Relationships: My God and I

by Tim Childs
How often do you think about your relationship with God? Have you given it much thought recently?
Do you realize Satan wants us to live each day as though there is no God? Can we become so busy with such important things that we forget his presence and our real dependence on him? Is it possible for you and me to become quite similar to those spoken of in Scripture who did not like to retain the knowledge of God in their minds?
What do you think about the current state of your relationship with God? Are you and I in the great number of those in our society who would rather not think about that? Does that make us feel a bit uncomfortable? Or do you have a healthy, thriving relationship?
If you are willing to examine and evaluate in light of Scripture, what does God think about the state of your relationship with him? Is God well-pleased?
Have you given thought to what changes God may want you to make to produce a stronger, more satisfying relationship with him? Have you thought about examining the life of Jesus to determine what it was, specifically, that enabled him to have such a close-knit, tight relationship with our heavenly Father? Do you suppose Jesus can give us insight into building a stronger, meaningful relationship with the Father in heaven?
What relationship with another/others is more significant than the relationship you and I are able to develop with our Creator, Savior, Redeemer, Friend?

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I Thought

by Ed Smithson
Naaman was a “captain of the host of the King of Syria” (2 Kings 5:1). His problem was his leprosy, a deplorable and incurable disease with which he was plagued. He was fortunate to have a little Jewish girl as a slave who wanted to get him help and persuaded him to seek it in Israel.
There was a little bobble because he went to the king instead of the prophet, but that is another story.
When the prophet Elisha heard about it, he had Naaman sent to him, and when he arrived, told him what to do to cleanse his leprosy.
Naaman was angry! He thought the prophet would come out, make a big production and recover his health. When you read that story and remember the malady would kill him, you think he was absolutely silly.
But was he any different?
Today, people think they should be able to dictate how they are saved and what they should do, even though God is our creator and Savior and retains for himself that right.
“I think,” says one, “that one can be saved without baptism.” “There is nothing to it and it should not be required.”
God says, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38), “which also after a true likeness doth now save you, [even] baptism” (1 Peter 3:21).
Another says, “I should not have to stay married if it doesn’t work out. I should be able to find someone more compatible.”
God says, “from the beginning it hath not been so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery” (Matthew 19:8-9).
Then another says, “Since the New Testament does not address instrumental music in worship, we can use it as we please.”
God says, “Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not [to go] beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other” (1 Corinthians 4:6). “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 14:15).
All you have to do is ask what God says, not what he did not say!
_______
Ed Smithson is the webaster for oldpathspulpit.org and writes “Frankly Speaking Notes,” from which this article has been reproduced.

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Silence is Not God's Strategy

by Tim Childs
We must be careful to avoid underestimating the power of words although they may seem so small. Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, says a word is “a unit of language that carries meaning.”
Since words can carry such weight, either breaking the heart or making it sing joyfully, they must be used with discretion. According to Jesus, each of us will be judged, in part, upon the basis of our use of words (Matthew 12:37). Our inner man should yearn with the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, KJV).
The Holy Spirit, through Solomon, teaches us there is “a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1), including “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (3:7). Heavenly wisdom, which we are to request of our Father (James 1:5), enables us to discern when to speak and when to hold our peace. God’s purposes fail to be fulfilled in us when we are silent when we should have spoken or at those moments we speak (saying the wrong thing) when we rather should have remained silent. While silence may be golden on occasions, there are certain things it can never accomplish.
1. Silence Is Not God’s Strategy for Imparting His Will to Men.
God “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). When Jesus was here in the flesh he did not keep silent. Instead, he spoke words to convey the Father’s will. One such great occasion was his Sermon on the Mount, at which time “he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying” (Matthew 5:2). Near the end of his sojourn when Jesus prayed to the Father he said, “For I have given them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me” (John 17:8).
Following Jesus’ return to the Father, he sent the Holy Spirit (also called the Comforter) to guide the Apostles in their use of words they would employ to teach the gospel of the kingdom. Being human, their understanding was faulty so they needed on-going aid to assist them in their understanding. Being human, their memory failed them so they needed the Holy Spirit to bring those things Jesus had taught to their remembrance. The Holy Spirit was promised to come to their aid and guide them into all truth speaking words which were given him by the Father (John 16:13). Jesus prayed not only for the chosen Apostles, “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:20).
The text of Holy Scripture will never become obsolete because, following the first century A.D., God chose to speak exclusively to all successive generations through this medium. The message once revealed through words and confirmed as authentic needed not to be re-confirmed for every generation and every nation through history. When the New Testament was completed that “which is perfect” had finally come (1 Corinthians 13:10), removing the need for partial revelations here and there through miraculous spiritual gifts, such as the gift of prophecy (cf. 13:8-12). All Scripture continues to be profitable for us today as it imparts to our minds everything, spiritually, we need to know about serving the Lord here, and preparing for the hereafter (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
2. Silence Is Not God’s Strategy for Bring the Lost to the Savior of the World.
While one’s example of the Christian lifestyle is so very important, it does not become a substitute for direct teaching about Jesus and heaven’s will for all of us through him. Jesus has commissioned us in his charge to the church to “[g]o ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Words must be spoken to point men to “the Lamb of God, which taken away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Paul asked, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14).
One should reasonably conclude God does not draw men, convert, or sanctify us through a supposed direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the sinner’s heart (John 17:17). Words must be spoken for our contemporaries to know of Jesus’ demand to repent and be baptized by the authority of Heaven. This knowledge is not discovered merely by looking at our lives. We don’t just “use words if necessary.” It is imperative we do use them.
3. Silence Is Not God’s Strategy for Reclaiming the Erring.
It is easy for us to sit back and put the responsibility on the erring Christian. One might say, “They know where we were when they left us.” Inasmuch as God has reached out to us in grace and mercy, he calls upon us to reach out in mercy and love to those who have fallen. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” (Galatians 6:1). Spiritual men will fulfill heaven’s purpose by letting their compassionate voice be heard.
4. Silence Is Not God’s Strategy for Defeating Satan.
So much more than Uncle Sam ever thought about wanting a young person for the United States Army, Satan wants you. As Jesus warned Peter, Satan wants to “sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). God’s Word is filled with warning after warning of Satan’s devices and devilish deceit.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Satan’s messengers need to be silenced (Titus 1:9-11). The sword of the Spirit is not silence; it is the incomparable living Word of God.

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Goals and Desires for 2008

by Charles Box Time passes so quickly. The year of 2007 has flown by and now we begin the year 2008. James described the brevity of time in chapter four verse fourteen. “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” Job 7:6 says, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle…” Another description of how quickly time passes is, “…Our days are a shadow” (Job 8:9). Solomon spoke of the passing of time in these somber words, “One generation … Continue reading Goals and Desires for 2008

Another Year Over

by Weylan Deaver
And it went fast, wouldn’t you say? Not long ago we were wishing in 2007 and now we’re about to see it out—a year gone by in a blur. Another year that none of us will ever get back. Another year for the history books. Another year of achievements or failures recorded on heaven’s ledger (which, unlike some of our books, is always accurate and up-to-date).
So, as you reflect on the past twelve months, are you satisfied with what you’ve done and where you are, spiritually? No feeling is so satisfying as knowing you are doing God’s will. Likewise, nothing rests so uneasily in the pit of your stomach as knowing you are not giving your best to the Lord.
Did you read your Bible in 2007? Did you make it all the way through the New Testament (or, maybe the entire Bible)? If not, what stopped you? Was it too much television, or too much time in the yard, or too many trips, or too many newspapers and magazines to read? If you didn’t read your Bible, are you happy with the reason why?
Did you come to Bible classes to study God’s word with brothers and sisters in the Lord? Did you make every effort to worship and grow with them—even on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights? Considering the congregation meets to worship and study about 156 times per year, what percentage of those opportunities did you take, and what’s the real number of how many you missed? Are you satisfied? Are you confident that God is satisfied? Could you do better?
Did you go see the brother who needed encouraging? Did you visit the sister in the hospital? Looking back over 2007, could you have done more to be a brother’s keeper? Should you have done more?
Did you come in contact with someone whose soul is lost? Did you make an effort to reach him with the gospel (with a word, an invitation to study, a teaching tract, a “Searching for Truth” DVD, etc.)? If not, what hindered your light from shining in a world of darkness? Will you let it happen again, or will you determine to get to work for God?
Did you do battle in 2007 with the devil? Did you put up a fight when faced with temptation? Did you send Satan off to look for greener pastures because you refused to cooperate with him? Or, did you give in to temptation too many times? Did you allow the devil to become a regular guest in your living room, in your computer, in your mind? If 2007 had its battlefield defeats, could you enlist God’s help to take the devil to task next time around?
As long as the world turns, there is hope for a more faithful tomorrow. It could be that the best thing about 2007 is that it was followed by 2008—if we each determine to give God our all in the coming year. None of us is perfect, and we all have our areas of needed improvement (not least, the one writing this article). Why not make 2008 the year you grow in faith like never before? It’s up to you. Time is ticking. Let’s make sure it’s not wasting.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10, ESV).
May the Lord grant time, mercy, grace, and help, in proportion to our need and, in Dickens’ words, “God Bless Us, Every One!”

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The Meal with the Disciples

by David Brassfield It was an event filled with the emotions of one facing not only betrayal, but death. During the meal his friends of three years argued about who was greatest. The man who would betray him pretended surprise at the announcement that one of them would do the dark deed. He who pledged to go to death with him would later be intimidated by a young girl and deny even knowing him. It marked a significant time in Israel’s history. It was an even more significant moment in the world’s future. There was a coming together of the … Continue reading The Meal with the Disciples

A Sluggish Church

by Tim Childs We should consider it a tremendous blessing to sit down at the Thanksgiving Day dinner table with family and friends to enjoy a bountiful feast with turkey, dressing and all the fixings. God has been so good to us and we need to impress upon him that we are truly grateful. But what about that heavy feeling about 30 minutes to an hour following the meal. Maybe you’re sitting in your recliner trying to watch a football game, but find yourself saying, “For the life of me, I just can’t stay awake.” “Good night.” “Oh, but it’s … Continue reading A Sluggish Church

Finding Lexis — Lessons from a Little Girl

by Joel Alexandre Matheny
I went to the hospital with my friend, Ryan, who had to do an MRI scan and meet with the doctor following the exam.
I was there as emergency chauffeur in case they decided to drain his knee and give him a cortizone shot.
While I was in the waiting room, a spunky little girl was playing in the kids’ little corner.
When she found a Spiderman mask, she ran around the room shooting spider-webs at everyone, doing the spider-man fingers and making this swoosh noise.
After about 10 times, I started making faces at her, much to her amusement. This continued for another 20 times around the room.
She came and sat down beside me after she had rid herself of her mask and her alter-ego. We started chatting, and she told me her name was Lexis. I’m guessing she was 5 or 6 years old.
She talked to me about her boyfriend, and about a pillow fight she had and, most peculiar of all, she started explaining to me a chain of events in the Exorcist. Yes, the horror movie.
We were chatting along until Ryan came out. When they came up, I turned to Lexis, and said: “Lexis, my friends are done, so I’m going to have to go now, OK?”
She replied, “Oh, OK, I’ll just go tell my story to someone else. Bye!”
And she popped up and hopped off to talk to someone else!
That afternoon stuck with me.
The Bible says we are to be like children to inherit the kingdom. This little girl did not know me, yet she sat down and just started talking away, not worrying about a thing. Yet when I told her I had to go, she wasn’t in the least bothered by that. She just hopped up and went to go talk to someone else.
Maybe we should be more like kids in this sense. Sometimes we get so upset if someone leaves us, when in reality we should just hop up and go share joy with someone else.
Perhaps this could also be applied to spreading the gospel.
We tell people about Jesus, but if they get up and walk away, we shouldn’t be bitter or grumpy. We should just hop up and go tell someone else who will listen.
No drama. No sweat.
_______
Joel is a junior missions major at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn.

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Fulfilled in Your Hearing

by Weylan Deaver
Imagine listening while Jesus himself explains a Bible passage. Some few blessed souls actually had the privilege of hearing him do just that. One such occasion happened in Nazareth, as recorded in Luke 4:16-21. (Luke provides details not found in other accounts in Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6.)
A Synagogue
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read” (v. 16, ESV).
The setting is Nazareth, Jesus’ unprestigious hometown (cf. John 1:46). Synagogues sprang up in Old Testament times, propelled perhaps by things such as captivity, the destruction of the temple and the distance many Jews lived from Jerusalem.
The emphasis at the temple was on offerings; the synagogue emphasized teaching. The synagogue’s ruler was at liberty to invite a suitable man in the audience to deliver a sermon. At this point in his career, either Jesus was respected enough to be asked to preach, or else he volunteered himself to speak.
Notice that attending worship was “his custom.” Is that an example worth following? What is your custom when it comes to attending Bible classes and worship hours (Hebrews 10:25)? If the whole church followed your custom, where would it be at assembly time?
A Scroll
“And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written” (v. 17).
An attendant would have handed Jesus the scroll, two wooden cylinders around which was wound a parchment. To get to a particular passage, one had to unwind the scroll from one roller as he wound it onto the other. Scrolls were precious items, stored in a chest close to the pulpit.
This particular one contained the book of Isaiah, a prophet who had much to say about the Messiah (cf. Acts 8:28).
Notice that Jesus was adept at locating a needed Scripture. He did not stumble and fumble as he searched frantically for the desired verses in the long book of Isaiah, with the audience growing impatient and embarrassed for him. Jesus knew exactly where the proper verses were located, and the gospel never suffered an embarrassment in his hands.
How well do you know your Bible? Can you find a needed verse, or a certain word? Do you know how to use a Bible dictionary and concordance? Could you improve and follow the Lord’s example in “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)?
A Scripture
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (vv. 18-19).
The exact place whence Jesus read was Isaiah 61:1-2. Although the initial fulfillment of that prophecy likely rested in the Jews’ release from Babylonian captivity, the ultimate fulfillment came in the person of Jesus Christ.
The “Spirit of the Lord” descended on him at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22). Thus “anointed,” Jesus preached to “the poor,” the very ones often neglected or despised by the elite.
Jesus brought “liberty to the captives.” Just as Israel had been returned from captivity, in Jesus’ day he released many held captive by demons or sickness. Spiritually, he brought release from the captivity of sin (cf. 2 Timothy 2:26).
He brought “recovering of sight to the blind” by curing not only physical blindness, but, more importantly, spiritually blinded eyes (cf. John 9:39; Revelation 3:18).
Jesus “set at liberty those who are oppressed,” or, as Paul would write, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
In the context of Isaiah, the “year of the Lord’s favor” was the year of Jubilee, the fiftieth year in which a trumpet was blown and liberty proclaimed in the land (cf. Leviticus 25) as a precursor to eventual freedom in Christ. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
A Stare
“And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him” (v. 20).
Remember, Jesus’ fame was already spreading to the people in that room (v. 23). The suspense of the moment must have been great. Jesus had to live with the pressure of all eyes on him. This did not intimidate him. This did not make him hush. This did not make his voice quaver. He could handle a pressure-filled moment with the confidence that comes with knowing you’re right and on God’s side.
What of us? Can we stand the pressure when the world’s eyes are on us — even in a disapproving way? Are you willing to boldly stand for the truth in the presence of truth’s enemies? Or will you wilt under the gaze of opposition?
As Christians, we do not seek the limelight, but we often end up there by virtue of our lives being so different from the world. We may meet the questioning stare, the glaring stare, the hateful stare or the approving stare. Whatever the audience, Jesus could respond with dignity, love, courage and uncompromising truth.
A Statement
“And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing'” (v. 21).
All looked at him in anticipation, waiting to see what Jesus would say next. He does not allude to the glories of days gone by. He does not forecast great things to come.
Instead, Jesus rivets everyone’s attention to the moment at hand — the here and now. And right here and right now, Jesus says, a piece of Scripture is being fulfilled in their very ears.
What a statement! The wonderful blessings predicted by Isaiah over 700 years prior were finding their application in a moment of history, among a small group of Jews, in a diminutive synagogue of Nazareth. The messianic era was no longer a distant dream. It was here. It was him.
We can scarcely imagine being in a worship service with Jesus himself sitting a few rows away, much less hearing him stand up to speak.
Then again, wasn’t it he who said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20)?
Thinking of it that way, when we assemble to worship, Jesus is not that far away after all.
_______
Weylan is the pulpit preacher for the Northwest church of Christ in Fort Worth, Tex.

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