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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Death of Evangelist Billy Graham

Truth Is Truth, No Matter Who Disagrees With It

Neal Pollard

 

 

Today, one of the most famous preachers of modern times died just short of his 100th birthday. Not only did he achieve longevity, his name was almost synonymous with American religion in the 20th Century. He reached hundreds of millions of people through live crusades, radio, and television. He was regularly listed as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World." His website claimed that he preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history (info via FoxNews.com).  His influence on society is unmistakeable.

 

However, this much loved and now much lamented man used the weight of his name and influence to oppose something which Scripture seems very clearly to teach. In the answer section of his website, he addresses the question, "Is baptism necessary for salvation?" While answering that he believed it to be important and that he had done it himself, he also said, "If baptism were a requirement for salvation, we would certainly say that." His answer makes clear that one becomes a saved convert before baptism, the thief on the cross being used as proof of that claim. Many of those who left comments under his answer shows how deeply influential and popular his teaching on this was. 

 

I believe in the vitality of the saying, "It's never a matter of 'who's right,' but 'what's right.'" Something is never right because I say it, some other preacher, or even the most famous preacher of the 20th Century says it. Something is right because Jesus and His apostles and prophets said it. Here is what they said:

  • "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved" (Jesus)
  • "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins" (Peter)
  • "Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Ananias)
  • "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Paul)
  • "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Paul)
  • " Corresponding to that (Noah and family brought safely through the water, 20, NP), baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (Peter)

I feel the loss of this renowned preacher is sad and tragic.  I appreciate his vast influence and the way he tried to use that for good in so many regards. Yet, if the Bereans found it necessary to compare the great apostle Paul's preaching and teaching with Scripture, any of us who preach and teach today should want people to do the same. That's the only way we will be able to determine what's right!

 

 

Monday, February 19, 2018

The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can tell

 

Thought for the Week

 

Behold , what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not--1 John 3:1

 

One of our grand old songs begins with the words, "The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can tell". No truer words can ever be spoken about God's love for us. In order for us to have the honor and privilege of being sons of God, God sent his only begotten son into this world to live among men and then through his death on the cross make it possible for us  to be redeemed. The son of God had to suffer ridicule and shame at the hands of those who crucified him. He had to walk that lonely road to Calvary and have nails driven into his hands and feet. The son of God had to give his life's blood so that it would be possible for us to be called sons of God (Hebrews 5:7-9; Col. 1:12-14)

 

As sons of God we are led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14). We do not walk in the ways of man that are contrary to the will of God. Our attitude in doctrinal matters is the same as that of Peter when in Acts 5:29. he states emphatically, "We ought to obey God rather than man". This leaves no room for our own personal philosophies or I believe ideas. God's will takes precedence over everything as we seek his approval.

 

As sons of God we submit our entire being to his control, yielding ourselves to him, devoting ourselves to his service without reservation (James 4:7-8; Romans 12:1-2).  We then walk on this side of eternity holding on to the unchanging hand of God knowing that whatever betides us on this journey we will be safe in the arms of Jesus.

 

As sons of God we are heirs, joint heirs with Christ our saviour (Romans 8:14-17). As an heir we share in his love, mercy, truth and goodness while on this side of eternity. One day, as an heir, the glory of eternal life in that land where joy will never end will be ours (2 Corinthians 5:1). O what joy should be echoing through our hearts today, just knowing that we are the sons of God.

 

Charles Hicks

 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Igor Kozlovsky

Set Free

 

Since 2014, the Ukraine nation has been divided by war.  Pro-Russian separatists seized control of part of the Ukraine, including the homeland of Igor Kozlovsky.  On January 27, 2016, the separatists seized Kozlovsky, accusing him of espionage against what they call the Donetsk People’s Republic.

 

Erik Tryggestad reports that the separatists claim that the Russian Orthodox Church is the region’s only true church and see other Christian groups, especially those planted by foreign missionaries, as tools for Western propaganda, full of spies.  Kozlovsky, a 63-year-old author, theology professor and preacher for Churches of Christ, was therefore viewed as one of those spies and taken captive.

 

In an interview with The Christian Chronicle, Kozlovsky recounted that at one point, his captors placed a cloth bag over his head, locked him in handcuffs and forced him to hold a pair of grenades, which they claimed they had found behind a bookshelf in his apartment.  For hours, they beat him with “something that felt like sticks,” he said, but he continually denied their charges.  After the beating, his arms and legs were swollen to “twice their normal size,” he said.  He couldn’t walk for days, according to Tryggestad.

 

Many fellow Christians of the Cup of Life Church of Christ in Donetsk fled to the west when militants took control of the region, but Kozlovsky and his wife, Valentina, stayed in Donetsk to care for their 37-year-old son, Slava.  Slava has Down Syndrome and is confined to a wheelchair due to partial paralysis.  Kozlovsky believed that the move would have been too traumatic for their son.  Yet Slava was terribly traumatized when his father was taken captive and he sat helplessly as militants rummaged through their apartment.

 

Kozlovsky endured brutal treatment and inhumane conditions as a prisoner, but he states that it was the separation from his family that would be the hardest part of his captivity.

 

Thankfully, on December 27, 2017, exactly 23 months after he was taken from his family, he and 74 other captives were freed in a prisoner exchange.  Kozlovsky was reunited with his family and he says that “he once again felt reborn.”

 

What was the first time he felt reborn?  It was when he was baptized into Christ several years earlier.

 

He had previously been held captive in the bondage of sin, a condition we all experience as sinners, and sinners are we all.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Sin is a cruel master and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

 

But Kozlovsky was set free from sin – and we can, too.  How?  Through Jesus Christ.  Christ came into the world to save sinners by dying on the cross for our sins.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

 

God will set free from sin and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  In baptism, we are reborn and set free from sin (see Romans 6).  Then, as we continue to walk in the light of His Word, the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7).

 

Jesus said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32) and “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

 

Won’t YOU submit your life to the Savior so that YOU can be reborn and set free from sin?

 

-- David A. Sargent

 

* From “After two years in captivity, minister released” by Eric Tryggestad of The Christian Chronicle, Vol. 75, No. 2; February 2018 as viewed at www.christianchronicle.org.

 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Psalm 103:114

Thought for the Week

 

"For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust"--Psalms 103:114

 

"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it"--Eccl. 12:7

 

The fleshly body in which we now live will one day be no more. Our creator knows how feeble and frail we are in this earthly tabernacle. He knows that we are made of dust and one day this corruptible earthly body will be laid in a grave where it will become nothing more than a pile of dust. Thanks be to God, our spirit will live on as it returns to the one from whence it came (1 Cor. 15:50-57).

 

Each day we live on this earth we are made to realize that this physical body does not endure very well. Every passing day takes its toll and we simply grow weaker as age creeps up on us. Sickness and disease strike our earthly frame causing us to groan under the burden (2 Cor. 5:1-4). Isn't it comforting to know that as a faithful child of God, we have that building of God, not made with human hands, that awaits our coming?

 

Knowing that one day we are going to shed these earthly bonds and our spirit is going to return to God, we must strive for a faith that will give to us the strength and courage to overcome all the obstacles that we encounter on this pilgrimage of life.  We need a faith that will shine as a great beacon light leading men and women out of darkness into the marvelous light of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:9; Matt. 5:13-16). A faith in which we are a great example in word, life, love, spirit, faith and purity (1 Tim. 4:12).  Make no mistake, our faith will be proven to be true by what we say and do every day we live (James 2:18; Eph. 4:29-32)

 

If we live life's little while living for Jesus, doing to the best of our ability what he commands of us, then the day this fleshly body goes back to the ground from whence it came and our spirit returns to God will be the greatest day of our existence. To God be the glory!

 

Charles Hicks

What shall I do to inherit eternal life?

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

 

     THE QUESTION:  “And behold a certain lawyer stood up and made trial of him, saying Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  (Luke 10:25).  This question was asked by a “lawyer”.  “Lawyers” were men trained in the “law of      Moses,”  They were the experts, looked to as the leaders of the people.  His question was good, even if his motive was bad.

     THE ANSWER:  “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.”  (Luke 10:27).

 

     WHAT MUST I DO?  Many have asked this great question.  Having heard the message, and realized their need, they come to the Master for answers and instruction.  Because of the importance of the question….the answer has always been given in simple terms that man can understand.  How terrible it would be, to recognize our needs and ask the question only to find that the answer was beyond our ability to understand.

 

     WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?  What if  only the brilliant could understand the answer?  What if, the answer was in dark and confusing language?  We will consider two occasions when the question was asked and God’s answer was given.

 

     In Matthew 19:16, a young ruler came to Jesus and asked, “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”  The answer Jesus gave was to keep the commandments”  The young man easily understood, and his answer was:  “All these things have I observed;  what lack I yet?”  Jesus replied:  “If thou wouldest be perfect,  go, sell that which you hast, and give to the poor,….and come, follow me” (v.21).  He had no problem understanding what Jesus said.  Yet, “he went away sorrowful”.  He understood, but would not obey.

 

     On the Day of Pentecost the multitude came together and heard the Apostles preach the first gospel sermon.  They were reminded of the life that Jesus had lived, and the miracles that he had performed.  That Jesus was:  a man approved of God unto you my mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you even as you, even as ye all yourselves know.” ...Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.”  (Acts 2:22, 36).  When they heard this they were pricked in their heart and asked the question..  What shall we do?” (v.27).  The    Answer that was given:  Repent ye, and be     baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins;”  (Acts 2:38).  Is this confusing language?  Something hard or difficult for man to  understand?  Does it take an extremely intelligent person to make sense out of God’s answer?

  What is the problem?

     God did not hide His answer in confusing and conflicting language.  Do people really have a problem understanding God” answer, or are they, like the “lawyer”, attempting to justify themselves.  The problem that man has with God’s answer is caused by Pre-Conceived ideas and Prejudice that makes it difficult for them to understand simple answers.

     

When the answer is not what man wants, when it is different from what he expected, then man has a problem with the meaning of simple answers.  THE DIFFICULTY WITH GOD’S ANSWER TO THIS MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION IS NOT WITH GOD….THE LANGUAGE…OR THE ANSWER….BUT WITH THE HEART OF THE HEARER!

 

Frank Briscoe

 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Why Read the New Testament? So we can learn how Jesus can mercifully save us from a miserable end for a magnificent eternity!

 

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

 

The New Testament has a huge amount of history and religion, promises and warnings, recorded within its pages.

 

It claims to be the result of research and inspiration.

 

The more information you provide the stronger the case you can make. The Bible does just that.

 

What if someone had scribbled a few notes on a page to the effect that some bloke had come into Israel making out He was the Messiah. He pulled a few magic tricks, had some good words of advice on various subjects, and was then arrested and crucified because he made a lot of enemies. A story went around saying that he had come back to life after a few days.

 

There’s not enough information in that note for anyone to take it seriously and stake their eternal life on it.

 

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the development of Christianity in the New Testament, is something you can get your teeth into. It’s a life and a way of life that you can examine at various levels. Jesus didn’t only do a lot and teach a lot, he also made a lot of claims about Himself and gave promises and warnings that matter deeply. The church became a reality because of that life.

 

Jesus’ life was recorded because it was an extremely significant life. He did and said many things that were worth recording. It’s a life set in real Roman and Jewish history, in the presence of many religious leaders, politicians, priests and soldiers, as well as thousands of ordinary people. A life that had many witnesses who could either verify or refute the claims. Lots and lots of people knew him well enough to either love him or hate him. There are many names, events, places and statements by various people that can be checked for authenticity. There is way too much information for someone to simply say it was all made up and never happened. The more fake claims you make, the easier it is to disprove them. The more information you give, the more that can be checked for authenticity. If you don’t want to be doubted, don’t say too much! Judea in the Roman Province of Syria in the first century AD had way too many intelligent and literate people to easily fool. What was written about Jesus was written within a generation of the time of the witnesses. That means there’ll be people alive who knew those who were with Jesus.

 

Read the following exchange between the apostle Paul, Governor Festus and King Agrippa in the early AD 60’s:

 

“To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

24And as he was saying these things in his defence, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”

25But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.

26For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things

has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I

know that you believe.”

28And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”

29And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” Acts 26:22-29

 

What you just read was history! A real conversation about real truth.

 

Not only could the Roman Governor have checked with other soldiers, politicians, police, writers, historians and poets about any of Paul’s claims during his life, but what was claimed was consistent with what had been predicted in the Old Testament prophets – a point Paul makes to King Agrippa, and that the apostle Peter also makes in one of his epistles:

 

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:16-21

 

You’ll be hugely disappointed if you think it’s easily discredited, because not only do we have history confirmed by witnesses, but we also have history confirming prophecy. God doesn’t prophesy what isn’t going to happen!! For some examples, read Isaiah 53; Psalm 16; Psalm 22, Hosea 6:1-2 and Zechariah 13:7. But does it all matter?

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

 

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16

 

Jesus’ life wasn’t just his own business; His was a life lived for all the others who live in this world!

 

Faith in Christ is vital because  it takes us from our world into God’s world.

 

Baptism in water involves a dying to the old and a rebirth to the new - through faith in Christ.

 

Saved! Saved from what? Saved for what? Saved from a loss of light and love and life in the darkness and destruction of hell, and saved for an eternity of love and glory and righteousness with God.

 

Jesus can mercifully save you from a miserable end for a magnificent eternity! We can all live happily ever after!

 

Friday, February 2, 2018

How to be saved from my sins?

Why is it so Difficult? Why so seemingly Confusing?

 

Why don’t we have a clear, short paragraph in the New Testament that tells us how people were to be saved during the time Jesus walked the earth, and another clear, short paragraph that tells us how people would be saved, in every generation after Jesus had returned to heaven?

 

Wouldn’t that be a lot easier and less open to interpretation than having to wade through the four gospels and Acts to determine what is required of us today for salvation?

 

Isn’t a large part of the reason we have so many different denominations teaching different things for salvation, is because fallible minds have to wade through the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts - 117 chapters, plus all the epistles, to determine what Jesus requires of sinners today if they are to be saved eternally?

 

Some see examples of sinners praying for mercy, and say salvation comes from praying for it.

Some see the grace Scriptures and say it’s all of God’s grace that saves.

Some see the faith Scriptures and say it’s just faith that saves.

Some see repentance and say repentance is the key to salvation.

Some see the baptism Scriptures and say it’s baptism that saves.

Some say it’s keeping the commandments, but which ones?

Some put all these together and say it’s grace, faith, repentance and baptism that save.

 

Jesus said that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

 

Jesus said if you believe in Him you will live forever. “Your faith has saved you.”

He said if you repent you will never perish: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

He said if you keep His commandments you are His friend.

He told an enquirer to keep the commandments, sell his possessions, give to the poor and follow Him.

He said if we confess Him before men He will confess us before His Father God.

He said if we believe and are baptized we will be saved.

He said whoever does the will of God will enter the kingdom of God.

Out of all this, how do we know which promises apply to us today? What do we do today to be saved eternally?

 

There is an obvious answer to this apparent conundrum. Just such short paragraphs do exist that teach us today how to be saved. When Jesus gave His “great commission,” He gave His salvation requirements for all nations for all time – terms that would supersede anything he had previously given to Israel:

 

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are

written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life

in his name.” John 20:26-31

 

“Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations …” Luke 24:46-47;

 

“go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

teaching them to observe all that I have commanded … ”  Matthew 28:19-20;

 

“go and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16

 

“What must I do to be saved today, Jesus?” 

 

“Examine My life, trust Me and obey the commands I have given you for your salvation in your generation. Believe, repent, confess your faith, be baptized, and live faithfully until death, obeying all that I commanded!”

 

But the reason God has not set these great commission Scriptures in boxed bold type – separate from everything else – has to do with context and salvation history. Believing, repenting and being baptized come after hearing the gospel. Mark 1:1; 16:15-16; Romans 10:13-15. You don’t believe just because there is a command to believe; you believe because you’re convinced of the truth about Jesus that you’ve learned, and want to be saved and live for God. Unless you read or hear  the full accounts of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and teachings, you will not have the contextual evidence upon which to base your faith in Jesus. To properly believe and be saved, you need to hear the Jesus story. When you are convicted (believe wholeheartedly), then you will obey Jesus’ commands. You obey when you’re ready to obey and want to obey.

 

For more information on “how to be saved” visit http://www.commentaryonthebible.com/howtobesaved/

 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

PAUL'S SPEECH TO THE EPHESIAN ELDERS

I have always considered the apostle Paul’s speech to the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38) one of the most touching and moving speeches in all of the Bible.  Obviously, it does not rank above our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, 7) or Peter’s sermon on Pentecost when the church was established (Acts 2) or Stephen’s sermon resulting in his martyrdom (Acts 7) or even Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17).  Yet, for sheer pathos, to say nothing of its sobering content, few if any speeches in the New Testament would outrank Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders.

 

The background to the speech lies in the fact that Paul is completing his third extensive preaching tour and is on his way to Jerusalem where he will be arrested simply for preaching the gospel of Christ.  In a hurry to get to Jerusalem, Paul sends word to the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him in the little seacoast town of Miletus.  It is significant that it was the elders of the church that Paul called to meet him.  He did not send for the preacher of the church.  He did not send for the deacons of the church.  He did not send for the women of the church.  He did not send for a combined delegation of the elders, deacons, preacher, and most influential members of the church.  He sent for the elders, those men and those men alone who are charged with the oversight of the local church (I Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:17; et al)!

 

He reminds them of the work he had done among them (the record of which is found in Acts 19), and how he had kept back nothing that was profitable, but had taught both publicly and from house to house.  Now, with a heavy heart, he is going bound in his spirit to Jerusalem not knowing what will happen to him except that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that chains and tribulations awaited him.  Yet, none of these things moved him from his determined course of action and he did not count his life as dear to himself.  He was committed to finishing his race (earthly life) with joy and the ministry he had received from the Lord Jesus “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

 

Touchingly, and no doubt with tears streaming down his cheeks, he tells these elders that they will see his face no more.  He reminds them that he is innocent of the blood of all men because “I have not shunned to declare to you all the counsel of God.”  (What a standard for all gospel preachers today!)

 

Coming to the heart of his address, Paul charges the elders to “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd/feed the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”  Elders are not a board of directors!  They are shepherds of sheep.  They learn how to do their work by observing how Christ, the good shepherd, did His work (John 10:7-14; I Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:20-21).

 

The need for elders being diligent doing their work lies in the fact that savage/grievous wolves (false teachers) stand ready to pounce on the flock and destroy it.  Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).  Paul alerted Timothy and Titus to the dangers of false teachers and false teaching (I Timothy 4:1-5; II Timothy 3:1-9; 4:1-5; Titus 1:10-16).  The apostle John issued the same warning (I John 4:1; II John 5-11).  Sadly, today not much attention is given to the danger of “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” and those who warn of such are viewed as being “too negative.”

 

Paul alerts the Ephesian elders to the fact that from among themselves men would arise “speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them.”  It is a well-known fact of church history that the apostasy originated in the elderships of the various congregations, as certain men, vying for power beyond their local congregations, began to reserve for themselves alone the titles of bishop, archbishop, metropolitan bishop, and eventually the title of Pope. Paul therefore urges the elders to watch, stay alert, and be aware of what is going on. 

 

He reminds them that for three years he had not ceased to warn them day and night with tears.  “And now,” he says, “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  The word of God faithfully taught and adhered to is the only sure preventive of apostasy (see II Timothy 4:2; James 1:21-22; I Peter 4:11a).

 

He reminds the elders that with his own hands he had worked to provide for his necessities, as well as the necessities of those who were with him.  He urges the elders to support the weak (those without the adequate needs of life) and to remember the words of the Lord that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

 

With these words, Paul’s magnificent speech ends.  He then knelt down and prayed with them all.  The elders are overcome with emotion, falling on Paul’s neck and kissing him with the holy kiss that was part of their culture (Romans 16:16a; I Corinthians 16:20; I Thessalonians 5:26; et al).  Their greatest sorrow was over the fact that they would see his face no more.  “And they accompanied him to the ship.” They went with him as far as they could physically go, no doubt with arms outstretched and fingers touching until the final moment.

 

What a meeting!  What a speech!  What truths enunciated that are still so relevant and still so badly in need of being known and applied today in the church of our Lord!  It is hard for me to read this speech and its emotional ending without tears welling up in my eyes.

 

Hugh Fulford

 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

I still have heroes

My Heroes

 

I grew up loving superheroes.  Superman was my favorite.  I’m sure at one time I had a shirt with a big “S” on it and donned a red cape and pretended to fly and bulldoze through any obstacle or enemy that got in my way.  The thought of being able to fly and have super-human strength – these were enough to keep my imagination captivated as a child.

 

Over the last several years, one superhero movie after another has appeared in cinemas throughout the world.  With all of the special effects and incredible cinematography, the superheroes depicted in the movies match if not surpass my childhood fantasies about their superpowers.  After all, my images of these superheroes came from comic books and cartoons.

 

As I have grown older, I still have heroes.  But my heroes today are not like the superheroes that I venerated and imitated as a child.  My modern day heroes can’t fly and they don’t have super-human physical strength.  But they are very, very strong and they have impacted my life to a far greater level than any imaginary superhero ever could.

 

One of my heroes passed away last night.  His name was Ed McGaughy.  I think of him as a gentle giant.  No, he wasn’t like Paul Bunyan, but he stood tall at about 6’ 5’’.  But he was a giant and a hero to me (and many others), not because of his tall stature, but because of who he was.  Ed had a huge heart with which he loved deeply.  I believe he loved the Lord with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.  He loved his family deeply and displayed that love in a powerful, profound way.  He loved people and was a true friend to all who wanted one.

 

It wasn’t Ed’s physical strength that made him a hero to me; it was the strength of his character, his faith, his fortitude, and his love.  Four and a half years ago, Ed suffered a stroke that left his right side mostly paralyzed.  A few days after he suffered the stroke, he had to undergo open heart surgery.  By the grace of God and with the help of some superb doctors and a very supportive family – especially his loving wife, Cathy – Ed worked through these physical challenges in an inspiring way.  Although he walked with a limp relying on a cane and didn’t have use of his right arm, he kept trusting in God and serving Him faithfully.  He kept on loving the Lord, his family, his church family, and his friends.  He showed us what it means to be faithful even when life gets difficult.  He was and is one of my heroes.

 

Ed epitomized the qualities that all my heroes possess: faith, hope, and love.  You see, my heroes are the ones who love and follow Jesus, the greatest Hero of all.

 

Jesus, the greatest Hero, gave His life for us so that you and I can be saved and receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).  He will save those who place their faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Those who continue to follow Jesus by walking in the light of His Word will continue to be cleansed by His precious blood (1 John 1:7).

 

My heroes follow Jesus even when life gets difficult.  By their faithful example, they beckon me to follow them as they follow(ed) Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).  People like Ed are my heroes because they help me to see Jesus more clearly and to understand more about how to serve Him faithfully.  My prayer is that their example will inspire you to follow Jesus, too.

 

Won’t YOU?

 

-- David A. Sargent

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ryland Ward was shot five times during the massacre

Survivor

On November 5, 2017, the little community of Sutherland Springs, Texas, was devastated and the world
was horrified when a gunman shot and killed 26 people and wounded 20 others in the First Baptist
Church of Sutherland Springs.

Yesterday, January 11, 2018, the still-traumatized community had a reason to celebrate: a young
survivor of the tragedy was able to return home.

Five-year-old Ryland Ward was shot five times during the massacre. He was found beneath his
stepmom, Joann Ward, who died protecting him.

"I was just checking for survivors, and I felt a little tug on my pant leg," said Rusty Duncan, a
firefighter with the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department, who was one of the first rescuers inside
the church building after the shooting. "I had no idea what it was. I looked down and a little hand
was coming from under somebody." It was Ryland. Duncan carried Ryland's limp body outside and
began treating his wounds before he was lifted into an ambulance and rushed to San Antonio's
University Hospital.

Ryland would undergo multiple surgeries and procedures over the next two months. Duncan visited him
frequently. He promised Ryland that when he got better, he would take him back home in a fire
truck. Yesterday, that promise became a reality. Ryland waved from the front seat of the fire
truck to a crowd of cheering spectators. At the wheel was Duncan, his rescuer and friend.
Following them was a convoy of other vehicles that topped 100 in number, including fire trucks and
other emergency vehicles from Wilson and Bexar County.

"He's one happy little boy right now. He got to ride in a fire truck and talk on the radio and he
was a captain for the day," Edwin Baker, chief of the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department and Wilson
County's fire marshal, said afterward. "He was a little bit overwhelmed by the enormity of it, but
he's very ecstatic to be home," Baker said. *

Because you and I are "wounded" and dying because of our own sins (Romans 6:23), our loving God sent
His Son to rescue us (John 3:16). Jesus gave His life for us in order to save us, for His blood
paid the price for our redemption from sin (Ephesians 1:7). "The Lord Jesus Christ . gave Himself
for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age" - and from our sins - "according to the will of
our God and Father" (Galatians 1:3-4 NIV). He died for us so that we might live eternally.

God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts
16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans
10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will
continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

"So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second
time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him" (Hebrews 9:28). And
He will take us home to heaven. No, it may not be in a red fire truck, but it will be a glorious
entry into the heavenly kingdom - all because Jesus gave His life to rescue us from sin.

Won't YOU accept His offer of salvation and eternal life on His terms?

-- David A. Sargent

* Information gleaned from "Firefighter who saved boy's life drove him home to Sutherland Springs"
by Silvia Foster-Frau and Zeke MacCormack in www.mysanantonio.com.

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