today, that they do all things according to the pattern God has revealed.

One of the great lies in our modern religious world says there is actually no pattern and it makes no difference what men do religiously as long as they are sincere about it. In Hebrews 8:5, “Who serve that which is a copy and shadow of the heavenly things even as Moses is warned of God where he is about to make the tabernacle, for, see, saith he, that thou make all things according to the patterns that was showed thee in the mount” (ASV) we see God as a pattern minded God. How is God supposed to be otherwise?

Everything in life, in this universe was created by His divine pattern. From the tiniest life form, to the greatest whale, all were created to the divine pattern. An example of divine pattern in creation is — of all the billions of South Carolina wrens that God ever made, every single one of them warbles his plaintive little melody in the key of G. Dr. Leonidas Holland of David Lipscomb College discovered that about the wrens during a thirty-five year study. Now, I ask you if the God of creation takes so much care in making these tiny birds, what makes men think God doesn't care how they man shall worship Him?

Part of the wickedness of Ahaz, King of Israel, was his rejection of the divine pattern of the altar and fashioning one like the pagan altar in Damascus (II Kings 16:10). If He cared about that, then doesn't He care today that our prayers are offered through Christ Jesus our Lord, the only mediator between God and man?

One must accept that there is a divine pattern under the New Covenant. There is only one “Plan of Salvation.” We know this by studying the examples of conversions recorded in the book of Acts. Every person converted under the preaching of the apostles and inspired evangelists, without exception, 1) heard the word of God, 2) believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, 3) repented of their sins, 4) confessed the Savior before men, 5) were baptized into Christ for remission of sins, 6) added to the body of Christ, the church, 7) continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and in breaking of bread and in prayers, etc. Now, if there is any other way for us to be saved, the Bible doesn't record it.

Is there a “Divine Pattern for Worship” in the New Testament? Of course there is. 1) God is to be worshipped in truth and spirit (John 4:24), 2) He is to be worshipped through prayers (Acts 2:42; II Thessalonians 5:17; I Corinthians 14:15). 3) through observance of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7, 2:46; I Corinthians 11:48), 4) by giving of one's means to support the truth (Acts 20:35; I Corinthians 16:2; II Corinthians 8:7-14), 5) in reading, studying, teaching, and preaching God's word (Acts 2:42, 20:7; II Timothy 4:2), 6) by singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs unto God (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19; I Corinthians 14:15), 7) fellowship (Acts 2:42).

There is great detail given in the scriptures about every component of worship. Everything about worship and Christian living has a “Divine Pattern” to strictly be followed. It is our responsibility as Christians to study, to learn, and do all things according to the “Divine Pattern of God.”

— Larry Harrington
Twin States Newsletter, Vol. I, Nr. 2, Tazewell. church of Christ,
818 E. Fincastle Tnpk., Tazewell, VA 24651-1418, April, 1995


Always Tell The Truth

In recent weeks the media has enlightened the public about the problems and evils associated with an elected official who lies to his constituency. Indeed, many are dismayed, and rightly so, about the quagmire of problems surrounding the White House. Admissions of “inappropriate” behavior and “misleading” speeches by the President have caused a maelstrom of controversy in Washington and unsettled feelings of distrust and disgust among the citizens of this nation. Whatever else may or may not have happened in the White House, there is one thing about which everyone is certain — the President lied. What was said in January to a national audience has, by even the liberal media, been said to have been a lie.

For some, lying may not seem all that wrong, but the Bible makes it abundantly clear that untruth, half-truths, fabrications, and deceit are out of harmony with the will of God. Biblically, it is clear that lying is damning. Those who lie and do not repent will be cast into the lake of fire with the devil and his angels, Revelation 2:18. The telling of falsehoods is a characteristic of the old man of sin, who will not appear in glory when Christ comes again, Colossians 3:1-9. It is a transgression of God's law, Ephesians 4:25. It can prevent one from entering Heaven. It can damn your soul to an eternal hell.

Lying is also deplorable. It is disgusting to both God and man. In Proverbs 6:16-19, it is listed as something that God hates. It is an abomination unto Him, and can be proven as such by reflecting upon what happened to Ananias and Sapphira when they lied to the Holy Spirit, Acts 5:1-11. It is also deplorable to man, for even the liar himself wants a wife/husband, mom and dad, friends, co-workers, employees, judges, lawyers, politicians, etc., to be honest, trustworthy, and truthful. We truly think it deplorable when someone lies to us.

Lying is also damaging. It destroys relationships and causes grief. Trust is broken and confidence is ravaged when lies are told. Lies sent our Lord to the cross and, though He was innocent, caused Him to suffer a shameful death. In the Old Testament, a prophet, a man of God, was killed as a result of a lie (I Kings 13:11-32). James wrote that the tongue, when it lies against the truth, is “a world of iniquity...and sitteth on fire the course of nature” (James 3:6). Lies killed some three million Jews in the Holocaust. Lies kept Communism alive in the Soviet Union. Lies ruined a presidency, as seen more that once. Lies destroy families and marriages. Lies can send you to jail. Lies enslave people to cults, false teachers, and religious organizations. Lies overthrow the faith of some (II Timothy 2:16-18). Lying will bring division, distrust, and destruction. Lying is indeed damaging.

Truth is a precious commodity. Truth-telling is a valued and treasured quality above else to be cultivated in the hearts and minds of every person. Our children and our adults need to acquire the quality of truth–telling. They should be expected to tell the truth. Ever since my sons have been old enough to communicate, they have been told to always tell the truth. No matter what, where, or to whom — tell the truth! Always tell the truth, and remember that “a false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish,” Proverbs 19:9.

— John W. Moore
Hurst Street Herald, Vol. XX, Nr. 11,Bulletin, Hurst St. Church of Christ,
110 Hurst St., Center, TX 75935, March 21, 1999


“Am I Become Your Enemy Because I Tell You The Truth?”

The apostle Paul once asked the question of the Galatians, “Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” Galatians 4:16. Paul didn't desire to be their enemy; in fact, he wanted to be their friend, and was indeed their friend. But the only way he could lay valid claims on being their friend was to tell them the truth. If he had told them anything other than the truth, more than the truth, or less than the truth, the he would have been their enemy.

Whenever members of the Lord's church stand up for definitive truth, and against error, they can expect opposition and resentment. Read through the book of Acts and see what happened in Paul's case. Everywhere he went he stirred people up! As a result, hostilities were manifested. Read Acts 13:50; 14:19; 16:19ff; 17:32a; 19:33ff; 21:27ff; 22:22ff; 23:7-10, 12ff and 26:24. Read also II Corinthians 11:24-28.

But, brethren, we just as well admit it --- WE'RE NOT STIRRING UP MANY PEOPLE IN THIS DAY AND TIME! And the reason why is because we are not aggressively preaching and teaching the truth, and contrasting it with error, as we should be doing. When we do, we will once again cause a "stir," and that's when the cause of Christ flourishes. It is not a matter of being "mean or ugly" in our presentation of the truth. That is uncalled for and wrong. But even when we present "truth in love," if we're plain and bold enough, it will stir people up.

When threatened, the apostles prayed to God for courage to preach God's word "with all boldness." Acts 4:29. And that is precisely what the church needs to be doing today ––– preaching the word of God with all boldness! We need to tell it like it is, fervently, incisively, explicitly, yet in kindness and love. We dare not do less! Let the chips fall as they may.

— Maxie Boren
Hurst Street Herald, Vol. XVI, Nr. 41, Hurst Street church of Christ,
110 Hurst St., Center, TX 75036, October 3, 1995


America's Prayer

Dear God,


This is America - remember us? It seems we've run into some trouble and we need your help. I'm sure by now you've heard that New York and Washington, D.C., were targets of terrorist attacks just a few days ago. We've been pretty good at handling our own problems without you - until now. After all, we are a “do-it-yourself” type people. But, God, it has been a really BAD week. First, the World Trade Center, then the Pentagon, and as if that weren't bad enough, another hijacked jet crashed in Pennsylvania before it reached its target. The whole nation has been affected by these horrible tragedies and thousands of innocent people have been killed. We're so devastated at such wickedness that we feel the need to lean on you for awhile. Are you there?

We realized we haven't been very good at talking to you lately. Actually, prayer has been banned from most of our public institutions. It's not that we don't believe in you; we just haven't needed you much - until now. Surely you have noticed, though, how much the news media is mentioning prayer and how our President stopped on national television for a moment of silence. Granted, he didn't actually say a prayer, but we all new that was his intent! And, surely you noticed how both the House and Senate had public, televised prayer. So, you see, we're not as bad as you though. Are you still there?

Of course, we still believe that we're “one nation under God.” After all we did keep that insignia on our newly designed coins. We admit that we've allowed those who don't believe in you to have more power within our government and schools, but isn't this the only way we can claim liberty in a free nation? It's not that we don't believe in you, it just hasn't seemed terribly important — until now. Are you still there?

We're sure you've noticed that although we are the UNITED STATES, we've done an awful lot of bickering and fighting amongst ourselves. But look how we've pulled together and helped one another under these terrible circumstances! After all, that is the Christian thing to do. We know you've commanded us to love one another and take care of each other and that is exactly what we're doing — now. Are you still there?

God, we sure do hope you've heard our plea for you help during our time of need. Putting the past behind us, we certainly are looking up to you now. Well, maybe we haven't done exactly what you've told us to do, but we still expect YOU to do your part. Don't worry too much, because we won't bother you too long. Just till this crisis is over. You are still there, aren't you?

“And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword...” (Isaiah 1:15-20).

— Larry DeLong
The Communicator, Vol. 8, No. 38, September 23, 2001
N. 5th & Grape church of Christ, 433 Grape Street, Abilene, TX 79601


An Allegory

There was a congregation of the body of Christ in a city. The church had peace and tranquility. They took seriously the commands of the Bible and tried to the best of their ability to live according to them. The elders performed their duties of overseeing the work. They watched for the souls of the church members, engaged in seeking the lost, fought error, and led the church in doing right. The deacons served the church well. It was an ideal place to worship and work for the Lord. One day a family moved to town. They placed membership with this congregation to work and serve under its elders. The family was enthusiastic and personable. Everyone liked them from the elders to the children. They seemed very religious and concerned for the church. They took part in all the activities of the church.

Soon the elders asked the man to teach a class. When he began teaching, people heard some strange things. He taught the Calvinistic doctrine that we “have been a sinner since birth.” Then, he added that man has a “sinful nature.” Later, he taught the premillenial doctrine that Jesus is coming back to this world to ”restore everything,“ and said that: “When perfection comes, the times will have reached their fulfillment.” He went on to teach the Pentecostal doctrine that we are “all given the one Spirit to drink.” Then, he began teaching the denominational doctrine of salvation by faith only. He said the Gospel reveals “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.”

Some members of the congregation sounded out a warning to the others. They said this man is teaching denominational doctrines. These doctrines are such that if we believe and obey them, they will cause us to loose our souls. In rebuttal, people talked about how kind and loving this man is. Many said the man says things in a way everyone can understand him and that he is easy to listen to. They also claimed some of the older teachers just are not up on the latest words and thus they are hard to understand. They accused the ones who sounded out the warning of being “old-fashioned,” “legalistic,” “unloving,” etc.

Now the question is before the elders. What are they to do? They search the Scriptures and see their responsibility. They understand that God gives them the obligation to stop the mouths of those who do not teach sound doctrine (Titus 1:9-11). As a result, they no longer allow the man to teach a Bible class, arguments to the contrary notwithstanding. The man believes and teaches things that are contrary to sound doctrine (Titus 3:10-11). If he influences those under the elder's care, they will give account for their lack of doing God's bidding (Hebrew 13:17).

This story is not all that uncommon. The only difference is that instead of a family and a man, we would substitute the New International Version. This perversion of God's Word teaches all the things taught above. The words are directly out of the NIV. The order in which they appear are as follows: Psalm 51:5, Romans 7:18, 15; 8:3-13; Acts 3:21; I Corinthians 12:13; and Romans 1:17.

There are few elderships that would allow a man to stand in the pulpit or Bible class and teach the doctrines above. Yet, when it comes to a so–called Bible, they think nothing should be done. As a result of this thinking, many elderships have allowed the NIV into classrooms and in the pulpit to teach its ungodly doctrines. When will we wake up to what is happening? These perversions are having a great impact on the thinking of our members. Elderships need to beware and be warned. They have a great responsibility to see that the things which are taught are right. They are to stop the mouths of false teachers. The NIV is a false teacher. They,the elders, must stop its mouth. Take it out of the pulpit and classrooms. They must make sure that what teachers and preachers use is a correct translation of God's Word, and not denominational doctrine under the guise of the Bible. Do not stand in jeopardy of losing your soul for not stopping the mouth of a false teacher in the veneer of a Bible.

— Michael Hatcher
Hurst Street Herald, Vol. XIX, Nr. 51, Hurst St. Church of Christ,
110 Hurst St., Center, TX 75935, December 29, 1998


An Anchor Within the Veil

In Luke 23:44-47, we read, “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and have said thus, he gave up the ghost. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.” The gospel accounts of Matthew and Mark also contain the account of the events that took place at the time of Christ's death (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38) One point we now look closely at is the tearing, splitting, or ripping of the veil of the temple.

Josephus describes the veil of the tabernacle as “very ornamental, and embroidered with all sorts of flowers which the earth produces; and there were interwoven into it all sorts of variety that might be an ornament, excepting the forms of animals...at the corner of every pillar a ring retained it from the top downwards half the depth of the pillars, the other half affording an entrance for the priests, who crept under it” (Antiquities III, VI, 4). Alfred Edersheim, in his book, “The Temple,” says of that which was built by Herod, “A wooden partition separated the Most Holy from the Holy Place and over the door hung the veil which was ‘rent in twain from the top to the bottom’ when the way into the holiest of all was opened at Golgotha. The rabbis speak of two veils, and say that the high-priest went in by the southern edge of the first veil, then walked along till he reached the northern corner of the second veil, by which he entered the Most Holy Place.”

Why was this beautiful and wonderfully ornate tapestry destroyed? First, we must understand that the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was a type or a shadow of the church with the Most Holy Place representing heaven itself. Without the perfect atonement for the sins of man, this—the only way to heaven—would be completely and forever blocked. But, with the sacrifice, the Lamb of God, our Savior Jesus the Christ, we see in a symbolic yet profound statement, the door or the way to heaven being thrown open.

The Hebrew writer continues this thought in chapter 6 verses 17-20 describing the promise God made to Abraham and makes application that the hope we now have is like an anchor. “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath. That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” With hope–building words, we understand that we have set our anchor in the safe and sure waters of heaven or that which is within the veil. We have hold on the other end of the line. Now let the winds of temptation and turmoil blow. The anchor will not slip or give. We must, however, do our part to make the line fast at our end!

Jesus, our perfect example (I Peter 2:21) has passed into heaven by way of the veil. He has left a path for us to follow and made sure the way will ever be available. We must do our part and follow HIM!

“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life. When the clouds unfold their wings of strife? When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain. Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

“When our eyes behold thru the gathering night. The city of gold, our harbor bright. We shall anchor fast by the heavenly shore. With the storms all past forever more.

“We have an anchor that keeps the soul Steadfast and sure while the billows roll. Fastened to the Rock, which cannot move. Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.”

— James Gravelle
Twin States Newsletter, Vol. I, Nr. 2, Tazewell. church of Christ,
818 E. Fincastle Tnpk., Tazewell, VA 24651-1418, April, 1995


An Empty House Will Be
An Evil House

In Matthew 12:43–45, Jesus tells of an evil spirit which was removed from a man. The evil spirit looked everywhere for a place to reside after being cast out, but could not find a suitable place. The evil spirit then returned to his former dwelling place and, finding it vacant, returned with seven spirits more evil than he. Jesus informs us that this man was worse off than he was originally.

Jesus is teaching us a very important lesson concerning the keeping of our heart. When one obeys the gospel by believing in Christ (Hebrews 11:6), repenting of his sin (Luke 13:3), confessing the name of Christ (Romans 10:10), and being immersed in water for the remission of sin (Acts 2:38), we have, as the man in Matthew 12:43–45, cleansed the house, that is, we have removed the “evil spirit” from our house. But, all too often, after we have removed the evil from our lives, we fail to fill our lives with those things that will keep the evil from returning. As the evil spirit returned to the unoccupied house of the man, so will evil return to our lives if we do not fill our house or our lives with righteousness.

It is very sad to see people converted to Christ and, yet, take no precautions to keep the evil from returning to their lives. James said, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Paul declared, “neither give place to the devil” and “put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 4:27, 6:11). We are only able to keep the devil out of our house if we guard against his return, and this done by filling our lives with and obeying “from the heart that form of doctrine” that will keep us from sin (Romans 6:16–18).

Beloved, if the devil sees our house vacant of pure and undefiled religion (James 1:27), if he observes that we are not thinking on pure, honest, just, true, lovely, good, and virtuous things (Philippians 4:8), if he finds us no longer standing for the truth (Titus 2:1), he will soon occupy our house again. Jesus said that the state of this kind of person “is worse than the first” (Matthew 12:45). This same thought is set forth by Peter in a different way, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, then are once again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it is better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (II Peter 2:20–21).

It is an absolute necessity that after removing Satan from our lives, that we fill our lives with truth and godliness which will prevent Satan from returning where he once resided. Don't leave your house empty!!!

— Tommy Moore
Bangs church of Christ bulletin, Vol. 15, Is. 20,
5th and Fitzgerald PO Box 41, Bangs, TX 76823, May 18, 1997


"AND MAN BECAME A LIVING SOUL"

GOD MADE MAN IN HIS IMAGE

From Genesis 1:26-27, we become aware of man's uniqueness within creation. Of all of God's marvelous creation, man, and only man, was made in the very image and likeness of the Almighty God. Of no other part of creation is it said that anything or any creature was made in the mage and likeness of Jehovah.

In Genesis 2:4-7, we get a brief “re-cap” of the creation and productivity of the earth. We also read that “there was not a man to till the ground,” and that mist came up from the earth to water it. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Again, we are privileged to read of the uniqueness of mankind in this world. Again we read something that is not said of any other created thing; “and man became a living soul.”

Yes, dear friends, man is uniquely special in this world of the living and non–living creation of God. We are not mere animals as the scientists wish to classify us. We certainly are not to be categorized with the plants, or the rocks and dirt. We are created in the spiritual image of God and, unlike any animal, God gave us a soul; a spirit, and along with it, a conscience, thought processes, and the ability to discern right from wrong using the moral and ethical values given by Him.


HEAVEN IS RESERVED FOR GOD'S
SPECIAL CREATION


One of the simplest, sweetest, and most profoundly encouraging promises anywhere in God's book, the Bible, is found in Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

A brother here in Giddings recently told me of an incident that took place where he works. A woman came to him obviously knowing that he was a spiritual person, and asked if her pet would go to heaven when it died. He responded kindly, but truthfully. NO! Her pet would not go to heaven. She then inquired of denominational “preacher,” and he told her, YES! Her pet would go to heaven when it died. How sad to see those who will pervert the Scriptures in a vain attempt to comfort or console someone who is sad and depressed. The truth is always much more comforting when told in the spirit of genuine love for them. Only those whom God has given a living soul will ever occupy heaven, then we must be obedient to the last–will–and–testament of Jesus Christ in order to receive the promised eternal salvation (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 5:9).

— Royce Williamson
The Giddings Edifier, church of Christ, 424 Chambers,
Giddings, TX 78942, March 19, 1997


"AND THEY STOOD EVERY MAN IN HIS PLACE"

Israel had been oppressed by the Midianites for seven years when Gideon was called by God to deliver them. When Israel knew that he was their deliverer, 32,000 men gathered to him to help him in defeating the great host of Midianites who were encamped in the valley of Jezreel. To prevent their thinking that their own strength had defeated Midian, God wanted a much smaller army than Gideon. At last the number was reduced to only 300 men. These three hundred were divided into three groups, each man being armed with only a trumpet and pitcher containing a lamp, and they were instructed to follow the example of their leader, Gideon. In the middle of the night, these three companies surrounded the host of Midian. At the appointed signal every man broke his pitcher, blew his trumpet, and cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” The result is described in Judges 7:21. “And they stood every man in his place round about the camp; and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.”

Today, spiritual Israel, the church of our Lord, is confronted with a great army, the hosts of Satan and sin. In comparison to that host, we are but few in number. Like Gideon's army, our weapons are not those ordinarily used in warfare (Ephesians 6:11-17). The members of the church are varied in their talents and abilities as are the different parts of our physical body (I Corinthians 12:12-27), but each is expected to contribute his part in the great work of defeating the foe. As with Gideon's army, our success depends upon each individual standing in his place and implicitly following our leader, Christ.

— E.B. Kuykendall, Gospel Digest
The Record
, Vol. 1, Nr. 32, Westside church of Christ,
1612 W. Kentucky St., Pampa, TX, February 14, 1999


AND WE CALL IT PROGRESS

We call ourselves an enlightened people. We claim for ourselves great progress in many areas of life. But, consider the following that was written by a man named James Hicks, a technology educator in Colorado. After you read this, ask yourself, “Have we really made that much progress, or are we really digressing in many ways?”

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more convenience, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

“We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life, but not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble walking across the street to meet the new neighbor. We've conquered outer space, but not inner space; we've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we've split the atom, but not our prejudice. These are the times of fast food, and slow digestion; tall men and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are the days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer to quiet, to kill. It is a time where there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring this letter to you, and time when you can choose to make a difference, or just hit delete.”

Might I add - More pointless, trivial knowledge, and less knowledge of God's divine world; more concern for our 401K, and less concern for our soul. We claim to be the most enlightened people in history, yet, for the most part, we live in utter darkness. We claim to love our fellow man, but won't tell him about Jesus, and, at the same time, we lack the courage to tell him that his own soul is in jeopardy.

I, too, enjoy many of the innovations and technological advances we have made, but we should never forget the truly important things in life. Think about it . . .

- Royce Williamson
The Communicator, Vol. 8, No. 14, April 8, 2001
N. 5th & Grape church of Christ, 433 Grape Street, Abilene, TX 79601


ANTI–ISM

When we use the term “ANTI” we are using a familiar expression to the English speaking world. The “anti” prefix means to be opposed to, to be against, or to prevent. The suffix “ISM” is also widely used in or day and denotes an action, a state, or quality, a system or ideological movement, and a basis for prejudice or discrimination. “Anti–ism*rdquo; as used in this issue of Seek Ye First has reference to the man-made doctrines that oppose that which God authorizes in expedient matters.

Let's clarify a little more clearly the issue of anti–ism. Both sides of the issue claim to be conservative and not liberal. Both will agree on the basic principles of biblical interpretation — that authority is established by command, example, and implication. Both believe in the autonomy of the local congregation. Both believe in the all–sufficiency of the church in its mission and work. The main issue that separate us is that our “anti” brethren believe that one congregation cannot cooperate, pool resources, with another congregation in the area of benevolence, edification, and evangelism.

It seems to me that the root of the disagreement is in the concept of the church; that is, whether the church is an organization or a relationship. This difference accounts for most of the general disagreement today in cooperative and benevolent practices. Their misconception of the church is the spring board for each leap of radicalism. This develops unto an imagined and arbitrary distinction between the church and the individual in all phases of work by the Christian. From the assumed premise there is also a take off to the support of “saints–only” out the treasury doctrine.

Early Christians had to deal with those who hinder the progress of the gospel by denying what God allowed — that is “anti–ism.” Some in the first century were forbidding certain foods to be eaten and seven marriage (I Timothy 4:1–5). My friends, to deny what the Lord has authorized is to deny the faith (v. 1), and result in falsehood and hypocrisy (v.2). Paul says those who deny what the Lord authorizes have a seared conscience (v.2). To forbid what God permits is “anti–ism” and a sin.

First century saints also had to deal with the issue of circumcision — there were those who were trying to bind circumcision as a salvation issue. Circumcision could be an expedient matter: Timothy demonstrates this in Acts 16:1–5, but this action could not be bound on people religiously (Acts 15:1–2, 23–24). Titus demonstrates that circumcision is not a condition of salvation (Galatians 2:1–10). Again, to bind what God has not bound is anti–ism and a sin.

It must be understood that it is just as great a sin to bind “man–made” doctrines on people as it is to loose God–given mandates. “Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). “If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances, Handle not, nor taste, nor touch (all these things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).

God alone, through the apostles and the inspired authors of the Bible, has the authority to bind and loose in religious matters. “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Man does not have the authority to loose where God has bound, liberalism, and to bind where God has not bound, anti–ism. Paul declared, “I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema" (Galatians 1:6–9). Beloved, “anti–ism” is a different gospel and must be avoided and condemned.

— Tom Moore
Seek Ye First..., Vol. 11 Nr. 2, 2007
PO Box 41, Bangs, TX 76823-0041


Anti-Orphan's Home

Some of the positions held by members of the Lord's church are truly a wonderment. Many argue that it is a sin to give money to an orphanage from the church treasury. The Bible directs each and every member of the church to be aware of the needs of orphans and widows in particular. In James 1:27, we read, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” This is an obligation for all Christians; as such we can comply individually or collectively. Tied to this topic is also an objection to giving money to non–saints. In other words, money from the church treasury can only be spent to support church members. There is no biblical justification for either of these positions.

There is nothing in the New Testament that would even begin to suggest withholding help from those who need it regardless of their religious condition. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Likewise the Lord taught us to love our enemies, to do good to them who despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44).

Paul left us the following, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).

When Jesus worked the miracles, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc., He didn't withhold help from those who were in sin. In fact, often the ones He worked with were very wicked. In Galatians 6:10, “"As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” The Holy Spirit specifically says to do good to all men, then He mentions the household of faith. We are to help members (and them first if only one can be helped), but we are also to help all others as well.

The primary problem with this aspect of Anti–ism is the elevation of men's opinions to the same place as God's word. Some argue that the problem with supporting an orphan's home is that we are supporting an institution and they would argue that we have no authority for doing so. However, this allegation is unfounded. The only institution we are supporting is the home; an institution which God did create—Genesis 2–3.

If we can help a family, a father, mother, and children, when they are in need, then why can't we help a home, be it foster, adoption, or surrogate-a houseparent situation in most of our “homes.” Of course we can.

If we had a set of parents killed in a car wreck leaving three children orphaned, and another family in the congregation was willing to take them in and raise them as their own, but were financially unable to handle the burden, the church certainly could, and should, help care for those children.

Now, multiply that tragedy by a factor of ten and add in those children who are abused or abandoned. The number of children may exceed what can be taken in by individual families. So an answer (and an expedient — an aid in carrying out God's will concerning orphans — carrying for them), would be forming a children's home. Again, one congregation might not be able to completely fund such an arrangement. So, as in the case of the congregations of Paul's day in dealing with the extreme poverty in Jerusalem, congregations can and do work together “pooling” their resources.

I know there are those who are anti–cooperation. Look at the list: anti–cooperation, anti–Bible classes, anti–located preacher, anti–orphan's homes, anti–multiple cups, and anti–eating in the building, as if the structure is somehow holy. The fact is each and every item on the list which these overly restrictive brethren so strenuously oppose, is authorized by God. We can cooperate with brethren as in the collections for the poor in Jerusalem. We can and should have classes to help teach the scriptures to the next generation. We can train and hire full time preachers to work in a given area and pay for it out of the church treasury. We can support orphan's homes as set out earlier. We can use more that one cup — the Lord never restricted the number or type of vessel to be used when partaking of the actual element — juice of the grape. We can eat with our brethren wherever — the building is just that and nothing more.

Like Jesus, we cannot have our work in the kingdom retarded by misguided men. He didn't stop doing what He was doing to placate the Pharisees. And we shouldn't even break stride at the ridiculous, unfounded, and unscriptural ideas of the “antis” in the church.

- Michael Light
Seek Ye First..., Vol. II, No. 2, 2007, PO Box 41,
Bangs, TX 76823-0041, September 2007


Ants! The Church Can Learn From Them

They get into everything; they are bothersome, contrary, persistent, and, on top of all of these things, they hurt! Especially, the fire ants. However, the inspired writer stated, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). Thus, we “go to the ant” for some guidance, some instruction, and some motivation. Let's first consider:

ANTS DON'T QUIT

I guess some would call it cruel; however, I placed my boot between a line of ants which were guilty of “criminal trespass” in my house. What was interesting was this: they searched and found a way around and over my Python boots! They found a way!

We, in the Lord's church, must also have such energy, tenacity, and endurance. We need to always understand that the Lord is on our side! Consider these brief texts: “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31); “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4); “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”(John 16:33).

With these inspired truths before us, how can we quit? How can we faint? Christians are followers of Christ, and if Christ overcame the world, and he did, then how can we even consider giving up?

Sure, there are problems in the body of Christ, but hasn't it just about always been that way? We have men, women, and young people who study, learn, and make mistakes, then learn from those mistakes, yet they never give up, never give up. They stand for the truth, live for the truth, and love according to the truth. There were those like these Christians today in the First Century Church, and we need more like them.

Paul put it like this, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). It is interesting to note that some Greek authorities translate “faint” as CAVING IN. We must not cave in! The ants don't!

Then, there is this:

ANT'S ALWAYS HAVE GROUP PARTICIPATION

Ants aren't fragmented; they don't believe in denominationalism. They all work together; every ant has its task, its place, its job.

If the Ant Kingdom played, like those in the Kingdom of Christ do, the Ant Kingdom would soon cease to exist. Sure, “play,” good healthy recreation, isn't bad. However, there is a time to be interested in the work. But, that's the rub, isn't it? Christians must accept and recognize that “work” is the meat of Christianity. Once again, we go the to the inspired pen of Paul who wrote, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:57-58).

The Lord had work to do (John 4:34). Paul had his work to finish (Acts 20:24). And, as Christians, we, too, have work to finish.

We also need to consider this final point:

ANTS ALWAYS REBUILD

Whether our faith is destroyed by something we have done, or destroyed by the actions, words, and deeds of others, we must rebuild! Paul, in dealing with the harshness which was being exhibited against weaker brethren, reported that those brethren could be “destroyed” by the actions of fellow brethren (Romans 14:15).

When rain, kids, or my lawnmower destroys the ant mounds, those ants rebuild. In like manner, when we find ourselves "mowed down" by sin, driven down by guilt, let's recoup, let's rebuild. We need to "rebuild" our faith by 1) remembering we are God's Possession—not the brethren's; 2) remembering we have access to God's throne of mercy and help during our time of need; 3) believing with all of our heart that God restores penitent children; and 4) beginning to work to be involved in the Christian way of life. Although not exhaustive, these four things will help a “destroyed” saint, even a “destroyed congregation,” to regain their first love.

Yep, I hate ants. However, there are many lessons to be learned by considering them, by viewing them, by contemplating them. At least, that is what the Proverbial Writer says. Now, where is the AMDRO?

— Borrowed
Bangs church of Christ bulletin, Vol. 15 Is. 50, 5th and Fitzgerald
PO Box 41, Bangs, TX 76823, December 21, 1997