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Saturday, January 14, 2017 of Atlanta, GA

Now It’s Complete


Jennifer and Tom Doering of Wisconsin were already the parents of three boys, but they wanted to adopt another child.


Miles away in Washington State, Nicole and Scott Rainsberry were also looking to add to their family of five.


Both families, strangers to one another, were willing to adopt children with special needs.  Each family ended up adopting a little child from China.


The Doerings adopted a little girl that they named Audrey in July, 2007.  She had a heart condition.


The Rainsberrys adopted a little girl in August, 2007.  They named her Gracie.  She also had a heart condition.


Both little girls had to undergo heart surgery.  Both appear to be doing very well now.


Last month and as a Christmas present, Jennifer conducted some research about her daughter Audrey’s past.  With the help of a researcher in China, she came across a photo of her daughter with her Chinese foster mother.  Sitting beside Audrey was another Audrey!  At least it appeared that way.  The little girl sitting beside Audrey looked identical to her!   Jennifer, with the help of Facebook, found Nicole and the other little girl that looked like Audrey.  It was Gracie.


On Wednesday, January 11, 2017, the girls were re-united on ABC’s Good Morning America TV program.  They looked identical!  Oh, it was more than their matching outfits – including their similar eyeglasses; that was all planned!  But everything about them looked identical!  And DNA tests confirm, they are identical – identical twins.


So after more than 9 years, these identical twins were reunited.  It was a joyous and tearful reunion.


GMA Host Michael Strahan, a father of twin girls himself, asked, “How are you two feeling right now?  Your first impressions of seeing your sister?”


“Excited.  Happy.  It’s really overwhelming,” replied Gracie, with Audrey affirming her answer while wiping away her tears.


Strahan addressed Audrey:  “Audrey, we said you have three older brothers.  How does it feel to have your sister now?”


Audrey replied, “It felt like there was somebody missing… Now it’s complete.”


A government official was traveling back home to Ethiopia from Jerusalem, where he had been to worship God.  As he rode along in his chariot, he was studying his Bible.  He was reading from the prophet Isaiah.  He couldn’t figure out about whom the prophet was writing.  Something was missing.


The Lord sent Philip to him.  The Ethiopian invited Philip into his chariot to study with him.  “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).


“Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water.  What hinders me from being baptized?’” (Acts 8:36).  They both got out of the chariot, entered the pool of water, and Philip baptized the Ethiopian.


The Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away.  And what did the Ethiopian do?  “He went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).  Why?  Because something (Someone) was missing; now it was complete.  He had found the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Savior.


It is our sin that separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), but through Jesus we can be forgiven of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 6:23).


God will forgive 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).


We are “complete” in Him (Colossians 2:10).


Won’t YOU find the One that you’ve been missing by turning to God through Christ in your trusting obedience?


-- David A. Sargent


* From “Twins separated at birth find each other, reunite on live TV.” Good Morning America as viewed on of Atlanta, GA

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What is lasciviousness?


The Bible has many passages that condemn the sin of lasciviousness.  It is mentioned as an evil to which men surrender who are darkened in their understanding and alienated from God.  They are pictured as being past feeling and having given themselves up to this sin (Eph. 4:18,19).  This is certainly an ugly picture of a depraved class of people.

Bible writers further tell us that the wicked men in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were leading lascivious lives (2 Pet. 2:7).  In Gal. 5:19-21, we find a number of sins cataloged as the "works of the flesh," among which is the sin of lasciviousness.  Then we are further told that "they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." One does not have to be guilty of all the sins mentioned in order to lose his inheritance, but just persist in any one of them.

What is lasciviousness?  The word is translated from the Greek ‘aselgeia’ which Thayer, the noted Greek lexicographer, says is "wanton (acts or) manners, as filthy words, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females." Webster defines it as "wanton; lewd; lustful; tending to produce voluptuous or lewd emotions."

The sin of lasciviousness can be committed in thought, word, and deed.  Anything that is thought, spoken, or done that produces, or tends to produce lewd thoughts, lustful emotions, or wanton ideas is lascivious.  It can be produced by objects, pictures, or persons.  It can be induced in one person by another, the one guilty of producing it bearing responsibility with the one in whom the sin is incited.

At this point, we usually call attention to the indecent dress of the women as that which produces lasciviousness.  And so it does, but this sin is not confined to the women.  Men can be as guilty in these matters as the women.  Men ought to be as careful in their dress as the women should be, and equally as careful of the way they talk and act.  If one causes another to have an impure, unholy thought by the way that he is dressed, by the way that he talks or acts, he is guilty of lasciviousness.  No only has his conduct been improper, but he has led another to sin.  Jesus said, " it is impossible but that offences will come; but woe unto him through whom they come" (Luke 17:1).

The sin of lasciviousness is the sin that is involved in dancing, mixed swimming, wearing shorts, telling suggestive jokes, speech that has a "double meaning," and the list goes on.  It is no wonder that they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

- by H. Osby Weaver


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Where Did Christmas Originate & Who Authorized It?

To answer these questions it is necessary to go outside the New Testament.  The Encyclopedia Americana says, "The Christmas celebration was not observed in the first centuries of the church." The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "Christmas was not among the early festivals of the church."

Now notice this:  If we cannot find the Christmas observance in the New Testament, and a secular encyclopedia says that it was not observed in the first centuries of the church, and a religious encyclopedia says that it was nonexistent in the early church, then we must conclude that it did not originate with the apostles.

By whose authority did this December observance originate?  Colliers Encyclopedia tells us that Lyberius, the Bishop of Rome, whom the Catholics regard as one of the early Popes, ordered in 354 A.D. that "December 25th be observed as the birthday of Christ." December 25th had formerly been used by the Romans as a feast day for their Sun-God, Mithra.  The Roman Saturnalia (riotous festival of Saturn) also came at this time.  "The indications are that the church in this way grasped an opportunity to turn the people away from a purely pagan observance of the winter solstice to a day of adoration of Christ the Lord.  Both Saint Cyprian and Saint John Chrysostom allude to this thought in their writings."  (Colliers Encyclopedia)  "December 25th was already a festive day for the sun god, Mithra, and appealed to the Christians as an appropriate day to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the light of the world." (Lincoln Library of Essential Information)

From these statements by reliable sources it is easy to see that the date of Christmas had its origin in a pre-Christian age among the pagans.  It was adopted into a so- called "Christian" holiday by the Roman Catholic Church.  Furthermore, the word "Christmas" is of Catholic origin.  The word is derived from the medieval "Christes Masse," the mass of Christ, which is a corruption of the Lord's Supper.  On December 25th, even until this day, the Catholics hold a special Mass for Christ.  In time, "Christes Masse" came to be shortened to "Christmas."

Christmas, then, had its origin and authority in the Roman Catholic church.

- by David Padfield


Monday, December 26, 2016

New Year's Sermons

Lessons from the Past

(New Year’s Message; Mural Worthey)


Introduction: (1 Cor. 10:1-13, Heb. 4:11, Rom. 15:4.)


   This great text from first Corinthians is about learning from past examples and history of God’s dealings with man.  We learn much from both man’s behavior and God’s response to it.  It was good that they had all been baptized unto the leadership of Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  Afterwards, they ate the food that God gave from heaven and drank the water which flowed from the rock.  Paul used this rock to represent Christ which sustained them.  Then the people murmured, lusted and sinned against God.  He destroyed in the wilderness.  The writer says that these things happened for examples for us and written for our admonition upon whom the end of the ages has come.


   Since we are beginning a new year, what are some important lessons from the past that we should learn.  Here are some that came to my thoughts.


#1: Many Do Not Learn from the Past!


   One of the tragic things about being a human being is that so many do not profit from the past.  We continue to do harmful and wrong things year after year.  It might be helpful for us to observe that most people do not learn from the past.  Wise people do, but most are not wise.


   Some of the reasons are: a) We do not like to reflect upon the past, b) Because often there are no immediate consequences, and c) We do not believe that the same consequences will befall us.  But we can be assured that if God was not pleased with their behavior in past days, he will not be pleased with ours.


   Our own personal experiences ought to teach us.  The Lord told Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”  (Acts 9:5.)  Paul later wrote to the Romans, “What fruit had you then in those things which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.”  (Rom. 6:21.)


   Think about these people who never learned from their past: King Saul who pursued David and was embarrassed time after time, David never forgot the feeling of victory from defeating Goliath and became a bloody king who was not permitted to build the temple, and Solomon should have learned from David’s failures, but he married foreign wives and built temples for their gods.  His wives led him away from the one God.


   Like these kings, we too have failed to learn from the past.  We fail to correct course and save ourselves from this crooked generation.


#2: It is Better to Learn from the Past


   Another lesson from the past is that when we do not learn from examples of the past, the more difficult lessons await us in the future.  What if King Saul had repented of his madness in pursuing young David?  Would it not have been better if David had not continued his warring pursuits?  Many of the problems that David faced in his life with his family stemmed from his own sins in his life.  The future lessons are always more difficult than the past ones.  Why could not Solomon in his wisdom know that having a worldly kingdom like the other nations would be detrimental to him and Israel?


   The apostle Peter made many mistakes in his life, but he seemed to have learned from his mistakes.  He became an elder in the church, in addition to serving as an apostle.  He accepted the admonition of Jesus to feed his lamps.  (John 21.)  His past mistakes did not destroy him.  He learned from them.


   If we do not learn from the past, we continue to fill up the cup of God’s wrath toward us.  God is patient and longsuffering toward man, not willing that any should perish.  He is waiting for man to repent.  (2 Peter 3:9.)


#3: Order is Better Than Disorder and Chaos


   It seems that if there is a prevailing philosophy today, it is this—that chaos and disorder is better than order.  Why would Paul and Peter urge Christians to pray for the Caesar and his rulers?  Paul said that it was so that the Christians might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness.  (1 Tim. 2:4.)  In the beginning of the creation, the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the earth.  (Gen. 1:2.)  When the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the earth, things began to take form and shape.  There was order to the days and nights.  The sun and moon gave that order.  Each creature reproduced after its own kind.


   In our context of first Corinthians, there was confusion during the worship service.  Then Paul gave God’s philosophy of how things ought to operate.  He wrote, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”  (14:40.)  He also wrote to another church, “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I not with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”  (Col. 2:5.)


   Surely the past teaches us that in the physical created world and in the spiritual world, order is God’s will for us.  We use numbers and the alphabet to help us to organize things.  There is order to our language and meaning to the words we use.  The sinful world opposes order.  It rejoices when things get scrambled up, like alphabet soup.  Terrorists love confusion, terror and panic.  They profit when things are all out of order.  Sinful people like to believe that there is no order to the world, or that it does not matter whether A comes before B.  To them it does not matter what words you use.  Isaiah described that confusion of sinfulness:


   “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight!”  (Isa. 5:20.)


#4: What Did You Learn from the Past Year?


   Paul wrote several epistles from prison.  He had time to reflect upon what he was doing in preaching Christ to the world.  He knew that there were many enemies of the cross and he understood, at least, the objection of his fellow Jews.  (Phil. 3:18-20.)


   Paul said that he had learned that positive things are better than negative ones.  He wrote that we should think upon things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and virtuous.  (Phil. 4:8.)  Have we learned that positive attitudes and actions are better than negative ones?  I recently read a description of the kind of articles that a brotherhood paper would accept for publication.  One thing that stood out to me was that the article should be positive in nature and not negative, and even if the subject matter was negative, it should focus on solutions and not just problems.  I have learned that once you get on this “negative kick” it is most difficult to ever get off it.  It becomes a part of one’s attitude in life and character.


   Paul continued to enumerate several things that he had learned.  He wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know how to be abased and I know how to abound.”  (Phil. 4:11-12.)  He encouraged the readers: “Those things, which you have both learned and received, heard and seen in me, do and the God of peace shall be with you.”  (4:9.)


   Have you learned from the past that anger does not work?  That it is self-defeating.  Have you learned that self-denial is best, rather than self-promotion?  Have you learned that forgiveness is always best and should be freely given?  Did you learn this past year that when your children make wrong choices and decisions, just keep on loving them?  God does not love us just when we do his will, he loves us even when we are enemies of his will.  There is a difference between approval and love.


   Have you learned that God cannot be deceived?  He cannot be mocked.  It is man himself who is deceived and the One who sits in the heavens shall have him in derision.  (Psalm 2.)


   Jesus told some Jews of his day, Go and learn what this means—I will have mercy and not sacrifice.  I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.  (Matt. 9:13, Hosea 6:6.)  Have you learned the difference between the spirit and letter of the law?  We will continue to stumble all over God’s Word until we learn that difference.  It is one of the most important truths to learn.


   Have you learned the difference between the external forms of religion and the heart?  The history of religion should teach us that lesson.





#5: Unbelief Is the Root Problem!


   In our context of first Corinthians 10, why did the Israelites fail to enter the promised land?  It says that they murmured and complained against Moses and God.  They committed fornication and practiced idolatry.  But the Hebrew writer in covering this same material summed it up by saying, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:19.)  “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”  (3:12.)  “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us.”  (12:1.)  This sin surely is the sin of unbelief.


   We should have learned that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”  (11:6.)  “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  (Rom. 10:17.)  But it is also true that unbelief comes by hearing.  It comes, not by hearing the Word of God, but by hearing negative things that destroy faith.  What we learn from the past is that unbelief is the core problem that man faces.


   The core problem is not attendance; that is a symptom of the real problem.  The real problem is not that someone has not been baptized into Christ.  The real problem is unbelief.  Jesus said, He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; he that believes not shall be condemned.  (Mark 16:16.)  The real problem is not partaking of the Lord’s Supper; nor is the Lord’s will done just by physically eating the emblems.  (1 Cor. 11:20.)  The core problem is not just immorality; it is the unbelief that allows it to continue in our lives.


   Many struggle with unbelief; many who will not express it openly.  Unbelief is manifest in so many ways.  James challenged us, Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works.  Just as faith is seen visibly by what we do, so likewise is unbelief evident.  Justification is by faith.  I believe because of what I have learned from the past.  The Word produces that faith.  Compelling eyewitness accounts instill faith within.  God is seen in every sunrise and sunset, in every leaf and snowflake, in the changing seasons of the year, and in every face of mankind.  The heavens declare his glory and firmament shows his handiwork.  There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  (Psalm 19:1-3.)


Friday, December 9, 2016

How To Do What You Don't Want To Do

Tom Landry, the legendary football coach, once made a brilliant assessment of his job, "The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don't want to do, in order to achieve what they've always wanted to be."

Thinking about this statement for about 3 seconds should cause us to realize this motto is not just for football, but most things in life. Why aren't we fit, better eaters, with perfect posture? Why aren't we free from our own anger, jealousy, lust, and gossip? Why don't we break our bad, and sometimes addicting, habits? The answer is simple. Because it's hard!

Life is a constant battle. On one side is the "Doing What's Easy" army. On the other is the "Becoming What We Want To Be" militia. The winning factor in this battle is self-motivation. This is why coaches, personal trainers, and other similar professionals are so successful. They hold the ability to help people do what they don't want to. They limit the options, push boundaries, and cause people to become what they want to be.

We are approaching a time that's popular for making self-improvements. As we start thinking about who we are and who we want to be (especially spiritually), here are some tips on how to make ourselves do what we don't want to do (Warning: it won't be easy, or fun, or fast, or really anything else that you might consider otherwise first).

1. Take An Honest Look. Are we really the person we want to be right now? Are we in the physical shape we want to be? Are we struggling with bad habits? Has sin been crouching at the door of our lives (Genesis 4:7)? Have we given into unrighteousness? What does an unfiltered, unbiased, honest look in the spiritual mirror reveal about us (James 1:22-25)? Think about what the future will hold if things aren't changed.

2. Restrict Options. Most people have trouble doing this by ourselves. If we didn't have trouble keeping ourselves motivated, we would probably already be who we want to be. Since we struggle with self-control, we need to find someone to take away options and keep us accountable. Find a workout buddy. Go see a psychologist. Talk with an elder or the preacher . Get a friend that will help keep you accountable. One of the best ways to improve ourselves is to bring in someone to help (Proverbs 27:17).

3. Give Yourself A Chance To Win. Get some rest. Plan ahead with meals. Know when we are at our weakest. Don't put too much on your plate at once. Stop wasting so much time in front of a screen. Pick up some self-help books (best one I know of is called the Bible). Spend extra time talking with the Lord and telling Him about your faults and asking Him for help (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As said before, get a close friend to help. Whatever we need to help us win, do it.

4. Keep The Eye On The Prize. The path to heaven is known as a narrow, winding, and difficult path that few find (Matthew 7:13-14). It's ironic that most of the worst things in life are easy and the best things are hard. We need to keep reminding ourselves what we are trying to achieve and why. When that purpose get's lost, so does our motivation, and our helpful actions are soon to follow. Keep the goal in sight, particularly the spiritual goal (Hebrews 12:1-2).

If we picture our ideal self, what does that look like? How are we going to get there? If we only have enough self-motivation to fix one category this next year, let's make sure it's the spiritual one. As Paul pointed out, "For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Sure, becoming fit, healthy, and breaking bad habits are valuable, but unless they have reached sinful levels, their benefits only impact this life. Spiritual improvements are guaranteed to have an eternal impact.

If you want to become who you want to be, then do what you don't want to do.

Brett Petrillo

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event which drew our country into World War II. 2,343 men were killed, 1,143 were wounded, and 960 unaccounted for or missing. The Japanese chose Sunday to attack as it was the most relaxed day of the week for the servicemen. Many were still in their pajamas or having breakfast when the attack began at 7:55 that morning. Kermit Tyler, an Air Force lieutenant serving as the officer on duty that morning, told the radar operator not to worry about the large blip on the radar screen. He thought it was a flight of U.S. bombers coming from our mainland. Instead, it was the first wave of attackers. Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the airstrike leader for the Japanese carrier force, could see that Pearl Harbor was totally unaware of the impending attack. He radioed back a coded message, repeating an abbreviated word three times-"to ra, to ra, to ra"-meaning "lightning strike." The transmission began at 7:49, undetected by the soon-to-be victims of the attack that began a mere six minutes later (read more here).


Among so many significant facts, what we most remember about the attack on Pearl Harbor was how utterly surprising it was. No one stood vigil, considering the possibility of it. Like its later counterpart, "9/11," and even natural catastrophes like Pompeii, the Galveston hurricane, the 2004 tsunami, or Mexico's El Chicon volcano, serious and deadly events can occur without warning. With our most sophisticated technology and detection systems, we are without the ability to forewarn about the greatest surprise that will ever be.


Paul says that the resurrection of the dead of all time will occur "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:52). Paul and Peter both refer to "the day of the Lord" as that which will come "as a thief in the night" (1 Th. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). Jesus warned that the day could be a disaster, a trap that comes on one "suddenly" (Luke 21:34). He taught that it will come at an hour unknown to everyone (Mark 13:32-33).


While it will surprise everyone, the coming of Christ will be a devastating event for the great majority of mankind. For them, it will infinitely exceed the loss of physical life. It will be an everlasting loss (Mat. 25:46; 2 Th. 1:9). Yet, God has made preparation eminently possible. He desires escape for everyone (2 Pet. 3:9). One can be prepared for that day and be saved from harm and forsomething inexpressibly superior. Those of us who have discovered the way of preparation must hold fast to it (cf. Heb. 3:6) and strive to share this vital information with as many as possible. The sudden coming of Christ need not be a defeat, but can instead be the harbinger of the greatest victory ever.  May Paul's inspired exclamation be our song of victory: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:54b-55). Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20)!


--Neal Pollard




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

God's nature is such that He shows no partiality

Giving Preference to One Another

God's nature is such that He shows no partiality (Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and we are to reflect His nature.  Scripture is quite clear that as Christians we must show no partiality either (1 Timothy, 5:21; James 2:1,9).  We are all sinners, regardless of wealth or social standing. God expects us to live this truth by treating each other, ironically enough, as better than ourselves. In other words, when we show no partiality, we seek to make everyone and everyone else's interests more important than our own.

This is exactly what Paul writes in Romans 12:10: 'Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.' The NRSV says 'outdo one another in showing honor.'  Such an attitude not only takes away the fleshly urge to pick favorites, but it also takes away a selfish desire to be some sort of 'Lone Christian'.

We have been given the local church as a blessing. We are meant to be an active participant in it. While the church is there to benefit us, when we approach it with that expectation we miss the entire point. It will serve us when other Christians are doing the same thing we are supposed to be doing -- 'outdoing one another in showing honor'. We don't do that by trying to be an adjunct member of a church: slipping in when we decide to, hurling criticisms when something doesn't suit us and choosing to get angry when for some strange reason everyone doesn't fall all over themselves to be kind to us. Every Christian must learn the truth that we are much easier to love when we are to some degree loveable. If some effort is made to include these 'Lone Christians', a stonewall is often the reaction. It's easier to criticize from afar than to be involved in the real work of building a congregation.

But when Paul writes, 'Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others' (Philippians 2:3-4), he is telling us how to 'be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose' (vs. 2).  These things are built not only through Bible study, but also through things like hospitality, even staying after services to chat.

Unless the Christians in a church actually like each other (and they have to know one another to like each other), they will never exhibit the type of unity of purpose God intends. They will be quick to hurl accusations and suspect impure motives when trouble does arise. And trouble will most assuredly arise if the congregation is not striving to be one, and each member is not striving to 'outdo one another in showing honor'.

- by Alan Cornett


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When Should We Deal With Controversial Issues?

There are only two times when it is proper to deal with controversial subjects in the church: (1) when the church is bothered with them, and (2) when it is not. That may sound a bit "corny" but it is just plain fact.  The philosophy that we should never trouble trouble until trouble troubles us may sound reasonable, but it is borne out neither in scripture nor history.

Religious controversy is prima face evidence of error. It does not always mean that one side is right and the other wrong, for both may be wrong. But it is a singular fact that both cannot be right because truth never contradicts truth. That means that all Christians must dust off their Bibles and find out just what is the truth. Paul admonished, "Be not unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17).  So there is no room for the excuse, "Well I just can't understand." If both can't be right, then every Christian is duty-bound to find out which one is, or if either is.

Religious error is like a physical disease, as long as it exists anywhere in the world, it poses an insidious danger to Christians everywhere in the world. Error is like a disease.  It does not usually remain confined to one particular area. It has cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, grand children, and even good friends, and through them it may travel right to our front door (it often uses the back door!) and creeps in unawares (Jude 3). Paul spoke of false teachers' words as eating like a cancer (2 Tim 2:17): "And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus." (Don't fail to notice that Paul called the names of the false teachers, those spreading the disease.  This is important to know so they can be quarantined!)

The world would have been dead from smallpox long ago had every community waited to vaccinate its citizens until it had an outbreak of the disease. The basic theory of immunization is to vaccinate before the disease strikes. The same thing holds true with pernicious religious error. Paul warned the Ephesian elders of dangers that lay ahead, Acts 20:28-29. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock."

The church or the preacher that delays dealing with error until it strikes really is sacrificing many to the error; for often, once it strikes it is too late to save some. History proves human pride makes it difficult to reverse a commitment. All Christians have a responsibility to stand for truth and against all error. Preachers must guard that which is committed to their trust (1 Tim. 6:20) and elders are with sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers (Tit. 1:9). He who will not defend the truth is out of harmony with God's word, and fails to honor his trust.

- by James P. Needham


Tuesday, November 15, 2016


It has been pointed out by many that Jesus was “the Master Teacher.” Of all the professions in Greek society, teaching was held in high esteem. It was His role as teacher that seemed to capture the imagination and respect of those who knew our Lord. Even his enemies recognized Jesus as an unusually gifted teacher. When they came to Him to test him, they often address Jesus using the title of “teacher.” “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully” (Matt. 22:16; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21). The Greek text refers to Jesus as “teacher” more than three dozen times in the Gospel accounts. In addition, our English word “Master,” when applied to Jesus, frequently viewed Jesus as a “school master.” Much of the teaching of Jesus was in the open air. It was what William Barclay referred to as “field preaching.” It seems to me that much, if not all of the teaching of Jesus was spontaneous. It was the natural outpouring of the depth of knowledge and love of the truth that made Him what He was. Let me suggest some things that made Jesus the incomparable teacher.


First, His teaching captured the attention of those who heard Him. Unlike a professor in a classroom, where the teacher speaks to a captive audience, much of the teaching of Jesus was out in the open, and because it was thus, His audience could come and go at their leisure without fearing embarrassment. I have had occasion to speak “on the street” in India. On those occasions, while most of those who had gathered to listen were polite to stay seated, there were always those curious individuals who might wander up, listen for a moment or two, and then drift off into the night, indicating little or no interest in the message. I did not “capture” their attention, and if I did, I did not keep it. Jesus was not like that. “Never a man spake” (John 7:46) was probably spoken by more than those officers who had been sent by the religious authorities to arrest Jesus.


Second, Jesus was the incomparable teacher because He spoke plainly. Do you remember when the Jews came to Jesus and inquired, “How long dost thou hold us in suspense? If thou art the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). Jesus replied, “I told you, and ye believe not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, these bear witness of me” (John 10:25). Jesus did speak to them plainly; they refused to listen. What message of our Lord could be more “plain” than that spoken to the woman at the well of Samaria? The Pharisees had no problem understanding the Lord’s message, so much so that they sought to destroy Him. Never once do I read of Jesus telling His audience, “Oh, you misunderstood!”


Third, Jesus was the incomparable teacher because His message had a universal appeal. William Barclay picked up on this: “One of the most amazing characteristics of Jesus as a teacher is the universality of his appeal. We find him teaching in the synagogues (Matt. 4:23). We find him teaching in the Temple at Jerusalem (Mark 14:49). We find him engaged in technical arguments and discussion with the foremost scholars of his day (Matt. 22:23-46). We find him in the streets and on the roads, using a fishing boat as a pulpit by the seashore, holding the crowds spellbound with his words. We find him teaching the intimate inner circle of the disciples, and yet we find that amidst the crowds the common people heard him gladly” (Barclay, The Mind of Jesus, 90-91). The versatility of our Lord with regard to subject, audience, and method astounds all those who would study the teaching methods and manner of our Lord.


Fourth, Jesus was the incomparable teacher because He never avoided controversy. He did not go about looking for controversy, but when it came His way, He would engage the lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducees with the courage and determination to protect the truth and expose error at every occasion. The late G.C. Brewer wrote: Our Lord Jesus Christ was the most persistent, alert, resourceful and master controversialist that ever lived. He lived at a time when controversy was the order of the day. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the leading sect among the Jews, and they were constantly in disputes among themselves. The Sadducees were cool and calculating, rationalistic and philosophical. The Pharisees were technical, carping, and captious. They were past masters in the tricks of sophistry, caviling, and casuistry. But Jesus met the combined efforts of these masters of debate and quibbling and put them to silence. His quick analysis, his penetrating, powerful and unsparing logic, and his unanswerable and embarrassing ad hominem replies to their assaults have never been equaled among men. They, therefore, prove him to have been something more than a man” (G.C. Brewer, source lost). Regarding Jesus and controversy, Alexander Campbell wrote in the Millennial Harbinger:


No man can be a good man who does not oppose error and immorality in himself, his family, his neighborhood, and in society as far as he can reach, and that he cannot oppose it successfully only by argument: or, as some would say, by word and deed, by precept and by example. There can be no improvement without controversy. Improvement requires and presupposes change; change is innovation, and innovation always has elicited opposition! And that is what constitutes the essentials of controversy. Every man who reforms his own life has a controversy with himself. And, therefore, no man who has not always been perfect, and always been in company with perfect society can be a good man without controversy. This being conceded, it follows that whensoever society, religious or political, falls into error; or rather, so long as it is imperfect, it is the duty of all who have any talent or ability to oppose error, moral or political, who have intelligence to distinguish, and utterance to express, truth and goodness, to lift up a standard against it, and to panoply themselves for the combat. If there was no error in principle or practice, then controversy, which is only another name for opposition to error, real or supposed, would be unnecessary. If it were lawful, or if it were benevolent, to make a truce with error, then opposition to it would be both unjust and unkind. If error were innocent and harmless, then we might permit it to find its own quietus, or to immortalize itself. But so long as it is confessed that error is more or less injurious to the welfare of society, individually and collectively considered, then no man can be considered benevolent who does not set his face against it. In proportion as a person is intelligent and benevolent, he will be controversial, if error exist around him. Hence the Prince of Peace never sheathed the sword of the Spirit while he lived. He drew it on the banks of the Jordan and threw the scabbard away (Alexander Campbell, Millennial Harbinger, Volume 1, Electronic Edition).


Finally, Jesus was the incomparable teacher for the simple reason that His messages were memorable. Jesus was most effective in this particular aspect of His teaching because of the parables He presented that enabled His audience to take the message home, not only imbedded in their mind, but encased in their hearts. Multitudes are those who know the meaning of the words “Good Samaritan,” though they may never have read a page of the Bible. Jesus was fully aware that the use of parables would serve to impress upon the minds of His audience great truths that would come to be understood and cherished many days after He actually spoke the words.


Great leaders have often been great spokesmen. That is not always the case; but it certainly is true of our Master. Not only is He our King, but as King, His words sound clear, and when compared to the thoughts of men, they demonstrate the unique nature and source of those words. Yes, indeed, Jesus is the incomparable teacher, and we are the richer for it.


by Tom Wacaster

(excerpt from my upcoming commentary on Matthew)


Alexander Campbell

"No man ever achieved any great good to mankind who did not fight for it with courage and perseverance, and who did not, in the conflict, sacrifice either his good name or his life.  John lost his head.  The apostles were slaughtered.  The Saviour was crucified.  The ancient confessors were slain.  The reformers were excommunicated.  If I am not slandered and misrepresented, I shall be a most unworthy advocate of the cause which has always provoked the resentment of those who, fattened upon the ignorance and stupidity of the mass, will not try to think or learn." 

- Alexander Campbell


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