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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Inquiring of God

by Steve Preston Have you ever thought about the reasons you pray? If you pray at all, you probably have at the top of your list asking forgiveness of sins. Still there are many other reasons to pray, such as thanking God for what he has done, asking him for strength and wisdom to live right in this world, and asking healing for those who are sick physically or spiritually. There are as many reasons to pray as there are people in the world. One thing for sure, we don’t pray enough. That is because there are times during each … Continue reading Inquiring of God

The Making of a Good Preacher

by Steve Preston
What makes a good preacher? A great speaking voice? The use of words that ordinary people can understand? The ability to excite people to learn the word of God?
Certainly, these can play a part in the making of a good preacher, but we expect these qualities from anyone preaching the word.
As in everything concerning religion and the Bible, God has told us what he expects a good preacher to be.
In 1 Timothy 4:6 we read this: “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (ESV).
Our Father says that a good preacher will remind the people of what God says. It is not the job of a preacher to convince anyone of anything. It is simply to tell people what God expects out of each of us.
Some preachers command more attention and respect than others, but anyone preaching the true word of God should be held in high esteem. Why? Because God says those people are “good” ministers.
Published in BibleTalk and used by permission of the author, with revisions by the editor for Forthright’s format. To subscribe, send an email to bibletalk-subscribe@freegroups.net .

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Our Best Protection

by Andre Godoy
If a friend told a lie about you to the group, you, all of a sudden, would be concerned about the truth.
If on your light bill appeared an exorbitant amount you couldn’t pay, you’d certainly want to establish the exact consumption of kilowatts.
If your neighbor presented you with a document from the city government requiring you give up a meter of your lot, without a doubt you would try to establish the veracity of the new measurements.
When there is a chance of personal or property damage, we want to get right down to the truth. We rightly believe that the truth is our protection and guarantee.
So it is with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not enough to be sincere about spiritual things. We must verify the truth.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32).
The truth in its unknown state is of no gain. Whoever ignores the truth will not feel its liberating effects.
So our greatest need and only protection is the intense search for the truth. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). The Spirit of truth inspired the apostles, that we might have the written word of God, which is truth (John 16:13; 17:17). In Scripture, therefore, we find all the truth about spiritual realities.
“Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).
Join us in this search for truth, so that we not suffer eternal damage.
Andre is a Christian writer in Brazil. This article was translated from Edificação (Edification) Magazine and used with permission.

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The Simple Facts: Facing Reality

by Mike Baker
“It’s not right!” shouted the infamous 26-year-old hotel heiress as she was once again ordered to serve actual time in the jail. Paris Hilton cried out for her mother as the reality of her fate unfolded. She soon found herself in the presence of officers and escorted back to the jail.
I really don’t know why we have a fascination with celebrities in our society today. They are often held up as heroes or even as gods to some. But even though they are rich, they are still just people.
Paris and her friend, Nicole Richie, starred in the series, “The Simple Life,” which attempted to place the two in “normal” every-day situations that most people face. Routine and mundane tasks were then assigned to the duo, who in turn, would often fail in the task and make fun of the people who have to work.
Paris has led a pleasure-filled life in full view of the public. She has lived with excesses of drugs, alcohol, and various sexual partners and even had some of her homemade X-rated videos exposed for public consumption.
Through all of this her celebrity star rose higher and higher. Then in September, 2006, she was arrested for driving under the influence. This charge was later reduced to reckless driving, and she was placed on probation.
But rules don’t matter to some people. She violated her probation twice, the last time while speeding at night on a suspended license with her headlights off. Additionally she never enrolled in a mandated alcohol education program.
Driving under the influence is dangerous and illegal. In 2006, 17,941 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents. That’s 41% of all traffic deaths. Each year about 1.4 million people are arrested for drunk driving (www.madd.com).
The judge that sentenced Paris to jail for 45 days was trying to send a message to a person who held herself to be above the law. Money, power, and fame can certainly control one’s destiny in our society. But this time wealth and fame did not stop Paris from facing reality.
In speaking of the dangers of riches and greed, Paul wrote the following to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:9-10.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (NKJV)
After watching the rich young ruler walk away sorrowfully, Jesus said in Matthew 19:23, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Riches compete with God for the object of our worship. What Paris and countless others have yet to learn is that neither money nor mother can ultimately save you from your own actions. As Paul said in Romans 14:12, “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”
Solomon aptly defined the “real” simple life in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.”
Facing the reality of our sins here on earth is much preferred to facing the reality of eternal torment on the Day of Judgment. May each of us renew our faith in God’s ways today and may we enjoy the reality of the assurance from our loving Father.
A 1962 Kentucky native, Mike and his wife Carla have twin 16-year-old sons. After a successful career in corporate work, Mike began full-time preaching and is currently the pulpit minister for the Church Street church of Christ in Lewisburg, Tenn. Mike also authors Our Daily Walk, a 5-minute daily radio devotional, also published in booklet form and on the internet at www.ourdailywalk.org.

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