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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ocrakoke Beach

Marvelous Response

Six-year-old Lucy Mangum was with her parents and sister at Ocrakoke Beach
on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on July 19 when suddenly she was
attacked by a shark. She was playing on a boogie board in only 18 inches of
water when the shark came toward her. Lucy told that she tried to
swim away when she saw the shark coming toward her, but the shark was too
fast. The shark grabbed her right leg and foot within seconds, leaving two
deep bite marks that exposed her tendons and muscle.

Jordan Mangum, Lucy's mother, said, "I heard her scram, and I turned and
immediately saw the shark." She ran toward Lucy, followed closely by Craig
Mangum, Lucy's father, snatched her up and got her to the beach.

Lucy's parents said she remained remarkably calm as they got her out of the
water onto the beach, but said she was asking questions like: "Am I going to
die? Am I going to walk? Am I going to have a wheelchair?"

Lucy's parents assured her that she was going to be okay even though Craig,
an emergency room physician observed that the injuries were pretty severe.
Emergency crews flew Lucy to Pitt County Memorial Hospital.

Her surgeon said she was within a fraction of a millimeter of having her
nerve severed, which would have meant amputation. Ninety percent of her
muscle was severed, as well as 90 percent of her Achilles' tendon, and one
of the main arteries in her leg was severed.

She later underwent two surgeries and is expected to make a full recovery.

But while they were still on the beach, Lucy had another question: "Dad, can
we say a prayer?" Jordan told the WRAL reporters, "We said a prayer for her
on the beach. Her faith and stoicism were a marvel to us."

But then there's yet another marvel. This brave little six-year-old from
Durham, North Carolina who survived a shark attack says she FORGIVES the
shark that did it!

How could she forgive that shark? Perhaps it's because of her parents'
gentle instruction about how sharks look for food along the beach in the
late afternoon. Or perhaps it is because of what she may have learned about
God, who forgives US when we sin against Him.

It was Jesus who suffered the vicious attacks of an angry mob as He hung on
a cross outside Jerusalem. Yet, it was for the sins of the world -
including yours and mine - that He was put on that cross. The only way that
God could save us was for Jesus, the sinless Son of God, to pay the price
for our sins through His atoning death on the cross (1 John 2:2). He died
so that you and I might have forgiveness for our sins and the hope of
eternal life (Ephesians 1:7; Titus 3:7).

We can know this forgiveness and hope when: we place our faith and trust in
Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31),
confess Him before others (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into
Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

Forgiveness in the wake of a shark attack - what a marvel that further
endears little Lucy to all of us! May her actions remind us of how much
Jesus loves us as He gave His life for us on the cruel cross, and may His
marvelous love compel us to accept His forgiveness on His terms.

Won't YOU

David A. Sargent

a few more trillion dollars

                                  "....the borrower is servant to the lender." Prov. 22:7

As everyone that has a TV or radio, or reads the news in some form or fashion, has to be well-aware of the current economic/financially "chaotic" situation dominating the news from our nation's capitol. They make it sound like the fate of the free world hinges on whether we raise the "debt limit" a few more trillion dollars.

And two of the three branches of government are accusing each other of either being (1) the cause of our indebtedness, or (2) being a party-pooper to any plan to allow us to borrow even more money from other countries, even though we already owe so much money that it'll probably never be paid off. I'm just going to accredit what I believe to be the responsible party for this mess and point my finger at every one of our legislators who've been there for the past 50 years or so.

You know, good old Solomon had it right many, many years ago when he passed on to us the wisdom God had given him, one piece of which is our above passage taken from Proverbs 22:7. But, I doubt that Solomon, with all of his wisdom and judgmental abilities, would ever have dreamed that the "leaders" of a nation would get in the financial pickle that ours have gotten us into.

Solomon knew, as just about every responsibility-minded person knows, that you cannot keep spending more money than you have coming in without there someday being a day of reckoning for such behavior. He knew that when he gave us the warning in Prov. 22:7 that, whether talking about individuals, families, companies or nations, that "... the borrower is servant to the lender." In other words, the entity to which you are indebted OWNS YOU!

I see this current mess we're in as just being indicative of some of the other things we've discussed in our lessons regarding the ignoring of God's Word (Wisdom) in our lives, both individually and nationally. In just this area alone, wouldn't it have been great if back some years ago someone read this verse and said, "Hey, maybe we should listen to what God says about this borrowing money from other countries?" That, "maybe we don't want our citizens to be slaves to some other country." Well, I think it would have been great anyway.

Since I'm on a roll talking about our governmental leaders today let me pass on a few more thoughts fitting this topic. I read about a "Rasmussen Poll" that said that members of Congress are now the "least respected job in America." I wonder why?

Another thing that we're constantly hearing broadcast from Washington is that one of the things bad about our country is that there are a lot of rich people and a lot of poor people and we must "redistribute the wealth." This reminds me of a little humorous story I once heard that is very appropriate to this "redistribution" philosophy pervading some of our legislators. It went like this.....

A preacher came home after Sunday morning services and his wife, bedridden with the flu, noticed that he looked very despondent. Being concerned about his apparent sadness, she asked him, "What was your sermon subject about that has saddened you so much? He said, "I tried to tell them that it was the duty of the rich to help the poor."

She then asked him, "Well, did you convince them?" He replied, "Only half of them. I convinced the poor."

I'm going to use that little story to illustrate a statement made by Christ in His sermon on the mount and this little short statement has been repeated so many times that it's probably known to people who don't own a Bible. When you read it in a moment you may wonder how I make application to our story and the subject of "redistribution." I'll do my best to explain how I attach it.

The statement of which I speak is just seven little words taken out of verse 6 of Matthew 7: "...neither cast your pearls before swine..." In order to see how I relate this statement to our story and the redistribution of wealth, allow me to define a couple of words in that statement. By doing so, I think you'll get my drift.

"Pearls" are representative of something valuable. "Swine" represents something that has no appreciation of what's valuable. I understand this concept because of something my dad used to say to me when I wanted something. He'd say, "You need that like a pig needs a Sunday hat."

We have now, and have had for some time, a large segment of our society that is totally dependent upon the government. I recently saw some figures that put that segment at around fifty percent of the population. Since the "government" can only give someone something that it has taken from someone else, it stands to reason that this is not a good ratio.

I truly believe that someone who does not work for what they receive, has no appreciation for what they are given. (Prov. 18:9 and 2Thess. 3:10) Some very astute person once said: "You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity." It just seems to me that our government is taking "pearls" from others and "casting" them to people who have no appreciation of their value. And that's how I relate Matt. 7:6 to our topic.

Let me return to our first topic, indebtedness, for a closing thought for today. My closing point is this; that we are indebted to God for the "gift" of His Son on the cross that provides everyone with a "way" of obtaining salvation. The apostle Paul speaks of this debt, this obligation in the 8th chapter of Romans.

He tells us in verses 12-15 that, if we are Christians, we have an obligation to live a "Spirit led" life rather than a life of sin. Let me leave you with a little saying I have in my "neat sayings file" and I don't know who the author is, I just know it's neat.

                                He came to pay a debt He didn't owe,

                                because we owed a debt we couldn't pay.

Ron Covey

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Long Time Ago, In A Galilean Far, Far Away

The phrase captures my attention. Those of us who grew up in
the "Star Wars" era (or had kids who did), recognize the play on
words. This particular twist on the phrase comes from a book by
Darin Bowler. Mr. Bowler's book develops a theme much greater
than that of "Star Wars" -- the incarnation, God coming to earth
in human flesh.

Actually, it all began a much longer time ago than even the time
of this Galilean. "For you know that it was not with perishable
things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the
empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but
with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was
revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe
in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him,
and so your faith and hope are in God." (1 Peter 1:18-21)

But God was not just thinking of that Galilean, but you and me:
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be
holy and blameless in his sight." (Ephesians 1:4) As Paul wrote
Timothy, "The mystery of godliness is great!" (1 Timothy 3:16)

Ralph Royse,
Troy, OH

Hope or False Hope

I heard a comment this week that has really made me rethink the concept of
hope. We may not stop and think about it, but much of our motivation for
living is based upon hope. We hope things will be better in our lives, we
hope that our health will improve, we hope that there is a job for us, we
hope for better things for our children, we hope to be able to eventually
retire from work and the list could go on and on. That's what motivates us
to keep going every day isn't it? Without hope what (or where) is our reason
for living, struggling with problems or fighting for our future?

The comment I heard was from a man who had hoped something would turn out a
certain way in his life. When it didn't appear that it would go as he had
hoped he said, 'I guess it was just false hope." To which someone else
replied, there is no such thing as 'false hope, there is only hope.' I've
spent some time thinking about that comment and have determined that is a
wonderful insight!

Granted there are many times the things for which we hope don't turn out as
we had imagined they might, but that does not lessen the power of the hope
we had! The problem is that many of the things for which we hope are based
upon things in this material world.

Yes, it is necessary to have material things to live. Food, clothing and a
place to live are fairly important to anyone, but what else is really
necessary? Well, that discussion could go on for a long time, but the point
I'm trying to make is: are the things you hope for really going to make you
happy or give a lasting sense of fulfillment or security?

One of my favorite songs is by Scott Wesley Brown. It gives a sad reminder
of building our lives on the hope of things. The name of the song is

'For discarded in the junkyards
Rusting in the rain
Lie things that took the finest years
of lifetimes to obtain
And whistling through these tombstones
the hollow breezes sing
a song of dreams surrendered to
the tyranny... of...Things...'

An appropriate counter note to this song is the old hymn (another of my

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all
other ground is sinking sand.

Paul wrote these words in Ephesians 2:12-13, "remember that at that time you
were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and
foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in
the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been
brought near through the blood of Christ."

In what do you hope, that which is temporary or that which is lasting?

Russ Lawson

Wednesday, July 27, 2011



As you know, the current debt debate has been raging for some time. It is a tedious process, filled with emotion and causing no small concern. So many have opinions about how it can be resolved, yet the resolution of the problem is actually clear and simple. People simply do not want to do what is necessary to resolve it. It requires sacrifice, hard choices, and not a little faith.

The implications of this debate cannot be overstated. Consider for a moment the sides involved in this debate over the debt. Some deny the debt exists. Others dejectedly assert that there is no way to pay the incredible debt. Frankly, some who suggest a solution to this debt crisis are misguided and even ignorant. May I suggest that there is a debt problem, it is solvable, but there is only one way to rid ourselves of it.

God informs us repeatedly of the debt. Through Solomon, He informs us, "Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and does not sin" (Ecc. 7:20). More succinctly, David and Paul say, "There is none righteous, not even one" (Ps. 53:3; Rom. 3:10). Paul follows that up, saying, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23) and "all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). While the Bible does not explicitly call our sin problem a debt, the idea is firmly implied (see Lk. 11:4; Mt. 18:27ff; Col. 2:14). By sinning even once, we found ourselves in a debt we could not pay. The Bible says Jesus, offering Himself at the cross, gave His life a ransom for all (Mk. 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6). He paid the debt!


Some deny a debt exists (1 Jn. 1:8,10). Some, filled with guilt, believe their debt is too large to be paid (Lk. 5:8; Heb. 2:15). So many offer "solutions" that do not suffice to eradicate the debt. Some plans are incomplete--stressing the essentially of grace and/or faith, but omitting repentance and baptism (cf. Ac. 2:38). Some plans are humanly devised and different from God's plan--sprinkling for immersion, babies instead of those who are mentally accountable, baptizing for the dead, a Holy Spirit-induced conversion rather than an operation of free will. Jesus is emphatic, saying there is only one way (Jn. 14:6). We are not talking about defaulting on loans. We are talking about an eternal destiny here. The New Testament is plain. There is one, heaven-authorized plan. Following that eradicates the debt! Debating that is futile and utterly counterproductive!


--Neal Pollard


Get a copy of the Bible for one dollar



    The world has more access to God's Word today than at any previous time in history. There is a store right here in Auburn, Indiana that sells complete copies of the King James Version Bible for a dollar each.  Near limitless articles, commentaries, and sermons flood cyber space. Yet, it seems that God's message to Hosea is as relevant today as ever: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). 

            It seems in the 21st century, "knowledge" is not the main problem; the main problem is "wisdom."  By wisdom, I mean people's ability to see, understand, and put to practical use their knowledge of God. 

            For example, people want their preachers to form more "fellowship" activities and yet these same people don't even attend the regular assemblies.  Are they really interested in fellowshipping other Christians?  Where is that special spiritual "blood-bond" that's supposed to bind together all those who are "seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness? 

            A great frustration of many who teach God's true church is that they will spend many hours teaching the uniqueness and holiness of the Lord's church to an individual across a kitchen table – many hours in private prayer and with the individual;  the individual comes to an evening worship and notices that 75% of those who supposedly love God with "all their heart and soul" are not even present. In fact, "I felt closer to God when I attended the ________  church!" 

            The problem is not a lack of the availability of God's Word, coupled with a lack of wisdom; it seems the major problem is a lack of motivation.  For the most part, people know what they should be doing in the name of Christ, they just lack the motivation to do it. Without motivation, nothing gets done, including building up the Lord's church.  "Why" this famine of motivation exists, I don't know. Is it the teacher's job to motivate people to love Jesus? No. It's the teacher's responsibility to teach the Word (2Timothy 4:2).  If God's Word is not enough to motivate people to an obedient faith (Romans 1:5), then there is no other saving message by which they can be saved (Romans 1:16). 

            Most do not understand this because their judgments are made from their own human perspectives.  On Judgment Day, we will not be judged by human perspectives, but by Divine perspectives. Eternal punishment in hell may not seem right from the human perspective, but it is a righteous judgment from the Divine perspective (2Thessalonians 1:6-8).

            Most people will say that one must obey Jesus in order to be saved - - but their life teaches something else.  We must remember that "faith" is something that Jesus can see (Mark 2:5). The biggest hindrance to church growth is not the atheist, it is the hypocritical church member who claims one way, but lives another.  Some of the harshest, most scathing words Jesus spoke on earth were directed at religious hypocrites (Matthew 23). Let's make sure we are not a part of that number.        Toby Miller

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Strongest Man in America

Thom Vaught reports: "Shane Hamman was ready for competition on October 3rd,
1996 in Philadelphia. He loosened up approaching the bar with determination
and confidence. Because the bar was at chest level, Shane had to duck under
it positioning himself bent slightly with the bar across the back of his
shoulders. As he lifted, the reinforced steel bar began to sag beneath the
weight at each end....

Carrying the full weight, Shane stepped back from the barbell rests while
the crowd watched on in anticipation. He then executed an awe inspiring
squat lowering his upper legs until they were parallel to the floor then
lifting the weight once again to shoulder height. What made this so
incredible is that Shane had just set a new power-lifting record by
squatting 1,008 pounds. That is more than the weight of two average

Shane Hamman is often called "The Strongest Man in America," but there is a
weight that even Shane can't lift: the weight of SIN. In fact, no man can
remove the weight of sin from his own life. And, if it is not removed, he
will be crushed under its weight! See Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 6:23.

The Psalmist David knew this truth all too well: "There is no ... health in
my bones Because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like
a HEAVY BURDEN they are too heavy for me" (Ps 38:3-4).

Yet David looked to the Lord for his salvation (Psalm 38:21-22), and so WE
must look to the Sinless Son of God for our salvation because He is the only
One who can LIFT the burden of sin from our souls. Jesus "Himself BORE our
sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for
righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24).

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,
according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

We allow Christ to be our Sin-bearer when we place our faith and trust in
Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31),
confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into
Him for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27).

Won't YOU allow Christ to do the "heavy lifting" in your life by allowing
Him to bear YOUR sin through your trusting obedience?

David A. Sargent

Saturday, July 23, 2011



                                  "We shall never surrender." (Winston Churchill, 1940)

Just about daily, we're provided with news about the two current wars our nation is involved in - Iraq and Afghanistan. And, most generally, that news is in regards to the casualties of those wars. With your indulgence, I'd like to offer a short lesson based upon some thoughts derived from those two wars and wars in general.

I cited a statement made by Sir Winston Churchill during a speech he gave back in 1940 at a time when England was facing the onslaught of Hitler's Nazi war machine and the situation looked very bleak for England. We'll come back to some more of his words a little later on, but first I'd like you to consider some Biblical thoughts that constitute our lesson in chief.

I know that you know this, but it never hurts to remind ourselves of a very real fact and that fact is: the Church is engaged in a continual war with a very determined enemy. Oh, it's not what is termed as a "physical war" but rather it's a "spiritual war."

A few editorials ago we looked at a lesson based upon the passage found in Eph. 6:10-18 where it talks about the "armor" and the weaponry we have, as Christian soldiers, to fight this war. Plus, that passage told us who we are fighting against and how we are to wage this war.

But, whether we're talking about a "physical war" or a "spiritual war" there is one thing common to both - casualties. And, sadly enough, I think that we all have personal knowledge of casualties that have occurred in both types of war. Our lesson today will be geared toward the thought of the casualties of "spiritual warfare" and how to avoid becoming one.

To start with, let's look briefly at a parable found in Luke 8:5-15, the one Jesus told about the "sower" and the "seed." A quick study of this parable will teach us that there will be casualties in our "spiritual war." The first thing I'd like to point out is what we see in verse 11 where the "seed" is identified as being "the word of God." If you recall from our editorial abased on Eph. 6, you'll recall that the Christian's only weapon is "the word of God."

In verse 12 we find out exactly who our opponent is in this war, who our "adversary" is - the devil. He is the commander of the forces arrayed against us. We know that he is a ruthless opponent because of what Peter tells us about him in 1Pet. 5:8 - that he is like a "roaring lion (insatiable) walking about, seeking whom he may devour." Relate "devour" to the word "destroy."

Verse 12 also shows us how he operates and also identifies our first casualty. Notice there that he "takes the word out of their hearts." It says that "the Word" was received (in the heart) but, like the "seed" along the "wayside" it got taken away. Verse 13 provides us with our second casualty. These casualties consist of those who heard the "Word" and received it with "great joy," but let the temptations of the devil pull them away from it. Thus, becoming a casualty.

Our next casualty is found in the next verse, 14. Here we see that those who are even stronger believers will get caught up in worldly things to the degree that they are as good as dead because they "bring no fruit to perfection." They don't produce anything for the cause of Christ and Satan takes another Christian soldier off of the battlefield.

Then we get to verse 15 and we find out who the survivors of our "spiritual war" will be. Just who the victorious army is: those who received the "Word" with good honest hearts, kept it and brought forth fruit with "patience." A closely related word to "patience" is "diligence."

We see this word several times in the Gospel used to indicate a characteristic of a Christian. I particularly like the way Peter uses it in 2Pet. 1:10 where he says that if we're "diligent" about keeping the Word and the other characteristics of Christians, then "ye shall never fall." In other words, we won't become a casualty of war.

Let's return to some thoughts regarding our enemy, our "adversary" and better understand just exactly who we're fighting against. It's fitting that all of the various descriptions of the "devil" seen in the original Greek means things like "slanderer, accuser or traducer" which explains that this sort of enemy is seeking to "break the bonds" between God and man. If that bond is permanently broken, that person's soul has become a fatal casualty of war.

Remember I mentioned the words of Peter where he described the devil as a "roaring lion" and I said to note the word "destroy" as relating to "devour?" Look at the warning Jesus gives us in Matt. 10:28 that directly relates to the devil and the casualties he inflicts: "...fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." That is the location of internment for the casualties of a "spiritual war."

One of the things that I find hard to grasp is, according to Bible predictions, there will be many casualties in our war against "the devil and his angels (army)" even though our parable in Luke 8 tells us WHO WINS THE WAR! Who the ultimate victor will be. Why wouldn't you do everything in your power to NOT be a casualty? And we know that we have that power because James tells us "resist the devil and he will flee from you." (4:7) We just have to stand up to him.

Paul tells us in 2Tim. 4:2 to be "instant in season and out of season." That simply means "be prepared to fight, to resist, at all times." To never let our guard down because if we do, the devil has an opening and he moves in for the kill. And, as Paul told us several times in Eph. 6 that we are to "stand" against the "wiles of the devil." To be strong and courageous in this "spiritual war." If we are not, we become a casualty and we know where our eternal graveyard will be.

In closing, I'm going to provide you with the full paragraph of Sir Winston's speech from which I drew our opening citation. I believe that all Christian's could adopt his words as the battle cry for our army as we engage in our war. See if you don't agree with me.

        "We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight

          in France; we shall fight on the seas and oceans. We shall fight with

          growing confidence in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever

          the cost may be.

          We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds.

          We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills.


Ron Covey

First Dunkin' Donuts shop

The small city in which I live is still basking in the glow of its
first Dunkin' Donuts shop. I've been a fan of their coffee for about
fifteen years since having my first cup in Durham, NC. Every so often
I treat myself to a cup, and I savor the flavor as I sip (as I have
this morning).

But I'm also pondering the cup my coffee came in; what will happen to
it? It's the standard-issue styrofoam cup with appropriate
advertising imprinted on it. This all means that the cup won't be
used again; I'll soon toss it in the trash. And then where? Within
days it will rest in the local landfill, and there it will remain for
decades to come. It's not a very "green" alternative.

As I came into the office this morning, coffee in hand, raindrops were
falling. Suppose I told you that the drop that landed on my nose was
a brand-new raindrop. If you know anything at all about the cycles of
nature, you would laugh at my ignorance. It may have been new to me,
but that drop of water has been around for a very long time; for as
long as the earth has been around, in fact.

The water that landed on my nose may have then slid onto the ground
beneath me. Sinking into the earth, it might eventually be absorbed
by a root from a tree or a blade of grass. Rising back to the
sunlight, the water would then be evaporated into the sky where it
would join millions of other drops to form a cloud. Over time that
cloud would release some of its water, perhaps thousands of miles from
where I live. And so the cycle continues, over and over, throughout

If you ask me, that's the ultimate in recycling. Even if the water
drop is contaminated during its sojourn on earth, purification is
accomplished during evaporation. Water just doesn't wear out!

Solomon spoke of this phenomenon long ago: "All the rivers run into
the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers
come, there they return again" (Ecclesiastes 1:7). Without this
amazing cycling action, life on earth could not exist.

Without God's amazing habit of blessing our lives, we could not exist.
That's a thought on which we need to ponder more often.

David, long ago, realized the abundance of God's blessings on a
regular basis: "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits,
the God of our salvation!" (Psalm 68:19). God doesn't just send
drizzles of good gifts; He "loads" us with benefits we need.

Even in times of trouble we can honestly acknowledge that we are
blessed. Jeremiah wept over the destruction of his home city, but he
could still make this refreshing observation: "Through the Lord's
mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They
are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my
portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I hope in Him!'" (Lamentations
3:22-24). God's willingness to bless just doesn't wear out!

Where did that raindrop on my nose come from? Was it earlier found in
China, in Antarctica or in Patagonia? One thing I can state with
certainty is that it came from God (see Matthew 5:45). And He is the
source of all the good blessings on which I depend (James 1:17).

Come to the light God offers! Study His word, the Bible. Worship Him
Timothy D. Hall.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

As the world burns, we can chill out sale

I saw an advertisement this week for a: "As the world burns, we can chill
out sale." The advertisement was meant to encourage people to be better
prepared for life in an unstable social and political climate.

They succeeded in catching my attention with the advertisement, but of
course I took it in an entirely different direction than they had intended.
The advertisement was complete with pictures of burning buildings and
landscape while sirens wailed in the background. My thoughts went to the
word picture that Peter draws for us in 2 Peter 3:9-12. Notice his words:

9 "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come
to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will
disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth
and everything in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people
ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives
12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day
will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements
will melt in the heat." (NIV)

I'm not sure we understand this total destruction of our physical world. If
we did perhaps we would be more urgent in our telling others about it. That
was the motivation for the apostle Paul when he spoke the elders of the
church at Ephesus and said, "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the
space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with
tears." (Acts 20:31 KJV)

Peter did not leave us with no hope concerning the worlds end. In 2 Peter
3:13-14, Peter reminds us of God's promise to us:

13 "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven
and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every
effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him."(NIV)

The writer of the book of Hebrews puts it this way, "For the message God
delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the
law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we
can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the
Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?"
(Hebrews 2:2-3)

Yes, the world will someday be burned up, but God has given us a way of
escape. What is it? It is by obeying His Words and living in such a way as
to bring honor to His Kingdom.

Russ Lawson

Religion Or Spirituality?



Text: 1 Corinthians 2:12-16

Thesis: "Spirituality" is a concept that is leading many away from true Christianity.


1. For 25 years The Oprah Winfrey Show was one of the most-watched programs on television.

The series came to an end on May 25, 2011. In an interview with Piers Morgan,

Winfrey made a claim about her influence: "I am the messenger to deliver the message of

hope and redemption." Her message was described by an article in USA Today as

"Big Hug Spirituality".

2. At first glance the term "spirituality" seems innocent. In fact, it's even something to be

desired, isn't it? But when we look more closely we'll find that modern views of spirituality

are not an upgrade, but a definite challenge to our faith in Jesus Christ.

3. "Does My Faith Need An Upgrade?" is a theme we propose to examine for the next few

weeks. Just as we often need an upgrade for a computer, a car, or some other aspect of

our lives, it's valid to ask whether our faith needs enhancements. We'll begin with a very

fundamental consideration: Should I seek religion, spirituality - or both?


I. Spirituality, A Growing Trend

A. Jn. 4:24 - Most of us have a basic idea of what "spiritual" means. God is Spirit, Jesus

told the Samaritan woman, and we know there is a spiritual realm. For most of us,

"spirituality" simply means that we're not just thinking about things that are material. And

that's a good thing, isn't it?

B. How the world today views "spirituality":

1. One site, written from an atheistic perspective, gave its definition of "spirituality":

"The term itself came to be used frequently only after the 1960s when there were

widespread revolts against every form of organized authority, including "organized

religion." Every establishment and every system of authority was thought to be

corrupt and evil, including those which were religious - but of course, Americans

weren't prepared to abandon religion entirely. So, they created a new category which

was still religious, but which no longer included the same traditional authority figures.

... They called it Spirituality."


2. Another site gave this definition in 2007: "Religion usually entails adhering to a

certain dogma or belief system. Spirituality places little importance on intellectual

beliefs, but is concerned with growing into and experiencing the Divine

consciousness. ... Religion places more emphasis on outer forms and outer rituals.

Spirituality is less concerned with outer rituals. Spirituality says that what is important

is a seeker's inner attitude. Through practising spirituality we seek to develop an

inner shrine in our own heart."


3. Douglas Todd, in an article "5 Spiritual Trends To Watch For In 2009", wrote: "The

ranks are mushrooming of those who claim, "I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual." A

Pew Forum poll concluded this year that more Americans are embracing a

"non-dogmatic approach to faith." Spiritual anti-institutionalism is expanding

everywhere, especially British Columbia. The influential sociologist of religion, Robert

Wuthnow, writes in his new book, After the Baby Boomers, that young adults have

become spiritual "tinkerers," piecing together beliefs and practices to suit their

needs." (

4. I frankly was not prepared for the overwhelming volume of material on the Internet

that promotes this view of spirituality. One site seems to sum it up: -

"Spiritual But Not Religious". Their masthead gives their view of "religion": "All

religions contain some wisdom, but no one religion contains all wisdom."

5. Col. 2:23 - Paul wrote about lifestyles that some tried to press on Christians in

Colossae which involved asceticism. He declared that though they have "an

appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion", they were of no value for what

people really needed. Modern-day spirituality has an appearance of something really

good. But is it really what we need? Would this be an upgrade to our faith?

C. We've just celebrated a very patriotic holiday. Suppose we broke a law, and in

defending ourself in court we argued that we highly value patriotism, but have rejected

the idea of being bound to the laws of the country. Would that argument work? But isn't

that the idea behind modern spirituality - "Spiritual But Not Religious"?

II. People Who Follow Spirituality, Or Spiritual People?

A. But in our rejection of modern spirituality, let's not overlook the importance of being

spiritual people. As we will discover, this is a requirement of being pleasing to God! Do

we know what it means?

B. Rom. 8 - Being spiritual is a requirement for pleasing God:

1. 8:1 - After discussing his struggle to do right, Paul came to the joyful conclusion that

we are not condemned if we walk according to the Spirit.

2. 8:2 - The law of the Spirit of life frees us from the law of sin and death.

3. 8:3,4 - If we walk in the Spirit, the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us by

means of Jesus' death on the cross.

4. 8:5,6 - Here Paul clearly states the mandate: We either set our minds on the flesh or

we set them on the things of the Spirit. If we are carnally minded, death awaits us.

5. 8:7,8 - Keeping our mind on earthly things is enmity with God. If we're "in the flesh"

(i.e. of the flesh) we cannot please God.

6. 8:9 - If the Spirit abides in us we are "not in the flesh but in the Spirit".

7. Acts 2:38 - Peter declared that those who repent and are baptized are forgiven of

their sins and are given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

8. 8:10,11 - If the Spirit dwells in us then we'll be raised to life.

C. Only those who are spiritual fulfill God's will:

1. 1 Cor. 2:14,15 - The "natural man" doesn't receive the things of the Spirit of God. He

who is spiritual is open to God's guidance.

2. Gal. 6:1 - If one is not spiritual, they don't care that their brother has gone astray and

will do nothing to restore him.

3. Wayne Jackson: "Spiritual" may connote one who has accessed knowledge from

God, and has an appreciation for the same. … In this context, the "spiritual man" thus

may be the one who welcomes the Spirit's revelation, while the "natural man" is the

one who depends upon human wisdom, hence, does not esteem spiritual reality."


D. Bill Maher: ""I would describe my spirituality as exactly the opposite of having a religious

affiliation." "Spirituality" in the modern sense will only take us further from God. But

becoming spiritual people who are open to the will of God will help us reach our

heavenly home!


1. A person injected with a syringe of water may believe they're going to be cured; but believing

something to be so will not make it so. That water won't cure a thing.

2. "Spirituality" sounds nice. But if we're not guided by God's wisdom, it won't help us at all.

Tim Hall, Central Church of Christ, Johnson City, TN


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ephesians 4:1

    In Ephesians 4:1, Paul encouraged the Christians to "walk WORTHY of their calling."  This tells me that it IS possible to walk in a way worthy of the Gospel call (cf. 2Thessalonians 2:14).  Paul wrote to the Philippian church, "your conduct must be WORTHY of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:27).

            The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1Corinthians 15:1-4). I don't know about you, but for me it is a very humbling thought to think that I could ever live my life in such a way so as to be worthy of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ! However, it is possible because the inspired apostle commands it.

            In Matthew 10:38, Jesus says, "He who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me." Again, it is therefore possible to walk worthy of Jesus, and the way to do it is by taking up our cross and following Him.

            Now, it is totally important that we understand that this "worthiness" results only from a knowledge of, and belief in, our own "unworthiness!"  That sounds like a contradiction, but it isn't. Revelation chapter 5 explains that only One in all Heaven and Earth was "worthy" to take the Book of Life from the hand of God and break its seals, and that was Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus said, "even after we have done all that we have been commanded to do, we are still unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10).  Therefore, our "worthiness" results *only* when we are created anew in Christ Jesus (2Corinthians 5:17), and this happens when we truly repent and are baptized into Him (Galatians 3:27).

            The Centurion said he was "not worthy" for Jesus to come to his house (Matthew 8:8). John the Baptist said he was "not worthy" to even untie Jesus' sandals (Matthew 3:11). Only One is truly "worthy," and that is our Lord (Revelation 4:11). Therefore, our "worthiness" comes only from being "in Him."

            In Colossians 1:10, Paul told the Christians to "walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.  Part of being worthy of salvation is "fully pleasing Him" – being "fruitful in every good work" – and, "increasing in the knowledge of God."

            In the parable of the Wedding Feast, Jesus explained that those who were invited but made excuses not to come, were *not worthy* (Matthew 22:8).

            In Acts 13:46, Paul said those who refused the Gospel, judge themselves "unworthy of salvation!"

            Even the Lord's Supper must be taken in a "worthy" manner, (in a respectful and reverent way, with knowledge and understanding of what we are doing), else we eat and drink judgment unto ourselves.  In fact, *all* things we do in the church must be done in a manner worthy of God (3John 6).

            Perhaps the most unique use of this word appears in Hebrews 11:38, when talking about those who were totally faithful to God, even unto death. "The world is NOT WORTHY of such people!" In other words, God has a pretty "high opinion" of those who faithfully follow His Word. What is God's opinion of you?   Toby Miller

Monday, July 11, 2011

The secret to church growth

Discussing church growth is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago, or even 2,000 years ago. Peter admonished us, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). If individual Christians grow as they should, it is not unreasonable to expect churches of which they are a part to grow as well. If not why not? Admittedly churches are not growing at the same pace as that which was experienced in the first part of the last century. The soil is not the same, and the laborers seem to be fewer in number. That does not mean, however, that growth is not possible, or that it is not expected by our Father in heaven. I have been preaching for more than four decades, and I have been blessed to work with congregations that experienced growth in number, others great growth in maturity, and others in both numbers and maturity; the later is the desired type of growth. One congregation in a neighboring city of Tarrant County, Texas has grown in number at an incredible rate over the past thirty years—but I think I can say without fear of contradiction that they have not grown spiritually; in fact, they have completely outgrown their usefulness to the cause of our Lord through compromise of the truth and abandonment of the God-given pattern. I have also witnessed some good, sound, and godly congregations grow in numbers, as well as spirituality, in spite of their "location" and the "soil" with which they have to work. I have come to the conclusion that there are at least five factors that contribute to a successful growth of a congregation.

First, a congregation must have a burning compassion for the lost. A casual approach to evangelism in the absence of deep compassion for the lost souls of men will not produce a significant growth rate; in fact it may actually cause a congregation to diminish is size as members grow old and die from natural causes, or move away to some other city or locale. On the other hand, those congregations who love the souls of men, and who seek to provide salvation in the way and manner prescribed in God's word will have doors opened for teaching and preaching the word.

Second, a congregation must plan. A church that meets today's needs tomorrow will always be behind the proverbial eight ball. I have learned one thing in my lifetime, mostly from experience—it is that it is easier to stay up with the challenges that come our way than it is to catch up once we get behind. Planning will help us in this area. Plans must be set and sought after. Once achieved, new plans must be in the making, or better yet, in place and ready for implementation.

Third, a congregation must possess a spirit of love and unity among the members. Visitors to a congregation are often impressed by the friendliness of a congregation—either its presence or its absence. Who in his right mind would want to become a part of a congregation that bickers and argues at every turn? To ask is to answer. Jesus told us, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).

Fourth, a congregation must have leaders who are leaders indeed. When "little men" oversee the work of the church we can only expect little results or no results at all. But when the leaders have great vision, strength, zeal, and a determination to do what is right, in the right way, and for the right purpose, the inevitable result will be growth. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face in our generation is the lack (or complete absence) of good leaders. God give us men who will LEAD!

Fifth, a congregation must have faith. They must trust in the Lord and depend upon the Father to "give the increase" if we will be about the Father's business. Too often we approach our evangelistic efforts with a ho-hum attitude. Brethren—our Gospel meetings, Bible classes, worship services, available tracts, correspondence courses are tools in our hand to get the precious seed into the hearts of men. We MUST have faith in the power of the gospel to touch and change the hearts of men. To believe otherwise will spell only defeat and disappointment.

Sixth, a congregation must love and honor God's word in their worship, their lives, and their teaching. It might have been good to place this qualification at the beginning of our list, for if we dishonor God's word, all of the above is for naught. It makes little difference the leadership capabilities of our shepherds, the love and kindly spirit we might express to one another, our zeal and compassion for the lost, or what plans we have before us—if we deviate from God's word, we will not only lose our own soul, but take our converts with us into an eternity of separation from our Father.

I believe growth is possible! Not because of any "magical" formula that we at Handley might be able to conjure up—but because an inspired apostle encouraged us that if we plant the seed, God will give the increase. I believe that! Don't you?

by Tom Wacaster

Friday, July 8, 2011

Preach the word sermon



July 3, 2011 a.m.                                                                                                                         Dan Williams

Sermon:  "Preach the Word," Part 3 – "The Opposition to the Word"             College Ave church of Christ

Text:   2 Timothy 3:12-13, 4:3-4                                                                                     El Dorado, Arkansas

Aim:  to explain the need for preaching (and hearing) the Word.                 

Thesis:  the preacher must preach the Word because truth has enemies.



This weekend as we celebrate Independence Day we are reminded of the freedom we enjoy, AND of the men and women in the military who are sacrificing to keep our nation secure.  I am thankful for all these willing warriors on the front lines of freedom, and I pray for their safety, success, and soon return home.  In this world there can be no freedom without those who are willing to fight the enemies of freedom, and liberty cannot be maintained without constant vigilance.


This morning we will learn that in the kingdom of God there is no freedom without those who are willing to fight the enemies of TRUTH!   READ TEXT.


Jesus said in John 8:31-32  "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" – Jesus (John 8)


The only power in the world that can free us from the slavery of sin and self and shame is the truth of the gospel.  But three times in our passage we are reminded that truth has enemies:


  • 3:7  "always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth"


  • 3:8  "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth"


  • 4:4  "They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths"


Truth cannot be maintained without constant vigilance, because truth has enemies.  Paul gives Timothy a solemn charge to courageously "Preach the Word" because he realizes Timothy will have to battle opposition. We must never forget there are people in this world who not only promote alternatives to the gospel but are actively antagonistic to the truth.


That is why a preacher of the Word must be a combatant, just as surely as the men and women in service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In fact, that is the picture Paul uses back in 2 Timothy 2:3 to describe the preacher's work:  "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus."  Any man who takes on the responsibility of preaching the Word must understand right up front that he is enlisting in an army, he is signing up for a spiritual fight.  Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5  "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, nor do we wage war as the world does.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."


Who are we fighting?  Where does opposition to the Word come from?  There are three enemies of truth:


1.  SATAN!  TURN to 2 Corinthians 11.  Paul had already warned Timothy in his previous letter, in 1 Timothy 4:1  "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and following deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."  The apostle John also speaks of Satanic opposition in 1 John 4:1  "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.'


The devil knows that he cannot shake some people from their faith, that he cannot pry them from religion, so he provides them with an untrue religion.  Are you in 2 Corinthians 11?


READ Verses 13-15  "Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.  Their end will be what their actions deserve."


Truth will always be under Satanic attack!  Right after Jesus said in John 8:32 than "the truth will set you free" he went on to say in Verse 44 that the devil "is a liar and the father of lies."  Right from the beginning, all the way back in the Garden of Eden, Satan was spinning his lies in an attempt to lead people away from God's truth.  Truth has enemies, and it has no greater enemy than Satan!


What is the solution to the opposition of the devil?  4:4  "Preach the Word:  be prepared in season and out of season;  correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction"


By the way, this passage in 2 Corinthians 11 also identifies the second enemy of the truth, because as verse 14 points out, Satan has his "servants" in this world.  Who would want to work for Satan?  The second enemy of truth:


2.  SELF-SERVING RELIGIOUS LEADERS!  2 Timothy 3:8  "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth"


Here Paul reaches back to the Old Testament, to one of the most dramatic confrontations in sacred history:  Moses before the throne of mighty Pharaoh.


It must have been intimidating enough for a shepherd from Midian to confront the ruler of the most powerful nation on earth, but don't forget:  Moses also had to withstand the opposition of what Exodus 7:11 calls the "wise men, sorcerers, and Egyptian magicians."   They were the religious leaders of Egypt, on Pharaoh's payroll, so they had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.


Every age has had its religious charlatans and hucksters who take advantage of the credulous crowd in order to make a buck.


In 1 Timothy 6:6 Paul explains they are "men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain."  In 2 Timothy 3:13 they are called "evil men and imposters." 


It is a sad commentary on religion when the greatest enemies of the truth are religious leaders!  Did you see the column by Michael McManus in the El Dorado News-Times on May 11?

This week the 2 million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to abandon its constitutional requirement that its clergy adhere to a Biblical sexual standard of "fidelity in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

            Why?  It wanted to allow sexually active homosexuals to be ordained as clergy.

            It is not the first mainline Protestant denomination to take this step.  The United Church of Christ did so way back in 1972.  The Episcopal Church voted to ordain gays in 2003, and the Evangelical Lutherans, in 2009.

            What is the likely result for PCUSA?

            A more rapid exodus of church members.  As the church has debated gay ordination over and over in recent decades, about 60,000 people a year have left the denomination. A church which once boasted 4 million members is half of its former size.

Truth has enemies, and sometimes those enemies are standing in a pulpit!  What is the solution to the opposition of corrupt religious leaders?  4:4  "Preach the Word:  be prepared in season and out of season;  correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction."


3.  The third enemy of truth is HUMAN NATURE!    Immediately after Paul tells Timothy to "Preach the Word," he says in Verses 3-4  "The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."


The Bible testifies that this is an abiding aspect of human nature – it is difficult for people to endure the convicting power of truth, and without a deep commitment to God and His Word, they will slowly but surely turn away.  That's why Hebrews 2:1 says "We must pay more careful attention… what we have seen and heard, so that we do not drift away"

One of the marvels of the Internet age is a thing called Pandora radio. When you listen to a radio station on terrestrial or satellite radio, you have to listen to every song played. You can change the channel, but you can't change the song. You're stuck with whatever you're given. But not so on Pandora.

On Pandora, you put in different singers, bands, or songs that you like; and the program uses an algorithm to parse the music that you list. The algorithm asks, is this rock, or is it soft rock, or is it hard rock? Is it antiphonal? Does it have guitar leads? Does it have a front man? It analyzes what you like, and then it can incorporate other similar songs and artists into the mix.

Not only that:  by each song that's played Pandora puts a little thumbs-up sign and a little thumbs-down sign. When you click the thumbs-up sign, the algorithm is strengthened even more to your tastes, and it will play more music like that. If you click the thumbs-down sign, Pandora will just skip that particular song and bring up a different one for you to judge.

In an age where customization of lifestyle and belief has become the norm, this is often the way we approach the Bible. I like 1 Corinthians 13 about love; I don't like 1 Corinthians 11 about women. I like the Book of Joshua about God bringing the Israelites into the Promised Land; I don't like the parts of Joshua about killing people. I like Jesus, the baby in the manger; I don't like Jesus who calls a woman a dog. I like Jesus in the beatitudes; I don't like him when he talks about plucking out your eye and cutting off your hand.

We tailor and customize our view of Scripture and, ultimately, our view of God. It's like we have our own internal algorithm all the time, sorting through and processing the biblical data to say, "Oh, I accept this part, I'll preach this part, this part is useful to modern society; but this other part I'm embarrassed—even ashamed—of."  Hershael York, sermon "Judgment at Ai," (4-4-11)

For tunes, that's fine – for truth, its not! I knew of a woman who has serious health problems that are aggravated because she is severely obese, but she fired her doctor because he told her she needed to lose weight.  She went shopping for a fat doctor who would be more "accepting" – and she found one. 


Her new, carefully-selected doctor told her what she wanted to hear – and she was happy…….until she ended up in the hospital.


Do you remember when we were children, and our parents took us to the doctor's office to get an immunization shot?  Oh, how we protested – we cried – we fought – we were angry – because we didn't want to experience that momentary prick of the needle!


Back then, we hated those "mean" nurses who were sticking us! Today I feel sorry for them:  not just because they have to struggle with kids who are resisting them, but because they are so unpopular, they are being hated unjustly.  The nurses understand what the child cannot: that the minor pain of a vaccination enables the child to avoid the major suffering of a terrible disease.


In the same way, we need the healing hurt of Holy Scripture.  I know, sometimes the truth stings – sometimes it tells us what we don't want to hear – but if we want to remain spiritually healthy, we need to listen, even if it steps on our toes – maybe especially when it steps on our toes!  Because that just might be the Holy Spirit doing his healing, sanctifying work on our heart.


It is not the job of a preacher to be popular – AND it isn't his job to be offensive, either.  It is his responsibility to preach the truth, and let the Holy Spirit do his work.  Some people will open their heart to the Word and be convicted and converted – others will close their heart to the Word and become angry and upset.


  • The greedy man is angered at the preacher when he speaks for generosity and against stinginess;


  • the lazy man ridicules the sermon on diligence;


  • the couple who is shacking up doesn't want to hear that God requires holiness and honors marriage; 
  • the racist stops his ears at the message that God loves all people equally and that prejudice is a sin; 


  • the crooked businessman finds fault with the sermon on integrity;


  • and the gossip responds to the lesson on slander by talking about the preacher.


So, what should the preacher do when he realizes his message may not be universally popular?  You already know the answer:  4:4  "Preach the Word:  be prepared in season and out of season;  correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction."

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