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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 enjoyable...at 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

CHRIST THE INCOMPARABLE TEACHER

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

 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

PEACE AND CONFIDENCE BORNE OUT OF ASSURANCE

When our fiery trial descends upon us  - and it will if we are living godly lives in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12) - it would behoove us to have the kind of faith that will see us through that trial. John has told us in advance of the trials that we will face in life, and that “this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Look at the catalogue of the faithful men and women listed in Hebrews chapter 11. They endured some of most severe challenges to their faith that men can, and often will, have to confront; and each and every one of those recorded in that “hall of fame of the faithful” came through with shining colors. What is it that saw them through? How is it that they were able to overcome the temptations that came their way, while so many throughout history have simply thrown in the towel and followed the multitude to do evil? I submit to you that it was a faith that give them unshakable assurance in the face of adversity. Someone once said, “Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; die for it; anything but live for it.” What the world needs is more men and women who will be willing to live their faith, and be willing to die for it as well. I submit to you that unless men have the same kind of unshakable assurance in God and His promises to us as did those men and women of faith recorded in the pages of God’s word, when the time for battle comes they will fail the test every single time.  The absence of faith and assurance can be seen in the fact that too many Christians live their life in fear and anxiety of what the future holds. Their demeanor and countenance suggest that they have no joy. Were someone to inquire as to their relationship with God their answer would be filled with doubt and foreboding.

 

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he expressed great confidence in his eternal salvation: “I know him whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). Again, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day” (2 Tim 4:7). John said, “I have written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).  And yet, in spite of so many passages that speak positively of our “blessed assurance,” there are a great number of our brethren who doubt their salvation! That doubt is reflected in a gloomy disposition of despair and despondency characteristic of a world in darkness. One sister in Oklahoma used to say, “Too many of my brethren act as if they were baptized in vinegar.” One of the most beautiful passages in all the Bible is 1 John 1:7 - “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” There are two important truths that emerge from this passage.

 

First, while walking “in the light” we are still going to sin. Did you catch the words of John: “If we walk in the light...the blood of Jesus cleanseth.” Even if we are walking in the light we are still going to sin from time to time. All too often we demand of ourselves that which we are not capable of giving, namely sinless perfection. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1:8). Will we stumble from time to time? Indeed we will. But even when we occasionally sin out of inattention or a moment of weakness due to the fleshly limitations in all of us, we can be assured that our relationship with God is not severed.

 

Second, we have the cleansing blood of our Lord at our constant disposal. Like an ever flowing fountain, limitless in its resources, and powerful in its efficacy, our Lord’s blood will wash away every single sin and remove the guilt associated with it. No wonder John could, in this same letter, write of our assurance of salvation (5:13). It was once said, “A joyless saint will never win a joyful sinner to Christ.” If your lack of assurance has robbed you of the joy of Christian living, how can you ever expect to convert someone who, though living in error, has greater confidence of his salvation than do you? No wonder Paul told us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). And as if to drive the point home, he immediately repeats, “again, I will say, REJOICE!”  Beloved, we CAN know that we are saved, and with that assurance comes the great joy of Christian living!

 

Brethren, let us get on with living, and while doing so, let us rest in the assurance that God is on our side, His promises are sure, and that even though we sin from time to time, we can rest upon the realization that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:2). He is the “propitiation for our sins, the Protector of our souls, and the Provider of our salvation. Some years ago I came across the following wonderful illustration/quote:

 

Cyprian, a third-century martyr, writes to Donatus, saying: “This is a cheerful world as I see it from my garden under the shadows of my vines. But if I were to ascend some high mountain and look over the wide lands, you know very well what I would see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the sea, armies fighting, cities burning; in the amphitheaters men murdered to please the applauding crowds; selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, and incredibly bad world. But I have  discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians—and I am one of them.”

 

That, my friends, was peace and confidence borne of assurance that comes as a result of an undying and unflinching faith in the God Who has promised, “I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).  

 

 by Tom Wacaster

 

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Prescription for Growth

We are all fully aware that as Christians we are to grow spiritually.  There are several passages that clearly teach that God not only expects but also requires such development.  "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (I Peter 2:2).  "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).  "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food" (Hebrews 5:12).

Let me suggest to you a few things that are needed in our lives if we are to grow and develop as God commands:

1) There has to be a desire on our part. Look once again at I Peter 2:2. The writer says that you must desire the pure milk of the word. In the sermon on the mount, the Lord said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). We have to want to grow! It is not going to happen unless there is that hunger and thirst within us for the things that will help us to progress.  One thing that has happened to far too many Christians, they have lost their spiritual appetite. They have become choked with the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and as the Lord said, "bring no fruit to maturity" (Luke 8:14).

2) It also takes time. When the Psalmist spoke of the man blessed, in Psalms 1:1-2, notice how he spent his time. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night." We usually make time for the things that we enjoy doing, whether it is fishing, golf or shopping, etc. If we really have the desire to grow, we will find time to study, pray and practice the truth in our daily lives. It may mean that we've got to turn off the TV, not read the Newspaper as thoroughly, or take some time from a hobby that we enjoy. But we will find time and use it to the glory of God. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16).

3) Effort has to be put forth. Certainly the word of God is that which will build us up and make us stronger. Paul in speaking with the elders from Ephesus, said, "So now, brethren, 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" (Acts 20:32). Not only does it take time to know and understand the word of God; it takes effort as well. This same apostle told Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). The word "diligent" (KJ says study), is defined as "to hasten to do a thing, to exert oneself, endeavour, give diligence" (Vine's Expository Dictionary Of New testament Words). Those who are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, take the time and exert the effort and energy to ascertain the meaning of the Scriptures. Practice is the next logical step. Only by doing can we please God (James 1:22,23,25).

It will require using some of our money. To be a good fisherman one will buy a good rod and reel, tackle, and maybe a boat along with all the accessories. Don't mind spending the money for these kinds of things. To be knowledgeable of the word of God, we will need a good study Bible, a concordance, a good Bible dictionary, maybe some reliable commentaries, etc. Are we willing to spend money on these type books to help us in our studies? If you really have the desire, will take the time and put forth the effort, you won't mind spending the small amount it would take to buy these study helps.

Want to grow as the Lord commands? Follow this prescription!

- by Jim Mickells

“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” (2Pet. 3:11)

Today's editorial falls under the category of what I like to call "great questions of the Bible."  It's in the above cited verse that we find the question under consideration today. "What manner of persons ought ye to be?"  It's the same as asking in today's vernacular: "What sort of people ought we to be in our Christian lives.  ("holiness and godliness").

 

That question was posed by Peter right after saying that there will be a time when everything pertaining to this earth is going to be destroyed.  This is commonly referred to as the Day of Judgment, but in reality, it's the Day of Sentencing.  But, he's asking about how our lives should be lived up until that time.

 

Is there an example given us in the Gospel?  Of course there's the old much-cited ones like Paul's advice in 1Cor. 11:1 where in essence he says "follow me as I follow Christ."  Or the advice of Paul about following "things" such as we read about in 2Tim. 2:22 and 1Tim. 6:11.

 

Perhaps you may remember some previous editorial lessons where we looked at individuals in the Bible for examples to emulate, to follow.  Guys like Nathaniel, who was described by Jesus as being "guileless."  Or, maybe Paul's "son in the faith."

 

How about a Christian that most know nothing about, or even those that do, don't know a whole lot about.  I'm speaking of a person in Paul's life by the name of Onesiphorus.  I truly think that he can serve us as a practical example of an everyday Christian.

 

You know, Onesiphorus is not mentioned as being a "great hero" of the Bible.  He's not considered to be a great "shaker and mover" of the early church.  He was, like us, an everyday Christian going through his life.  But, what few things we know about him teach us some valuable lessons for our lives.

 

Really the only things we know about Onesiphorus is found in Paul's second letter to Timothy.  In chapter 1, verses 16-18 we read these words: "May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me.  May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!  And you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus."

 

Then in chapter 4, verse 19 we see Paul requesting Timothy to "salute" the household of Onesiphorus.  Four short verses is all we have to show us our example for today.  But, we can learn a great lesson from them.  They provide us an answer to our signature question: "What sort of people are Christians supposed to be?"  In "holiness and godliness" simply means "in the service of Christ."

 

Let's break down what Onesiphorus can teach us in those few verses.  Notice Paul says that he "often refreshed me" (helped and provided for me) and that he was not "ashamed of my chains."  (Being a prisoner).  But when he was in Rome, "he eagerly searched for me and found me."

 

Then Paul offers a prayer in his behalf, IE: that he may find mercy "in that day."  (Judgment).  At the close of vs. 18 notice these words: that both Timothy and the church at Ephesus knew "very well" what service he had rendered there at Ephesus.  Not only was Onesiphorus a loyal servant of Christ when traveling, he was also recognized as such back home.

 

In 2Tim. 4:19 Paul says something that I feel that many people don't fully understand.  Among others, Paul tells Timothy to "salute" the "household", the family, of Onesiphorus.  "Salute," as used there, means far more than to greet or "say hi" to.  It's a Greek word meaning to "enfold" or to "embrace" someone.  We might say to day, "give them a big hug for me."

 

So, what is it that we know about this Onesiphorus that helps answer the question of how we should be in our Christian lives?  He and his family were "servants of Christ." That he was not "ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" (Ref: Rom. 1:16 and 2Tim. 2:15).  Not "ashamed" of being associated with a preacher who was imprisoned for doing just that - preaching the Gospel.  We read in 2Tim. 1:15 that others apparently were "ashamed" and had left Paul.

 

Onesiphorus stands in contrast to them (Phygelus and Hermogenes) and their service to Christ.  In a word, Onesiphorus is "a servant."  And he's the kind of "servant" that all of us fellow servants should strive to be.  He is a great example of the "manner of persons" that everyday Christians should be.

 

"Salute" those Onesiphorus's among us.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Ron Covey

 

 

 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Driverless Vehicles"

Passing big rigs on Interstate highways is a common phenomenon.  There are so many of those vehicles, you can't drive ten miles without seeing several.  Rarely do I notice the one who is driving the truck; even if I tried, they sit so much higher in the cab I don't believe I'd be able to see them.
 
Had I made the effort to see the driver of the 18-wheeler rolling down I-25 in Colorado last week, I would have failed.  There wasn't a driver.  For 120 miles, this rig, loaded with cases of beer, navigated traffic, curves, and hills with no one behind the steering wheel.  There was a human on board, but his job was merely to monitor; he did nothing to steer, brake, or accelerate.  Reportedly the trip was completed without a hitch.
 
Driverless vehicles are much in the news.  Automaker Tesla is hard at work on such a car for the masses; other auto manufacturers are spending millions as they investigate the possibilities.  The U.S. military also has placed orders for trucks and other vehicles that can be guided by sensors and satellites.  Uniformed personnel can be removed from dangerous territories as supplies are delivered behind enemy lines.
 
I personally don't foresee myself willingly purchasing a driverless vehicle.  I enjoy the process of driving (usually).  But there is no doubt that we're going to see a lot more cars and trucks on the road without people operating them.
 
It was many years ago that I first saw the bumper sticker that says, "God is my co-pilot".  I appreciate the sentiment behind that, but I'll take it a step farther: "God is my pilot".  He can guide my life without any assistance or suggestions on my part.
 
A good place to begin is Jeremiah 10:23: "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps."  That goes against the proud esteem many have of their abilities; they think they're more than capable of calling the shots for their lives.  God?  Who needs Him?!
 
Making the case for God as our pilot even more convincing is Proverbs 14:12: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."  Yes, we men have earned that stereotype of refusing to ask for directions - and ending up hopelessly lost!
 
God knows our limitations, and has graciously offered His help: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5,6).
 
How much better off are those who can quote from the heart, "The Lord is my Shepherd ... He leads me ..." (Psalm 23:1,2).
 
Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Copyright, 2016, Timothy D. Hall

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Christmas sermons

It’s a Wonderful Life

 

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year. One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is to watch some of the great Christmas movies that have been produced over the years. I would have to say that one of my favorite Christmas movies is the 1946 classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

 

I think most of us have seen this movie but for the benefit of those who have not I will share the plot with you. The movie tells the story of George Bailey whom Jimmy Stewart portrays. George is the kind of guy you would want to be your best friend, he always puts the needs of others above his own. As a child he saves the life of his younger brother who has fallen into a frozen pond, in doing this George permanently loses the hearing in his left ear. Through a series of unfortunate events George gets the blame for losing a large sum of money and he find himself on a bridge contemplating suicide. It is while he is on the bridge he meets Angel second Class Clarence. For the rest of the movie Clarence takes George on a tour of what the world would have been like if he had never been born. The movie ends happily with George returning to his family and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

 

I love this movie because it is a wholesome story you can watch with your whole family, the acting is excellent and because it makes you stop and take stock of what a wonderful life we are all blessed with. It’s that last reason that brings me to the lesson we are going to look at this morning.

 

We do have wonderful lives, we are blessed by a God who loves and cares for us and has provided more than any of us could ask or imagine, so if you will allow me to play Clarence today, we are going to look at four things that make our lives wonderful.

 

1. God Created The World Perfectly For Us
The first reason that we have wonderful lives is that God created the world perfectly for us. Genesis 1:1-13 says

Genesis 1:1-13

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

 

 

 

We couldn’t have a wonderful life if we didn’t have a world perfectly made for us to live in. In the passage we see where God allowed the Earth to produce sustenance but often times we don’t consider the very position of the Earth and the other celestial bodies when considering how great our God is. 

 

Consider for a moment that if the Earth were five feet closer to the sun that the surface of the planet would be too hot to support life, likewise if the earth were five feet farther away from the sun the surface of the planet would be too cold to support life. Consider the position of the moon. If the moon were closer to the Earth by just a fraction then the tides of the oceans would be 35-50 feet high over most of the surface of the Earth.

 

God thought enough of us to not only create us a world that is perfectly suited to support human life but he also made sure that he placed that world in the most perfect spot in the universe. He did this because he thought highly of us, the Psalmist says he made us a little lower than the angels, and because he did this we enjoy a wonderful life.

 

2. God Made Us Perfectly In His Image

It’s getting to be that time of year when you start looking in the mirror and realizing that is more of you there this year than there was last year. Right now as I am preaching this sermon I know there are people out there thinking about the wonderful meal they have waiting for them at home and the diet that will take place starting January 1st. As we think about our physical body and all that goes with that it is impossible for me to forget that we have a wonderful life because God made us Perfectly in his image. Genesis 1:24-27 says this.

 

Genesis 1:24-27
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.  26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created man in his own image,

   in the image of God he created him;

   male and female he created them.

 

So God has been busy creating this world and he has created all sorts of creatures to be in this world but none of them look like him and so he decides that he wants a creation that is like him so he creates human beings in male and female forms. Growing up I heard this passage over and over again and I was always impressed with it because it was God’s inspired word but after becoming a parent I understand this passage a little better.

 

The first time you look into the eyes of your child and you start to see them begin to look and act like you begin to understand why God wanted a creation in his own image and likeness. You also begin to understand the joy and the pain that can come from parenthood in much the same way God receives joy and pain from us who are his children. It is because God thought enough of us to create him in his image that we have wonderful lives.

 

 

3. God Gave His Son as a Perfect Sacrifice
I believe a large part of the wonderful lives that we are blessed with is the concept of sacrifice. We live in a country that was built upon sacrifice, many of us have been blessed with higher education because of the sacrifice of our parents and all of us who are in Christ enjoy that privilege because of sacrifice.

 

Every Sunday we come to this place and gather around the table and celebrate the Sacrifice of God giving up his Son for the salvation of Man. We celebrate this sacrifice because without this sacrifice we would have no life at all. There are so many places in the New Testament that talk about this perfect sacrifice but I believe the Apostle Paul says it best.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

While we do spend time every first day of the week considering this sacrifice it should not only be limited to that one day of the week. We should spend every day living in a state of awareness of the perfect sacrifice that God gave to us.

 

4. God Gave Us Life To The Fullest
It is that sacrifice that brings us to the final reason that we live wonderful lives and that is that God not only made a sacrifice to give us life but to give us life to the fullest. Often times it is said that there is a difference between breathing and living simply meaning that life can be enjoyable if we live our lives to the fullest.

 

When you consider the life that Jesus led you come to inevitable conclusion that Jesus Christ lived his life to the fullest. The carpenter’s son from Nazareth that turned into a rabbi that taught like no one else led his life to the fullest every day. The Earthly ministry of Christ was at its best three years. That means that Jesus had three years to influence people and to set in place the new covenant for his people. Knowing all of that we can deduce that Jesus had to pack a large amount of life into those three years.

 

In our day and time people are fond of purpose statements. It is the idea of living life to its fullest that gave Jesus his purpose here on Earth. The disciple whom Jesus loved said it this way in the Gospel of John.

 

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

 

It is a wonderful life that we are all blessed with. At the end of the movie Jimmy Stewart ran through the streets of his hometown shouting “Merry Christmas” to everyone he passed. Today we have looked at four ways that God have given us a wonderful life. Why don’t we leave this place not proclaiming Merry Christmas, but about the God who gave us our wonderful life? (Invitation)

 

Paul Cartwright

 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"But That Would Mean We've Always Been Wrong!''


One of the most difficult things to deal with when trying to teach people what they need to know is their past. "Unteaching'' is always hard. People develop habits, ways of thinking and traditions that are sometimes very difficult to correct despite the best efforts of truth and  reason.

The human tendency is to define what is true and good by personal experience. Thus, if you have always thought something to be true, then it might be difficult to get you to see otherwise. If you have taught or acted on your beliefs, then the likelihood of your changing becomes even more remote.

Whenever we are confronted with teachings and practices that are contrary to what we've always believed there is a tendency to become defensive. This is natural and not inherently bad. However, we must not allow our defensive reactions based on our personal pasts to be our means of determining truth.

"But that would mean that we've always been wrong!'' is often a defensive reaction that is at least thought if not spoken. If that is the basis of our resistance to any teaching or practice, then we have set up ourselves and our experiences as the standard of truth.  This attitude often comes out at times of controversy when truth and reason have failed to convince some.

God's word is truth (Jn. 17:17)!   Instead of trying to determine truth by looking at what we've taught and practiced in the past let's get back to God-breathed words.  They are all we need for teaching, convicting, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Remember, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up (Jas. 4:6,10). When confronted with truth it may require us to humbly acknowledge that we've always been wrong, but that gives us access to God's grace.  Pride leaves us in the unenviable position of meeting the resistance of God.

- by Andy Diestelkamp

 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Instrumental Music In Worship

How often the matter gets discussed among preachers in churches of Christ, I cannot say. But, I know that it does. More members of the church than we might care to think do not have this matter settled in their minds, especially as it has to do with the state of those who have been immersed for the forgiveness of sins, submit to the authority of Christ in other areas of their lives, but who use the instrument in worship. Some have said they think its use is wrong and we have been right to argue against its use but do not think they can say it is a salvation or fellowship issue. It should be stated that many of these are sincere brethren who love the Lord and people nor are they change agents intent on trying to destroy the Lord's body. Too often, we have lacked an environment where we could have healthy, constructive dialogue free of name-calling, suspicion, and visceral discussion. But failing to discuss and work through matters like these does not make them disappear.

Having said that, here are some hurdles I just cannot jump regarding this matter:

• The presence of singing and absence of instruments in New Testament passages. The fact that every instance of singing in the context of the Christians' activity together reveals singing (Greek is a precise language; ado means to utter words in a melodic pattern [Louw-Nida] and ). Psallo, according to Lexicographers, encompassed praying musical instruments at an earlier time in its linguistic history, but did not mean that in New Testament times (e.g., BDAG, 1094; TDNT, 8:494). Interestingly, the translators of English translations, beginning with the King James Version, were unanimously members of religious groups that used mechanical instruments in music. Despite their obvious bias in worship practice, they translate the Greek "singing and making melody in your hearts."

• The absence of instrumental music in worship in early church history. Though a member of the church of Christ, Everett Ferguson has the utmost respect from scholarship across the religious spectrum. In multiple volumes, Ferguson meticulously sets forth the case that instrumental music was absent in the church from its establishment until many centuries later. His studied conclusion is that this was neither incidental nor coincidental. He writes, "The historical argument is quite strong against early Christian use of instrumental music in church" (The Instrumental Music Issue, 98; the whole chapter is a worthwhile read). In another work, he states, "The testimony of early Christian literature is expressly to the absence of instruments from the church for approximately the first thousand years of Christian history" (The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today, 272). John L. Girardeau, a Presbyterian scholar, devotes an entire, well-documented chapter to the historical case of only vocal music in Christian worship for many centuries and upon doctrinal grounds (see Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church, 86-100).

• The examples of how God dealt with unauthorized worship throughout history. What do we make of what God does with Cain's worship in Genesis 4, Nadab and Abihu's worship in Leviticus 10, and Jeroboam's worship in 1 Kings 12? Why would God care in the Patriarchal and Mosaic Dispensations that His commands for worship be followed per His instructions, but lose that desire under His Son's covenant?

• The fact that God draws definitive, doctrinal conclusions through the use of silence. The writer of Hebrews says, "For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests" (7:14). The argument shows that Jesus could become a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, but not under the Old Testament rule and covenant. Why? God specified Levi as the tribe for the high priest under the old law. It did not explicitly say that a high priest could not come from any other tribe, but it did not have to. What it specified was sufficient, an argument made in the New Testament.

• The fact that authority can and must be tangibly determined. Why is it that we sing in worship at all? Is worship merely a matter of what we come up with and wish to offer? Few would argue such. The basis for worship arises from what the New Testament teaches. Nearly everyone, then, would say there are definitive, delineated boundaries. If there is and must be divine authority for worship, and thus "rules" that are objectively determined, there must be activity that falls out of those bounds. Where will we find the boundary markers if not in Scripture?

This list is not meant to be exhaustive and it cannot, in one brief article, be exhaustive. It is included here to show us the great pause that should exist in changing our minds or our teaching on a matter where God has been vocal and specific. The weight of that is not insignificant or inconsequential. May we lovingly and wisely approach this matter and take great care before we relegate a matter of divine importance to a mere matter of human preference.

--Neal Pollard















Larry and Jan Dover's grandson, Riley, has pneumonia.
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Ajaya Macon, the teenager daughter of Derrick and Erica Macon, has been in the hospital since Saturday with fluid on her heart. They are trying to narrow down the cause of this. Please pray for this faithful family at Parker (former BV members).

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Darlene Havens, Tracie Payne's mom, has been diagnosed with cancer.
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Joy Bevilacqua's friend, Sue Davis, is going through her fourth round of chemo for cancer.







Singing with Jeff Wiant continues this Sunday at 5 PM. No Broncos game to compete. :)
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There will be a congregational soup, chili and pie cook off Saturday, November 12th at 5:00 pm in the fellowship area. Please bring your favorite soup, chili and pie. For more information please see the Vaughts or the Woolleys.
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Mission Sunday
October 16th, 2016

Our Missionaries:
Padova ~ Italy
Jeff & Tia Brauer
Jeremy Korodaj
New Hampshire
David & Keeley Rollert
Cambodia
Phanat Ouch, Chann Lork,
Darat Run and Piseth Rin
Gorlovka, Ukraine
Andrew & Veronica Zhuravlev
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Singing Emphasis Workshop at Dahlia St. on October 21 & 22. This is not just for Dahlia St., though--we're hoping for an Area-Wide attendance.











Upcoming Events
Congregational:
• Ladies' Retreat
When: October 28-29, 2016 (Friday evening and Saturday)
Where: BV Building
Kelly Sinkbeil is taking donations of any unwanted wallets for a little something that will happen at the retreat. Please give to her as soon as you can. Thank you!

Senior Servants:
• BOTA: October 15 from 5:30-8:00. This is our annual "Banquet of the Ages" hosted by our youth. Come get to know the youth a little better (and let them get to know you) in an evening of food, fun, and fellowship. The theme this year is a "Crime Mystery Dinner." Join up in a team with some of our youth and be the first team to solve the crime! Sign-up on the sheet in the foyer.
• A visit of encouragement and fellowship is planned for October 30th with the Estes Park church of Christ. Some are planning to go up Saturday afternoon and have an evening out. Others will leave from the Bear Valley parking lot on the 30th at 7:00 AM There is a sign up sheet in the foyer. See Dick Brant for more information.
Youth:
• Teens In The Word: Every Tuesday from 6:30-8:30. Dinner will be provided.
• Anvil Class: Every Sunday in October from 5:00 - 5:45. The guys will conduct the worship service on October 30. First class meeting will be on October 9.
• BOTA Prep Day #2: Friday, October 14 from 5:30-9:00. Dinner will be provided.
• BOTA (Banquet Of The Ages): Saturday, October 15 from 5:00-9:00. The banquet will go from 5:30-8:00. Skit practice begins at 4:00. Clean up after the banquet will go until about 9:00.
• Teen Devo: Sunday, October 23 from 7:30 - 9:00. Meet at the Arbuckle's. Dinner will be provided.
• Fall Party: Sunday, October 28 from 6:00 - 10:00. Meet at the Vaught's home. Dinner will be provided. We will have a variety of games and will watch another old-fashioned "scary" movie. Invite your friends!



















Bear Valley SermonCast
Listen to some of our latest sermons, classes, and special seminars. Click the picture for more details.
Updated 10/9/16




Bear Valley Bible Institute ChapelCast
Listen to the latest chapel lessons from many of our faculty, students, and special guest speakers.
Updated 8/26/16





















Higher Ground Encampment
is a camp from young women ages 13-18. The camp aims to develop holy minds and heavenly sight for our young ladies in this world. Click the logo for more information.
A new 2016 report is now available.
CLICK HERE to read it.




Future Preachers Training Camp is a summer camp designed to fan the flame for preaching in young men ages 13-18. The guys will be treated to a full week of training in sermon preparation, Bible study, personal evangelism and more. Click for more info.






















Bear Valley Bible Institute
has been training preachers since 1965. With a strong emphasis on the Bible text, men are equipped for better service in the Lord's kingdom. For more information click on the logo above.




Military Outreach
is a program designed to assist military congregation throughout the world. Click for more information.





















Getting To Know Your Bible
is a TV program sponsored by the Summerdale church of Christ in Summerdale, Alabama. The primary speaker is Billy Lambert. Neal Pollard, one of the preachers at the Bear Valley church of Christ, speaks on Fridays. For more information, click on the logo.




In Search of the Lord's Way
is an international television and radio ministry with Phil Sanders. You can watch it every Sunday at 7:30 AM on KCDO TV, channel 3. Or click for more information.














The Bottom Feeder Reader:

Great 90 seconds from Denny Petrillo last night.





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