by Luke Bower
The last week I finally had the time, money, and help (from my dad) to get our Jeep running again.
The initial problem was only a broken fuel pump, but since I let it sit so long, the Jeep now had a couple of dried-out gaskets, a dead battery, and a rat had chewed through the wires of the engine.
The repair ended up costing more time and money than if I had taken care of it months ago.
It is not any different with us in our Christian lives.
I do not know how many people tell me, “I’ll come back to church eventually,” or “I am just taking a break from this whole Christian thing.”
Well, apparently, they misunderstand what it means to be a Christian or part of the church. How can you take a break from who you are?
Just like my car, the longer you sit out the more pain and problems you will build up and the more difficult it will be when and if you ever decide to return to who God wants you to be.
None of us are granted tomorrow, and we can’t afford to wait.
It may take some time, some hard work — and it will definitely mean spending some time with your Father — but all repairs can be made.
“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 ESV).
Luke works with the youth at the Baker Heights congregation in Abilene, Tex.
by Luke Bower
by Tony Raburn
While the family and I were in Dallas visiting family, I took my children to Six Flags. It’s an amusement park, like Elitch Gardens. And I remember the anticipation my children had just thinking about how much fun it was going to be. We went and had a great day at the park. So much so, that we bought season passes so they could go to Six Flags for free every time we went to Dallas for the rest of this year.
Seeing their smiles also made me think of the time, about two years ago, when we took the kids to Disney World. They were excited while we made plans (and while I was planning to pay for it). There was even more anticipation then, and they smiled each time we talked about it. It was like that commercial where the brother and the sister are looking out their window trying to imagine what it was going to be like. They were going to the “happiest place on Earth”! Their mother came in and told them they needed to go to sleep and they said, “We’re too excited to sleep!”
As a father, I want to let my kids experience that kind of joy often. But, truth is, I can’t afford to. The cost of admission to the park is roughly a house payment. And Colorado it not exactly close to Florida, so there is the cost of travel. So we don’t go very often. But I love seeing those smiling faces on my children — to see all of that joy.
When was the last time you felt like that? It seems that we know how to experience that kind of joy when we are young, but we forget to bring it with us as we grow up. And we spend the rest of our lives looking for it. We WANT to experience that kind of anticipation and joy again.
But to get lost in our schoolwork. We get lost in our jobs. In our finances. In our relationships. Yes, we even can get lost in church issues. We get lost in our sickness. We get lost in our grief.
We’ve come to a point in our service where we are going to take the Lord’s Supper. As a family, when we do this, we are proclaiming our belief in Jesus Christ. We are proclaiming that there was a man who came to this Earth, who lived a sinless life, and who was sacrificed for our sins. He made that sacrifice so that we can be with him for all eternity — all expenses paid.
We’re the ones who should be paying. We’re the ones who have done wrong. But he sacrificed himself, so that we can have eternal life.
Take a look around you. Look to your left, to your right. Let me see some heads turn. These are your brothers and sisters. We’re all here to do the same thing. We all believe the same way.
I am your brother, and I have a secret to tell you. Listen closely, because here it is: we’re going to heaven. Did you hear what I said?
We’re Going To Heaven.
WE’RE GOING TO HEAVEN!
If it were appropriate for me to jump up and down while saying it, I would!
Doesn’t that make you feel joy? Doesn’t that send chills up your spine? Doesn’t that make you look out the window and dream of what it is going to be like? Doesn’t that make you smile so big that your mouth can’t even reach that wide?
Brothers and sisters, our Father has GIVEN us an unlimited pass, with no expiration date, to “the greatest place – EVER”! And our brother, Jesus Christ, PAID the way for us to get there.
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?
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.
God wants us to live with him. Continue reading God’s Plan: The Only Plan of Salvation
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.
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
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!”
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
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