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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cape Canaveral, Florida

Some historical events, relative to this time of year, serves to bring us today’s editorial lesson.  There are three such events that perhaps only a trivia nut such as myself would be aware of, that help to illustrate a most important lesson subject.  Actually, THE most important lesson that we can consider.  That subject  - what the condition of our soul is at any given time.  Let’s look first at the events and then make the application to our lesson.


Last Friday, the 27th of January, 2017, was the 50th year anniversary of a tragedy occurring at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  On 1-27-1967 a sudden fire in the capsule of the Apollo 1 spacecraft snuffed out the lives of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.


Nineteen years later, almost to the day, on January 28th, 1986, the spaceship “Challenger” exploded just 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral taking the lives of the seven crew members on board.  It was subsequent to this event that President Reagan said, “We watched as they waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”


Then, interestingly to the time, seventeen years later, again almost to the day, on February 1st, 2003, the spaceship “Columbia” disintegrated upon reentry killing all seven astronauts on board.


Don’t you find it interesting that all three of these space disasters occurred within six days of each other, albeit 37 years apart?  But, the time proximity of these events is not the reason for my using them as the catalyst for my thoughts today.  No, it’s the suddenness with which they occurred, as in - one minute things are going as planned, as normal (if anything about space and spacecrafts is normal) and then - it’s all over.  Or, perhaps as the common phrase says it - in a flash.


I think that we’d all agree that in all three events the ones that perished were physically prepared for their mission.  The question is, how prepared were their souls?  You do realize that the “soul” has a mission, don’t you?  Simply stated, that mission is to return to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7) in the same condition in which it was issued.


Yes, every soul returns to God and man has no control over exactly when that return trip will be.  What we do have control over is the condition in which it returns.  Or otherwise said, the condition with which it’s received by God.  It was pure when it was issued and if you intend it to live eternally in heaven with God, it has to return in that condition.


The only way that can happen is that it has been cleaned according to the only scriptural cleaning instructions and the only cleansing agent - the “blood of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:5)   If you’ve ever wondered what is the ultimate priority of your life it’s this - the condition of your soul when it returns to God.


Oh, we may live a long life and die in peaceful surroundings.  But then, it might end otherwise, or as Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 5:3, “sudden destruction” can come upon us as it did with our astronauts and countless other souls.


We need to heed Christ’s warning found in Matt. 24:42 and be prepared at all times because we don’t know when the time of our soul’s departure will be.  The wise man Solomon said it this way: “Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy (beyond healing).”  (Prov. 6:15)


Yes, the mission of the astronauts was important to the space program, but not near as important as the mission of our soul.  We know how prepared they were for their mission of space exploration, but we don’t know how prepared their souls were when they came face to face with God.  Let’s hope that they were also prepared spiritually.


But, we should be more concerned about the condition of our own souls’ because we too will someday “slip the surly bonds of earth” and, as it were,  “touch the face of God.”  However and whenever that event comes to us shouldn’t matter if our soul is prepared.


In closing, I’m reminded of the words of an old “invitation” hymn entitled: “Prepare to Meet Thy God.”  The final words of the chorus are these: “O how sad to face the judgment, Unprepared to meet thy God.” The prescription for avoiding that “calamity” is to follow Christ’s warning and have our soul prepared to be called home at any time.


Respectfully submitted,

Ron Covey




Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ed Leonard, a 60-year-old Canadian driller

Trading Places


In June of 1998, Ed Leonard, a 60-year-old Canadian driller, accepted a job with Terramundo Drilling to work in Colombia, South America as a drilling foreman.  On June 24, seven days after he arrived in Colombia, he was taken captive by armed rebels who demanded a ransom of $500,000.  Leonard’s captors, armed with automatic weapons, kept him moving throughout the Andes Mountains.  Leonard bathed in frigid rivers, lived in a tent, and lost 21 pounds during the ordeal.


On October 6 of the same year, the guerrillas informed Leonard that he was going to be part of an “exchange.”  That afternoon, he saw another Canadian that he had never seen before.  “You must be Ed Leonard,” said Norbert Reinhart.  “Your shift is over.  It’s time for you to go home.”


Reinhart, 49, owner of Terramundo Drilling, was Leonard’s boss.  Leonard had never seen him before because he was hired over the phone.  But now this complete stranger had traded places with him so that he could go home to be with his family.  Leonard told reporters, “There is no way to put it in words, when somebody basically gives his life for you.” *


Reinhart was eventually returned home safely to his family, but his willingness to “trade places” with Leonard was heroic and illustrates something that has been done for you and for me.


Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).  That “self-inflicted” slavery (see James 1:13-15) is universal, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  To make matters worse, this slavery leads to death (Romans 6:23) and none of us has the resources to pay the ransom price to set ourselves free.


But Jesus came to our rescue.  He paid the price for our redemption with His own blood.  The Apostle Peter reminded some Christians of the ransom price that was paid for them: “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” (1 Peter 1:18-19).  On the cross, Jesus “traded places” with us, taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself (1 Peter 2:24), so that we could be set free.


Why did He do it?  Because He loves us.  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends” (John 15:13).


Because of Jesus, we can be set free from sin and its eternal punishment if we will only accept His offer of salvation and eternal life on His terms.


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


That exchange of His sinless life for our sin-stained lives is called GRACE.  By His grace, YOU can be saved and live eternally with Him if you will only accept His offer through your obedient faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).


Won’t YOU?


-- David A. Sargent


* Information gleaned from “Trading Places” by William Plummer in People (posted November 30, 1998; and Andrew Phillips in One Word Study Guide

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Use It or Lose It

This expression is often heard in regard to physical exercise, when the idea is being promoted that muscles have to be used in order to insure greater use of them in the future. To fail to do so, will tend to slowly lead to muscular atrophy, a loss of what strength you presently have. But the same principle applies to things spiritual as well.

In Mark 4:24-25, Jesus says, "Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him." When it comes to hearing God's word, understanding it and then applying it, God warns in so many words, "use it or lose it."

We all have some ability to get to know God and His will. We all have opportunities to fulfil the desires of our heart religiously, but if we neglect to use them, we may end up losing even that which we have. Conversely, the more we put into seeking after God, the more we will get out of it and the more we will be equipped for future success.

Ecclesiastes 12 warns mankind to remember the Creator in the days of youth, before the evil days come and there is no interest. We go through changes in our lives, and some not for the better. One such change may be a degenerating interest in spiritual concerns. Don't let this happen to you. Use it, so you don't lose it.

- by Whit Sasser


Monday, January 23, 2017

The Importance of Benevolence

INTRO: ILL – You’ve seen them on the side of the road, or sitting outside the restaurant, or lining up to get out of the cold… they have signs that say “broke down, need help,” “unemployed and homeless, anything helps” or “spent all my money on cardboard and markers.” And you ask: Does this person really need help? How do I know this isn’t a con? Can’t they work? Aren’t they just going to use the money for alcohol or drugs? The government has programs to help people like that. Why don’t they go there?

ILL – There was “a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” I imagine the Priest and the Levite asked the same things as they passed by on the other side of the road. And yet Jesus said to go and help the poor, like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

Why should we help the poor? We should help the poor, because:

1.      God has always provided for them. Exodus 23:10-11

a.      There are multiple levels to this command: even the best producing land needed to rest from production occasionally.

b.      This command was about the Israelites having enough faith to allow God to provide enough in the sixth year that they didn’t need anything during the seventh.

                                                              i.      But more than that, the Israelites were to do this to show their compassion on the poor. Sabbath-keeping was intended to be a faith based and humanitarian practice.

c.       God did something similar in Leviticus 19:9-10. He commanded them to give up something that they owned for the mercy and benefit of the poor.

d.      God has always cared about the poor and helpless. Psalm 146:9 – “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless…”

e.      God has always taken care of those who cannot take care of themselves.

f.        And if God provides for them, so should we, as people of God.

g.       We should help the poor, because: 1)God has always provided for them.


2.      Jesus cared for them. Luke 14:12-14, and 18:22

a.      “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

b.      Jesus always cared about those who didn’t have. Jesus was always concerned with helping the poor.

c.       And as imitators of Christ, we must care for the poor as well.

                                                              i.      “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

d.      We should help the poor, because: 2)Jesus cared for them.


3.      Compassion is at the heart of pure religion. James 1:27

a.      Religion has always been about a relationship with God and others. And giving is at the heart of pure religion.

b.      So giving is not just a thing we do, because we are supposed to. Giving is about relationship. I visit orphans because no one else is there for them. I visit widows that are in need because I love them.

c.       If I want to participate in pure religion, I have to seek relationships. We must know each other’s needs in order to help. And we must know each other in order to know each other’s needs.

                                                              i.      And when we know each other, we can more easily see how we can help.

d.      Our giving should be first to those who are fellow Christians. But our command to give to other Christians does not eliminate our responsibility to help those outside of Christ.

e.      Galatians 6:9-10 – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

f.        We must find ways to give to non-Christians as well.

g.       Jesus often healed and fed people in order to get to know them and teach them.

h.      Serving the physical needs of non-Christians may open doors for a relationship and helping them spiritually.

i.        We should help the poor, because: 3)Compassion is at the heart of pure religion.


4.      Generosity proves that our faith is alive. James 2:14-18

a.      Faith has always been about action (Hebrews 11).

                                                              i.      ILL – Abraham left his home and everything he knew because he believed God would provide a better place for him (Hebrews 11:8).

                                                            ii.      ILL – Moses’ parents hid him for 3 months as a baby, because they were not afraid of the king and knew God would provide (Hebrews 11:23).

                                                          iii.      ILL – The Israelites circled the city of Jericho for 7 days because they believed God would destroy the walls (Hebrews 11:30).

b.      Our faith today is about action! If we believe God will provide for us, why do we hang on to our stuff so tightly?

c.       We must prove our faith! Giving to others not only helps them, but proves to God and myself that I have faith!

d.      We should help the poor, because: 4)Generosity proves that our faith is alive.


5.      We will be judged by our giving. Matthew 25:31-46

a.      The judgment scene only has two possible outcomes: eternal life or eternal punishment. There is no middle ground. There is no third option.

b.      Eternal life is a reward for the righteous who obediently serve their King. They inherit the heavenly kingdom that has been prepared for them since before the beginning of time!

                                                              i.      And their eternal reward is based on their giving to others while they were alive.

c.       Eternal punishment is the fate of the wicked who did not obey the King. Instead of being blessed, they are cursed! Instead of enjoying fellowship with God, they are thrown out of His presence. Their end is eternal fire and unending pain.

                                                              i.      And their punishment is based on what they did in this life and their lack of generosity toward others.

d.      “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).

e.      God will not judge us solely on how much we give to others. But remember, our giving is a reflection of our spiritual life.

f.        If I have a relationship with God, I will give. If I do not give, it is because I am not right with God.

g.       We should help the poor, because: 1)God has always provided for them, 2)Jesus cared for them, 3)Compassion is at the heart of pure religion, 4)Generosity proves that our faith is alive, 5)We will be judged by our giving.


CONCLUSION: How is your spiritual life today? Are you going to heaven? One clear sign is to check how much you give. If your generosity is lacking, then it’s time to make some changes – not just with your checkbook, but with your faith!

Andrew Schwarz


Serving God as a Teacher

INTRO: Romans 12:4-8. Today, I want to encourage teachers. We all must be teachers. Whether you are a preacher, Bible class teacher, doing personal Bible studies, or studying with your family at home, we all need to be doing our part as teachers. And we are thankful for our teachers!

However, the Bible also gives a warning to teachers. James 3:1-5. So we must be careful about how and what we teach. You should not teach if you will not 1)Teach the truth, 2)Teach with love, or 3)Practice what you teach.

1.      Teach the truth

a.      Ephesians 4:11-16

b.      Some people do not know the truth.

                                                              i.      1 Timothy 1:6-7 – “For some… have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”

                                                            ii.      You shouldn’t teach if you don’t know what you are teaching.

                                                          iii.      That doesn’t mean you should give up teaching or never start teaching because you think you don’t know enough.

                                                           iv.      You just need to grow in knowledge! And sometimes teaching is the best way to do that.

c.       Some people teach less than the truth.

                                                              i.      Paul said, in Acts 20:27, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

                                                            ii.      We must teach everything God commands!

                                                          iii.      All you have to do is believe. Say the sinners prayer. Accept Jesus into your heart. Baptism for confirmation of salvation.

d.      Some people teach more than the truth.

                                                              i.      Mark 7:1-9

                                                            ii.      You have to dress a certain way. We have to order worship a certain way.

                                                          iii.      We need instruments, clapping, or dancing to add to worship. We need to dim the lights. We need to have better songs. We need to cater to the younger audience. We need to entertain.

                                                           iv.      Deuteronomy 4:2 says, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.”

e.      Some people just want to be liked.

                                                              i.      “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

                                                            ii.      Some people want to be popular, at the expense of truth.

                                                          iii.      So they teach what people want to hear: Love without sin. Grace without justice. Forgiveness without consequences of sin. Heaven without Hell.

f.        You should not teach if you will not 1)Teach the truth.


2.      Teach with love

a.      Ephesians 4:15-16

b.      Some teachers are too harsh.

                                                              i.      1 Peter 3:15 – “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

                                                            ii.      Some teach only consequences of sin, justice, and Hell without love, grace, forgiveness, and Heaven.

                                                          iii.      We must teach the full truth, but we must be gentle and respectful when we do it.

c.       Some teachers are too soft.

                                                              i.      Some don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. They want to be tolerant. They teach that everyone can have their own truth. There is not one way to God, but many ways.

                                                            ii.      Proverbs 27:5-6 – “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

                                                          iii.      Love is telling the truth… even when it hurts!

                                                           iv.      Often Jesus was harsh in His teaching.

                                                             v.      In Matthew 21:12-13 Jesus overthrew the money table in the temple.

                                                           vi.      In Matthew 23:16-17, 23-26 and 33 Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites, blind guides, fools, and serpents.

                                                         vii.      Jesus was strong in His teaching, but still loving, because He said what needed to be said, even if it offended people.

d.      “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

e.      You should not teach if you will not 1)Teach the truth, or 2)Teach with love.


3.      Practice with you teach

a.      Matthew 23:27-28

b.      Many people teach great things. They teach all the right things in all the right ways. They know the truth and teach only the truth. They are not too harsh or too soft.

                                                              i.      They look like great people on the outside… but they do not live by the principles and truth that comes out of their mouths.

c.       Acts 1:1 says “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.” Jesus not only taught, but He also did. Jesus practiced what He preached!

d.      1 Timothy 4:11-16

e.      We must be teachers!

f.        But we can’t only teach. We must do what we teach. We must be an example to those around us. We must keep a close watch on our lives just as much as the truth we teach.

g.       You should not teach if you will not 1)Teach the truth, 2)Teach with love, or 3)Practice what you teach.


CONCLUSION: This lesson is not meant to discourage you from teaching. We all must teach! And teachers deserve our respect and appreciate, AMEN? It is a great blessing to be a teacher!

But what kind of teacher are you?

Andrew Schwarz


Saturday, January 14, 2017 of Atlanta, GA

Now It’s Complete


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


-- David A. Sargent


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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What is lasciviousness?


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

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

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

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

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

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

- by H. Osby Weaver


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