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Friday, December 28, 2018

John and Janice Shavers

I'd Rather Have You

John and Janice Shavers were visiting with their son, Mike, and his family in Mobile several years ago.  At the time, John was working with Norfolk Southern Railroad in Atlanta, Georgia.  Despite the miles between them, the family would get together every two weeks.

This visit found the father and son back on the golf course.  As they walked up on to a tee box, John told Mike that Norfolk Southern had offered early retirement to upper management employees over 55 years of age.  At age 56 and in his position, John qualified.  John went on to tell his son how much he loved his job.  He was a National Account Manager and his job was to maintain a good relationship with Norfolk Southern's largest customer: Georgia Pacific.  Some of the benefits of his position included a membership to a Country Club and box seats to Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons ball games.  As a part of his work, John would take VIPs of Georgia Pacific to play golf, see professional ball games, and eat at nice restaurants.  He was also responsible for resolving any problems that would arise to keep a great relationship with Georgia Pacific.  John was good at his job and his company had awarded him with company stocks and large bonuses ever year.  If he passed on the early retirement offer and continued to work for another nine years (until the age of 65), John told his son that this could mean a large sum of money for him and his sister when he and their mother passed away.

"What do you think I should do?" John asked his son.

Mike responded, "Dad, I'd rather have you in Mobile for the next nine years than any amount of money in the future."

John replied, "Son, you've helped me make up my mind."  From that tee box, John called his boss, the Vice President of Norfolk Southern, and told him that he would take early retirement.

Why?  Because spending time with family is more important that being able to spend a lot of money.

John and Janice moved to Mobile, spent lots of wonderful time with their children and grandchildren, and never regretted taking early retirement.  Twenty-six years after taking that early retirement and spending it with his loved ones, John Shavers passed from this life, leaving behind a legacy of love, faithfulness to God, and a lifetime of memories.

Relationships.  That's what matters most in life – more than all the money in the world.  The Shavers family will affirm that truth to you.  They will also tell you that there is one relationship that is the most important of all: your relationship with God.

A relationship with God provides salvation, hope, and eternal life to come (1 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 6:23).  If there is no relationship with God, then there is sorrow with no hope and eternal destruction (1 Thessalonians 4:13; Matthew 7:13-14).

The good news is that God wants to save us and have a relationship with us!  In fact, He has made it possible for us – even though we have sinned – to be reconciled to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ His Son.  Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), but God gave His Son to die on the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  We can be reconciled to God through Jesus when we accept His offer of salvation and eternal life on His terms.

God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  When one is baptized into Christ, he/she is born again into the family of God, the church.  God will continue to cleanse His children from sin as they continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).

"I'd rather have you."  May that statement remind us of the preciousness of our relationships with family and friends.  May it also remind us that God would "rather have us" in heaven with Him after this life, and He proved it and made it possible by giving His Son to die for us.

Won't YOU accept His offer of relationship and eternal life?

-- David A. Sargent

Friday, December 14, 2018

Joel's prophecy

Joel’s Lament

    Last week, we began examining Joel’s prophecy and we read through 1:11. Continuing the imagine of a total devastation, in 1:11, Joel calls on the farmers and vinedressers to “be ashamed” and “wail.” The harvest is destroyed. The vine is dried up. The fig tree, pomegranate, palm, and apple trees are all dried up. Returning to the human predicament, “rejoicing dries up from the sons of men” (vs 12). This portrait “brings home the disaster in a striking, personal sort of way” (Douglas Stuart). Of course, “rejoicing drying up” is another figure of speech and is not an act that happens literally. Destruction of fruit trees was a part of the curses in the Law of Moses: Lev 26:20; Deut 28:40. It was worth mourning.

    In verse 13, Joel calls on Judah to mourn, putting on sackcloth. The priests and ministers of the altar ought to lament, throughout the night. Why? Because the “grain offering and the drink offering” have ceased (cf. 1:9). In addition to the external appearance of mourning, in verse 14, Joel calls on Judah to “fast” and to “proclaim a solemn assembly.” This assembly was to include both the elders and “all the inhabitants of the land” and they were to assemble “to the house of the Lord your God.”

Joel’s Lament (1:15-20)

     Judah was to see in the locust plague the “day of the Lord” (1:15; cf. 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14). Joel says the “day of the Lord” is near and it will “come as destruction from the Almighty.” Commenting on the phrase the day “is near,” Watts writes the concept suggests the event “at that moment [was] breaking upon the people. The message is typically prophetic, in the proper sense, for it speaks of what is present or in the immediate future, which demands a decision from the people now” (22).

    Elaborating on the idea that this locust plague / day of the Lord is destructive, in 1:16, Joel says food has been “cut off.” “Gladness and joy” have been cut off, eradicated from the temple worship and the harvest, times of traditional celebration. Not only has the vine itself been laid waste (1:7) but even the “seeds shrivel under their clods; the storehouses are desolate, the barns are torn down for the grain is dried up” (1:17). So complete is this destruction that there is nothing in the barns for storage, for future use. Subsequently, the animals are suffering (1:18).

    Joel turns his heart to Jehovah God and cries to Him in 1:19. Joel is explicit and exclusionary in his appeal to Jehovah God (“To you, Jehovah, I cry”). In this verse, Joel speaks of the locust plague metaphorically as a fire that has “devoured the pastures of the wilderness and the flame has burned up all the trees of the field.” Fire is a metaphor for God’s righteous wrath: Deut 28:22; 32:22. Again, the animals are suffering (1:20) because the water brooks are dried up and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

    Joel is portraying the destruction of the locust plague / army invasion in as complete terms as possible, even using fire to suggest the utter destruction on the land. Fire, if its intensity is enough, could evaporate the water brooks. Stuart suggests a drought might have followed the invasion which would have exacerbated the destruction, or the diverting of water supplies commonly practiced by ancient armies.

Monday, December 10, 2018

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them--Hebrews 11:16


We are living in a remarkable period of time. Read these words from A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." Now, read them again and substitute the words, "this is" for "it was" and you will have a most accurate description of the time in which we live.


 We live in a time in which sin, evil, wickedness and error abound. Our days are surrounded with so much unrest politically and spiritually making then troublesome and perilous. But still, isn't it great to be alive in this remarkable age? As children of God we should rejoice and thank God for each day (Phil. 3:1; Phil.4:4; 1 Thess.5:16). We should be rejoicing that we have a Saviour who has prepared for us a beautiful city (John 14:1-3); rejoice that we have been rescued from kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God's dear Son in whom we have redemption even the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14); rejoice that we can go before the throne of grace and there receive mercy and find help in time of need and by so doing have a peace that passes understanding sweep down over our souls (Heb. 4:16; Phil. 4:6-7).


I want to live as long as possible without becoming a burden on my loved ones. Yet, like those heroes of faith, I long for that beautiful city promised to all who have been pardoned by the Lord. If I seek the things above, if I set my mind on things above, not on things that are on earth, if I lay up for myself treasure in heaven, if I seek first the kingdom of God, I know my Saviour will pilot me safely through this sea of life. What is true for me is also true for you (Phil. 3:13-14; Col. 3:1-4; Matt. 6:19-21; Matt. 6:33). I just want to come to the end of this journey, to the end of the race, to the close of the day and be able to say, "the time of my departure is at hand, I am ready" (2 Tim. 4:6-8). How about you?


I pray that all of us are living our lives in a manner that we can say, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" Phil. 1:21). To God be the glory forever and ever.


Charles Hicks

Friday, December 7, 2018

Mercy and Grace to Help in Time of Need: Sin, Suffering, Sanctification


Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18


Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16


Let us dig a bit deeper into these verses.


Jesus suffered, being tempted, Hebrews 2:18, and Jesus, in every respect, has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15.


It seems pretty clear, when you put Hebrews 2:18 and Hebrews 4:15 together, that Jesus suffered being tempted means that in the many temptations He endured, without sinning, the suffering came in his resisting those temptations to sin – never giving in to sin.


And isn’t endurance in resisting sin the point of the following in Hebrews 12:1-16?


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.


My question, though is: how is Jesus thus  “able to help those who are being tempted”?


Well, if the totally innocent Jesus was prepared to accept all that unjust scourging, reviling and crucifixion without any reviling in return or any other sinful reaction, surely we can also cop a lot from the world and still resist the temptations to sin? John 15:18-20; 1 Peter 2:19-25. Surely we can do our own bit of enduring, resisting and suffering for Christ. Matthew 5:10-12; Acts 5:41; Romans 5:3; 12:12; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Colossians 1:24; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 3:14;  4:12-13.

                                            The 17th century Puritan, John Owen, said:

"There are three things, of which tempted believers do stand in need:

·       Strength to withstand their temptations;

·       Consolations to support their spirits under them;

·       Seasonable deliverance from them.

Unto these is the succor afforded by our High Priest suited; and it is variously administered to them:

·       By his word or promises;

·       By his Spirit; (and, that by communicating to them supplies of grace or spiritual strength; strong consolation; by rebuking their tempters and temptations); and

·       By his providence disposing of all things to their good and advantage in the issue." [ “succor” means “help.” Emphasis mine]

Another then added: “Those who are peculiarly tempted and severely tried, have an especial interest in, and claim upon Christ. They, particularly, may go with boldness to the throne of grace, where they shall assuredly obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Were the rest of the Scripture silent on this subject, this verse might be an ample support for every tempted soul.”

And when Hebrews 4:16 says: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” my question again is: how and why do we draw near to the throne of grace? Well, why we need to draw need to the throne of grace is explained as the verse goes on to add, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

How do we draw near to the throne of grace?

If we confess our sins, He is gracious to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

And, as Hebrews 9:14 says: how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The Holy Spirit, through the blood of Christ, supplies the grace we need to forgive us of our sins. Just at this point, read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (quoted in full on next page), noting vss 7 and 8 as they connect with vss 3-6!!

As Zechariah 12:10 had predicted: And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a Spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

And as Hebrews 9:14 implies in saying:

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit of God, Matthew 12:28, and the Spirit plays a part as the sprinkling of Christ’s blood  cleanses us of sin. The Holy Spirit, working in Jesus’ life, enabled Him to offer a sacrifice without blemish, and the same Spirit can work through the blood of Christ to purify our conscience from dead works, when we come to the throne of grace - acknowledging our sins to God, and asking for forgiveness, because God said, as part of the New Covenant arrangement, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”


Now study the following verses from Hebrews 10:9-18,


“Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.


The point here is that, in contrast to the repeated sacrifices of the Old Covenant, Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for all the sins of all time, and it was a single offering: “when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.” Hebrews 10:12. This is the reason forgiveness is part and parcel of the New Covenant.


Verse 10 says we have been sanctified (made holy) through that single offering, while verse 14 says he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Why does one verse put our sanctification  as a completed, past reality, but the other verse says that Christ has perfected (perfect tense) for all time those who continue to be sanctified - a reality in progress??!! Why the difference?


"We have been sanctified" in Hebrews 10:10 is perfect tense, meaning a present state resulting from the past

action of Christ. We stand today as sanctified, because of Christ's once for all sacrifice, while Hebrews 10:14 uses

a present passive participle that must be saying that by that one sacrifice He has perfected for all time those who

are now continuing to be sanctified - at this present moment sanctified, which is what the perfect tense of Hebrews 10:10 says!! Or as a brother I shared this with essentially said, we were saved, are now saved and will continue

to remain saved until you “obtain as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:9.


Southern Baptist, Tom Schreiner, wrote, in his Commentary on Hebrews, pp34-35:

So again in Hebrews, the author says in 10.10, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and it is through “the blood of the covenant” (10.29). Sanctification is a completed reality. It’s a done deal. And yet the readers (including us) are to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12.14). We also must recognize that we are not yet completely sanctified, as we have the command to “strive… for the holiness” if we want to see the Lord. We are perfected once and for all (10.14), and yet we are to strive for perfection (6.1)


It could appear to be a bit confusing, but it seems to be saying something like this: because Christ would die on the cross, and rise from the grave three days later, God had prepared a little book and wrote on the cover: The Book of Life in which he would write the names of the saved. Cf. Matthew 25:34; Revelation 13:8; 17:8. In the introduction, God says: “I will write the names of all future believers in this book as they come to saving faith. The single sacrifice my Son has made has already been sufficient to perfect and sanctify those who come to saving faith – that is, they will be set apart from the world at the moment of their conversion – but the new life in Christ of those converts will be one of continuing sanctification as they keep on drawing near to My throne of grace when they sin, as they surely will, until one day they see My face - perfect and sanctified completely.”


I participated in a blog discussion on this 10:10 vs 10:14 thing, and Spencer replied:

David. Cockerill says, “The first may put emphasis on the privilege of access to God; the latter, on consecration to God through the removal of sin” (Hebrews, 451–452). DeSilva says something similar when he says that we are neither profane nor polluted, but cleansed and can come before God. “The sins that one has committed against God have defiled the conscience, which cannot now come into the presence of the holy God, before whom nothing unclean (i.e., defiled or ‘unwhole’) survives” (201).

Jesus’ sacrifice made us whole (or “perfect”) so that we can come into God’s presence, but we are not yet in the final consummated state (the new creation).

Something similar can be seen in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Paul refers to the Corinthians as sanctified (1 Cor 1.2) and as saints (2 Cor 1.1), yet he has a lot of trouble with them! They are definitively sanctified, that is, just as Christ is holy, God sees them and declares them as holy. But they are certainly not completely virtuous people. There is a both-and. A now and not yet.


Hebrews 12:14, Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.


And 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.


Also 1 Peter 1:1-2: To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.


And 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.


Wow! There can be no doubt that we need God the Holy Spirit to help keep us sanctified through the blood of Christ, and what is also required is our ongoing obedience to the Spirit’s word (Scripture), and our confession of sin when we do not obey as we should.


But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his

Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:7-10.


So we need regularly to draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace, as we strive to walk in the light by obeying Christ’s teachings as set forth in the New Testament Scriptures. No help from Christ and the Holy Spirit can change the fact that we always need to obey the teachings of the New Testament.


We were sanctified at conversion, God keeps us sanctified as we live by an obedient faith, and He will perfect us and sanctify us completely so that we will one day see Him.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6


We can’t reach heaven without our own effort, and we can’t get there without God’s help!! And if Jesus had not

offered that single sacrifice, no effort by anybody – human or divine – could get us access to God in heaven.


This may all  seem too complicated to some, but I believe it is always helpful to ask “why” God says something and “how” it actually works! This is one way to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour  Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” 2 Peter 3:18.  Amen indeed. Compare

Ephesians 1:15-20.


How privileged that we can begin to fathom the mind and the workings of God. Romans 11:33-36. It takes effort.


David Hunter


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

What does the Bible say about marriage and divorce?

Are We (As Some Claim) Making Divorce an Unforgivable Sin?

Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another woman, commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9).

What if a man does what Jesus prohibited? He divorces his wife simply because he no longer loves her, then later he marries another woman. Clearly, he is guilty of adultery. Now, what if this man wants to be forgiven? Let’s assume he is not a Christian. He learns about Jesus’ atonement, believes, and wants to be baptized into Christ. Can he continue in his marriage to his second wife? Many say yes, since baptism is for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). If someone objects that this unauthorized remarriage is still adultery, the objector may be accused of making divorce/adultery an unforgivable sin.

What if a man is married to multiple women? (It is illegal in this country, but not in all.) He ignores God’s law of one man, one woman (Mt. 19:5-6). He is guilty of polygamy. Now, what if this man wants to be forgiven? He, too, wants to be baptized into Christ. Can he continue to live with all these woman? If not, why not? Why does forgiveness not cleanse his wrong relationships? Is polygamy an unforgivable sin?

What if a man is living with a woman?  They don’t bother with marriage, they just live together. Their cohabitation makes them guilty of fornication (Heb. 13:4).  Now, what if this man wants to be forgiven? He, too, wants to be baptized into Christ. Can he continue to live with the woman? If not, why not? Why does forgiveness not cleanse his wrong relationship? Is fornication an unforgivable sin?

What if a man is living with another man? They are not merely roommates, they are lovers: “men with men committing indecent acts” (Rom. 1:27).  They are guilty of homosexuality. Now, what if this man wants to be forgiven? He, too, wants to be baptized into Christ. Can he continue to live with the man? If not, why not? Why does forgiveness not cleanse his wrong relationship? Is homosexuality an unforgivable sin?

Four relationships. Each one is wrong.  Why, then, do so many say that the last three must end if one wants to be right with God, but the first may continue?  What’s the difference? The only difference I see is that the first is more socially acceptable. (It will be interesting to see how the fourth is viewed as homosexuality becomes increasingly acceptable.)

The question is not, What sin(s) can be forgiven? The question is, What does God require in order to be forgiven? God requires repentance, as well as belief and baptism (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30). Repentance is a change of heart and a corresponding change of life (Lk. 3:8-14; Acts 26:20). One has not repented when he determines to continue right on in his sin, whatever it is. And one who will not repent cannot expect to be forgiven.

- by Frank Himmel


More information on marriage, divorce and remarriage is here.


Monday, December 3, 2018

Walmart in Derby, Vermont

Layaway No More


Julie Ann Gates was standing in line earlier this month preparing to pay for her items at a Walmart in Derby, Vermont.  She overheard a man ask another customer who was in line in front of her about paying for his items.  She recalled the man saying, “Listen, I can either have you put it on a layaway, and I’m going to pay for it when you leave.  You’ll just have to come right back and pick it up.  Or, you could follow me over to the cash register, and I pay for it now.”


Gates was curious about the interchange she was witnessing and then the man, who would become known as a benevolent stranger, approached her.  "The guy turned to me and said 'are you going to put anything on layaway,'" Gates said.


When she answered affirmatively, the man said, “Well, why don’t you run and get what you were going to get and come back, and I pay for it.  I have a few minutes before I go to the doctor.”


Gates didn’t know what to think of the offer but decided to follow through with the man’s suggestion.


When she came back to the same register with her desired items in her buggy, the man was still there waiting for her.  He said, “Just go over to the cash register and I'll come over and I'll pay for it.”  And he did.


Gates had trouble believing what she had just witnessed.  “I said, ‘Oh my goodness!  Thank you!” Gates recalled.  “How could anyone afford to do this?” she asked the man.  “He said, ‘Santa Claus can.’”


The benevolent stranger refused to identify himself.  All that is known of him was that he must have been a fan of the New England Patriots because of the jacket that he wore as seen in a photo taken by a customer as he walked away.


Walmart wouldn't disclose how much the man paid or how many people went home with free gifts that day.  Several happy recipients went home that day with some wonderful gifts and no indebtedness. *


Each of us owes a debt.  We are in debt because of some foolish choices that we’ve made.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and we are in debt.  The debt that each of us owes is so enormous, that none of us has the resources to “pay it off.”  Even if we could put our debt on layaway and try to pay it off by trying to be good people and doing good works, we still couldn’t repay what we owe.


But Someone came to our rescue.  He paid our debt so that we could enjoy wonderful, eternal gifts.  This benevolent Stranger is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  He paid the debt for the sins of the world by giving His life as payment on a cross.  Only the sinless Son of God could pay for the debts of sinful humanity.  “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).


And, if you will allow Him, He’ll cover your debt, too.  You must accept His offer on His terms.


God will wipe away the debts and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn away from sin 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 1:7-9).


“He paid a debt He did not owe

I owed a debt I could not pay

I needed someone to wash my sins away

And now I sing a brand new song

Amazing Grace

Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay”

-- Ellis J. Crum


Won’t YOU accept His offer of salvation and eternal life by trusting and obeying Him today?


-- David A. Sargent


* Details gleaned from “Anonymous man pays off all layaway items at a Vermont Walmart” by Bopha Phorn,, November 19, 2018.


Friday, November 23, 2018


According to Moses [Psalms 90] this scribe has just under ten years to "get it all together." I’ve now passed my “three score and ten,” and tacked one year on in addition. “Three score and ten” is now in the rearview mirror and “fourscore” is in view on the not-too-distant horizon. Yep! I think it’s about time to “get it all together.” But then, sometimes I think it is an exercise in futility. Someone once lamented that when they finally got it all together, they forgot where they put it. 

 I live in a very small corner of this terrestrial globe. We moved here a little over a year ago, and occasionally when I tell people I live in Olive Branch, Mississippi, I get the typical response: “Where?” I sometimes wonder if my two cents worth that I put into this weekly mail out really makes that much of an impact on anyone or anything outside this small part of the world in which I live.  And about the time I think about hanging up my pen, something appears in the news that I simply cannot ignore. Maybe by God's divine providence the few words that I occasionally share with my readers will make a difference.

 Forty years ago this baby boomer generation thought they had all the time in the world. So we marched on Washington, participated in week long "sit-ins," picketed our government's presence in Viet Nam, and decided that we were going to make our mark on the world with a "new generation" of free thinkers and liberal philosophers. Many a prodigal made the trek to Canada and/or California where they clouded their brain with LSD and marijuana, waited out the "war," and then returned to their home states to run for congress or some other political office. One would think these "hippies" and "flower children" from the drug crazed streets of San Francisco would have learned to be a little more sensible in their later years, but I am prone to think they inhaled deeply on some weed that one could not purchase at your local convenient store. 

 No doubt our parents and grandparents observed this “untoward generation” from afar and asked, “What is this world coming to?”  It would appear that the baby boomers are now asking the same question.  Sometimes I feel sort of like the old Quaker who said to his neighbor, “I think the whole world is going crazy except it be thee or me; and I have my doubts about thee.” 

As Al Gore grows older, and noticeably chubbier, he is still the poster boy for the environmental movement that is pushing for government legislation that will “save our planet.” One dedicated disciple of Gore recently tweeted that if we do not act now, life as we know it will cease by the year 2030 (Wow! Its closer than I realized!). So, in order to save the planet, these environmental whackos want to limit how many miles you can drive in a day, restrict the size of the house you can own, and somehow keep tally on how many squares of toilet paper you use at any one time [really! Some are suggesting a maximum of two squares per…well, you know!].  Global warming has become the catalyst for government control. What confuses me is, “What ever happened to the ice age?”  While we should be good stewards of what God has given us, it seems that some are over-reacting to the warming trend of this world. If it is indeed warming, it has yet to be proven that human beings are the cause of it.  In my estimation, the "mechanism" that is fueling the liberal power grab today is bundled up in the imaginary threat of climate change. We have seen a lot of "nutty" philosophies come down the pike, but this one, without doubt, has to rank among the top ten. As I read such sophisticated silliness, it seems to me that this whole environmental movement, along with Green Peace, PETA, and other organizations that flaunt human wisdom, is an underhanded effort to again de-emphasize human life, and elevate animals, trees, and west Texas cactus plants to that of humanity. All of this under the guise that we need to do something to ‘save the planet.’

 This scribe does not think that Washington, the environmentalists, or any other liberal element is going to save this planet. Nor do I believe we are in danger of the ice caps melting, the climate overheating, or the oil in Arabia running out.  I am not overly concerned about how high the price of gas will get, whether or not Hillary Clinton is going to make yet another run for President, or if I will have enough money to pay next month’s electric bill. And though I may find myself asking from time to time, “What is this world coming to?” – I will be content to rest upon God’s promise that He will take care of me.  As someone has noted, “I’m not concerned about what the world is coming to, as I am encouraged by Who has come to the world!”

By Tom Wacaster



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Robert Whisenant. Whisenant

Mystery Solved!


A house caught fire on Thursday morning, November 15, in Wilmer, Alabama.  Five people and a baby were inside the home when it caught fire.  All of them were able to get out except one: the homeowner’s step-father; he was trapped in one of the rooms.


An unidentified man – a “mystery man” – stopped to help.  He discovered that the man was trapped inside the burning home.  He went in to get him out.  He was able to pull him out safely.  He put the injured man in his own jeep and wrapped some tears in his skin until the ambulance arrived.  When the injured man was safe in the care of ambulance workers, the mystery man left.


The family was incredibly thankful for their hero, but they were saddened because they did not know his identity.


WKRG News 5 investigated and found the mystery man.  His name is Robert Whisenant.  Whisenant, who has worked with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Fire for 10 years, was on his way to take a paramedic test when he saw the house on fire.  When he discovered that there was still someone inside the home, he went in to find him “without a second thought,” he said.  “You couldn't see even crawling on the floor.  I wasn't able to see him.  I was able to yell for him.  He started yelling, so that's how I was able to locate him.”


Whisenant resists being called a hero.  “No, I don't view myself as a hero,” he said.  “I just [did] something that needed to be done.  I've got the training, so I was doing what I was trained to do.”


So, the nameless Good Samaritan – the mystery man – has been identified, and the family that he helped is extremely thankful for him.


Behold, I tell you another mystery...


Because of our sins, each of us is in grave danger.  We are trapped and unable to free ourselves and in that state, we are destined to die.


The “mystery” is that there is good news that each and every one of us can be saved from our sins and share the spiritual blessings that God desires for us (see Ephesians 3:1-12).


Someone came to our rescue!  In order to rescue us, He had to give His life.  Our Rescuer willingly laid down His life so that we might live.


His name is Jesus; He is the sinless Son of God.  Yet, because He loved us so much, He gave His life on the cross to pay the price for our sins and rescue us from eternal destruction.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).


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


Thankfully, the “mystery” has been solved: Jesus Christ is the Savior.  He will save those who trust and obey Him.


Won’t YOU?


- David A. Sargent


* Information gleaned from “Mysterious hero who saved man from Wilmer house fire revealed” by Dana Winter,, November 15, 2018


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Is Capital Punishment wrong?

New Testament Teaching on Capital Punishment

    The nation of Israel was something like a theocracy. There was a much closer connection between civic laws and religious laws for Israel in the Law of Moses. Christianity is obviously not a “nation” like Israel was. Christianity is a spiritual nation that transcends civic laws as Christians are now found in nations all over the world. But, we live under civil laws.

    God largely does not regulate the types of laws that a nation would put into place to govern its citizens. God has left the power of capital punishment in the lands of the civil government, the law of a society (Rom 13:1-6). Paul says that the governing authorities do not “bear the sword for nothing” (Rom. 13:4). Clearly the reference here is to capital punishment. Civil governments have the God-given right to implement capital punishment. God does not tell them for what crimes they might do that but He allows them to do that.

    The question now arises whether a Christian can do so as well. Our government allows us to defend our homes, even if it means taking the life of the intruder. Our founding fathers wrote that right into the Bill of Rights, a set of rights that our founding fathers simply did not want to leave to the whims of future generations. I know there are many people, including the writers of my “beloved” TV show, MacGyver, who believe the 2nd amendment was intended for state governments, not for private citizens. But, that ignores the context when the amendment was written and it ignores what our Supreme Court has consistently and undeniably ruled in the 229 years of our constitutional republic.

    God gives humans the right (cf Exo. 22:2) to take the life of an intruder and not be guilty of sin. There’s every reason to believe that that moral principle is still valid today, especially in light of the fact that our own government also gives us the right to take the life of an intruder under certain circumstances.

    The church does not have the right to take people’s lives if they sin against God. God has given the church different rules that govern us disciplining ourselves. Our family does not have the right to discipline unruly members of our church. There are different rules in the family. But when it comes to the civil government and even Christians serving in and for the civil government, they have the right under the laws of our society to take the life of evil doers, based on those civil laws. 

    In other words, it is consistent with the nature of God and the law of Moses for Christians to serve in capacities, like the military and our local police force, that might put them in a position of taking the life of another, if they are working within the laws of our society.

    But there are two major objections which we will deal with next…

Answers to Two Objections to Christians Taking the Life of Another

    There are two notable objections to this idea that we need to consider before we close our study.

    1. “The sermon on the mount commands us to ‘turn the other cheek.’” 

    Let me point out (#1) that there is no command or principle in the NT that is only for Christians. In other words, all of Christ’s law, from Matt to Rev, is over all of mankind. Christians are obligated to live by the sermon on the mount and non-Christians are obligated to live by the sermon on the mount.

    (#2) The sermon on the mount is intended for individuals, not societies. The “beatitudes” are speaking about individual behavior. The verses where Jesus sets His teaching in contrast to the law of Moses, all deal with actions on the part of individuals (cf. Matt. 5:39). Jesus is talking about us as individuals. He is not limiting the response of nations to respond to an evil man like Adolf Hitler.

    Can anyone, who knows the Bible, honestly say that when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, that Christians should have told the Czechs: “We’re sorry. You need to turn the other cheek.” When Hitler invaded France, Christians should have told the French: “We’re sorry. You need to turn the other cheek.” When Hitler bombed Great Britain, killing innocent women and children, should Christians have told them: “We’re sorry. You need to turn the other cheek!” Absolutely not! Jesus did not intend for the Sermon the Mount to be a green light for good people to let evil people run the world!

    2. “Jesus was a pacifist. Therefore, Christians must be pacifist.” 

    (#1) Jesus was not a pacifist. He was God in the flesh and, as God, He was as much involved in killing those thousands of disobedient people in the OT as God the Father was. As the author of the law of Moses, Jesus was just as much involved in commanding Israel to kill others, under certain conditions, as God the Father was. No. Jesus was not a pacifist.

    (#2) The whole life of Jesus was centered around one purpose: dying for the sins of mankind. The question of “pacifism,” as we are discussing it, did not come up in the life of Jesus. When a centurion (Matt 8; Acts 10) enters the picture, he is never called to drop his sword (cf. Luke 3:14).

    (#3) Just because Jesus did not have to kill someone intruding into His house doesn’t mean we have no right to do so.

    (#4) Jesus was dealing with duly-constituted human governments. The Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, who condemned Jesus to death, were the governments at that time. Jesus submitted to His government as He requires us to do. Jesus was not an anarchist (Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-7).

    Here’s the “long and short” of the discussion. God is love. But God killed people. Those two actions are not mutually exclusive. God commanded Israel to “love their neighbor” and to kill certain individuals under certain circumstances. It is entirely possible for us to do the same.

Paul Holland

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Three Kinds of Christians

There are three kinds of Christians in any local congregation. Which kind are you?

1) There are those Christians you can always count on. When there is work to be done, when a volunteer is needed, when a need must be met, you can depend on these folks to step forward. They carry their own weight, and they help others carry theirs, too (Gal. 6:2,5). There is never a doubt about their commitment or dedication. Their obvious zeal serves as a positive source of encouragement to others. You just never are left to wonder where they stand - because they demonstrate their faith in every way. These Christians serve as the "core" of any faithful congregation. Without them, important work would never get done - crucial matters would be left unattended - the church simply would not do well. Thank God for all such brethren. We should all strive to be one of these!

2) There are some other Christians in the church that are absolutely "out of it." They have little if any connection to the real work of the local congregation. They never are around if there is work to be done, and they simply DO NOT volunteer to help with the on-going efforts of the group. It is even impossible to count on these folks to attend the services regularly. Almost anything can serve as an excuse for them to miss the assemblies. And, if they don't even assemble faithfully, we wonder if they are really doing anything in service to the Lord.

3) There is yet another group that is in evidence in the local church. These are the ones who are "riding the fence." They want to give the impression that they are faithful and involved, but in reality their lives are full of compromise. They vocally claim allegiance to Christ, but they can't be counted on to consistently put the kingdom first.

Our Lord described these three kinds of Christians as "hot," "cold," and "lukewarm" (Rev. 3:15,16). Which term describes YOU?

- by Greg Gwin


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Wednesday, November 7, 2018


In his article, "Why Am I Angrier than I Use to Be?" [Leadership Journal (Summer 2000), pg. 79-80]
author and church minister Ed Rowell writes:

"When I was young, a neighboring family came down with a devastating illness. Several of the
children died, and the rest suffered permanent brain damage. What investigators discovered was that
the father had found a truckload of discarded seed corn and fed it to the family hogs. The corn
(not intended for animal feed) had been treated with something so bugs wouldn't eat it before it
germinated. The hogs ate it, seemingly with no ill effects.

But when the family hogs became the family breakfast, the family was poisoned. It seems that many
substances - pesticides and heavy metals like lead and mercury - do not pass through the digestive
system, but remain in the body, always. In tiny doses, the effects are minimal. But over time, the
effects are horrible.

That's what happens to many of us. Every day we ingest minute amounts of conflict and disrespect.
No big deal, we think. Just blow it off. But we don't. Instead it gets buried in our liver and 20
years later, we go ballistic over some kid skateboarding in the parking lot and wonder, 'Where did
that come from?'" *

Conflict. The very word makes us uncomfortable. It isn't pleasant. We'd rather not have to deal
with it.

But it's a reality. We cannot avoid it. We will encounter it. The question is: how are we going
to handle it?

The core of conflict is sin. Sin is the root cause of conflict in the most important relationship
of all: our relationship with God. Sin separates us from God and puts us on the path to destruction
(Isaiah 59:1-2; Matthew 7:13-14).

But God loves us so much that He took the initiative to reconnect with us. Although He was the
Offended One, He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our - the offenders' - sins. "He
Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for
righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24 NIV).

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 1:7-9).

Because of sin, each of us is in conflict with God. "For all have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God" (Romans 3:23). But God paid the price for our redemption through the death of His Son
on the cross (Ephesians 1:7). Through Jesus, we can be reconciled to God, even though we don't
deserve it. Through Christ, the conflict is resolved.

We also learn from Christ how to resolve conflict with others. He teaches us that it will require
much love (John 3:16), taking the initiative (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15), and extending forgiveness
(Ephesians 4:32).

Won't YOU accept God's offer of salvation and eternal life so that you aren't separated from Him
anymore? Won't YOU share the conflict-ending ways of Christ with others?

-- David A. Sargent

* From, More Perfect Illustrations, [Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers,
2003], pg. 20

Friday, November 2, 2018

We Reap what we Sow - Sooner or Later


There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12


If you want to live forever, trust God and His word, and  obey. Doing your own thing is a one-way dead end.


“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4

The New Testament has at least one Scripture that puts both options together:


Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you

live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will

live. Romans 8:12-13


Jesus put it this way:


“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14


And the apostle Paul wrote this:


Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. Galatians 6:7-8           


It’s not as though God hasn’t given us plenty of warning and plenty of reason to do what is right!


Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. Romans 2:4-11


Sooner or later, for better or for worse, it will all come to pass.


And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ … And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:30,46


David Carr

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Well, just give me the money then

In the End


Aunt Mary, who was in her 90s, would call her nephew, David, from time to time asking him to take her to the beauty parlor.  David, who had some health struggles of his own, would always oblige if he possibly could.  He would go and pick her up, take her to the beauty parlor, come back and get her when she was through, and take her home.  Then the playful “battle” would begin.  Aunt Mary wanted to give him some money for gas; David didn’t want it.  “You take it, or I won’t call you anymore,” threatened Aunt Mary.  David responded, “Well, just give me the money then!”  His relationship with her and his desire to help her were more important than the money.


When asked what her great-grandmother had meant to her, Madison (Cox) Holland wrote: “My Meme [pronounced meemee] was a big part of the village that raised me.  Because of this, it's hard for me to pinpoint specific memories of her.  She's not a snap shot here and there in my mind.  She's more of a thread, weaved all throughout my child and adulthood.  Her presence in my life was loving, steadfast and everlasting.


Our after school routine included Hormel Chili, oyster crackers, Dragon Tales, me playing with her hair dressing equipment and occasionally Chick-Fil-A Ice Dream.  I can't think of these things without thinking of Meme and I can't hear someone pop his/her gum without turning to look for her.


I wish that there was something I could say to honor Meme to the same degree that she impacted my life, but there isn't.  I just love her.”


These are a few of the wonderful memories that were shared by family and friends of two members of the Creekwood Church of Christ that passed away last week.  David Devitt (1946-2018) and Margaret “MeMe” Montalban (1929-2018) were not physically related, but they were both members of the family of God and they passed from this life within a 24-hour period.  They both left behind family and friends that have been profoundly impacted by their lives.


We’ve all been reminded that in the end, it’s relationships that we share with loved ones mean the most to us.


And, in the end, there’s one relationship that is the most important of all: our relationship with God.  When one has a relationship with God, there is salvation, hope, and eternal life to come (1 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 6:23).  If there is no relationship with God, then there is sorrow with no hope and destruction (1 Thessalonians 4:13; Matthew 7:13-14).


The good news is that God wants to save us and have a relationship with us!  In fact, He has made it possible for us – even though we have sinned – to be reconciled to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ His Son.  Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), but God gave His Son to die on the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  We can be reconciled to God through Jesus when we accept His offer of salvation and eternal life on His terms.


God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  When one is baptized into Christ, he/she is born again into the family of God, the church.  God will continue to cleanse His children from sin as they continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).


In the end, it’s relationships that matter most.  Treasure them.  Make the most of your time with family and friends.


In the end, there’s one relationship that will be the most important of all: our relationship with God.


Won’t YOU accept God’s offer of salvation, eternal life, and relationship?


-- David A. Sargent


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