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Tuesday, January 30, 2018


I have always considered the apostle Paul’s speech to the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38) one of the most touching and moving speeches in all of the Bible.  Obviously, it does not rank above our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, 7) or Peter’s sermon on Pentecost when the church was established (Acts 2) or Stephen’s sermon resulting in his martyrdom (Acts 7) or even Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17).  Yet, for sheer pathos, to say nothing of its sobering content, few if any speeches in the New Testament would outrank Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders.


The background to the speech lies in the fact that Paul is completing his third extensive preaching tour and is on his way to Jerusalem where he will be arrested simply for preaching the gospel of Christ.  In a hurry to get to Jerusalem, Paul sends word to the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him in the little seacoast town of Miletus.  It is significant that it was the elders of the church that Paul called to meet him.  He did not send for the preacher of the church.  He did not send for the deacons of the church.  He did not send for the women of the church.  He did not send for a combined delegation of the elders, deacons, preacher, and most influential members of the church.  He sent for the elders, those men and those men alone who are charged with the oversight of the local church (I Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:17; et al)!


He reminds them of the work he had done among them (the record of which is found in Acts 19), and how he had kept back nothing that was profitable, but had taught both publicly and from house to house.  Now, with a heavy heart, he is going bound in his spirit to Jerusalem not knowing what will happen to him except that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that chains and tribulations awaited him.  Yet, none of these things moved him from his determined course of action and he did not count his life as dear to himself.  He was committed to finishing his race (earthly life) with joy and the ministry he had received from the Lord Jesus “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”


Touchingly, and no doubt with tears streaming down his cheeks, he tells these elders that they will see his face no more.  He reminds them that he is innocent of the blood of all men because “I have not shunned to declare to you all the counsel of God.”  (What a standard for all gospel preachers today!)


Coming to the heart of his address, Paul charges the elders to “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd/feed the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”  Elders are not a board of directors!  They are shepherds of sheep.  They learn how to do their work by observing how Christ, the good shepherd, did His work (John 10:7-14; I Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:20-21).


The need for elders being diligent doing their work lies in the fact that savage/grievous wolves (false teachers) stand ready to pounce on the flock and destroy it.  Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).  Paul alerted Timothy and Titus to the dangers of false teachers and false teaching (I Timothy 4:1-5; II Timothy 3:1-9; 4:1-5; Titus 1:10-16).  The apostle John issued the same warning (I John 4:1; II John 5-11).  Sadly, today not much attention is given to the danger of “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” and those who warn of such are viewed as being “too negative.”


Paul alerts the Ephesian elders to the fact that from among themselves men would arise “speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them.”  It is a well-known fact of church history that the apostasy originated in the elderships of the various congregations, as certain men, vying for power beyond their local congregations, began to reserve for themselves alone the titles of bishop, archbishop, metropolitan bishop, and eventually the title of Pope. Paul therefore urges the elders to watch, stay alert, and be aware of what is going on. 


He reminds them that for three years he had not ceased to warn them day and night with tears.  “And now,” he says, “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  The word of God faithfully taught and adhered to is the only sure preventive of apostasy (see II Timothy 4:2; James 1:21-22; I Peter 4:11a).


He reminds the elders that with his own hands he had worked to provide for his necessities, as well as the necessities of those who were with him.  He urges the elders to support the weak (those without the adequate needs of life) and to remember the words of the Lord that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”


With these words, Paul’s magnificent speech ends.  He then knelt down and prayed with them all.  The elders are overcome with emotion, falling on Paul’s neck and kissing him with the holy kiss that was part of their culture (Romans 16:16a; I Corinthians 16:20; I Thessalonians 5:26; et al).  Their greatest sorrow was over the fact that they would see his face no more.  “And they accompanied him to the ship.” They went with him as far as they could physically go, no doubt with arms outstretched and fingers touching until the final moment.


What a meeting!  What a speech!  What truths enunciated that are still so relevant and still so badly in need of being known and applied today in the church of our Lord!  It is hard for me to read this speech and its emotional ending without tears welling up in my eyes.


Hugh Fulford


Saturday, January 27, 2018

I still have heroes

My Heroes


I grew up loving superheroes.  Superman was my favorite.  I’m sure at one time I had a shirt with a big “S” on it and donned a red cape and pretended to fly and bulldoze through any obstacle or enemy that got in my way.  The thought of being able to fly and have super-human strength – these were enough to keep my imagination captivated as a child.


Over the last several years, one superhero movie after another has appeared in cinemas throughout the world.  With all of the special effects and incredible cinematography, the superheroes depicted in the movies match if not surpass my childhood fantasies about their superpowers.  After all, my images of these superheroes came from comic books and cartoons.


As I have grown older, I still have heroes.  But my heroes today are not like the superheroes that I venerated and imitated as a child.  My modern day heroes can’t fly and they don’t have super-human physical strength.  But they are very, very strong and they have impacted my life to a far greater level than any imaginary superhero ever could.


One of my heroes passed away last night.  His name was Ed McGaughy.  I think of him as a gentle giant.  No, he wasn’t like Paul Bunyan, but he stood tall at about 6’ 5’’.  But he was a giant and a hero to me (and many others), not because of his tall stature, but because of who he was.  Ed had a huge heart with which he loved deeply.  I believe he loved the Lord with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.  He loved his family deeply and displayed that love in a powerful, profound way.  He loved people and was a true friend to all who wanted one.


It wasn’t Ed’s physical strength that made him a hero to me; it was the strength of his character, his faith, his fortitude, and his love.  Four and a half years ago, Ed suffered a stroke that left his right side mostly paralyzed.  A few days after he suffered the stroke, he had to undergo open heart surgery.  By the grace of God and with the help of some superb doctors and a very supportive family – especially his loving wife, Cathy – Ed worked through these physical challenges in an inspiring way.  Although he walked with a limp relying on a cane and didn’t have use of his right arm, he kept trusting in God and serving Him faithfully.  He kept on loving the Lord, his family, his church family, and his friends.  He showed us what it means to be faithful even when life gets difficult.  He was and is one of my heroes.


Ed epitomized the qualities that all my heroes possess: faith, hope, and love.  You see, my heroes are the ones who love and follow Jesus, the greatest Hero of all.


Jesus, the greatest Hero, gave His life for us so that you and I can be saved and receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).  He will save those who place their faith and trust in Him (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).  Those who continue to follow Jesus by walking in the light of His Word will continue to be cleansed by His precious blood (1 John 1:7).


My heroes follow Jesus even when life gets difficult.  By their faithful example, they beckon me to follow them as they follow(ed) Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).  People like Ed are my heroes because they help me to see Jesus more clearly and to understand more about how to serve Him faithfully.  My prayer is that their example will inspire you to follow Jesus, too.


Won’t YOU?


-- David A. Sargent

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ryland Ward was shot five times during the massacre


On November 5, 2017, the little community of Sutherland Springs, Texas, was devastated and the world
was horrified when a gunman shot and killed 26 people and wounded 20 others in the First Baptist
Church of Sutherland Springs.

Yesterday, January 11, 2018, the still-traumatized community had a reason to celebrate: a young
survivor of the tragedy was able to return home.

Five-year-old Ryland Ward was shot five times during the massacre. He was found beneath his
stepmom, Joann Ward, who died protecting him.

"I was just checking for survivors, and I felt a little tug on my pant leg," said Rusty Duncan, a
firefighter with the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department, who was one of the first rescuers inside
the church building after the shooting. "I had no idea what it was. I looked down and a little hand
was coming from under somebody." It was Ryland. Duncan carried Ryland's limp body outside and
began treating his wounds before he was lifted into an ambulance and rushed to San Antonio's
University Hospital.

Ryland would undergo multiple surgeries and procedures over the next two months. Duncan visited him
frequently. He promised Ryland that when he got better, he would take him back home in a fire
truck. Yesterday, that promise became a reality. Ryland waved from the front seat of the fire
truck to a crowd of cheering spectators. At the wheel was Duncan, his rescuer and friend.
Following them was a convoy of other vehicles that topped 100 in number, including fire trucks and
other emergency vehicles from Wilson and Bexar County.

"He's one happy little boy right now. He got to ride in a fire truck and talk on the radio and he
was a captain for the day," Edwin Baker, chief of the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department and Wilson
County's fire marshal, said afterward. "He was a little bit overwhelmed by the enormity of it, but
he's very ecstatic to be home," Baker said. *

Because you and I are "wounded" and dying because of our own sins (Romans 6:23), our loving God sent
His Son to rescue us (John 3:16). Jesus gave His life for us in order to save us, for His blood
paid the price for our redemption from sin (Ephesians 1:7). "The Lord Jesus Christ . gave Himself
for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age" - and from our sins - "according to the will of
our God and Father" (Galatians 1:3-4 NIV). He died for us so that we might live eternally.

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).

"So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second
time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him" (Hebrews 9:28). And
He will take us home to heaven. No, it may not be in a red fire truck, but it will be a glorious
entry into the heavenly kingdom - all because Jesus gave His life to rescue us from sin.

Won't YOU accept His offer of salvation and eternal life on His terms?

-- David A. Sargent

* Information gleaned from "Firefighter who saved boy's life drove him home to Sutherland Springs"
by Silvia Foster-Frau and Zeke MacCormack in

Friday, January 12, 2018

Do Not Make God in Your Own Image


God made us humans to seek Him and find Him:


Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:16-31


That means He made us to seek Him – the true, living God – and not to invent our own god.


John’s first letter is a remarkable piece of inspired writing, telling us who the true God is, what He requires of His people, and vitally telling us that we know this true God only through Jesus Christ.


That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1-4


For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:2


And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:20-21


The life and light of God were evident in the person of Jesus Christ. God in the flesh was seen, heard and touched.

To see Jesus was to see God. John 1:1-4,14; 5:17-24; 10:27-33; 14:9; 20:26-28


To listen to Jesus was to listen to God. John 12:44-50


Notice that the love of God is evidenced in His people keeping His commandments – whatever they may be. God’s love encourages people to obey Him! “God is not only the God of Grace, He is also the God of expectations.” Samuel Mills. This author went on to mention 38 commandments of Jesus in the gospels. Jesus, in his last words on earth, said that His disciples are to be taught to observe all His commandments. Matthew 28:18-20.


Just as loving parents give their children rules to obey, so a loving God gives His children commandments to be kept for their own good. But a lot of people don’t want a God who commands obedience.


Because it is all too easy to create a picture of God in accordance with our own desires, John ends his first epistle with the words, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”


An idol is a personally-created and worshipped god – whether made of stone or made in the imagination.


Be careful to believe the God of the Bible and only the God you read about in the Bible – and not a god of your own creation because of what you want God to be.


“We are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”


David Carr


Monday, January 8, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I wanted a special toy for Christmas

Will You Get What You Want?

Read the following piece by Keith Wishum and see if it causes you to recall that toy that you once really wanted for Christmas.  Do Wishum’s conclusions match your own?

I got what I wanted for Christmas!

More years ago than I care to calculate, way back when I was 8 or so, back in the B.C. era (before computers), I wanted a special toy for Christmas.  Wanted is too weak.  I craved.  I coveted.  I had to have a Johnny 7 gun.

The 7 was the ultimate imaginary killing machine.  It fired seven different ways - single shot, machine gun, rocket launcher, grenade thrower, and others I have long forgotten.  Not only did the 7 make awesome noises, it came with projectiles that it really fired.  What more could a boy want?

Long before Christmas, I hinted.  I begged.  I pleaded.  I despaired.  Knowing that my parents were highly practical people, I had little hope of ever holding a 7 in my hands.  A bike, you could ride to school.  But what real use is an expensive plastic assault weapon?

Yet, on Christmas morning, I got what I wanted!  A real toy Johnny 7, right there in my living room!  Just what I wanted!

It was what I wanted, but only for a little while.  The Johnny 7 soon bombed.  Sure, it made great noises, but the white bullets were soon lost in the shrubbery.  The grenades landed on the roof.  The machine gun attachment broke, and the gun was too big and bulky to carry easily.  Within days, I had reverted to using sticks for guns.  The 7 was shot.

I learned from the 7 experience.  I discovered that toys of this world are really not worth very much.  They are feeble and fleeting.  I also discovered that, without doubt, I was loved.  Nothing else could explain why the hard-labor children of sharecroppers would spend scarce cash on a silly toy they knew I would soon discard.

If we approach Christmas (or any other time) hoping for happiness in a new toy, we will be disappointed.  But we may be delighted if we look for and, more importantly, give love.  It is not what lies under the tree that brings joy.  It is what lies in the hearts closest to you… and in your own.

Wishum is right, isn’t he?  What matters most is to love and be loved.  And, the greatest Gift of love is that “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  He died for us so that we might live, eternally.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

God will save from sin 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; 22:16).  God will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

This Christmas, my prayer is that we will all recognize that the greatest Gift is the gift of God’s love through Christ AND that each of us will respond to that love by giving our lives to Jesus.

Won’t YOU?

-- David A. Sargent

* From “Get What You Want for Christmas” by Keith Wishum in A Word from Williams Road (12/19/17), a publication of the Williams Road Church of Christ in Americus, GA.

David A. Sargent, Minister

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