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Saturday, December 9, 2017

My Michelle

In the Words of a Song


There are many ways that a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather can express his love for his family.  One way that Willie Dowling did it was in song.


Willie loved to sing.  His family will always remember his beautiful baritone voice.  Years ago, as his family would travel along long stretches of highway where the radio signal was weak, the Dowling family would pass the time singing, with Willie taking the lead.


Willie’s family will remember many of the songs that he liked to sing.  Some of the songs were selected by Willie to express his love in a unique way to certain family members.  For example, he would sing “Elizabeth” to his granddaughter, Meggan Elizabeth: “Dressed in dreams for me, you were what I wished to see, Elizabeth” (as sung by Frank Sinatra, one of Willie’s favorites).  He would sing “My Michelle” to his other granddaughter, Jamie Michelle: “Michelle, ma belle, These are words that go together well, My Michelle…  I love you, I love you, I love you, That’s all I want to say” (from “Michelle” by the Beatles). 


Another fun song that Willie would often sing to family members contained these words:


I think I'll eat a tadpole think I'll eat a bug

I've got some worms down in the garden just recently dug

You said you didn't love me you told me we were through

So honey that's the reason this is what I'm gonna do

I'll eat a big ole tadpole run away and hide

And you'd be sorry oh so sorry if I stayed away and died

So if you really love me just tell me with a hug

Before I eat a tadpole or a bug

-- as sung by Sue Thompson, released in 1966


My guess is that Willie received many hugs after singing this song!


One way that Willie’s family members will know that he loved them dearly is by the songs that he would sing to them.  The songs communicated: “you are special to me.”


Consider the words of another song that communicate the love of Christ for YOU and me:


Crucified, Laid behind the stone

You lived to die, Rejected and alone

Like a rose trampled on the ground

You took the fall, And thought of me,

Above all

-- From “Above All” by Michael W. Smith


The words of this song express how much Christ loves us.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8.  As Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins, He was thinking of YOU and me and how His blood can wash away our sins so that we can be saved and live eternally with Him in heaven.


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).


As the song states, Jesus took the fall, and thought of YOU, above all.  Won’t YOU respond to His great love through your trusting obedience?


-- David A. Sargent


* In loving memory of Willie Woodrow Dowling, June 15, 1935 – December 1, 2017, in grateful appreciation for his faith and love.


Friday, December 8, 2017

You'll Find What You're Looking For

The world is filled with good things and bad things. What your life will become is based on what you are looking for. Buzzards consistently find dead carcasses and hummingbirds always find beautiful flowers. That’s what they look for. They’re happy when they find what they’re looking for.

But how different the life of the buzzard from the life of the hummingbird. Who wants to be anywhere near the buzzard? . . . but we go to great lengths to attract the hummingbird. I don’t know anyone who has a buzzard feeder in their backyard.

Some people are like buzzards. They are the happiest when they are fussing and fighting over the dead carcass of someone’s misfortune. They want to be the first one there to be able to spread the news. So, they always keep a sharp eye out for weaknesses in others. They live on garbage.

And then there’s the hummingbirds in life. They make you smile. Just seeing one makes you feel happier. They appreciate the beauty in the world. They ignore the trash and rottenness. It’s there, but they are not attracted to it. Just like the buzzards aren’t attracted to flowers. Both birds live in the same world – but they are looking for radically different things.

Our life is shaped by what we’re looking for. We find what we’re looking for. The course of our life is shaped by what we’re attracted to – because that’s where we hang out.  That’s where our heart is.

You can focus on what you don’t have and all the problems in life and fill your life with anger, jealousy and hatred – there’s plenty of garbage out there to feed on; or you can search for the flowers. You’ll find what you’re looking for.

Ken Stegall

Monday, December 4, 2017

Boston Children's Hospital

He Didn't Have To


Sloan St. James’ parents knew something was wrong with their little girl when she was about 4 months old.  Her jaundice wasn’t going away and her stomach was swelling.


A trip to Boston Children’s Hospital and a two-week stay revealed a dire diagnosis of biliary atresia, a disease of the bile ducts that affects only infants.  According to the American Liver Foundation, in biliary atresia, the bile ducts become inflamed and blocked soon after birth.  This causes bile to remain in the liver, where it starts to destroy liver cells rapidly and cause cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.  Without successful treatment, few children with biliary atresia live beyond age two.


Little Sloan desperately needed a liver transplant to live.


A police officer in Keene, New Hampshire, Lt. Steven Tenney, learned of Sloan’s need when his brother saw posts on Facebook about a classmate’s 4-month-old daughter who had been diagnosed with stage four liver failure and needed a life-saving transplant.


Tenney signed up to get tested to see if he could be a donor.  He was elated to discover he was a match.  The family was notified and plans were made for the transplant surgeries.


“We had so many people praying for us and for Sloan, and to hear that we had a match and that surgery was going to happen in a couple days was a miracle,” St. James told Boston 25 News.


Sloan received about 19 percent of Tenney’s liver.  Two months after the surgeries, both are doing well.  See the link below for a picture of a recent reunion of the pair.


So why did a complete stranger respond to the needs of a little girl?  “If you can help a 4-month-old baby, you kind of have to do it,” Tenney told The News Outlet. *


No, Lt. Tenney, you didn’t have to; you wanted to, and thank you for doing it!


When you and I were lost in sin and destined for eternal destruction, Jesus died on the cross for us so that we can be forgiven of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Ephesians 1:7).


Although it was the will of the Heavenly Father for His Son Jesus to die for us, Jesus didn’t have to do it.  He willingly laid down His life for us because of His love for us.


Jesus said, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from My Father.” – John 10:17-18


Jesus didn’t have to do it; He wanted to, and it was the only way to save mankind.


In order to receive the eternal benefits of His atoning sacrifice, we must place our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, as we continue to walk in the light of His Word, His blood that He shed in His death, will continue to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7).


Won’t YOU accept His glorious offer on His terms?  He is your only means of salvation!  And He died for you because He wanted to.


-- David A. Sargent


* From “Massachusetts baby gets life-saving liver transplant from New Hampshire police officer” in Fox News,


David A. Sargent, Minister


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Calvinistic concept of the predestination of men


The Calvinistic concept of the predestination of men - apart from their will and choice - issues from the false assumption that men are "born in sin" having inherited the original sin of Adam, and, "being wholly inclined to evil," with no good in them, such a condition required an "unconditional election" on the part of God. This election limited the atonement of Christ to the "elect", who are saved by the "irresistible grace of God," and will therefore, never be able to forfeit their right to eternal life. On the other hand, all who are not of the "elect" are completely shut off from the grace of God which He has extended to all men through Christ, and are eternally consigned to damnation and separation from God in the world to come. This doctrine stands opposed to New Testament teaching on at least 5 points:

1. It makes God a respecter of persons in that He has predestinated some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation: this is contrary to the very nature of God (Romans 2:11; Deuteronomy 32:4).

2. It makes God responsible for the loss of souls in hell; but the New Testament teaches that He is not "willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). He "would have all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4).

3. It destroys man's power of choice. If my destiny is already sealed, there is nothing I can do to change it; I have no choice open to me, and my will cannot be exercised in any way whatever. However, the Bible says, "Choose I you this day I whom ye will serve" (Joshua 24:15), and the "Spirit and the bride say, Come . . . and whosoever WILL, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17). Jesus said, "If any man WILL" (John 17:17).

4. It nullifies the commission of Christ (Mark 16:15-16). If one's eternal destiny has already been determined by the Father, why preach to him?

5. The whole system makes man an irresponsible being. If man is born in sin, if he is a sinner by birth, he is not responsible for those transgressions.   But man does not inherit sin -- he commits it (Ezekiel 18:1-24). This passage also teaches that man does not inherit righteousness; he does it.

- by Kelly Ellis


Friday, November 24, 2017


Difficult Bible Words that Teach Something Important: Paidagōgos, Guide


So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian Galatians 3:24-25


How do we translate that word used in Galatians 3:24-25? In the Greek and Roman world, the paidagōgos was a

slave employed to guide a child in their school years. "Guide", "guardian," "child-conductor," and "tutor to lead"

are renderings. Moffatt paraphrased as "held us wards in discipline." William Barclay explained it as: "the servant

who brought us to the door of the school of Christ." The Law's purpose was to bring the fledgling Israel to Jesus

Christ, who would teach them how to be saved by believing in Him. To be saved from sins, the world needs Jesus Christ to first learn from and then believe in. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." Romans 10:17. See John 6:45 and Matthew 28:18-20.


The idea in paidagōgos is that, since children are immature, vulnerable, naïve and foolish, they need someone to guide them. This was the role of the guardian with the child, and thus the Law with Israel. The Law brought the knowledge of sin, Romans 3:20, and disciplined Israel to live right until Jesus came.


But the problem with the Law was its inability to atone for the sins it highlighted. What do you do when sins are committed? The Law tells us what is sinful - what to avoid - but it can't forgive the breaking of law. (The policeman uses the law of speeding to issue tickets; it's not his role to forgive speeding drivers.) Hence the need for Christ. Now that Christ has come, Israel and the world can believe in Him and have their sins forgiven. Romans 3:21-26. The Law of Moses has served its purpose guiding Israel's childhood. As John said: "The Law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." John 1:17. The law, because it highlighted sin, cried out for a Saviour, and within its pages were predictions of that coming Saviour. It was a guide leading sinners to Christ.


The paidagōgos would take the child to school, drop him off, and return after school to take the child home. As William Barclay paraphrased it in his version of the New Testament, "the law is the servant who brought us to the door of the school of Christ." "The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian." Galatians 3:24-25


Christ is now our law-giver, our teacher, our advocate, our intercessor, our grace and sacrifice for forgiveness. While the law had sacrifices that resulted in God forgiving sin (see Leviticus 4; 16; 17:11; Psalm 32), such forgiveness was based on the fact that a servant would arise to be the ultimate, once-for-all sacrifice for sin, fulfilling all those Old Testament laws. Isaiah 53; Matthew 5:17-20; Romans 3:25; 8:1-3; Galatians 3; 1 Timothy 1:8-17; Hebrews 7-10. Keeping the 10 Commandments is a noble ideal, but it won't save you. Trusting in Jesus as Lord will save you. Such is the message of Galatians, from where paidagōgos comes; it is also the message Jesus tried to get Jews in His day to understand.    "The just will live by faith in Jesus Christ." But as Romans 10:16 quotes, "Who has believed our report?" Romans 9-11 details how "all Israel are not all the physical descendants of Abraham, but all Israel are those who shall be saved through faith." Belief in Jesus brings justification by faith.


So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith … Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith … Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you. Galatians 3:9,14,24-29, NLT


Our elders, preachers and teachers in our churches continue to teach us so that we can all learn more about how to mature to be like Christ:

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:11-16


Can we now see why Jesus said in essence "bring me a child and I will show you that unless you are converted and become as children, you will not inherit the kingdom of God?"

·       The humility of a child. The faith of a child. Jesus is the guide to everyone who has the heart of a child.

·       "The law is the servant who brought us to the door of the school of Christ." (William Barclay)

·       Christ is God's servant who will take us children to the door of heaven, provided our hand is in His hand.

·       Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly

prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:8-14


David Hunter


The Holy Spirit, Love, Grace and Holiness: Open Mindedness


endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:4-5


Romans 5:5 says that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5 text doesn’t say God’s love was poured out through the Holy Spirit who gave us the Scriptures

containing the command to love one another – which is how some like to read this. No, God’s love has been

poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. In other words, God gave us His Spirit, and the Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts. That sounds direct and personal to me. 1 John 3 and 4 overflow with God’s command to love one another, but those two chapters also mention the Spirit being given to us. The command and the person.


And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:23-24


No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 4:12-13


Both 1 John passages say that we know God abides in us by the Spirit He has given us, but the context is about

our loving one another. To know God is to know God is love. The God of love abides in us. The Spirit in us reminds

us that God is love and his people are to be loving. The following Scripture from Galatians is remarkable:


For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but 

through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as

yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbour. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.  6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 5:13-6:10


In other words, if we walk by the Spirit, the Spirit’s fruit will be produced in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.


Jesus demonstrated this fruit of the Spirit. He was guided throughout His life by the Holy Spirit – from His birth to His resurrection, and everything in between. Luke 1:35; 3:21-23; 4:1,14-21; John 3:34; Acts 1:2; 10:38; Matthew 12:28; Isaiah 11:2-3; 42:1-4; Matthew 12:15-21; Hebrews 9:14; Romans 8:11.

“Jesus Christ is our pattern. 1 John 2:6, "the first born among many brethren." Romans 8:29. “What He realized through the Holy Spirit is for us to realize today.” – R.A. Torrey.


As Galatians 5 ends it is clear that to walk by the Spirit is to love one another and to have all the Christian graces - sweetness - towards one another. As you continue the reading into chapter 6 you see how this theme of loving your brother continues, even if your brother has been sinning. Galatians is arguing that we are no longer under the law, but living by faith through love! In 5:14, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” is a fulfilment of the law, while 6:2 says that if we carry one another’s burdens (an aspect of loving one another) we fulfil the law of Christ. Christ’s law is that we love one another as He loves us!! We don’t “bite and devour one another” (5:15); we love one another! Precisely what the above Scriptures are emphasising!!


Grace, like love, is an attribute dispensed by the Spirit:


How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:29. 


Read Titus 3:1-7 to see the Spirit’s work of grace. Also Colossians 1:3-12. Can you see the Spirit of grace in the Christian written all over the passage, even though not specifically mentioned? The Spirit of grace! How about that? And He can be outraged or insulted, as well as grieved!! Ephesians 4:30. “Sorry for the outrage, your Grace!”

The letter to the Galatians ends with: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.”

Jesus’ grace will be with our spirit when we walk by the Holy Spirit. Faith, love and grace are key emphases in Galatians. So is the Holy Spirit. Do we realize what a privilege it is to have been given the Holy Spirit as a gift when we became Christians? Not simply a gift, but a gift to help us. Galatians 3:5 gives an initial summary of the giving of the Spirit, but the next four chapters fills it out – minus the miracles.


Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone

who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so

that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-14

Christ redeemed us so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith!  That privilege again! Having received the Spirit when converted, we must resolve, every day, to walk in the Spirit.


In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-10, we also see a juxtaposition of holiness and love through the indwelling Spirit.  Remember the hymn, Take Time to be Holy, written by W.D. Longstaff? There’s a line in it that reads: “Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love, thou soon shall be fitted, for service above.” The Spirit, holiness and love united.


The Holy Spirit inspired God’s revelation, Ephesians 3:3-5, confirmed that inspiration with signs and wonders, Hebrews 2:3-4, and also seals, Ephesians 1:13, sanctifies, 1 Peter 1:2, intercedes, Romans 8:14-27, strengthens, Ephesians 3:16, comforts, John 14:16-17; Acts 9:31, and delivers. Philippians 1:19. As with Jesus, in the lives of the apostles, the Holy Spirit did more than reveal and confirm truth. He lived in and with them, led, interceded, comforted, strengthened and delivered. But those are other studies for another time. Enough for now, except for:

the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Is “more grace” given through the Holy Spirit to counter the sin that tears at our spirits? See James 4:1-10 !! Ponder.


P.S. Read Luke 24 from v.13. Before promising to send Holy Spirit power, Luke twice says that Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Who opened the apostles’ minds when Jesus was gone? Who opens our minds now to understand Scripture? 2 Timothy 2:7; 1 Corinthians 2. Why do we not all understand alike? Open-mindedness. The mind of Christ. “Be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3. David Hunter


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What Africa is like

Having just completed our book on our lives in Africa I was reminded of all of the ways God has blessed our lives. He mostly uses our fellow Christians, but so many times he has also blessed us through those outside of our Christian family.


Reviewing some old letters for our book I ran across some thoughts I had written 20 years ago while preparing to leave Kenya, they went something like this: “We have discussed just what we will miss when leaving Kenya. It's not a long list until we come to the people. We have gained many good friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. Part of our hearts will remain with them always; we have come to love the country through the people we have met.”


In the same way I wrote, “We have discussed what we will enjoy most about being back in the States. The list again is short, but mostly it is about being with our family and our Christian brothers and sisters. As I reflect, it occurs to me that the things we appreciate both in Kenya and the United States are the people. Physical things always come in second in our lives... which is the way it should be.”


The Apostle Paul wrote these words 2,000 years ago and they still help guide our lives. Philippians 4:11-13, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation; I can do all this through him who gives me strength."


In our hearts we know it is true don't we? We know it will never really be having things which will make us happy or causes us to give thanks to God. It is always relationships that matter the most, it is relationships that fill our hearts and will go through eternity with us.


So really it's the same this season as with all the rest of the year isn't it? Whether we are in need or have plenty, whether we are satisfied or lose it all makes no lasting difference. We can rejoice and give thanks to God, because our happiness, our contentment comes from relationships, both with other people and with our God. And right now, I'm thankful for each of you who let me be part of your lives throughout the whole of every year.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I'm too tired

"I'm Too Tired"

I could have come to worship services this morning. I'm not sick. I'm not incapacitated. My alarm clock works fine Monday through Friday; it would've worked today. It's just that I worked too hard last week. I stayed up too late last night relaxing from my hard week. I'm too tired.

I could have come to Bible class this morning. I could have taken my children. Then there might have been two or three in their classes instead of one or two. Of course, we haven't worked on their Bible class lesson this week. (I haven't worked on mine, either.) I suppose we could have gotten up fifteen minutes early and still gotten their lessons done - maybe mine, too. But I'm too tired.

I could have gone to Bible class on Wednesday. I could have made sure we had a quick dinner. We could have left the dishes for later that night, I suppose. But it was an especially tough day at work Wednesday, I seem to recall. I just wasn't ready to get back in the car again. I was too tired.

I could be making plans to attend our gospel meeting, just like I made plans six months in advance to go on vacation. The kids will get plenty of sleep, since it's summer. And I stay up way past 10 every night anyway. But I like to save my evenings for myself. Five days in a row of worship is a lot to ask. I have a feeling I'll be too tired.

I could put Jesus first. I could teach my children to make time for God, no matter what is going on in our lives. I could be in my place whenever possible so I could give as much glory to God as I could manage. I could set a good example for my brethren so that they, too, would be motivated to put their priorities in order. I could encourage and instruct the ones who come so often and yet are not members of Christ's body. I could show them what a Christian really looks like. I could lift up my spirit by singing familiar songs of praise and instruction, as well as learn new ones. I could be available to assist in the worship. I could be there to hear about who needs my prayers and visits. I could show God how much I love Him. -- But I'm too tired.

- by Hal Hammons


Sermon outline on reactions to the Truth

When Paul preached his famous sermon on Mars Hill, in Athens, his teaching received three distinct reactions.  "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.  So Paul departed from among them.  Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed..." (Acts 17:32-34).  Do you see it?  Some rejected the teaching immediately.  Others procrastinated or withheld judgment, and did nothing.  But some enthusiastically accepted the truth and acted upon it.

The same three reactions are in evidence to this day - even among members of the Lord's church.  Consider this scenario: The preacher preaches a ‘hard’ sermon that exposes sin and worldliness.  It’s one of those sermons that "steps on toes" and hits "close to home."  Some Christians will grow angry.  The things taught suggest the need to change, and they are not willing to do so.  They are happy to hear preaching on things they already agree about, but if a lesson contradicts their existing views or practices, they get mad.  They are like those in Athens who "mocked."

Some other brethren hear this same sermon and, while it plainly shows that there are things they need to change in their life, they postpone any action.  These are the ones who commend the preacher as they go out the door: "I really needed that!", or "You really stomped on my toes today!"  And, yet, they do nothing.  They continue in their former ways.  In effect they are saying: "We will hear thee again of this matter."

Thank God that there are those who are tenderhearted; those who are always looking to bring their life into closer harmony with the will of God.  These are the folks who, upon hearing the truth, respond by putting it into practice in their lives.  If it means changing from what they previously believed, they will do so.  Their commitment is to the Lord.  Serving Him is their first priority.  May their tribe increase!

- by Greg Gwin


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Joshua Allen Harris

His Workmanship


He makes art out of trash bags and shopping bags.


His name is Joshua Allen Harris.  He is a “street artist” and his art has been viewed at various places in New York City.


What appears to be trash lying on a subway grate springs to life as a subway passes below.  The air produced by the passing train causes the “garbage” to inflate to become a 15-foot-high Minotaur, or a polar bear, or the Loch Ness Monster.  Here’s a video of some of Harris’ art:


“I guess it's inflatable street art,” Mr. Harris told New York Magazine.  “A sculpture that works on the street, that inflates with subway and exhaust air… Part of the magic of it is that it looks like trash on the street and then it comes to life.”


Harris' first work was a white polar bear.  “I figured with four paws it would give me enough wind to stand up and it worked,” he said.  “He looked really cool and had a lot of nice animation with his life and his death, in his inflation and deflation.”


Harris’ art illustrates what God can do with the lives of those who have been “trashed” by sin – and that includes ALL lives.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).


We are redeemed by the grace of God:


“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship [or His art], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:8-10


And through the cleansing and atoning blood of His Son Jesus, who paid the price for our redemption from sin, God can make something beautiful and lasting (eternal) out of our lives.


“Something beautiful, something good

All my confusion He understood

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife

But He made something beautiful of my life.”

-- Bill Gaither, “Something Beautiful”


God will redeem 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).


He can redeem YOU from sin and make something beautiful of YOUR life, if only YOU will respond to Him on His terms.


Won’t YOU?


-- David A. Sargent


* From “What a load of rubbish! Street artist turns trash bags into inflatable animal sculptures.”


David A. Sargent, Minister


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