Though 85 percent of Americans call themselves Christians, only 69 percent regard themselves as church members. Only 43 percent will attend church on a given Sunday. Another 22 percent will attend occasionally. Only 22 percent of Americans attend Bible classes on Sunday mornings.
There are now 79 million “unchurched” people in America.
Many of these people are “notional” Christians. They claim to be Christians but do not practice their Christianity by church attendance. These are people who need a church home.
Why do they need a church home? For the same reasons you do.
They need the spiritual help and climate going to church provides.
They need to hear the Scripture preached and to remember the Lord’s death in His Supper.
They need to praise the Lord in song and to pray about their needs.
They need the Lord’s help and teaching from week to week.
They also need a church home, because we all need our brothers and sisters in Christ. Life has a way of handing us surprises. It means so much to have the support of loving brothers and sisters who will pray with us and for us when we need them.
Solomon was right when he said that “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes. 4:9). There is strength in numbers, and brothers and sisters assure our hearts when they walk beside us in serving the Lord. “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Surely you know someone who needs a church home. Won’t you help them? Bring them to the Lord.
by Phil Sanders A man visited Tiffany’s jewelry store in New York City. He was shown a magnificent diamond with its gleaming yellow light and many other splendid stones. But he observed one stone that was perfectly lusterless and said, “That has no beauty about it at all.”
The friend who was with him put the stone in the hollow of his hand and held it there for a few minutes. When he opened it, the man said, “What a surprise! There is not a place on it the size of a pinhead that does not gleam with the splendor of the rainbow. What did you do with it?”
His friend answered, “This is an opal. It is what we call the sympathetic jewel. It only needs contact with the human hand to bring out its wonderful beauty.”
How many lives there are that need only the warm touch of human sympathy to make them gleam with opalescent splendor.
Aquilla and Priscilla ran into Apollos, who needed to know the way of the Lord more perfectly. With love and kindness they touched him with the truth, and Apollos became a brilliant apologist for Christianity.
Saul of Tarsus was a much-feared persecutor of the church, but a friend named Barnabas (son of encouragement), stood at his side and defended him to the other Christians. As you know, Saul the persecutor became the apostle Paul, touched by a messenger Ananias and an encourager Barnabas.
A confused Eunuch rode along, not understanding what he was reading. What a blessing that the Spirit urged Philip to join the Eunuch’s chariot and to preach the gospel of Jesus to him. The confused man found answers and went on his way rejoicing.
The hopeless jailer, fearing the worst from the earthquake, thought to take his own life. But two beaten and imprisoned men, who knew the grace of God, cried out, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!” They kept him from taking his life by giving him the Lord Jesus Christ. That very hour, the man who had no hope, found great joy in Jesus.
Do you know a downcast and discolored soul you may touch? The warmth of your love coupled with the truth of the gospel can turn a dull soul into one of the lights of the world, like a city set on a hill. Don’t hide your light under a basket.
by Phil Sanders
Since my earliest days of being a Christian, I have been thrilled with New Testament Christianity. Going back to the Bible for the rule of faith and practice is truly the ancient path.
When the priests found the book of the Law in the temple in Josiah’s day (2 Kings 22), they read it before the king. When he heard the words Moses wrote by inspiration, he became humbly penitent and tore his clothes in anguish. Josiah knew that Judah was not keeping God’s commandments.
Josiah began a campaign of repentance by destroying the idolatrous, by removing what was sinful, and by restoring the righteous practices in God’s Law (2 Kings 23). His example of faithfulness to God ought to remind us of our need to remove what is sinful and to restore what is righteous. This is repentance, and it is what the restoration principle is all about.
When we turn to the New Testament and examine everything we are doing today carefully according to its teachings, we imitate Josiah and please God. New Testament Christianity reaches to the Scriptures of the new covenant ratified by the blood of Jesus for its rule of faith and practice. Whatever is instructed in the New Testament, a faithful Christian seeks to do; and whatever is not ordained there, it removes.
Our task today is to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; and abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-23, NKJV).
New Testament Christianity is not merely a belief system; it is a way of life built upon trust and love toward the Lord Jesus and seeking to please Him in all respects. We are crucified with Christ, and the Lord Jesus must live in us by faith (Galatians 2:20).
It is out of this love and trust that our commitment to service and to worship arises in a life of purity and sacrifice. Let us all be New Testament Christians.
Will H. Houghton and Wendell P. Loveless wrote a moving hymn, dating from its copyright in 1936. The words of this song ought to remind us of the overwhelming need to reach out to the lost and bring them to Christ Jesus our Lord:
Lead me to some soul today;
O teach me, Lord, just what to say;
Friends of mine are lost in sin,
And cannot find their way.
Few there are who seem to care,
And few there are who pray;
Melt my heart and fill my life:
Give me one soul today.
What if the Lord has placed within your sphere of influence a soul that needs the saving blood of Jesus? What will you do?
All around us are people whose lives are filled with self and who have forgotten the Lord. Our task is to remind them that the Lord loves them but will hold them accountable one day. A kind word or deed, a simple invitation, and a little effort can help them to be prepared for that day.
The Lord is depending on you to share the gospel with those you love.
If your heart is touched and tender
Toward a sinner, lost and low,
It might help him to do better,
If you’d only tell him so.
There was an old man who carried a little can of oil with him everywhere he went. If he passed through a door that squeaked, he poured a little oil on the hinges. If a gate was hard to open, he oiled the latch. So he went through life lubricating all the hard places and making it easier for those who came after him. People thought he was odd; but the old man went steadily on, refilling his can of oil when it became empty and oiling the hard places he found. He did not wait until he found a creaky door or a rusty hinge and then go home to get his oil; he carried it with him.
There are many lives that creak and grate harshly day by day. They need lubricating with the oil of kindness, gentleness, or thoughtfulness. That can of oil is predominantly one that characterizes the Christian religion. The task of using it belongs to those who claim to be Christians. As the old man kept his oil with him, so we need to keep our Christian kindness handy. It does no good if left at home or in the church.
No doubt you’ve had a day filled with frustration or disappointment. Something breaks down, a phone call with bad news, an unexpected illness, bad weather, or a bad attitude can ruin one?s day. How nice to hear an encouraging word, to get an uplifting note, to feel a warm embrace, or to receive a small gift. A smile can help a lot. If this is how we wish to be treated, let us also treat others the same way (Matthew 7:12).
Paul said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
To the Ephesians Paul said our speech should be “only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Keep the machine oiled, and it will last much longer. Keep the heart oiled, and it will bless a thousand other hearts.
A group of kindergarten children visited the local police station and viewed the pictures of the ten most-wanted men. One child pointed to a picture and asked if it really was the photograph of the wanted person. The policeman guide replied that it was.
The youngster inquired, ?Well, why didn?t you keep him when you took his picture??
What seemed an obvious mistake to the child, of course, is from his perspective rather astute. Why they didn?t keep the criminal in custody, however, may be a far more complicated thing. The picture may have been taken before he committed his more serious crimes. He may have served his time and gotten out on probation. He may have escaped. A judge may have released him on a technicality. Who knows? The obvious is not always the whole picture.
So it is with many things. A person you know does something completely out of character. You may assume you know the reason, but do you? Reserve your judgment on appearances, until you know the truth (John 7:24). Ask, probe, and find out the truth, before you speak against something you may not understand.
Solomon by inspiration said, ?The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him? (Proverbs 18:17).
Again, he said, ?Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him? (Proverbs 29:20).
The Word of God, too, is like this. Many fall into error by jumping too quickly to conclusions and without examining all the facts. The Bible taken as a whole teaches we are saved by faith, but it does not teach we are saved by faith alone (James 2:18-26). The Bible teaches we are saved by grace, but it does not teach we are saved by grace alone without faith (Eph. 2:8-10).
There is a difference between something true and the whole truth. Let?s determine to find the whole truth on any subject.
A middle-aged woman was sitting in her den when all of a sudden a small black snake crawled across the floor and under the couch. The women was deathly afraid of snakes, so she promptly ran to the bathroom to get her husband, who was taking a shower. The man of the house came running from the shower to the den with only a towel around his waist. The man took an old broom handle and began poking under the couch to retrieve the snake.
At that point the family dog, who had been sleeping, awoke and became excited. In the dog?s frenzy over the actions of the husband, the little terrier touched his cold nose to the back of the man?s heel. Instead of realizing what had happened, the man surmised that the snake had outmaneuvered him and bitten him on the heel. He fainted dead away. The wife concluded that her husband, because of the physical exertion over trying to kill the snake, had had a heart attack. She ran from the house to a hospital emergency room that was one block away.
The ambulance drivers arrived promptly and placed the man, who was now semiconscious, on a stretcher. As the attendants were carrying the man out of the den, the snake reappeared from beneath the couch. At this point one of the drivers became so excited that he dropped his end of the stretcher and broke the leg of the husband.
One thing often leads to another. One assumption of error can often lead to many other more absurd beliefs.
The belief that babies are born in sin and incapable of any good has led to many other unbiblical doctrines.
The assumption that some person is a modern-day prophet has led to numerous false religions.
The assumption that pleasing people will grow churches ignores the will of God and has turned some churches into carnivals.
The assumption that unity is more important that truth has led to compromise and unfaithfulness.
What is always better is to check things out before making assumptions. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual truth. ?Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth? (2 Tim. 2:15).
Plans are wonderful, but there comes a time when people must execute their plans. God blesses the effectual doers not the hearers who delude themselves (James 1:22-25).
Getting the job done takes self-control. If you wish to lose weight, you must do the things that call for weight loss — watching what you eat and exercising. Talking about it won’t make much difference.
Self-control is one of the elements of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). Paul told the Christians in Galatia, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). When we focus on the things of God, listen to the teaching that comes from God through his Spirit, we won’t focus on the things of the flesh. We find it easier to say “no” to ourselves.
Self-control and love also leads us to fulfill the work God has given us to do. We touch a soul for Jesus, we teach a class, we encourage the hurting, we feed the hungry, or we sacrifice ourselves a thousand ways to glorify God.
Self-control means making what we ought to do into what we are doing and want to do. Jesus said, “not my will but Yours be done.” He chose to do the Father’s will. Doing the Father’s will, even at such a great cost, was more important to him than his own life.
We do not remember Jesus so much for talking about salvation as we do for acting for our salvation. His death on the cross gave his words far greater meaning. Act, and the blessed will bless God and you for it.
?What is written in the Law? How do you
read it?? (Luke 10:26) Jesus asked this question
to the lawyer who asked what he should
do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered the
question by citing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus
19:17 and telling him the story of the
Whatever the context is, Jesus? questions
are good ones: ?What is written in the Law?
How do you read it?? Knowing what God says will settle many issues. Many of
the divisions and religious issues of our day come from assumptions and traditions
rather than from a study of the will of God. The Word of God is a precious
treasure that will immeasurably bless the lives of those who will take the
time to study it (Ps. 19:7-14).
It takes more, however, than merely reading God?s word to get the most
out of it. How do you read it? Good Bible students will explore the context and
background of the passages they read. The old saying is still true: ?A proof-text
taken out of context will become a pretext.? Many have found a passage that
says what they want to say and used that passage to support their desire rather
than listening to what the passage actually means.
Merely quoting a passage without thought to the author, the intended recipients,
the context, or the intended purpose of the message will lead to error
Peter complained about the ignorant and the unstable twisting the Scriptures
to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16-17). His advice was for each Christian
to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (3:18). Let us not only
read the Scriptures but also pay attention to how we read them.
Donald E. Messer tells the story of a man of substance approached to contribute to a major financial campaign. The urgent need and compelling case were stated, and the call was made for his support. The man responded, “I understand why you think I can give fifty thousand dollars. I am a man with my own business and, it is true, I have all the signs of affluence. But there are some things you don’t know. Did you know that my mother is in an expensive nursing home?”
Well, no, we didn’t know.
“Did you know also that my brother died, left a family of five, and had almost no insurance?”
No, we didn’t.
“Did you know my son is deeply religious, has gone into social work, and makes less than the national poverty level to meet the needs of his family?”
No, we hadn’t realized.
“Well, then, if I don’t give any of them a penny, why do you think I’ll give it to you?”
Like the productive farmer in Luke 12 who was ready to build bigger barns and take his ease, this man has a shriveled heart. Jesus warned, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
With kindness and goodness in our hearts, let us give of ourselves. God loves the cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). That is the person who gives and is glad he gives. He gives with love and feels privileged to be able to do so. When God sees the gift, he also sees the heart of the giver. Let us always give with love.