Archives for : November2016

Accurate Use of Religious Terms

We continue to hear folks misuse religious terminology.  This happens frequently in regards to the various titles that define the roles of individuals.  Here’s a simple grouping of some terms that are synonyms:

Christian; disciple; servant of the Lord; child of God; saint.  Note that the term saint applies to all baptized believers (Phil. 1:1), not to a special select few who have had special honors conferred upon them.

Elders; pastors; bishops; overseers; shepherds.  Note that these are always mentioned in the plural.  The term “pastor” has been misapplied by many people and is wrongly used as a synonym for “preacher”.  The term “bishop” has been perverted through the centuries to mean someone high up in a universal church organization.  No such organizational structure or office is authorized in the Bible.  There are to be “elders in every church” (Acts 14:23).

Preacher, evangelist.  Observe that the preacher may be an elder (1 Peter 5:1) and thus might be a “pastor,” but in most instances this is not true, and the terms are absolutely not synonyms.  The preacher is often referred to as a “minister.”  This is not really inaccurate, for all Christians are to be ministers (literally meaning one who acts as the agent or instrument of another), but to use the term “minister’ exclusively for the preacher leaves a potential for misunderstanding.  We should stress that the New Testament teaches no ‘clergy/laity’ distinction.  It is very important to point out that the term “reverend” is found only once in the Bible (Ps. 111:9) and is applied only to God, not to any man.

Let’s be careful to use Bible terms in Bible ways.  Accurate use of these Bible words shows that we are “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

– by Greg Gwin

When one is released from jail, he is not allowed to take anything with him.

THE CONGREGATION HERE has a very active jail ministry…

Twice a month, several men from here go to the Knox County jail, which probably houses a couple thousand inmates, and conduct Bible studies.

Recently, one of the men who we had been studying with was released from jail.  When one is released from jail, he is not allowed to take anything with him.  That includes the Bible Correspondence Course he was taking.  This man had such an interest in studying the Bible, that he finished his lesson, wrote his home address on the lesson so he could continue to study after he was released, and left this lesson with his cell mate and asked him to mail it to us.

This man left the jail, and before his cell mate ever had a chance to mail his lesson to us, he was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.

This young man had every intention of doing further study.  He had made arrangements for further study that most people would not have done.  Yet, his time on this earth was unexpectedly cut short.

This man’s story could be played over and over again.  Same story, just different characters.  But here’s what I want you to consider.  Forget about jail.  That’s just incidental to the storyline.  Here was a man whose time on earth ended before he was prepared to meet his God.  Could that be you?  Could you be delaying your obedience, banking on another day of life?

Why risk your soul by delay when you serve a God who delights in mercy?

Steve Higginbotham

The Bible speaks of those who are “taken captive” by “the snare of the devil” (2 Tim. 2:26)

Mary Jemison was an illiterate, eighty-year-old woman when she recounted her abduction at the hands of the Seneca Indians to writer James E. Seaver.  Mary was probably taken in 1758, when she would have been fifteen years old.  Her first emotions were terror and confusion.  She passed a group of white settlers whom the Shawnee had killed and whose corpses they were burning in a fire. She was whisked by canoe to the Seneca village, where she was given a squaw’s clothing, accepted for adoption by the tribe, was taught to speak the Seneca language and not allowed to speak English in the hearing of her “sisters,” had children by a Seneca husband, and eventually measured time, approached life, and spoke as a Seneca Indian.  She even grew to feel contempt toward the white people and was completely sympathetic to those who snatched her from her home, saying that “one thing only marred my happiness while I lived with them on the Ohio, and that was the recollection that I once had tender parents, and a home that I loved” (America Firsthand: From Settlement To Reconstruction, Vol. 1, 3rd Ed. by Robert D. Marcus and David Burner.  St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1995, pp. 61-67).

 

Interestingly, time and interaction with her captors eventually, thoroughly changed her attitude and outlook toward them.  The Bible speaks of those who are “taken captive” by “the snare of the devil” (2 Tim. 2:26), “the traditions of men” (Col. 2:8), and by the beguiling actions of deceitful, ungodly men (2 Tim. 3:1-6).  When we are captivated by Satan and the world, we gradually grow accustomed to worldly dress, habits, and viewpoints.  We may even grow contemptuous of the righteousness and truth we once embraced.  Sin changes our outlook and skews our perspective.  We may have moments of fond recall of the life in God we once enjoyed, but the longer we stay where we are the harder it becomes to break free.  

 

Thankfully, since Jesus came to lead captive a host of captives (Eph. 4:8), we can be freed from the confinement of sin!  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).  Unlike Jemison’s situation, we only become prisoners by choice, there is a clear right and wrong party, and there is an absolute need to break free of life in spiritual captivity.  Rejoice that Jesus makes that possible, and has done all He can to make it happen!

–Neal Pollard

Billy Bob died, 1983 Pickup for sale

 

 

LET YOUR WORDS BE FEW

A woman went into the local newspaper office to see that the obituary for her recently deceased husband was properly written (she had always been known for her accuracy to details, second only to her famous sense of thrift).  Only his beloved pickup truck remained to remind her of his presence.

The obit editor informed her that the fee for the obituary was 50 cents a word.  She paused, reflected and then said, “Well then, let it read, ‘Billy Bob died.”

Although amused at the woman’s cleverness, the editor said, “Sorry, ma’am, but there’s a 7 word minimum on all obituaries.”

This caused her to become a little flustered, and she thought things over for a few seconds.  “In that case,” she said, “let it read,  ‘Billy Bob died, 1983 Pickup for sale.'”

For reasons that go far beyond finances, we should learn to be a people of few words (and we should make those few words count).  Solomon had something to say on this subject:

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Prov. 10:19)

“Therefore let your words be few.   For….a fool’s voice is known by his many words.” (Eccl. 5:2-3)

“He who has knowledge spares his words….. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” (Prov. 17:27-28)

Let your words be few.  I would say more, but…….

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

The years rolled by — World War I came and went.

Many years ago two boys were working their way through Stanford University. Their funds got desperately low, and the idea came to them to engage Paderewski, the great Polish pianist, for a piano recital. They would use the funds to help pay their board and tuition.  The great pianist’s manager asked for a guarantee of $2,000. The guarantee was a lot of money in those days, but the boys agreed and proceeded to promote the concert. They worked hard, only to find that they had grossed only $1,600.

After the concert the two boys told the great artist the bad news. They gave him the entire $1,600, along with a promissory note for $400, explaining that they would earn the amount at the earliest possible moment and send the money to him. It looked like the end of their college careers.

“No, boys,” replied Paderewski, “that won’t do.” Then, tearing the note in two, he returned the money to them as well. “Now,” he told them, “take out of this $1,600 all of your expenses, and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work. Let me have the rest.”

The years rolled by — World War I came and went. Paderewski, now Premier of Poland, was striving to feed thousands of starving people in his native land. There was only one man in the world who could help him – he was in charge of the U.S. Food and Relief Bureau. He quickly agreed to help and soon thousands of tons of food were sent to Poland.

After the starving people were fed, Paderewski journeyed to Paris to thank the man for the relief he had sent….

“That’s all right, Mr. Paderewski,” was his reply. “Besides, you don’t remember it, but you helped me once when I was a student at college, and I was also in trouble.”  The man’s name? Herbert Clark Hoover, 31st President of the United States of America.” *

Paderewski, with great generosity and kindness, was able to help a couple of struggling college students. Years later, one of those college students was able to say “Thank you” by assisting Paderewski and his people in a great time of need.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to return thanks for a noble action done on behalf of another.

Friend, something has been done for YOU!  You didn’t ask for it, but you desperately needed it.  It happened long before you were born, but you may still benefit greatly by the action of a loving, generous Person.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Because of OUR grievous condition due to our sin, the kind and loving Heavenly Father gave us His Son to die on the cross for our sins (Romans 5:8).  Because of this great Sacrifice, we may have forgiveness from our sins (Ephesians 1:7) and the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).

How can we return thanks for this indescribable Gift and receive those blessings?  By our humble submission to His will: believing and trusting Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).  Then we can continue to show our gratitude by seeking to live obediently to His will for the rest of our lives (John 14:15).

Friend, a great thing has been done for you: Jesus died for you so that you might live.  Won’t YOU “return thanks”  by giving your life to Him?

David A. Sargent

Like a basketball team, the Philippian church faced opposition from without (Philippians 1:27)

A shrill whistle signaled another time-out. As the players gathered around their coach, wireless microphones and telephoto zoom lens transport us into their huddle. Another NBA Championship Playoff game wraps us up in the intensity of the struggle.

Whether it be an NBA game or one being played out in a high school gymnasium, the fundamental situation facing each coach remains the same. An opposing force desires to defeat his team while an equally dangerous force, self-centeredness, could tear his team apart from within. And so, during a critical time out or the half-time break, the coach lays out a clear strategy to motivate his players to overcome their rivals while simultaneously galvanizing their unity.

Enter Paul. We may not think of him as a basketball coach, but his message in Philippians comes straight from the huddle.

Like a basketball team, the Philippian church faced opposition from without (Philippians 1:27) and the dangers of relational tensions within (Philippians 4:2). Comparable to an impassioned coach encircled by his players, Paul unleashed a strategy providing inspirational, directional, and solidaristic guidance.

Paul rallied their unity around a common cause that for a Christian should supersede any force capable of tearing them apart. What could be so powerful and valuable that would overshadow squabbles and differing opinions thereby cementing an unshakeable bond of unity? Be true to our team’s message – the gospel (Philippians 1:27)!

Striving together for the faith of the gospel should be more important to God’s people than any petty matter of personal preference or hurt feelings. Paul could encourage them from his own personal experience.

Although others had sought to stir up problems for him in prison by proclaiming Christ, what mattered most to Paul was gospel advancing (Philippians 1:12-18).

Having refocused their energy upon the proper goal, Paul let them in on a secret.  A united church proclaiming Christ and refusing to be intimidated by their rivals would cause the opposition to realize their defeat approached (Philippians 1:27-28).  God’s people would be victorious even though assaulted.

Coach Paul throughout this letter provided them and us with clear motivational models of how to be champions.

The most poignant example of an attitude shunning a self-centered focus upon one’s own desires Paul outlined under the rubric of the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:4-8).  To possess the mind of Christ would undermine selfish ambition while empowering an obedient love striving for the faith of the gospel.

Whether a church is beleaguered or not, we would do well to join the huddle and listen to coach Paul.

God’s people would benefit by making what they value – striving together with one mind to further the gospel, which by its very nature involves seeking their wellbeing foremost.

—  by Barry Newton

WHY STUDY THE BIBLE?

Why should we study the Bible? Why bother opening this book to read it and try to learn its message? Why are preachers and elders always encouraging us to read our Bible at home and other places on our own? Christians get enough Bible on Sunday and Wednesday, don’t they? How important is it to read and study the Bible? If we believe the Bible to be God’s word, which it is, then we should see the importance in spending as much time as possible reading it, and try to gain as much knowledge from it as we can.

Why study the Bible? Here are twenty simple reasons:

  1. God has commanded us to (John 5:39; Eph. 5:17).
  2. The Bible is the inspired word of God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20,21; 2 Sam. 23:2; 1 Thess. 2:13).
  3. It is the only way to know God’s Thoughts and Will for us (Isa. 55:8,9; 1 Cor. 2:9-16).
  4. It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).
  5. It builds us up (edifies), and is able to give us an inheritance (Acts 20:32).
  6. It is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).
  7. It saves us (James 1:21).
  8. It thoroughly furnishes (equips) us unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
  9. It makes us wise (2 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 5:17).
  10. Its words endure forever and will not pass away (1 Peter 1:23-25; Matt. 24:35).
  11. It is through the Bible that we are called by God (2 Thess. 2:14).
  12. It is that by which we will be judged (John 12:48).
  13. It is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (John 17:17; Titus 1:2).
  14. Faith comes from it, and nothing else (Rom. 10:17).
  15. We study so that we will not sin (Psalm 119:11; 1 John 2:1; 1 Cor. 10:6-12).
  16. Those who search the scriptures are considered by God to be noble (Acts 17:11).
  17. It reveals all we know about the church (Eph. 3:1-11).
  18. We will be able to teach it to others (Heb. 5:12; 2 Tim. 2:2).
  19. We will be able to give an answer to every man who asks about the hope in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15), contend for the faith (Jude 3), and be set for the defense of the Gospel (Phil. 1:17).
  20. We love God and His word (Psalm 119:97, 119, 127, 159, 167).

Christians today do not know the Bible like Christians did in the past. In many congregations of the church, preachers and Bible class teachers are more concerned with pleasing the listeners, entertaining the youth and keeping large crowds.

We need elders who will make sure the flock is being fed God’s word (Acts 20:28). Sometimes parents neglect their duty to raise their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). But, sometimes, we ourselves simply do not put forth enough effort in reading and studying the Bible, God’s word, on our own.

Hearing it preached once or twice a week, or sitting in two or three Bible classes a week (if we attend them all) is not enough.

If something is getting in the way of our searching the Scriptures daily, then we need to get rid of whatever that is in our life, or learn how to manage our time better. A Christian who is too busy to read God’s word daily, is too busy. Satan is continually seeking Christians’ souls to destroy (1 Peter 5:8). When he gets one Christian to stop growing, that Christian has died. So, let us read, study, and know God’s word so that we can “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), and “desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye [we] may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).

Jacob Campbell

Beyond The Turkey & Trimmings

Thanksgiving Day is a time when many people pause to give thanks for many common blessings…(e.g. Jesus, family, friends, health, etc.). However, I want to share a few atypical reasons for which we should give thanks. Understand that by “giving thanks” for these things I don’t mean to imply they are pleasant and enjoyable, but they are things that help to mold our character and conform us more closely into the image of Jesus.  (I’ll also admit that I had to think long and hard about these things before I could truly agree to give thanks for them).

  • We can give thanks for those who have sinned against us.  Does anyone come to mind?  Has someone deliberately tried to hurt, defame, or undermine you? Such actions help us to better appreciate the strength of character and the love Jesus had for those who were undeserving.
  • We can give thanks for sickness, for it reminds us of the brevity and frailty of life. Illness often causes us to reevaluate our priorities and our need to wisely use the time we have been given.
  • We can even give thanks for our losses, for they cause us to lift our eyes to heaven and refocus our desire to go there.

As I stated, these aren’t pleasant or enjoyable, but they can be viewed in such a way they help us achieve our ultimate goal.  With the proper perspective, we really can be thankful for everything (Philippians 4:6; James 1:1-4).

Steve Higginbotham

Numbers 3:8 And they shall keep all the instruments of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the children of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle.

Aaron and his sons were appointed to take charge of the priesthood. They alone enjoyed the privilege of entering the holy place to perform the daily services in the Tabernacle. The rest of the Levites were charged to perform the most common and laborious offices. Their tasks were to take down, put up, and carry the tabernacle and its accessories whenever they were on the move.

The Gershonites were in charge of the Tabernacle with its covering, the hangings and curtains. The Kohathites were in charge of the sacred vessels of worship. And, the Merarites were in charge of the boards, poles, and all the accessories needed for the erection for the Tabernacle. For all the necessary work connected with the sanctuary, the Levites were subordinate to Aaron and his sons: “And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel” (Numbers 3:9, ESV).

Let not anyone think that to be a Levite means slavery to Aaron and his sons. It was an honour to be a Levite. The Levites were a special people chosen by God to minister to the Tabernacle. God said of this tribe: “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine,”  (Numbers 3:12).

It is an honour when God say to anyone: “You are mine.” The Levites belong to God. The firstborn of all Israel, man and beast, also belong to God (Numbers 3:13; 8:17). But God did not choose all the firstborns to be priests in His Tabernacle but the Levites only. God appointed the Levites for this service because He had decided to adopt them as His own in the place of all the first-born of Israel; the Levites belong to God. They were consecrated to the service of God.

The Levites had proven themselves to be the most suitable of all the tribes for this appointment entrusted to them through their firm and faithful defence of the honour of the Lord at the worship of the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai. When Israel went into whoring in worshipping the golden calf, the Levites stood on the LORD’s side: “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him” (Exodus 32:26).

Brethren, count it an honour to serve the Lord. Where do you think the church should get her preachers, song leaders, teachers, and administrator? It is not from those who are unbelievers, but from Christians, who are the elect of God.

Paul pictured the church as a great house in which there are many kinds of vessels: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour” (2 Timothy 2:20). The question for every Christian is: “What kind of vessel are you?”  Are you one whom the owner is proud of and can show it to his guests? Or, are you one which he would rather hide it in the storeroom or drawer?

 Paul continues: “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

The Levites were given the honour to serve God in the Tabernacle. In the church, God wants us to be vessels of honour for Him. But, first we must purge ourselves from sins. We are to be sanctified, that is, to be holy, consecrated, so that we can be vessels of honour to Him. “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” (Romans 12:1).

Jimmy Lau

Psa 119:97  Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

After each robbery the boys were debriefed, and their mistakes were spotted and corrected.

AFLORIDA COUPLE A made the news some time ago for the extraordinary job they were doing instructing their teenagers on the ins and outs of the family business…

 

The family business, however, happened to be armed robbery.

 

Husband and wife were schooling their sons in such tools of the trade as AK-47 rifles, police scanners, escape routes, surveillance and surivial gear, etc. They carefully taught them hand-to-hand combat, and expected them to memorize police codes and map layouts.  After each robbery the boys were debriefed, and their mistakes were spotted and corrected.

 

THOUGHT:  Are we serious about teaching and training our children about living for God?  Raising godly children is perhaps the most challenging task God bestows upon parents.  

 

“Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”  Deuteronomy 11.18-19

 Mike Benson

What Would You Do For $10,000,000?

What are you willing to do for $10,000,000?  This was a question asked in a poll back in 1991.  The people were given several options and then instructed to indicate all that they would be willing to do.  Here were the results:

  • 25%  – Would abandon their entire family.
  • 25% – Would abandon their church.
  • 23% – Would become prostitutes for a week or more.
  • 16% – Would give up their American citizenships.
  • 16% – Would leave their spouses.
  • 10% – Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free.
  • 7% – Would kill a stranger.
  • 3% – Would put their children up for adoption.

This poll revealed that two-thirds (66%) agreed to at least one of these, and some to several (James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth, 1991).  With the exception of “giving up American citizenship,” every single one of these is wrong.  This poll gives us a very cold look at people’s hearts.

This is exactly what Paul was trying to warn people about in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

I tried to tell myself that this mostly applies to non-Christians, but I think we all know better.  Christian people are influenced by money just as much as everyone else.  So we must ask again, what are you willing to do for $10,000,000?  Are any sins on that list?  If so, I hope we will take a closer look at our lives and our hearts.  Are they really in the right place?

Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

There is no amount of money, no reward, and no sin that is worth giving up heaven for.

by Brett Petrillo

The preacher doesn’t always have the answers.

What to do when you don’t know what to do

Some people expect the preacher to stand in the pulpit and tell them what to do. There are times when this is relatively easy. The Bible leaves little doubt when it comes to such things as sexual immorality or pride.

Believe it or not, however, the preacher doesn’t always have the answers. There are times when one must choose, not between good and evil, but between good and better.

And when it comes to personal relationships, the best thing is not always a simple thing to determine.

Who was right? Who was wrong? Whose version of the story can I believe?

Usually there is a little bit of fault on both sides!

Shall I get a job in a city where the church is strong, or serve the church in a place where it is weak, and could use my help, says the church member?

Shall I marry this person or wait, asks the young person? Should I go to college, or try to make money immediately?

There are no simple answers to these sort of questions.

Life is usually more complicated than a bumper sticker slogan. You can’t always unravel life’s tangles in the time-space of the thirty-minute sitcom. So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

* You can pray. This is always a good place to start.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, ESV).

* You can continue to search God’s word for guidance.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding…” (Proverbs 3:5).

* You can trust God’s wisdom and goodness.

“Casting all your anxieties on him,” Peter advises us, “because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

When you don’t know what to do, you trust the God who does.

— by Stan Mitchell

November 14, 2016

ACCORDING TO GALLUP, “Research indicates our image of Christ – while a bit murky in spots – is overwhelmingly favorable…”

 

When asked if Jesus was God or just another religious leader like Mohamed or Buddha, 70 percent of Americans surveyed affirmed he was God.

 

When asked, “In your own life, how important is the belief that Christ was fully God and fully human?”  81 percent responded this belief was either “very important” (58 percent) or “fairly important” (23 percent).

 

Some 91 percent believe Jesus existed as a historical figure.

 

After reviewing an impressive array of statistics regarding American’s evaluation of Jesus, Gallup concludes “virtually all Americans are, in some measure, drawn to the person of Christ.” 

 

But who is the Christ to whom they are drawn?

 

Gallup observed few were conversant with even the most basic Biblical material.

 

Only 42 percent of respondents knew Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount; only 46 percent could name the first four books of the New Testament; and only 70 percent knew Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

 

The lack of knowledge also betrays a lack of commitment.  Gallup says that “probing more deeply through surveys indicates that even if religion is an important force in our lives, it is not the center of our livesIt does not have primacyInterest may be high, but commitment is often lowSearching for the Real JESUS In An Age of Controversy, Douglas Groothuis, “Who Do You Say That I Am?” pp. 13-14

 

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14.6.)

 

Mike Benson

There is nothing more important than remaining spiritually healthy and “renewing our inner man day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

“In 1846 former president John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke. Although he returned to Congress the following year, his health was clearly failing. A friend of his came in and made particular inquiry of his health. Adams answered, ‘I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed tenement; battered by the winds and broken in upon by the storms, and from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair'” (Today in the Word, April 11, 1992).

The sad reality of life is the inevitability of death. All of our bodies will break down, some sooner than others. Cultures throughout time have tried to slow down and even beat the aging process, but all have failed. Death is one battle we will all eventually lose unless the Lord comes first. John Adams had the right perspective about life. He realized that (1) God is the owner, the landlord, of our bodies, and (2) He is in control of how long we live.

This is sad and discouraging, but there is good news! As 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “… Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Even though we are getting physically old, weak, frail, and broken, this doesn’t have to happen spiritually. We may get old physically, but we can remain young spiritually. We may get sick physically, but we can stay spiritually healthy. We may get physically weak and frail, but we can remain spiritually strong. We may be persecuted and beaten down, but our spiritual bodies will be renewed and protected. Being a Christian comes with so much hope and reassurance!

It’s important to keep ourselves physically healthy for as long as God allows us to live. However, there is nothing more important than remaining spiritually healthy and “renewing our inner man day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

— Brett Petrillo

Isaiah 2:2-4

God-Created Community

INTRODUCTION

Let me tell you a little about the birth of my daughters. In January of 1999, we learned that we were going to be parents. We started making preparations – selling my truck, preparing the baby’s room. Rachel was careful what she ate. She exercised and drank lots of water. We started going to the obstetrician regularly and Rachel started taking pre-natal vitamins. We had ultrasounds done although we did not want to know the gender. Jewell was born at 6:19 p.m. on a Friday night on October 29th in Glasgow, KY. We brought her home in a UK nightgown. Eric and Stephanie Welch, on our mission team, were at our house to welcome us home.

After moving to the mission field in July of 2000, we learned the following summer that Rachel was pregnant again. So we again started making preparations. This time the preparations were a little different since we were living in a foreign country. We were going to be with Rachel’s family in Georgia when this baby was born. Ana was born a week before my birthday, on a Sunday afternoon at 3:52 p.m. on March 10th in Canton, GA. We brought her home in the same UK nightgown.

Now, let me tell you about the preparations God made to create His own family – His own community.

Precedents in the Old Testament

Genesis 12:3. God has always wanted a “people for His own possession” (Titus 2:14). God loves the individual and salvation is an individual matter but salvation also puts the individual into a group, a community. That’s where God’s people grow and develop.

After the nation of Israel divided and split, God expresses His interest in rejoining that nation (Jer. 23:5-6; Amos 9:11, 14; Micah 5:2-4). Jeremiah spoke of it (33:7-8) as did Ezekiel (37:15-28). But this united nation was not just for the divided Israelites but also with the Gentile community (Zephaniah 2:11). That’s what Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:11-17.

The Isaiah 2:2-3 (Micah 4:1-2) passage pictures much of what we are dealing with here. Isaiah is talking about a new covenant between God and man – that is brought into effect by Jesus Christ – and the preaching of that new covenant all over the world.

Prerequisites for the Church

Before the church of Christ could be established, there were certain things that God had to bring about.

  1. The crucifixion. Right after Jesus promised to build His church in Matthew 16:18-19, He tells His disciples that He must die (Matt. 16:20-21). The new covenant that brings forgiveness required Jesus to shed His blood (Matthew 26:28). The church is the community of the saved-through-the-blood-of-Jesus (Acts 20:28).
  2. The resurrection. Acts 2:36 shows that Jesus is declared Lord and Messiah through the resurrection. And, it’s His resurrection that allows our resurrection (Colossians 1:18).
  3. The coming of the Holy Spirit. This, too, was part of the OT promise of the future kingdom (Ezekiel 36:27) but Jesus teaches in John 7:38-39 that the Holy Spirit could not come until after Jesus was glorified.
  4. The commission for the church’s purpose.  Our purpose is found in the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15-16 and Luke 24:47. The apostle Peter did that very thing in Acts 2 – proclaimed Jesus as the Savior, offered the forgiveness of sins and the giving of the Holy Spirit – and this brought the church of Christ into existence.

Pentecost was the Beginning

Acts 2 is called “the beginning” (11:15) for several reasons:

  1. The beginning of the age of the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8. The Spirit was a promise from God and He brought power through which the disciples were to be witnesses.
  2. The beginning of the public preaching of Jesus as Savior. Again, this is in fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Luke 24:46, 48 and Acts 1:8. The apostles were to tell people what they had seen and heard.
  3. The beginning of the preaching of the gospel. The Gospel, preached in its fullness, with all the attendant blessings and requirements began in Acts 2.
  4. The beginning of the offer of forgiveness in Jesus’ name. Jesus said it would be done – Luke 24:46 and that was offered in Acts 2:38.
  5. The beginning of the new covenant. The content of the covenant would be the forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:31-34) and the Spirit of God in the heart (Ezekiel 36:27). Acts 2:38 brings those two together in the preaching of Peter.
  6. The beginning of the gathering of the church. Jesus told His disciples that they would make disciples by baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and then they would continue teaching those disciples (Matthew 28:19). In Acts 2, we have that being fulfilled – 2:41, 42, 44.
  7. The beginning of worship through Jesus Christ and life in Christ. Jesus intended for this growing community to span the globe. Thus, worship and a corporate – community – life together, i.e. the church of Christ. Acts 2:44-46.

Let us share this message of community with those in our community.

 

–Paul Holland

For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God

All it took was a small explosion at a power transfer line and a widespread power outage swept through the Washington, D.C. area. In just a few seconds, Washington was left powerless. If we think about it, it’s actually rather ironic that arguably the most powerful government in the world, symbolized by the White House, was without power.

Even though our government will remain powerful in its influence and military might, let’s not forget where their power came from in the first place. Romans 13:1 tells us, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Our government is only powerful because God has allowed them to be so. The real power is not in our government, but in the Lord.

Nations have risen and nations have fallen at the Lord’s command. If the Lord willed, He could remove our nations power as quickly as the power outage swept through Washington. Let’s remember to stay in subjection to our government (Romans 13:1-7), but keep in mind that the greatest and truest power is only found in the Lord.

— Brett Petrillo

The Gift of Voting

Jesus and Paul and the other Christians in New Testament times did not have the freedom to vote for their own rulers. They lived under an emperor who usually ruled with tyrannical power. Whatever the emperor decreed, that was the way of life for Christians in the first century. In fact, it was the way of life for Christians for about 1,600 years. Throughout Europe, Christians had to live under the rule of monarchs who may or may not have been benevolent.

But God be praised that our founding fathers had the wisdom to establish a representative democracy! We have the gift of voting for our own leaders, from the local mayor and board of aldermen to the president of the United States. We can even run for office if we choose, without being limited by our race, gender, religion, etc. It is the political leaders who make the rules that affect our daily lives. They can make more rules, thereby impeding our freedoms or less rules, giving us more freedom. They can impose more taxes, thereby shrinking our disposable income or they can increase taxes. But the leaders who make these decisions are our choices! That is a great gift – the gift of voting.

We can vote for four different types of individuals: One who has policies we agree with but is morally objectionable; one who has policies we agree with and is not morally objectionable (obviously our preference!); one who does not have policies we agree with and is morally objectionable; one who has policies we do not agree with but is not morally objectionable.

In Michigan, there are at least seven individuals eligible for our vote for president. Don’t cast your vote in ignorance. Look up their information and consider who would be most likely to lead the nation in a God-approved way. And keep this verse in mind: “Loyalty and truth preserve the [president], And he upholds his throne by righteousness” (Proverbs 20:28). As an apple does not fall far from the tree, so a president’s policies will reflect his (her) moral character.

Today, exercise your blessing and vote.

–Paul Holland

Who Packs Your Parachute?

Looking for illustrations concerning friendship, I came across this wonderful example:

Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam.  After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile.  Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands.  He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison.  He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience!

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb!  You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk.  You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.  Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude.  The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”

Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man.  Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers.  I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?”  Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day.  He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory: he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute.  He called on all these supports before reaching safety. *

With our plane “shot down” due to our sins and headed for destruction in enemy territory, God sent Jesus to our rescue.  Jesus didn’t “pack our parachutes;” He is our Parachute.  Only He could pay the price for our sins so that we may “land” safely, not in enemy territory but in an eternal home in heaven.  He paid that price on the cross as He died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

To access that Parachute and enjoy the salvation and eternal life that He brings, we must place our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, as long as we cling to the Parachute in trusting obedience, we will land safely (see 1 John 1:7).

When we were helpless and hopelessly lost, God “packed our Parachute,” and sent His Son to die on the cross so that we can be saved and live eternally with Him.

Won’t YOU “put on that Parachute” by trusting and obeying Him today?

— David A. Sargent

* “Who Packs Your Parachute” by Unknown Author as viewed at http://www.sermonillustrationlibrary.org

David A. Sargent